Sunday, November 30, 2008

Danelectro: Hodad (2)

Was gonna replace my Danelectro mini amp battery when I saw this in the cavity.

Robot- yes/ no?

All due respect to the Gibson goodwill, would you buy a Gibson instrument for its great tone & feel or the Robot technology it's equipped with?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cynic: Traced in Air

I've recently received my copy of CYNIC's Traced In Air; this album being a much anticipated release is really an under-statement of my wait for it... As you can see above, I got myself a limited edition digipak version which came with a complementary poster (thanks Inokii!!).

The only reason why I'm into this band is because of the accomplished players, but Traced in Air is missing original guitarist Jason Gobel (Tymon Kruidenier- a deserving replacement!). Also, for live performances, Professor Sean Malone's absence is aptly filled in by Robin Zielhorst. However, Traced in Air saw no decline in musicianship, in fact the band did much better this time round with extensive guitar dabblings (& bass, of course) & the diminution of that cyborg vocals- Cynic is still a death metal act, do keep this in mind.

Is this a deserving perpetuation of Focus? It's that and more. If you've been waiting & hoping Cynic would live up to their hype as the premiere technical death metal act to tread this planet- they didn't let anyone down.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hey dad! (Part 2)

Hey, dad! The Coolcat Transparent Overdrive pedal you got today was a steal. Despite it being a used unit, it's in tip-top condition. You know, it sounded... great with ... zzzzz ...

Killer Ant: Report 1

The Killer Ant sounds splendid with pedals. My main distortion unit last night was the Coolcat Distortion which got boosted by a TS7. The fat distortion tone was well manifested by the KA. Halfway through, I had the urge to plug in Marshall's Guvnor+ & the Brian May-esque fat, smooth drive was present & inspiring.

The KA, after more than an hour's worth of play, wasn't as hot as my (Sound Drive) Tube7. I kept peeping through the rear grille to see if everything was OK & there were no problems to document here. The KA sat on the left of my cab top, while the pedals enjoy the room to the right. This arrangement prevented my daughter from messing with the set up every time she entered the room.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

When dad's not looking (Part 5)

When dad's not looking, somebody ditched her toy truck for a quick strum...

LINE6: Pocket POD Express

City Music's year-end SALE kicks in this Friday (28th Nov), it's an event I look forward to as the Line6 & VOX range of goodies there are rather irresistable...

Anyway, I managed to check out the Pocket POD Express & was impressed by the tones on offer considering its simplicity. Thusfar, the Line6 range of PODs sound superb through speakers which is an alternative to owning an amp. This is very useful for people who sometimes play outdoors or bring their gear to places for a guitar get-together or the likes.

For those of us in search of a simple, fiddle-free multi-FX with good tones to boot, the PP Express is recommended.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Epiphone: Firebird Studio

I managed to test the Epiphone Firebird Studio today (@ Swee Lee):
  • it's light, giving off much inherent brightness
  • contrasting pickups complement each other tone-wise, you can dial in some of the smoothest neck overdrive tone from this guitar
  • tuning retention: could have been better
  • no ribcage bevel/ elbow relief hence lethargy inducing
  • a little neck heavy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yamaha: BB414

Yamaha is having a festive SALE right now, if you are keen on their products, do visit their showrooms because some instruments on discount aren't featured in their festive promo catalog.

The best bargain to me in the mean time is the BB bass which was discont'd but brought back to life again recently (even Billy Sheehan has a fresh signature model based on the BB series). It's simply great value for money right now because this series are superb in build & tone- these are the very criteria for a good bass, the colour & outline should be secondary but people can be particular with looks... If you aren't, the BB is highly recommended.

