Thursday, December 31, 2015

Single cutting the NYE

It's the final day of 2015. Many of us are heading home after a half day at work, some of us aren't even at work. Hopefully all of us are in the mood to celebrate. I'm spending time with 2 singlecut guitars, the first of which is the above Gibson Les Paul BFG. I didn't immediately buy the BFG when it debuted in 2007. The first batch of them were all snapped up at Swee Lee & I didn't even bat an eyelid for a simple reason- I'm not a Les Paul fan. However, a year or so later, the guitar was listing for a promotional price, rightfully so because almost everyone who bought the guitar deemed it a let down of sorts due to severe corner cutting, the finish in particular. There was a chunk of top wood missing at the treble side just above the neck pickup. Many traditionalists find the finish appalling as they were used to the finished feel of the other models.

I bought it for its finish; I'm more at home with a lacquerless feel & the lighter weight means the instrument would give a little bit more manifestation in the upper frequencies. I'm not looking for a bottom end boom with this guitar, definitely not. As I wasn't a fan of Gibson pickups in general (still not), the bridge position now features a Seymour Duncan C5.

The other singlecut on my play list today is this PRS SE 245. It's the opposite of what the BFG offers; a rather heavy guitar which was finished from one end to the other. It's also the first generation of SEs to be manufactured in Indonesia. I thought since it was an SE version, it should be in the same league as the Squiers & Epiphones out there but I had a hard time treating it as a lesser brand name because it was above expectations in many aspects; playability, tone & QC in particular. The manufacturer had made it a point to differentiate the SEs from its American siblings so I'm here to tell you that it's never in the shadows of the upper tier counterparts. Awesome value for money!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


This might be good news to you, please note :-)


This is how I prevent myself from grabbing the wrong knob at the wrong time. Sometimes we need such minor help to make our guitar playing time more meaningful but the thing that prevents us from doing so is the concern that we might be desecrating the authenticity of our instruments. I'd rather live with my preferred features in my instruments than become a bumbling fool when it matters most.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Custom voicing

I'm currently not a fan of whatever PRS puts into the S2 range; majority of the pickups are not drive friendly for intensive music. You can pull off an ACDC number fine, anything more intense, you'd wonder what's missing. I have a Seymour Duncan Custom in my Vela as seen above. The Vela has a rather bright resonance pronounced by the brass saddles so bass note chugging sound unconvincing. The Custom is a high output pickup with a rather traditional voicing but a slightly more pronounced low frequency & this did wonders for the instrument. That Type-D single coil is for keeps in the mean time as it sounds great clean.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Selling: MXR EVH 5150 overdrive

It might be an awesome pedal for many but to me, it's missing the point. Letting go (box included).

  • MXR: EVH 5150 overdrive
  • 9/10 condition
  • No reservations, no trades
  • Queries/ confirmation:
  • Price: $220 (final)

Acoustic pre-amp

A new one by Ibanez- AGP-10 acoustic pre-amp. I'm unaware of Ibanez's plans to branch out their electronics in this direction but it's a good sign.

Poll: Tuner types

Thank you everyone, for participating in the above poll.

Many of us own a clip-on tuner for a simple reason- convenience. This plus the user-friendly nature of such a device, make it a pleasant tinkering experience. Many clip-on tuners are also complementary upon an instrument's purchase & this makes it a common tuner-type owned by many of us. 

We note the pedal-type tuner coming in close in terms of ownership. The pedal board toting players among us own this tuner because it makes more sense having one as a board constituent rather than having a separate clip-on unit. Many of us rely on this tuner type for tuning accuracy as well. Keep  in mind that vibration detection-based tuner types do not manifest accurate read out at times, especially those budget models. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The case in question (Gibson 2016)

Well, well, well... if you choose to purchase any Gibson 2016 HP model, this is the hard case offered WEF 2016. I truly prefer a rectangular case for a more 'stackable' experience. It also looks like the lack of leather would prevent a moldy case (no pun intended). 😄

