By: R. S. Rasnick
One of my favorite guitarists has always been Eric Johnson, and
I've always respected his natural sense of superb tone. Eric is
unapologetically a tonal perfectionist, and he demands the best
from all of his guitar gear.
When I discovered that Fender was releasing an Eric Johnson
model Stratocaster, I knew that it would have to live up to
Johnson's strict criteria.
Since Johnson prefers a 1957 Fender Stratocaster as his main
instrument, the company used that as the basis for the Eric
Johnson Stratocaster, where the talented Mr. Johnson would have
final say on everything from the screws to the pickguard.
For starters, the EJ Stratocaster has an ultrathin, Custom
Shop-quality nitrocellulose lacquer finish, which ultimately
results in more resonance since you don't have a thick coat of
paint "choking" the sound.
The neck is also a thing of beauty, since Johnson decided on a
one-piece, quartersawn maple neck. The 12" radius results in
outstanding playability, and the thin-skinned glossy lacquer and
vintage tint give the neck a gorgeous appearance.
The pickups bear the same level of detail and care. The Fender
team (with Johnson's input) previewed nineteen kinds of pickups
before settling on the final model. Though it took some time,
the payoff was worth it in the end. These pickups are
world-class and some of the most fascinating pickups we have
The wiring configuration mimics Eric's preferred Strat
modification, so the tone controls affect the neck and bridge
pickup, not the usual neck/middle configuration.
Johnson also dislikes string trees (he believes they negatively
affect tuning), so his signature model uses staggered tuners,
eliminating the need for string trees.
Though it seems like an unusual request, EJ also insisted that
the tremolo cavity not have a cover plate. Furthermore, he
wanted the cavity left paint-free, insisting that this helps the
vibrant qualities of the guitar.
All of these special modifications and suggestions leave us with
a guitar as engaging as the artist who inspired it. Though it
pays homage to Fender's vintage past, it nonetheless is a
soundly modern instrument in many ways.
Of all the intriguing qualities of the guitar, the things that
stick out the most are P & P ("pickups and playability"). The
Eric Johnson Strat has a sound that is uniquely its own and has
a smooth ease of play that makes it one of the greatest
instruments I've ever reviewed.
Matched with the vintage-style case, you're left with a
world-class instrument that bears the mark of its world-class
designer. You can't go wrong with an Eric Johnson Stratocaster!
About the author:
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