Conventional tube-amp wisdom states that you get the most bang for your buck by replacing your pre-amp tubes. I’ve been a believer of this for quite awhile, and have tried out all sorts of pre-amp tubes in my amps over the years. A couple of days ago, I wrote that I had installed a new Mullard ECC83 (12AX7) into my Aracom VRX22. This particular Mullard is a Zaerix-labled ECC83 that probably came from the GDR (I didn’t look at the numbers – I really don’t care, for that matter). All I know is that it made a HUGE difference in the way my amp sounds. The overdrive instantly became smoother and more focused without top-end artifacts, and the notes are still very defined even at high overdrive settings on my amp.
The clip below says it all. I recorded this clip playing in the bridge pick up of Goldie, plugged straight into the VRX22, which then fed into the ever-so-awesome Aracom PRX15-Pro attenuator. The amp’s master, tone, and volume knobs were all set at 6 (about 2pm on the amp), and the clip was recorded at bedroom level!
To my ears, the VRX22 sounds like a much bigger amp than its 22 Watts! I’m really in tonal heaven right now!
I spoke about Tone with a capital “T” the other day and how your Tone is the combination of your gear plus what’s in your heart. One thing that I didn’t discuss is that when your heart and your gear are in alignment, the visceral effect it has on you borders on a religious experience. Put simply, you become truly inspired. I got Goldie back from Saint Guitars a few days ago to correct some wiring and action issues, and plugging her into my amp, I was immediately floored by her tone. I already was in the first place, but with everything working right, the effect it had on my spirit was tremendous!
So I decided to completely re-write and re-track a song that I had recorded earlier as a demo of the Reason Bambino – turn it into a real composition. But I also wanted to demonstrate the wonderful voice she has. Here’s the song. It’s called “Sunset By the Bay” because it reminded me of sipping a mojito on the beach at sunset:
The opening of the song and the first “verse” demonstrate Goldie’s neck pickup in single-coil configuration. Man, it’s chimey like a Strat! The second part of the song stays in the neck pickup but with both coils working, and adding a bit of crunch in the second channel of my Aracom VRX22. I recently had a mod done to the amp to add channel switching, and remove the Master Volume control from the first channel so it acts more like a Class A amp in channel 1. Continuing on, in the bridge of the song, I switch both pickups and remain in channel 2, then I finally finish up back on the neck pickup.
I can’t believe the sounds that come from this guitar, and my VRX22 just sounds so sweet with it!
By the way, as far as the recording of the melody goes, I recorded Goldie completely dry, just plugged right into my amp. I then added some reverb and a tiny bit of delay to give the melody an airy feel. The rhythm part was recorded using my Strat directly plugged into my Reason Bambino and played entirely in the Bambino’s Normal Channel. I love the natural presence of the Bambino – it was if it was made for a Strat!
I also recorded the entire song at bedroom level using my Aracom PRX150-Pro attenuator. I just love the purity of my tone at any volume level!
It is so hard to believe, but I finally have “Goldie.” I met Adam Hernandez this evening to pick up the guitar, and she is absolutely gorgeous in both looks and sound! I’m still kind of pinching myself because I can’t believe I finally have her. There is absolutely NOTHING like having a guitar that is custom made to your specifications.
Below are just a few pictures that I wanted to share for now. I will take more pictures of her in the morning. I need to play her a bit more before going to bed.
I quickly recorded a sound clip of how Goldie sounds clean. In the “rhythm” part, I have both humbuckers going. It has a sweet, chimey, and big tone. The first part of the solo features the bridge pickup in single-coil mode. The second part to the end features the bridge pick in full humbucker configuration. The tones I’m able to produce with this guitar are just amazing!
This guitar has exceeded ALL my expectations, and her sound is so unique. With the coil-tapped humbuckers, I can get a gorgeous, chimey, Strat-like tone to incredibly beefy breakup! The neck is absolutely perfect. It is a perfect “C” at the nut, then tapers out to a flatter “C” at the joint. In fact, with Goldie, Adam discovered a new way to taper the neck that he will be using in future builds!
Goldie was an experiment with wood combinations. What I wanted to achieve with her was a bright toned guitar that had the ability to grow some big, hairy balls, yet at high gain, would retain its clarity. With its solid walnut back, maple top, rock maple neck, and ebony fretboard, Adam achieved exactly the tone I was after. And with Adam’s proprietary and unique neck joint, this guitar sustains for days! I’m absolutely in love with this guitar!!!
Goldie’s ready for her clear coat! OMG! I just can’t believe it! We are so close now! Had a bit of a setback because Adam, in addition to being a luthier is also a professional forest firefighter. What a guy! Anyway, enjoy the pics!
Sorry, no pics today folks… But I did speak with Adam this afternoon, and he said the guitar is ready to go into color coating. I kind of jumped the gun last time I wrote an entry on this… I thought it was going in for finishing! Actually it was going in for its base coat. When Adam got it back, he had to block sand it down. It took awhile because he had a family emergency that he had to take care of the last couple of weeks. But the guitar’s close to being done now – real close. The color coating will go on, cure for a bit, then the first coat of gloss will be applied to the top, block sanded down, then the final thin coat of gloss will be applied. Hopefully I’ll have the guitar in a couple of weeks! I’m so jazzed!!!
