Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Takamine: GX18CE

What's your take on smaller bodied acoustic guitars? Are they a serious tone contender, instruments for musicians with an ailing back, kiddy alternatives or simply the manufacturer's attempt to swell their coffers? Whatever they may be to us, they are undeniably functional. Takamine's G-Series Taka-mini instruments are scaled down guitars, manifesting a 3/4 body dimension unlike the  smaller-bodied travel-type models (Think: Martin's Ed Sheeren model).

The instrument you see above is the GX18CE featuring a solid spruce top & mahogany back & sides. It also includes the TP4T pre-amp on board for plug in moments. I've never come across a Takamine with shoddy workmanship, this one included. I gave it a thorough visual inspection but it has no adversity to justify it's rather entry-level price tag. 

The GX18CE is one loud guitar in its unplugged nature despite its 3/4 manifestation. If you have reservations in this regard, this is an assurance for you to re-consider. Unlike a travel-size player, a 3/4 instrument offers a more ideal elbow placement. This isn't crucial for strummers but for the fingerstyle dweebs out there, it helps deal with leverage issues. The default action will get those acoustic shredders going but it's not the lowest I've come across (I've played some Yamaha with lower action). Due to it's spruce/mahogany combination, the unplugged tone is leaning towards the bright side but if you wish to employ the GX18CE for your subtle, fingerstyle moments, employing the on board EQ is a ready discourse.

All in all, this GX18CE is a pleasant surprise tone-wise considering it's not a full-sized acoustic. In this light, it offers those of us who struggle with handling issues, a more comfortable take on playability without sacrificing good tones. On a personal note, I'd recommend this to those players who want a big sounding instrument (in terms of volume projection, not depth) but with a more subdued physical outline. With this episode, the future looks good for guitars of this nature because it's in no way a compromise; a 3/4 being does not equal to 3/4 goodness. Especially for Takamine, the standard remains above average.

Rating: 85%

Takamine: GX18CE (3/4 NEX type body dimension)
Availability: Davis GMC
Price: $385

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pushing the driver

These two go well together. In fact, I tried them both together at the store prior to purchase. They are complementary in this exact arrangement.

The NUX OD-3 is a surprisingly polished mild driver. By virtue of its colour alone, you know what the OD-3 is offering tone-wise. There isn't any pronounced midrange hump heard so if you wish for that reproduction on a budget, this might be a let-down. I view the OD-3 as a very shrewd follower of Fuch's Plush without sounding too familir. Artec's gainer boost on the other hand, is a smooth operator, not by default though, but by engaging its 2-band EQ. The gain on tap here is rather intense but in a good boost kind of way, not as a definite drive source.

Now, cascading the OD-3 into the GB is a polished affair. The OD-3 requires a booster unit that complements its silky voicing & the GB does just that if you turn the treble control down & start with the bass control at noon position. Turning the gain control Eastwards wasn't as impressive as bringing the volume up, mind the additional treble while you're at it but there's always the treble control to keep things in check. The overall voicing is one of smoothness- think Alan Holdsworth & Tom Quayle- without sacrificing saturation & harmonics richness. All for less than $160- now isn't that a steal?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Farewell to the founder

I have a little transistor radio in my shower. The purpose of switching it on every morning is to check time; as each song lasts for 3-4min, it would be a gauge of how long I've spent time in there. If I hear too many songs in a single session, there is a high chance that I'm late. So on that fateful morning, 23rd March 2015, no songs were heard when I switched my humble little radio on. I asked the Mrs to check if Lee Kuan Yew had passed away & that was the case.

I'm not into politics but I did make a point to hear Mr. Lee speak because he is one of the most forceful person I've come across when it comes to verbal delivery. I've since stopped watching the National Day Rally on TV simply because Mr. Lee isn't the one talking any more. That's as much opinion I have on him when it comes to character. Yes, the country had benefited tremendously when he was in office as the PM. This is the very reason I can easily travel to the guitar stores today without much issues because the transportation system in its entirety does the citizens much good & commercial entities trust the authorities enough to set up their businesses here.

