Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 - Tokai Hummingbird

Recently I picked up one of the coolest shaped guitars on the planet.
It's like an evil Mosrite. German carved and all pointy horned. I first became aware of this guitar via Guitar Nerd

The guitar came in the original brown leather/vinyl gig bag from the late 1960's.
As far as I can tell, the guitar dates back to 1968. Unfortunately there's no serial number on it as back then, they were just stickers on the back of the headstock.

The guitar is in ok condition for its years, but far from perfect.
Fortunately the neck is nice and straight, only one minor ding on it near the headstock, which is barely noticeable. At some stage the original vibrato has been removed and three of the holes have been filled with dowel, but not painted over. The original tuning machines are long gone and the nut seems to have been replaced as the current nut needs some filing down to get the strings sitting on the zero fret.

The neck is made from five or six pieces of timber laminated together. It looks like the neck has been refinished as the joins in the timber seem to be rather dirty, it looks well used.

The pickups appear to be of the same vintage and measure approx 6k. They have a nice meaty p90esque sound. But I don't think they're original. Looking at the pick guard, it looks like someone has done a real hatchet job getting the pickups in there. Under the pickup rings, the plastic is very rough and the pickups themselves are misaligned when compared to the routing. Screws to hold the rings down are too long and appear to have come from a hardware store bulk pack. The body has had some wood removed where the screws protude under the scratch guard.

I suspect that the pickups which were originally installed were more like the typical Teisco variety.
There's also extra routing under the scratchplate where a switch is likley to have been placed, I might add one back in there as a matter of course, either a kill switch or a low cut.

The vibrato assembly is kind of weird. It's like a half Bigsby with provision to accept a stat style bar.
Where the bar is attached, the metal is cracked, but I suspect that it will be strong enough to handle any of my whammy antics. The unit does look the part of a vintage guitar so I'll probably leave it as is. A full bigsby just wouldn't do the guitar justtice, however a Gibson Maestro might!

So the guitar needs quite a bit of T.L.C.

My plan is to replace the scratch guard with something of my own design. it's something I'd prefer to have done with a CNC Mill, but I'm sure with a few practice runs on thin MDF it's not too far outside of my skill level. Maybe some tortoiseshell or a dark pearl. The plan is to try to cover up the holes from the previous vibrato.

The pickups are nice sounding, but don't really suit the look of the guitar, so I'm toying with the idea of installing jazzmaster pickups with cream covers to match the body.

The Hummingbird has promise to be a  unique beauty once it's restored, even if it's not restored to it's original glory. I'll be taking my sweet time with this one and update whenever I get a chance.
Photoshopped overlay of pickguard and routing.

2009 - Zoom H4n

The name of the device sounds somewhat like a disease doesn't it?
Well I did buy it around swine flu panic season.

This unit is pretty much the single most handy bit of kit I've ever owned.
The mics are pretty good, it's battery powered, takes line and guitar level plus has phantom power(don't expect your batteries to last if you're running a Rode Nt2a).

I use it all the time from recording my daughter's growls in the bath to (you guessed it) recording instruments.
Instead of going through the process of booting my PC and loading plugins, with the H4n I'm off and taking musical notes in seconds. Half the time I just sit it on my lap and record the unplugged guitar sound.
Nice and easy for the times when you've got your groove on, but probably not going to remember every little riff.

That's me pretty much every time I play... Well the times my mojo is in gear anyway.

The H4n doubles as an FX unit and Triples as a USB interface.
Zoom is known for it's long history of effects units, I think the first one I played with was a 9001 back when I was in highschool(wasn't mine). The effects models in this unit are ok. Nothing amazing, but they will get you some amp models and phase effects with a minimum of wires. Think of the fx as a bonus chocolate served with your latte.

The USB interface was touted as USB2, but it really is not any better than a usb1.1 device.
On all three of my computers(all quite powerful windows machines FYI), the latency is so bad that you can't monitor your playing in real time. It's ok if you plan to monitor off your input, but forget about enjoying any onboard effects or using guitar rig in real time. Latency aside, it is a great feature to have if you're wanting to play along to more than four tracks.

I got my unit from USA when our currency was strong and the locals were selling it for double the price, and that includes shipping from the USA. I'd like to see the USB section updated for a future release. It's not essential, but if I was to purchase the unit for playing real time, I would be disappointed. As it is I have an excellent MAudio delta1010lt PCI card that has near zero lag.

Another thing to be aware of is the power supply. It's switchmode and on Australian power points, it generates a bit of a high pitched whine. This could be taken care of with a little filtering and it's not that big of a deal since the unit runs for ages on batteries if you don't plan on using phantom power.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 - Boss BD-2

This was one of those pedals I picked up on a whim, it was at the right price and I'd been curious.

The BD-2 is a decent sort of overdrive fuzz. It's really dependent on the gain settings.
Mine is currently unmodded.

While I like a lot of Boss's pedals, what strikes me time and again is that they filter the low frequencies too severely. This one suffers the same problem as the SD-1. Nice dirt but no rumble.
I'm sure it's a simple mod, but since I have the SD-1 the way I like it, I can't really be bothered.

I'm told it's better on humbuckers, but I only have single coil pickups on my guitars.

With a few tweaks, I'm sure this pedal would come up smelling roses.

Monday, December 6, 2010

2010 - Boss DS-1

This is one of those pedals that has loads of mods for it.
I picked mine up 2nd hand and broken.

The pedal did light up but made no sound, when I opnened it up there was one thing glaringly obvious that the pedal had been electrically abused. The polarity protection diode was cracked in two and a little burn on the board. What wasn't visible was that the SIP opamp was dead.
Since SIP chips aren't readily available at the local electronics store, I decided to make a little mod board to wire in a high quality op amp(opa2134).

Once the pedal was working, I finally got to hear the infamous DS-1.
Not my cup of tea honestly. Very fizzy sound.

Next I did the All seeing eye mod. Not bad, the distortion improved a bit.
The pedal had too much gain for me so I went and added the Fat Mod.
Additionally to the fat mod I went and installed a couple of switches to get the pedal back to the stock gain and EQ setting. Overall the pedal is fairly flexible, but a little too gainy for me. Actually even the humble SD-1 has too much gain, I like a little break up when i hit hard, but clean when I play more sedately.

Thwe DS-1 is a modders delight, I'm sure there are a bunch of other things you could try, but I kinda ran out of room in the little box.
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