Sunday, June 24, 2018

New screamer

Greetings, gear geeks & Tube Screamer fans alike. The following is my personal take on the Ibanez NTS which debuted this year. I have always held the Tube Screamer as the standard in that slight drive in kicking an already driven amp into finer definition (whatever that means to you). I also own some TS-alike pedals/ variations to keep things in perspective.  

Be informed that this version of the TS is devoid of the iconic JRC4558D that gave the pedal its individual flavour. In lieu of this goodness, Ibanez had teamed up with Korg to create a tube equipped PCB-based substitute seen here, dubbed the Nutube technology. 

Despite the tube technology on board, the NTS is still accommodating battery power in addition to PSU applications. The implication here is that the current draw for this technology is small & not power sapping as many of us would've expected. I've been playing mine with a 9V battery in there to keep track of possible tonal changes if the pedal is running on a draining dry cell unit.

This isn't exactly the best visual representation of the pedal in use but that's the amount of light given off by the on-board tubes once the pedal is put to use. The tubes also double as a clipping device so the brightness corresponds to the guitar's string vibrations which trigger the magnetic/ electrical inputs accordingly. The other major difference is the pedal's MIX knob which allows the player to balance the level of NTS drive performance against the instrument's unaffected signals.

In use, the Nutube technology kerbs the pedal's peculiar midrange hump by making the overall tone a little warmer & less prickly with all controls set at noon. This is more obvious if you turn your amp's volume up. Be informed that there's no extra drive to be heard just because there are tubes in there. If you wish for a more commanding Tube Screamer in this aspect, the Turbo version or even the TS7 in its boosted mode would be a more practical consideration. 

Moving on to single coil equipped guitars, this is where the MIX feature proved its exclusive worth. The usual approach in cleaning up driven voicings with any given overdrive unit in use is to - you guessed it - lower its drive level. As such, we have players who eliminate the drive entirely & dimed the level knob to retain the twang from their single coils. The MIX knob here allows the player to retain whatever drive saturation they prefer but reducing its dominance by allowing more unaffected signals through. I must say I enjoy this application with clean-esque tones coming from single coils, definitely. 

In conclusion, the NTS is not a fresh take on the TS tone but a differentiated one. It might be a preferred pedal for a certain camp of players with a certain tone take but the NTS is definitely a proven drive booster regardless of the incarnation. That white-based colour scheme is not ideal for a device designated to be stepped on, yes? 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

City Music: G&L

By the time you read this, City Music are well into the launch of their G&L range. Thanks for the invitation, apologies for the absence. My utmost thanks to the team for showing me stuff while I was there Friday evening. Basses are available as well, just not seen here in this display. Price info for G&L instruments are available here: CLICK 😎

Some mojo (2)

Was at Beez's on Tuesday to get these done. The pair of Mojo Tone pickups featured here are the Knockout model. The default Japanese Jaguar single coils were above average clean but in driven mode, they just sounded thin. I was expecting at least an on par performance against a Strat single coil but that proved to be a let down in this aspect.

These pickups are higher output sporting ceramic magnets but with a healthy dose of sustain. The slotted pole pieces were a clever touch to maintain a balanced output/ volume across strings. They are awesome clean as well so these are worthy replacements in deed.

Before heading home, we managed to chill out 😎

Friday, June 22, 2018

Jr re-string

Had some playing time yesterday but chose to attend to this Ibanez AW54JR.

The default action was high. After rectifying the neck bow, the bridge was filed down to make sure I don't struggle during play.

Also, some choking at the nut, they might have equipped the guitar with a set of 11s but did not address the slots.

Finally, a set of 10 - 47 for this one. No idea why I still have Elixirs in the house but this is gonna be my final time using them as they don't sound good despite feeling new. Was never a fan to begin with, trying for variety's sake.

My take on the AW54JR
This is Ibanez's take on the mid-way size factor; it's neither too big nor too travel-sized (PF2MH) to bother a certain playing camp. In all honesty, Ibanez was trying to fit into the down-sized dreadnought market for less money & they did it easily with that classy elbow relief & a deserving solid top feature to boot. The instrument has a healthy volume projection unlike some other brand names in this category which are usually glossed over (satin finish for this AW54JR) & does not feature a solid top. I've played many acoustics & find that the default action are too high for playing comfort, even for the boutique range. Despite the string choke at the nut slots (not all, mind you) & a pair of tuners being scratchy (was rectified  by loosening the tension), I still think this one is good value for money & recommended for those of us in need of a no-frills, scaled down body acoustic we can easily manage while on the move. It's also the perfect answer for players struggling to handle a full-sized acoustic guitar without having to compromise on an instrument that doesn't inspire tone-wise. 

Some price comparisons for your considerations 😁
Ibanez AW54JR: $379
Martin Dreadnought Jr: $744
Taylor Big Baby: $599

Thursday, June 21, 2018

At the gates

Ibanez S420- gave it a re-string.

One of my fav guitars in terms of clarity & I have the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Plus to thank for that. These humbuckers are touted to be twangy (especially in split coil mode) & country-esque so putting them into the S420 was a real risk. Guitars with a heavy dual-action bridge like the ZR seen here, robs it of a good low end response, we do not wish for a bright sounding pickup to be there as it complements nothing. Surprisingly, the PG does well here because the S420 in its entirety is rather heavy. This wasn't the case with the S-Series of the '90s; those guitars were some of the lightest Ibanez had ever manufactured (I still own one). 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New player

This was supposed to be a Summer NAMM (2018) revelation but was leaked along the way. The official announcement was made yesterday. With immediate effect, the Standard series is now effectively discontinued, replaced by the Player Series here, still made in Mexico like their predecessors. 

Yay or nay? The immediate nay factor would be the revised prices (upwards) so get ready to pay about $200+/- more for a Mexican Fender. From a commercial perspective, this is the definite opportunity to bring prices up by featuring 'revisions' in various models which we will look into in another blog episode. The strategy wasn't new as we noted this occurrence when the American Professional replaced the American Standard Series. The list price for a Mexican Strat/ Tele here is $899 so with the new Player prices kicking in soon, you'd be paying close to $1K for one. So is it time to grab whatever's left of the the current Standard models? Hmm...