As we bid farewell to him today, pay tribute to his contributions. I know many people out there do not find his ideologies too agreeable, you can express your disagreements when he's around to defend himself. Doing so after his passing is cowardly. RIP.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Acoustic Saturday

It's an unplugged Saturday. I think I'm exhausted by the occurrences of the week thusfar, was in foul mood most of the time was feverish on some nights. I think the acoustic moments helped inject some balance.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gaining & boosting

I've been playing pedals lately. A pedal revival is not happening at my place because I own pedals all along, just that I don't feature them in my line up unless it's necessary. This here is a very affordable Artec boost pedal. If you are into clean boosting, most probably, this one isn't favourable. In addition to a mark up in volume, the pedal offers some servings of drive due to its high gain nature. The 2-band EQ you see there are unnecessary but they add some dimension to tone & I bought this pedal due to just that. In its entirety, the GB can offer the fusion-type player some of the smoothest drive (think Alan Holsdworth/ Tom Quayle) if s/he chooses to cascade a mild overdrive unit into it. Sweet.

The Artec Gainer Boost pedal is available at both SV Guitars & TYMC.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

LTD 40th Anniversary

The LTD 40th Anniversary models are in at Davis GMC, do check them out. The Eclipse you see here is visually stunning & the QC on show is befitting of a commemorative release. Those 57/66 EMG pickups are still my favourite. LTD EC-2015: SGD1,250 (list)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pro Loomis

You know Jeff Loomis, you know how much distortion/gain he has on board. That in mind, Mr. Loomis has recently teamed up with Protone for a signature drive pedal. I own a Protone drive pedal & must say it's one of the best in terms of saturation & harmonic trigger but it doesn't come cheap.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ibanez: Kaos bass

That's right, along with the Ibanez RGKP6, the SRKP4 is also available at Swee Lee for an identical price of $499.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Absent guidance

When I started out, fretboard markers were crucial. The fundamental dots were my numerical markings for notes. They were there for absolute references. Subsequently, they confused me as I own both 22-fret & 24-fret guitars. The 2-fret difference is a small issue to many other players but for someone who is musically illiterate & banking on visual references, those 2 digits were make or break for me on many instances. 

Then came a time when I told myself, surely, I could do without those markers because those blind players, they adapted from day one. If they could do it with a handicap, those without such an issue could surely adapt. That was when I bought this Yamaha RGX A2, it's my initial foray into marker-less territory but it was a breeze in terms of adaptability. I guess by then, my ears were guiding my playing more than my eyes. This was the reason why I could still play while watching TV & for the record, I could pretty much play if you blindfolded me. It's no longer about looking & knowing where to place one's fingers, it's about instantly recalling the placement of that 'sound' & being one with the instrument. These days, I prefer a blank fretboard; it's the freedom to travel without being reminded where you are.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Selling: EMG HZ

These are just 2 days old (at time of posting).

Selling them as a set.

Selling: EMG HZ (H4) passive pickups (neck/ bridge)
Included: Mounting screws.
Condition: 9/10
Confirmation/ queries: subversion.sg@gmail.com
Self-collect: CCK mrt stn
No reservations/ trades.
Price: $99 (final)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ibanez: RGKP6

Another newbie at Swee Lee- the Ibanez RGKP6. This isn't a high end model, it's one that fulfills the desires of the adventurous. I reserve comments till after trying which will be done today. If you are in the neighbourhood, do drop by the Bras Basah showroom at 2.00pm for some sharing.

List: SGD499
Online: USD399

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ibanez: JBM100

New at Swee Lee- the Ibanez JBM100. I respect Jake Bowen; he's one heck of a player but I'm not quite into his band. By the way, do you have $3K to spare for this? Hmm...

Abasi in SG

This is good news for many of us- 8-string commander, Tosin Abasi will be holding a clinic here in Singapore on 24th May 2015 (Sunday). Keep the date available for an up close guitar wizardry like no other. More details to come, watch this space :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Muztek: Custom Sound

I managed to grab this one as well on the final day of SV Guitars Marsiling operations. Muztek might be an unknown entity in the industry but they are utilizing 2 big names in cable technology: 1) Mogami 2) Switchcraft. Mogami is one of the leading players specializing in immaculate signal transfers from instrument to the amp. Switchcraft is a durability specialist, not too enticing in looks (in fact, it looks plain) but the performance is there. Update to come :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BC Rich: BCR3

This BC Rich BCR3 was previously mentioned here: CLICK It's now available at Davis GMC, listing for $250. I believe there are 2 more colours to check out- black/ red

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

At the hole

I was at City Music a few days ago, was checking if the new Martin Dreadnought Jr is in stock but it's a negative. Anyway, I saw this Korg Rimpitch & bought one. 