Saturday, December 26, 2015

EOY play list

It had been a hectic week despite the X-mas break. Had been listening to the radio on the way home for the festive tunes. The above albums are on my playlist on days when I choose to ditch the festive mood & revert to my kind of music instead:

  1. Firespawn: Shadow Realms. My latest acquisition, an intense side project by members of Entombed A.D., Necrophobic & Skineater. There were no obligations to bring their respective band elements into the mix & this is one heck of a release. Great solos by Fredrik Folkare as well. I still believe that intense music does not need to shed the technicalities & this is how it's done.
  2. Black Sabbath: Cross Purposes. This is my kind of Black Sabbath, not the 70s, hippy-laced version, not the current Bill Ward devoid line up as well. This is Tony Martin at his vocal best & Bobby Rondinelli keeping it as Sabbath as it should be. Used to own this in cassette tape version- $7.50 of my weekly school allowance.
  3. Carach Angren: This is no Fairytale. The band's best produced album, my most respectable trio churning out awesome black metal without a working bassist. Awesome drummer as well.
  4. John Scofield: Past Present. Got to give it to Sco for keeping jazz relevant in this day & age.
  5. Hate Eternal: Infernus. Attack brand death metal, relentless & focused.
  6. Rick Astley: Ultimate Collection. Grateful to be able to re-connect to my childhood music, Rick Astley's dance-able tunes are some of them.

In Cygnus & in health

This is Jeff Loomis' latest signature model- a Schecter Cygnus (to be released in 2016). It's acquired taste for many of us in terms of the body outline but that reverse headstock there is cool. These aside, Mr. Loomis has Seymour Duncans in there :-)

PIC: Schecter GR

Friday, December 25, 2015

Green holiday

It's actually an excuse to break the Gibson monotony- spent the holiday morning with my Jackson Green Meanie made meaner by Seymour Duncan's Nazgul humbucker in the bridge. Despite being set up to manifest some metal mayhem, this guitar was only fed overdrive. Yes, the mild kind peppered with some post-drive boost & it just sang as well. Sometimes the tools that were meant to convey a primary objective could spring some surprises given a chance. 

Season's greetings 2015

Christmas is here again.

It's not been a wonderful year for me, wishing the year could end faster but as it is- it's not happening.

Nevertheless, I always enjoy Christmas as a holiday & the days leading up to it. I see people preparing for the occasion & that means there is more to life than pleasing your bosses. Ha! People are also buying presents- they are into the spirit of giving but there is an increasing apprehension pertaining to the commercial overtones of the season as opposed to the spiritual side of things.

Christmas is on a Friday this time round so it means a long weekend for many of us. So here's wishing all friends, acquaintances & blog readers a restful 3 days or so. Spend time with your family, yes?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Santa was here

No he wasn't. Unless the postman's name was Ahmad Santa Bin Ali Clause. But he delivered this box of happiness to me- my Oddfellow The Bishop overdrive. It's actually a Klon-esque unit.

Also in the mail box (managed to check before reaching home)- my V-picks. Selected models were on sale so why not. Festive mood, definitely :-)

The Studio

It's been Gibson for the last few days or so. When I bought this LP Studio about 5 years ago, everyone in the store was talking about its looks. Granted it sports one of the more captivating flame top in its range, but I bought it for its weight.

That's right, the weight of this guitar is in the hefty range so it's gonna take a toll on your back if it's played strapped on. The thing about heavy LPs is that it brings out the strength of what this guitar was supposed to excel in traditionally- tone. The lighter & chambered LPs of today (regardless of the model) has something missing in this department & we can attribute that to more air in the body as opposed to more wood. However, the Gibson chaps did manage to strike a balance between structural considerations & ear candy somewhat because the LPs of today don't muck up at higher volume/ gain settings. As much as it is about the pickups manifesting clarity, it's also about the right mass manifesting the desired resonance for some magic to happen. 

