Monday, March 31, 2014


These were my companions last weekend & I was glad I didn't stick to one amp.

It's not about superiority but about influence; each amp subliminally made me play differently. The aggression from the 5150 means I was induced to churn out lots of metal-type riffs & when I'm I at it, I tend to get carried away. I would end up playing ideas from start to end & there's more emphasis on arrangement. When I plug into my Marshalls (this 1W JVM is one of them), I tend to be more technical so my plyaing moments would be filled with solos & more precision would be heard; more often than not it's about nailing something my way. The playing would border on the obsessive, doing things repeatedly with tempo variation.

From this perspective, we'd ask ourselves if we indeed require more than an amp to get things done 'properly'. However, amplifier investments are costly & it requires more space at home than owning more than one guitar. Thankfully, amp modelling today helps us achieve this objective without the cost & space issues. But liking what the digital world has to offering is a different thing altogether :-)

PS: Wishing everyone a good closure to March.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fender: Modern Player Jazzmaster HH

Fender's Modern Players are such value-for-money instruments, it's difficult to ignore them. While they may not be everyone's idea of a Fender, they are still legit, done by the very people who give us the Squier Classic Vibe & Vintage Modern series.

As documented earlier, my concern with this guitar is its confusing manifestation; it's a Jazzmaster (by virtue of looks & appointments) but it's not a Jazzmaster (with humbuckers in there, no traditional Jazzmaster tone could be acquired). I've overcome the humbucking appointment of this guitar, accepting what it was intended to be. However, the other concern, now that I actually own this guitar (OK it's been slightly more than a week now) & had a good playing time with it- is the tune-o-matic type bridge. In use, the whammy mechanism works- no complaints there but the TOM bridge won't hold tuning no matter how much lubrication one applies to the slots. Do note that the original Jazzmaster features a different bridge mechanism, so the most sensible thing to do here is not to whammy. As such, I've set it up to a locking position so no whammy action any time soon. I did some other parts replacements but that's saved for an April episode :-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Seymour Duncan: Perpetual Burn

Seymour Duncan has officially released the Jason Becker Perpetual Burn pickup. This was an official Duncan-Becker team-up that never got completed due to his worsening ALS condition but a recent project rekindled the interest & here we are today with the said humbucker. It's not an all-out high output unit but something singing that Jason Becker was interested in when he first heard the Duncan JB in action. Despite being showcased in a shred context in the following video, the pickup promises to impress in other musical applications:

Epiphone: FT-350SCE

Some of us might be waiting for this to happen & here they are: Epiphone's FT-350SCEs.

Not just another electro-acoustic but one equipped with the Min-ETune system. Quite possibly, this might be the first from a regular production line. Implications: 1) What's in Gibson would eventually trickle down to Epiphone 2) The Min-ETune works effectively & the manufacturer has no qualms featuring it in their products.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fender: American Design Experience

Fender launched its American Design Experience recently, allowing buyers to design their own Tele/ Strat/ P-bass/ J-bass according to limited specs. Prices start at USD1,499 for guitars. I've designed my own here without the extras, meaning- I kept mine to the starting point price bracket. I would very much want a single pickup Strat but that's not offered on the template, this is deemed to be Custom Shop specs & of course, it entails more $$$... You should give your ideas a go, maybe do it over lunch rather than engage in small talks with colleagues you hardly know: CLICK to try.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

That looks familiar

I was looking at some Kramers & came across the 84. It isn't a new model, in fact, it was an integral part of shred history once. The 84 is still in production or rather, it was brought back to life & rightfully so.

The 84 caught the attention of the Eastern builders & the good people at ESP had this model called the Jerk going for a while. It's unclear if the Jerk was a direct response to the 84 but the resemblance was clear.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BluGuitar: Amp1

This is indeed a welcomed addition to the amplifier universe- BluGuitar's Amp 1. Showcased at the recent Musikmesse 2014, it's developed by Thomas Blug (hence the BluGuitar there if you missed it) & it's every bit an amp even if it lies flat on the floor.

