Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CSI: Bass

You've seen him in CSI: NY- Gary Sinise aka Detective Marc Taylor.

He plays bass too, recently given a Cort Artisan bass for the acknowledgement of his contributions to charity through music.
Photo credit: K. Williams

TESLA! Jackson JS-20...

I was at Beez's yesterday to have my Jackson JS-20 equipped with a set of TESLA pickups:

  • Neck: VR-1
  • Middle: Plasma 1
  • Bridge: Plasma 7
I'm a fan of the VR-1 (have it in my Brian Moore guitar as well), it has that vintage voicing which sounds splendid with lots of distortion, this way, I don't lose out on both clean & driven tones. Ditto the Plasma 1 but this pickup has a more contemporary single coil tone. If you are a blues fan, chances are, you'd prefer the VR-1 instead. The Plasma 7- it sounds great under lots of signal processing. If you are pedals-inclined & have limited clean moments, you'd like the Plasma 7. In fact, it'll size-up against the average DiMarzio in this aspect but be warned that it's not that appealing in lighter-bodied guitars.

PS: Thanks brother Rico for the can of Red Bull! My treat next time.

Obiter dictum: It's the final day of November. The twilight of 2011 beckons...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thicker = better?

There is this general acceptance of thicker-gauged strings being 'better' to the ears. Thusfar, I don't find such strings appealing in solid body electrics, the Ibanez Talman acoustic guitar of mine you see above was once equipped with a set of .011s when I first bought it. I didn't even keep those for long, in fact, I replaced them with a set of .010s when I reached home that day. However, I recently bought a a pack of .011s for it with the intention of rekindling the slightest of interest in embracing that gauge set but NO... they were still repulsive to me, so back to a pack of .010s... It's all a matter of preference, yes? Majority of my guitars are in standard tuning so a set of .009s in them manifest the best tension for my playing quirks, it's the most beneficial for a light picker like me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lesser treasures

I've come across too many accounts of people selling off their 'beginner' guitars to embrace a more revered brand name- Squiers, Epiphones, LTDs & Ibanez GIOs among others, have been sold to rookies who are very eager to discover the joy of the electric guitar. We do not put our budget instruments under fine inspection & give due recognition to the QC & tone on offer. To many of us, these are get-by units, there shouldn't be excessive concerns on the aforementioned matters. But I recently came across what Will Ray (Google: Hellecasters) said about his SX guitars:

Okay, I confess: I do a daily search for SX guitars on eBay. Why? Because I’ve owned SX axes before and know they’re built solid and they’re cheap. I was first turned on to SX guitars by my neighbor Martin, who started buying them four years ago. Whenever I played one of his SX electrics, I was always surprised at their quality relative to their price. So I bought my first SX a few years ago just to test the waters and was quietly blown away. I currently own four SX guitars . . . and counting.

So, should we all trash our Fenders, Gibsons & PRSes to embrace the lesser known names out there? Note that Will Ray did not give excessive homage to the brand name, in fact, there was emphasis on craftsmanship relative to price. I believe we should all take time to do likewise & not hold the brand name ransom to exclusive quality assessments. At the end of it all, if you choose to sell off whatever affordable guitars you own, it's your prerogative anyway.

George Benson: Guitar Man

Dear citizens of guitardom, you & I know who George Benson is; the guitar sage whose immense talent, tasteful interpretation of contemporary pop tunes (no surprises he covered The Beatles & Diana Krall in this one) & that soulful voice leaving us novice noodlers in utter shame upon reflection of our below-par capacity. This time, the Ibanez man dwelt much in the guitar per se, not that it was secondary to him all along, but the guitar focus in this release was there for the taking; they make joyful listening to say the least. I chose to buy this album albeit not being a big fan for a simple reason- it inspires me to play the guitar. To many of us guitar geeks, impressionable music means being over-awed by instrument technicalities but gentlemen like George Benson, Joe Pass (RIP) & Pat Metheny, among others, leave an impression of a different kind; it's about touching the soul with guitar mastery. I often listen to Guitar Man after a round of brutal guitar music just to test myself, not in terms of resilience, but as proof that appealing music could be juxtaposed with an alternative of great contrast while still retaining that draw. I wish more of George Benson's releases would be of this ilk but an artist should be in total command of his music, satiating the masses shouldn't be the cause for concern.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Selling: KUSTOM bass amp

My bass practice combo is going as well.

