Friday, February 28, 2014

Charvel discounts @ City Music

We end February on a good note- City Music has some discounts for Charvels. If you are looking for a good, rocking guitar that will break no piggies, check these Desolation series out- recommended :-)

Photo courtesy of City Music.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The jade pick

I'm a fan of thick, hard picks. It's a personal quirk. More importantly, it complements my picking style. Trying this jade pick. It's definitely hard (it should be- it's a rock) but it's not that thick. Best bet it's a 2.5mm because I've placed it side by side with my 3mm stubby & it's a little thinner.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Halo custom

Was messing around with HALO guitars' custom shop design. They offer sensible prices for your options. Best thing is, they have Seymour Duncans as a default option. OK, it's a boring, uneventful, rotten mid-week.

Would wanna

On my to-get list for 2014- PRS S2 Singlecut & the Ibanez tenor guitar. I don't find any 2014 offerings too desirable. Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I'm reaching saturation levels, happy with what I have in the mean time, not wanting more especially after knowing that the new stuff are regurgitations. 

The PRS S2 looks promising. I've always wanted a second PRS, preferably a singlecut but the ones offered were just too much money for a simple guitar till the S2 series come along. The Ibanez tenor acoustic, on the other hand, is an interesting avenue for explorations. I'm just darn incompetent when it comes to acoustics so this one would be treated as a tool to trigger ideas. When the mind faces limitations, its survival instinct kicks in. That's when it's at its most potent.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Got black?

The labels on the pedals say it all- these are meant to be brutal. Let's take a step back & think- is there really such a thing- a black metal type of distortion? How intense should it be to qualify as one? What if I am using 2 standard distortion units cascaded into each other to manifest this BM-type brutality, do I qualify? Why/ why not?

As much as we would want to believe what's on offer, there would be dweebs out there who think that these are the end-all reference; anything else is not 'true'. But I'd say we embrace whatever means to the ends as long as they work. More often than not, after trying out any metal-type distortion, I'd walk away feeling pissed. The real brutal distortion comes from amps, pedals come in when there are insufficient implements to get the job done. Peavey's 5150 amps (RIP) were there to black metal all other distortion & continue to be a respectable reference today. So what gives? Nothing, just the gear that serves you. Anything else is someone else's opinion.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bucking close

At the close of Sunday (the most depressing time of the week as work looms ahead), I just had to hear some humbucking tones so out came the Gibson SGJ. It was a sheer case of the guitar type influencing playing ideas. I do not believe in associating music genre with guitar outlines but I just couldn't dwell on too much pentatonics with this one without going into aggressive territories. I was listening to the early Cathedral releases & that might have something to do with it as well. 

February ends in less than a week & it had been largely non-eventful gear-wise. Musikmesse will happen in March so that's something to look forward to despite NAMM 2014 still fresh in the memories.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Single coil weekend

Sudden urge to hear single coils in action so it had been like this since Friday- my LTD ST-213 plugged into my Marshall DSL40 for cleans & drive. Along with a Strat-type guitar comes the Strat-type profile so playing this means dealing with a rounder neck profile &  fretboard radius. This isn't a bad thing, definitely but it's away from my comfort zone. One doesn't master guitar playing until one handles everything & still remains true to one's playing.

Seymour Duncan makes some of the best contemporary single coil tones this side of Fender. I love how these stacks measure up to distortion in addition to sounding stellar clean. It's when one plays the single coil that one plays something different; I played predominantly pentatonics with this one but being me, I get bored easily & had to add some chromatics in there.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DM Helix: Pure nickel

The Dean Markley Helix is now offered in pure nickel- will give them a try when they get here.

