Friday, January 31, 2014

New Year greetings

It's the final day of the initial month, year 2014. It's another new year today; the Lunar New Year & here's my best wishes to all Chinese friends, blog visitors & fellow guitar dweebs- a prosperous year of the horse & success in all endeavours.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Twin over

In the mail- this is actually my first gear acquisition for 2014; a modest GFS Twin OD pedal. I enjoy saturated signals more than intensity so an overdrive unit was chosen instead of some OTT distortion. I'm still heading towards that smooth OD voicing, something a Fuchs Plush pedal would deliver but I'm not about to put all the money in a single brand name. The thrill of trying out lesser known brand names is the discovery of something personal. 

The Twin OD has 2 channels which are excellent in their respective territories.The OD channel covers drive from a slight nudge to some degree of intensity that would do some punks proud. The Boost channel gives you a clean push but spills into some drive at higher settings. From my initial test, the boost at its maximum setting, sounds very intense, in fact, there's a coarse voicing in there that simply sounds more intense than the OD channel. The magic with such 2-in-1 pedals is the endless drive permutations once you get the hang of what the master controls & gain knobs can muster.

Is this any smoother than the Fuchs' Plushes? In terms of this considerations, the Fuchs are masters of their own offerings. There is convincing smoothness in the Twin OD; the TONE knobs would give you some but the voicing remains to be within GFS' interpretations. I very happy with what GFS has to offer but a Fuchs it is not. I'm not putting the GFS name as second fiddle to Fuchs; they are very different in terms of product philosophy. It's a first wonderful purchase for 2014, definitely :-)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fender 2014: Malmsteen stuff...

Greetings. Welcome to planet Malmsteen.

If you think you need a supplementary supply of Fender accessories to go with your scallop-neck Malmsteen Strat, you can now acquire a signature cable & gig bag at the very least.

Say what? You've been buying a set of mix-&-match strings for your Strat because you couldn't get a Malmsteen set? Well, do not fret (no pun intended), this year sees the release of the signature 8-11-14-22-32-46 set.

And the grand master of neo-classical shred specifies his clip-on tuner to be functional despite a noisy background so this one might be another must-have on the list of acquisitions. Aren't you excited yet?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ibanez 2014: Double screaming goodness!

This is what many of us would like in our effects chain; an 808 Tube Screamer which can be brought up to some aggressive standards without losing character. So essentially, the boost should be included in the pedal itself to preserve authenticity & that's what we get here- a TS808 with its own boosted circuit. Another to-get on my list for 2014.

That pedal shouldn't be confused with the Turbo Tube Screamer which is already in Ibanez's catalog. Tube Screamer fans will know that the 808 is more adept to boosting tasks especially if you do not wish to lose the clean character- SRV style to be precise (but SRV didn't use the TS808). Also, the TS9DX does not feature an independent switch for its more intense selections. I'd say it's a regurgitation of a theme but differentiated somewhat.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jackson 2014: Pro Dinky DK7-M/ DK7-Q

Alright, Jackson! I always deem a Jackson to be a Jackson because of that headstock. Any other design & it becomes sacrilegious. So my thanks to Jackson for keeping the traditional headstock outline in tact like this Pro Dinky DK7-M/ DK7-Q (red) for 2014, despite the extra string in there :-)

Ibanez 2014: Amp!

Ibanez amps are there for the taking. They might not be the best the manufacturer has to offer but they won't be excluded from the addition. This 2014, Ibanez has 2 for your considerations. The Iron Label IL15 is a tube offering for us high gain dweebs. True to its 'Iron Label' tag, the amp offers more gainful pleasure than nice cleans. OK, let's not dismiss the cleans entirely but I've played Ibanez tube amps before & let's just say that the outcome was acceptable in this light. The amp sports a pair of EL84s in its power section so expect something more Brit than American. Together with a 12" Celestion Seventy 80 driver, the IL15 should be it for many of us in terms of intensity & acceptable domestic volume.

Moving on to some likable cleans, would be this very retro-looking TSA5TVR; the new Tubescreamer amp. There's a Jensen 8" C8R driver in there so 'clean' is something we can be happy with. On a personal note, I prefer Jensen to any other drivers for cleans & that includes providing good cleans to propel my favourite pedals. The fact that there's a Tubescreamer circuitry in there means we can cascade some of our preferred pedals into the amp's drive channel for serious tone works. Those legs might not win over fans in terms of looks.

