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Archive for March, 2011

At Winter NAMM 2011, under the “Compact” line of pedals, TC Electronic released seven new pedals in a more standard footprint. I spoke about about the Corona Chorus in my previous article, and it is very promising. Now you might say, “So what? There were lots of pedals release at NAMM.” True, but from my standpoint, this is a major departure for TC Electronic; not in terms of engineering and quality, but of its movement into the mainstream.

Think about it: For years TC Electronic has been producing incredible effects that are always highly rated, and known for their high quality. The only problem for me, and while it might not seem like a big thing to others, but it is a big thing to me, was the form-factor of TC pedals. I have always had a problem with their size and shape.

People might say that it’s the tone that should matter and not the form-factor, and I would agree to a point. But from a practical perspective, because of their size and shape, I’d have to sacrifice too much real estate on my board to accommodate an original TC pedal. So though I’ve loved the pedals for their tones, I’ve always passed on them purely because of I’d have to change my board. That is definitely changed with TC Electronic’s new Compact Line.

The Compact Line in a Nutshell

As I mentioned above, the Compact line includes seven pedals. It’s great that TC came out with all of them at once as opposed to staging the releases. It definitely makes a bigger splash. One thing that I can say about the Compact line is that TC had versatility in mind with these pedals. All the modulation effects include TC’s new TonePrint feature, which lets you load settings by major artists into the pedal directly via a USB connection. How cool is that?

Anyway, here are video clips I found on YouTube that really demonstrate the pedals’ capabilities:

Flashback Delay

Corona Chorus

Vortex Flanger

Hall of Fame Reverb

Shaker Vibrato

Mojo Mojo Overdrive

Dark Matter Distortion

The pedals that really catch my ear are the Corona Chorus and the Vibrato, which is VERY cool. Unlike tremolo, vibrato is a pitch modulation, where tremolo is a volume modulation. That could really come in handy!

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TC Electronic comes out with the Corona Chorus (announced at Winter NAMM 2011). From what I’ve been reading and watching about this chorus pedal, it’s a winner! Very tweakable, with three different modes including their classic SCF chorus, Tri-Chorus, and TonePrint, which allows you to download settings directly into the pedal via a USB connection to your computer.

I have never owned a TC Electronic device; though I’ve tested a few of the Nova line pedals, and they sound great, one thing that has turned me off in the past is the size of the pedals I tested. Now with TC Electronic’s new compact pedal line, all that tonal goodness TC Electronic is known for can be had in a more standard form factor!

I don’t have a lot of chorus pedals; in fact, I only have two (BOSS CE-2 and a Homebrew THC), and I love them both. I use the THC for acoustic guitar, and use the CE-2 for electric. But I was just thinking that I’d like to have a more tweakable chorus to accompany my CE-2, as it’s kind of on the bright side, and sometimes I want something much darker, plus the versatility of the Corona would be awesome to accompany the CE-2 on my board. And no, I wouldn’t remove the CE-2 because it has a very distinctive tone that I have not been able to duplicate with any other pedal – ever.

From the techie side of things, the Corona is true bypass, and as TC Electronic puts it, Analog-Dry-Through, which simply means that the dry signal through the pedal stays dry and the effect is blended in. Very nice. That would definitely make it easy to put in front of an amp.

In any case, as usual Andy at ProGuitarShop.com has created a demo video. It’s pretty sweet:

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When I get any guitar, one of the very first things I do is to test it out clean. I know, I already did a clip of the guitar dirty, but that was just a spur of the moment thing, and I literally only spent 15 minutes with her when I recorded the first clip. But tonight, I wanted to really take some time to dig in, so to say, and run Lana through her paces.

So I hooked her up to my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe because it just has killer cleans. Came up with a simple chord progression in D, recorded it, then laid down the lead. The “rhythm” part of this clip is with the neck pickup coil-tapped. The lead is with the guitar in the middle position, no coil-tapping. Give it a listen:

One of the first things that struck me was the super-organic, acoustic quality of the rhythm track. The inherent sustain creates lots of resonance, so it acts like the resonance chamber of an acoustic guitar. That’s really amazing. The guitar is probably about an inch and a half thick where the neck meets the body (no joint as this is a neck-through guitar), then tapers out to less than an inch around the body. At first glance, you wouldn’t expect this guitar to have so much sustain and resonance, but Perry’s design somehow creates tons and tons of sustain. Excellent!

When I played the lead, the humbuckers were simply thick and juicy, but without even a hint of boominess, even through my Hot Rod Deluxe, which can get pretty fat in the bottom end. Though I ultimately recorded the lead in a single take, I recorded it after about an hour of looping through the chord progression, just playing lead lines.

To me, that’s the mark of a truly great instrument. I lose all track of time when I’ve got a great instrument in hand. I’ll play for hours on end, and not stop. That’s how good Lana is. She can absolutely sing! I’d put her up against a Les Paul any day; and that’s saying a lot! Can’t wait to hook her up to my Plexi-style amps!

