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Malmsteen Signature Strat Review

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by Michael919, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    I've had my Yngwie Malmsteen Artist Series Strat for a few weeks now and thought I would post some pictures and comments on what I have found with it so far.

    I will do this in a few posts because I don't know what the pic limit per post is here.


    Years Playing: 36, on and off including several years of only classical in the middle of it all

    Reference guitars for this review: Memory of my old number one, a 1994 Strat Plus; Memory of mid-80's MIJ Strat; Newer Squire Deluxe; Project Malmseen Strat with an old Squier as base; Numerous other guitars faded from memory

    Years Playing Scalloped Guitars: One

    Type of Music Typically Played: Doodling (90% of the time with pretty heavy OD), old Rush, Malmsteen rhythms and pitiful attempts at some licks, U2, improvised blues, Metallica, Faith No More, etc.

    Model: New 2011 USA Fender Artist Series, Yngwie Malmsteen model, Maple Neck

    Colour: Vintage White

    Let's start with the awesome, included, vintage, tweed case. I don't know what these go for separately, but it is definitely the nicest case that I have ever had. The interior colours seen in later pics are a little brighter than reality because I was struggling with the white balance to bring out the true yellows in the guitar.




    Also included was a bit of case candy seen here. I don't know that I would use the strap outside the house, lol, but it is a good quality one and it is very comfortable. The Dunlop Flush Mount Strap Locks are great. It's nice not having strap knobs on the guitar. There was also a cheapy Fender cable, not shown.


    Here she is. It was tough to get the beautiful yellow tone of the Vintage White on this guitar (I am a novice photographer!). The colour can be quite yellow in some lighting conditions, as you can see in my avatar.


  2. Sunburst413

    Sunburst413 Strat-O-Master

    Aug 26, 2011
    I think its beautiful.... favorite strat collor

    how deep are the scallops if you know what I mean?

  3. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    The bridge is a good old vintage trem. The pickups on this 2011 model are the new Seymour Duncan YJM Fury pickups, replacing the previous Dimarzio HS-3, HS-4 combo of previous versions. I will comment on their sound later. The 3-ply white pick guard is a nice contrast to the Vintage White. I believe that they used a mint green years ago on this model and I don't think it looked as good.


    The headstock is the beautiful large '70's variety with matching logo and a bullet truss rod. The brass nut is really cool to look at and it may add some brightness to open notes, but without trying a bone nut on this guitar for comparison, it's just speculation. I had a slight amount of binding at the nut that was easily corrected with a tiny amount of lip balm in the slots.


    The neck finish is absolutely perfect. This model is equipped with decent F tuners. Love the skunk stripe.


    One slight disappointment was the somewhat loose neck pocket. I posted about this a few weeks ago. There are pros and cons to a very slight gap that were discussed to death in that thread. I would have hoped for a little tighter fit in a guitar in this range. The CS models are tight, so clearly that is what Fender deems ideal.


    The scallop job done at Fender is perfect as is the neck finish. The scallops are deeper than what I had done on other guitars but have not been a problem in any way for me.


    Here's my take on scalloped necks from a previous post:

    There was no chance of me finding a scalloped guitar in a store, so I bought a used Squier Bullet and scalloped it myself.

    I was really reluctant to try playing one. I had all kinds of worries about uneven chording pressure, etc. I was pleasantly surprised. Within minutes I was completely in love with the feeling of string-only contact. The control of the strings for bends and vibrato was superior. People say it's no different than playing with jumbo frets. Well, it is. With jumbo frets there is usually still some finger contact with the fretboard.

    It's going to sound wonky, but I remember thinking in those first weeks that the string-only playing felt almost sensual. I still feel that way. When I would go back to my other strat I felt so restricted, almost mechanical.

    I play classical too and it struck me that the feel isn't completely unlike playing on my nylon string Raimundo, where the big strings and higher action give a similar sensation, although there is fretboard contact.

    I did have to adjust my chording pressure a little, especially for some open position chords. However, I feel that this exercise was correcting 35 years of a few bad habits. It still happens the odd time. I definitely play with a lighter touch now.

    Playing quick runs is definitely a little slower versus a regular neck, but not so much that it is a problem. The pros far outweight the cons for me.

    Now the important part: You will have one of three reactions. You will either love it, hate it or be meh about it. More then likely you will fall into the latter two groups. However, if you fall into the first category then you might have a hard time going back once you get used to it.

    I gave myself a year to be sure before I scalloped any other guitars. No matter what, I could never enjoy playing as much as I did with the scalloped Squier. I had installed some Dimarzio HS-3's once I decided I liked it, so it wasn't too painful a year. It sounded and played quite good. I recently scallped my other strat and just got a 2011 Yngwie Strat. No going back for this lifetime strat player!
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012

  4. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Another view of the neck. It is a modern C, 9.5 radius, 42mm nut width.


