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Archive for November, 2019

I have to admit that before yesterday, I had absolutely no idea that this guitar even existed. I only discovered it by watching a video of Juliana Vieira doing a demo of the BOSS RC-10R rhythm/looper.

When I looked at the guitar, I thought it was a Gretsch or a 335 but then I saw the distinctive Fender headstock and thought What? When did Fender do a hollowbody?

It turns out that back in 1966, in response to the popularity of the Epiphone Casino, Fender enlisted Roger Rossmeisl, a German luthier who designed guitars for Rickenbacker to design them a hollowbody guitar that could compete with the likes of Ephiphone and Gretsch. The guitar went through a few iterations in its original production run from 1966-1972. Then Fender discontinued production.(1)

But in 2013, Fender reissued the Coronado II, which was the dual-humbucker version of the Coronado that featured a Tune-O-Matic bridge and what Fender called Fidelitron humbuckers. Those pickups made me think the guitar was a Gretsch at first because they look like the TV Jones pickups. But then I looked at the body an thought that it bore a real resemblance to an ES-335. The block inlays on the neck further reinforced that, but the headstock gave its away.

When I saw that it was a Fender, I literally laughed out loud. As I mentioned in the title, I love schizo guitars. I personally have a Godin Artisan ST-V which, from a distance, looks like a Strat with a long upper horn. But on close inspection it’s nothing like a Strat. But it’s so cool to play! Another one that comes to mind is the Gibson Firebird which looks like a backwards Fender Jaguar but at the same time looks like an Explorer “Lite.”

Though Wikipedia says that the guitar is still in production, I couldn’t find any new guitars in the major online shops, and there is absolutely no information to be found on the Fender website. All the guitars that I found on sale are on the used market. And there aren’t that many.

With the re-issue, when Fender released the Coronado II, it’s as if it was again responding to the popularity of another manufacturer’s release, namely the Gretsch 5xxx Electromatic line. I bought one back in late 2011. I got it for $549. The Coronado went for $100 more – of course Fender’s charging more. 🙂

The ones I’ve found are in pretty good shape at around $600. I might just have to pull the trigger on one of these in the near future.

Here’s Juliana Vieira’s demo of the BOSS RC-10R.

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1 Fender Coronado. Wikipedia

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Up until recently, you had two options in the digital modeling world: A full-blown modeling amp (BOSS Katana, Fender ToneMaster, etc.) or, a dedicated, self-contained amp sim and cab unit like the Helix, AxeFX, or Kemper. If you’ve read this blog as of late, I’ve personally gone the full-blown digital amp direction. I couldn’t be happier with how it works for me for live performances. And it works great in the studio as well.

But in my last recording session, I thought to myself that it would be great to have a compact, standalone unit that I could just plug into my interface and record; a middle ground between full-blown amp and a self-contained unit. One could argue that that could easily be accomplished by a Helix or AxeFx. No argument there. But what has kept me from going that route is the complexity of those units. I abhor deep tweaking. For me, I just want to twiddle a few knobs and be done with it. I want to get to making music.

And maybe the Iridium is the answer to that. With only six knobs and two three-way switches, giving me access to three different amp models, it could very well be that middle ground.

Granted it has much more in common with the Helix-like units being a self-contained unit itself. And though you can load your own IRs into it, you can’t do much more than that, whereas with the Helix and the like, you can affect everything in your virtual signal chain. For some, that’s a panacea for all their guitar sound needs. But for others like me who just want something basic, the Iridium seems to be a much better fit.

As for live use, at least as far as I’m concerned, I don’t know if it’s something I’d use live on a regular basis, though there’s one particular venue where I have an FOH tech that can send my guitar sound back to me where it would be useful. Where I know that I’d get the most use out of this is for recording.

I shared this video on my post about Keven Eknes and it demonstrates just how good the Iridium can sound plugged directly into an interface:

Granted, that dude is an absolutely killer player. But according to him, he just went direct into his interface. Reverb and delay were added in software.

As with all Strymon products, they don’t come cheap. At $399, it’s definitely a serious investment, which unfortunately is a limiting factor for me. Whether or not I decide to make the investment is going to depend heavily on being able to demo the unit to see if it works for me. Luckily, I know a few people who are considering getting this so hopefully I’ll be able to try it out.

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For the past several years, I’ve had some sort of vocal/harmony processor in my solo acoustic rig. Some were all-in-one units that combined vocal processing along with guitar effects (DigiTech Vocalist Live, TC Helicon VoiceLive Play Acoustic and GTX). Others were focused mainly on vocals with limited guitar processing such as my trusty TC Helicon Harmony G XT. All in all, a vocal processor/harmonizer has become an invaluable component in my solo acoustic rig.

But like any gear that gets used often, it eventually wears out. I’m actually surprised my Harmony G XT lasted over 6 years because these units while they certainly look and feel as if they’ll last a long time, they just don’t stand the rigors of regular gigging, with some units like the VoiceLive Play units not lasting more than a year. Granted, I gig far less now than I used to, so chances are that the unit I eventually will get should last a bit longer. Let’s hope.

So I’ve boiled my search down to two units: The BOSS VE-8 Acoustic Singer and the TC Helicon VoiceLive 3. Both offer similar features, and from what I can tell, the sound quality of both units is pretty similar, though I do give an edge to the TC Helicon. But admittedly that could be bias since I’ve been using TC Helicon units for so long.

I’m kind of agonizing over which unit to get. All things being equal, I’d probably get the VE-8 because it’s less than half the price of the VoiceLive 3. BUT the big mark against it is complexity of the unit. You can set all sorts of stuff on the pedal, but to get to them and set them, you have to do a lot of knob and button twiddling.

Plus, there’s so much packed into the unit, it seems you have to have the manual handy; unless, of course, all you do is tweak it constantly and memorize everything. Um…. NOT! Clearly this is a unit where it’s best to preset everything you need for a gig then make adjustments in between gigs or on long breaks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve usually found that kind of stuff fairly tedious. On the other hand, at $299, damn! That’s VERY approachable.

In contrast, in typical TC Helicon style, the VoiceLive 3 is set up to make setting parameters incredibly easy. From what I can tell, you can set everything from the foot switches entirely, making it so much easier to use than the VE-8. That has always been a hallmark of TC. It’s clear they put a lot into their user interfaces to ensure unparalleled ease of use.

On top of that, based on past experience, the TC Helicon harmony algorithm is incredibly natural-sounding and very fast, with no detectable lag. It’s actually pretty amazing. I’ve purchased and demoed five different TC Helicon units over the years, and have always loved how good the harmonies sound.

But the high-quality voices and ease of use of TC Helicon units are much more expensive than the competition. In fact, the VoiceLive 3 Extreme, which seems to be the one that all the distributors carry instead of the regular unit is over twice the price of the VE-8. Furthermore, the VoiceLive 3 has been plagued with reliability issues since its release.

But to be fair, from what I’ve been able to find out through research is that these problems are easily addressable and don’t require spending money on repair, though you will have to get electrical contact spray and a star Allen bit. I have both, so no expense for me. The problem stems from dust build-up and metal shavings from the switches themselves and from the internal Micro SD card either coming loose or collecting dust in the mount. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain, but the fact that the known issues are addressable makes the reliability issues less of a deterrent.

So I’ve got my work cut out for me in figuring out which one to get. I’m leaning heavily towards the VoiceLive 3 because frankly, ease of use is very important to me. But the big factor is simply this: Am I willing to pay over twice as much for that? It certainly does give me pause.

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