Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yellow re-string

It's the last day of November, spent some time with the yellow fellow here after a quick re-string. My ears are saturated with EMG tones (Charvel!) for the past few days so it's good to be hearing some passive action this morning. However, this DKMGT features an on-board gain boost so the passive tones here are quite a menace once distortion was in use.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bentley @ Damansara

I had the opportunity to drop by Bentley Music at Damansara off KL (Malaysia). The place is HUUUUUGE! Imagine Yamaha's Beat Spot here in (S'pore) - triple the size. Their show space is only occupying the 5th level, I have no idea if they are using other levels for storage/ education.

This is only the Ibanez section of the store (that's where I spent most of my time here), the guitars were all well-arranged but in terms of classification, it could have been better managed. Maybe as a player, I see the bigger picture in terms of grouping & comparative purposes (I'd personally arrange them according to their respective SERIES). 

If any guitar stores out there wants any inputs from me or maybe give me a managerial opportunity to further the cause of their commercial directions- I'll gladly consider. I've been to many guitar stores here (& elsewhere) & I'd say content-wise, they are not as progressive in terms of products turn over. There could also be more dedicated inputs for promotion largely due to the fact that store owners are sellers, they don't know nuts about their products. I guess this is my area of expertise, I know what's in & what needs to be cleared. A store that is moving with the times, moves on in so many ways (in $$$ especially). But we know dinosaurs are not running the show any more, we just need to know where to look (look at what they are doing, how they are doing it & when they are doing it).

As far as Bentley goes, they are doing alright :-)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Charvel: DX-1 ST... mine

Yes... the Charvel DX-1 is as good as it gets. It's really a no-frills guitar save for some intricate binding & a rather flashy set of fretboard markers. As it is, I'm not a fan of flashy details, I like to keep things simple. The focus is on playing & good tones, everything else is distraction. This is not my first encounter playing the DX-1, I've been waiting for the right time bring it home. I think the current 35% discount at City Music makes it a value-for-money consideration- it wasn't this good during the last sale event so it pays (no pun intended) to wait.

Here we go- I'm not a fan of EMGs but I won't cast aside guitars which have them as default pickups, especially guitars that speak to me in terms of tone & playability. More importantly, the DX-1 sounds incredible for my kind of music & I seldom dwell on clean tones. For this, I prefer them coming from single coil pickups.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Charvel: DX-1 ST

Kramer, Jackson & Charvel are the landmark names you need to know if you are into guitars for some sleek performance. 'Sleek' here would encompass both technical flair as well as menacing delivery. Since Charvel's withdrawal from Japan, we are generally bothered by Charvel's QC probabilities especially after knowing they would originate from China. This spells then end for you (as far as interest & beliefs are concerned) if you believe in the fact that doomed guitars come from China.

Build/ fit/ finish
That's a narrow conclusion considering some outstanding workmanship come from China as well but let's not cite specific brand names to propel belief, we have the Charvel DX-1 ST here for scrutiny. Adversity report- zilch. Yes, nothing's amiss with the test model save for the fact that the strings & general hardware were tarnished over time. Please be informed that the DX-1 is a bolt-free instrument & one would expect a smooth transition at the neck heel but this is perhaps the guitar's Achilles heel as the instruments two different finishes converge. The DX-1 neck is simply an oil-stained unit to preserve that very inviting wood feel but its body receives colour treatment as well as a gloss overcoat so there exist a 'bump' at the heel due to this difference. The unspoken objective, in terms of feel, of a through-neck construction is the seamless feel at the heel but that's not observed here. Rest assured, this 'bump', is well managed; it's visually pleasant & proved to be of little bother throughout play. The rest on offer in this area of consideration is nothing short of pleasant. (Rating: 85%)