I re-strung this guitar & gave it a good wipe down. The rosewood fretboard benefitted from some light re-conditioning. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bona Byrd

If you think this is em... ugly, then you are not alone. It's a noble idea combining a Les Paul with a Firebird but it's downright quirky. Anyway, it's a limited release by Gibson's custom shop for Joe Bonamassa (hence the name). The first of such an alien fusion? Lest we forget, Zakk Wylde's SG/V monstrosity.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dead case

The hard case you see here belonged to my Gibson SG Standard. As you can see, the plush lining came apart.

A closer look at what I was referring to- the brown stains you see in the first picture were glue stains or whatever adhesive the manufacturer used to assemble this case.

When I thought the perimeter of the case was the only affected areas, a look into the accessories compartment revealed otherwise.

Even the base areas were not spared.

Gibson wasn't responsible for this because its instrument cases were OEMed by other manufacturers. In this case, it's the Canadian manufacturer, TKL, a rather renowned name in this industry. Whatever the situation had come to, I acknowledge the fact that deterioration happens over time, regardless of whatever brand name goodwill you uphold. The loser here is the buyer who wasn't pre-empted of this adversity. However, let's not rule out the fact that some adversities are unique cases & should not reduce the standing of the manufacturer in view of the proportionately larger success stories compared to the disastrous records. But a quick reminder to the manufacturers out there; do not deny the fact that shit happens every now & then.

As for the dead case here, it was thrown away immediately, no sentimentalities on my part. It might look salvageable in pictures but it's a terrible decay if you were dealing with it in person. The whole plush lining was sticky, it's like some clumsy bear spilled honey there.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Delay-ducation (2)

Analog delay 
There is a superficial understanding of the delay effect if we merely deem it as a programmed repeater. That's right, ladies & gentlemen, the delay effect today does something more than just repeat your input. The analog delay in this discussion for instance, has a deteriorating decay. This means, the repeated passages mutate perpetually & losing original details in the processtill they disappear into the background.
Analog delay has the best warmth ever. Yeah! 
You'll hear your friends who swear by the analog delay saying it has immaculate warmth. This is true for this delay type. As the passages get repeated, you will hear the top end being ironed out (the most obvious mutation, among others)- this is the reason. In fact, the treble bit gets progressively truncated as the signal repeats itself, it eventually ended up being a rather ill-defined sound but by then, it's already inaudible & had disappeared nicely. Awesome.
Analog is the best, yes? 
There is no best here. It's a matter of liking what you hear. Some of us want signal integrity throughout the repetition which the analog delay does not offer. Also, analog delay has the most limited delay interval compared to its other siblings simply because it's staying true to its roots- it's a direct outcome of the echo. The analog delay simply transistorized the tape echo unit, making it more palatable in terms of size mobility. 

Some recommendations, please. 
As seen in the previous entry, BOSS' DM-2 is the industry's standard. It's still around today & you'd do well to check out its latest manifestation, the WAZA version. Ibanez took this idea & did an AD9 (note the similar hue) which holds its own wonderful performance. Boutique references aside, do check out Seymour Duncan's Vapour Trail & MXR's Carbon Copy for some analog goodness without having to spend too much (but as it is, delay effects cost more than any other effects type out there).  

Previous link: CLICK
Delay-ducation (3): CLICK

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Floyd Rose- unlocked

The irony of it all- a non-locking Floyd Rose unit. The Rail Tail model by the manufacturer is based on the idea of the bridge chassis sitting on top of a rail unit that is fixed directly onto the body. This way, you get the smooth rocking movement of a pivot-type mechanism. The catch here is that the RT is a dive-only unit unlike the dual action freedom of its locking siblings.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Knowing who you are (& what you play)