But a closer look reveals the fact that the under arch there makes way for a typical speaker cab handle. So the message is clear; this is an amp, it needs a speaker cab. If you keep looking at it, you'd be further driven into disbelief- this is an amp? Yes, it churns out a 100W of Class D tube goodness, feeds into an 8/16 ohm speaker cab, has a built in noise gate, FX loop- the works. Coming from the lad who helped in the tinkering of H&K amps, it's something to look forward to. It's definitely aimed at players who prefer their tones to come from an amp as opposed to an effects unit/ pedals because many of us know what an amp offers in terms of plug-in chemistry. Hear from Mr. Blug himself:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fender: Modern Player Jazzmaster HH (review)

We're still in Chinese territory. No territorial trespassing though, just craftsmanship appraisal. This time it's Fender's Modern Player Jazzmaster HH. Once again, to re-affirm the Modern Player philosophy; everything traditional with a dash of eccentricity. So you see a Jazzmaster here with details you won't normally see in one; humbuckers, absence of slider control for the lead circuit, tune-o-matic type bridge & maple fretboard.

If you are accustomed to the Strat or Tele, the Jaguar & Jazzmaster are definitely extensive in body measurements; it's not that handle-friendly. Adding considerable weight to that, the Jazzmaster here is quite a beast. Ditto the neck profile- despite the familiar C curvature, it's a meaty version. It is no wonder then the Mustang, Musicamaster & Bronco were produced back then to offer a more manageable handling. In this aspect, this MP Jazzmaster is keeping with traditions in terms of outline & mass.

Moving on to the differences, the MP Jazzmaster sports a mahogany body, a pair of humbuckers & maple fretboard (rosewood version available). The slider switch controlling the lead tones were also not included at the factory. Without plugging in, we are already dealing with specs contrary to the traditional Jazzmaster. A quick strum revealed some warm midrange, typical of a mahogany response. No pronounced brightness coming from this one.

We need to at least hear a P-90 type guitar in action to know where the Jazzmaster stands in terms of tone. The original Jazzmaster pickup is a single coil affair but these are humbuckers so let's not get too carried away with the tonal departure. There isn't any fat single coil tone to be heard here, the stark truth- the MP Jazzmaster is another humbucking guitar out there. Zooming into the pickups, they are pleasant in clean mode with no accentuated frequencies, rather flat-sounding if I may add. In drive mode, we know they are neither too high output nor vintage sounding. 

So what do we have here? A Jazzmaster? Not really, it doesn't sound like one despite looking like one. What makes a Jazzmaster a Jazzmaster? Essentially, it should be a chemistry of the looks & the tone. We have the Jazzmaster looks here despite some feature differences but the Jazzmaster tone is absent. Some of us would be happy campers knowing that one of Fender's overlooked player is finally offered with humbuckers because we just can't stand that single coil hum. Well, that could be a purchase consideration.

Because I'm the type who discriminates workmanship as it adds to cost, I'm rather unhappy with the test model as it features stained frets. Stain here isn't merely chemical pigmentation but (light) rust. Also, the 3-way toggle is a little dodgy; the bridge pickup failed to connect at times. That's rather worrying. Please take some time to ask yourselves why you'd want to buy this guitar. The Jazzmaster in its traditional incarnation, is a special guitar, tone-wise especially. This Modern Player Jazzmaster has the looks but not the tone, not even close.

Rating: 70%

Fender: Moder Player Jazzmaster HH
Availbility: Swee Lee Co.
Price: $700

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Horsing in...

I'm not averse to having a Chinese label on a Fender. I value the instrument in its entirety, nothing less. The Modern Players are good for-value instruments & the Mustang here is no exception.

Giving the P-90s a good playing time, I might keep/replace them; it's a 50-50 affair. They appeal big time in clean mode & with some crunch thrown in but not with intense distortion.