Last year, I had the idea of putting a tuner into the acoustic guitar's sound hole but was ridiculed by an online troll. Apparently, that someone thought it's totally wrong to attach one that hides inside the instrument's sound hole but it seems that the idea was already thought of by Korg. So there are now 2 choices for you acoustic wizards to have discrete placements of your tuners: 1) Head stock 2) Sound Hole.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Before SV Guitars at Marsiling closed its doors for good a week ago, I manged to grab these Dr. Duck strings. Are they any good? That's not important. I value the feel & lasting qualities so those are priority. They are far off from the slinky Ernie Balls but offer a parallel performance when one thinks of SITs & D'Addarios.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Glam slam

When I was younger, the bands I listened to featured some great guitar wizardry without trying too hard to be technically impressive. Yes, those players do possess some lethal fretwork but they weren't extensive, befitting the needs of the songs more so than individual attention. I made it a point today to listen to 3 bands that introduced me to some of the best melodies, solos & licks: 1) Cinderella 2) Firehouse 3) Warrant.

Cinderella's Tom Kiefer has a shrieky vocal range that conjured images of the male entity whose family jewels are being squeezed beyond oblivion. I thought that was bad but everybody forgives ACDC for featuring such a vocalist as well so I got used to it. That aside, Tom Kiefer & Jeff LaBar churned out some of the best guitar complements in this music genre. Hertbreak Station is still my favourite Cinderella release because the band displayed a level a maturity by incorporating slide guitars into the music. Those were not passing slide passages but they were necessary punctuations & were there in virtually all songs.

Firehouse on the other hand features a living, breathing banshee in the form of Carl Snare. This was enough to forgive the band for not having a twin guitar attack but Bill Leverty is someone not to be messed with. Together with Michael Firkins, they were the flag bearers of the (Yamaha) Pacifica goodness. I enjoyed the faster Firehouse songs as opposed to their ballads, which, in my opinion, are overplayed.

Ah, Warrant... I like all their songs. Jani Lane (RIP) was simply someone who could sing & he was the right guy for all Warrant songs- irreplaceable. Guitar-wise, Turner & Allen were very under-rated players & they were the early Ibanez-toting dweebs who sounded awesome through some angry Marshalls for this kind of music. Machine Gun is my go-to Warrant song.

So that was my Sunday in a nutshell; re-living guitar moments through songs. Songs I thought were ordinary back then but are actually awesome upon a re-listening today. I have always made it a point to re-discover songs which were from another era but still living in my head. Have a good week ahead, everyone.

Chicken Pickin' it

I've been Chicken Pick-ing for the last few days or so, giving this little ditty a run for its worth. The grip on offer is beyond good. In fact, anything inscribed on the surface on any pick serves to be a friction enhancer. Despite being touted as a 'shredder' model, that rounded tip there is a little hindrance to me (personal take). I'm going to just file it to give a more pointed protrusion for precision application. If you like yours slippery, enabling you to glide between notes with ease, do leave it as it is. Looks like my SGJ requires a re-string.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

M Tyler Guitars

Announcing the opening of M Tyler Guitars. Actually, the store was already opened three days ago but it's a soft opening, it'll be fully equipped in about a week's time.

It's an acoustic concept store showcasing local craftsmanship.

Full/ travel-sized acoustics are available. Selected models offer a plug-in feature as well, do check them out.

Ukuleles are also available. MTG is located at Peninsula Hotel, basement level. They are currently the neighbour of Swee Lee Music. Congrats on the opening & special thanks to Mike for the invitation to view & test the instruments out (I'll be back to try more stuff, definitely).

Friday, March 13, 2015

PRS: Vela

You might have read about it by now- the latest in PRS' S2 fold, the Vela. It's every bit awesome despite drawing dangerously close to mundane regurgitation in terms of outline. The HS pickup combo is also an interesting provision.

However, PRS is drawing flak for giving the Vela this bridge. It's fundamentally a 2-saddle, vintage tele-type affair which had gone a little too far. The immediate concern is of course intonation issues. If you think the 3-saddle Tele bridge is a beast to intonate, this one might drive you beyond lucid limits. In any case, the design is a fresh take & if you understand what the PRS name stands for, these guys won't dish out something devoid of merit, no matter how peculiar it is.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Aria strings

I'm not averse to trying lesser known brands. This here, is a pack of Aria coated acoustic strings that I'm trying. The gauge is a little light for an acoustic set but that's my preferred measurements as I do not wish to struggle with fretting. I'm already struggling with the handling of an acoustic so there shouldn't be any more hindrances during play.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Roving electric

Washburn has a range of travel acoustic & they are merely shaped as above; a simple instrument meant for mobility. Players are concerned that such a narrow & thin body wouldn't keep up with volume projection. This year, the Rover (as named by Washburn) received a plug-in treatment so the RO10E here has an amplification capability that might be useful for traveling performers. How about that?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chicken pickin'

This here is my current pick (forgive the pun); the Chicken Pick. This is known as The Shredder, a 3.5mm pick with an attitude for fast attacks, not to mention its ability to withstand all my bottom end grinding. The inscription on the pick acts as a grip enhancer. This particular model has a trimmed overall outline (there are other broader models to choose from), a beveled & pointed tip for focused picking. The material in use here is a thermo-plastic variant so it doesn't annoy you with all those clicking sounds like its harder counterparts.

