Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Biyang experience

Managed to try Biyang pedals today (Tone Fancier Series):

AD-7 Analog Delay:

  • Fundamental 2-mode feature is rather limited but these are the working parameters if you don't fancy excess

  • Above-average tonal response, in fact, I'd recommend it together with other affordable no-frills delay out there: Ibanez DE7/ Artec SE-ADL/ Carl Martin Red Repeat

CH-7 Chorus:

  • Again, the 2-mode offering isn't for the demanding snob

  • Nothing too tingling, it's a mild type chorus with adequate depth to project clarity

  • Some of us prefer mild chorus as it doesn't phase/ flange-out at upper intensity settings, especially with overdrive/ distortion

DS-7 Distortion:

  • 3 modes: NORMAL- regular fry-type, not intense but more protrusive than the proverbial BOSS DS-1/ BRIGHT- enhancement of upper end frequency the presence of which cannot be comprehensively curbed by the tone control/ WARM- enhancement of lower frequencies akin to what a tamed fuzz unit would churn out without the excessive wooliness

  • Impressive tone/ distortion sweep

OD-7 Overdrive

  • Surprise: JRC4558 tone chip in use!

  • 3 modes: TS- as the name abbreviates; classic tubescreamer-type tone, clean in the lower drive settings + the nasal boost at the upper markings/ BRIGHT- as the name implies, more liberty in the treble end without sounding excessively thin/ WARM- more drive in the mix but still treading in the drive domain, this isn't a distortion unit...

  • Looks like Guyatone's OD2+ has a worthy match & this Chinese is $50 lesser than its adversary

  • A great tool for amp drive boosting as well- love it!!

You are looking for affordable guitar effects but your piggy isn't one to finance extravagant purchases; the Biyang range of pedals might just meet your needs- heck, it would surpass some expectations. I have a minor gripe with the DS-7/ OD-7; in their BRIGHT modes, there's a bump in volume which might upset those who prefer consistency. There's nothing dodgy in terms of construction, these pedals are make/ break units depending on the tone on offer. Nothing rancid to report as far as tone is concerned.

This one made it home with me:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ibanez: 2008 (selected)

I managed to try 3 Ibanez guitars (2008) today from the Indonesian line-up, here are some preliminary comments:ICT700:
  • A revised manifestation of the 'aternative' Ibanez, revisions namely in the headstock, pickups & string/ bridge components
  • Headstock: very un-Iceman together with the reverse shark tooth fretboard markers but let's read between the lines- this Iceman hails from the same series as the Xiphos so the economics of production dictates a common neck for both models...
  • Pickups: DiMarzio D'Activator- strong drive response with that typical DiMarzio cream, definitely a move up in terms of tone
  • Bridge: The Iceman now features a through-body stringing & the Gibraltar Custom bridge which is a wise inclusion in terms of sustain. This bridge is currently in my SZ2020 (discont'd) & it was engineered to sit inside a cavity & disperse string resonance more effectively hence the healthy sustain.


  • Another RG in the fold but this one featuring a satin body finish
  • Nothing new here just that Rubber Red stain; stare at it for too long & it'll burn your eyes...


  • Yet another RG... (same ol'... same ol' but we keep falling for them)
  • Yet another body highlight but that's not a graphic finish, it's an engraved top (+ satin overcoat). Unless you are keen to feel the indentations, it's novelty
  • Also, the body depth is slightly increased here to accomodate all that engraving & the design is such that both volume & tone knobs are submerged into the body so these aren't as grab-friendly as the ones in the regular RG models
  • Tone-wise, there are no indications by the manufacturer that the covered V-series humbuckers you see here are hotwired but these are audibly hotter which also entails the bland cleans

Seymour Duncan: Twin Tube Mayhem

Seymour Duncan's Twin Tube Mayhem has finally arrived at my premises, I was too pooped to plug it in & hear its thunder; the guitars I am going to try it with, need a re-string anyway so I'd only hear it in action this weekend...

The pedal per se is rugged in make but it's one heavy pedal; the heaviest I've own. It would be as massive as some guitars- no joke.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

That headstock...

