Sunday, June 30, 2013

A case from Rondo

This arrived yesterday, from the good chaps at Rondo Music; they're one of the very few stores who ship directly to this country (bless them). So is this good? Definitely. It means there is no rubbish, ridiculous & excessive freight charges typical of forwarding entities out there.

Nothing fancy, I bought a hard case from them to fit a longer scale guitar. Seen here is my Ibanez S-series 7-string. This particular model promises to fit extended scale models, baritone ones included, regardless of the headstock design. As you can see above, there's ample space at the headstock vicinity. Happy :-)

This won't be my last encounter with Rondo music. Definitely not.

Poll: GSS-guitar

Good day everyone. It's the final day of June, meaning, the first half of this year ends today. *SIGH*

In this country, at this time of the year, The Great Singapore Sale (GSS @ June) takes place. Retailers everywhere take this opportunity to entice people to spend. I'm unaware if the half year turn implies a major turn of events for us in general but that's how it had been for the past few years or so. It might be that it's vacation time (Summer holidays) elsewhere & the sale here was meant to lure people into this country to generate the economy. 

Anyway, guitar stores here seems to exclude themselves from this lowering of prices (lately) simply because many of them had pegged prices below online competition so it's virtually a 'sale' all the time. This is no way to ridicule their non-participation, just a reminder to them that buyers are in buying mode in June & December. We do not receive a major windfall in June but some of us simply have more time to consider gear purchases come mid-year. For us with school-going kids, it would mean that June is the time to indulge in non-academic pursuits, music is indeed a popular option. I believe buyers out there are not looking forward to a ridiculous price cut, just some enticements to buy. These items need not be the latest offering, I believe if the stores make attempts to clear tarnished display units (elsewhere, these are referred to as blemished gear), some B-grade stuff that somehow came in with the good stuff or the discontinued items for that matter, we'd be happy to stop & consider.

Then again, who are we to question the commercial wisdom of retailers. They have their side of this consideration & that would very much affect their well-being. However, we can extend our GSS-ing online, yes? :-)

Wishing everyone a great second half of 2013 to come.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Re-string @ home :-)

This is an Ibanez 540R, an absolute classic. It belongs to Mr. Halim who sent it to me for some looking-into. I'm just overwhelmed by its mere presence. It needs a re-string & I'm obliged to give it a little set-up as well so this is my end of June guitar episode :-)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Metal!

It's about time- PRS joins the high output, in-your-face pickup camp. Interestingly, this pickup is known as the \m/- as indicated (rather discreetly) on the pickup cover. Regardless, we need to know that it's a ceramic-based, high output humbucker, suitable for a selected genre delivery.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Re-string @ Bt Panjang

Here's the latest in my re-string adventure: an Epiphone Les Paul Ultra III, belongs to brother Ziyang residing at Bt Panjang. Work done:
  • General clean-up of body & headstock
  • Lubricate- Nut slots/ bridge saddle slots
  • Fretboard- Re-conditioned
  • Re-string- .0095 set
This Les Paul was gonna receive a .009 set initially but I advised Brother Ziyang to consider the .0095 first to get a feel of the slight change in overall tension so it received a set of D'Addario .0095 in there.

Yes, I'm still doing re-string/ minor tinkering for friends residing at Choa Chu Kang/ Bt Panjang/ Bt Batok neighbourhood. If you need a quick fix (at affordable prices), do get back to me :-)

Last call: Marshall MG15MSII (Beez mod)

Greetings everyone, it's mid-week. It's still hazy so nothing's new, really.

