Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year Eve

Good Sunday morning, guitar-verse! It's the holiday eve but the weather turned rather early in the morning. After an emphatic clap of thunder in the wee hours of the morning, I couldn't sleep.

Spent time with this Gibson & let me share some stuff: 1) This is the first guitar I ever bought online. I am totally against buying instruments I cannot handle in person before trying but I decided to jump into unknown territory. If I received a lemon, it'd be a very costly affair but I could say I tried & it turned out foul. One of the reasons I was enticed to buy this piece of very not-my-type instrument was because of a very deep price slash; it's a mere USD300+ but the shipping cost really killed it. Fortunately, it was shared between myself & a friend (who managed to secure his first ever lefty Gibson SG at a bargain price, of course) so the rot was kept in check. Why is it not my type?
  • it's a Les Paul
  • it has limited upper access
  • no belly cut, no elbow slope
  • Gibson pickups are not my thing
  • that's not a rosewood fretboard in there (it's my first encounter with baked maple)

2) It's my only Gibson with DiMarzios. Not everybody's discourse, I know. Between the default Gibson humbuckers & DiMarzio, I'd rather settle with the latter. Don't get me wrong, I do not harbour discontent with all things DiMarzio but, save for some models, they don't give me what I want to hear. Both DiMarzios you see here were purchased from the annual Swee Lee sale which is now defunct. They were no more than SGD80 each after the price cuts. Bridge: Tone Zone, Neck: Humbucker from Hell. I had my beef with the Tone Zone because it sounded rather bad in my Ibanez RG but that was history. I gave it a chance here & it fared better, not that it really appealed to me but after dialing in gobs of distortion, it's a pretty decent pickup for what it's for.

Was this a totally deadened affair with nothing to like? Not at all. Firstly, the slim taper neck profile was a joy to play. This is the other shred neck for me, this side of an Ibanez RG Super Wizard profile. It's not even trying to rival an Ibanez, just another manifestation that clicked (with my playing). Secondly, the Tone Zone turned out more appealing than expected for distortion applications & I don't see it departing any time soon. The main take away with this Gibson is that, we should not totally dismiss something that's not tailored for our inclinations. It's an opportunity to adapt, that's how I see it. I have a limited liking for Les Pauls but that does not mean I won't play them at all.

PS: The guitar you see in this entry is a Gibson Les Paul Special, humbucker edition. It was purchased online from Musiciansfriend. Waiting for people to ask me, "Hey, I thought they don't ship stuff to SG?"

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Go with your needs

Suppose you own an awesome amp, something that gives you what you want to hear, do you still need pedal reinforcements?

I believe Marshall's JVM gives me what I want to hear even its mini-me version here. It doesn't need a BOSS DS-1 to please me. However, I still hook it up for two main reasons:
  1. A different type of drive. That's right, the JVM on its own versus a JVM plus the DS-1 are two different voicings. I tend to tame the gain down on the JVM with the DS-1 in use. If the gain over at the amp is maxed out, the DS-1 presence wouldn't be heard. I just amplifies the background hissing more than anything else. I need a marked contribution from the DS-1 but it shouldn't overpower the amp. It's quite a balancing act depending on the guitars used. Most of the time it's also because I have different pickups in various guitars so there's no fixed setting that will adapt to the different guitars, it's the joy of tweaking (both amp & pedal) & discovering the sweet spot.
  2. Increased sensitivity. That's right, I discovered that a cascading drive set up (doesn't matter if it's an amp-pedal or a pedal-pedal combo) gives off extra picking sensitivity. Simple reason- we are dealing with two sources of gain. It's definitely different from cranking the gain up on the amp only; that's only a single gain source. The set back is that increased background hissing.
So go with your needs. If you need to hear your favourite amp being kicked by a mild distortion unit so that you can become what you are (& not under-perform)- do it. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Still Gio-ing

Every now & then, I would make it a point to play this Ibanez Gio. It's one of those inexpensive revelations I did not regret getting. It is every bit an RG as a standard model but not as costly, not as flashy as well. The single pickup offering would have relegated this model to a novelty appeal, compounded by that skeleton fingers inlay. Despite my intention of making this a carefree reference in terms of handling, I had made it a point to give it a mindful handling instead, after that awesome copper re-finish. I've never mistreated any of my instruments & I guess I could't bring myself to do it on this one despite it being a bargain acquisition.

