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gear: Steve Vai's EVO & Mad Hatter Terminator Kit

By Anthony Garone

We install a Mad Hatter Terminator Kit in this iconic guitar.

Video

Here’s a video  about the installation of the Mad Hatter SVST-HSH Terminator Kit in EVO:

You should buy yourself a Mad Hatter Guitar Products Terminator SVST-HSH Kit , the same as what we put into EVO.

Podcast Audio

(NOTE: hitting the “play” button requires a hefty download of the entire audio file!).

Or, download an mp3 .

Thanks

Thanks to Russell Muller for joining me on some of this escapade and engineering the A/V stuff for the installation video.

Preface

I kinda promised myself I wouldn’t make this a sentimental/nostalgic post, but the content means so much to me that I’d feel inauthentic doing otherwise. Steve Vai’s guitar, EVO , can be heard on on some of my favorite music of all time. I was obsessed with the guitar as a teenager when I found out about the guitar in 1995. Seriously, I carried the 1995 Ibanez Guitars catalog  everywhere I went in junior high and drew pictures of EVO in all my art classes (and other classes).

EVO was all I would talk about with my friends and family at that time. In 1997, my grandmother, parents, and I pooled our money together and bought my Ibanez Jem7vwh, new in box. I’ve had that guitar ever since. That was 20 years ago now!! Sheesh.

Anyway, you may remember my interview with “Electric Ed” Heisler, owner of Mad Hatter Guitar Products . I told Steve about Ed’s patent-pending potentiometer designs and what a difference it made in my Jem. Steve immediately said, “Would you install it in EVO?”

So, um… We did!

It was a little nerve-wracking leaving the venue with one of the most valuable guitars on the planet. I joked with Ed that I would rather Steve handed us a bag with 1 million dollars cash because cash is replaceable. I think Ed double-checked his homeowner’s insurance after he brought EVO home.

Installation

[You really should just watch the video to see what we did.]

Before Ed installed the Mad Hatter Terminator SVST-HSH System , he took note of the existing wiring configuration. Steve was using a push-pull volume pot configuration with a 331K (.0033 microfarad) ceramic capacitor modification that rolled off some of the low end frequencies when engaged. Also, his tone pot had a Vishay orange drop .022 microfarad tone capacitor .

Ed customized a Mad Hatter Yin Yang 500K push pull volume pot  by placing the ceramic capacitor in parallel with the pot. He installed the Vishay capacitor on the Mad Hatter Killer Tone dual-value pot  and wired it to 500K. He replaced Steve’s output jack with a new Mad Hatter Switchcraft output jack and replaced the existing 5-way CRL selector switch with the Mad Hatter Terminator 5-way CRL selector switch.

The Terminator system design is solderless, so Ed connected everything to the appropriate terminals using the Mad Hatter Little Ass Screwdriver and gently tugged on all the wires once installed in the terminals to ensure secure attachment.

Before restringing the guitar, he used the Little Ass Screwdriver to ensure the pickups and switch configuration were working as expected. Once it passed inspection, we restrung the guitar and demo’d the new hardware. It sounded great to our ears, but only one set of ears truly mattered.

Ed and I brought the guitar to Steve’s studio about a week later and he loved the upgrade. He said, “It’s like EVO has a bigger set of lungs,” and specifically commented on an increase of clarity in the mid-range frequencies. Thomas Nordegg, Steve’s guitar tech, was also very happy with the tone. Ed and I were both smiling for hours afterward.

So, this was a huge deal for me because Steve’s music, instruments, and friendship have played a significant part in my life. To play a small part in the history of this incredible instrument is an indescribable honor. And it was awesome to get to hang out so much with Ed, learn even more about his awesome products, and get to know him better on a road trip to LA. He exposed me to some cool weird music I’ll be sharing at some point, too!

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