Anyway, here's a message from Beez- he'd like to thank everyone for supporting his 'for sale' stuff here. The Zakk Wylde Mashall MG15MSII had been sold so the only remaining amp to clear is this black version. If you are new to the MG15MSII, it's a 15W amp in a stack format consisting of a head & 2x closed back cabs. This model had been modded to manifest a slightly more roaring drive/distortion. If you wish to hear it in action, Beez welcomes you to his new premises:

EXCELSIOR SHOPPING CENTER
B1-34

Beez is clearing this amp for a final price of $350. For further queries/ confirmation, please get back to Beez: 9-77-32-633

On a personal note, I'd recommend this amp for its wide drive/distortion application- from crunchy blues bits to heavy metal; it's all there :-)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Douglas

Some of you might know the Agile brand name- value for money guitars, really. The Septor 7-string you see above is a mere USD330... (SGD421/ MYR1,063)

Recently, the manufacturer launched the Douglas range of guitars which are the more economical interpretation of their Agile models. The Grendel here is USD185 (SGD236/ MYR596). We will soon find out the Douglas QC on offer :-)

Stacked humbucker talk


What is a stacked humbucker?
It's a humbucker that has a second coil of wires placed underneath the other. This is different from a regular humbucker where 2 single coils are placed next to each other.


So is it a single coil or humbucker?
Let's get this right- a humbucker, by definition, is a pickup arrangement featuring 2 single coil units wired to eliminate hum (or 'buck' the hum). Regardless of how the coils are placed, the objective is the same- to eliminate hum so don't let anyone tell you different. When a 'humbucker' is mentioned, there's always more than 1 coiled unit involved. 

What's this about stacked humbucker not sounding as authentic as a true single coil?
Simple- it involves more than 1 coil so essentially, it sounds different from a true single coil. The degree of authenticity depends on the players' ears, really. If you can accept what the manufacturer has to offer, chances are, you are agreeable with the tone in relation to the true single coil tone. The stacked humbucker method differs across manufacturers' designs, so tone differs as well. Some involve a dummy second coil just to eliminate hum while others do not magnetize their separation layers. This happens because each stacked formula is a patented affair so the rival manufacturers have to come up with their own way of doing things.


I'm about to have one installed in my guitar, it should fit, yes?
Please refer to the pic above, the stacked humbucker (black) is taller than the regular (white) single coil. Your guitar's pickup cavity should provide for this allowance. My experience with such pickups is this- the chances of fitting one is higher if your guitar features a pickguard rather than a direct mount. However, I get positive results with both guitar types (Strats featuring pickguard mounted pickups & Ibanez models with no pickguards). Let's put it this way; why would a certain manufacturer be dumb enough to not make their products compatible with many guitar models? They know people are gonna run to their competitors for something that works.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Saddle-swap talk


What's shown in the pic above?
It's a saddle swap; only the bridge saddles were replaced, not the entire bridge. In this case non-metal saddles (graphite) were chosen.

Any effect to this swap?
Yes.

  1. Non-metal bridge saddles do not feature potential sharp edges so they don't cut the strings during tuning & breakages could be avoided
  2. Non-metal so they won't rust
  3. The screws in the non-metal saddles here are not protruding out so they won't jab the picking hand while playing
  4. Non-metal material manifests a mellower tone (makes perfect sense to counter those bright single coils) but unless you are monitoring this closely through headphones, you won't hear the real difference
Do you need a tech to do this?
No, if you have any experiences with a screwdriver at all, it's a DIY thing. However, you need to re-intonate your guitar thereafter.

How much, where & what are the brand names to look out for?
The saddles are sold in a set, so a set of 6 would be about $40/-, available at guitar stores offering replacement parts. I've had good experiences with Allparts/ Graphtech.

Duncanized: LTD ST213

My LTD ST213 is one of my preferred guitars in terms of tone & feel. It's no hiding the fact that it's a Strat wanna-be but it works for me. Not that I got a Strat for less but I got a guitar to my specs (namely ash body + maple fretboard), that's more important.

Some mods done:
  • Bridge saddles- TUSQ units are in.
  • Pickups- Duncan Classic Stack + (N/M), Hot Stack (B)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Duncan trio

I bought these online, finally got to use them. Sometimes, it's all about waiting for the right moment to use stuff :-) Will be heading to Beez's later.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Buzzin' guitar

We all know the Feiten tuning system.

Now Mr. Feiten has his own line of guitars. In the mean time, they are all Tele-inspired but look awesome nonetheless. Boutique prices, mind you (USD1.9K at least).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Singapore-llica

Some of you might be interested in this.

