Saturday, February 28, 2015

Vox it!

Closing the month with an acquisition- the Vox AC4C1 12" version. Actually, this was paid for last year. The final piece at City Music was a display model so they offered me a fresh piece at the same discounted price but the catch is, I have to wait till February 2015. I didn't mind waiting & here it is today.

Happy end of February, everyone.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The other Dimension

You've read about the Fender Dimension bass here; how it started as an affordable Fender model & now being offered as a Standard & Deluxe American models (the very affordable Modern Player version is still available, no worries). This 2015, the Dimension trickles down into the Squier range & it's offered in a 5-string version as well. If you are not too keen with the P/J type basses, the Dimension should be worth checking out.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Evidence: As long as you like it (to be)

I own an Evidence Audio cable & it was bought off the shelf. No qualms about the quality but it was a 3m cable. This is considered lengthy if you play at home especially if you sit down at all times. Good thing is, Evidence Audio does custom length so I got myself this 1.5m version you see above. The order was placed through Davis GMC & it took slightly less than 2 months (the waiting time is the not-so-good element here). I don't mind waiting because I know what EA cables have in store for players like me who prefer a straight-to-amp set up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The other tenor

Ibanez has a tenor guitar in its catalog, it's not too long ago when this was introduced but...

... here's another for 2015- the AVT2E. As you can see, it sports a dreadnought body with a wider outline (meaning- more bass) plus the electronics on board, equals a good opportunity to trigger some creativity. On my to-check-out list, definitely.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Randall: RG13

This thing is a beast both in size as well as in tone. The RG13 is both a pedal & an amp. That's right, you can plug the Randall RG13 in as a pedal or do that straight into a speaker cab (it has a 1W power rating). Not much here to please the vintage dweebs but if you are into distortion, this one might just be it. Hear it in action:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Eagle

The Black Eagle- something that used to be in the Ibanez catalogs in the '70s- is now on a limited edition re-issue, all in the name of anniversary commemoration. Maybe some of us would get excited over this but it's all about having such models here at the stores- there's no guarantee it would happen. But it's news anyway.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

PRS SE: 245

The first PRS SE model was one that latched onto a formidable name that it was forgivably devoid of a concrete identity- the Santana SE (circa 2001). A decade or so later, the SE tag became an acknowledged nod towards a quality non-American PRS build only because the manufacturer had strict prerequisites when it comes to what should bear the 'PRS' tag regardless of the people handling the production. Fast forward 2014, the manufacturer announced a shift in production venue for the SE makes late in the year; Indonesia (goodbye Korean QC...). This was a big deal because the Korean WM plant bacame a formidable name in representing quality output. Ibanez & PRS helped put Korea on the quality map but both brand names have since departed the vicinity in search of a less costly affair.

Build/ fit/ finish
The PRS SE 245 on appraisal here represents the Indonesian manufacture so all eyes are on quality; a decent, presentable standard is just not PRS enough. The mark has to be higher. This SE 245 passed the initial quality exuberance test; there's a feeling of class there, no doubt about it. There were no anomalies to report in any aspects except for the following minor considerations:
  1. Untidy nut finish. The nut was left prickly in many places. I was thinking, there is a simple procedure in getting this done, ie. the factory hands could have simply scraped the leftover bits using basic hardware (eg: blade/ string cutter) but it was omitted. I couldn't help but form a negative impression with regards to working philosophy.
  2. Untidy binding terminal. This is perhaps the Achilles Heel of instruments sporting edge binding but we understand that at this price point, the binding is most likely a faux version. Regardless, the one displayed by this SE 245 is a little amateurish. It's no different from the hurried workmanship in some Chinese Charvels I've come across.
  3. Action: The instrument in question manifested fret buzz at the upper frets but be assured that it wasn't a product of warping issues. The situation was attended to in the store promptly during the appraisal & a little higher action proved to be the perfect cure; no issues thereafter.
Playability/ tone
The SE 245 isn't a shred machine per se but with a little help from some high gain sources, speed shouldn't be an issue here; just bear with the rather substantial neck profile. On a personal note, I feel this is a deserving neck profile for the instrument, a wide & wide-fat D-carve suitable for many applications. More importantly, the neck matches the overall heavy affair, yes, the instrument is 3.8kg & it isn't too friendly when one plays standing up most of the time but this made the SE 245 a downright winner in terms if sustain & low frequency push. Special mention goes to the tuners for being responsive & holding tuning well despite being in-house models.