    Aside from maybe a Squire that I had in the '80's (memory is fading), this is my first large headstock Strat model. The visual of the large headstock seems to add to the perception of some beefiness in the neck. It really is a great feeling neck. The finish and feel are outstanding as you would expect from a Fender in this range.

    One of the things that people often complain about with this model is the high E slipping off the fret. I have read that this is due to a vintage bridge spacing on a narrower modern neck. I believe that the real cause is that your finger has no fretboard contact to "plant" slightly in place. The slipperiness of the scalloped neck makes slight downward slips cause the problem occasionally. Like learning to improve technique with a lighter, even touch, this is just one of the adjustments that you need to make with a scalloped neck.


    I can directly compare this new Seymour Duncan pickup with the Dimarzio HS-3 because I have them installed on my project guitar. My feeling is that they are a little have a little less treble, a fuller sound and a little higher output, at least at the bridge. Keep in mind, though, that these are relatively low output pickups.

    Like the Dimarzio, these are stacked humbuckers, so forget about getting 100% of that signature strat chime and the position 2/4 tone. It's close though and the tones are quite versatile with or without overdrive. The pickups are very dynamic and responsive and pick up a lot of left and right hand articulation. They are definitely geared more to over-driven playing, but they sound decent enough clean, just not quite as bright clean as an alnico single coil.

    These are very quiet pickups due to their design which is a definite plus.

    I have tried a lot of heavy stuff with it and while it can't compete with a humbucker equipped guitar, I believe that it does better that most single coil strats. I have been pretty happy playing old Rush with this guitar. Obviously, it covers the Malmsteen sound well, especially with a DOD 250/308 between it and the amp.

    The pickup selector switch is a 3-way, as you would expect on a signature model for a player that uses neck and bridge only. If you like playing in position 2 and 4 you will need to swap out the switch for a five-position or suffer the inconvenience of fiddling with trying to set the switch half way.

    The tone knobs are supposed to be no-load. You can feel a gentle click in the lower tone dial at ten and there is a slightly noticeable change in tone and signal noise when you reach this position. The upper tone control doesn't seem to be the same. I need to play with it more. The lower tone is connected to the bridge pickup which I think is great for fine tuning tone on the fly.

    This is actually the first strat where I have actually liked the middle pickup. It's hard to describe. I need to put some more thought into explaining where it is tonally, but I really like it.

    I believe that this guitar might have better sustain than any guitar that I have had before, including my old, awesome Plus. Acoustically it is quite loud. When I play this guitar lying on the couch, you can really feel the vibes through the top horn into your chest (leave your comments on relevance of body resonance to sustain to those other threads, please:D).

    Overall, I think that this is an excellent guitar with a very clear focus. If you like scalloped necks and you like playing with some OD most of the time I think this is a no-brainer. A Strat purest will definitely want to have another strat with decent alnico's to make sure you have everything covered off.

    I give it an A. It would be an A+ with better neck pocket QC. Great guitar.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012

  5. 357mag

    357mag Senior Stratmaster

    Jul 22, 2010
    Yup they are very good for sure. I've had six of them.

  6. stradovarious

    stradovarious Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 14, 2010
    Wow man, nice review!
    Three questions from an unashamed/ proud Malmsteen worshipper:

    1. Do you need to use an .08 high E (and other light strings on top) and tune to Eb as Malmsteen does, in order to hit the high notes, given that the instrument has 21 frets? Can you bend to the 2nd octave (24th fret pitch) and beyond, due to the scallops?

    2. Does yours have the insert machine nuts imbedded in the neck with 4 machine screws holding neck in place?

    I do this myself to all my guitars, and I have a number of lose neck pocket guitars- it makes no difference to me that the neck pocket is lose, because I purposely widen the 4 holes in the body where the neck screws pass through, so that the screws do not even make contact with the body wood at all, but ONLY interface with the machine screw nuts within the neck.

    This gives greater neck-to-body interface force than even a "set neck" (i.e., Les Paul) has, and is probably indistinguishable form what you would get, even with a neck-through guitar. My uncle is a structural engineer and he says "heck yes!"

    If my neck pocket is lose it makes no difference- if you tried to get the neck to slip by swiveling it back and forth-forget it. You'd break the neck clean off before that sucker would move even one single hair-breadth!

    3. Last question: If you get tired of it, will you ship it free of charge to a real nice guy, named "Stradovarious"? Just in case, thought I'd ask so I can ge first dibs on it. Thanks, mate!:D

  7. essessH

    essessH Strat-O-Master

    Nov 23, 2011
    World Traveler
    Do you think the neck to body gap is something mahlsteem specified?

  8. EvolutionOfZero

    EvolutionOfZero Strat-Talker

    Sep 1, 2011
    Charlotte, NC
    What kind of tremolo block does this have?