There're so many stuff to check out this 2014 but somehow, the stuff I look forward to get my hands on, don't come my way.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In the mail

This one took a little later than expected but it's finally here. I need something with more muscle in the neck for driven tones so this is it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ibanez: Ghost weapons

I was expecting this to happen- the Ibanez 'weapons' models (seen here T-B: Falchion/ Glaive/ Halberd) have been discontinued for 2014. The only remaining member is the Xiphos whose availability is restricted to regional distributions. Also, Mick Thompson has the Glaive under his name & hopefully it would live on in that line of production. With no firm ambassadors & very limited options, this trio of guitars was destined for the archives. Kinda sad because I see this as the manufacturer's avenue in dealing with extroverted outlines but there's simply no extended marketing for this. I believe many of us prefer to tread the BC Rich path when it comes to such designs. Treasure yours if you have them :-)

Monday, February 17, 2014

X-Mini: ME (Part 1)

This is a recent purchase, I specifically went for this one at the shops. My last encounters with the X-Mini speakers had been negative, not in terms of tonal offerings but the speaker per se had rotten features. 

Firstly, the chassis coating went sticky after some time. No idea if this had something to do with the humidity but regardless of where I placed it, it went sticky. Secondly, the X-Mini was designed with a twist function to extend the height of the speaker & the manifestation of more bass- which was a novel idea- but not the latching mechanism. Due to its plastic nature, it weakened over time & the latch snapped, regardless of the model.

The ME version, seen above, has no twisting mechanism whatsoever so there are virtually no movable parts. That yellow cap there is the driver's cover, remove it & you'd see the black driver exposed & blaring music when in use. The depth of the 'barrel' structure ensured a good serving of bass which is rather crucial considering the device's minute physique. I have tested it with my phone & iPad & the results are definitely above average. This was expected because it's not my first encounter with an X-Mini. Take note that it has no volume control so the loudness of it all depends on your device but the ME was designed to amplify. I had my room door closed & turned my phone's volume way past 70% & the ME did its job- it was loud, it was clear, it was impressive :-) 

Next up- applications with guitar-related devices.

More on the ME here: CLICK

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Contact spray

I've finally used up my can of contact spray so here's a new one. Not particular to brand, as long as it's not WD40.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ibanez: RGIX20

Ibanez released a batch of new Iron Label guitars at the final quarter of 2013. The guitars in question were not particularly new in design but the features were given some makeover to reflect a move up.

The RGIX20 you see here is a member of the new Iron Label family featuring 3 distinct revisions (among others):

  • maple top
  • ebony fretboard
  • Gibraltar Standard 2 bridge
The RGIX20 is an RG through & through, very robust in manifesting high octane rock & anything beyond. The Nitro Wizard neck is particularly thin by the manufacturer's standards but it's definitely slimmer than the average Super Strat make. Pickups in question- EMGs 60/81 in the neck/bridge respectively. 

In terms of feel, the playability factor is indisputable; great fretting experience for those of us adventurous enough to tread the 24th end of the neck. Do note the guitar is devoid of a tone control, in its place is a kill switch, may/may not be useful to some of us, depending on our needs.

Two things here for me- firstly, the ebony fretboard. Touch-wise, if you're accustomed to anything else, the solid ebony feel would present a difference but not necessary a superior offering. Personally, the 'board feels great, in fact, I favour less porous wood material for this but that's a personal quirk. The Gibraltar Standard 2 bridge here is an excellent revision. Ibanez simply trimmed down the height of its frame so the edges of the bridge sit more flushed against the body. This makes great palm placement comfort, definitely. Thimbs up to this.

All in all, the RGIX20 isn't a more extroverted offering in view of the Iron Label considerations but it's a great move-on in terms of subtle additions. Recommended :-) 

Thanks, Swee Lee for the test time- much appreciated, as always!

Ibanez: RGIX20
Availability: Swee Lee Co.
Price: TBA

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ibanez 2014: More nylons

Still more to come, more strings that is.

You guessed it- it's those Ibanez chaps. They've added more strings to more models, seen here are the solid top classical guitars, a 7 & 8-string version respectively. Distortion inclined people (myself included) embrace the application of the extra strings that make themselves heard/useful for intense/heavy music genres. You'd have concluded the fact that these acoustic behemoths have very little applications for cleans but let me just stop you there- were extra strings meant for drive/distortion/heavy music exclusively? Why do bass players who play more than 4 strings not get pigeon-holed into such restrictions? 