One of the highlights of this guitar is a Seymour Duncan Custom Custom hiding under that black cover. It's shrouded for a simple reason- it's white. That was my valiant $2 effort in making it look flushed with the rest of the instrument's black hardware & I must say I did well 😁

When playing this guitars, only two things matter: 1) Tone 2) Playability. Having a single pickup means it's a make or break moment during play. Since it's a Seymour Duncan in there, a brand name well within my inclination, it's always a make moment. Break moments happened when I employed the 'wrong' pedals or amp to supplement what the pickup has to offer. An inviting playability for such an instrument is critical, in my opinion, because it helps overcome the psychology of playing something very low in the manufacturer's pecking order. If my music sucks along the way, I know it has to be me because my priority criteria in this case, are well in place. 

It's the final weekend of the year, hope everyone's in an upswing to welcome in the new year. 😉

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Metal to the pedal

Throughout the years, I've discovered that the best intense distortion that does not impede playing fundamentals come from the amplifier. It makes sense because signals are processed at the amp end, not before. I started out with BOSS' Metal Zone which is still the standard to beat in terms of intensity & EQ manipulations. What puts me off when it comes to the Metal Zone is that it sounds nasal at higher volume settings. My distortion formula ever since had been to trust the amp's distortion. Currently my EVH 5150 III does the job, my Marshall JVM has that as well but with a more British flavour while the Blackstar HT Metal lets me hear something in between. The story with the pedals you see above:
  • Digitech/DOD Death Metal: These pedals, to me, still tell a semi-tragic tale of an attempt which turned stale. There should be no more attempts to capture a genre defined distortion. You cannot package derivative tones into a single offering. It fails because the proponents of death metal formulate their tones through the use of several implements, not a single pedal per se. Most of the time it's a match between an amp & a drive/distortion pedal to get a slightly more embittered heavy tone; that crucial excess which defines the tone rather than bringing intensity into the next level. This pedal in its initial incarnation was strictly a niche appeal. The treble excess was excruciating & the amount of distortion on board was fixed, no less, no more, it's just there. The subsequent incarnation, the Digitech version, did not fare any better. The treble offerings were still much to be desired for but they kept it in check. In use, I had to basically turn it down to ZERO. The MID/LOW sweeps were more acute than the DOD version in that they actually let you hear the difference. 
  • EHX Metal Muff: I was in fuzz territory for a while & EHX had (they still do) what I was comfortable with; a fuzz tone that did not squash the low frequencies too much. Eric Johnson is arguably one of the very few guitar-inclined individuals who managed to make fuzzy bass notes very musical. When the MM was introduced, there were no official dealer/distributor here, but someone was bringing it in & was operating online as a small time enterprise. I just went with the pedal instinctively & it proved to be a worthy risk. The MM still offers the grizzly fuzz responses but with a a different EQ consideration which facilitated intensity. To me, this was a marked difference. The top end boost added some depth in terms of clarity when it comes to solos so to me the MM was it. 
  • Blackstar LT Metal: This pedal is much overlooked. At the time of its release, it's over-shadowed by its other, tube-driven sibling, the HT series. I tested the HT version but couldn't come to terms with how fuzzy & Marshall-esque everything sounded. The LT version, on the other hand, is focused on distortion intensity. It has no other details in trying to fulfil expectations (namely the tubeless technology) & it sounded good despite not having dedicated EQ knobs to oversee proceedings. The Blackstar name itself is formidable in the amplifier front so people look up to Blackstar for amps, not pedals. This one will remain insignificant until you hear it out in person
I have since stopped hunting for that elusive heavy metal pedal to out-amp an amp because they  turned out to be second best in this aspect; the amp distortion is still superior in terms of voicing if intensity is factored in. In fact, pedals were there to emulate an amp's performance to begin with. However it's all down to preference- some of us prefer amps to handle our driven tones, some prefer pedals, some prefer both. Whatever it is, do not stop experimenting what works for you. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