“Because sometimes it’s a little bit sad to see people who are good players, but haven’t actually gone beyond the thing of imitating. At some point you figure out what is you, and it’s not just about what you do but what you don’t do; the things you avoid.”- Bill Steer, Carcass. (MR, 2015)
There's nothing wrong with imitation. That's how many of us started learning. Through familiar tunes, we tend to gravitate towards our identity as time goes on. Perfectly fine. 
It becomes a cause for concern when all you do is imitation. I know people who can play Iron Maiden & Metallica songs like the back of their hands. Put them in a free jam situation & they'll disappear into oblivion. Dear friends, this shouldn't be the case but if your ultimate goal in life is to play cover songs & nothing else, I'll humour your indulgence. On a personal note, I've been into arguments with such individuals. We agreed to play but they insisted on doing covers exclusively. I'm not about doing covers exclusively or otherwise. I'm just more me playing my ideas. Yes, sometimes I do cover tunes to explore ideas- Sesame Street, James Bond, Mission Impossible theme song, X-men animated theme song, etc. but these get mutated into my own manifestations. Others aren't comfortable doing covers as such. They have a purist perspective when it comes to this. This is the reason I don't play much with them.
If you are a music proponent, you'd make it a point to manifest your ideas. Chances are, these transcend beyond your comfort zone & across genres. When you struggle to figure things out, that's the true meaning of education, the true meaning of music rigour. If you are content playing hit tunes, songs of the moment, landmark anthems- you're hype & most probably will be exposed of much inadequacies. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

EHX: 720 looper

Got to give it to the chaps at EHX for giving us simple looping implements despite having something else more elaborate in their catalog. The 720 you see here is a looping unit with 720min of recording capacity. It's also rather easy to use with its minimalist approach. Also, it's packed with some mindful effects like a reverse function to make things more adventurous for us. Watch:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Delay-ducation (1)

Good morning everyone. This is the introduction to a series of delay discussions. I'm not a fan of the delay effect but I'm not gonna put this topic away for personal reasons; it's more of a self-educating process for me. Hopefully the matters brought up are of use to you as well. So here goes...

What is a delay?
The delay effect is one that replicates exactly the input it receives & churns it out thereafter based on a time setting. The most fundamental understanding of delay here would be an echo, this is something that we all could relate to, yes?

What are the delay types available?
For the purpose of this discussion, we will look at the 3 delay types available in the market  (everything else is a variation): 1) Analog delay 2) Digital delay 3) Tape echo

Are echo & reverb included?
Yes, these are technically delay types as well. Both echo & reverb conform to the definition of replication & time-based release. Echo is indeed the mother of delay. Technical tinkering of the echo effect gave birth to other delay types. Reverb is essentially an echo which is venue specific. These days, the digital front offers plate-type reverb which are audio voicings & spring reverbs are included in amplifiers to emulate a venue voicing. 

To be continued... :-)

Yamaha: Revstar

Something new from Yamaha, the Revstar series. That body outline suggests an offset SG design but the instrument boasts hand-wound pickups & a full solid make. It should sound decent once we get to hear them in action in the stores here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gibson: HP vs T

In case you missed it, the Gibson 2016 range offers the player a choice between version T (traditional)...

... or version HP (high performance).

The Traditional range kept the, well, traditional features in tact (less the fact that 'chambered' Les Pauls will never be deemed as such). The HP version retained whatever we disliked that were manifested in 2015 (that metal nut & robot tuners among others) plus that excessive price tag (more on this later). Do note the HP pickguard is now the screwless model (ta da!). The implication here is rather obvious; somebody in Gibson still believes the fact that the 2015 changes remain marketable or desirable for that matter. Well, tell that to the stores out there who couldn't clear the 2015 'darlings' & getting the fluff from buyers who thumbed them down for the faulty robot tuners (it's clearly the manufacturer's undoing, nothing to do with the distributers).

Right, let's look at the price difference for the LP Standard featured here:
  • Version T: USD2,799
  • Version HP: USD3,149
A USD350 difference between these guitars which could easily get you a decent amplifier or some effects unit for supplementary needs. Something to think about, yes?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dark & light

Gibson has just released a limited edition 7-string SG in black...