Playability/ tone
As you would have realized, the heel bump issue discussed above was a necessary pre-empt in our understanding of the DX-1's playability. The neck profile is a compound radius type, we get both a rounded & flattened feel in one serving. Let's not get picky & dwell on that slight bump mentioned earlier; the neck proved to be very playable even at the upper fret area. The stained finish would mean the DX-1 neck promotes grip & nimble movements without the yucky, dirt-induced stickiness from a finished unit (think Gibson necks... well, majority of them). Shred fans would be pleased to know that this neck manifests a degree of flatness necessary for finger technicalities but it's not an Ibanez Wizard-type. So, flat- yes, relatively so, but thin- not quite. Nothing to complain about the curved body top; all's good in terms of a comfortable arm placement. (Rating: 85%)

Tone- a pair of EMGs at the helm so nothing deficient when it comes to distortion but you know how it is with cleans coming from active pickups- bland but nothing too repulsive. We don't embrace actives for their cleans, yes? Prior to this, I had the chance to test a DST with the same pair of EMGs on board (85 neck + 81 bridge) & there was more bottom end coming from that guitar compared to this DX-1 implying that the amount of wood (as opposed to this more aerodynamic Soloist outline) tampers inherent tone frequencies. In this regard, I'd urge potential buyers to establish some perspective tone wise (if it's within your time allowance) & hear the difference because it might matter to some of us. We'd be splitting hairs if we are to debate the tonal qualities of an EMG because we know, in any guitar, the EMG takes over whatever the guitar's tone wood has in store for definition in general. However, this doesn't spell bad in any way, the clarity & cutting edge of active pickups are beyond what passives have to offer so if this is your thing, embrace EMGs; they are different from passive pickups, not 'better'. (Rating: 80%)

We have a well-made guitar before us, that's right. We also have a visually attractive instrument before us, that's right too. However, this guitar will not serve all in terms of tone. Players who are after playing nuances, that somewhat crucial dynamics coming from every emotional bend & digging into stubborn frets, will most likely walk away from active pickups. If they were microphones, we wouldn't give them to Elvis but Tom Araya would benefit from such an implement. So the selling point for the DX-1 is its absolute quality in construction & overall presentation in terms of feel & visual aesthetics but looks alone won't win trophies. As far as instruments go, there need to be a balance of physical, visual & tonal goodness to become a real winner. However, if you truly appreciate what this DX-1 has to offer keeping in mind what it could not deliver was intentional anyway, you'd probably like it more than question its purpose. (Final rating: 80%)

Charvel: DX-1 ST
Availability: Citymusic
Price: $540 (SALE till 31-12-2013)
Bag not included

Monday, November 25, 2013

Night desolation

Pictured here: Vox's Little Night Train & Charvel's DX1ST. The Vox in this instance, isn't one to propel a heavy metal type tone, it's down to the drive type on board- it'll do hard rock, no problem. To get to the metal zone, it probably needs a little push from a mild drive pedal. However, I've been trying this amp with guitars equipped with passive pickups until a few days ago when I plugged an EMG equipped Charvel & that extra push coming from the pickups did some goodness in terms of distortion. All this without any assistance from pedals :-) Click to hear: CLICK

Thank you: City Music sales team for the hospitality :-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Closing chat account

MSN chat will soon be out of service & with that, I am closing my chat account (effective immediately). All queries can still be made though the address stated here. Anyway, G-Mail has a chat function so if you see me online, we can always talk gear. This will also be my official buy/sell avenue. Have a good Sunday, everyone :-)

Korg: KR mini

This was the acquisition yesterday- Korg's KR mini from the City Music sale. I've not messed with the storage & editing function of this wonderful little ditty, just had a lot of meaningful moments with the presets. I'm just flippin' glad that it came with internal speakers so it requires no other amplification. It runs on 3X AA batteries as well so if you have some by-the-beach acoustic moments to fulfill, the KR mini is it.