This 2008, Dean officially releases the Vinnie Moore (formerly with Ernie Ball) signature guitar shown here (top). The guitar looks the works but that headstock outline looks too familiar- just take a look at the BC Rich Gunslinger model below it...

Maintenance assistants

These are the implements I employ when guitars are due for user maintenance:

  1. Planet Waves Headstand: That tripod object you see above, is a neck supporter, useful for guitars with angled headstock when I lay it down for re-stringing.
  2. Wire cutter: I feel that whatever string cutter there are in the market are simply too flimsy for effective results. The standard wire cutter here snips excess string length very easily.
  3. Vaseline: To lubricate the nut slots. Graphite works equally well but it stains light coloured headstock/ fretboard hence my preference for jelly.
  4. Tremlok: This contraption is a wedge for Floyd-type, dual action, whammy bridges. It's inserted under the bridge end to prevent it from collapsing into the cavity during string removal. Bought it way back in 1991 together with my first guitar, have not seen it in the market for years, might be discontinued altogether.

Elmo doesn't help with anything...

Ibanez: RG321

This is my most unglamourous Ibanez RG- no locking vibrato bridge, no locking nut, boring black finish... Along the way, I realized how excessive implements added very little to better playing. True, a whammy bar would trigger some of the most out-of-this-world tune which inspires us to play on but it's a matter of incorporation; how often do we manifest this measure in our playing style?

As always, I'm not a fan of Ibanez in-house pickups (even their DiMarzio affiliated models) so they made way for this pair here:
  • Neck- Duncan Distortion
  • Bridge- Duncan Custom

The distortion neck was chosen to accentuate solo notes, this pickup is also inherently louder than the Custom so when I flick it on during play, it gives a 'boosted' output which is what i would have wanted to begin with.

I have absolutely no issues with the RG321, it's one of the better stripped-down Ibanez out there for those of us who wish for minimum hassle & maximum play (not to mention the affordable price tag). The mahogany body has lots of useful midrange but the satin finish makes it ding-prone. To those of you who would weep should your guitar dent, steer clear of this one (or any other satin finished guitar for that matter).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Squier: Telecaster Custom

My other tele is a Squier, nothing too exorbitant despite the manufacturer designating it into their upper-end offerings- The Vintage Modified series. The monicker here alludes to the guitar's nature of incorporating both contemporary & modified features of the Telecaster's glorious history. Nevertheless, despite this reverance, the guitar remains ordinary but displays higher quality control as the Squier brand name often implies cheap & compromised. Rest assured, the Vintage Modified instruments I have tried (basses included) are above average despite being affordable.
The original pickups quickly made way for a pair of TESLA Plasma II covered humbuckers. You might be aversed to this brand of electronics which hails from South Korea but they are very much worthy in terms of tonal delivery. The Plasma II possess a vintage voicing despite being hotter than the average 'vintage' unit (think PAF). The cleans also possess more sparkle, very complementary to blues crunch & a good tube amp.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dead to this World: First Strike for Spiritual Renewance

They say former band members don't die, they just form a new band- that's exactly what happened to Kvitrafn (left- Gorgoroth) & Iscariah (right- Immortal).

This release is essentially a black metal offering but it is adequately laced with thrash's erratic mood swings, so much so that it would attract the average metal head who thinks there should be more life to the former genre. In this album we are able to hear:
  • Kvitrafn's dynamic tempo temperaments, not just the swirling thumps he issued during his Gorgoroth stint
  • Iscariah's vocal capacity (which drew much inspiration from Abbath but with absent troll-like squawks)
  • Iscariah's guitar playing content which proved he's not the bass shadow in his former Immortal life

Fans of Aura Noir/ I/ Grimfist would applaud this effort.