Tone-wise, the manufacturer had gone for inherent attributes as opposed to pleasing specific campers. The default humbuckers aren't high output affairs so a good degree of vintage warmth could be had from the neck pickup. In fact, the neck pickup is a good reference for all things 'nice' (cleans especially). If there's any post-purchase considerations, you might be bent on replacing the bridge humbucker (not that it's a dud to begin with) to fulfill a more specific distortion attack, especially for those with prog inclinations & a very calculated opinion of what a preferred distortion-oriented humbucker should be.

Conclusion
You'd read some derogatory comments in cyberspace pertaining to the mere switch from Korean to Indonesian manufacturing when it comes to the PRS SE. These trolls equate the country of manufacture with quality & that's one of the most uneducated thing to do when it comes to standard appraisals. What we should acknowledge is reputation- yes, some countries have a more established reputation when it comes to QC but that is a general affair. To sum up: When 4 out of 5 doctors from Country A are sub-standard practitioners, we often overlook that 1 that stands out from the rest. 

Price-wise, this generation of Indonesian SEs would prove to be a headache when it comes to value for money. It retails for nearly 50% off its Korean counterparts & without showing a proportionate deterioration in quality. In fact, I would be implying disrespect to the PRS name should I allude to quality issues just because the SEs now hail from Indonesia. If you are in the market for a budget instrument with substantial QC attached to one, may I suggest you look at the PRS SEs first.

Overall rating: 80%

PRS SE 245
Product availability: Davis GMC
Price: $495 (bag included)

Thanks to Ram, Chris & Janet for the assistance.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Napalm Death: Apex Predator

Napalm Death had been relentless in their pursuit of delivery. Apex Predator is the band's 15th full length release & there's no let down in terms of intensity. In fact, some appraisals out there deem this as a redefining moment in the band's history with some doom laden & spoken words content unlike what the band had done before. What's in it for me from a guitar player perspective? Focus. That's right, Mitch Harris is one focused on contextual delivery regardless of what the entire album has to offer conceptually. 1994's Fear, Emptiness, Despair (my personal fav) was a downright heavy release but the music was ND through & through.1996's Diatribe proved to be a very groove-oriented album but the guitars pulled through once again & remained true to the band's philosophy- grindcore, no compromise. Today, I look forward to a Napalm Death release just to hear how adaptable the guitars are pertaining to the twist in ideologies. So what proves to be a measure of good guitar playing is none other than the ability to remain relevant despite countless changes.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Re-string therapy

I've been playing my Veelah To Go since Monday for about an hour each time. Despite the wipe-downs, strings are susceptible to the corrosion of human sweat. So yesterday, it received a fresh set of Pyramids.

While I was at it, I managed to re-string my Gibson Melody Maker as well. Despite the no-amplifier observance, I went ahead with the re-string. It's not about the obligations to play thereafter but the knowledge that I made the effort to upkeep my instrument(s). Yes, I prefer a set of .0095s in my Gibsons :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Goat!

Ah, yes. It's that time of the year again when we enjoy a 2-day break, peel oranges, increase our sugar intake (rather excessively), exchange red packets (beware of empty ones!) & more importantly, revel in the merry-making. I enjoy Chinese New Year because I can sense the festivities all round, it helps me wind down & not think about work; I deem this important. So here's a very Happy Year of the Goat to all Chinese friends & acquaintances- prosperity & good health all round! Cheers!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ibanez: Reviving the dead?

I am reviewing my gear expenditure for the year. More precisely, I'm scrutinizing how much I'd be spending this time round considering I'm putting more priorities for amps than guitars. Being an Ibanez fan, I'd check the year's offerings before moving on to other brand names; was there any worthy Ibanez to short list at all? That aside, I came across the RG470FM you see above, it's a regional exclusive but that bridge there looks disturbing. Ibanez describes it as a Standard DL bridge.