As to the recording, the guitar was recorded completely raw. I didn’t add any compression or EQ or do any mastering. The guitar was plugged straight into my Hot Rod, and I just set the Reverb on 3 to give it just a little grease. But that’s it. What you hear in the recording is just that.

By the way, even before I do the formal review of Lana, she’s going to get 5 Tone Bones. I know, I’m letting the cat out of the bag, but this is such a damn great guitar that I’d be lying if I gave her anything less than a 5!

If┬á you’re looking for a great custom guitar, Perry is the man to talk to. I don’t have his contact info in front of me, so I’m not providing it just now. Perry, if you’re reading this, please let the folks here know how to reach you.

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Okay… hmm… what to say… How about OH MY F-IN GAWD!!! I recently wrote about Perry Riggs last week, and true to his word, he sent me out the guitar. It arrived this afternoon via FedEx. Funny aside, my wife called me up as soon as it arrived, and asked me, “Did you buy another guitar?”

I replied, “No honey, I didn’t. Why?”

She said, “Because a Gibson box just arrived from the FedEx guy. You bought another Les Paul didn’t you?!!!”

“Really honey, I didn’t. I promise!” I exclaimed, “It must be the guitar that I’m reviewing.”

“Well,” she said, “As soon as it arrived, I said, ‘He got another guitar!’ but the FedEx guy said, ‘You can never have too many guitars!'”

Gotta love it!!!

Anyway, as soon as I got home, I didn’t wait. I opened up the box, took the guitar out to my studio/garage, plugged her into my trusty Fender Hot Rod, and started playing. Didn’t do an inspection, didn’t make any measurements. “Lana” as she’s called is one of the most beautiful guitars I’ve ever seen in my life! She weighs something like six pounds, and her neck is perfect – really similar to a 60’s Les Paul neck, so I felt right at home, right away!

Well, I just had to share how she sounds, so here’s a clip (sorry for my little “clams,” I did this quickly in one take before I have to leave for tonight’s Sharks game at the Tank):

I played the first part of the clip in the bridge pickup, then in the second part of the clip, I switched to the neck and activated the coil tap to get that spanky, single coil tone. But unlike a single coil, the notes continue to sustain. Man, I love this guitar!

You have to be here to appreciate it fully, but Lana sustains for days! I can’t believe the natural sustain this guitar has! It’s as much as any Les Paul I’ve ever played, and she’s an absolute dream to play! Notes even bloom like a Les Paul, which is amazing.

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…without a pedal board. But last year, I started to going to gigs without my pedal board, and relying entirely on whatever amp I was playing to provide my tone. With just my guitar, amp, and an attenuator of course, I can usually cover all the tonal landscape I need to cover with just that. With a great amp, like my 18 Watt Plexi-style amp (Aracom PLX18-BB Trem), I just crank it up, set the attenuator to the stage volume I need, and just go to town.

It’s actually been quite liberating. Of course, the challenge of playing without effects is that if I make a mistake, I don’t have anything to hide behind. But that has just pushed me to practice more and make less mistakes – or find other ways to cover them up; usually the latter… ­čÖé

Now I have to admit that playing without effects wasn’t a calculated thing – well, it kind of is now… But I was kind of forced to do it once when I was running late to rehearsal, and forgot to load my board into my car. Instead of driving all the way home, I decided to just rely on my fingers. From then on, especially with my church gig, if I arrange a set that doesn’t need effects (which is actually a lot more often than not), I just load my amp, guitar and attenuator into the car. It certainly makes things interesting, but I’ve found that I’ve become a much better performer since playing without effects.

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Gretsch Electromatic G5122 GuitarSummary: Big hollow body Gretsch tone in an affordable guitar. This is one impressive-sounding axe!

Pros: Unlike higher-end Gretsch models, this guitar is pretty basic and straight-forward. But that’s okay because it has tone for days! And for the price, it just can’t be beat.

Cons: None.

Features:

  • Laminated maple hollowbody 16″ W x 2.2″D
  • Laminated maple top
  • Laminated maple neck (24.56″ scale)
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 22 medium jumbo frets
  • 1-11/16″ (43mm) nut width
  • Vintage style machine heads
  • 2 Gretsch chrome-covered Dual-Coil humbuckers
  • #1 tone pot control setup
  • G-Arrow Knobs
  • Adjusto-Matic bridge on rosewood base
  • Bigsby┬« B60 vibrato tailpiece
  • Gretsch knurled strap knobs
  • Chrome-plated hardware
  • Urethane finish

Price: $675-$699 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~I’m all about value, but when you get value along with fantastic tone, I’m all over it! This is a SWEET guitar that also feels as good as it sounds!