In case you’ve missed the previous pics, either click on the “Goldie” tab above, or just click here.
Talk about being blown away! I talked to Adam Hernandez of Saint Guitars the other day just to shoot the breeze and let him know I posted an announcement about his new web site. He in turn thanked me, then absolutely blew me away saying that Goldie was ready for finishing and would be done before the weekend! OMG!!! He sent me some progress pictures from just before finishing. BTW, the finish is vintage Les Paul gold…. Again, OMG!!!
In any case, here are pictures of my guitar right before it went into finishing. I just can’t wait to play her!
I know I probably sound like a broken record and maybe a walking billboard for Saint Gutiars, but these are special guitars. Anyone who has played one of these will attest to that. And to have one of my own is just incredible. Adam and Jon just rock the house with their guitars!
They are also coming up with a new “Vintage” model. I don’t know all the details, but it looks like a semi-hollowbody with a trapeze-style bridge. Very retro!
I just have to say this…
I know there are a lot of people out there who have lots of gear, and who trade their axes after a certain amount of time. That’s totally cool. I’ve spoken to some folks who are concerned about the resale value of these guitars. Because this is such a small company, there aren’t a lot of Saints out there, so there’s no price precedence. But in reply to that all I have to say is that from my perspective, Goldie isn’t a guitar that I’d ever consider trading away or selling. Why would I when she was made to my exact specifications?
For sure, Goldie won’t be the last guitar I ever buy. I’m way too much of a gear freak, slut, maniac, what-have-you, to settle with my collection; it’s a living breathing thing. But Goldie will always be special because she’s the very first custom guitar I’ve ever had, but also she’s the very first Saint Guitar I’ve owned.
The guys at Saint Guitar have been busy, and just this week did a “soft” release of their brand new web site, and the introduction of their new domain name (saintguitarco.com). “stguitars.com” still works, but they will be going with the new domain name going forward.
I’m so happy for these guys! Adam Hernandez has got to be one of the most talented young luthiers in the market today. Jon Peterson, who runs company operations is a great front-man. But as a company, and what really endears me to Saint Guitars is that this is something that started out as a dream between best friends, and they’re making it a reality. They’re doing it organically without investors or bank loans, spending all their available time and extra resources (read: money) building the company up, and producing what I think are the finest guitars on the planet. And guess what? Not too many people know about them!
I’m hoping that will change, and I, as a passionate supporter and customer will do my best to get the word out.
What’s so special about these guitars?
Like many other old-school style boutique guitars, these are completely handmade, built from a series of custom jigs and templates that Adam has designed and perfected over the last ten or so years. But that’s not differentiating at all. What is differentiating is the tone of these guitars. They’re on the bright side, but sustain for days. A lot of that sustain has to do with the neck joint that Adam has invented. These are the first guitars I’ve ever played where I can physically feel the sound waves resonate through the body. It’s subtle for sure, but it’s the first time I could really feel it.
As Vinni Smith of V-Picks put it, “[These guitars] have just about the best bridge pickup in the business.” Before I played a Saint Guitar, I was never big on the bridge pickup. But with Saint Guitars, I just love the bridge pickup. Adam really found a sweet spot with its positioning.
Other than that, there is a certain magic about the guitars from Saint Guitar Company. I’ve played some very high-end guitars that cost three to four times as much, and they’ve not really impressed me quite as much as what these guys are producing. Just think about this: The highest price you’ll pay for a Saint Guitar is around $4800. That’s full-gloss, nitro finish with top-of-the-line EVERYTHING. But they start at around $1800 for an open-pore, stain finish (which sounds just as good). That’s simply amazing to me. I’ve shared with Adam that his guitars are almost too affordable considering the quality compared to other custom guitars. I’d pit a Saint head-to-head with a high-end PRS any day. To me, it’ll play and sound just as well or even better and it’ll cost half as much. That’s a no-brainer for me.
Just got these pics in. Goldie is really starting to take shape now. Adam took a couple of weeks for the glue to cure between the mohagany and maple top and the ebony fretboard and maple neck, which explains the temporary hiatus of pictures on the build progress. I am SO amazed about how it’s looking!
I really love the first shot where you can see how the body was cut from the mahogany and maple billets. I’m so stoked about this!
Note that I am not affiliated with Saint Guitar Compay, but I have gotten to know both Adam and Jon (who runs their ops), and they’re a great couple of guys who are totally passionate about what they do. Be sure to drop them a line!
Wow! Goldie’s, my Saint Guitars Goldtop Messenger is really starting to take shape. In this next set of photos, Adam has cut and shaped the general profile for the Goldtop’s neck, and the neck is ready for final shaping. As the pictures progress, the neck curve is really becoming evident. As far as the neck profile is concerned, the radius at the nut is 12″. Adam typically uses a wide profile, but as my fingers are kind of short, playing up high on the neck can be difficult. So to compensate, Adam will gradually tapered the neck curve to be a flatter C near the body than at the nut. By the way, the wood here is rock maple.
Every time I see pictures of the progress of this guitar, I start to salivate in anticipation.