Guyatone: OD2+

The OD2+ is Guyatone's improved (not that the preceding model was dud to beign with) version of the OD2, a simple overdrive unit with lots of character but now offering 3 voicings (vis the flick switch activation):
  • Shallow: Clean/ very mild drive
  • Middle: Traditional drive
  • Deep: Saturated drive

Despite the 3 modes, the OD2+ remains to be a mild driver in the likes of Ibanez's TS9 but the Deep channel offers the user a grittier drive, which I believe would give Maxxon's OD808 some competition. There is now a tone control for those of us who need more EQ shaping but the sweep isn't too wide to manifest a drastic change in voicing.

PS: Thank you Ebenex for the great service!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ibanez: RG3120

The amazing RG3120 debuted in 1997, I only managed to try it 2 years later when the hype wasn't fever pitch; the highlight of that moment was none other than the proverbial RG7-string. I was never a fan of JEMs so naturally, I look up to the RG3120 as the top notch RG which was free from endorsement antiques.

Prior to its incarnation, the RG7XX series were the regular offerings' top-of-the-line model but this Prestige brought the RG reverence onto another plane. I wasn't a fan of the default DiMarzio pickups in there (PAF Pro neck/ Tone Zone bridge) but they sounded very 'correct' in this guitar. The Wizard neck was the standard to beat in the thin profile domain but this Prestige version gave a fresh feel to a tried & tested make; it was genuinely more pleasant to the touch, very inviting & addictive.

The body's quality control was really a work of art especially with that menacing flame top to boot. I still hold the RG3120 in high regards because quality was evenly focused on the neck and body, unlike today's Prestige models which give more impact to the neck, the bodies being above-average but nothing too imposing.
I would have thought that this gem was a better part of Ibanez history- prized but forgotten-until a friend surface it for sale very recently. It's not in pristine condition but worth the taking if you are the typical super-strat style fan. Keep in mind that the RG3120 was equipped with the respectable Lo-Pro Edge bridge which has a cult following till today. If you are interested in this guitar, there are more details here:

RG3120 for sale @ SOFT

Fender: Mini Twin

Is it really an amp or a mere toy? I get asked this question all the time when I display the Mini Twin. Yes, it's a fully functional amp but it does not possess the legendary reputation of its namesake. Indeed, there is a pair of 3" drivers on board to credit the 'twin' tag but these babies are too shrunk to reward anyone looking for a pocket-size (no, this amp doesn't fit any of my pockets) Fender sparkling cleans; they rattle too easily at higher volume/ drive settings. Nevertheless, before the arrival of my X-mini Capsule Speaker, the Mini Twin served all my fanatical urges to play guitar at ridiculous venues- in the store room, the wash room (no kidding!), under spiral staircases at deserted venues, at the reservoir park, sports stadium viewing gallery & countless other locations which I can barely remember (getting old...). The amp lasts for more than an hour's worth of non-stop playing when powered by a non-alkaline 9V battery. I bought a power adaptor for it but this method of operation simply triggers hum so it was avoided. A passable guitar amplifier but one heck of a novelty item.

Other items in pic:
  • BOSS OD3 (for relative size comparison)
  • Ribena berry portable fan (not the Mini Twin's complementary accessory but it does fan the sweating player)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The little menace 3

So it's another test for the X-mini Capsule Speaker- can it replace a guitar amplifier?
If you refer to my test set-up here, the X-mini was attached to the output access of the Beta Aivin HM-200 & (to no surprise) it works. However, without a real amplifier acoustics together with the absence of speaker resonance/ overall presence, the X-mini sounds totally mono & rusty. there was also the menacing hum which would be eliminated with a noise reduction pedal no doubt. This is the very reaosn why its attachment to a processing device with amp simulation features yielded better tone- very much better in fact.
PS: The other pedal acting as a booster here is my Toadworks' Mr. Ed.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cheap & good

I am certainly not trying to propel cheap, obscure brand names to fledglings reading this entry but there are indeed items out there which are affordable and reputable.

The pedals here are my Behringer EQ & Beta Aivin Heavy Metal distortion pedal. The former brand name is rather prominent when it comes to duplicating other established technologies but many cite the manufacturer's plastic housing & fiddly battery latch to be its undoing. My take here is this- if you wish for caviar, be sure to look for sturgeons otherwise be content with cod roe especially if you are shopping with that limited budget. This is no defence for a preferred brand name but Behringer stuff generaly works, people tend to equate its performance with the original item it is duplicating. That's when the endless whining & bashing begins.