I’ve never been one for pure hollow body guitars, but the Gretsch Electromatic that I just played during my lunchtime has completely changed my mind about hollow body guitars. I literally was blown away by the sweet sound that the guitar produces, and also by its incredible playability. For me at least, this is one guitar that I’m going to have to take a real serious look at.

Fit and Finish

There’s a reason why this guitar is so affordable: It’s made in Korea. But that shouldn’t stop you from considering a non-USA made guitar. Both PRS and G&L use Korean manufacturers for their affordable lines and for good reason: The quality of the workmanship is excellent. The Electromatic line from Gretsch is no exception. The finish is incredible, with the poly coat evenly applied over the body with no bubbles or gaps. I played the walnut stain model, which is a reddish-brown, and the thin, translucent stain brings out the gorgeous grain of the wood, producing and almost wine-red effect. Very sexy.

The Bigsby trem bar finishes the look to give the Electromatic that classic, vintage Gretsch look. Truth be told, I’ve never been into Bigsby trems, but it just works for this guitar. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

For a Gretsch, the Electromatic Double Cut is quite simple. Not sporting the filter knobs and switches that you normally see in the higher end models, the Electromatic has a pickup selector, a single tone knob (next to the bridge pickup), independent volume knobs for each pickup, then a master volume knob. That’s it. If you’re looking for simplicity, then this is a great guitar to have!

How It Sounds

Most reviews of the guitar’s sound are very good, though there are some who don’t like it. I think it really depends on the amp you play it through. I played it through a Mesa Royal Atlantic at a local shop, and it sounded absolutely gorgeous! In fact, the tone was incredibly acoustic. The G5122DC is generally known for its “twang.” But dialed in correctly, I could see using this guitar in my acoustic sets. Really. The neck pickup was definitely my favorite, with the middle pickup, which allowed me to blend the two, coming in a close second. The bridge pickup’s tone is definitely twangy. Overall, tonally, this guitar is very versatile. I could see using it in a variety circumstances, not just limit it to blues and rockabilly. I love it! I’m going to get it! ­čÖé

Update May 13, 2011 – Since I’ve been seriously evaluating this guitar (and am picking it up today, as a matter of fact), I played it through a few amps and also directly through a PA board, and my Fishman SoloAmp. It’s going to do the job and then some for my solo gigs!

Playablity

Gretsch’s have always been known for their playability, and the G5122DC is no exception. Didn’t matter where I was on the neck, I could get great tones out of this guitar, and it always felt incredible. The action was perfect on the guitar I played, and frankly, I just don’t have a single complaint about the guitar; not a one. I love the thinner profile of the neck, and the gentle “C” feels like a 60’s Les Paul neck. Not sure what kind of rosewood they used, but it’s very smooth to the touch, and digging in feels amazing!

Overall Impression

Here I was all GASsed out after getting my Les Pauls, but this Electromatic G5122DC is a clean machine. Add a little ‘verb and some slapback delay, and you’ve got a great rockabilly tone. Take out the delay and add just a touch of ‘verb and back off the volume knobs, and you’ve got an incredible acoustic tone. How incredibly versatile!

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…or “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Many have probably heard this saying, though it’s not real Latin. But who cares? It’s a cool saying, and something I always remember when I visit gear forums. The great thing about the Internet is that it has made the world a lot smaller, but the darker side of it is that it has allowed people to exercise a certain anonymity, and some folks use this anonymity as a license to be an asshole. It’s really too bad because the Internet after all was meant as a way for people to collaborate. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad; and in fact, you can gain lots of useful information on the various forums – I belong to several – that can help you in your buying decisions. But just remember: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

In light of this discussion, the Internet and web forums are great resources for learning about gear. But here are some rules of thumb to consider when doing a search for some new gear:

  1. Never ask an open-ended question: “What is the best __________?” That’s just going to invite lots of useless discussion, and oftentimes lots of argument. Instead, phrase it like: “I want to achieve __________ kind of sound. In your experience, what would help me get there?” With your question framed like that, you’ll still get a lot of answers, but they’ll be much more focused.
  2. Just because someone “sounds” or gives seemingly intelligent responses, doesn’t mean they’re knowledgeable about a particular subject. On the Internet, you have to remember that until you’ve proven someone’s bonafides, everything they say is an opinion.
  3. Verify, verify, verify. This simply means what I say over and over again: You have to play something to truly know if it “fits.” Going purely off the word of someone – even someone whom you trust – could be an expensive learning experience. Believe me, I’m quite familiar with this. ­čÖé
  4. Take what you hear or read from manufacturers with a grain of salt, and don’t get pulled in by their bombast. There’s one manufacturer in particular that I won’t call out by name that is notorious for this, claiming things about his product and charging a super-high price, and he uses a $10 part that does most of the heavy lifting. Instead, get opinions from other users and see if they’ve made comparisons between competing products. That’s more valuable than the hyperbole of a manufacturer.

There are probably more I can think of, but these should suffice for now…

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