  • KUSTOM KB10X (10W)
  • Condition: 8/10
  • Features: 3-band EQ/ Volume
  • Queries/ confirmation:
  • No reservations/ trade
  • Self-collect: CCK mrt station
PRICE: $80 (final)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mini Meister

Looking forward to this amp if it ever gets here- H&K's Tubemeister 5. No prizes for guessing the operational wattage of this amp.

Selling: TESLA Plasma 7 (neck)

This pickup for sale, screws & springs included.

  • Tesla Plasma 7 (neck)
  • Condition: 9/10
  • Self-collect: CCK mrt station
  • Queries/ confirmation:
  • No reservations/ no trade
  • Asking price: $55 (final)

Friday, November 25, 2011

The (fuzz) universe in your hands

This is Paul Gilbert's current squeeze; Majik Box's Fuzz Universe. The fuzz boxes of yesterday had a singular objective of churning out those woolly, fuzz voicings in the attempt to imitate the product of an amp driver's torn effect. There's limited appeal in terms of clarity but it was a hit, even Jimmy Hendrix favoured one for himself. The situation today is such that fuzz boxes have undergone refinements in terms of clarity & intensity/ gain, as typified by the MB here. The dual channel offering means there's more than one tone to be had & that's before you put it in use with your amp's drive. If you are into gobs of distortion, maybe this one's not for you. Don't forget, this is an official Paul Gilbert-endorsed product so the $420 price tag might be too much for some of us. Available at Davis GMC.


A reminder of what begins today... :-)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Emma: ReezaFRATzitz 2

This is another mouthful: Emma's ReezaFRATzitz. Nothing too out-of-this-world, just another overdrive/ distortion unit but a very good one indeed. Must a pedal be unutterable to create a positive impact on tone? Let's hope that's not the case... but I attribute this pedal's goodness to the manufacturer's careful technicalities because this is the subsequent manifestation & I hear more appeal in terms of saturation & intensity while still avoiding the heavy metal turf. I just have to love the EQ section- effective & useful, it's not there for the sake of offering variation. When you try this one out in the stores, be sure to A-B it against another pedal of its pedigree, maybe then you'll realize the plus points.

Thanks to brother Chris @ Davis GMC for enduring my rather lengthy try-out...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Selling: STERLING SILO 30 (not mine)

OK, here's a tasty guitar for sale, it belongs to my friend, Ian Kwan ( If you are interested, do get back to him(9-077-5624). The pickups in there:
  • Neck: Stan Hinesley Karma
  • Middle: Suhr FL
  • Bridge: DiMarzio Crunch Lab
UPDATE: Amp also for sale.
Some prices:
  • Guitar: $750 (neg)
  • Amp head: $500
  • Cab: $400
  • Head + cab: $850

Selling: Kramer Striker (SOLD)

Hello, everyone. I'm clearing off my Kramer Striker here, there's nothing wrong with it just that I play better with a different neck profile. The Kramer sports a very Gibson-esque feel; rounded + narrow. The current pickups in it are: NECK (Tesla Plasma 7)/ MIDDLE (Tesla Plasma 1)/ BRIDGE (Tesla Plasma 7). I'm offering 2 prices for it:

Kramer Striker S-424
  • Condition: 8.5/10
  • Bag included
  • Self-collect (CCK mrt station TBC)
  • No reservations/ No trades
  • Interested/ queries:
Price with pickups in tact: $399
Price without pickups: $300

*PS: Pic shows guitar with default pickups, not TESLAs
Also selling:
  • Gibson pickups: 490R/498T
  • Modtone mini: Delay
  • Modtone mini: Chorus
UPDATE: Guitar SOLD off as at 24th Nov, 10.38PM. Pickups & pedals are still available :-)

    Pickup talk: DiMarzio D'Activator X

    At the first instance, you'd be thinking this is DiMarzio's X2N but it's not. It's DiMarzio's other high output menace, the D'Activator X. Yes, they look identical, both devoid of any polepieces.