I'm definitely gonna check these amps out, more often than not, investing in amps are more fruitful for me as opposed to adding another guitar to the premises. Hmm...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ibanez RG7321: Work done

I've been working on this Ibanez RG7321 (belongs to my colleague, Mr. Wong) since the first week of January. The problem- awful fret buzz at the 3rd & 4th frets. The first thing to check for such an issue is the neck bow; an over-bowing might cause eliptical buzz so the neck was re-straightened but the buzzing persisted. A fret check revealed uneven frets at the problem spot so the frets were knocked in & redressed accordingly. Buzzing was here to stay.

I re-looked at the neck bow, returning it to its initial condition (it sported a little relief) bit by bit, letting the neck rest overnight so as not to cause unnecessary stress but the buzzing was still there. I nearly submitted to defeat until one night, while playing it, I felt the action was uneven. How could I have overlooked that? It's a fundamental check to begin with- buzzing is almost always caused by action issues both at the saddles end & the neck relief. Everything else should be rectified later after these two conditions are dealt with. More issues- saddle action screws were badly corroded which no amount of lubricant could cure. They were stuck in the holes & the ultimate solution here would be replacement. So those problematic saddles were trashed, action looked into & the RG7321 is back to acceptable playing conditions once more.

Ibanez BTB686SC: Price update

I think many of us are expecting a prohibitive price tag for this Ibanez bass but it retails for USD999.99. Reasonable? Absolutely. Lower than I expected :-)

BOSS 2014: ME-80

I was expecting a GT-type release but nothing of that nature this time round, it's the ME-80 for 2014. There's this argument that digital effects don't deliver convincing guitar tones but players are embracing digital offerings from Fractal & Kemper, among others. Double standards? Definitely. I won't say BOSS is heading in that direction but since they had a go at their ME & GT models, the tones had been good. The ME series by BOSS is a more user-friendly (to me at least) unit compared to the GT stuff but both work in terms of delivery; you get BOSS' signature pedal tones despite dealing with a digital platform.

Ibanez 2014: Acoustic!

Ibanez introduces a tenor guitar this year (AVD1) & I'm looking forward to check it out. The tenor guitar was first conceived to allow a cross-over for the banjo chaps to double up on guitar. How is it tuned? In fifths (C/G/D/A) but there is no fixed application & I'm gonna employ it in baritone ukelele tuning. The body outline appeals to me as it is not overwhelming like a standard guitar, in fact, it's modeled after a parlour. Coupled with that solid spruce top, it should help me open up some unconventional ideas.

Following the success of 2013's PF58MH, Ibanez has one more for us in terms of a travel-size offering, the PF2MH (from the Performer series). Body & neck are mahogany, fretboard is rosewood but this one has no electronics whatsoever unlike the PF58 but it should offer a similar tone palette. I'm totally happy with the PF58 in terms of warmth, clarity & volume projection despite the size so I have high expectations for this baby. Following this introduction, the PF58 is discontinued for 2014. Glad I bought one :-)

We're still in the Performer range & for those of us who are more at home with standard-sized acoustics (who might venture into the mahogany territory), Ibanez has the PC12MH for you to check out. Not forgetting the bassists among us, PCBE12MH with pre-amp & on-board tuner- how's that?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ibanez 2014: Mikro up!

Ibanez 'promoted' the Mikro RGs into their standard models this 2014 so it no longer bears the GIO tag. Wonderful move, in my opinion. You might assign this to the kids but on a laid back day, a no-frills guitar is all you need to get things going. Ibanez RGM55 is on my to-get list :-)

Ibanez 2014: Bass!

Just look at this bass (Ibanez BTB686)! It's really too bad there's no 4-string version (in the mean time), otherwise it's a taker for me. To the uninitiated, it looks like a foul design with that very restrictive no-cutaway upper bout.

But on the flip side, the design allows for maximum reach to the upper frets. However, this idea is nothing new, big names like Fodera was there way before Ibanez. Having that bulk there equals good balance, it may look quirky but that's how it works. If you are bass inclined, you'd know how many basses are neck-heavy so this singlecut outline so to speak, provides liberation to handling issues. I agree that it looks a little awful... Do we have to wait till 2015 for a 4-string version? Darn.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ibanez 2014: The 9

This is one of the talked about guitars coming from the Ibanez camp this 2014; the RG9. A real surprise at all? Not really, there was a proto 9-string in 2013. Ibanez most probably had things in motion already & waited for the right time to release this monster. Am I gonna get one? No obligations at all. More strings doesn't equal greatness for both the player or the instrument per se. I foresee strings availability issues (ditto pickups) unless the manufacturer had tailored things to encroach bass strings compatibility but that would mean some serious design considerations over at the headstock, nut & bridge. Will give it a go if it makes it here, not really enticed.

