Friday, January 27, 2012

2012 - Gold Tone PB-GRE Slimline Resonator

Not long after buying my Mosrite I stumbled across a Regal resonator for $400 at a local second hand dealer. I thought that it was too good to be true, so I went and tried some brand new guitars of the same make. At that time I came across a brand that was unknown to me then. Gold Tone. The guitar looked classic, and the price was a  hefty $1899 Australian. Since I'd just spent a fair chunk of change on the Mosrite, there was no way that I was going to be able to swing that with the lady of the house, so I just wandered by from time to time and looked in the window.

A year went by and I kind of forgot about it, then one day I saw a tenor guitar from the same brand in a similar style. This started the old obsession ball rolling. Somehow I was going to finance it. Somehow.

The price had dropped a little, but still far too rich for my pockets.

So I hunted around the country, no good. Everyone was even more expensive than the local.
Just when I was about to give up, I found one online that would ship from USA to Oz. It was HALF the price, even with shipping it was less than 2/3 the cost of buying locally. At the time I felt badly for not supporting local businesses, but $700 is $700. I would have been happy to pay one or two hundred more for the sake of convenience, but that price difference (especially with the Australian dollar at parity or better than the US for more than a year)  the difference was too much to absorb.

Before buying I tried to find as much as possible about it, but other than the official website, there really wasn't much on this model out there on the web. One thing that I was interested in is where it was made. The website was unclear and sort of implied that it might be a USA made guitar with some parts sourced from overseas. Well it turns out that it's a Korean made guitar.

I have no issue with guitars made in Asia, in fact most of my collection originates there. The Epiphone Les Paul that I sold to finance this one was Korean and happened to be a very nice guitar.

The guitar had been delivered to the office where I work, and it turned up on my day off! So I ended up hauling my small family into the office to collect it (we had dumplings for lunch). I'd bought the guitar from a shop in a tiny town in the middle of Illinois and it was 11 days before I'd received confirmation that it had shipped. Then I had to wait more than a week to have it in my possession. 21 days elapsed from purchase to delivery and as it turned out, I wasted energy on thinking that I'd been scammed.

The guitar arrived untouched from the factory. Inside it's case which was in turn wrapped in a carton about the size of a 40" television. It was shiny (not for long) and heavy! Oh boy was it heavy. Even though it's the slim line model, once you've walked a few kilometers with it, the hands let you know that they're not happy. I'm paying for it today.

Naturally he guitar needed tuning, but to my surprise the factory setup is excellent. The action is low enough to be comfortable and high enough for slide. The finish is prefect and the binding on the neck is a light coloured curly maple and really adds to the classy looks of the instrument.  The stings are currently phosphor bronze, and I had considered swapping for flat wounds, but I really like the acoustic tone. Despite being slim lined, the guitar is capable of being played uncomfortably loud. It's almost like a mechanical overdrive on the resonator cone.

Plugged in, it's a whole other beast. The lipstick pickup is a superb choice for the guitar, not only in looks but in tonal character. Coupled with a Fender Princeton Reverb amp, I'm in tone heaven. I can't begin describe how good it sounds. I play a blend of country and surf mostly, and this combination is perfect. The low end growls and the top end chimes. The resonator and hollow body combo has great sustain. Usually turing the Princeton past two on the dial will make the room shake, but in this case the resonator is actually louder than the amp at that level!

So it might not be a National, but it is as close as I'm likely to get, and I am in love.
This one may well be the last guitar I ever buy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 - Digitech Black 13

I got to play around with the Scott Ian pedal a few days ago. Back in the 90's I was a bit of an Anthrax fan and having seen the last setting on the video below (at 3:05), I was intrigued by the Pitch Shifted Delay. It's a fun little feature.

The pedal's functions are straight forward. For the first six settings there's Volume & EQ. That's it. The gain is preset and the sound you get, forces you to play chugging riffs. There seems to be a noise gate built in, which makes it perfect for palm muted riffs. Not so good for surf or country.

Is sort of puts me in mind of the Peavey 5150 combo that I had back in the olden days, gain through the roof and a really gut stomping low end. If you like playing heavy guitar, this one is a potential bargain.

Remember kids, this one is more for riffs than it is for solos.
Enjoy the video!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012 Pedal Review - Digitech DIGIVERB

This is one pedal that I owned for a time and parted with to acquire another bit of gear. Honestly I can't say enough good things about Digitech pedals, especially the cabinet simulators, which seem to be available in every model.
some of the cab sims are more complex than others, and each one has its own tonal characteristic. The Digitech Digiverb is no expection.