1 x 8 (3)

Next pair up; Joyo Zombie + VOX BC108 👍

This had been a good combo, reasons being:
  • There was a healthy serving of bass despite the BC108's driver being small. The implication- good EQ coming from the Zombie
  • Clarity in both clean & OD channels. Managed to add chorus to clean settings & it sounded good. Unexpected.
  • Can hear how volume contributed to gain, not that dynamic (because the power section is not tube based) but the difference was there
As the Zombie was bluetooth ready, I managed to stream over some songs but it was clear that guitar amps & cabs are meant more for instrument signals rather than general applications. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Spent the good part of this evening playing legato stuff. Tried some 5-notes per string patterns ala Brett Garsed & was sloppy like hell. All this after making sure that: 1) I chose the most comfortable guitar to play in view of neck profile & action (the one you see above, that is) 2) The preferred amp was used 3) Supplementary pedals were in place to increase picking sensitivity 4) Putting 3 picks on standby to keep picking feasibility in check.

But let's not be too harsh on ourselves while exploring stuff beyond our comfort zone. Frustrations & the urge to give up only signal the fact that we wish for improvements & know that we are capable of doing better than the current hiccups. 

Hope you people had a good Boxing Day. 

In Fluence

Available at Swee Lee's Star Vista branch during my recent visit- Fishman's Fluence pickups; the current flavour of prog/tech music geeks. 

It's Boxing Day. Every where else, it's still a holiday. 😑

Monday, December 25, 2017

Give away (7)

The give away continues. I have a pair of fresh fretwraps for two lucky winners this time. If you are still contemplating on spending money getting a piece of manufactured fabric to dampen/mute your instrument's strings, maybe you should try your luck. The ritual:
  • Please send me a blank e-mail titled Gruvin' it! to qualify
  • Once again, do not disclose any details till you are declared the winner
  • Item will be mailed to the winners, instructions to be disclosed in the aforementioned e-mail
  • No due date- try your luck 👍
Belated congrats to our Give away (6) winner- Barrie. FYI- some of the former winners here were very close to being second time winners themselves, it's a matter of timing. I won't hold back, even if you've won before, if you deserve to win again, I'll be glad to declare you as the winner- the Lord's providence, we just help to administer. Thanks for reading!

Season's greetings

It's that wonderful time of the year- merry-making, family, friends, presents & more importantly, not being at work. Do take this opportunity to rekindle ties if relationships are a little strained, be glad no severance took place. Enjoy the break, everyone & stay safe. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Camper goodness

There is a sizeable camp of acoustic geeks out there who look up to Taylor's GS Mini for its sheer sonic goodness despite the scaled down dimensions. Due to its brand name, the asking price for the GS Mini is a little steep & can easily get you a solid top standard size player. However, we prioritize mobility & good tones when considering instruments of this nature & Veelah's Mini Camper addresses our price concerns without proving to be a compromised, poor man's GS mini. 

It's no commercial secret that the Mini Camper was designed in the image of the GS Mini with similar dimensions, attributes & tonal performance. Veelah's slightly shorter scale length (Veelah: 22.79" vs Taylor: 23.5") gives the instrument a more tingling top end with lots of definition. This instrument is aimed at the players who wish for easier picking (no pun intended) without struggling to deal with a standard size acoustic body or the lack of warmth & lower end of a travel-size unit (think: Ed Sheeren). I managed to give it a quick test just some days ago & was pleased with the overall playability & QC. The neck was very inviting & grab-friendly but could use a little more worn-in feel for maximum comfort but that's absolutely expected from a fresh, out-of-the-box model. The Mini Camper is an absolute strummer as opposed to strict finger style application. It's a definite value-for-money unit if you are in the market for such a scaled down instrument sporting a trimmed down grand symphony body without going into travel-size territory exclusively. Having said that, the Mini Camper is absolutely travel worthy. 