    This isn't my first encounter with the D'Activator, I have another in my SA1620. Unlike the SA, my DTT700 came equipped with them. What's so special about these pickups? Nothing special, really but the manufacturer claims they have that extra ferocity which brings it up to standard against an active pickup. After hearing it in action I'd say it's just liberal marketing- yes, the D'Activator X is one heck of a high output pickup but it's not a pseudo-active model, not quite. 

    In the bridge, the D'Activator X has all the distortion compliance you need, no compromise here. It's very protrusive to such an extent that there's indeed an active-like voicing to be heard but this pickup does not possess the cold, in-your-face manifestation of an average active pickup. To me, this is a good thing because you could still dial in some warmth in there should the need arises but the reality is, nobody would play any tame music with these in their guitars. In the neck, expect the same aggression to unfold but it's a little creamier & more polished. If you have clarity issues during a solo, the D'Activator X is useful. 

    Do we need extra high output pickups to supplement our distortion? No, we don't. In fact, distortion sounds more appealing with medium output units. However, if you wish to address a voicing concern- you'd like to sound more upfront while plying your heavy metal- the D'Activator X is it.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    T-Rex: Totenschlager

    This is a mouthful: TOTENSCHLAGER. Whatever's the case, be informed that it's a little menace. It's an intense distortion type pedal which hails from the 'mini' T-Rex Tone Bug series. The control features there speak everything about simplicity but that's besides the point. It's there to deliver noxious metal & it does the job.

    When I tried this pedal yesterday, I thought it would be a half-baked unit, much hype without a serious intention but that's definitely NOT the case. The simple layout there is exactly my idea of a no-frills metal pedal, just the level, intensity & EQ to deliver the needs. If there's any need to refine this pedal then the manufacturer has to look into the dodgy EQ sliders but they are effective nevertheless. Spare the treble, please. Anything more than 50% application gives you this screechy voicing, akin to DOD's Death Metal pedal (that's right, the version before Digitech took over). Enough talk already, listen to this:

    Thanks to DAVIS GMC for letting me try this one! Kudos!

    Maxon: DS-830

    Was at Davis today to check out some Maxons in store. The DS-830 you see above is a splendid distortion unit, it's not a mild-mannered distortion unit ala BOSS' DS-1. What I like about this Maxon I tried today was the fact that the GAIN control added saturation in addition to the intensity of the distortion. This makes your tone sound full even with a small combo amp in use. I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to a 2-band EQ pedal but the DS-830 has lots of character despite its limitations. If you wish for an above-average performance without going boutique, check this pedal out.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Gibson: Les Paul Classic Plus

    Every time Gibson says they've come up with a new Les Paul, we know it's not really the case because it looks like the Les Paul when it first started out in the 1950s- so how 'new' is that? Is the Les Paul Classic Plus you see above a new guitar?

    Philosophy whining aside, the LP Classic Plus introduced recently is the typical LP Classic Plus I knew & it's not a complete departure from the former incarnation, they've kept the 496R & 500T pickups in tact which I deem to be the crucial consideration in this guitar. OK, so the fretboard is once again that torrified maple material we often read of late. If you think this is innovation per se then you need to read between the lines. Gibson's facilities had been raided recently & some essential wood types were confiscated by the feds, this is where the rosewood shortage comes in. So do you see the picture now?

    But I like the LP Classic/ Classic Plus- basically I am distortion inclined & this guitar would serve me well in this department.  I wouldn't mind its acquisition, really. I missed buying it some time ago so having it now would really be sweet.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    The story of my Friday (Part 3)

    It's already Sunday but here I am still talking about Friday's greatness. The Yamaha Pacifica 510V you see above is one of the reasons I was happy that day. You'd be screaming bloody limitations seeing only a humbucker in this guitar but the 3-way selector indicates some variations on board. The guitar wasn't as light as I'd expected it to be but the firm bridge humbucking tones were present & delightful despite the pickup being a non-conventional model. Everything about this Indonesian production is above average but the neck profile isn't quite as sleek as the upper tier Pacificas I've come across some years ago. The other appointments of this guitar are indications that it isn't a lower tier offering- tusq nut, Wilkinson vibrato bridge & Grover locking tuners. It's currently on a festive season offer but sits at the upper end of $900 which is arguably repulsive for many of us putting value-for-money considerations in mind. Everything to like in terms of feel, tone & QC but not quite the price. Available @ Beat Spot

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Cavity (Ibanez content)

    Hi there Ibanez fans, just a reminder that should you intend to replace your Edge III locking whammy bridge...