... & white. I'm interested because they feature a pair of Seymour Duncan pickups by default. The only disagreeable thing here is its limited run of 300 worldwide. Darn.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gibson: Alex Lifeson doubleneck

Based largely on a '70s model owned by Alex Lifeson himself, the Gibson EDS-1275 is a relic-esque model to come under the guitarist's name. I've tried handling an Epiphone double neck not too long ago at Swee Lee, then a BC Rich version at Davis. These instruments are overwhelming & will not likely to feature in all your songs so a little bit of thinking before you part with cash, yes?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Single Sunday

Was over at Beez's yesterday to have a new humbucker installed in my Gibson LP CM T- a Bare Knuckle Black Hawk. It was an unlikely candidate but it was necessary to prevent myself from buying something else that I didn't quite fancy. Back to some focus playing today- all high gain madness in Eb tuning. I just love single pickup guitars. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

PRS SE Angelus- 2 more acoustic goodness

The PRS SE Angelus camp sees the addition of 2 more new models as cited above. I believe too many of us are distracted by the PRS SE solid body range. The Angelus offerings are as intriguing & afforable but at this price range, many of us are looking at Takamine & Martin's X-series. Well, if you are moving away from the conventional crowd, these should be on your 'to-check' list.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gibson LP Std: Price differences

As mentioned, the Gibson price differences to note. I'm not doing anyone a favour here but empowering you with some comparative background so that you can make your decisions accordingly. Many of us would leave Gibson purchases to the year end all because we'd be receiving some bonus & the fact that these instruments aren't that affordable :-) Also, do note that some 2016 models do not come with a hard case, please check before you think someone duped you. Happy shopping.

PS: 2016 models are available now. Do act quickly as some models come in limited quantity (like ONE only).

Gibson LP CM T: First impressions

This was gonna come next year but since it's here in the stores already: Gibson Les Paul CM T (2016) :-)

LP purists will hate this for its thin body (it's as thin as an SG) & that single pickup. The neck profile is also a little different; feels flat at some places & I prefer this to a rounded profile. No bottom end boom so it's definitely gonna put the LP camp off. Absolutely gloss free- yeah!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wah... so small

Smaller wah, that's right. The one you see here is Mooer's Wahter.

That's how big/ small it is in context.

Actually, folks, those flaps there are foldable so the real Wahter size is really small, it'll sit comfortably on your palm without issues. This is a practical consideration should you need a utility level wah for inclusion's sake. It's optic based so purists out there will tell you it's not gonna be as warm-sounding as a pot-based version.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pricing used instruments

I've been to buy/ sell ad spaces online recently. It's none of my business how much people are valuing their  instruments but some of the prices are downright disagreeable to say the least. I'm not contesting extravagant tags per se but prices in light of the circumstances, the least being demand-supply considerations, is rather unbecoming. Let me share some situations with you so that you might re-think your urge to buy something online which you might think a bargain otherwise.

1. Used instruments in general
Here's a rule of thumb adopted by many price guide literature pertaining to used instruments; 70% of the paid-for price. This is a workable figure to begin with, the instrument would then be further appreciated by some special features or unique circumstances (limited finish release, anniversary pickups, etc.) or depreciated by condition. This is especially true for instruments equipped with irreplaceable parts or spares which are not easily obtainable at the stores. 

70% here is no issue for brands with very strong goodwill, Gibson & Fender are the top two references. Over time, these instruments would further appreciate in value due to a strong demand for discontinued models. However, these remain to be a case-by-case affair. The 60th Anniversary American Fenders did not experience a surge in re-sell prices, ditto the PRS's CE (bolt-on) models. The 2015 range of Gibson guitars feature all the undesirable attributes associated with the brand name- imagine buying one now, how much re-sell value does it have in time to come?

2. Condition
It is often the case that the instrument in question is further considered in light of its condition. A 5-year old instrument would command a reasonable asking price if it's in a very playable, presentable condition. Most of the time, it has everything to do with wear & tear. Imagine buying one with a further refurbishing cost factored in; it's just not worth it especially if it's still in production & the off-the-shelf tag is lower than all this trouble. 