My take- it's robust & would likely appeal to fast-picking players across music genres. The jazz chaps might like it as well because in clean mode, the pick helps manifest a very smooth tone. I hope the manufacturer considers other colours instead of just this off-white finish across the range (red, blue, green maybe). I almost lost it when it was placed on a white seat, had to tilt the entire seat over to let the pick drop to the floor before locating it. Grip-wise, it gets my thumbs up. Never an awkward moment in trying to make it stay put while in use & I am a very aggressive player, mind you. 

Chicken Picks are now available at Davis GMC.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Laney: IRT Pulse

This is the talk of the moment; Laney had shrunk their Ironheart technology to pedal size so you can incorporate it into your line up. Adding to that, its ability to be connected to your music software so the tone lives in your virtual world as well. If you are interested in one, do head down to Davis GMC & they are selling fast.

Laney: Ironheart Pulse
Availability: Davis GMC
Price: $245

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Stu's War(wick)

Four years after his pack with Washburn, Stu Hamm is now in the Warwick camp. This bass is a little special due to that behind-the-bridge depression. That acute break angle means the strings rest harder on the bridge saddles to facilitate Stu's playing style; he's a little hard on the strings especially when there's strumming involved. If you've seen him playing with Satriani/ Vai, you'd have seen that happen. The instrument's lower cutaway was pushed back a tad to the upper frets resulting in a more angular outline.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sale @ SV Guitars

Someone taking a selfie with my Pyramid strings...

Anyway, SV Guitars are clearing out (only at their Marsiling outlet), 20% off majority of the items (less strings & BK pickups) so it's a good time to shop & grab stuff. Sale ends on 8th March 2015 (Sunday) & that signals the closure of SV's Marsiling adventure. What were your fond memories of SV's Marsiling store?

For me, it's when I bumped into Paul Danial & we talked quite a bit about guitars & guitar playing in general. More importantly, I got to try his Fender Strat. :-)

Friday, March 6, 2015

SITting on good tones

So less than 10 days later, my Veelah To Go gets a fresh set of strings. If you've been playing long enough, the sound of wood seems to be more enchanting at night, especially so when you take your time & make every note counts. From time to time, I will revert to a set of SITs just to hear if I'm missing something. Chances are, I'd hear how good a no-frills set of strings are, this Phosphor Bronze is no exception.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ibanez: Open pore

The Ibanez RG350/370 are new in the Standard range. I'd say these guitars are rightfully there to perpetuate a no-frills, mid-price affair. New this year would be the finish. These models were given an 'open pore' treatment, meaning- a non-gloss overcoat with the stain sunken into the wood grain. Together with the binding treatment, it's a fair regurgitation to stir some interest among us who are in search of RGs in this price range.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Screaming mini

You can now stop trying to find the mini equivalent of the Tube Screamer because the Tube Screamer has gone mini. The manufacturer promises the same tone standards so there's nothing to lose except some weight from your pedal board. No battery support for this one, just keep that in mind.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Ibanez @ Swee Lee

List: SGD1,699

List: SGD2,499

The first batch of 2015 Ibanez guitars are in at Swee Lee. If you are looking forward to the Premium Steve Vai models depicted above, they are in stock.

Monday, March 2, 2015

ESP: Gus G

The latest addition to the ESP Gus G fold is this EC model you see here. It's a very regular looking affair, in fact, the most regular of them all.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Starting the month with some pedal-ing activities. Just testing out how my JDE Deuce Coupe would sound like in a cascade format. As a stand alone pedal, the DC sounds polite in Drive mode. It emanates a rather prickly tone even when the Tone knob is inclined towards the bass side. In Ultra mode, in addition to more intensity (but nothing in distortion territory), there's  more bass to be heard as well. The 805's job is to saturate the signals in terms of drive without adding to too much hissing. I managed to fatten things up much more with the Treble knob knocked off way back to almost zero. Just love the saturation from this lineup. Didn't hear much noise coming from these 2 in simultaneous use. Maybe the batteries helped.