    ... with a GOTOH Floyd Rose copy- it would not fit. The current cavity housing the Edge III cannot accommodate the Gotoh, it needs to be a little longer to fit those protruding locking allen bolts.

    The story of my Friday (Part 2)

    Here's Part 2 of my Friday episode & it had nothing to do with any egocentric senior citizens (sorry to disappoint some of you). I duly arrived at Beat Spot & was very anxious to try out that amp I mentioned- it's Laney's new Ironheart series, touted as a metal-friendly unit & I'm definitely interested to hear it in action.

    The cleans here are quite Marshall-esque but there's less chime in the works maybe due to the in-house custom drivers on board & the fact that it runs on 6L6s in the power section- I did mess briefly with volume but there's no master section to stretch this to the limits, just the channel volume. The rhythm channel has that signature crunch for a typical classic rock spin but it's nothing too aggressive. I didn't have the opportunity to plug a Tubscreamer pedal or any of its derivatives to hear further tonal definition but I bet it's gonna sound sweet should this happen.

    Lead, lead, lead! It's the killer lead channel if you are into intense distortion. The overall character here speaks of clarity & acute saturation which doesn't turn the top end too prickly. I was drawn to this very Peavey JSX drive voicing but the difference here is that the Ironheart has a more outgoing drive voicing so if you are not too inclined to favour a smoother distortion, the amp's midrange can bring you into black metal territory. I can't help but link this to Blackstar's SERIES 200 amps, very similar but less nasty in the top end spectrum. Thumbs up to Laney for delivering their claims & more importantly, giving us a good amp per se.

    Kudos to the good people at Beat Spot for letting me have a go at this amp.

    Part 3 coming up...

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    The story of my Friday (Part 1)

    Here's the account: I was on my way to town to try an amp but there's this old man sitting beside me who nodded off to sleep. He bumped onto my shoulder several times. What was I doing? I was surfing the net, reading the specs of this amp, was slouching so I decided to sit up & I inadvertently hit the old chap so he woke up, did some wushu hand movements (what was that for?) & stood up in front of me. It was too close for comfort so I asked him if I could help him with anything. He asked me why I pushed him while he was sleeping but I asked him how many hands did I use to do that? He could not answer, stuttered & trembled in anger I presume. I duly told him he didn't see what happened & had no case because he had his eyes closed all the while. I told him not to doze off on people's shoulder. Here's the ridiculous bit- he said he didn't sleep but took a nap (OMG!). Regardless, I told him to be mindful of others in the train.

    So the verbal exchange went on, he fought his case by saying he did not doze off accidentally. I made him say that one more time so that the other passengers could hear him. The conclusion to this of course was, if he didn't do it by accident, then it was intentional (correct me if my understanding of this was flawed). He went on & on about my pushing him while I took a photo of him (the pic above) & that made him furious. He asked me what that was for & my reason for doing so was simple- should something happen, maybe he decided to tell the whole world I hit him or something to that extent, I have proof that he left the scene unscathed (physically, at least). He challenged me to hit it out & settle the matter but I told him I don't fight the elderly, I wanted to respect him but I reminded him that whatever he had said to me had diminish my efforts to do so. He walked away & some of the passengers asked me if I knew him. I didn't, of course, if I did, it wouldn't turn out like that.
    But that wasn't the end. He reappeared a few minutes late & an American guy sitting at the corner seat asked him, "Dude, you came back- are you serious?" He aimed him camera phone this time at me & I duly obliged by posing with my face covered with my bag & flashed a victory sign. I even told him to hold his camera higher to avoid the glare at the rear window, some of the passengers were trying hard to suppress laughter. He was trembling badly with his phone & asked me what that victory sign was for? He then screamed, "My ba**s to you!" But I told him to keep those to himself, because the the last person who said that to me died- he was a prostrate cancer patient. I didn't want to create a scene, really but things just happened. I'm not the type who would mum it away, that's not my style.

