Peavey Wolfgang Special

Discussion in 'Guitar Reviews' started by tyler_faith_08, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. tyler_faith_08

    tyler_faith_08 Strings of Chaos

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    Aug 3, 2013
    Mobile, AL
    This is my review of my USA Peavey Wolfgang Speciak. To start with, I had the opportunity to tour the Peavey engineering facility with the lead amp supervisor back in 2008 so I'll throw some of my conversation high points in where relevant.

    As for a quick background, the Peavey Wolfgang was Eddie Van Halen's signature guitar built by Peavey from 1996 to 2004, with subsequent lower end models and occasional special custom shop limited runs following some years later. The guitar was originally an effort to build a guitar that could be picked up at a local shop if need be. The guitar remained functionally unchanged throughout all USA models with the exception of maple tops of varying thickness for the non-special models.

    Quality control was very strict in the earlier years, with EVH playing nearly 200 that rolled off the line at complete random and rejected 3 (IIRC) in that period of time.

    The guitar features a Peavey designed Floyd Rose tremolo, Peavey designed pickups, 22 fret maple neck, basswood body, chrome hardware, a single volume knob, 3 way toggle switch mounted on the upper horn, and a factory installed D-Tuna.

    The feature rating is based off what I believe to be a general consensus as I prefer the controls exactly as they are. The pickups are relatively hot-sounding while still cleaning up very nicely. I almost believe that the pot is of a custom taper as cleans come on around .5 volume, full cleans around 2, moderate crunch around 6, and full gain being had anywhere above 8. With the gap between cleans and crunch on the volume setting, you can easily adjust volume with barely any precision required.

    The pickups complement each other very well and are very balanced. The bridge provides a very full, slightly bright output and the neck pickup gives a slightly more liquidy tone while still retaining the balanced output and not falling on it's face with a bottom heavy output. The pickups are also hard mounted which is a huge plus in my book. Using Seymour Duncan's pickup description charts, I'd rate the bridge pickup as a 7 7 8 and the neck pickup as a 7 7 7.

    The Floyd Rose made by Peavey is surprisingly well built and very solid. I'd easily compare it to a stock OFR. The knife edges on mine are slightly worn which is largely irrelevant because the trem is a dive only, top mounted piece. I believe that it also helps substantially with the sustain and resonance because if even a slight dive can reduce the sustain. Normally, this would indicate a problem, but the guitar really can afford to lose quite a bit of sustain and still be top notch. I've yet to crack a string block on it and the saddles show exceptionally low wear. The Floyd does come with a screw in arm which isn't enough to knock off any points in my book, but it is a preference thing.

    The tuners are very durable and precise. Of those, only durability really matters with a locking nut as far as I'm concerned. The locking nut is secured by 2 bottom fed phillips head bolts (not screws) that do a very good job of preventing any nut play unlike a top down screw configuration that's been knocked around a bit.

    The neck does have kind of a weird feel to it, but is very playable ON SOME WOLFGANGS. The contour is asymmetrical and the neck is unfinished. The neck does seem a bit beefy at first, but range of motion isn't affected too much because the high string side of the contour is shaved a bit more than the low string side. However, a good 15 minutes of playing generally helps you un-notice it. The truss rod adjustment is between the 22nd fret and the neck pickup and is slotted with round holes that just happen to accept an allen wrench of the same size as the FR hardware which means fewer tools = hell yeah. The only problem that I have with the neck is the frets and even this is slight. The frets are medium sized and can be quite frustrating when coming from XL jumbos. Higher fret access is much easier than an initial glance at the design would suggest.

    Other misc high points:

    -The plate for the spring cavity is not recessed and can be annoying.
    -The neck contour and the lack of a noticeable transitional hump between the neck and the headstock back make it easy to slide your hand too far down run your finger into the locking nut.
    -The neck "has something about it" that makes it feel like it wants to be played. The more you play, the more you get into it (unplugged).


    I started with a setup as soon as I got it back to my place. The high points here were that the previous owner was a complete idiot or either bought the guitar as a first guitar and didn't know what he was doing. Other Wolfgangs do NOT have this problem. I played the first and fourth ones ever sold in Alabama because I know the dealer and he directed me to them who are original owners. The guy that has the first has the original setup from the factory, per the owner (not a guy to lie about things) and plays incredibly well. The intonation was perfect, as was the other whose owner claimed a similar story but isn't someone I know quite as well.

    After replacing the (only 2) springs with some from another guitar, I moved on to lowering the trem screws (why, previous owner? It's a top mount floyd...) and setting the intonation. The neck needed no adjustment whatsoever.


    I plugged into my Line 6 spider valve II (tube series from Line 6 for those who don't know) and began to play. Even at talking volume, the first thing that stood out was sustain. It sustained for days. I've yet to play another guitar in any state of modification from anywhere that came close to the sustain of this guitar in stock condition. Every note, from Low E to the 22nd fret high E sustained like nothing else.

    Power chords were extremely full but were somewhat labored as the frets are smaller than what I'm used to. Alternate chord voicings were much easier where only one finger was used for each note. I must say that the tone that this thing has is unmatched IMO. Full doesn't give the guitar enough credit. Id I had to describe it in relation to my DKMG with an 18v EMG 85, I'd say that it sounded like I was plugged into 2 of the same amp with contrasting settings. Each note was very distinct and had a natural and full ring.

    With faster playing, the guitar starts to really get frustrating. Even with Fret-Ease and a cleaned neck, even licks of slight difficulty were substantially more difficult to play. Playing Pull Me Under by DT was quite a challenge and isn't with other guitars. Even with the same strings from my other guitar, it felt foreign. The 9s felt like 11s in the same tuning, bending was finger splitting (not literally), it's almost like the guitar fights you. To be honest, with the action registering in at the lower side of average, it felt like playing an acoustic.

    Actually, if I had to describe the guitar in one go, I'd say that it's like playing an acoustic with the best electric tone imaginable. Unlike above where I stated that the guitar just wanted to be played, it doesn't like to be touched if you plug it in.

    The guitar is downright frustrating to play. I spent years trying to get to where technique wasn't the focus of my playing and it all comes rushing back with this guitar. In my opinion, this guitar is great for anyone who isn't playing very difficult stuff or someone who wants a great rhythm guitar for recording purposes. Otherwise, it'd be an absolute waste of money.

    If I was the type to sell gear, this thing would be sold.


    Tone: 10+

    *Note* The picture has an EMG 81 in the bridge, but the review is based off of the stock configuration.

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