As a company Ernie Ball has always positioned itself as the young upstart on the market. The peak of their popularity came hand in hand with the rise of southern Californian pop punk in the late ‘90s. Even on the occasion of their 40th anniversary much of the marketing is peppered with rapacious youthfulness. Checkerboard Vans shoes, brightly coloured gaffer tape and scrawled, handwritten logos render the company the Bart Simpson to their competitors Mr. Burns, the brackish provocateur skateboarding just ahead of the old guard. Be that as it may, they are four decades into their lifetime and have not shied away from the wisdom that comes with age. Aside from their neon packaged string sets, their most popular design has been their line of volume and expression pedals and what better way to celebrate the big four zero than to do a better version of what they do best.
The long board VP and VP Jr. are the one and only choice for hundreds of professional guitarists, bass players and even keyboard players the world over. While they are time tested and trusty as they come, it stands to reason that the VP’s parents would want it to put on its party clothes on such a momentous occasion. The ubiquitous grey box that heads up any number of pedal chains is as familiar a sight as any, but for its birthday it has opted for a tuxedo dark, grey finish. The grip and nigh on indestructible brushed steel chassis are true to the original, embellished simply with the cartoon eagle logo across the input and output panel facing the audience. The fact that it is a passive unit is what makes it such a great choice for anyone wanting a little more dynamic control over their playing.
The one bone of contention with Ernie Ball’s design is the insistence by the manufacturer to use a simple string drive to balance the footboard. While it does in fact lend a smoother and more measured sweep, it does make you worried about leaning on it too heavily. Restringing the original can be a painfully fiddly operation, particularly on show day, and has sent some running screaming for cog driven opposition builds who favour stability and lifespan over unmitigated effortlessness. Owners of this particular variation need worry no more as the driver is made of PVC coated Kevlar, bringing bulletproof vest durability to the ride for a balance of seamlessness and resilience.
Long time users of Ernie Ball’s products know them as consistently several lengths ahead of the pack. Their strings are that much slinkier, their expression pedals that much more efficient through the sweep, their packaging that much more lively and their overall attitude one of teenage-millionaire confidence and brackishness. In this vein, the 40th Anniversary edition of their famous VP is an improvement on an improvement. Let’s hope these welcome tweaks find their way into production models once the year is out.
Hits and Misses
Stronger driving string and swankier appearance
I wish they’d do a mini version