First guitar in the year of the horse- a horse guitar. Must be a good sign :-)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

To Carvin

The Carvin camp celebrates Javier Reyes' endorsement of their 8-string. In my opinion, he deserves it. Ibanez is more Tosin Abasi than Javier Reyes & it's pointless playing a shadow brand. We do not know the entire picture of this endorsement development; it could be a result of anything- support issues, artist management, product exclusivity, etc. But we know for sure that artists are human, they reciprocate the human touch. More often than not, in business situations, the material dealing gets in the way of the human touch. Done.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fender: Modern Player Mustang (review)

To many of us, 'Fender' & 'Made in China' should not go together. It's production execration to say the least. But this relationship had been going on for a while for a reason; China's QC is up there, together with other India, Vietnam & Indonesia among other developing countries offering top notch manufacturing for less cost. So the fault lies with us who fall into denial every time we see this twosome.

To the uninitiated, the Modern Player series are Fender's take on its established makes with a dash of eccentricity. Historical accuracy isn't the objective here, it's the freedom to include slight differences that are appealing. So the MP Mustang you see above is every bit a Mustang less the P-90s in there.

The QC is rather faultless. Coming from an appraiser's perspective, the Chinese hands should have devoted some quality time on matters pertaining to set up as well. In brief- everything's top notch less the set-up. The Mustang also exudes that typical Fender experience, namely a C-type neck profile with lots of twang coming from the weight-electronics chemistry. By the way, the Mustang sports a pine body which isn't a bad thing considering the familiar mass it has to offer (as opposed to its lighter Japanese counterpart) & its similar grain pattern compared to the traditional alder- so now we know why this wood was considered above the availability & costs factor. 

Tone wise, the traditional Mustang was a single coil proponent & having a pair of P-90s in this one isn't a wayward inclusion. The traditional Mustang switching system is retained, regular/ off/ out of phase so you need some getting used to especially when you are more at home with a Strat-type selector. Whatever you expect from a P-90, this one delivers; fat & twangy with lots of midrange warmth. However, the issue with many of us is the fact that we have limited applications for an out-of-phase P-90 tone. Personally, I find it too nasal with lots of drive/distortion, so most of my test time with this guitar was hearing it in its traditional P-90 tone. In this aspect, please acknowledge the fact that P-90s are hum excessive with lots of drive & this might be the put off factor. In clean mode, there's nothing to dislike. The P-90s deliver that expected midrange warmth they're known for, enough to differentiate themselves from the standard single coils or humbuckers.

All in all, the MP Mustang is a little more 'special' with the inclusion of P-90s but this is the Modern Player philosophy; traditional with a dash of likable eccentricity. I'd recommend this to the more adventurous players who would want to embrace a slightly different Mustang experience & wouldn't mind doing just that.

Rating: 80%

Fender: Modern Player Mustang
Availability: Swee Lee Co.
Price: TBA $700

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ogre pedals

These Ogre pedals were featured in the recently concluded Musikmesse 2014 & they look awesome. In terms of practicality, the pedals are cumbersome with that sliding covers to hide the control knobs but if you want ease of use, you know there are other pedals to check out.

How they'd look like in your pedal board. Seriously, they've got this Predator vibe going.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ibanez: TSA5TVR (review)

This is the new Tube Screamer amp by Ibanez; the TSA5TVR. It's certainly not the first TS amp around but it's definitely the first cool-looking TS incarnation. From this angle, the amp looks like a retro table top TV more than an amp especially with those legs there. But it's serious tone business with a 12AX7 & 6V6GT pairing at the pre-amp & power section respectively. The inclusion of an 8" Jensen is another one to underscore a tone inclination. The other aspects of the amp are highlighted in the control panel seen here:

Everything there is standard affair but that reverb control is an interesting inclusion especially when the driver is an 8" unit. It could cut both ways; Ibanez wants it to manifest some depth since the driver isn't big enough to manifest a convincing 'full' tone. It could also mean that the reverb is the missing link in making amps of this make more menacing in terms of appeal. 

In use, the TSA5TVR has some sweet cleans coming from an 8"-er. I had the opportunity to plug in a P-90 equipped guitar into it & it sounded adorable. Ironically, the humbucker is the least appealing in this clean mode as the driver size somehow failed to augment the pickup's reduced presence. In this aspect, I'd say if you have tried Laney's CUB 8 amp, this TS is one up for sure.