Rating: 85%

Veelah: Mini Camper
Availability: SV Guitars
List: $299 (bag included)

Gibson 2018: Late elite

Gibson made a late announcement pertaining to their 2018 line up. It seems that the guitars you see above are members of the Elite range, a slightly up-market look compared to the Standard range without asking too much from your finances (oh, really?). 

It's rather bewildering how the LP Studio here is part of the Elite range because it's simply off- the only model without gold hardware attributes & sporting a Bigsby whammy bridge. Unlike its other two siblings, it has a rosewood fretboard (baked granadillo for the rest). The Elite range is a respectable offering by the manufacturer but there needs to be some consistencies because these instruments are grouped together & propel a common theme. 'Common' here might prove to be a little sticky. Whatever it is, be glad there's no robot tuners there, yes?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Burning camps

Another departure from the Ibanez camp- Brent Rambler (August Burns Red) to Kiesel.

LTD: PS goodness

Was checking stuff out at Davis GMC a couple of days ago & came across this LTD PS-1 which was part of their latest (final for 2017) shipment.

The instrument in question is player-friendly & has enough meat to make it sing like a good semi, without the excessive treble end. The slight offset design might prove a little awkward for some of us but this consideration contributed greatly towards balance. I'm not a big fan of semis, the last one that I really got on with is the Ibanez Talman TM302 but this is something worth every cent considering its list price of $650 👍

Friday, December 22, 2017

Obscure king

There was a recent hype of tube-infused drive/distortion pedals. OK, it's not that recent (like a decade ago or so) but it's there. Ibanez was in that bandwagon & the Tube King Distortion here is proof. I couldn't see where the manufacturer was going with this series (yes, there's the Overdrive version which I didn't bother with) of pedals because it was a let down in terms of practicality. The overall size & weight were wrong; it's just plain bulky & heavy, compounded by the fact that the features were 'creatively' laid out in a diamond orientation. The plus factor here remains to be tone. It might be the tube factor contributing to midrange presence & warmth, maybe aggression to a certain degree but it's something we've heard before even without tube technology in the system. In today's context, names like Positive Grid, Friedman & Wampler among others, got this covered without the extra tube inclusion. Keeping this one for nostalgia's sake. Anyway, bought this at a clearance price during one of Swee Lee's year end sale which doesn't happen any more, of course. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

ESP/LTD 2018 (2)

LTD guitars across the board feature their respective model numbers at the instrument's 12th fret.

WEF 2018, all model numbers will be printed/engraved onto the truss rod cover. I feel that this is a great move despite being a minor consideration. It gives the design a sense of regularity & improves the overall aesthetics of the instrument. Model reference should be assigned to non-conspicuous spaces. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Flip change

Music Radar recently gave the Ibanez AE500 a glowing review. I must say it's deserving.

The same review featured the guitar's flip side- or is it? Note the absence of cutaway & an entirely different headstock.

1 x 8 (2)

The Vox BC108 was first paired up with the beast, aka, EVH 5150III. The lack of bottom end was rather apparent. If you look closely, I had to trim down the treble end to less than 25% & it basically stayed that way regardless of the guitars I played. The up side however is the presence of clarity which you'd appreciate in times of solos. These small drivers are particularly inviting for clean tones with lots of chorus but we know how the 5150 was not cut out for such tasks (yes, the LBX II would be more appealing for its clean channel). 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Own guitars as leaders

Animal As Leaders guitarist, Tosin Abasi, has announced a possible line of his own brand name guitars come 2018. This would mean that Ibanez would be losing one of the most talented 8-string player ever. It's a rather telling sign as Ibanez did not materialize his latest signature single cut model this year. We wish him all the best in his future guitar adventures which we'd be following closely, of course.

Kitty custom?

