Musicvox has earned a well-deserved reputation for capturing the mojo of ’60s-era gear in their import guitars and basses (and amps). The new MI-6 line is no exception. With their suave, 007-evoking name, these planks sport massive horns, rocket-shaped headstocks, round-edged bodies, and truly Space Age pickguard designs.
The 20th Anniversary MI-6 guitar sports a Fender-sized 25.5″ scale with maple bolt-on neck and rosewood or maple fingerboard with 12″ radius, 24 frets, and pearloid block inlays. This axe might appear heavy and unwieldy, but its body is lightweight mahogany and quite manageable.
Fans of unusual pickup configurations will dig the single/humbucker/single setup. It’s actually two stacked, hum-canceling single-coils in the bridge and neck slots with a mini ’bucker in the middle. A five-way selector controls them, along with equally unusual stacked Volume and Tone knobs. The chrome hardware includes six locking tuners with three string trees, and a standard tune-o-matic-style bridge and stop tailpiece. The MI-6’s pickguard is cool black/white/black and its shape Batman-approved.
Plugged in, the MI-6 is a rockin’ machine. True to form, its hum-canceling pickups are dead quiet, threading the needle between the desire for retro twang and modern silence. The middle humbucker delivers a sweet midrange bit of honk with some neck fatness, while the single-coils offer a little quack, though not full-on Strat tone. Still, the pickups sound spunky and fresh.
The MI-6 neck is fast and shredular, with low fretboard action and a modern D-shaped carve. There’s much to like about this Musicvox and its appearance is guaranteed to stand out onstage. It might take a few days to get used to the concentric Volume and Tone knobs, but it’s a stylistic concession that’s worth the effort. The pickup selector also doesn’t feel too durable, but otherwise, the MI-6 is a sweet retro six-string that sounds great and plays extremely well.
Its four-string sibling is just as intriguing – a long-scale bass (34″) with a mahogany body, bolt-on maple neck, and rosewood board with 24 frets, pearloid blocks, and an 11″ radius. The test axe, like the guitar, came in nice vintage cream color with a cream-faced headstock (Musicvox offers several other finish options). Its bridge is a one-piece, adjustable chrome unit with stainless-steel saddles. There are also four Premium Musicvox chrome tuners and a black Tusq nut. Electronics include Musicvox Special eight-pole bass humbuckers with separate volumes for each and a master tone.
In performance, the MI-6 bass is comfortable and not too heavy. The neck is, like most Musicvox designs, fast and accessible with a modern profile, good frets, and low action. It was tested with modeling amp-sims and a combo, all of which yielded good results. The pickups offer a nice range of tones, from fat jazz-tinged bottom tone to twangy Rick textures and all manner in between. The best part was simply jamming on its fast neck and enjoying the overall snappy tone as befitting its bolt-on construction. One can see everyone from modern rockers to retro-cats to surfcasters enjoying this beast and, again, it will look killer onstage.
Both the MI-6 guitar and bass are available in that mid-price zone, making them accessible to just about everyone. Musicvox has been making cool vintage axes for two decades now and, judging by the exceedingly fun MI-6 series, will be making them for decades to come.
This article originally appeared in VG April 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.