Hats off to the City Music sales team who maintained a very high level of customer service amidst the high sales traffic. I'm also affirming their team work; they went about the store helping one another, it's rather evident from what they did & said to one another. The CM sales team is truly a TEAM. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Come 2014, the ESP guitar company will have a firm foothold in the USA. This is a lethal move & other USA instrument manufacturers should take heed of how some singlecut & strat-type implements would be affected. This is not to say that those would be dethroned comprehensively but it's a sign of things to come. Also to note, if you are manufacturing pointy, outgoing, 'loud' guitars, ESP has some of their own. OK let's make it more explicit- BC Rich needs to know what's coming their way. I have no disrespect for BC Rich, in fact, I'm quite a fan but lately they are not putting things forth with their usual vigour.

I'm applauding ESP's move to show the world what they are made of- resilience & commitment among other things. Eastern manufacturing have always been second fiddle to their western counterparts & the world was made to believe this was status quo but along the way, things change, to put it simply. Some entities in the east embrace technology with a certain degree of philosophy that would make many things possible. It's enough to initiate paradigm shifts- it's what Samsung is doing to iPhone if guitar manufacturing is not your thing.

Let's see what 2014 has in store for us.

CM sale 2013

Starts today if you aren't already on your way there :-) We might bump into each other. Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No horsing around

Yes, I was at Swee Lee recently (for guitar-related matters) & managed to check some amps out, one of which is seen here- Fender's Mustang amp, Ver 2. There are several models in store but the white ones are new. The common pre-conception about such amps is that they sound too digital, they are virtually manifesting interpretations rather than letting the player & his guitar do the talking but please understand that this is how it is if you choose to tread this turf- the turf of practice-grade amps which are not costly & contain software intelligence to deliver convincing tones. Yes, they are out to convince, first & foremost, impression comes later. If you are on a budget but in need of something handy, something that won't let you down in terms of price & performance, the Mustang should be considered.

I'm doing an amp round-up of sorts for fellow guitar enthusiasts as the festive season approaches, sort of a buyer's guide, the Mustang is one on my recommendations list.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Update: Ibanez RG550 (re-intro/ Genesis)

Thank you Swee Lee for the update- the Ibanez RG550/570 re-intro/ Genesis models are in. Please watch this space for further updates (sale availability/ prices). Yes, that's the Prestige multi-purpose adjustment tool you see there- this series of guitars are from the Prestige range :-)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ibanez... some news (RG content)

Some news from the Ibanez front- the re-issue RG550/ 570 aka the Genesis models will make their way here soon (like very soon- in 2 weeks time) but the above chameleon finish won't be offered in this region- ARGH!

Anyway, the manufacturer had promised us an affordable price tag despite them being Prestige models but the catch is- no case/ bag provided. Let me give you a little foreclosure on the price- it's more affordable than some of the PREMIUM selections... :-o


Greetings everyone... we've passed mid-November, in less than 50 days, we will wish adieu to 2013. I've been playing my Ibanez PF58MH for quite a bit, beating the daylight out of it but the strings need to go. I've been brand hopping as far as acoustic guitar strings are concerned & I'm giving the Kerlys' Earthtones a try. The guitar kept going out of tune after the re-string last night so I'm letting the strings rest after some stretches. The good thing about playing in the dead of night is the fact that the silence amplify each & every note so you'll hear the note-in-tune notes rather obviously. TBC...

KM strings are available at: Davis GMC

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Acoustic Sunday

Today is Sunday. It's a day of rest. I'm resting the electricity today. OK, maybe a fraction of that. Also rested today- my pick. I've seen the day through with my Ibanez PF58MH played fingerstyle. I also tried some of the percussive movements ala Thomas Leeb but discovered that a small bodied guitar do not stay put when both the player's hand come a knockin' on the body. But I guess the most important realization here is the fact that a small bodied guitar sounds more appealing played finger-picked; the pick just adds to the instrument's lack of a good bottom end response. It also helps that the guitar in question sports a not-too-bright wood type, in this case, mahogany. Oh, I think my ears are rejecting the tone of non-mahogany acoustics; anything too bright, I wouldn't want to continue playing.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Re-string at CCK: AO

This guitar belongs to a member of parliament here, I worked on it yesterday:

  • Fretboard treatment- cleaned + re-moisturized
  • Polished frets
  • Lubricated nut
  • Re-string

The brand- Alpha Omega. If you are of a certain age, you'll remember this brand, don't see it being sold here any more.