Beta Aivin on the other hand is another name in the effects emporium very much ignored for its far eastern origin. Yes, it's not too different from other semi-nameless products out there but it has its refined moments privy to the initiated. The Heavy Metal here gets the idea very much from BOSS' ubuquitous Metal Zone, especially its stacked midrange feature. The pedal sounds great per se because the distortion does not suffer from an implosive ('compressed' to the rest of us) nature at higher level settings. The output we hear is thus a progressive kick rather than sounding choked. A great possession for those on a budget but in preference of plesantries.

Gibson: SG Special (Faded Edition)

This is my first, truly enjoyable Gibson; the manufacturer's name is legendary but it has limited appeal to me. The Faded SG has what I prefer- a non-gloss neck finish. I can't quite live with a gloss finish (but this didn't prevent me from getting a Les Paul/ PRS) as this overcoat gets cruddy over prolonged play especially if one's hands sweat excessively. I am also a big fan of satin finishes as this accentuates more midrange from the instruments natural resonance.

The guitar was originally equipped with Gibson's uncovered 490R pickups which didn't win any favour with my set up (especially so when it comes to single note clarity) & were very quickly replaced with Seymour Duncans: Custom 5 (b)/ Alnico II Pro (n). I find the SG (regardless of the variation) to be initially repulsive due to this playability factor- the neck's heavy nature neccessitates the player to hold it up while playing sitting down, otherwise it would kamikaze. Nevertheless, this Faded is a joy to play, certainly one of the more played guitars in my camp.

The little menace 2

The X-mini Capsule Speaker was attached to my Line6 UX-1 today for a rigorous try-out & it pulled through splendidly. There was evidently some background humming as the guitar was facing the computer but that's expected.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Edwards: E-LP85SD/P

The Edwards brand name is a subsidiary of ESP guitars which are virtually synonymous with quality & great tone. This wing of the company specializes in copies hence the Les Paul-like model you see here. I was a little skeptical when asked to play an Edwards LP type make (not this guitar) simply because the pirate brand names out there are more interested in cashing in on the LP's popularity than offering a good guitar tone per se. That disbelief quickly vapourized when that Edwards I tried was plugged in. In addition to excellent construction, these copies are equipped with quality hardware & electronics, the manufacturer preferring the Seymour Duncan range of pickups in majority of their selections.

I bought this gold top beauty in an attempt to recalibrate my disdain for P-90 pickups because I believe in being fair; maybe the previous guitar I owned equipped with a pair of P-90s was simply a laclustre product in whole, not just the suspect pickups. The ones resident in my Edwards are Seymour Duncan's SP90-1N & 1B. They are tone gems played clean (especially the neck model) & driven; I have even forgiven their excessive humming in the latter mode.

This guitar is certainly not a consolation for the genuine article because I own a Gibson Les Paul. It looks like the clone has enough genetic enhancements to match the real deal. Some say it's more surpassing than matching.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ibanez 2008 anticipations

Ibanez fans, the utmost anticipation this 2008 would definitely be the revised S-series. For decades, Ibanez had been disregarding player requests for a 24-fret version of their beloved stealth guitar. Lately, the manufacturer has been listening as their products evidently display some external inputs.

I believe, since Frank Gambale parted ways with Ibanez, the S-series was devoid of a rightful ambassador. The recent popularity of Dragonforce saw the potential of Herman Li in propelling the S-series & he is given a signature model, the Egen, this 2008, one which sports a 24-fret offering, similar to the above-mentioned guitar.