Edwards: E-TE-105FM

A nice take on the Tele by the good people at Edwards- E-TE-105FM. What draws me to the ESP/Edward models is the fact that they use Seymour Duncan pickups for their instruments :-)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jackson 7s & 8

New form Jackson this Summer '13- the JS 7 & 8-string models. The JS range represents the manufacturer's economy models done in good taste, of course, nothing shoddy. But that's not the Jackson headstock we all know & prefer. From top to bottom (pic): JS22-7 Dinky/ JS32-7Q/ JS32-8Q.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zee Custom

If this is your initial acquaintance with Z>Custom guitars, it's likewise for many of us. The manufacturer runs a modest factory in Taiwan with some production relations in China so this accounts very much for the $199 (SV Guitars) price tag- very affordable indeed. But wait, there's more to this.

The test model was fantastic in terms of build, fit & finish QC. If the headstock outline was carved out more convincingly to mimic a certain brand name, it'd really fit the bill. That's saying a lot for an instrument in this price bracket. However, the overall weight of it would give away the fact that it's not what you thought it was/ should be. Nevertheless, it's a remarkable workmanship at this price point. The hardware & electronics were very acceptable but the 5-way pickup selector could have been smoother; all ye Malmsteen-esque flickers, be warned. Coming to tone, I'd say it's a typical manifestation for an instrument of this make. The single coils are pleasant in drive mode but they fared better clean. The humbucker's a polar opposite of the single coils- excellent in drive mode but that clean take, well, it's all square but nothing repulsive. I've heard more repulsive tones coming from budget models above this price point- enough of those. The neck carve was also a good replication of a modern C-profile, equally adept at all manner of digging in & shredding. I'd recommend this to the average beginner looking for a good bargain on a budget. Less that stubborn 5-way selector, the Z>Custom is a good entry-level instrument to own, worth every cent of the asking price.

---------------------------------------
PS: Pic courtesy of SV Guitars- thanks, Mike!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Economy plexi

Sometime along the way, everyone wants a Marshall. We want to own one or at least hear one in action simply because it's a Marshall; the hallmark in tone. But then comes the issues of cost & availability. Some of the more desirable Marshall tones are out there, beyond our financial reach, while the rest are simply unavailable for us to experience.

Hey, there's no 'Marshall' here, it's clearly a Carl Martin pedal you see in the pic but that blatant Plexi Tone label isn't hiding the fact that it emulates the famous Plexi tone. Well, even the gold, black & cream finish is hinting at a certain Marshall-inclined colour code. There are simply too many Marshall-voiced pedals out there, it's a matter of being convincing & this Plexi Tone is drawing all the right flak. What you can hear from this one is that signature Brit bark which has its roots in the historical Plexis (as rightfully labelled) & not the JCM or DSL voicings. At upper settings, the pedal threatens to fuzz out so our interest in it is really to custom tweak our settings to discover some sweetness & not dial everything up to extremities. I'd like to remind potential buyers out there that the pedal inherits the sharp attack of the Plexis in the upper frequencies which would please many blues rock enthusiasts but all in all, the Plexi Tone has achieved what it was tasked to do; give us some good Marshall blast without paying too much.

Carl Martin Plexi Tone
  • Availability: Davis GMC
  • Price: $140

Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel (spoiler alert)

Man of Steel is not a superhero movie; it's about alien conflict, don't let anyone tell you different. This version of Superman (as he was finally known towards the tail end of the story) has a plot focus. This is the very reason, the Superman character per se is a nobody, (Henry Cavill is a nobody do you honestly recall his leading role in Immortals?), Perry White is black (no offence; it's an objective highlight), Lois Lane knows Superman's secret identity & there's a good development of the occurrences in pre-apocalytic Krypton. If you are bringing kids to the show, please pre-empt them of the non-linear story line; there's a good deal of flashbacks going on. The whole chunk of Clark Kent's juvenile, Smallville passage was also omitted so do not try to connect this movie to the Christopher Reeve-era Superman, it's a variation for sure.

I deem this Superman revision as a 'director's clutch'; much deviation was done from the original comics to portray a darker, conflict-ridden story line. There's also a conscious highlight of Superman being an alien instead of highlighting the fact that he is indeed a normal human with outstanding human capacities- he is not human to begin with. The presence of General Zod & company showcasing their strength on par with Superman compounded that strong-because-you-are-alien fact. There was also a sense of purpose invoked in the plot; sufficient reminders that Superman was placed here for a reason & not just to escape a doomed planet.

