AN AX TO GRIND
The most important feature to note here, compared to the AX3, is the addition of a double- locking tremolo, which brings this guitar much closer to the Axis in style and spirit. I always felt a non-locking trem looked weird on an Axis-style guitar. Other appointments include a solid hardwood body (Sterling By Music Man doesn’t clarify exactly what kind of wood it is) with a bound quilt maple image top. That is to say, it’s not actually quilt maple at all but either a printed image of it or perhaps a quilt-patterned flm overlay. So it’s not the basswood/maple combo of the originals. The neck is surprisingly similar in feel to the EBMM though, with an asym- metric carve and 22 medium- sized frets. There’s a 5-bolt neck joint that keeps the neck stable and allows for plenty of string energy transfer. The headstock is the classic EBMM style with four tuners on the top row and two on the bottom. The electronics consist of a pair of high-output humbuckers – not the custom DiMarzios that have been a part of the EBMM model since the EVH days (and which you can get on the Sterling AX40D). They’re connected to a 5-way pickup selector switch that gives you single coil tones as well as humbucker ones. And there’s a master volume control and a master tone control.
AXIS OF AWESOME
The setup out of the box wasn’t so great, with the strings quite high in the upper fret region, and a loose B string bridge saddle that came free of its moorings during a whole-step bend. But any good store will make sure the guitar is ready to go before you leave with it. The pickups don’t have quite the character of the custom DiMar- zios but they’re plenty versatile, with a nice natural compression and plenty of attack. They split nicely too, giving you lots of op- tions for clean and jangly tones that aren’t typically available from a stock Axis. This guitar seems happiest when exploring heavier rock tones and it’s great with tunings like Drop D. It’s also cool that you can get this guitar in S.U.B, Sterling and EBMM versions, each of which adds more deluxe appointments materials and workmanship but each of which is unmistakably an Axis. A big part of that is the attention paid to getting the neck right.
AXIS AND YOU WILL RECEIEVE
So if you always wanted an Axis but couldn’t swing the cash for the EBMM version, there’s a Sterling and an S.U.B. version waiting to fll that Axis-shaped hole in your heart. With a quick setup this guitar is more than capable of handling a gig or recording session.