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Vintage guitar of the week #17 - 1979 Music Man Sabre II

This Music Man Sabre II (see current listings here) is, for all intents and purposes, a Fender guitar.

Music Man's Sabre is known as a bass guitar (and in fact, Music Man only uses the name Sabre on bass guitars now,) but the model name was also used on a 6-string, the 1979 Sabre II model.

Why is this a Fender guitar? Because Leo Fender himself came up with the idea for it during his short tenure in the company. Fender was with the company until November 1979 (it started in 1974.)

Is the Sabre II a Strat copy? No. It's distinctively different in several ways. The bridge is a big ol' chunk of metal, the pick guard is a bit of a hybrid between a Strat and Tele, and the bottom metal control plate borrows from the Jaguar. And, of course, dual humbucker pickups are found here.

Where things get a little nuts is with the active electronics.

There are three knobs, two toggle switches and a blade selector. Where does the 9-volt battery go? There is, thankfully, an easy-access control plate for that in the back.

How this guitar works is as follows as far I know (I've never played one personally, so if I'm wrong, feel free to email me and I'll post a correction):

The first toggle acts as a switch between humbucker and single-coil. The second toggle switches between active and passive (which should mean you can play the guitar even without a battery in it, if desired.) The volume control only controls volume. For the two tone controls, in passive they act as normal tone knobs for each pickup, and when switched to active, one acts as a treble boost while the other acts as a bass boost.

"I've never heard of this guitar before."

If before reading this you never heard of the Sabre II, that wouldn't surprise me at all as they did not sell well.

As for why they didn't sell well, I couldn't say because I'm not sure. Maybe it was poor marketing. Maybe Music Man didn't have enough presence in the guitar marketplace. Maybe the guitar was too complicated for most players. I'm just not sure.

What I do know is that it is a well-built instrument, and once educated how a Sabre II works, then oh yeah, it sounds all sorts of awesome when you know how to dial in the tone you want. Big, beefy humbucker tone along with snappy, twangy single-coil tone is all present in the Sabre II.

Worth it to buy?

It is if you appreciate "practical vintage" electrics.

The '79 Sabre II is a guitar you could in fact gig with. It's different-but-not-too-different, has the big humbucker sound along with great single-coil tone that's suitable for basically any amplifier setup and should have many years of life left in it.

Personally, I think the best part of the guitar is that it's different without being tacky. Nice design all around, lightweight (it's under 8lbs) and has that cool '70s era "woody" appearance going on.

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