    He told me to be careful, not to tread his neighbourhood, otherwise, he would instruct his men to bash me after showing them my photo. I told him that couldn't happen because nobody goes round covering their faces with a bag & flashing a victory sign all the time. Sometimes, we unconsciously provoke others. Some old folks just can't accept the fact that they did something undesirable & had younger people correcting their manners. We SHOULD respect the elderly but we need to tell them off if they think they are above their wrongdoing.

    Stay tuned for Part 2...


    The mouldy Ibanez Destroyer guitar case- remember that one? After a wipe down with damp cloth & letting it dry, I applied this Fender vinyl cleaner fluid. It's a little excessive to be treating it this way but has that restored look I like. Makes it look newer than it should be.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    DigiTech amp

    It's ready & it's shipping out- Digitech's combos, that is. In the mean time, there're no plans to go bigger than 8" drivers in terms of size accommodations. As for me, I just want to hear how Digitech fares in the amp realm since their effects units are some of the best out there (in terms of availability & affordability).


    If you ever decide to give up that earthly guitar tones of yours & transcend into another dimension to ply your trade, do include the SOMMS (short for: Satan Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas) pedal you see above. This is a sonic oscillator for you, the function of which is quite beyond description. So I suggest you take some time to listen to the demo:

    Studio hawk

    Maybe the Gibson people came to their senses & decided to offer us an arguably affordable guitar without too much compromise- the Nighthawk Studio. Please do NOT approach this guitar with a Les Paul expetation because the dimensions & weight are all removed from the former spec. The fretboard you see above might look like a reosewood make but it's actually maple which had undergone a special tinting/ heating process to make it look like that. The manufaturer calls it torrified maple. Interesting, yes? Looking forward to have a go at it- if it ever makes it here.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Wheat picking/ Picking wheat

    This is cool, not quite practical, but cool nevertheless- picks crafted out of wheat.

    It's not new, in fact, it was featured in NAMM '09. The manufacturer did warn of wheat residue during play but tone enthusiasts would love to hear it in action. 
    Photo credit: NAMM '09 by theswigs

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Trusting labels (Incompatility issue- Part 2)

    My Schecter 8-string guitars were left unplayed recently- they lacked the 8th string, due to this episode: CLICK So when I was at Davis, I was very glad to see Schecter's Decimator strings back on the shelves. The current Decimator strings are manufactured by Ernie Ball as indicated above- you can click the picture & read the fine prints. The overall package layout is also a little different. FYI, the former Decimator strings were manufactured by D'Addario. I've kept the old pack/ label for documentation purposes. It really came in handy for this presentation.

    However, after looking at the contents, the above label made me uneasy... No it's not the 'Ernie Ball' label.

    But that '30" taper' label. True enough, the 8th string you see here, does NOT fit into the machine head slot. The tapered bit wasn't long enough to let more string length through for winding allowance.

    I find this disturbing because it says one thing on the label but something else on the product envelope inside. According to the law I have a discourse for this under 'misrepresentation'. I should be compensated because I read the label & relied on it for the transaction. So it's a breach of contractual terms since buying & selling is a contractual agreement. 

    I'm the trusting consumer; I trust the manufacturer when they have their products distributed & offered on store shelves. Why? Because they are the manufacturers, they did more homework than me to eventually offer products for sale. But when such an unfortunate slip take place, there will be friction along the way, most likely, consumers will go after the sellers because they were sold a foul item- it's not the sellers' fault, really. The manufacturers should have known better than to let this happen. This is why product re-call occur.

