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Archive for May, 2009

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!

For more information on Saint Guitars, check out the web site!

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!

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Prestige Heritage Elite - Lite Sunburst

Prestige Heritage Elite - Lite Sunburst

Pictured to the left is “Sugar,” my beloved Prestige Heritage Elite. It lists for $1800 Canadian (~$1450 US). But amazingly enough, you can get this guitar for $700-$800 on EBay!!! Click on this link to see items up for sale on EBay.

I’m absolutely amazed by this pricing! This is a guitar that has workmanship and features, not to mention sound and playability that rival boutique guitars five times its price! I’m so blown away by the prices that these are going for on the street, and it’s another reason to consider getting one of these guitars! Here are some sample clips:

Clean or dirty, this guitar sounds amazing!

Prestige Amps

Prestige also carries two tube amps, the VT-10 and VT-30. Here’s an EBay link to a VT-10 for $160!!! That’s absolutely ridiculous! Based on the price alone, I’m going to pick one of these up!!!

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IK Multimedia Stealth Pedal

For those computer-based DAW jockeys, you know about IK Multimedia’s Amplitube software. I recently wrote a review of Amplitube Fender Edition, and loved it. Now I have an even bigger reason to love it, and that’s IK Multimedia’s StealthPedal which looks like an expression pedal but is actually a fully-functional, USB-powered audio interface WITH a built-in expression pedal. How friggin’ cool is that?

Folks, this thing works, and it works well, as my full review, which will be released in a few days will bear out. As an audio interface, it may not have a lot of bells and whistles, but for the home recording studio buff, this is a great, affordable, high-res audio device that can take a direct in from your guitar or pedal board, or a line out from a pre-amp to use for layering tracks.

But because the pedal has the ability to act as a controller for any “Powered by Amplitube” software or plug-in, you may not even need an amp to record your guitar parts! There are enough fantastic-sounding amp models packed into the various Amplitube packages that you’ll be sure to find a model that works for you. Plus the software effect plug-ins that the StealthPedal can control give you added tone shaping abilities.

In my impending review, I’ll have more clips to share, but here’s a “torch song” that I’ve been working on that features the StealthPedal in action as an audio interface:

Except for the drum loop, all the instruments were recorded using the StealthPedal as the audio interface. I did a line-in directly for the electric piano. For the guitar parts, the amps are both software amps! For the rhythm part I used a Fender Champ 600 with a virtual compressor rack plug-in and my Strat plugged directly into the StealthPedal. For the lead part, I plugged into my pedal board and used my Tone Freak Effects Abunai 2 overdrive, and a Hardwire RV-7 Reverb. For the amp, I used a ’59 Bassman model. Imagine that! Software that sounds this good!

I know, nothing sounds like or feels like a real amp, but the convenience and the general sound quality of these models, plus the high-fidelity of the StealthPedal isn’t lost on me. It’s a nice, compact audio solution that combined with the software, will definitely make a difference in how you approach recording guitars.

Stay tuned for my full review!

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T-52-AMy good friend Jeff recently lent me his Nash Tele – a T-52. He’s one of those guys who’s totally into that relic look. Me on the other hand? Give me a nice shiny guitar any day! And even if I found an old guitar at an estate sale, I’d have it cleaned and brightened – though to retain its value, I wouldn’t do anything other than to freshen it up). But as you can’t judge a book by its cover, so it goes with guitars. Just because a guitar looks beat up and old, in the end, it’s how it sounds and plays that really matters, and the Nash Tele I just got done playing with is a total joy to play, with very nice tones to boot!

One thing that really impresses me about the guitar is how fast the neck is. It is so easy to move around on the neck that I was making tons of mistakes at first because I was able to play with a lot of speed. A lot of that has to do with how easy it is to play a note. Just lightly press, and the guitar starts to sing! Of course, there’s not much sustain, but that’s to be expected out of a Tele or tele-like guitar.

Just in case you missed all the excitement, I had written an article about the Fender Roadworn series awhile back. I basically said in the article that I just really don’t get the relic thing, and that I’d rather to the “relicing” myself. If that’s your thing, more power to you – what inspires us is what makes us great. But cosmetics aside, it’s also how a guitar feels and it enables you to express yourself. So even though I don’t get the relic thing, just based on playability and sound, I could easily own one of these. They are very nice guitars!

4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite

Rating Summary:Surprisingly enough, my little ding didn’t come from my not “getting it” with the relic look. The guitar I tested had a weird buzz in the second string, and it wasn’t due to fret buzzing either. It didn’t really show up when the guitar was plugged into an amp, but it was really evident. Otherwise, the guitar played and sounded great!

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I can just imagine the heat from the flames I’d get on the forums if I said this, but this is something I just can’t hold back any longer after reading so many threads on the Ultimate Attenuator. I’ve spent a lot of time studying how different attenuators work, and I’ve come to the conclusion that despite its popularity, this is not an attenuator that I’d even consider getting, even if it’s at a reasonable price – which it isn’t. I have a lot of different reasons for not liking this attenuator, but the biggest issue to me is the fact that with the UA, the amp is no longer reacting with the speaker and vice-versa. The UA has a cheap, solid-state amplifier built into its circuitry to re-amplify the amp’s signal after it has passed through the 32 ohm fixed resistor. At that point, the speaker is interacting with the solid-state amp. How that can pass for transparency is beyond me.

Then there’s the fixed resistor. Don’t even think about running a 2 or 4 ohm output into that attenuator. You’re risking serious damage to your amp if you do that. The impedance mismatch there is so high, it has the potential to fry your power tubes or worse. As an add-on, you can get the 16/32 ohm switch, or get one of Ted Webber’s impedance matchers. But then you’ve already spent $750 – that’s just nuts!