The 24-fret feature isn't a maiden introduction pertaining to the S-series as Ibanez did such a model for the late Shawn Lane (RIP) so whatever prevented Ibanez from churning out such a production is still under wraps. Nevertheless, the guitar is finally available.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I currently permit the owner of www.soft.com.sg to document my instrument reviews (in SOFT's review database/ discussion threads) for the following guitars:
  • Ibanez RG321MHWB
  • Ibanez: S520EX
  • Epiphone: Zakk Wylde LP
  • Gibson: SG Special (Faded edition)
  • BC Rich: NJ Mockingbird
  • PRS: Singelcut SE

Do refer to SOFT's guitar review database as proof of publication: SOFT's guitar reviews thread

To date, the ebay account holder dollarbackings uses the above-listed reviews to propel his personal credentials as recorded here:

I do not wish to provide a complete listing of other review copies as they are linked in the referred page.

I have no issues pertaining to the use of my instrument appraisals with source/ author credit as I believe in empowering the consumer with adequate knowledge to avoid being connived by profiteering individuals/ entities. It also goes to show how proprietary ethics are simply not propagated by the educated man of today.

First Fender: American Standard Telecaster

My first Fender is a 1997 American Standard Telecaster. I bought it (in 1998) as a challenge to myself; would I be able to play a guitar which is devoid of my fancied features? The tele was then the perfect opposite of my Ibanez:
  • single cutaway body design
  • single coil pickups
  • lesser number of frets
  • non-locking nut/ bridge
  • no bevel/ chamfer to promote a snug factor
  • maple fretboard
  • non-slim neck

The Tele was indeed a challenge in the beginning, I had a hard time getting comfy with the thicker & rounder neck profile. The guitar's body edges kept digging into my ribs, the tuning was off rather quickly during play & the hum at high drive settings was annoying. Ironically, this guitar made me adapt & learn more about maintenance. It's also one to constantly remind me I'm cradling a no-frills guitar so all I have to offer while playing are good chops, otherwise it's the perfect implement to showcase one's incapacity.

When I subsequently bought a Strat, this Tele was resigned to accept my eccentric playing; the love for aggressive music. As evident from the current pickups on board, it's tinkered to accept more drive without being sonically repulsive. In fact, I subliminally challenged it to ferry my black metal inclinations because if it's as good as it's touted to be, it would rise to the occassion. Verdict: It's one of my favourite guitar for the genre. I have utmost respect for the brand name & what the 'Telecaster' name upholds; simplicity that withstood the test of time.

Current pickups on board:
  • Bridge: Hot Rails (for Tele)
  • Neck: Hot Rhythm

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The little menace

This little ditty is simply the most amazing thing I've come across, it's actually a pocket-sized speaker, smaller than the average billiard ball. It's slightly less than $40 & made in Singapore.

I bought it as a companion to my pocketPOD, it's an alternative to head/ earphones. It also connects to your MP3 player via the 3.5mm / USB jack.

The X-mini Capsule Speaker (as the manufacturer calls it), dare I say, produces a more inviting tone for pocket guitar processors or any Mult-FX units with a headphone outlet, than the audio headphones. In addition to the above-average clarity on offer, the X-mini is also loud. Say, do you own the mini Marshall MS2 or other novelty miniature amplifiers which you thought would serve as a good tone projector for bedroom noodling? Well, the X-mini's tonal performance exceeds what those novelties could offer.

Tone purists would be critical to the limited performance of small driver equipped devices because of the inability to manifest good lower frequencies. As depicted above, the X-mini pops up to deliver more bass in the mix. Well, for the beginners among us who are in a dilemma of choosing between a good guitar signal processing unit & a practice grade amplifier (with a restrictive budget at hand), the X-mini could be the economical answer to this complication- highly recommended.

More details on this product here: X-mini Capsule speaker

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kramer Vanguard Part2

The Kramer Vanguard comes oddly with only a solitary strap button located at the body's bass-side tail bout. If you'd wish to strap this guitar, the other end of your strap slit would go into...?
This other strap button is my own installation, the reason its screw isn't black. If you wish to acquire this guitar, you are hereby forewarned of the lack of a complementary strap button, please do not blame the seller/ dealer for its unavailability.