It looks like the dreaded TRS bridge that was over & done with but the resemblance here is just despairing (at least for me). I've been through the TRS-es & I must say that they should not be revived. Let's hope that it would turn out to be something else.

If you are wondering if it's restricted to selected models, well, the RG7420 (new for 2015) sports one. If the manufacturer does not have some good life considerations for this bridge, do you think it'd be manifested in a 7-string version as well?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gibson: Melody Maker SG

Before I give my due appraisal for this guitar, be informed that it's been discontinued WEF 2015. The only reason why I'm appraising it is that it's still available here as well as some international online stores if you look hard enough. However, many of us won't look too hard for one because of its novelty pedigree but we won't mind giving it due consideration if it happens to cross our path by chance (emboldened by a clearance price tag as well), so here goes.

The 'Melody Maker' tag is one adopted by Gibson to embrace deficiency for a good reason; it's meant to be a budget product aimed squarely at those who would want to bask in the brand name glory but treading the ground with limited buying power. It's one that gets the job done but asking for more would betray its lack of details. As such, we note the familiar SG body outline which is arguably the most complete attribute of this guitar because everything else- bridge, pickups, controls & headstock- are subtracted affairs. The brief details here very much contributed to the overall lightness of this guitar but it isn't toy-like upon handling, mind you. That skimpy headstock there actually does good to the SG persona which has a reputation for being notoriously neck-heavy. However, this SG would outclass some full-feature hollow body instruments because it sports a maple body & fretboard. The only traditional SG wood here is the mahogany neck.

So is this melody maker any melodic for the money? Let's understand the fact that the solitary pickup there is a rather high output, ceramic 491T & it's an uncovered model. The volume pot is a 300K version so what you get immediately upon plugging it into an angry, driven amp is something to behold, especially if you are the typical metal maniac. However, the beauty of it is that, it tames down to a crunchy beast if you lower the instrument's volume so you get a very ACDC affair & a further trimming of volume would land you quite nicely into Bonamassa territory, it just lacks the polished top end. That's not surprising because it's a bridge pickup.

Let me highlight to you the frustrations before we conclude. Firstly, that shrunken headstock there compromised the outer strings' break angle. As suspected, the low E doesn't retain tuning well & the small button tuners don't make the process pleasant either. Secondly, the wrapover bridge doesn't feature any indentations or ridges so get ready to battle intonation issues should you move on to thicker gauged strings. This also means, the metal camp would have to try a little harder when they palm mute their favourite riffs. Thirdly, the input jack is simply too near the bridge & knob area. I had a straight-plugged cable inserted there & any unrestrained right hand movements proved to be a constant slamming into what should be located away from this vicinity. Lastly, that pickguard there houses the pickup & the overall outline extends beyond the bridge posts. That's right, you need to remove the bridge unit in order to access the guitar's cavity should a pickup swap be considered.

So what is a guitar of this ilk good for anyway? It's good for singular intentions. If you are bent on just dishing out molten hot riffs without thinking too much about switching pickups or reaching out for the tone control to mess with the frequencies, this should give you 100% focus. From the looks of it, if you set the action up properly, it should be a formidable slide guitar for not much money. This MM SG is certainly not for the squeamish when details are concerned.

Overall rating: 70%

Product availability: Swee Lee Co.
Price: $449 (clearance), bag included

Thanks to Master Faizal, David & Ms Yeo for the assistance.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Unplugged

Last night was an unplugged moment. As mentioned, I needed to observe a hushed environment out of consideration for the ailing elderly. Out came my Veelah & the moment only proved that guitar playing is an art very capable of diminishing proficiency. If one does not constantly engage in it, decay will slowly, but surely, creep in. It seems that my right hand fingers had issues keeping up with the fretting fingers & the overall tempo. So the lesson learnt here, quite timely I should say, is that one should not depart from one's craft for too long or suffer the rusty moments.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dual assault

I own a Blackstar amp & I've tried the others at the store. Thusfar, I'm hearing what the manufacturer has in store from the amp's voicings. I've checked the manufacturer's catalog & discover the existence of a drive & distortion pedal (the non-tube LT versions). The LT Dual you see here consists of 2 channels offering drive & distortion. The channels work independently (darn!). CH1 is the drive channel & CH2 offers the player distortion voicings.