So, fellow string benders, extras are there for the taking, should these have no applications for you, you should move on & leave them be. This is my retaliation (sort of) against people who blabber excessively when it comes to seeing non-conventional instruments out there addressing a niche market. You wish to stick to your conventions? Go ahead but do not deem others queer. 

Seen here: Ibanez G207/G208 (top/bottom)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gibson: In the government's face

I have to give it to Gibson for rubbing salt in the wound- the Government Series II seen here are made from confiscated wood returned to the manufacturer after the matter was resolved. The legality of it involved Gibson importing certain wood types from countries with acute logging issues. Gibson paid their fines for this contravention & apportioned some funds to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to support conservation efforts. All this done & dusted in 2012. The guitars seen here are new for 2014, of course.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gibson 2014: Sensible pricing- thumbs up!

What you are looking at here are Gibson's SGJ models, the top darling is 2013's manifestation (which is still available) & this year's release, easily identifiable by that anniversary 12th fret marker (bottom). I'm giving Gibson a thumbs up for pricing 2014's version very sensibly- it's USD100 lesser than its predecessor. So regardless of the anniversary hype, Gibson had tagged this year's model sensibly when many other manufacturers would be tempted to hike prices to capitalize on their products' commemorative anniversary status.

If you see any dealers/ stores giving the 2014 version a wayward price tag, ask them why that's the case. Boycott them if you have to because many online stores offering Gibson guitars now ship internationally.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ibanez RG331M: Gum dropped

The first Panasonic Gum Drop capacitor I bought (initially mentioned here: CLICK) went into my Ibanez RG331M. As seen above, the installation was expertly handled by Master Beez, who had it on board, together with a new push-pull coil split switch, in no later than 6min.

I also gave my RG331M a fresh set of Dean Markley HELIX .009s & it felt great, as usual.

When it comes to objective comparisons between brand names, performance is marginal when the products in question are manifesting identical ingredients. Such is the case of Panasonic's capacitor featured here compared to its Sprague's Orange Drop counterpart. There would be more audible differences if this comparison was about switching from a PIO or ceramic capacitor to a poly unit. No love lost, though, the Gum Drop is an impressive performer, on par with what the Orange Drop has to offer.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Epiphone: ES-339 Pro

I'm not a fan of Epiphone solid bodies. There were only 2 Les Pual models I liked- the LP Ultra (various incarnations) & Boneyard. The thing with Epiphone solid bodies is that they are dancing in Gibson's shadows. If you don't check the details out, you'd be sold into buying a compromised guitar but some of us are alright living with association. Well then, each of us has our own prerogatives. But it's a different vibe when it comes to Epiphone's semi-hollow models. I tend to appreciate them more than the Les Pauls. The case in question here is the ES-339 Pro.

This guitar is of course the more down-to-earth version of its Gibson sibling. Not to be confused with the ES-335, the 339 features a shrunk body dimension, it's more manageable for solid body fans in terms of handling. If you have had any plug-in moments with any semi-hollow guitars, you'd notice the rather nasal tone coming from the default bridge humbucker, making it sound like an acoustic wannabe but failing to be stellar at that. The 339 escapes from this not so likable tone due to its smaller body make. Cleans are ringing out some firm midrange which are more respectable in both clean & driven settings & I'd say that this is true for both humbuckers in there. Nevertheless, the in-house Classic Pro Epiphone humbuckers might note hit the right notes for some of us, it's all down to taste & preferences so all you high gain shredders, please do not come to this guitar with your interpretation of what makes a good single note definition. All in all, the instrument is well made but the nut slots of the one I played could use some lubrication as it snags the tuning especially for those plain strings. Highly recommended for those of us who would want a slightly different interpretation to the ES-335 tones & are more at home with this scaled down body outline.