The guitar gives off a deep, warm tone. The body here looks big, almost concert-like.

Strings used- Ernie Ball Everlast, coated phosphor bronze\, a set of .011...

Friday, November 15, 2013

That bass...

Aw, darn! Look at that bass... I'm not essentially a bass player but I need bass to re-think my music sometimes (ditto acoustic guitars). This chap here is Thundercat & he obviously plays bass. The singlecut Ibanez Artcore you see there is a one-off & it looks awesome. Listen to this:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Got mine: Acoustic Science strings

Got mine- Acoustic Science strings. It says 'acoustic' there but these are strings for an electric solid body. The terms 'acoustic' there refers to the tone produced by pure vibration, totally unassisted by amplification. Thinking of which guitar to put these into.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poll: To Floyd or not to Floyd

We know what the Floyd Rose whammy bridge has to offer- raising/ lowering of pitch with a 'stay-in-tune' promise. There is a certain locking stealth that gives the FR an upper hand when it comes to such an extensive movement & this is the reason why we believe in it, otherwise, it would have been discontinued a long time ago but it's a testament of something that works.

Anyway, the finding here are interesting, many of us are indifferent towards the FR system; if it's there, it's a bonus. Otherwise, we won't miss anything. However, this doesn't reflect the nature of the player- is this sentiment coming from a seasoned guitarist who had enough play time to actually deduce the positive functionality of the implement? 

But the signs are clear- the FR isn't a must have feature in our guitars today, it'd be different if we were evaluating this back in the shred era where the FR is the bridge to have. From a broader perspective, the FR is actually serving our individual needs, some of us simply prefer this bridge above all else. 

Also, the FR unit- in all honesty- is a cumbersome bridge to deal with. Besides dealing with the locking components, novice players would find it a steep challenge to keep it in its 'zero' position after a string change so it's not just dealing with string tension per se.

Thanks everyone, for participating- have a good mid-week :-)

For the purpose of inclusion, Floyd Rose here would include other similar bridge types that feature a locking mechanism & the allowance to raise/ lower notes more than the traditional bridge would offer.

EVH: Wolfgang Custom

EVH just released the Wolfgang Custom, seen here without its traditional Floyd Rose whammy bridge. Basically, that's what the guitar is all about, stripped down goodness. That's an ebony fretboard right there.

If that's not enough brown sound for you, here's the relic version.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Despite the critiques labeling this self-titled release as a down time for the band, after a thorough listen, I'd say nothing is amiss. The harsh opinions are rooted in 2 songs: Phoenix/ Natt. You'd definitely agree (myself included) that the nature of these compositions are wayward, they do not incline towards the doom & gloom of all things Satyricon. But as Satyr puts it, black metal in its strictest essence is rebellion & rebellion can be of myriad forms & manifestations, all leading back to metal as the primary platform. Lest we forget, Arcturus remains to be a good instance of this illustration. Coming back to the release in hand, please do not expect any flirtations with Nemesis Divina; this was a done deal & wouldn't be replicated any time soon. The music on offer here are still treading the Rebel Extravaganza turf & the guitars, production-wise at least, returned to the icy cold cut of Volcano. Riffs-wise, Satyr re-established himself as a master of simplicity, in fact, if you take time to figure them out on guitar, they are less intricate than what the previous release covered. Frost, my friends, remains to be one of the industry's forerunners of in-your-face drumming, regardless of the genre he is wallowing in. In the mean time, Our World, It Rumbles Tonight:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Three for the Sunday

I am no longer intrigued by speed; if you are a good player, speed is optional. Phrasing & feel are everything. If you regurgitate the stuff you learn from magazines/ videos, you are a nobody. Whatever you have acquired, you need to apply it in an original context, start creating because only creation makes you a somebody. It forces you to think of what to play, how to play it, when to play & who to play it to. The who factor is the least crucial because you create music for yourself, first & foremost. The audience comes later after you have made a statement for yourself, then your playing will take a turn for the perspective, you are more sensitive to how critical others are of your compositions.