There's this dude selling his 'original' Ibanez RG550 (whatever that means) in the $1K range but the instrument has a buckle rash which he deems 'normal'. You mean it's so normal, they have it right at the start in the factory? Also, please do not re-assure buyers the fact that your instrument used to sport a broken neck/ headstock/ whatever which had been repaired & restored to a stronger-than-original status. Can you really prove this? I'd rather you don't quote a re-sell price for such instruments, advise the buyer its original price & invite him to value it accordingly. I personally feel this is a more honest & forthcoming way to deal with the situation.

3. Rare
This is perhaps the most misunderstood term used to put a pre-loved instrument in a likable stead. What is 'rare' to you? Whatever it is, your 'rare' may not be my 'rare'. This is indeed the fundamental breakdown of this understanding. The local instrument ads here see many sellers labeling their instruments as 'rare' simply because it's discontinued. 

A discontinued instrument does not necessarily mean it's totally unavailable at the stores so this affects the supply consideration at the very least. Someone else out there might still have it for all you know & that affects your instrument's rarity, yes? The remedy here (personal take) is to highlight the limited status of your instruments; highlight to the buyer a little history & this doesn't hurt. If the buyer is someone guitar-inclined or understands your good intentions in telling him/ her it's not just buying another guitar out there, most likely, it would lead to a win-win situation.

4. Re-issue
Oh, damn. This is another one that sickens me. No apologies for letting you know that it's mostly Fender related. Do not be quick to agree that someone out there is selling you a re-issued '54 Fender Strat, especially if it's made in Japan. I have no issues with Japanese Fenders, they are top notch in many ways than just tone (I own a few Japanese Fenders myself). 

The confusion here is that the Japanese range of Fender instruments used a set of alpha-numeric references for their models that would suggest a faithful re-production to the unwary. Take the ST62 for instance- is this really a re-issued '60s Strat- you mean back in the 60's, Fender used a basswood body? Duh! Let's not get any further. The Japanese Fenders were manufactured with good intentions, they are by no means re-issues because re-issues here come with the understanding of the need to be accurate. Otherwise, why call it a re-issue? They are re-interpreting the spirit of those Fenders at that era, absolutely no contest about this but re-issues they are not. To date, the Americans have taken over the Japanese production & they are pretty clear of what they are offering.

5. Upgrades
You have an Ibanez RG which you bought for say $700 but you did a mojor face-lift to it; new hardware, 'superior' bridge, DiMarzio pickups, pro set up- the works. You have barely owned it for half a year & you wish to sell it for a good price of $1,000. Good luck to you.

We often assume buyers are agreeable with the so called upgrades to our instruments but the reality here is the contrary. Buyers appreciate instruments in their original status. If they wish to soup up their instruments, they would wanna do it at their own accord subsequently. It's not really practical to revert your modified instruments to its original features, it can be costly. The deal here is for you to highlight these upgrades & explain the hike in price. Offer the buyer the original parts as goodwill, no compulsions, of course. Negotiate accordingly. I come across such circumstances too often; sellers did 'upgrades' to their instruments & tagged a fixed price thereafter.

Alrighty! I'm not saying all this to reduce anyone out there to stupidity. It's not mediation either. I'm just helping buyers & sellers come to a workable agreement. More often than not, sellers tend to think too highly of their products. Buyers, on the other hand, failed to understand if the instruments they are dealing with should be valued as much. 

Have a great midweek, everyone :-)

Blue black at home

Got mine. Wireless transmission madness happening soon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A little different

I've been trying this last weekend- picked a guitar, did a re-string with a slightly thicker gauge (.010s in this case- yucks!) & tuned down (a half step). A sheer case of boredom? Not really. I'm assigning some guitars to fulfill specific intentions. In this case, this Gibson SGJ here will be permanently sporting a set of .010s & detuned. On days when I wish to get ideas across effectively, I ended up choosing the preferred instrument for the job instead of focusing on the manifestations of those ideas. That's not a smart outcome considering I have some tools at my disposal.