However, Zack Snyder & company could have scripted the fighting scenes better; watching people with extra-terrestrial strength beating one another to a pulp got jaded after a while when you know the next strike would manifest extra strength, the next dodge- extra speed, the next impact- destroying more buildings- you get the picture.

Some take-aways from this movie:
  1. The politically correct understanding that underwear should be worn inside & not outside regardless of whichever planet you are from
  2. An ass 'S' from another galaxy is still an ass 'S' here on earth (thank you, Lois Lane)
  3. There's always a 7-eleven out there in a desert town (you watched Thor?)
  4. Nikon is the brand name that would invoke the wrath of an alien droid
  5. If you wish to kill Superman, it is possible & the very blade that would do so is not extra-terrestrial- note how Clark Kent appeared clean-shaven after he donned the Superman costume? Ha!

The Special one

This 5-way switch is dead. Yes, it might look quite presentable but it didn't notch in any positions & was stiff so it was dumped.

These 2 are dead as well. No amount of contact cleaner would provide any salvation- stuck. The orange caps were saved, of course.

The guitar in question is my Fender American Special Strat. I had Beez instal a Fender 5-way pickup selector replacement & a couple of Gotoh pots to replace the dead tone pots. No orange caps were used this time, instead, my Luxe capacitor went in there. Remember, an American Special Strat comes with special wiring- the middle pickup is tone-free, meaning, it's not wired to any tone control ala Eric Johnson. This isn't my option, it's factory default.

Here it is, all cleaned up & ready to play. The American Special does not come with a hardcase. A Deluxe Fender bag is the standard accessory with every purchase. 

The one you see here is an SKB manufactured Fender case. I recently bought one for my Special, it's a good guitar with plenty of good tones for me so it deserves a good resting place. 

Here you go- proof of the SKB manufacturing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Attack Sunday

I'm still using D'Addario for my 8-string guitar; it's the only brand that would put me at ease in terms of compatibility issues.

That set went into my Schecter ATX C8. It's not evident here but my C8 is creaming off nicely :-)

I bought this Gator hardcase for another guitar but I ended up giving it to the C8 instead simply because it fits. Available at Davis GMC.

How difficult is it to play an 8-string? 
Do not begin by believing it's difficult just because it has 2 more strings. In fact, you should be delighted by the fact that you have 2 more strings which you can use to replicate ideas that you play on the higher B & G strings. I embrace the 8-string this way so there's no issue for me in terms of acceptance. In fact, I tune my thickest 8th string to G instead of the recommended F#...

Wider neck = obstacle?
Yes, the wider neck has an immediate impact to feel, one of rejection because you have to stretch you fingers to play what you'd play easily on a 6. However, if you posture your arm & hand suitably while playing, I'd say it's no real hindrance at all. I'd also recommend you play the 8 standing up, this way, your hands are suitably straightened to finger the frets more comfortably. Those of us who prefer playing the 8 sitting down often had to bend or arch the fretting hand excessively to reach the lower strings. This hinder movements hence promoting lethargy & mistakes.

New caps

The MOD cap isn't new in the market, in fact, I bought this one some time in 2012. It's still available at SV Guitars if you wish to try it.

The chaps at Luxe are dedicated at recreating history & that's a good thing for some of us. I'm not too into history because I live in the now. However, if there's any ear candy that happened then & could be re-created today for a reasonable cost (just because it happened doesn't mean it has to be expensive upon recreation), I'd like to give it a go, hence the Luxe purchase. Now this box had been misplaced & only found recently (in fact, it's first featured here: CLICK) because I just checked with Davis GMC; the Luxe stuff had been out of stock for a while now.

Will update which guitars these goodies went into- yes, they've been installed. I'm hearing them in action & trying to justify their true worth. Hmm...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gibson Guitar Corp- no more


I lifted this off the manufacturer's website. As a legal business entity, such announcements need to happen. So Gibson Guitar Corp. is now known as Gibson Brands.