In drive mode, well, after plugging in 3 guitars, I'm of the opinion that the TSA5TVR is a maligned unit when it comes to higher drive settings. As such, the OD sounded the sweetest at about 60% engagement. Beyond that, things get fuzzy & ceased to be complementary & affects definition. As the manufacturer had chosen to wire the TS circuit at the front end, the drive's tone control did more tone shaping than the treble/bass controls in this mode. At test time, I simply left the tone, treble & bass knobs at 50% setting & that sounded the creamiest. 

For the sake of testing, I managed to cascade a mild distortion unit into the amp & it did more harm than good. Returning to my initial assertion of the TSA5TVR being dirt sensitive, this one is definitely off limits if you wish to go full metal in terms of drive intensity. Through & through, the TSA5TVR packs quite a punch in terms of clean & slightly driven tones. I'd question the practicality of those legs there as they serve no purpose other than design details.

Rating: 80%

Ibanez: TSA5TVR
Availability: Swee Lee Co.
Price: SGD380
International online price: USD399/ AUS479/ Euro285 (less shipping)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ibanez: TSA5TVR Tube Screamer amp

It was a simple trip to the store, was looking for a travel size, pump action, guitar polishing fluid but this was in there. Had to try... :-)

Monday, March 17, 2014

At work

Had some time to while away at the office today (this doesn't come by often, especially at mid-day) so it was string noodling, nothing new. However, there were no amps around so it was the iPad & some stuff you see here:

  1. The guitar in question was my Charvel DX-1. It was nearest the door on my way out from home, so...
  2. iRig Stomp- so the iPad knows I have a guitar plugged into it
  3. X-mini ME speaker
  4. Korg KR mini to keep me in time
  5. Guyatone OD2+, it's the lightest & most preferred
I thought I was into it for a few minutes but I actually played for 1hr 20min. By that time, the rain had stopped.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Vai here

OK... this might come a little late but you are informed :-)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Good gauge

You've probably not heard of Tone Gauge pedals till today (maybe). It's one of those unknown Korean wonders; you won't be impressed till you hear it in action. I wasn't particularly looking for a drive pedal but trying this at SV Guitars was the right thing to do. 

As stated, this is a drive unit, nothing aggressive. In fact, it's one of those under-drive pedals; one which doesn't offer extremity. I'd classify it as a super-boost unit. 'Super' because it goes beyond the typical boost performance in terms of saturation but it barely gives you a distortion voicing in this respect. It's a smooth drive through & through. The 3 primary knobs there are self-explanatory but let me give you a brief insight on that 2-mode flick switch it. The bright/ fat voicings are very convincing without giving you trashy excess of the mentioned frequencies. This one has a personal appeal to me because it reminds me of my CMatmods Butah pedal but one more capable of a smoother response, tone-wise. The TG459 works well with both single coil & humbucker guitars & it's virtually down to that bright/fat modes to complement your tweaking. It's also a darling if you choose to stack another drive/distortion pedal into it. A great pedal for a sensible price- recommended.

Tone Gauge: Overdrive TG459
Availability: SV Guitars
Price: $99

Friday, March 14, 2014

Korg: Rimpitch

I was slammed for suggesting a tuner that could fit into the acoustic sound hole (recently) but Korg did it for Musikmesse 2014. The contraption you see above is the manufacturer's Rimpitch unit, one that fits into the sound hole indeed. Some of us prefer not to look at the headstock while tuning, we look down. This is the reason why pedal tuners clicked with so many of us. Hope this would be here soon; on my to-get list :-)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ibanez 2014: Good fix trio

I tried to ignore these guitars (T-B: RG652/ 752/ 852) but I couldn't. They are 3 of the new models introduced this year with fixed bridges. As I get older, I am more inclined towards no-frills bridges so these 3 are indeed appealing to me. The thing is, Ibanez is only making them available in Europe & Japan so the chance of seeing them in the stores here are very slim. Sometimes I don't know if I should feel lucky living here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Origin here

This is good news indeed- ORIGIN will play here on 4th May 2014. Venue & ticket details TBA. 

