Chapman Stick

The Chapman Stick and
The Mobius Megatar:
One Guy's Review

by Daniel J. Barrett
January 18, 2010


After owning a Mobius Megatar for a year, I recently received a Chapman Stick. This article compares the two instruments for anybody who is considering buying one.

Disclaimer: I am just one guy with an opinion. Your mileage may vary. Also, I am not affiliated with Stick Enterprises nor Megatar except as a satisfied customer.

About The Instruments

The 12-string Megatar is a MaxTapper Dual model, dark wood, with Bartolini pickups, which cost me approximately $1800 in November 2008.

The 10-string Stick is made of dark bamboo and has the Stickup pickup; it cost me about $2300 in December 2009.

Both instruments are tuned in the classic "Stick" tuning and played through an Acoustic Image Coda stereo amplifier (which is an excellent amp for tapping instruments, by the way.).

About Me

I'm new to tapping but have played keyboard instruments for nearly 40 years: classical, rock, etc. I don't gig much anymore, but do composing & recording in my own studio, purely for fun. (By trade, I am a computer guy.) About a year ago, looking for a new challenge, I started teaching myself to play tapping instruments by ear. I wanted a Stick but, after watching eBay for a month, found it impossible to get one quickly for a reasonable price. So I bought a Megatar, which arrived in a few weeks, and at the same time placed an order for a Stick (with delivery estimate 1 year). The Stick arrived several weeks ago, about 10 months after ordering.

Now... on with the review! For each attribute of the instruments -- physical appearance, tone quality, etc. -- I discuss both instruments and declare a winner.

Physical Differences


Both instruments are beautiful. The Megatar's solid appearance and larger head make for an imposing look. The Stick's more slender body makes you wonder how such a thick sound can come from such a slim instrument. Either one of these instruments looks great on stage, or while posing in the mirror. :-) When people visit my house and see the instruments, the reaction is always, "Wow."

And the winner is... both! (A tie.)


My Megatar weighs 10.5 pounds (4.8 kg), while my bamboo Stick weighs 6.5 pounds (3 kg). This 40% difference is significant. From the day I began playing the Megatar, I've found the weight a bit uncomfortable. As a result, I intentionally purchased the lightest Stick model. I don't believe Megatar sells any stock instrument this light.

And the winner is... Stick.


The Megatar is played vertically with a strap over your left shoulder. In this position, the full 10 pounds of the Megatar hangs on your shoulder. My first reaction was, "Oh no, this is too heavy." It took me a couple of weeks to get used to this weight, but I did. (Remember, I'm a keyboardist; perhaps a guitarist or bassist wouldn't mind the weight as much.) It is possible to walk around with the Megatar without using your hands, but not very comfortable to do so.

The Stick is played diagonally with a belt clip and an optional strap over your head and right shoulder. In this position, the majority of the weight is on the belt, and the strap merely stabilizes it a bit. The overall feel is weightless and effortless, completely comfortable. I became accustomed to it immediately, and I can walk around with no hands on the Stick very easily.

And the winner is... Stick.


The Megatar is not sold with a stand. After corresponding with the company for a bit, they suggested a third-party A-frame guitar stand with arms that can be bent into place to hold the Megatar. It cost only $10 from Guitar Center. It does indeed hold the Megatar, but I am nervous leaving it set up at home where a child or a housekeeper could bump it and knock the instrument off the stand.

The Stick is sold with a stand, a hybrid of an Ultimate Support stand with a custom base. It is solid and sturdy, easy to trust. It would be difficult to knock the Stick off this stand by accident.

And the winner is... Stick.

Ordering and Support

Delivery Time

Sticks take a while. If you want a new Stick, be prepared to wait a year for them to manufacture and ship it. In contrast, a new Megatar can be manufactured and delivered in a few weeks.

Supposedly you can find used Sticks on eBay, but practically speaking, it's not easy. After watching eBay for several months, I came away disappointed. Yes, there were some Sticks for total ripoff prices (30% higher than new), and occasionally a reasonably-priced Stick that had something wrong with it. I gave up.

And the winner is... Megatar, by far.

Customer Service

The Megatar spokesperson, Traktor Topaz, is great. He answers emails personally, offers tips and advice, and responds reasonably quickly. The Stick staff members I spoke with (Yuta and Cambria) were also excellent. They are friendly and professional. I had happy, effortless dealings with both companies.

And the winner is... both! (A tie.)

And... The Music

Tone Quality

The Megatar sounds like a cross between an electric guitar and an electric bass. The Stick (with Stickup pickup) has a distinctive sound that is guitar/bass-like, but unique. Which one is better? That's up to your personal preference. Personally, I think the Stick has a warmer, sweeter tone.

And the winner is... up to you. But personally, I prefer the Stick's tone.

Staying In Tune

I keep my instruments on the ground floor of a 110-year-old house, where the temperature fluctuates. The Megatar holds its tuning pretty well from one day to the next. The Stick needs to be retuned more often. Not a big deal.

The Megatar comes with a tuning system called a Buzz Feiten Intonation System which supposedly makes the instrument sound "more in tune" than its competitors. Personally, I don't hear it. Both Stick and Megatar have similar "in-tune-ness" to my ears (and I have perfect pitch).

And the winner is... Megatar.


I've played the Megatar for a year and the Stick for a few weeks. Both instruments feature a low action that's easy to tap. But somehow, the Stick just feels better. I don't know how to describe it... it just plays more musically. My fingers interfere with each other less. I hit other strings by accident less often. Chords are easier to play and hold. And sustaining notes on the Stick are effortless and just more... gorgeous. I was happy with the Megatar for a long time, but the Stick totally thrilled me.

(Also, when moving to the Stick, I wondered whether I'd miss the Megatar's additional 2 strings. The answer is: Not really. They don't add range, just more redundancy. Sticks do come in 12-string models if you care.)

And the winner is... Stick.

Highs And Lows

In my first year of learning the Megatar, I'd never been happy with its highest and lowest strings. The lowest bass string sounds muddy and buzzy above the 7th fret or so, and the very highest notes on the highest melody string are thin and hard to sustain. (I spoke with the company about the bass string and they said adjusting the action might help, but that would have other consequences on playability.)

For a year, I blamed these problems on my own inexperience with the instrument. But when the Stick arrived, the problems simply vanished. The lowest bass string sounds terrific all the way up the neck. And the highest notes on the highest string are easy to sustain. The instrument sounds smooth and consistent from end to end.

When I phoned Stick Enterprises a few weeks ago to pay my balance, the woman on the phone (Cambria) said, "I was just thinking about you. Emmett is playing your Stick right now and putting on the final touches." Well, I'd heard that Mr. Chapman personally plays every instrument he manufactures, and now I believe it. This is one professionally "tuned" instrument, and it shows.

And the winner is... Stick.


I enjoy the Megatar. It got me started with tapping, and I like the sound and feel very much, particularly when a more guitar/bass-like sound is called for. I would happily recommend it, especially because it is less expensive than the Stick and can be built and delivered so much faster.

Nevertheless, once I got my hands on a Chapman Stick, I was blown away. Its lighter weight, superior tone and playability (especially on the lowest and highest strings), and sheer musicality completely shocked me. I was not expecting this. The difference in quality was apparent immediately, literally in minutes. If you can afford the higher price and much longer wait time, you can't go wrong buying a Stick.

This review is copyright 2010 by Daniel J. Barrett. Permission is granted to copy and reprint it in any free publication, as long as this authorship and copyright notice is preserved, and the review is reproduced in its entirety, unchanged. Any commercial publication must request permission before reproducing this review (but you can link to it without permission).