Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘accessories’ Category

fender_fa135ce

Fender FA 135 CE Concert Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Summary: Part of the Fender Classic Design series, this lower-end model is a real surprise; especially in the sound department. Nice, low action, and a great feel. If you’re looking for a starter guitar or getting your child his or her very first guitar, you can’t go wrong with the FA 135 CE.

Pros: Some reviews have questioned the build quality of this guitar, but I’m very impressed with how solid this guitar is built. The guitar stays in tune and playing it is so, so easy. And for a smaller concert size guitar, this has a very rich sound; it’s quite unexpected.

Cons: The only nit that I have – and it’s really just a nit – is that the tuners are bit fast for my tastes. Fine tuning is a little challenging at first, but it’s easy to get used to.

Price: $179 street

Features:

  • Laminated bass wood sides and back
  • Laminated spruce top with X-bracing reinforcement
  • Nato wood neck
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Compensated rosewood saddle
  • Single cutaway
  • Fishman Ion-T Preamp with built-in tuner

Tone Bone Rating: 4.75 ~ For what it is, I can’t help but give this guitar a great rating. Fender really surprised me with this guitar!

My 12-year-old son has been taking Ukelele lessons for a couple of years, and after he finished his last lesson, he came out and told me that he wanted to start playing guitar. His teacher, Michael, had accompanied him out of the lesson room and told me that he was ready. And since his birthday was coming up, I thought I’d get him a new one, as opposed to fixing up one of my old ones. My thought is that just like my dad did for me, I’d give my son a brand new guitar for his first one.

So today I went to Guitar Center and spent a couple of hours in their acoustic room evaluating all sorts of acoustic guitars. I didn’t want to spend over $200 for this guitar, but luckily, as a big-box retailer, Guitar Center has a pretty wide selection of “value” guitars. I tried guitars from Mitchell, a used “Little Martin,” several Yamaha guitars, and even a Gretsch.

The Little Martin was impressive and solidly built and was at a great price of $189, but it wouldn’t be available until Wednesday due to some city ordinance about a waiting period for used guitars. I needed a guitar today. So I sat in the acoustic room, and my gaze fell upon the Fender. I immediately thought to myself that it looked really nice. But, the thought also occurred that it was a Fender acoustic, and my previous experiences with those haven’t been all that good.

But in spite of my preconceptions, I decided to give it a try and was immediately surprised by the tone of the guitar. For a smaller-body guitar, I wasn’t expecting much sound-wise. But this had a sweet, gorgeous, rich tone. It completely took me by surprise. Then I started playing it, and thought, This couldn’t be a Fender acoustic! It sounds and plays way too nice – especially at $179!

Folks, this guitar is a sleeper, and it reminds me of the experience I had with my Squier Classic Vibe Tele. Great sound, great playability at a SUPER-affordable price!

Fit and Finish

The build quality of this guitar is awesome, just like my CV Tele. There are no uneven paint lines, and all the seams are clean and straight. The neck is straight, and the action is set up low, though it does raise just a little bit in the higher registers; but it’s not so bad that it’s not playable. This is a great guitar for fingerstyle playing, but even strummed, there’s no buzz. But more importantly, the setup is perfect for a beginning guitarist like my little boy.

Playability

Quite frankly, the main criterium for choosing a guitar for my son was playability. I could live with a guitar that had only okay sound just as long as it was easy to play. The frets are medium wire. Not great for bending and vibrato, but hey! This is a beginner’s guitar, so that’s not a big issue. The spacing is great between the frets as this is a shorter-scale guitar. For a seasoned player, this guitar plays with ease. For a beginner and a young player at that, the short scale will help them build up confidence.

How It Sounds

For a low-priced guitar, the FA 135 CE is amazingly articulate. As expected, it has a bit brighter voice as compared to a larger body guitar. But it has some nice sustain, and the spruce soundboard resonates with a surprisingly rich tone. Projection is great with this guitar due to the X-bracing under the top to provide stability and to help with projection. What also surprised me about this guitar is that it’s louder than I expected.

Tone-wise, as for me, I prefer a brighter-sounding guitar. While I liked the Little Martin, doing an A/B with that vs. the FA 135, it was as if a blanket was put over the Martin. The sound was much warmer and a bit too subdued for my tastes. That guitar projected very loud, but it would get lost in the mix when played with other guitars. This shouldn’t happen with the FA 135 CE.

Quick Demo

Here’s a quick demo I recorded just before posting this review. Sorry for the sound quality – and background noises – as this was recorded using my MacBook’s built in microphone, my new puppy was being a little playful across the room… 🙂

Preamp Test

As mentioned above, the guitar comes equipped with a Fishman Ion-T preamp. It’s a pretty simple preamp, so I thought I would give it a whirl. It’s not a bad preamp as preamps go, but it’s nothing special. In fact, its output is only okay. In order to record, I had to peg the guitar’s volume and add a lot of gain on my audio interface. Not a big deal. What was important to me was if I could get a good enough guitar signal to use the guitar in a song.

