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Eddie Van Halen Has Superhuman Ears

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

We all know Eddie Van Halen is good with his hands — and if a story making the rounds about the Van Halen guitarist is accurate, he’s been blessed with some pretty sharp ears, too.

The Van Halen News Desk points us to a tale recounting one chapter in Eddie’s occasionally somewhat adversarial relationship with Hartley Peavey, founder and CEO of the gear company that bears his name. The two were working together on the company’s Van Halen-endorsed 5150 guitar cabinet, and locking horns over materials; essentially, Eddie wanted Peavey to use Baltic birch, and wasn’t willing to settle for less — to the point that he disassembled a prototype on delivery to verify it was absolutely up to snuff:

So he takes the test cabinet apart and says, “Hartley, I thought we agreed this cab was going to be made of Baltic birch? What’s with these little blocks of plywood down here?” Now, he’s talking about some block inside the joints of the sides that was just there to give more space to join them or glue them or whatever. Hartley says, “Well, we decided that would raise the price by [X] dollars and it wasn’t worth it because those little pieces aren’t going to change the tone at all.”

To settle the argument, Peavey said he’d line up 16 cabinets, one of which was built with all Baltic birch, and if Eddie could tell the difference, he’d cave in to his demands. You know what happened next, right?

“Eddie comes back down to the factory, plugs in and lets just one blistering high sustain note rip and vibrate everything until it dies out. Then he unplugs and goes to the next one, all down the line like that until he gets to one and lets the note rip. ‘That one,” concluded the poster of the tale. “Of course he’s right, or there wouldn’t be a story.”

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