The Music Man Majesty Monarchy raises the bar in a royal way. By Steve Henderson
John Petrucci’s work with Dream Theater continues to draw new fans, and his dynamic performances during various G3 tours (with Satch and others) has broadened this fanbase by demonstrating his immense rock chops. His work with Music Man and Mesa/Boogie has produced some definitive instruments that appeal to a wide variety of players. His signature amp, the Boogie JP2C, is an extraordinarily versatile head that covers a lot of styles, and the current range of Petrucci‑related Music Man guitars (11 different models) likewise offers a versatility, in each guitar, that can cover a range of styles from metal and progressive metal, to rock and pop to country. This is because the primary products of these instruments are rooted in tone and feel, not volume, shred‑ability or image.
The Music Man Majesty Monarchy is a tone monster. A pair of DiMarzio Sonic Ecstacy humbuckers and a Music Man piezo system in the bridge do the business but don’t mean much, or do much, if the lumber isn’t doing its job. In this regard, the Monarchy has a mahogany through‑neck connected seamlessly to a mahogany body with a figured maple top feature. The ebony fretboard carries 24 medium-jumbo stainless steel frets, perfectly crowned. Mahogany has long been considered the perfect complement for humbuckers, and it contributes a strong midrange presence to the output. Even unplugged, you can hear the pronounced mids and feel the long sustain.
Electronically, the Monarchy provides a wide variety of options. The DiMarzios deliver a broader range than most and the output has some seriously rich tones. There’s the piezo system, an active preamp, a three-way for the humbuckers, another three-way to assign the pickups (humbuckers or piezo or both), a push/push for the 20-decibel gain boost function, a second push/push (under the tone control) to access custom pickup choice, and a mono/stereo output option. In addition, the back plate houses trim pots for the piezo EQ and boost level. That’s a lot of control and a lot of dials, switches and electrical thingies, but once the parameters are set for the individual player, the basic knobs and switches can be used in a very conventional way: a couple of three-ways plus volume and tone.
As part of the Majesty series, the Monarchy has an asymmetrical lower body profile and a figured maple insert around the pickups and bridge. The offset waste and long upper horn makes the guitar perfectly balanced, and at three kilos, the Monarchy is an easy lug. The deep treble cutaway provides plenty of upper fret access while the slim, nicely-shaped neck, the polished ebony fretboard and the perfectly-dressed stainless steel frets all make for a smooth and unhindered playing experience. From every angle, the Monarchy looks and feels like a premium guitar.
The Monarchy also sounds like a premium guitar. Variously using a Mesa/Boogie Mk IV (Simul-Class) and vintage Boogie quad, a Mesa TransAtlantic into a custom 212 (with G12-65s), an old tweed Bassman and a Fishman Loudbox Mini as the test amps, the Monarchy showed its many personalities. The Monarchy’s clean tone through the Bassman and the Boogie’s clean channel is big, bold and rich. It’s a surprise to hear so much harmonic content from pickups with so much output (usually, tone is sacrificed for volume) but these Sonic Ecstacy transducers have some real class. Through the Bassman, notes produced by the Monarchy have a warm kind of tone that’s clean, but not entirely pristine – very sweet and very musical. Engage the boost and the Bassman roars with a solid, tuneful drive, similar to a JCM800 but with the extra subsonics of the 6L6 tubes. It’s like channel switching on a single‑channel amp from the guitar – a very cool feature. I added to this a Zendrive, a Mesa Flux‑Five and an old Boss DS-1 (40 years on and it still pumps out a great sound), and the Monarchy produced a range of useful sounds from a pretty simple, set-and-forget signal chain.
READY TO DRIVE
Into the drive channel of both the TransAtlantic and the Boogie Mk IV, the Monarchy produces some amazingly smooth tones with sustain for days. The value of a through-neck design is the transmission of vibration from the fretboard to the body, creating a kind of resonance ‘loop’ that, theoretically, increases sustain and dynamics. Combined with the long scale and 17-inch radius, it makes for a great combination.
In all, the Monarchy is one of the most dynamic guitars I’ve ever played. Even the natural compression of the overdrive channels doesn’t squash the Monarchy’s touch sensitivity. And it’s capable of some fat tones, too. Even distorted chords display a string definition that is clear and balanced, and single notes leap out with a voice that has body and sizzle. Add in the “acoustic” element from the piezo system, and there’s plenty of tone shaping available.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This particular guitar is unique: it’s the first ever Music Man that arrived here needing a neck adjustment. But thanks to Music Man’s clever truss rod wheel, it was done in a matter of seconds. The Monarchy delivers a truly great playing experience, with a smooth fulcrum trem and locking machines, high class tones and artisan-level timber work. It’s easy to see this as an expensive instrument, but violinists can spend more than this on a bow, and saxophonists on a mouthpiece. Guitar players have it pretty good and, value for money, this is a winner. The Monarchy is a quality guitar built for the creative player who understands the guitar’s, and his own, potential.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Mahogany body and through-neck
• Twin humbuckers with boost, plus piezo system
• Long scale, 24 frets
• Vibrato system, locking machines
• Wide variety of sounds
• Great to play
• Artisan craftsmanship
• Broad tonal range and options
• 24 frets might be a new challenge for some players
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