My fingers (& my mind for that matter) are averse to .010s- the tension is just 'wrong' for me in standard tuning. I make mistakes, I get frustrated, I stop playing. So this was an attempt to adapt to some discomfort & I must say it worked. So I have successfully pinpointed the cause of the 'problem'; I react specifically to string tension as opposed to the string gauge per se. Done.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Gibson 2016: On your marks, get set...

In a few days time, we can get ourselves a Gibson guitar from the 2016 range- look out for them @ Swee Lee. Why is this a big deal? We have already known the, em... to put it nicely, confusion that proved to be the 2015 selections & the manufacturer is returning to a sensible (to say the least) platform in 2016. Am I stopping anyone from buying the 2015 range? I have no intentions to do so. If those are your preferred version, by all means, go ahead. It's your hard earned money any way. For the rest of us who understand the implications of forking out our year end bonuses for those instruments, we are disciplined enough to exercise restraint for a few more days, yes? :-)

Chapman ML-3 Modern: Duncanized

My Chapman ML-3 Modern; one heavy guitar. It weighs 4.2kg- what an unchambered Gibson Les Paul would be; not a friendly guitar when it comes to playing standing up. The default pickups were alright but they don't give me what I want to hear from this beast- more clarity.

So in went a pair of Seymour Duncan SH-6 set which is my go-to reference when it comes to distortion. They don't really pump up the bottom end but there's more of that presence with these pickups. I definitely like how the neck humbucker handles single notes under high gain settings.

Ibanez Talman

The year is approaching its end soon. My hopes of seeing these appear in the stores here are fading. The Talman range isn't something new by Ibanez. They were out there years ago but were discontinued due to their very nature; Strat & Tele copies not quite preserving their true intent. However, Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) did play them, so did Noodles (The Offsprings) & that's how his signature models came to be.

Seen above: TM330M (3 single coils), TM302 (2 single coils, fixed bridge).

Hmm... 2015 might be the year I didn't fork out money for an Ibanez.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

MXR: EVH 5150 OD

Good Sunday morning, everyone. December is a busy month for many of us. For the gear hunters & tone chasers everywhere, we are in a better financial standing to consider a pedal (or two... three even) for whatever the occasion may be. Dunlop's MXR division has the new 5150 OD out not too long ago & it's finally in the shops here for our consideration. This should keep up busy, yes?

Build/ Features
The fact that you are representing someone's guitar tones in a pedal format is a little dangerous. That's because the pedal itself proves to be a fraction of the tone equation, the guitar & amp are other crucial elements in this understanding. The 5150 here is an interpretation of Van Halen's 5150 tone & we take this to mean his overdrive voicings from his amp. We do note the fact that Van Halen uses tube amps with a unique set of circuitry not reproduced by this pedal, hence the 'interpretation' understanding. On this note (no pun intended) the features on board are measured understandings of what this tone manifestation should consist of- an intense overdrive section with a boost capacity for some OTT responses as well as a 3-band EQ portion for adequate frequency sculpturing. The noise gate feature is the manufacturer's hint of what you should be supplemented with in view of the level of gain on tap (more on this later). 

As with other MXR products, the 5150 is as sturdy as it should be & it isn't heavy should you be wanting this in your pedal board line-up. The pedal's flip side (seen above) revealed a no-frills battery compartment cover but you need a little bit of fingernail play here to get it open. Also, the pedal features allen-type access instead of the conventional slit/ cross top feature. All in all, the pedal was well cut & assembled at the factory, nothing dodgy to report here. Oh, those knob slit indicators- they glow in the dark.

If you choose to invest in this pedal (which could easily get you a starter guitar), it means you have a tone priority. The 5150 emulates Van Halen's current amp tones (lest you forget why it's labelled 5150), notably his Peavy/ EVH package. If you wish for his Marshall brown sound drive, it's not represented in this one. Engaging the pedal itself, you get a saturated amount of crunch bordering on the extreme. Putting that boost feature to use gets you some insane drive responses which could rival a heavy metal-type intensity. This brings the noise gate feature into play; the extra background hissing (further amplified by whatever gain-laden pedals you have in your set up) means you are better off with this application turned on (if you are using single coil pickups, it becomes mandatory). I personally feel it's a very useful consideration in this package & it's a quality noise gate implement, mind you, not a get-by standard. 