Ibanez: RGR08LTD

I was @ Swee Lee last week, came across the RGR08LTD (finally here!) which is a splendid player. The active Duncan you see there is the Blackout model; very drive-inclined but not much pleasurable, clean. The fact that it's the solitary pickup there means your tone is limited to its default voicing. The O8LTD also has no tone control, in lieu of this, the guitar features a kill switch which is a love/ hate (hate for me) affair. If your amp isn't grounded, the kill switch activates hum when the pickup is not engaged...

That aside, how useful can a 1-pickup guitar be for you? Well, Alan Holdsworth shuts everyone up when he plays his single humbucking guitar which implies, if it works for you, then it works regardless of whatever everyone else has to say. The 08LTD would serve the distortion mongers out there with no qualms; the Duncan Blackout has great clarity to boot, much more appealing than the average EMG (my take, of course. If you prefer EMG then good for you...); maybe that's the reason Mick Thompson has a pair in his signature model, replacing the EMGs in the prevoious incarnation of the Ibanez MTM1.

However, I've only one dislike here; the fretboard markers are very unappealing, to say the least...

Product availability: Swee Lee Co
List: $909

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blackheart: Killer Ant

Do I need another amplifier? Not quite, but I bought this anyway (Blackheart Killer Ant: 1W), it's on SALE so it didn't burn any holes in my pocket.

Maybe this is a manifestation of my missing the Epiphone Valve Jr which I sold off not too long ago...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Carl Martin: DC Drive (Part 2)

I am liking my DC Drive:
  • Great drive tones- from a mild, drive whiz to a full throttle bark- that's before the booster function kicks in
  • The FAT mode adds to bass quite significantly but I hear much clarity in the overall mix
The manufacturer groups this pedal in its Vintage Series range but it's very contemporary in tone. Of course, you can tweak it to sound vintage-like but I'm not one to do so.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Doug Doppler: Nu-Instrumental

Doug Doppler is an Ibanez endorser, visit the manufacturer's homepage & you'll see him doing a demo of the new (for 2008) 24-fretted S-series guitar.

I managed to acquire his Nu Instrumental release recently (after waiting for quite some time...), Mr. Doppler is an accomplished player, no doubt but I was after his applications of beeps, clicks & gurgles in this album. I'm constantly checking out players who incorporate technology into their tunes, this aspect of music opens up some alternatives which aren't traditional but inspiring nevertheless. While guitar dweebs are busy refining their chops, it gets pretty boring listening to strings manipulations without some fresh ingredients in the mix.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Crate: Profiler 5

I was at Yamaha today, saw this neat little amp (CRATE: Profiler 5) which is a clear intent by the manufacturer; it's joining the league of small, killer, practive units. So here's fair warning to the CUBEs (Roland) & DAs (Vox) out there. Didn't try it as I was distracted by something else... yet again.


Davis GMC now has this LP alternative in store, it's a bolt-on make actually & very affordable: SX EG-2K.

So when I tried it yesterday (I was actually testing out a pedal, this guitar was the most convenient to grab...), it manifested some good stuff:
  • great cleans, nothing fantastic but not in the PAF league, mind you
  • above-average driven tones, clarity coming from the bridge humbucker
  • neck profile- will reward those looking for a meaty but shred-worthy unit
  • tuning stability + overall QC- thumbs up

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Carl Martin: DC Drive

I'm not quite agreeable with the manufacturer's claim but I bought one anyway...

Carl Martin: DC Drive
List: $150
Availability: Davis GMC

PRS SE: Mike Mushok

The PRS SE Mike Mushok baritone guitar is available @ Davis GMC- was too distracted by something else to try it just now...

List: $990

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bass amp bliss

My trusty Ibanez SW20 has never failed to churn out ear candy with pedals in use. I employed this set up here for a quickie- waiting for the 9.30pm news to end before CSI kicks in...

The SW20 has this very appealing midrange once the treble is a little tamed & bass dialed up to slightly more than the mid-way position. While the TS9 acts as a drive enhancement, it also ensures the Cool Cat Distortion isn't overwhelming in its voicings.

The guitar in use is my Ibanez SZR520.

