Musicvox Space Cadet 12

Chime Machine
Musicvox Space Cadet 12

Musicvox Space Cadet 12

Musicvox Space Cadet 12
Price: $899 (direct)

As you may have read in Michael Wright’s profile of the Spaceranger guitar (September ’11), Musicvox started producing kooky, retro-styled solidbody guitars in the ’90s and was prominently featured in the comedy film Austin Powers. The company was on hiatus for a decade and recently returned with new models including the Space Cadet 12-string. We asked, and Musicvox was happy to let us twang this thang.

Made in Indonesia, the guitar is an attention-getter with its swank, vintage look. It has an old-school tobacco sunburst finish and single-cut body shape sporting a large treble-bout horn (tamed down, size-wise, compared to earlier Musicvoxes like the Spaceranger!). The swingin’ ’60s décor continues with a sexy, sweeping white pickguard, large dot inlays, and a rare open-face headstock for the tuning machines (six on the side, six on the rear).

Other features include a mahogany body, a 251/2″-scale bolt-on maple neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, chrome hardware, master volume and tone, a three-way pickup selector, and two black P-90 pickups that match the truss-rod cover. The bridge is a tune-o-matic type, while the simple bolt-on tailpiece is a top-loader – handy for 12-strings.

One thing you can say for that large horn is it makes the guitar sit snugly on your lap and helps balance the Space Cadet (a feature useful with headstock-heavy 12-string axes!).

Using a tube combo and a solidstate acoustic amp, the Space Cadet 12 proved likeable. In the hand, its maple neck has a big C profile that feels much like an acoustic. The super-flat fingerboard and wide nut (17/8″) further evoke that acoustic vibe.

It might take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the Space Cadet’s six side-facing machines and six rear-facing ones, but once you become accustomed to the instrument, it can be tuned up as quickly as a six-string. Overall, the Space Cadet’s tuners are decent, though they have a lower gear ratio than most guitars (which means you have to turn them more to change pitch). Once in tune, though, the Space Cadet holds it well. If you plan on gigging heavily with this guitar, it’s something to keep in mind.

Sonically, the Space Cadet 12 is not a one-trick guitar. Using the bridge P-90, you can find plenty of classic ’60s tones, from the Byrds to the Beatles and everything in-between. It’s a thinner, brighter, chimey sound with folk-rock nostalgia mixed in. In the center and neck pickup positions, you get a fuller tone, of course, along with more-bell-like flavors. The guitar sounded good through the tube combo, but took on a whole new personality through the acoustic amp, which added tons of sparkle (keep in mind, acoustic amps aren’t just for acoustic guitars!). The Space Cadet sounded very different through different amps, and simply invites experimentation. Also keep in mind, compression is a important ingredient for ’60s jangle, so you might try the Cadet with the comp pedal of your choice.

Whether you want to jangle like Roger McGuinn, George Harrison, or Marshall Crenshaw, this Musicvox fits the bill. Yes, there are cheaper electric 12s on the market, but many have tuning issues. This guitar sounds and looks hip, is fun to use for everything from open chords to big barre chords to ethereal, ringing arpeggios, and does a good job staying in tune. If you want a blast from the past, jump into this chime machine and enjoy the ride.

This article originally appeared in VG December 2012 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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