A further understanding of this would mean that the monicker 'Gibson' can now be used to identify the company not just a certain product per se. For instance if Gibson decides to manufacture toilet bowls, they have every right to have the Gibson logo there and let people shit on them

As a commercial entity, they have every right to expand this way, it's survival instinct in this competitive world. However, let's not see the decline of 'Gibson' as one of the foremost guitar manufacturing company just because some people decide to channel funds elsewhere & not let instrument making be priority- that would be sad (recall CBS-era Fender). And I'm not really a Gibson fan, just having a tremendous respect for the name & what it stands stood for. So there you have it, there's no more Gibson Guitar Corp., there's just Gibson.

Pedal store- down (stairs)

Here's a message from Davis GMC- their pedal store located at Level 1 had shifted to the basement. Where is it exactly now? It's just in front of their guitar store so if you wish to visit both stores, it's merely crossing the corridor to the other side :-)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ibanez: FR420 (4)

As mentioned previously, I'm not obliged to like whatever the manufacturer has to offer in my Ibanez FR420...

... so out went the default CAP humbuckers. The pickups you see here:
  • Bridge: Screamin' Demon
  • Neck: Distortion
I'm working on a simple formula; the Demon worked well in an ash body guitar so it should work well here unless something potent gets in the way. The Distortion neck is my favourite pickup for lots of distortion & clarity, it's not about an immaculate, warm, clean tone. Totally happy with this combo :-)

Satin standard

This is Fender's new summer revelation for 2013- the Satin series. It's basically a Standard model given the stripped down body treatment. Stripped down as in a gloss-free outermost layer. Something similar had been done before by the manufacturer- recall the Highway 1 series.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Galli-good

In order for discovery to happen, we must be willing to let go. Gallistrings is one of my preferred, lesser known brands since I moved away from Ernie Ball & friends. In addition to a moisture absorbing envelope, the manufacturer had a final plastic seal to preserve the freshness. I've not come across a bad pack of Gallistrings before so that speaks a lot about QC. Gallistrings feel like someone took a pack of DR & maintain the rigidity but added a nice feel to it. In terms of longevity, they definitely last longer than D'Addarios. The .009 set you see here costs $6.90 at SV Guitars. Gallistrings feel nothing like Ernie Ball, D'Addario or Gibsons. If you are familiar with those brand names, you know where I'm going with this.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Loving the machine

You know what makes a good player? Playing in time. But I'm through with the cold, calculated tick-tocks & beeps of a metronome. I have since moved on to a drum machine. Seen here is my Zoom RT123, the most fundamental drum machine Zoom has to offer. A long time ago, I used to jam with friends but it was the era of anti-guitar, otherwise known as grunge (it got me puzzled, those blokes were anti-guitar but they still have guitars in the band- darn). You know what people like to do when they jam? They do covers. I don't. So there we have it, the meeting of direct opposites, the chemistry just wasn't happening. Friends prefer Nirvana & Stone Temple Pilot numbers, they would throw in Black Sabbath & Iron Maiden occasionally but I was heavily into Emperor, Marduk, Mayhem, Satyricon, Darkthrone, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Death & I don't even wanna play like my heroes, I just listen to them for inspiration. I don't like & don't wanna play other people's music, I wanna create my own; it's about learning & application but people don't value learning, they wanna go with the flow so I flowed the other way. I stopped playing with people, I play with machines & I couldn't be happier.

I don't see my RT123 being plugged in too much lately because all the drum stuff are playing in my head, they are there, I don't need to hear its extension through an amp. However, the challenge has always been to vary the tempo & play my stuff in different timing, this is an important ingredient to learning & everyone who is musically inclined should devote time to get acquainted with time. So two days ago, my RT123 was dusted & plugged into a small practice amp just to get my timing thing going once again. We should strive to make every playing experience a learning experience.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Face-off: DiMarzio vs Seymour Duncan

I've been playing these 2 guitars a lot lately:
  • Left: Ibanez S470- Dimarzios: Air Norton (B)/ Area '61(M)/ PAF (N)
  • Right: Ibanez S420- Seymour Duncan: Pearly Gates (B/N)
Ibanez dweebs prefer DiMarzios because majority of the endorsers embrace this pickup brand- Vai, Satch, Gilbert, Timmons, et al. Estranged individuals like me, had an initial rotten episode with DiMarzio so I went with the competitor's brand & I had to say that I was lucky- I bought the pickup that suited my needs so it was no turning back.