Came across this one in the after market 😑

It seems that someone took the trouble to manifest this frankenstein; a Fender Mexican body with a  customized pick guard (obviously) & a Fender Japan Strat neck. The seller duly reminded that it's  not that lowly Squier version which did exist along the way.

A $980 (neg) asking price- would you? 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Give away (6)

Yes, it's time for another give away (notice it's always happening on a Monday?). Here's another contribution by Davis GMC; the Danelectro Cool Cat Vibe pedal for all the coolest vibrato sensation on your pedal board (assuming you have one). Item is a BNIB FYI:
  • Send me a blank e-mail with the subject: Vibrato vibes!
  • Do not disclose any details till I reply declaring you as the winner
  • Winner will self-collect the pedal, details will be disclosed in the said e-mail
  • The item is still sealed, brand new in box
  • No cut off date as usual- try your luck...
Belated congrats to Shawn Koh, the Give away (5) pedal winner.

Offset Japan

We've seen this before, haven't we? The offset Telecaster (limited run), still available at Swee Lee (List: $2,099).

The Japanese version is now available & it's all mahogany, less the fretboard. Also, the neck pickup is a P-90. We know we won't see this here any time soon for an obvious reason- rosewood fretboard (CITES hell!) unless there's a dealer here who does bring in Japanese Fender stuff on a regular basis.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ibanez: SIX6FDFM

Despite closing accounts, I still have to get this one because it had been on my 'to get' list since it was released. If something made it to my acquisition list, it is of great significance & I won't take it lightly. The Ibanez SIX6FDFM is the first standard production S-Series to feature a reverse headstock & it's strictly a personal attraction. Other features that made it my type of guitar- blank fretboard & a fixed bridge.

The default pickups are DiMarzio's Fusion Edge humbuckers which performed better here compared to the RGDIX6MPB. I'm not a DiMarzio fan but these are deserving pickups for the money. The guitar features a 3-way pickup toggle & a coil split switch. 

Despite the charming front, the rear body is simply good mahogany. FYI, this instrument sports a satin finish from the headstock right down to the body. 

Sure grip knobs for a sure response at all times- thumbs up to this.

Gotoh locking tuners for quality performance, however these might prove to be an oversight. They add weight significantly to the neck end & the instrument is neck heavy. If you get to handle this guitar in person, you'd know how light it is & the neck dive is downright annoying. 

We've seen the S-Series before & this is merely a variation sporting a novelty reverse headstock. In fact, that quirky feature along with the satin finish & blank fretboard might reduce it to a niche appeal. It's compounded by the neck heavy feature but offset by that outstanding tone & playability. Thumbs up to the QC as well, in fact, I'm starting to believe that extra care was given to the Iron Label series knowing that the instruments here costs a little more than the standard range without the Iron Label being a definite tier above Standard offerings before things get into the Premium selections. 

Thank you Mr. Faizal @ Swee Lee I12 for the assistance leading to the instrument's purchase.

ESP/LTD 2018

ESP has released their LTD lineup for 2018. I will be highlighting selected models which are arguably 'different' from the 2017 range. 

Starting things off, we have the Black Metal series featuring guitars with, what else, an all black feature (less the frets). On this note (no pun intended), LTD has joined Ibanez's Iron Label range in generating models which are not placed under a clearly defined tier (Standard? Deluxe? Special edition? What??). However, the manufacturer promised a 'premium' construction for these models & all instruments feature only a single bridge pickup which is a Seymour Duncan Black Winter.

The other 2 members of this family are pictured above- an FR bridge equipped M & a 7-string Viper. Judging from the features, I'd say these will be in the Deluxe price bracket with very limited appeal to the heavy metal proponents based on the colour scheme & artistic limitations. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

YES @ SV Guitars

Final reduction for the year @ SV Guitars. Happy shopping 😁


A new one by DiMarzio, the PG-13. It's a collaboration with Paul Gilbert whose current fix is a mini humbucker. 'Mini' here does not imply a reduction to conform to single coil measurements, these are not stacked units, so let's not get confused there. These are the narrower humbuckers like the ones in GIbson's LP Deluxe back in the 70s. From the manufacturer's EQ reference, these should give us a strong bass response with very controlled top end. 