BC Rich 2014: Tasty 8s

BC Rich is back with some intention for 2014. Seen here is my pick from the manufacturer's current releases. From top to bottom:
  1. Jr V Lucky 8
  2. Warlock Lucky 8
  3. Villain Escape 8
No, I'm not here to only favour the 8-string releases exclusively but this trio caught my attention more than anything else. The latest introduction to the fold is of course the Villain range; a super-strat type outline with a shortened lower cutaway & beveled generously at the cutaway area. It's good to see one of the industry's most iconic brand name up & about this year. If there's any extroverted outlines to be had out there, it comes from BC Rich more often than not. Hail!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Enough distortion?

2014 may be a pedal year; thusfar, lots of good stuff to check out & list down as to-gets. Noted the fact that many manufacturers are offering 2-in-1 models like this EHXtortion. I appreciate such consideration because it eliminates my headache of saturating a drive/ distortion pedal I favour with another booster/ drive unit without having to deal with gain-related noise. The DI guys would appreciate the DI output there. Very enticing, this one.. :-O


I'm a phantom admirer of Fuchs pedals. I absolutely love their drives & it's not about the intensity, it's the saturation that complements my light pick touch. This year, the Dual Plush Drive is on my to-check list (which would end up as an acquisition). With a Fuchs drive, all I need is a complementary clean tube tone, it doesn't have to be stellar, just there to serve the amplification need. However, we know that Fuchs stuff are not wallet freindly :-/

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

To get busy

Was in the mail yesterday, too bogged down by flu to post it up. Time to get busy. Em... when?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Beat Buddy- feet trigger makes sense

This is my kinda drum machine; it's down there at the feet & leaves the hand free for the guitar. That's basically who we are- we play guitar & should focus our efforts on the instrument & not handling rhythm implements. It's the most logical way to go, yes? It's on my to-get list for 2014. See it in action:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ditto X2

Just when I'm enjoying TC Electronic's  Ditto pedal, the manufacturer now has the X2 with a bigger footprint but more features to go with that as well. What are the benefits of investing in this latest edition? Here:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gum it

I've been consistently using the Orange Drop capacitor in many of my guitars for a simple reason- it works well. This here, is a Panasonic capacitor, known to the soldering dweebs as the 'Gum Drop'. Whatever it's called, I'm looking forward to drop one into one of my guitars soon. Hopefully before the Lunar New Year creeps in.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ibanez signatures @ Swee Lee

The following Ibanez signature models are now available at Swee Lee: Kiko10P (L) & TAM100 (R). Prices are pending announcement, stay tuned :-)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ibanez 2014: Welcome back, Edge...

This is the real surprise by Ibanez this year- return of the Edge/ Lo-Pro Edge. Not a real shocker for me because the Edge was back in the Genesis series late 2013 & there was a sign that it was not gonna be a one-off appearance. There's no more 'licensed' stamp on the hardware so at the business end of things (also from a legal perspective) it's more legitimate & not a financial burden to have it back. Above: S5570 featuring the Lo-Pro Edge. The upper end Ibanez models are beginning to look like their glorious incarnations of the '80s. Next, that 'Prestige Ibanez' decal must go... seriously.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cort 2014: Berlin wonder

Jeff Berlin is now in the Cort camp & his new bass is simply so 'out there'- just look at it. It's traditionally an alder body bass but capped with a very artistic fusion of spalted maple & padouk.

