Manson MA Junior & Verona Junior review: Streamlined for heavy action

Manson MA Junior & Verona Junior review: Streamlined for heavy action

Manson Guitar Works has decades of experience creating the advanced sonic weaponry demanded by boundary-busting players such as John Paul Jones, Graham Coxon and (now majority shareholder) Matt Bellamy.

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Offering a range of electric guitars built in tits Devon UK factory, Manson are the people you go to when you need a little something off the beaten path, and this pair of rocktacular new models shows exactly why. They also represent the most affordable Manson models built in Devon to date.
Manson MA Junior. Image: Adam Gasson
Is one pickup enough?
Back in the 1980s there was a trend for the more cloven-hoofed guitarist to eschew the effete niceties of a neck or middle pickup and take to the stage with nothing more than a bridge humbucker, a Floyd Rose, and a super-size can of hairspray for protection. It was the era of the ‘Super Strat’ after all – when excess and flash were basic requirements and if you didn’t have to reach above your head to adjust the controls then your amp was too small.
In a return to these heady moments of minimalist decadence, Manson has unleashed the MA and Verona Junior models – practically identical guitars in Stabilo highlighter finishes with a single Manson Dirty Rascal humbucker glowering in the bridge position.
Both guitars have familiar outlines. The MA has the single-cut T-style outline of Manson’s Matt Bellamy signature while the Verona – a shape first previewed by Bellamy on Muse’s world tour in 2023 – leans heavily into the Fender S for inspiration. Aside from that there is little to separate them in terms of specs.
Manson Verona Junior. Image: Adam Gasson
What is Obeche?
Both guitars are made from Obeche – an African white wood often used in the frames of speedboats for its strength, light weight and straight grain. Although both bodies have been lovingly coated in their matte finishes there is still visible wood grain which adds to the stripped-back feel of these guitars.
The necks are maple with rosewood fingerboards, there is no inlay work whatsoever. Just 22 well-seated medium jumbo frets, a tusq nut and low-key side dot fretmarkers. There are no string trees but the tuner posts are staggered in height giving you a beautiful break angle on the treble strings. Straight, no chaser, being the order of the day.
It is readily apparent that Manson has refused to compromise in any of the core materials used. The matte finish scratch plates are hard anodised aluminium, and the bridge and tuners are Gotoh. The latter being a set of mini 510s. Always a pleasure to see and relatively rare outside of the high-end luthiery world.
Manson Verona Junior headstock. Image: Adam Gasson
Do you need a tone control?
While the spec is high quality, it’s streamlined; these Juniors do away with the tone control and includes a kill switch to accompany the volume knob. That same single knob does have a push-push coil tap function should you wish, but I can’t help feeling that these guitars will see the most service with both barrels engaged. As is fitting.
Both guitars come in a Mono padded gig bag – high quality, and one of the best protective soft cases in its field but rarely bundled with stock guitar models. Another nod to the high-quality “humbucker on a stick” leitmotif.
All this and yet, both instruments are defiantly hard-tailed. This could get interesting.
Manson Verona Junior pickups. Image: Adam Gasson
For those about to rock
It’s difficult to decide which of these fluorescent beasts to begin with – however, as a confirmed Telecaster enjoyer I strap on the MA before the Verona and go into an old Cornford amp. Intent on keeping things clean, at least to begin with.
The first thing to notice is that the input socket is on the scratchplate itself which means you’ll need an angled jack to keep things tidy. Once you’re in though, the rest is plain sailing.
Our initial clean explorations are about as interesting as we expected. These guitars are not intended for the wood-library blues hound. There is some clean mileage to be had with the coil-tapped sound and a smear of delay but it’s very much in the Morello, Shaffer and Borland end of things. There is little to prod you towards earnest lyrical balladry here. Probably a good thing.
If you’re going to name your humbucker ‘Dirty Rascal’ then it had better deliver both crushing immediacy and the lighthearted cheekiness of a Dickensian orphan or you’ve got it wrong. Happily, as soon as we wind up the amp to ASBO levels a sense of heavy homeostasis returns.
These guitars offer a huge amount of fun for any genre that encourages an open-hearted rejection of subtlety. Monolithic riffs, crushing chugs, howling feedback – they love it. The soft V neck carve might not be the first choice of shred guitarists who lean towards the flat/thin end of things for their calisthenic explorations, but it feels comfortable throughout my test drive. In short, you can pull out a number of evocative textures from the needly sleaze of Sunset Strip to a dead crow-huffing session in Iowa without breaking a sweat.
Manson MA Junior pickups. Image: Adam Gasson
We need to talk about kill switches
So here’s the thing; if you are used to using a twin volume control guitar such a 74 Telecaster Custom – with one pickup switched off in order to get your stutter on – then you may find the use of a kill switch counterintuitive to begin with. Whereas the first approach has you actively engaging the guitar to switch it on, the kill switch approach is the opposite – you’re turning it off. This means that certain examples of the oeuvre, such as the intro to Know Your Enemy, can sound a little anaemic until you get the hang of the timing.
Then there is the lack of a vibrato of any kind. Sure, if you’re looking at this sort of guitar then you may already have a whammy or Ricochet on your pedalboard but some of us want to go neeeeeeeyyyyyyyarghhhhhwobwobwob as well as beep-beep-beep, right?
But there’s possible scope for such options in the future. As it stands right now these Juniors are entirely UK-made guitars with a genuine pedigree. Quite frankly you already knew if you wanted one of these before you read this far. You do. You want one.
Manson MA Junior fingerboard. Image: Adam Gasson
If you like these, try these:

Ibanez Prestige RG5120M-PRT $1,999/£1,599

Kramer Baretta $799/£809

ESP E-II M-I Thru NT Black Satin $1,999/£2,199

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