Thank you Swee Lee for the test time :-)

Epiphone: ES-339 Pro
Price: SGD559
Availability: Swee Lee Co.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Re-string Saturday: Charvel DX-1

My first re-string for 2014- Charvel DX-1 with a set of Pyramid Strings .009. I had been playing this guitar constantly since its purchase back in early December 2013. The default set in there were D'Addarios & they lasted for 2 months before feeling really dead.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mooer: Noise Killer

This is only my second gear-related purchase this year. Things are a little slow but that's how it will be for some time to come because I have reached a certain level of saturation somewhat. No hurry, I will do selected pickings this year. The pedal you see above is Mooer's Noise Killer.

It's the fourth noise reduction unit that came into my residence. As you can see here, the pedal's nothing too extensive in terms of dimensions. Control is a mere threshold knob & the flick switch is an option between soft & hard modes. The job of any noise reduction unit is to eliminate signals that fall below a specified level so the range here extends from -70db to +10db. At maximum setting (+10db), it mutes your guitar signals entirely (I was using a humbucking guitar the last time I employed this pedal. If you don't realize it by now, this would make a great kill-switch function. But how much threshold should you specify for your personal use? It depends on the following considerations (among others):
  • the number of pedals with gain contribution coming into the NK's input
  • the type of pickups you are using (low/high output)
  • your picking intensity
  • how much volume is coming from your guitar
The implication here is that one has to repeatedly specify the threshold setting depending on one's setup. The hard/ soft modes allow for decay consideration. This pedal runs on plug-in power, the reason it's able to be manifested in such trimmed dimensions. Considering its effective delivery as a noise reduction unit with minimal settings & a light-weight being to boot, the Mooer NK is a worthy consideration. Be warned that at certain threshold selection, it might affect your tone so you just have to hear it in action before parting with cash.

Mooer: Noise killer
List: SGD120
Availability: SV Guitars

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fender: Coronado bass

I like everything about this bass less one feature but let's get to that later. This isn't the original Coronado bass, it's a reissue by Fender under the Modern Player series. I like the 30" scale length most; it's very guitar-player friendly, no extra stretching required. The neck width is also not too narrow so there's ample space between strings, especially for us players who arch our fretting fingers quite significantly. The pickups- sweet! More importantly, they complement the semi-hollow body very well, warm tones aplenty. Also, the pickups are truly neck & bridge units unlike some models where the 'neck' pickup is actually in the middle position & bridge pickup resides a distant away from the bridge. I find this especially meaningful as I can hear tonal differences as I toggle between units. 

However, if we look at the body width closely, we note its wider lower dimensions so for those of us who rest our picking hand wrists on the body, this one poses a real hindrance. Still with this lower body width issue, the bass doesn't fare well when played sitting down- you guessed it- neck dive.

Do not let the design quirks prevent you from considering this bass because it's a unique sounding instrument, thanks to the special pickups there (the Fideli'Tron, ladies & gentlemen) & that scale length is simply goodness for the taking (unless you look the other way when it comes to shorter-scaled basses).

Thanks, Swee Lee, for letting me have some test time with it :-)

Fender: Coronado bass (Modern Player Series)
List: SGD1,040
Availability: Swee Lee Bras Basah showrooom

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

VOX: SoundBox mini

This boom box-looking thing is an amp. It caters to guitars, basses & vocals so it's a useful implement for non-fussy takers. There's also some amp-modelling options for variety's sake. I am looking forward to purchase of of these & have it in the office for quick-jam moments. Or for the picnic/campfire performance- this would work well because the VOX SoundBox mini runs on batteries too.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ibanez 2014: Bare Knuckling

In case you missed this- Ibanez has 2 models out this year featuring Bare Knuckle pickups. This is the RGD7UC with a pair of Aftermath 7 humbuckers.

This is the FR6UC also featuring the Aftermath humbuckers. Pertaining to the guitar per se, Ibanez removed the pickguard, gave it a satin finish & binding so the FR, this year, has a more contemporary look as opposed to its very 'Telecaster' vibe of the past. The reality of it is the fact that nobody's gonna buy the FR to emulate the Telecaster so Ibanez did the right thing by giving it a makeover.