I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the result. I didn’t have to tweak the EQ at all. Of course, I did some production processing, but that was the point of the exercise, which was to see if I could get a good, mixable acoustic guitar sound from a plugged in guitar.

Overall Impression

I love this guitar! Who cares if it was manufactured in China. I have to commend Fender for finding an overseas manufacturer that does a great job at building guitars. The build, play and sound quality of this guitar have far exceeded my expectations. I think this is a guitar that my son will enjoy for years to come!

Read Full Post »

5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

Peterson StroboClip HDTM High Definition Clip-On Strobe Tuner

Summary: Peterson is the pioneer in strobe tuning and this new version of the highly-acclaimed StroboClip is a huge improvement over the original StroboClip which, in my opinion, just couldn’t be beaten. But add to that a larger, high-definition, and a high-contrast screen, then throw in a high degree of accuracy, then add Peterson’s unrivaled “Sweeteners,” what’s not to like?

Pros: I said pretty much everything in the summary. This thing just works and it’s accurate – very accurate. But it’s really the Sweeteners that have always sealed the deal for me.

Cons: None for me as I used the original for a long time (until some a-hole stole it at a gig), but using a strobe tuner will take a newbie a bit of time to get used to. But that shouldn’t discourage anyone.

Price: $59.99 street

Features:

  • 0.1 cent accuracy
  • 50+ Sweeteners for different kinds of instruments – thank goodness the guitar ones are first. 🙂
  • Comparatively larger, HD, backlit LCD readout.
  • Tuning Range: C0 to B6 (very wide)
  • Concert Pitch Range 390-490Hz

Tone Bone Rating: 5.00 ~ After my original StroboClip got stolen last year, I went with a cheap Snark tuner. It did the job okay, but there was always something special about the sound of a guitar tuned with my StroboClip. It just sounded better. And with this updated, upgraded version, I’m a very happy camper!

 

What could be so special about a tuner?

Believe me, not all tuners are made the same. An accurately tuned guitar can make the difference between sounding just okay and sounding incredible. So it stands to reason that the more accurate your tuning, the better you’ll sound. So tuner manufacturers have strived to get as accurate as possible, getting into the tenths of a cent (or even the hundredths of a cent). The StroboClip is super-accurate at 0.1 cent, which is pretty incredible. And that’s great – you might be thinking that at this point, there might be a “but” in there… Yes, there is…

As James Taylor puts it, because of how guitars are constructed, and how the strings vibrate, the actual sound that they produce when plucked is not actually in tune if you tune the strings to their exact tuning. According to JT, strings will ring a little sharp, so he actually tunes each string down a few cents per string – not evenly – as each different string requires a different adjustment.

And this is where Peterson tuners have always stood out. They’ve gone to great lengths studying the actual sounds that come off a stringed instrument and have come up with special tuning algorithms for different types of instruments that they call “Sweeteners.” A Peterson rep shared with me that for their acoustic Sweetener, JT’s tuning influenced their algorithm. Hey! If it’s good enough for JT…

In any case, the Sweeteners are extremely subtle, but the first time I used a sweetener for a recording, I noticed that my guitar just sounded better. The difference is like wearing a nicely shined pair of shoes. People don’t necessarily know that you’ve shined your shoes, but they notice that you look a bit sharper. That’s the best analogy I can come up with for Peterson’s Sweeteners.

I noticed it especially with recording my acoustic guitar. With standard, equivalent tuning, it sounded okay but tuned with the ACU (acoustic) Sweetener, it just seemed to ring so much better. That said, you have to get used to the sound because up close, it might sound a little off. But when I listened to the recording, wow! It was truly a revelation.

Fit and Finish

All Peterson products are built rock-solid. And even though they’ve gone with a plastic body, it doesn’t feel at all cheap.

The kicker for me is the comparatively large screen to other tuners. Damn! That thing is readable! And with the higher number of pixels, the readout is super smooth. And for my aging eyes, I love it!

The clip’s springs are pretty tight, but not so much that you can’t squeeze the clip open, and combined with the silicon pads will ensure that the clip stays put on your headstock.

Ease of Use Tuning with a Strobe Tuner

It has three buttons. The middle turns on the unit and acts as the menu selector. The + and – buttons scroll through choices. Doesn’t get much easier than this.

Tuning with a Strobe Tuner

I have to admit that the first time I used a strobe tuner, it was a little weird. I was so used to seeing a needle sweep over a gauge. With a strobe tuner, what you get is a checkerboard pattern that sweeps left and right to indicate the sharpness or flatness of your string. If it moves clockwise, the string is sharp and vice-versa if the string is flat. When the string is in tune, the checkerboard stops moving. The bigger screen really helps.