I'm pretty much stoked by CH1 as the drive intensity is coupled with great saturation so picking sensitivity is increased as you dial up both GAIN & LEVEL. This channel gives great tone whichever way you turn the ISF knob. CH2 is the distortion channel & I find it a little too scooped when the ISF knob is pointing towards the American way (0 - half-way mark). In any Blackstar product, the ISF feature is very much the philosophy behind the tones you hear & in this pedal, it works well with the manufacturer's patented clipping response.

My subsequent episode with this pedal is to hook it up through the amp's FX loop. In the mean time, I'm keeping all instrument related volume down (for 10 days or so) due the presence of an elderly family member who's just been discharged from hospital. I'm keeping things acoustic & maybe increase the frequency of listening to my favourite CDs, especially those older collection.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Duncan metal

Since my 805 was lying around the amps vicinity, I plugged it into my HT Metal for some gratifying saturation. Blackstar's HT Metal, to me, is one which doesn't need much help in terms of drive. It has loads of intense drive, together with upper level volume saturation, it's one angry amp not to be missed by all you metal fiends out there. The 805, well, this pedal holds its own when it comes to drive anger. It doesn't quite deliver the metal tone per se (it wasn't conceived to be one) but it has some very rowdy drive at the later drive settings. Coupling this resulted in some obscene drive delivery but there are enough EQs to see you through some clarity.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tayloring Swee Lee

I was at Swee Lee recently & the store was getting ready for a life with Taylors. Taylor guitars, that it. So you have been told.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gibson: Melody Maker SG

I think many of you won't bother with such instruments; bearing a formidable name in guitar making yet manifesting features which are more novelty than serious investment. This guitar was discontinued at least 3 years ago. Back then, it wasn't featured on the walls of the stores. I was aware of its existence through the manufacturer's website, I nearly bought one online (save for the fact that the store doesn't accept credit card charges). There are some Japanese online stores still offering it today but it somehow surfaced at Swee Lee. Since it's on a clearance price tag- why not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Driven thunder

I'm still putting Thor's hammer through its paces. This time, there's a need to hear its adaptability with pedals. It wasn't an ambitious intention, just my SD 805. I'm not interested in hearing the Mjolnir being pushed by the 805, instead, I wanted to hear the amps tone with it through the FX loop. TBC...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rich acoustics

Moving over to the 2015 BC Rich offerings- for a company that makes some of the most provocative pointy guitars, there are some nice acoustics to be had. This simple looking dreadnought,  is the starter BCR1N.

Moving up, we have the BCR6N featuring a solid spruce top.

Here's a rear view.

Into the cutaway territory; the BCR4N (solid cedar top).

A little flame flash here; BCR3TEB.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fender: Sandblasting

Nothing too evolutionary in the Fender camp this 2015 but I notice there's a generous embrace for humbuckers in many of the established models. It cuts both ways; good for the manufacturer that is well known for crystalline single coil tones to move away into the thicker humbucking zone. Not so good if single coil is your forte, humbuckers are distractions from the real gem. I wouldn't pay good money for a humbucking Fender because I know it's not their thing.

Anyway, I like the fact that Fender is preserving the ash culture in their instruments albeit for selected models for a simple reason- Fender started with ash & the legendary Fender tones you hear out there are from instruments sporting ash bodies, mostly. For 2015 & for a limited time only, Fender offers a few instruments in a specially finished ash bodies called the Sandblast. As seen above, the process, above everything else, accentuates the wood grain via a pressure assisted method so it's nothing too alien. So there you have it, a regurgitation that isn't philosophically wayward- that's right, no robot tuners to challenge your intellect over simple matters or the likes.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Flying stereo

If you have been impressed with Blackstar's Fly 3 desktop amp, know that it's available in a stereo set featuring an extension cab & a PSU as depicted above. Limited quantities are currently available at Davis GMC.