Your gear plays an important part in defining your music. We often hear tone is in the fingers- I'm not one to embrace this mindlessly. You can't carbon copy feel for sure; the same material you play on a Strat will not have the exact feel blueprint should you replicate it on a Les Paul. You are bent on playing that same material your way regardless of whichever guitar you embrace because you are you but tone, underlined by feel, won't manifest an identical outcome. We also forget that our fingers are nothing without our gear.

So today, I salute the 3 factors that help me the most in sculpting my ideas & the intended tone (based on the ideas of course) each & every time I play: My amp, my guitar & everything in between- for today, that will be my pickups.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Remember the EHX East River drive shown here recently? This is everything you'd see upon removing the base plate.

Interesting battery, yes? Do you think you know this guy? :-)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ibanez: KIKO

Here they are, the new Kiko Loureiro signature Ibanez models released in both the Prestige (top) & Premium (bottom) models- look the works! I dislike the 'Prestige' label on the headstock & it's not seen here so that's a good thing. I prefer how the Ibanez logo looks like traditionally, let the quality speaks for itself, not the label.

Here are the specs for your perusal. The guitar also features a scalloped fretboard at the upper frets & a tilt-type input jack. There's also the push-pull coil split switch (volume knob) so the guitar's tonal versatility shouldn't be doubted.

An after-thought... why would Kiko want an Edge bridge in his guitar? Surely, the manufacturer would have let him have some excess to their current wonder whammy bridges- Edge Zero et al- and why wasn't those chosen? Why come back to the Edge? But hey, we know Satch & Vai still favour the original Edge, the one that started it all & the one that worked &, let's just come to terms with this, it still works. Mind you, it works so darn well, it haunts you if there's something else in an Ibanez. I'm not discounting the fact that some of the current Ibanez whammy type bridges are fantastic in terms of functionality but the Edge was there & it disappeared NOT because it became dysfunctional. It's some other thing that prevented the manufacturer from getting much out of their products. Emm... you can read between the lines, yes?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Banshee fix

Good news indeed (at least to me)- Schecter is releasing the Banshee model in a fixed bridge version. In fact, shipment starts this December. The current Banshee sports a Floyd Rose bridge & retails for $950, so this non-whammy version- you guessed it- shouldn't cost more :-)

Schecter's Banshee was first mentioned here: CLICK

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mini Deluxe

Will be (Fender) Mini Deluxe-ing for the next couple of days... :-)

Fender: Mini Deluxe amp
Available: Swee Lee Co
List: $59

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ibanez: RC320M (owner's take)

Here it is one more time, Ibanez's RC320M. It's a simple guitar; a dual humbucking, bolt-on & non-whammy Ibanez which is removed from the manufacturer's very popular RG series.

The RC320M is equipped with a pair of Core Tone pickups which were not conceived to give off that likable heavy tone or that sleek shred legato but they can give you a good, rocking ACDC crunch. If you push them any further with drive or distortion, they would muck up in both positions. This is the reason why I have a pair of Duncan's Distortion pickups in there. In addition to hard hitting heaviness, I need something to propel clarity as well & that's what the Distortions do well- deliver clarity, especially single notes. In the mean time, I'm still messing with pickup height to hear how this affects sustain more than tone refinements per se.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Ibanez Forte

After years of Lagging (forgive the pun), Stephan Forte is now moving on with Ibanez. We wish him all the best in his musical endeavours & he certainly deserves more than the Premium RG7 he's playing there :-) Here's a glimpse of Mr. Forte in action (with his ex-guitar):

If Mr. Forte is doing an Ibanez clinic in time to come, we'd be flippin' happy to see him play here :-) (here = Singapore).