But there is a bit of a trick to tuning. You have to get used to moving in much smaller increments than what you might be used to. Also, the tuner is so sensitive that once you make an adjustment, you have to remove your hand from the tuning knob because the slightest pressure will affect the tuning. But believe me, once you get used to tuning this way, it’ll become second-nature.

One feature that I didn’t mention is the Drop/Capo setting. If you drop your tuning or use a capo, you can get into the Drop/Capo mode, set the number of semitones you’re going up or down, and then tune accordingly. That’s a really powerful feature, and as I often use a capo, knowing that my strings are all in tune with the right compensations for each string is comforting.

Overall Impression

You can probably tell based on the rating I gave and the review, I love this tuner! I know that Peterson’s marketing push is for the HD screen, but to me, this tuner has always been about the underlying technology. It’s second to none. But I do have to say that the larger screen is simply awesome!

At $59.99, it’s not a cheap tuner, especially compared to something like a Snark 2 that you can get for under $25 (I got mine for $21 on sale). And you know me, I’m not one to say that just because you pay more for something, it’s better. But in this case, it’s totally worth the extra money.

You might be wondering why I might be so excited about this. After all, it’s only a tuner. But once you tune with a Peterson tuner and hear the difference in your sound, you’ll become a believer.

What About Other Strobe Tuners?

The only one I can think of is the Turbo Tuner with an amazing .02 cent accuracy; yes, you read that right. But as I said before, while extreme accuracy is great, what makes the Peterson technology stand out to me are the Sweeteners. They really make a difference. And at some point, I’m wondering if our ears can actually hear the difference between 0.1 and .02 cent. I’m not so sure. It’s almost like a tube amp. The more gain you throw at a tube, the less effect it’ll have on volume. But to each their own. If extreme accuracy is your thing, that’s awesome. And that’s the beauty of having so many choices out in gear land. There’s bound to be something to please any taste.

For me, that taste is the Peterson Sweeteners!

Read Full Post »

Though I’m pretty satisfied with my current rig – actually, I’m pretty settled now as far as pedals are concerned – that doesn’t mean that I don’t look to see what’s out there. While surfing this morning before going off to work, I came across the new Voodoo TC line of pedals from Roger Mayer. These pedals feature huge knobs for changing the main pedal parameters, and they’re meant to be changed with your foot!

What a cool concept! No more bending over to change the drive on a drive pedal or the intensity or pulse of a vibe. Not only that, the Voodoo TC line has this retro, art-deco look, and sporting colors that were apparently inspired by 1950’s Chevy’s!

There are nine pedals in the line thus far, and from what I can tell from the descriptions, they’re heavily inspired by Jimi Hendrix tones, with a few drive pedals, a vibe, and an octavia. But there is one specifically geared towards bass distortion.

For more information, check out the Roger Mayer TC Series page. There are a couple of videos on the page from the Japan Music Fair, with one of the videos being an interview with Roger Mayer, explaining the motivation behind the pedals.

Read Full Post »

As an actively gigging musician, I’m always looking for the most efficient and safe ways to transport my gear. But I do have to admit that I value efficiency a bit more than safety. My thought behind this is that treating my gear with care is a given, so I want to make as few trips from my car to get my gear set up for a gig.

So I have always kept an eye on transport containers or even systems that can keep me as efficient as possible. For instance, a big reason that I got my Fishman SoloAmp was because the speaker array, stand, and cable could all be transported together in the provided transport case; the whole thing weighing only 25 lbs., and case has wheels! I would not have gotten it if it sounded bad, but not having to take multiple trips to the car was really key.

I also have a few different bags that I use depending upon the gig I’m playing. For my solo gigs, I use a heavy-duty laptop bag that has tons of space to hold my harmonizer unit, microphones, cables, and even music books. Again, only a single trip.

Enter MONO. These folks make bags and cases specifically tailored to DJs and guitarists. They have some nice, padded guitar and bass gig bags, and even make guitar straps. But I really dig their gear bags, such as The Producer, which has lots of room to carry all sorts of gig accessories. This will probably be my next accessory bag as it was purpose-built with the DJ or gigging musician in mind.

Check out this video review of The Producer:

Lots of space and pockets. Love it!

Read Full Post »

Wow! I didn’t realize how fun doing videos would be! Expect to see more video reviews in the future! In any case, here are some key points:

Tone Bone Rating 5.0
Notes I LOVE this stand! I’m going to get a couple more! Very well built and lightweight, it’s a perfect stand not just for the stage, but also in the studio where its small footprint won’t take up much space!
Price $34.95
Pros Very easy to fold up and lug around
Cons May not work for bass – it works for mine, but fat basses may not fit (this is not really a negative, just a warning)

Read Full Post »



Click on the picture to see an enlarged view.