Weekend metal assault

This was my set up last weekend:
  • Kramer Vanguard
  • Marshall JVM
  • MXR Distortion
I played standing up & it was rather taxing for the back but it's nothing compared to my RG7. This guitar retained tuning very well; I didn't tune it upon plugging it in.

In addition to all things metal, I did end up playing some blues, employing the pickups' split mode despite them still being humbuckers by doing so.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Les Paul quirks

We all know & love Lester William Polfus for the great singlecut guitar he manifested from his tinkerings back at the Epiphone workshop. Who the heck would that be, you ask? Well, he's Les Paul to the rest of us...

I did recall reading an article stating Les Paul's dislike for his guitar because he insisted in being his way, not how the production model turned out to be:

"I designed everything in there except the arched top. That was contributed by Maurice Berlin... I've still got my first two Les Pauls & they're the two best guitars I've got. They were made the way I thought they should be made- with a flat top".

Maurice Berlin was the founder of Chicago Musical Instrument company which acquired Gibson in 1944. Naturally, being the boss of the business, the design dictation was inevitable. Berlin was an avid violin lover & took Les Paul to see his vault of violin collection & suggested to him the incorporation of the arched top in the Les Paul guitar design.
The other Les Paul quirk was his favour of low impedence pickups as equipped in the Les Paul Personal depicted above. The advantage of this pickup type was its more dynamic tonal range but the inherent output is not strong enough to drive an amp. There has to be a boost in power before the signals reach the amp, the reason the above guitar featuring a pair of stacked, low impedence humbuckers, are equipped with special cables (equipped with an internal transformer) to ensure heightened output. These pickups would only be very advantageous for players who plug straight into the recording console, which Les Paul very often did.

The LP Personal was indeed a personal guitar made for the man with the preferred flat top & low impedence pickups on board. The model proved to be unpopular & saw a 3-year production run until its removal from the catalogs in 1972.

Sobbat: Drive Breaker 1

Was at Tymusic recently & managed to try the Sobbat Drive Breaker 1. I was impressed with the level of drive sweep it manifested; from a mild TS-type pinch to some really intense overdrive without treading into distortion territory. I managed to use it in conjunction with an amp's drive & there's some very thick drive tones to be heard. If you like your drive thick, creamy & smooth, give the DB-1 a try.

Gibson: Les Paul Traditional

In addition to the revised LP Standard, Gibson has this Traditional model new for this year. It has less feature fanfare compared to the Standard but remain as appealing. Chances are, for those of us who can't accept the meddling manifested in the Standards, the Traditional is a fine discourse.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Another mini amp for me- Danelectro's Hodad. Nothing fantastic but this one has echo & tremolo functions.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cocteau Twins: Four-Calendar Cafe

This was what I wanted all along, the re-issue of Cocteau Twins' Four-Calendar Cafe. I used to own this release in its cassette tape form which was over-played till it crinkled at the sides. Today I happen to come across a remastered copy (about time) & it was no holding back.

To many cult followers, Heaven or Las Vegas was the seminal Cocteau Twin's release, showcasing some of the best Robin Guthrie guitar noodlings; that's undeniable but FCC was the band's genius release in terms of melody hooks- even Faye Wong rerecorded some of the tunes found here (I've no obligations to like them...).

That Fodera bevel

I wasn't a fan of any singlecut designs when I started playing. It's partly due to the non-exposure to these body outlines in my earlier playing days; I always thought my Ibanez was all there is to it when good designs are concerned. When I saw the above Fodera Imperial bass, I thought that singlecut design was ultra ridiculous- how could any considerable upper fret restrictions be of any good to anyone...

...until I saw the back of the instrument, of course. Fodera makes the effort to bevel their neck-body vicinity to make it very accessible for the player to reach the very end. I now understand why the brand name invokes a certain elite material reference. Wish there's a guitar version...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ibanez: Chris Broderick

This is an interesting Ibanez 7-string guitar belonging to Chris Broderick. While many players go crazy upon employing their whammy bar, Chris Broderick leaves his nut lock-free implying his guitar stays in tune very well.