Be informed that mini humbuclers won't mount into standard humbucker rings, you need the customized version (unless your guitar came with minis as default). 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Positive move

It's good to see Positive Grid products during my recent trip to Swee Lee's Star Vista branch. Positive Grid bridges the gap between digital certainty & analog urgency. Digitally-inclined products tend to incorporate details upfront, players tend to get put off dealing with this in general. Positive Grid on the other hand, leaves the digital details to editing; you always come back to the pedal in its analog format. The only factor that prevents many players from embracing PG gear- price. However, if you keep track of prices, PG listings are more accommodating this side of LINE 6 & Fractal Audio, among others but they are by no means direct replacements. 

Op Muff

EHX has re-introduced the op-amp Big Muff rather late in the year, doubt if it'll be here before the year turns. Anyway, it's a re-intro because the op-amp circuit had been done before in the late 1970s & held in high regards for it's more amplified output, best heard in Smashing Pumpkin's Siamese Dream album. It's good to see the flick switch option here so you can have options along the way & thank you for keeping the footprint small.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Jericho: Fusion Ignition (2)

The current Jericho Guitars promo offers a pickup upgrade for selected models at no extra costs- DiMarzio/ Seymour Duncan/ Bare Knuckle- take your pick. However, options are limited & I naturally went with my inclinations (pictured above- Duncan's Nazgul).

Let's take a look under the cover, shall we? Over at the volume pot, we see evidence of re-soldering (arrow), implying that there was a default in-house pickup prior to the Nazgul replacement (OK, so they used Alpha pots). Let's focus our attention on the blue line I've inserted there. If you look closely, the portion of wires across that blue line is a little crinkled, suggesting a binding presence (eg: cable tie) which is now missing. Well, you have to remove the binding to accommodate the new (Nazgul's) wires, yes? No replacement was put in place as you can see here.

1 X 8

Another score from the City Music year end sale- VOX BC108. We often pair up small amp heads with small cabs, let's see how this one measures up against some of the small amp heads I own.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Blackouts = passive?

I chanced upon this FB post earlier today citing the Seymour Duncan Blackout as a passive unit. I've been a Seymour Duncan fan for a while (since 1994, in fact) & don't recall the Blackout range being passive pickups. I posted a query asking Xtreme Guitars to help me highlight the fact that I might have missed a recent update of sorts; Seymour Duncan might have revised this product range & I might have overlooked crucial details.


I was linked to the relevant SD Blackout page (which I've visited before), a portion of which is reproduced here to highlight the fact that one of the accompanying Blackout accessory is a battery clip. Ladies & gentlemen, am I right to say that only active pickups require a power source (in this case a battery supply) to function?

On that note, Xtreme guitars is a local commercial entity here in Singapore, please drop by their FB page & do your part to support local business. 👌

How do you spell...

Saw this guitar for sale in the after-market. Hold on- how do you spell 'Prestige'?

That's right, it's not an original Ibanez. I prompted the seller about it, he insisted that declaring it being made in China is enough disclosure. However, Ibanez fans will know that some Ibanez models are made in China & those are genuine articles. After letting him know my intent, he agreed to be more forthcoming in the details. Friends, if you are selling a copy instrument, do declare. Do not court trouble by restricting details because the cost of a legal repercussion is more than what you make from the sale. Also, it's simply not worth the trouble. I'm not showing the instrument here, I do not intend to provoke anyone on that note (no pun intended), just creating awareness. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


The BOSS BOX-40 Anniversary pedals featuring the trio you see here, is now available at Swee Lee for $1,299 🙊

Granted they are made in Japan, that works out to be more than $400 per pedal. I managed to try the OD-1 this afternoon & must say it sounds very inviting. It's not as mushy as the current overdrive units offered by BOSS in the mean time.