It's also good to know that Ibanez is open to having other brand name pickups in their instruments instead of having the traditional DiMarzios for their upper tier models.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ibanez 2014: Signatures

Tosin Abasi fans, this is the more affordable make of the 8-string model. It costs significantly lesser than the Prestige version (a good USD2,700 difference!). Summary of the differences:
  • Neck is maple/walnut as opposed to the wenge/bubinga of the Prestige. To put it nicely- it's a regular neck, nothing special.
  • Rosewood fretboard (Prestige version sports a wenge fretboard)
  • Non-locking bridge & nut. Black finish as well, no gold flash here
  • Basswood body, no maple cap
  • Coil tap switch is under the pickguard unlike the Prestige version which is embedded in the body. Implication- it's a standard basswood body meant for the standard RG, no extra cavities in the body equals less production costs
  • Fretboard markers- side dots
Periphery's Jack Bowen gets his signature model based on the RGA with a Lo-Pro Edge bridge (yeah!). Pickups are Bowen's signature Titan humbuckers. Together with the ebony fretboard, it should be a sleek player- available in Summer 2014.

Mick Thompson's MTM100 is still in tact with a preserved Glaive-type body shape but his budget alternative reverts to the RG-type outline as seen here. So the MTM20 is new despite reverting to its initial body design.

Korn's Munky is still with Ibanez this 2014 & he gets a new signature; wondering if his band's current status makes this a worthy inclusion but personal sentiments aside, the APEX200/ 20 are there for the taking. The APEX 20 has a blank fretboard & it should be neutral enough to attract non-Korn fans. 

And if that's not Korn-y enough (no pun intended), Brian Welch gets a new signature as well (it's called the Komrad) & hopefully that's not due to his return to Korn per se. I've talked to people about this, the guitar is Ibanez's appreciation of his brand commitment because during his non-Korn days, Mr. Welch stayed true to Ibanez. Despite its RGD looks, the guitar sports a standard 25.5" scale length but it's factory strung with a set of .011s. Debut: Summer 2014.

Saving the best for last- Ibanez's Paul Gilbert Fireman FRM250M, celebrating his 25 years with the brand name. What's new?
  • Humbuckers for neck & bridge
  • Flamed maple top
  • Bound neck
Let Mr. Gilbert do the talking:

How little can it be?

It seems that everyone is pushing the boundaries of being small, Mooer included. What you see here are effects pedals approximately half the dimensions of your credit card. So if you are thinking of portability, the prospects of having your preferred line of effects pedals fitted onto an A4 size pedal board is a definite possibility. There is this consideration of small-equals-compromise which is very real; a dedicated processing unit is required if the manufacturer wishes to consider refinements in their electronics & going small isn't going well if this is priority. However, there are many ways to accomplish goodness, if the good people of HOTONE pedals could prove everyone wrong, MOOER might have a case here. We shall reserve judgment till these Spark series pedals get here, yes?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Terra Firma

I'm still excited about the new Ibanez singlecut bass, it's officially called the Terra Firma.

A short video by the manufacturer. Note that the Mono Rail bridge isn't new, the discontinued Affirma model had it. Hoping there's a 4-string version in time to come.

That many

I began February with a realization that I've been through so many Seymour Ducan pickups. These are product labels lined in the pickup's box & I've kept them throughout the years. Some of them were snipped for my neck shimming adventures; I discovered they are slightly thinner than the cigarette box material & offer a different leverage at the body's neck pockets. Other than that, I just wanted to keep track of how many Duncans came my way since 1996 :-)

I actually own more pickups than the number of labels displayed above, I didn't retain the first few ones I purchased namely the Stag Mag & Seth Lover models. Seymour Duncan will continue to be my go-to pickups in time to come. Summary of the colours seen here:
  • RED: regular-spaced humbuckers
  • BLUE: Single coils
  • GREEN: Trembucker-spaced humbuckers
  • ORANGE: Custom Shop colours