The first (Part 6)

The first bass master to have ever impressed me was (still does) Level 42's Mark King. In fact, the man has a certain level of technical mastery to impress anyone but that's half the story- he can also sing at the same time... I can hardly pay attention to the person talking to me while I'm playing, let alone sing when doing that.

I get really inspired to slap/ pop my bass upon seeing this man play all the time. His phrasings are such that they include both bass & melody lines, sound percussive but yet not intruding into the guitar/ keyboard/ drum's highlight. He's out of everyone's way yet retain a commanding presence in the lower frequencies.

Mr. King's right thumb is allegedly insured for a whopping GBP3 million!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where have I seen that headstock before?

I own the Kramer Vanguard (not this model). That headstock looks familiar & it's not as pointed as the Kramer of yesterday...

It's actually the manifestation of the defunct Gibson M-III headstock. So what's the connection? Gibson currently owns Kramer...

Sumptuous chamfering

This is Fret King's Eclat model. It's just another Les Paul copy indeed...

...but it provides one of the most generous elbow chamfering for a guitar of this design. I believe the Les Paul would be a more enjoyable instrument given a thoughtful design revision; chamferings for the elbow & ribcage area would be wise.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Plug grounding

Managed to ground another plug yesterday. For those of you who wish to engage in this DIY procedure, a sharp wire cutter really helps & a wire stripper if you can't utilize the cutter as one.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The great single pickup Sunday

This had been my playing set up today, I really enjoyed the solitary Duncan Full Shred in my Ibanez RG2610. People would whine; how useful can a single pickup be but Alan Holdsworth proved everyone wrong. No, I'm not trying to emulate the guitar wizard (i do borrow some of his ideas...) but it's a challenge to myself- how can I be commanding, working within certain limitations? This led me to focus on picking/ fretting techniques as well as utilizing the guitar's volume control.

As you can see, I still adopt a minimalist approach by only having the Ibanez TS7 in between the guitar & amp. Again, it's not about the JVM's inadequacy distortion-wise, I just play better with increased drive saturation.

Wood talk: Mahogany

Mahogany enjoys a pronounced popularity largely due to Gibson's preference; the Les Paul guitar is synonymous to a mahogany highlight. It is a fairly dense wood but differences in mass do occur depending on the pedigree. Mahogany gives off a tight, bottom end response (that Les Paul low end is unmistakable, yes?) & its high frequencies are unpronounced. As such, the wood is prized for its deep resonance & sustain inducing properties- 'my Les Paul vibrates till tomorrow' is a good account of this capacity.

The situation today is that mahogany is the standard to beat when it comes to tonal depth which is largely a celebrated association with the Gibson brand name. For a deep sounding acoustic resonance, the more massive ash & maple would beat mahogany to it. In this light, what you hear from mahogany is actually lower midrange; some clarity is still present.

Mahogany which ends up as a musical instrument is actually wood put to good use as opposed to furniture where the industry takes into lesser account the wood's sonic properties & overall value.

Gibson: Les Paul Std 2008

There are many revised features in the new LP Std 2008, the exterior components are visible to all but the interesting bit hides under the cover.

The pic above shows the new control pots manufactured by Bourns electronics for the 2008 LP Std, the outstanding outline there (square, not round) would breed contempt among purists. Add to that (look closely at the pic above) the fact that these controls are wired onto PCBs instead of direct cavity attachment. Agian, this would scream desecration among the aforementioned party.

So in time to come, would-be buyers would be touted to buy the pre-2008 LP Standards because they simply are 'superior' by not employing PCB circuitry in their control cavities. This insurgent camp would draw the ignorant to the PCB-equipped-amps-sound-very-wrong argument to justify this case.