  9. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Thanks. It's among my favourite colours too (funny how us Canadian's spell, eh?)

    I guess the depth ranges, somewhere around 1/16 - 1/8". Once it gets to a depth where your fingers aren't making contact then any more doesn't do much for you.

  10. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Nice. I would love to have the sonic blue one one that they don't make any more. Maybe next year I will pick up a used one.

  11. ny mason

    ny mason Strat-Talker

    Dec 12, 2011
    that guitar is just simply amazing!!
    thanks for giving such a detailed review.
    your a lucky boy,enjoy her.

  12. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Thanks. I enjoyed taking the pictures and writing it. There is a lot more to add, that's coming in the next few days. I realized a few things playing tonight...good things that fresh strings bring...

    1) I guess it's relative. A bend 21 to the "24th" is still a 1 1/2 tone bend, whether your tuned to E or E flat, but tuning down and the scallops in particular help. I remember how relatively hard it was to do before on a regular neck. The scallops make a world of difference for biting in to upper frets for bends. I guess that's why other manufacturers are scalloping from the 15th fret up.

    I do tune down, btw. I like the way it sounds. E sounds funny to me for a minute or so now. I've been tuning down for several years now.

    2) Yes, it does use the machine screws and inserts. New for 2011. I've heard the various theories, but like a lot of things, I don't think it makes much if any noticeable difference. Decades of great sounding strats with great sustain have been using good old fashioned screws. Can't hurt though!

    3) Ya right! :D Not going to happen.

  13. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Oops! I might need to revise some observations. I put new strings on it today and it brightened up more than I thought it would. I know that original strings are often pretty dead, but they seemed ok and I held off a few weeks before changing them.

    Unfortunately, my project strat is in pieces again so I can't do another comparison of the HS-3's to these Seymour Duncans. I think they might be a little closer now than I originally thought.

    I also realize that I need to restate a few things about clean, typical strat tones. What I stated above about this guitar not doing conventional strat sounds well was a matter of degree. I spent about an hour tonight playing clean and mostly 2nd and 4th position and I was pretty impressed. It definitely did just fine. It would have been easily identifiable as a strat. I guess I should have spent more time playing with that before posting the review.

    Edit: I have revised the review regarding the above
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012

  14. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    I don't think so. I have not seen it mentioned before and have not noticed it in other pictures. I have read reviews of the 2011 and they commented that the fit and finish, including the neck pocket was spot on like most of the US Fenders of the past few years.

    Being a US model I am sure it is nothing less then the heavy steel variety. That's what it looks like too.

  15. Camocaster

    Camocaster Strat-O-Master

    Dec 1, 2010
    Michael, nice strat ! I have one like yours- Vintage White with maple neck, but it's a 2007 model. Absolutely beautiful guitar !

    In regards to your comment about slipping off on the bottom E string, I have a video of a friend playing my Malmsteen strat and doing exactly that ! The video only goes for 43 seconds, and at about the 28 second mark he slips off the E string, and realises his 'mistake' and then goes on to enunciate the slip a few seconds later.

    Check it out :

    Chris Brooks playing a Yngwie Malmsteen Strat

  16. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    I've seen that video before. Your friend has very clean technique. If he's as good playing slowly as he is playing quickly, then he is a heck of a player! That was quick improv using the mistake to create something a second later.

    What are you guys running the guitar through?

    BTW - I've always been curious to try a Beck model because my Strat Plus from the '80's was a result of Fender making a guitar in response to Beck initially refusing to have a sig model done, reportedly. I have always wondered if the necks of the Plus and the Beck were similar in feel.

  17. Mech

    Mech Strat-Talker

    Jul 12, 2009

  18. Michael919

    Michael919 Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 22, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    That's the one. I think I want it....

    That video was a fun ride, at least until the last bit. Kinda ironic seeing an 80% EVH doodle on an Yngwie Strat. He was strong with the EVH term use. I kept thinking that he needed to get on that 21st fret and bend up to the second octave whenever he did his highest note bends when playing in E (or E flat).

  19. Camocaster

    Camocaster Strat-O-Master

    Dec 1, 2010
    Yeah he's pretty talented, can play slow, fast all styles etc etc.

    My friend is playing through a Blackstar amp. I don't know what model it is. He is a the manager of a music shop and he just plugged it into that amp. I have a few videos of him noodling with my Yngwie strat. One of the videos shows the amp but I can't see what model it is. He also used a boost/ overdrive pedal but can't remember what it was either. It was red with two black knobs on it lol !

    As far as the Beck and Strat-Plus guitars go, I don't really know what the similarities or differences are in neck shape, profile or size. I imagine they would be close, except for the original Beck sig necks which were huge !

    Glad you liked the video :)

  20. Malikon

    Malikon Dark Cabaret

    Sep 2, 2009
    beautiful guitar, congrats!