I'm a fan of Paul Ryan's playing so this is something to look forward to. Thanks Inokii for the update.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Voivod: Target earth

I overlooked this album. Was a fan of Voivod since the early days but after Piggy's demise, they were off my radar. Especially when Newstead was in there briefly & whoever came by to do guitars for the band; I thought it was too much but Target Earth made the difference. I'd see it as a come-back release somewhat & the turning point was guitarist Daniel Mongrain's decision to stay put in the band for a while.

I might be marginalizing some perspectives but having someone who knows what he's doing helps. Mongrain is jazz-trained but we won't hear the jazz shenanigans in this context. In fact, he made sure things are purely Voivod from the guitar perspective & the intensity of the music was not lost. So for the month of February, Target Earth & Brett Garsed were pretty much in my ears to & from work. Never dismiss the old guards. A taster of what's on offer:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Selling: Strat-type body

Selling this guitar body, the finish here is teal (blue-green). Bridge, input jack & ground wires are included as depicted.

A little bit of the paint came off while I was trying to fit a neck. Since the neck had been sold off, I don't intend to keep this body. 

DISCLAIMER: This is not a Fender body. There is no guarantee that it will accommodate a Fender neck. Recommended for individuals who are keen to experiment rather than those looking for a sure-fit spare.

Selling: Strat-type guitar body
Condition: 8/10
Self-collect: CCK MRT station
No reservations/ No trades
Queries/ confirmations:
Price: $70 (final)

EHX: Soul food

I'm definitely an advocate for simple, transparent overdrives- the EHX Soul food is one. Its reputation is such that it has traces of the Klon Centaur DNA somewhere in there. I'm not a fan of the Centaur (with all due respect it's one of the ODs to check out regardless of its extinction) & do not look forward to the SF emulating this distinction. When I tested it out, it sounded great in giving the pickup a little push in terms of driven output & that's all I'm after, really. The SF is also a great amp booster & that's a bonus for me so this one is just one of those pedals I'm glad to have come across. This isn't its maiden debut at the shops but when it was first offered back then, someone got to it first before I did but it's nothing a simple wait couldn't cure.

EHX: Sould food
Availability: Davis GMC
Price: $99.00

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Little wonder

This is my new tuner, the Planet Waves NS Micro Headstock model. I've come across many clip-ons, over time, the sensors give way & sensitivity affected. Some become dysfunctional altogether & had to be tossed into the abyss.

The NS MHT is small & can be attached discreetly at the headstock's rear. The only downside here is that it employs a serrated shaft so it's not as nifty as a clip-on with a pincer mechanism. It's therefore clear that this one was designed to be attached & not removed immediately. I'm impressed with the brightness & sensitivity. It's down to a supposedly more superior piezo transducer in there that picks up vibrations more readily when in use. Hopefully the latter will withstand the test of time. In addition to the tuner function, it also has a visual metronome so it virtually 'plays' with you. If you are wondering what the 'NS' stands for- Ned Steinberger. Yeas, it's co-designed with that guy; do you know him? :-)

Planet Waves: NS Micro Headstock Tuner
Availability: Davis GMC
Price: $19.00

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wooden touch

In the mail today- Clayton wooden picks. I'm currently reviewing my picks' click quotient; actually referring to that 'clicking' sound when it comes into contact with strings. It isn't as obvious when one is using thinner, softer picks. However, if one deals with (at least) a 3mm pick manufactured from a hard material, this clicking sound becomes obvious. In the mean time, I'm assessing if this is indeed a psychological factor, the fact that the player is bothered by this clicking is actually due to his/her ability to hear it during play. What if his/her set up masks this clicking noise, would it be any different? Also, what are the materials causing this clicking sound? Can the string type actually help mute this clicking in some ways? Some exploration in the mean time :-)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ibanez: RGIX20FEQM price update