Little helper

I received a call after playing last night, while talking, my daughter picked up a rag & helped wipe down my guitar.

Thanks darling...

Awe-in-one: Profound I

Bought a pair of Awe-in-one picks (made in S'pore); it seems that the Profound I version is the only version meeting my needs in terms of thickness. The pick was designed to be scooped at a certain portion so upon flipping, it ceased to feel the same & hence it affects my playing. Still prefer my Stubby (& its clones) picks.

Worn picks (Part 3)

What worn picks are good for...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mike Amott joins DEAN

As touted, Mike Amott joins DEAN guitars after parting ways with the ESP camp.

Mr. Amott here seen playing a Schenker V model in the recent CARCASS reunion tour.

pocketPOD + Mini Twin

Connected my pocketPOD to the Mini Twin today & that's the set up I maintained throughout the day. The PP managed to manifest itself well through the amp's very small speakers which goes to show that this device overpowers the amps it's attached to- which ever speaker/ amp hosting the PP would sound like the PP...

3 pin vs 2 pin

You're still wondering where's that background humming/ hissing's coming from after you did well to shield your guitar's electronics/ cavities & switched to low-noise/ noiseless cables- it's the power supply plug (PSP).

In the pic above, the left PSP is utilizing a 3-pin plug. The extra pin is an earth pin, it grounds the equipment but more importantly, it eliminates humming for your amp. The PSP on the right, sporting a 2-pin version, can be converted into a 3-pin make; simply purchase a 3-pin plug from any electronics/ hardware shops & do the necessary replacement (you know nuts about electronics- then get someone else to show you; it's a simple replacement really...).

Your radio/ computer's using the same 3-pin cable plug- could it be used, then? Of course...

At the end of it all, it's a futile effort to simply check for noise leakages from your cables & guitars but ignoring the amp's grounding...

NOTE: This plug replacement CANNOT cure the single coil (pickup) hum...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dean: Dime Time

In a fitting tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell, Dean now offers the Dime Time humbucker (neck)... proven on the flip side.

Behringer: VT911

The Behringer VT911 is equipped with a single 12AX7 pre-amp tube. Upon activation, try as you might but you can't see the tube glowing in the pedal's innards. This raises the question; is the tube in there working?

Yes it is, but the tube is wired not to glow as evidence of its operation. Part of the reason I bought this pedal was to hear tonal differences upon a tube swap, this would be a better consolation of functionality than seeing some visual indicators. True enough, there was tonal differences, albeit minor, when this procedure took place (default Chinese tube made way for an EHX 12AX7).

There are other manufacturers out there who equip their tube laden products (Eg: Rocktron for its Silver Dragon distortion pedal, Zoom for their G-series multi-FX units) with a small, rear bulb which would light up upon the pedal's activation, to emulate a tube glow. No, you are not short-changed because the tube is functional. Manufacturers do not want owners to be alarmed with a no-glow situation the reason this arrangement was adopted.

So how mini is it?

So how 'mini' is the mini amp? After seeing pics of mini amps, people would want to know how small it is (because some of them would need to smuggle it into the house & avoid the keen detection of spouses & mums...) so here's Fender's Mini Twin amp in context, in the company of a canned drink.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

BEEZ: Out of action

Beez called me today to say he'll be out of action till 19th Nov to undergo surgery + recover. Apparently, Beez's RSI (fishing-related, he said...) on the hand is recurring, so here's wishing the technical wizard a speedy recovery & good health.

New Fender @ Swee Lee

I didn't know the Highway1 Texas Tele's available here (@ Swee Lee), otherwise I would have just bought this one instead of modding my H1 Tele (i'm after the very sensible brass string saddles...). Anyway, this guitar also features an ash body (regular H1 models sport an alder body) & a '52 profile neck. Neat.

  • Promo price: $1,388
  • Product availability: Swee Lee Co.