So it boils down to this- which pickup brand do I prefer? Simple answer: Both.

These pickups have something different to offer. DiMarzio has this peculiar adaptation to effects & other signal processors; the   more you add to them, they don't seem to be undone by gain overdose. Seymour Duncan has this signature bite that you'd hear if you plug straight through to your amp. Once you get hooked, it's the only thing you'd want to hear. I'm living with both tone options, there are no rules saying I should stay true to only one brand name. It's about liking what I hear coming out from the amp regardless of what were used to make that happen.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Selling: Beez amps

This is a message from Beez- he's clearing 2 of his Marshall MG15MSII amps, the standard model (left) and the Zakk Wylde version (right). Do note that these amps were modded so they have a different gain structure compared to the original versions. Please drop by his store if you wanna hear them in action: Excelsior Shopping Center, B1-34. I used to have one: CLICK

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The great demon

This is my first Seymour Duncan pickup- a Screamin' Demon. It's more than a decade old, still going strong. I always give my guitars a wipe-down every time I stopped playing, the pickups get the same attention because they are the ones that get sweaty so they need a bit of cleaning before being put away.

I bought this pickup when Beez was still working at Yamaha, there were only 3 humbuckers left, one was white, the other wasn't a Trembucker model so it was my default choice- like there was much to begin with. Anyway, that 'Screamin' Demon' label was rather intriguing, my initial take was that it's one of the meanest, highest output pickup Duncan has to offer by virtue of its label. This was the age before the internet became ubiquitous so I couldn't check the specs to confirm what it had to offer. 

I love this pickup, honest. George Lynch associations aside, I consider it a well thought of model, good warmth, great definition & more importantly, it reacts well with distortion, quite differentiated from the standard high output units in this aspect, simply because it's not a high output model.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fab?

Do you know these girls boys? Fabulous Boys- Taiwanese romantic comedy drama. Wonder if they can really play those guitars. Product placement? Hmph.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ibanez: FR420 (2)

The Ibanez FR420 is equipped with a pair of CCR humbuckers, ceramic-based but not as hot. They serve their purpose in giving the player a slightly more acute response in terms of output which could be heard more markedly in driven settings. In clean mode, these pickups possess a fat voicing making chords at the neck very pleasant.

However, these are not my kind of pickups despite being above average in many aspects. I need a thicker, more bass-inclined response from the bridge unit. I would also like a more reserved character from the neck (rather ironic as I depend on this pickup for solos, mainly) in terms of output & frequency response because from experience, I find these kind of pickups more distortion friendly- the more drive/ distortion I pump in, I can be assured that the adversity consideration won't be too disproportionate. Meaning- it won't sound awful at higher gain settings.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Poll: Online shopping experience

Thanks everyone, for taking part in this poll :-)

It's the age of the internet, many of us get what we want online especially when we can't get them from the stores here. Online shopping means, we can do it from the comfort of home & whatever was bought would be delivered to the doorstep- bliss. However, there are some people who would rather NOT make any online transactions for the fear of a fraudulent engagements. Since we have the power to check things out, we could always look up the list of reputable online stores. Either that or make time to ask fellow enthusiasts online. Chances are, they are more than happy to share the encounters.

With reference to this poll, we see that many of us had a satisfactory experience when buying stuff online. In fact, only 5% expressed foul episodes which implies that sellers/ online stores are counting on reputation to get the business going so they have to keep up the positive goodwill or suffer a cyber death. More interestingly, there is a camp of players who prefer checking things out personally for a 'real' shopping experience. It's worth the trouble, they say, since we can avoid paying for a lemon & the painful entailment of a refund or subsequent compensation. We note that this shopping philosophy isn't about cyber trust but I would say it's an old school way of getting things for ourselves. It's not a bad preference, certainly not, just a personal take on how things should be acquired.