To engage the cabinet simulator, simply hold down the pedal before applying power. Otherwise it will just behave as if plugged into an amp and bypass the cabinet circuitry. Tone wise, the cab is a little dark, but that was not a big deal as it's easily tweaked in a mixing desk. Oh and it has a cabinet sim on both outputs!m Perfect for DI work.

Enough about the cab sims as this is a reverb pedal, and that's pretty much what everyone wants to know about. Well... the pedal isn't perfect. Especially if you're a spring tank purist, but it's passable in that mode. Gate and Reverse are pretty much the same as any other pedal with this feature. Where the pedal really shines is in the cavernous Church mode.

The decay is long and the spread is very large. Church mode is really great for making those huge pad-like ambient sounds. Hall and plate are nice too, but nothing like the Church mode. The Spring sim is almost correct, but the splash at the beginning of it doesn't feel right. Maybe I've spent too much time with a valve driven spring tank, which has a tendency to overdrive when I play hard?

Some people complained that the pedal was prone to introducing noise into a circuit if powered by a daisy chain. I did find this in some positions, but not in others. It's all dependent on where the reverb is placed in your signal chain and how your cables are arranged. I've had the same issue with other DSP based effects, it's not a deal breaker as it can be worked around, if you're not lazy.

I'd be buying this if I was in the market for an EHX Cathedral pedal, but couldn't afford the cash or the floor space. Agaion, RRP in Australia is pretty high, so try to get your hands on one via the 2nd hand market.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 - Boss FRV-1 vs Fender Princeton

I'll start this off with admitting that I actually like COSM. For those times when you can't crank an amp, it turns out to be a useful tool. Since I currently live in an apartment with two lovely ladies, I try to keep my noise to a minimum.

To do this, I mostly record guitar via headphones. I've used a few amp & effect simulators on the PC, which have been fine, but all seem to incur more of an performance hit than the CPU monitor would indicate.
Their modeling is reasonably good for most things, but for reverb it has not been anywhere near satisfying, not for spring anyway.

Since I use reverb as part of my tone quite frequently I've been hunting for that perfect silent solution. Even to the point of building a mechanical reverb circuit. Which worked FYI, but did not match the quality of a tube driven circuit.

I've owned the Marshall Reflector, Digitech Digiverb and Boss FDR-1. All of these were decent enough, but when it came to a convincing spring tone, the first two were no better than my computer. The third sounded quite good, but would introduce random reverb splashes even if there were no notes being played.

The Boss FRV-1 doesn't seem to have the same problem as it's predecessor. It runs quietly and as long as it's not being A/B'd with a real Fender amp, it's pretty convincing. The decay is nice and long and the tone control is very handy. It can be dark and muddy or so bright that your ears hurt.

When played in tandem with the Princeton Reverb, it's noticeably darker, and doesn't give quite the same quality of bright tone. In fact, running the pedal as a dry guitar, the top end of the guitar is somewhat attenuated, not quite tone suck, but more of an low pass filter. The advantage of this pedal would be running reverb on overly bright amps, or if you have to play in a venue with severe electromagnetic interference issues (such as my home) as there's no inductor coil to hum like a fridge when you want a big splashy verb.

In a mix it sits nicely and I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and the real thing in a blind test, this might not be the case if I were the one playing the guitar as there is a marked difference between the two in terms of response to playing dynamics.

It's not a true substitute for the real thing, but it performs well for such a tiny package.
Sometimes a one trick pony is all you need.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Epiphone Les Paul - the final mod

I've finally reached the point where I can say that I will no longer delve into the guts of this beast.
Honestly I've no idea of the amount of hours I've put into it, but it's now very nice to play and sounds great!
Currently it's setup with 12-56 gauge round wound strings, has a Wilkinson Roller bridge, Bigsby B7 with Vibramate and a pair of matched humbuckers from a Gretsch 5120.

The original and replacement PAF style pickups never sounded much good to my ear, and the P-Rails did not really suit. The Gretsch pickups have turned out to make the guitar sound rich and gutsy. Excellent clean tones and can really drive a valve preamp.

I modded the Bigsby a little as the arm did not come far enough over the strings for my playing style. I filed the aluminium nub down a to get the end of the bar over the 3rd string. This way I don't have to reach across with my stubby fingers to play the way I want to.

As with many things that have passed across my guitar rack, this one was recently sold, in favour of another instrument that is on it's way to me in the post. Somehow it became apparent that I might have too many electric guitars and not enough tonal variety.

Hopefully the new owner appreciates the work that was put into it.
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