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Maton was founded in 1946 by Bill May, who created the company’s name (pronounced MAY-ton) by combining his last name and the word “tone.” Back in the ’40s, quality guitars weren’t readily available in Australia so Maton quickly became the founding father of the Australian guitar industry. They began manufacturing high-quality acoustic instruments and ventured into electric guitars in the late ’50s. Their first solidbody electric was called the Mastersound in 1958, and the MS500 series followed soon thereafter. It quickly became a favorite for many musicians—including George Harrison, who played a Maton MS500 early in his career. The guitar was reissued in 2008 as a 50th-anniversary model, and now Maton has introduced a semi-hollowbody version of that guitar— the MS500/HC reviewed here.
Proven Design, New Twists
The 24.5"-scale MS500/HC has a maple bolt-on neck with a rosewood fingerboard and a Queensland maple body with a Blackwood tone cap. The pickups are Maton’s own design—a coil-tapped MVB1 in the bridge position and an MVS1 neck unit that has alnico magnets.
As you’d expect from its origins in the late ’50s, the MS500/HC exudes a retro vibe. Everything from the pickups and pickguard to the headstock with the original logo from 1946 contributes to the throwback nostalgia. One of the coolest features is the 3-way, gearshift-style rotary pickup selector, which features kitschy setting names: “Cool” for the neck pickup, “Midway” for both, and “HiFi” for the bridge pickup. The shape and position of the switch allow for fast and easy switching between modes. Plus, there’s something about having a rotary switch with a little handle that’s a lot more fun than a regular toggle switch.
The Queensland maple body and blackwood tone cap are probably not a tonewood combination most American guitarists are used to. But because Maton is based in Australia, they have access to a wide range of woods that aren’t available elsewhere. This particular combination is probably most analogous to the maple-and-mahogany-cap construction used for Les Pauls. These timbers help Maton make unique, quality guitars while keeping materials costs a little lower.