If you are interested in the Ibanez RGIX20FEQM at Swee Lee, be informed that the list price for it is $900 :-)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fender: Slide

Fender's Slide isn't something to rival a bottle neck in terms of gliding one's fingers up & down strings- no. The name is a little deceiving but it is the manufacturer's digital interface for PC/ Mac devices. If you are currently plugging your guitar into a computer for all your tonal needs, you know what's in store here. The question is, do such interface devices provide tonal separation from the competitors considering it's only interpreting & converting signals? I think you know what I'm getting at. As far as interface tools go, the difference lies in inherent features & user-friendliness more than tone. Nevertheless, here's a little showcase:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recommendation: PRS SE Custom 24 7-string

You've been wanting a 7-string but you just can't find something commanding yet elegant. Maybe the PRS SE Custom 24 7-string (let's call it the 247)  might be it. I was checking it out a few days ago & the most significant detail pertaining to tone here is the guitar's 25" scale length. Drive-wise, it's the best of both worlds. Sitting in between an LP low end punch & a Strat's clarity, the 247 is something to be happy with. The neck profile is a wide-thin make, not to be confused with the Ibanez thin profile, of course. In any case, the neck is a finished affair very much in the Gibson territory. The 247 is capable of other impressive tones as well, I'll leave you with this clip for the convincing bits (oh, yes... I'm impressed with the cleans too) :

PRS SE: Custom 24 7-string
Availability: Davis GMC
Sale: $1,050 $690

Dealing with stubborn pins

This is a timely introduction- SNAPZ pin puller (by BigRock Engineering). I think many of us can relate to the situation of dealing with stubborn pins, especially for old, abandoned guitars. We would NOT want to spray WD-40 in there, would we? Unlike the traditional pullers where a degree of prying is involved, the SNAPZ employs a grip-&-extract method making sure the bridge material itself isn't dented/ damaged. It's still in its introductory stage but should be in the market come Spring.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone.

Monday, March 3, 2014

EHX: Lumberjack

Yesterday's catch- EHX's Lumberjack overdrive. This is a strange one but it's to my fancy. I love the LOG FACTOR control, it contributes to the saturation instead of the intensity. Yes it does affect the tone somewhat but it makes for interesting tweaking. 

EHX: Lumberjack OD
Availability: Davis GMC
Price: $99 (list)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The digital way

This was last night's set up following the arrival of my iRig Stomp: Guitar-iRig Stomp-X-mini speaker-iPad.

My concern with every digital set up has always been the latency issue. Since the early days of my LINE6-into-PC meddling, I have been upset with that slight delay in processing but technology had come through in terms of development. The set up seen above has no such complications. In fact, iOS applications are reputable in this aspect. I have downloaded the free Amplitube bundle & the features are minimal (expected) but it managed to get things going. As far as the iRig Stomp is concerned, it's a hassle-free plug-&-play. My only down in terms of purchase satisfaction was that the cable it came with was dodgy from the start; it affected connection & there was crackling noises to be heard through the speakers. This was how cost corners were cut, obviously.

Tone-wise, the X-mini ME speaker did well in projecting clarity but does nothing in terms of depth. If you are serious in getting some mojo going even with such a simple set up (yes, it's definitely possible), invest in a pro-size monitor.


Davis GMC is clearing their PRS SE models. Guitars are going for 30% off, more discounts on selected models. So March is off to a good start indeed :-)

PS: Pic courtesy of Davis GMC

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Digital domain

In the mail today. Not about to replace my rig with digital devices that thrive on interpretations but I'm putting my iPad to good use.

A visual Trail

Here's a new one by Seymour Duncan & an interesting one at that- the Vapor Trail. It's a delay unit, which isn't a new idea at all. However, unlike other common delay units, it gives the player a blinking tempo indicator so instead of a random or approximate delay adjustments, we can see what we are dealing with. But we don't buy delay pedals to enjoy seeing blinking lights in the dark. Here's what the VT can do in a nutshell:

PS: March is in!