    Tsjuder: Legion Helvete

    Tsjuder, the black metal stalwarts who gave us that absorbing release, Desert Northern Hell back in 2004, called it quits in 2006. But they reformed in 2010 & this is the fruit of that reunion. It's rather arduous being a black metal outfit in Norway as the standards set by one's peers are way up there but Tsjuder did alright. They are still doing well today because after a spin of any one of their releases you'd here solid composers peddling good music; this we often dismiss because to many of us, black metal being good music is an oxymoron. Legion Helvete is simply a composed release, many of us bear allegiance to its predecessor but Legion Helvete contains that slight establishment which makes it less adventurous somewhat. Nevertheless, Legion Helvete is not about coming back to draw attention to one's absence, it's highlighting the fact that the music wasn't affected by the hiatus.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Selling: Fender American Special Strat (not mine)

    My friend Rico is selling his Fender American Special Strat, he bought this guitar at around the same time as I did so this instrument should be about 16mths old. His asking price is $900, if you have further queries, please e-mail him:


    No, I'm not referring to a Malmsteen song with 'Horizon' in the title, referring to ESP's Horizon III model, specifically addressing brother ijau's inquiry as to whether there are any Edwards version of the same pedigree.

    So here it is, the Edwards version- also available in white as well as a swirl finish.

    Also the Grassroots version...

    Domestic destruction (3)

    Yes, the DTT700 suffered from a dry fret condition, I think you can tell which fret areas were re-moisturized & which ones were not.

    A fresh set of strings, GHS .009s. Other rectifications/ adjustments done:
    • Neck was straightened. Not that it was severely warped but I needed that bit of leeway to complement a lower action
    • Action was lowered, not the lowest I could achieve but it facilitated my quirks, that's more important
    • Pickup heights were lowered 
    The Destroyer, finally up to scratch & removed from its previous neglect. I love this guitar for the tone & playability, not quite the outline. The excessive tail end has no elbow relief feature, I find this annoying but all in all, the DiMarzios in there interacted well with the overall weight of the instrument to give that fantastic low end rumble. As the D'Activators were conceived to be pseudo-active units, it means that your neck pickup tones won't go limp on you in times of need. More on this in subsequent episodes...

    Oh, this is the current alliteration after the DTT700's acquisition: Destroyer's DiMarzio D'Activators.

    Will you come my way?

    The good people of Davis GMC are checking if this Edwards Horizon III, 7-string can make it here (for me). It's not a confirmed order & no deposits had been made, just a preliminary inquiry.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Domestic destruction (2)

    This was the showroom condition of the DTT700; very dusty. You can see my fingerprints on the truss rod cover. Back there, the guitar was hung up on the higher tier so it was subject to less handling, the weight per se would put many potential buyer off.

    You'd wonder why the strings & the fretboard are of uniform colour; well, that's the colour of rust... I have a feeling this guitar was played many times when it was a fresh addition to the showroom & it was ignored thereafter. More dust at the lower cutaway- saw that?

    Domestic destruction (1)

    This was the scene when Swee Lee opened their doors this morning at 10.00A.M. sharp. Fortunately, there was no limited entrance, everyone was allowed to step into the store.

    It was a grab-&-pay affair for me, I'd made my mind up yesterday so there was no waiting. This was the hard case for the instrument & it was incredibly mouldy as indicated by the arrows, not quite visible here. 

    The guitar in question is Ibanez's Destroyer DTT700, a very hefty instrument. In fact, it nearly destroyed my arms while carrying it home. I was fighting both the weight & the case's slippery, mouldy handle. This guitar is in dire need of a make-over... Will update later, heading for a wedding lunch now. Adios, everyone.

    Stringless but playable

    Spotted at Funan Centre: Fender's P-Bass game controller; the only stringless but totally playable bass... he, he...

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Swee Lee sale: Sunday 13th Nov '11

    If you are going to the Swee Lee SALE tomorrow (BB branch), this is just another reminder that the Nett-priced items (like the Fender Blacktop Strat you see above), will only be subject to 10% discount.

    Ditto all Ibanez Premium RG models. How do you know if they are NETT-priced items? Look out for the price tags/ stickers with an 'N' prefix.

    If you are looking for some bargain purchases, I'd recommend the Ibanez RG350DX...

    ... & the much under-rated GRG150P from the GIO range- never dismiss a good instrument by virtue of its lower tier standing.

    Because I'm not trying to propel a single brand name in this recommendation, the Epiphone LP Tribute model is another worthy consideration come SALE day. I'm not a Les Paul fan but if you are after that sweet, rounded, warm LP tones- this is it.

    Not forgetting Jackson's WRXT (Japan) with all the right appointments, feel & tone.