Silent performers

There are players out there who give very little merit to headphone-ready devices namely due to the fact that the tone generated by the headphone drivers are next to repulsive. Nevertheless, there are people who invest/ believe in these products as a result of their needs. Throughout the years, I have acquired the (Korg) Pandora PX4D as well as (LINE6) the PocketPOD, both being my night time saviours when there is this overwhelming surge to play guitar while the baby's sleeping.

The PX4D came by first because it was the most attractive pocket guitar processor (to me) which bothers to include a midrange control. This nifty little box also accepts bass readily. In addition to the guitar related offerings, the PX4D has metronome & backing track modules for a one-man jam. As if these aren't worthy enough, the manufacturer includes a recording facility which accepts your MP3 (or other similar devices) to be played back at slower tempos for educational purposes. It also loops your recorded phrases for that insatiable solo jam.

On days when I don't require back-up shenanigans & wish for a plug & play moments, the PocketPOD would be employed. I've never been a fan of the LINE6 products before, which is attributable to its very fabricated guitar tones but this little red bean has its appeal. It isn't trying too hard to be its more elaborate elder brothers but the fundamental details here are more pleasureable than being digital muck.

The Ibanez TS7 on show here is simply there for comparison's sake but it's the most utilized pedal I own, getting more assignment time than its more celebrated siblings, the TS9/ TS808 (which I also own).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Picks & strings...

These are my used picks, I keep them because some of them are personal gifts. My wife bought me a few while she was away in Vietnam. There were times when master Beez (domestic pickup installation Jedi master) would give away the ones he had stuck on his forehead to me when I walk into his work place at Yamaha (former work place actually). Those were the days...

I'm easily bothered by stringless guitars especially when strings snapped during play (this seldom happens nowadays) or during installation. I have some here on standby, bass ones included.

My first guitar

This is my first electric guitar bought way back in 1991; yes it's still alive & very functional to date. It's an Ibanez RG560. Back then, I knew nuts about guitars so I tagged along when my cousin wanted to get one for himself. At the dealer's, my cousin knew what he wanted so his RG550 pick was quick & painless, I had to do my shopping to know what's avaialble for me bearing in mind that there were limited guitars with a thin neck profile which I was comfortable with. After much handling, Fender & Gibson were struck off my list, leaving Washburn & Ibanez to be the likely candidates. I couldn't quite recall which specific Washburn guitar it was but the floating bridge's functionality was a put-off, leaving me with the Ibanez RG550 like my cousin's but the juvenile mentality back then prevented me from copying my cousin's decision so i went with the RG560 instead. In the late '80s/ early '90s, it was hype to have neon coloured accessories in one's guitar (further instigated by Richie Kotzen & company) so I did that to mine. The pickups you see here are:
  • Neck: Seymour Duncan Lil' '59
  • Mid: DiMarzio Fast Track 2
  • Bridge: DiMarzio PAF

These are actually subsequent residents, I used to have (DiMarzio) Tone Zone in the bridge & another Fast Track in the neck but after trying the current residents in other guitars (notably friends') the preference was clear. Oh, the volume/ tone knobs & pickup switch had to echo the radical colour switch. The blue strings by the way, are recent installations.

This guitar has aged enough to display a maple hue contrast. The RG Wizard neck, despite its wafer-like depth, is durable, I never had any issues with it. The only wear here are the frets which was looked into by a local luthier, Malcolm. Instead of a refretting procedure, he did a redress which cost less & was completed under 30min.

The RG560's bolt-plate was a common implement in its time. To promote better access to the upper frets, Ibanez bevelled the body area which formed a contour blending with the lower cutaway's bout. As evident in the picture, there are prominent scratches which weren't my doing- recall the cousin of mine mentioned in the preceding notes? He borrowed my guitar for a wedding performance & was reckless enough to not remove his belt while playing hence the defacement by the buckle. I was stark raving mad when the guitar was returned to me back then but didn't surface my annoyance on grounds of family comraderie (actually it was my Mum's dictatoresque instructions), after all, he was the chap who helped me bargain for it in the first place. But this incident triggered my excessive expenditure on all things guitar...

The peculiar black duck is there for show.