I use the Dr. Z Airbrake which uses a rheostat type of resistor to provide variable attenuation. People have complained that at high attenuation levels it sucks tone. It does indeed, but for normal usage, just above loud conversation volume, it is very transparent, and I would daresay that it’s much more transparent than the UA because the amp and speaker are still reacting to each other as there is no “middle-man” solid-state re-amplifier.

I’m probably going to piss people off with this little rant, but so be it. I freely admit that I’m no electronics expert, but I do have the intelligence to understand a thing or two about amps, and a re-amplified attenuated signal – at least to me – isn’t going to be transparent.

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4 Tone Bones - Excellent gear, that exceeds expectations of its performance, value, and quality. Strongly consider purchasing this.

Hamer XT Sunburst

Hamer XT Sunburst

Hamer XT Sunburst Flametop

Summary: Modeled after the Hamer USA Studio, this Chinese-made axe is an affordable alternative to its American cousin. Featuring a solid mohagany body and neck with flame maple top and rosewood neck, the XT Sunburst has a naturally bright voice that’s both versatile and expressive. Very nice build quality.

Pros: Sweet, gorgeous voice at mild breakup levels, but is quite comfortable doing high-gain, which is probably where it’s best applied. This would be a great starter electric guitar!

Cons: Not much inherent sustain, especially in the upper registers where the guitar seems to lose gas. Hamer headstock is huge (that’s just a personal nit)!

Price: $349-$399 street

Specs: See web site

Tone Bone Score: 4.0 – This is not a bad guitar, and it would definitely be something I’d consider as a starter instrument for one of my kids. It’s a nice-looking and with a little work, a nice playing guitar that would be perfect for which to start out a new guitarist.

In addition to being an incredible amp builder, Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps is as much a gear slut as I am, probably more so with guitars. Recently, he made the purchase of a Hamer XT Sunburst that he let me test. I had only played USA Hamer’s in the past, so this was to be my first experience with one of Hamer’s Chinese-made guitars.

Fit and Finish

Taking the XT Sunburst out of its gig bag, I was struck by its looks. It is a very beautiful guitar, and the burst finish really accentuates the flame maple top. It is also extremely light in weight, which is a huge point in its favor. Hamer calls it an “archtop,” but it’s more of a carved top, with gorgeous lines. The body wood is made of two pieces mahogany that look like they came from different parts of the tree. It’s not bad, it’s just kind of funky looking. Overall though, the finish is quite nice.

The neck is an extremely shallow C-shape neck. It felt pretty good in my fretting hand, and made it easy to get around the neck with ease. I love the short neck butt of this guitar, which allows you to reach real high notes without first having to do hand-stretching exercises.

Playability

Here’s where the poor setup that I mentioned above came into play. The action was set pretty high, and lowering the action just a fraction immediately caused some string buzz which means that there’s a bit of a bow in the neck. I confirmed this with a quick spot check. It’s not my guitar so I didn’t want to adjust the truss rod. The high action made it difficult to move with speed across the strings. But mind you, it’s not so bad that the guitar is unplayable. I would suspect that with a good setup, this guitar has the potential to play very nicely.

Sound

Tonally, this is a very nice-sounding guitar. I just wish there was more of it. The thin body and neck don’t provide enough resonance to hold notes for very long, so if you’re looking for a guitar that will sustain for a long time, this ain’t it. The saving grace is the very beautiful voice it does have. Here’s a clip I quickly recorded:

The guitar was plugged straight into the drive channel of my Aracom VRX22. Volume was set at just the edge of breakup. The guitar was recorded dry, and I added just a touch of reverb after the fact.

Like I said, the XT Sunburst has a sweet, bright voice.

Overall Impressions

For a sub-$500 guitar, it’s not bad at all, and as a start guitar, it would be perfect. And as long as you keep your expectations aligned with what this guitar has to offer, it’ll serve you well. I did get a chance to plug it into my pedal board, and playing it through a compressor/sustainer or an overdrive pedal that adds some sustain will work wonders with this guitar. It does play nice with pedals, which is a saving grace.

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Tone Freak Effects Abunai 2I’ve been playing my Prestige Heritage Elite so much lately that I forgot how fun it was to get funky with my Strat. So this morning, I plugged my Strat into my board, switched on the Abunai 2, and found a sweet spot that would give me just a bit of grind when I played single notes with nice grit when I dug in or played chords. Then I started playing this little funky riff that I just laid down.

I just can’t get over how good this pedal sounds with any guitar! With my Strat, I’ve always tended to play it much more clean than my other guitars. The ’57 Tex Mex pickups – at least to my ears – have never sounded very good with overdrive. I’ve always felt the drive was harsh. But the Abunai 2 really smoothens out the drive, and now I’m diggin’ playing with some real grit on my Strat.

By the way, if you missed the first clip I recorded using my Heritage Elite, here it is below:

My Aracom VRX22 just loves this pedal as well. Some might argue that with such a great amp that has a fantastic overdriven sound that I should be using the natural overdrive of the amp. In answer to that, sometimes I want a completely different overdrive character than what my amp has to offer, and an overdrive pedal through the clean channel of an amp has a totally different character than the drive channel.

Also, in a home studio environment where I have to keep the volume down, an overdrive pedal allows me to get some snarling-dog overdrive without having to crank my amp. And with a pedal like the Abunai 2 that simulates voltage sag and tube compression so well, I can get that cranked amp tone at bedroom levels!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the clips!

For more information on the Abunai 2, and for other Tone Freak Effects pedals, please visit the Tone Freak Effects web site!

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