Photo credit: Franck Hermanny

Ibanez: Iron Label +

Much was said about these Ibanez Iron Label series when their debut was leaked just before fall. Ibanez already had the Iron Label models going so a second generation of Iron Labels should manifest more than their predecessors otherwise, why add any more to a selection that is already reputable. So here they are, the much talked about change was the inclusion of an ebony fretboard instead of the standard rosewood units. The rest of the add-ons are cosmetics, namely the gold hardware as well as the quilted maple tops (headstock veneer included). I have not handled one personally so I won't know if the added quilted caps do add to the overall weight significantly to influence tone. In case of the models featuring active pickups, this won't matter much.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ibanez: RC320M

Every now & then, Ibanez would surprise us with some singular models which drew much from its history as well as contemporary ideas. The Roadcore series, a member of which is featured here- RC320M- has semblances of the Blazer & Talman models but it remains refined & different in its final incarnation.

The instrument features a mahogany body & maple neck with a traditional boxy heel at the joint so all you all-access neck fans, be warned. The model featured here is the latest variation featuring a maple fretboard so everything looks flushed from headstock to the 22nd fret. Also, be informed that the neck is a finished, glossy affair, quite removed from the satin feel of the RGs.

The RC feels retro from the start, there's something heavily borrowed from yesterday's design but the overall weight is much lighter than one would expect from a mahogany bodied instrument. Together with the all maple neck, this guitar gives off a warm tone but nothing too dark & bottom end inclined. Neck-wise, the much rounded C-profile is -dare I say it- Strat in nature but manifesting a slightly wider (not to mention slimmer) feel as one goes up the upper fret register. It's rather clear that Ibanez didn't intend to give us an all-out rock machine with the inclusion of these Core Tone humbuckers; some Alnico type crunchy performance, nothing to appease the high gain fans, mind you- think ACDC.

The instrument was well set up right out of the box but the fact that it was strung up with a set of .010s but without the nut slots properly cut out for them is indeed worrying. I nearly gave up based on tuning stability alone when trying it at the store, the wound strings were choked at the nut & the steep break angle from the nut to the string retainers/ machine heads compounded the difficulty to keep this instrument in tune. However, a set of .009s cured everything.

The Roadcore model is a 'different' offering by Ibanez, there's no immediate shred appeal if you approach this from an RG mindset but it's a good one for those who are in no hurry to move across the fretboard.

Overall rating: 78%
Availability: Swee Lee Co.
List: $540

LTD Elite: 2 more

The LTD Elite range sees 2 more members in its line-up before the year ends; the The Eclipse I is now offered in a 24-fret version & the Horizon III gets a Floyd Rose treatment. 

Note that the manufacturer doesn't refer tot he Elite LTDs according to the traditional alpha-numeric citation, eg. EC330/ H1001/etc. It's conforming to the Japanese models reference- full model series with suffixes as seen above.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ibanez RG @ TYMC sale

I was at TY Music earlier today to look at some of the goodies on sale but what I was aiming for had disappeared. Anyway, if you are looking for a worthy instrument to pick up, the Ibanez RG350QMZ is my recommendation. The QM version of this model wasn't meant for the market here so this is a unique find. It's on 30% discount so act quickly :-)

To note: Payment for sale items- cash/ NETS only.

Fender: Professional Standard

Oh, bummer. Fender released the USA Professional Standard models exclusively in the US. None coming here unless you purchase online, of course. Hmph!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sale @ TYMC

We also begin November with some... how shall I put it?... deserving news. Sale is now on @ TYMC. The stuff on clearance are listed here, there might be more added to the list as we go on. How's your wallet? :-)