Ibanez: RC Premium/ Prestige

From the way I see it, looks like Ibanez is pushing the RC models this year to the forefront. It's a good thing but who's playing an RC? Who's the visible ambassador for this model? We have 2 more RC goodness to behold here, this is the Premium RC720 featuring a rosewood body cap. 

The Prestige RC1320 is the top-end model in the range featuring a pair of Seymour Duncan pickups: JB (B) & a covered '59. We welcome variety into the Ibanez fold but from a commercial perspective, things might go the deficit way. Lest we forget, Ibanez's weapon models formerly in the X-series (Halbard/ Glaive/ Falchion) are now extinct. Hopefully the RCs won't join them as passing models with no elements of perpetuity whatsoever.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thunder, unboxed

The new amp in the house is a Joyo Mjolnir all tube head. It comes with a power plug & this little foot switch here to toggle between 2 channels. More tone details coming up but in the mean time, I'd sum it up by saying that it's a very American sounding amp despite the very European monicker.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Weekend booster

Alright, Seymour Duncan's Pickup Bosster Ver 2.0 is fnally in the house!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jackson signatures 2015

New at the Jackson camp, this quartet of Misha Mansoor signature Jacksons. The manufacturer promises great shredability befitting the needs of the endorser but being a Jackson purist of sorts, that's not really the headstock you'd want to see with the Jackson label.

In the meantime, this Scott Ian X-series would win you over in terms of affordability, through-neck design to boot.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sonic green

It's one of those days when I just have to hear something in action, otherwise, I would not be at peace. Maybe.

But anyway, I nearly placed an order for this one a second time, forgetting I actually own it & it's misplaced inside one of the guitar cases. Ibanez is not about the Tube Screamer exclusively but the Tube Screamer is the most regurgitated pedal ever, even by the manufacturer. This one here isn't a TS per se, it's a modified version manifesting more gain & mids. Before the turn of the century, there was an SD9 in production but this version has a midrange spike to it.

The reason I wanted to hear it in action is a simple one; I wish to compare its drive & frequency performance against my Archer. It's obviously the wrong thing to do as this SD9M has more midrange but not more treble. The overall tone in question differed rather markedly. Coming from an Ibanez brand of drive, especially one which is TS related, there is this brand of smoothness unlike what other pedals would manifest. Knowing this presence, I attempted to polish a brash-sounding Marshall JCM800 which quite frankly, was not the right reference for the job. The SD9M made the aforementioned Marshall's midrange more pronounced, not excessive, just a little more outgoing & the smooth-ing effect wasn't convincing. It's a different story if one cascades a mild drive pedal into it, it's able to push things in a particular direction which does magnify smoothness to a certain degree. All in all, the SD9M is a worthy pedal to own.

Thunderous!

Got mine!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ibanez: AEW120

It took a while but Ibanez finally had a solid top AEW model going- the AEW120. It also had the headstock re-looked this year. Prior to this, the AEWs had some exotic laminated wood tops going but discerning players avoided those for a simple reason; if they were going to fork out that amount of money for an acoustic guitar, a solid top should be the least value-for-money consideration the manufacturer could give them. You'd say that not all solid top makes are appealing tone-wise but this feature determines the overall craftsmanship & longevity of the instrument. All in all, Ibanez acoustics are very under-rated in terms of performance worth granted the manufacturer has a solid body focus in its manufacturing philosophy.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Stacked & pounded

I have always had a thing for Teles but it seems they don't make too many Teles to my liking. The one you see above is something I fancy & it was featured here prior to some make-over: The TL71.

The default string retainer was done away with. In place now is the American Standard version featuring rounded parts to reduce string snapping.

The Gotoh tilt-friendly  saddles are superb in keeping things vintage-looking with a contemporary twist. I didn't know such things exist in the first place until I did some window shopping. The objective here was to keep the tone single coil but I can use something a little hotter. So the pickups on board:
  • Neck: Duncan Quarter Pound
  • Bridge: Hot Stack
I hear lots of angry distortion coming from both pickups & they don't sound rounded at the top end unlike some other manufacturers' manifestations. All this while keeping the true single coil tones in tact & that's the reason I fancy Seymour Duncan single coils above others.

Wishing everyone a good February :-)