BOSS 2014: OD & DS

Re-hashed but will definitely be revisited by many of us- BOSS' OD & DS pedals in their 2014 incarnations. The X versions of these pedals run on the manufacturer's MDP technology & it is claimed that they are more responsive in every way. Details are a little hazy as to what exactly do these pedals have to offer in terms of something 'new' so we shall wait before we judge.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Marshall 2014: Handwired series

This year, Marshall has released more models in its handwired range which include combos & lower wattage picks. The lower wattage models are especially more practical for us who are room-confined & have the need to be mindful in terms of volume. These are the ones to look out for if you are interested:

  • 1962HW
  • 2245THW
  • 1973X
  • 1958X
I'm especially attracted to the 18W 1958X as it features a pair of smaller 10" drivers, this should sound 'different' compared to the contemporary combos with 12". Sweet.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fender 2014: Jim Root Jazzmaster

Jim Root has a new Fender signature model- it's a Jazzmaster. It's attuned to his needs as seen here, menacing pickups & bare minimum controls. The fretboard there is ebony. OK it looks like a Jazzmaster in outline but do not expect any JM tones coming out of this one; it's a complete departure in that aspect.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Schecter 2014: Jeff Loomis

2014- Jeff Loomis is still with Schecter, here's an updated bit:

  • more pronounced body curved top
  • re-aligned fretboard for upper fret access
  • EMG 57/66 humbuckers
  • Hipshot fixed bridge version available this year

Sunday, January 12, 2014

EHX: Lumberjack OD

Something new from the EHX guys this 2014- the Lumberjack OD. The 'log' there refers more to logarithm than wood. The traditional OD unit observes a linear drive increment but the Lumberjack is different & observes a logarithmic ratio in this sense. No use trying to drive (no pun intended) this understanding further literally, some action here instead:

ESP 2014: Horizon III

The LTD Elite series, as mentioned before, have been discontinued for 2014. Fans of the Horizon III (above) need not despair...

... ESP has included the Horizon III in their E-II range. Ah, yes... :-)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Not the way

This is the wrong way to wind the strings round your instrument's machine heads (left). In many cases, strings were designed to have a straight travel to the posts so they sit parallel in the nut slots to supplement tuning stability. Anything sitting in a slant in the slots will experience more resistance upon tuning & affects responsiveness- one of the reason why the Les Paul's G & D strings are the most stubborn in this aspect. Also, if you continue to wind the wrong way & your nut material is not up to it (especially for basses), expect cracks in time to come.

Ibanez 2014: EZII in S-series

Ibanez S520, not a new model but for 2014, note the bridge in there- it's the Edge Zero II. Once again, this is not an implication of a lower standard but the S-models (particularly all Standard models) were equipped with the ZR bridge in previous years so this signals yet another end to some things we had been fond of. OK at least it's affecting me- I have a certain liking for the ZR bridge.

Ibanez 2014: Thin core

Another cracking inclusion by Ibanez for 2014: RC365H. This is basically a thinline-type model with a mahogany/maple body unlike its solid body siblings featuring basswood units. Pickups are covered versions of the manufacturer's Core Tone models so expect some rounded tones from this one. It's a wise move in my opinion because Ibanez had been offering semis & hollows in the Artcore range which some of us find too boxy in terms of handling comfort. Awesome.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ibanez 2014: RC330 Core single coils

A turn for the traditional, a bold statement from Ibanez offering single coils when the whole world knows the humbucker is it for this brand name. Interesting take this one, the body should be offered in non-basswood options to complement the pickups but I won't say this RC330 is gonna sound bad.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ibanez 2014: S771

The Ibanez S771 you see above isn't new, it's a 2013 model which didn't make it here- regional exclusive *bummer*

But this year, the S771 is still in the catalogue with slight revisions: 1) Simple dot inlays 2) Standard fixed bridge. This could signal the discontinuation of the Gibraltar Standard bridge (the 2013 model) not that I dislike the Gibraltar Standard but the standard fixed bridge means replacement parts are more readily available :-)

Ibanez 2014: Parlor-ized

This is an interesting addition by Ibanez; one of their new acoustic guitars is a parlor type model, featuring a solid spruce top. The rest of the AVN1 is mahogany. For someone who is keen on a more manageable acoustic body dimensions, I'm interested :-)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Vaporizer (Fender content)

This is a new one by Fender, its very retro looking Vaporizer amp. It hails from the Pawn Shop series of gear so it has a good mix of retro vibe as well as a contemporary feel so nothing feels old. Just a tasty back-dating to proceedings.

The Vaporizer is a 12W all tube amp featuring a pair of 10" drivers as seen here. It may not be your thing if you are a fan of the 12" but Fender's 10", especially featured as a couple, has some of the tastiest cleans around so don't dismiss it just yet.

Simple set of controls would make you more focused on your playing, yes? The 2-input feature here further underscores the fact that it's made for some pleasant cleans.