Let me fill you in with the rather repulsive element included in this pedal- that excessive amount of treble. From the get go, you'd be taken aback by how much top end excess this pedal offers, even when you trim the amount down to zero- that's right, it's really excessive. You might say it's an oversight on MXR to be having this on board but the reality is, Van Halen has this much working top end in his amp so hearing that in this pedal simply means the manufacturer factored this peculiarity into it. The thing with any 5150 amp is,  once the treble amount is checked, lower setting would simply turn the drive voicing into a smooth, polished tone we all love to hear but that does not happen with this pedal. So this, my friends, is a make-or-break consideration for you because you will be forking out a good amount of money for some Van Halen love which might not appease you personally. 

How can you accurately replicate a tube laden voicing into a transistorized representation for the masses? You can't. The 5150 pedal is a very good reproduction of what we expect to hear from a Van Halen type amp response but it's missing some elements only players who had come across the 5150 amplifier would understand. If you worship this pedal in isolation, it probably means you are agreeable with what the manufacturer offers, not because you are blown away by how accurate the representation is. Treble issue aside, the MXR EVH 5150 overdrive offers a different overdrive experience & would easily appeal to those of us who are after an intense drive response, not the polite type typified by almost all overdrive pedals out there that make it a point not to cross into distortion territory in this aspect.

Rating: 80%

MXR: EVH 5150 overdrive
Availability: Swee Lee/ Davis GMC
Price: Please call for quotes

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Friday night Hutchings

That's right, folks, Alex Hutchings was here last night conducting a BOSS clinic at Swee Lee's Bt Timah showroom. I've talked to countless players throughout the years & they swear by their BOSS pedals but the enthusiasm wasn't manifested last night as there were less than 30 attendees listening to some captivating guitar works from Mr. Hutchings himself.

This isn't Mr. Hutching's debut clinic in this country, some of you might recall he was here a few years ago (Here: CLICK) with his other Waghorn guitar. I was expecting an 8-string but let's be objective- it's a purposeful event & some tools are more apt for the cause than others.

Some of us keep our effects line-up simple, others depend on a gamut of pedals to deliver some order (hey, some of us are preforming pros & we live by this). The former camp will find this clinic unimpressive because Alex Hutchings had a rather excessive display of effects at his behest. At the end of it all, it's about showcasing the effects & not much of anything else, save for the educational aspects of guitar playing from time to time. What you would've heard last night was a very processed guitar output which you need to embrace in order for some appreciation to happen. I'm from the former camp, I live by an angry amp & not much else but keeping an open mind means acknowledging Alex Hutching's tone was some of the best I've heard in a live context. All those processing led to an increase in pick sensitivity & that's something I could relate to. Also, there wasn't much extraneous noise to be heard & it was a lesson in noise management for those of us keen in this manifestation of tone.

What I like about product clinics is the very fact that it's educational while being entertaining. Alex Hutchings took time to explain why he used some of the pedals seen above & it could be summed up to being objective. There was very little discussion about drive/distortion & he kept it simple with a distortion & drive each. The rest of the implements there were time-based & modulation units & that brought us to another aspect of guitar playing that isn't addressed much- nuance. Delays & reverb type processes served to add depth to our tone & this is important in a performing & recording context. The other pedals that were of service were volume, expression & wah units. Also making an impact here was a switching unit which allowed Mr. Hutchings to re-order his line-up without re-arranging his pedals physically.

The second half of the clinic saw the synth aspects of guitar playing being put into context. This was the reason why the SY-300 & GT-100 made their appearances there. This focus wasn't the bulk of the clinic time but it should open up some perspectives for those of us interested in music as opposed to being guitar-inclined exclusively. All in all, it was a thoroughly informative engagement, thank you Swee Lee & BOSS for a great Friday night.