Radial Engineering ProDI Direct Box

Summary: Need to plug your acoustic guitar or bass directly into your mixer or DAW? Don’t do it without one of these units.

Pros: Completely passive DI, requires no internal or external power sources. Super-transparent, the ProDI adds no artifacts to your tone. Used with an acoustic guitar, it makes your guitar come alive!

Cons: None

Features (from the Radial web site):

  • Full range passive direct boxes
  • Isolation transformer eliminates noise
  • Very low harmonic and phase distortion
  • Compact and rugged design
  • Ideal for live sound and studio
  • Mono (ProDI) or stereo (ProD2) models

Price: $99 street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Talk about having my acoustic guitar just come alive! If you’re not using a DI when plugging into a board, you need to get this!

For my solo acoustic gigs, I’ve been using my DigiTech Vocalist Live 4 for the last couple of years, and it has been terrific. But back when my Ovation got damaged (which I’ve since fixed with a little wood glue), I’ve been using my Fender Stratacoustic with the Vocalist. Unfortunately, the Vocalist doesn’t like input gain of the Stratacoustic, and driving hard on the strings would cause the Vocalist to overdrive, and cause a pop in the PA system. Not good. Luckily, the Vocalist Live has a Guitar Thru jack, so I could route the signal to another channel on the board.

But that meant that I was going to be plugging direct, and I knew that plugging an acoustic directly into a board doesn’t sound very good at all. Not only is the sound muddy with way too much midrange “goop,” there’s also a huge loss in dynamics, ultimately making the guitar tone flat and lifeless. While I don’t completely understand the electronics, the problem apparently lies in the impedance mismatch between guitar and board; and if I’ve learned anything impedance mismatches from working with attenuators, impedance mismatch is a big culprit for loss of tone and transparency. Enter the DI, or direct input box.

The main purpose of a DI box is to take one type of electronic signal, convert it to a magnetic signal, then convert it back to an electronic signal again. The  device used for this is a transformer. With a DI, the unbalanced, high-impedance signal coming from the guitar goes into the transformer, which “transforms” the signal into a balanced, low-impedance signal on the other end. The net result is that impedances are properly matched on both ends, theoretically retaining your tone. Now, enter the Radial ProDI.

I knew I had to get a DI, but wasn’t sure about which one to get, as there are many to choose from. But a quick call to Jordan at Gelb Music got me on track right away. I’ve been buying gear from him for years, and he knows my rig. So when I explained what I wanted to do, he had an immediate recommendation: The Radial Engineering ProDI.

Jordan told me, “I just recorded some acoustic tracks directly into a board, and used the ProDI. I was blown away by the tone. It totally made my guitar come to life – even plugged in! And at $99, it’s totally worth it.”

That was enough of an endorsement for me. Yeah, you could say it’s just another sales guy trying to make a sale, but I’ve been dealing with Jordan for awhile, and not only is he knowledgeable, everything he recommends, he plays. That’s Gelb’s shtick. They have an unsaid policy that their sales guys can’t make recommendations on anything they haven’t played, so you can be assured that their recommendations are reliable. I’ve been buying gear from them for years, so I’ve experienced that first-hand, AND benefited from that policy!

How It Sounds

I put together a couple of quick audio clips to demonstrate the difference between going direct into my DAW vs going through the ProDI.

Guitar straight into the DAW

Guitar into the ProID then into the DAW

One of the reasons I chose the Stratacoustic was because of the fantastic Fishman pre-amp and dual pickup system it uses. Plugged in, it sounds incredible. But even plugged in, there’s a detectable (at least to my ears) muffling of the tone, whereas with the ProDI, the guitar sounds richer.

I realize that with these recordings the differences are subtle at best. However, the difference was far greater plugged into the board at the restaurant I played at on Friday. I did an A/B test during sound check, and I couldn’t believe the difference in clarity between going direct into the board, and going through the ProDI first.

Overall Impressions

This is yet another piece of gear that I cannot live without for going direct. It’s a simple box for sure, but at $99, what it brings to the table is so much! For more information, check out the Radial Engineering ProDI page!

Read Full Post »

Could this be the last tuner pedal you’ll ever need?

I don’t see how I missed this! I scour the ‘net daily for new stuff, especially from companies that are known to create really high-quality stuff – like TC Electronic. These Scandinavians are incredible inventors, and I haven’t seen or played one one thing of theirs that I didn’t like – though I could rarely afford it. But they’ve come out with a new tuner – yes, a tuner, of all things – that is completely different from any other tuner on the market. It’s called the “Polytune.” As its name implies, it is a polyphonic tuner; that is, the tuner can detect all your strings at once, and you can see which ones aren’t in tune at the click of a foot switch. Unlike traditional tuners that require you to check each string individually, with the Polytune, you strum your open strings. The LED’s will show you which strings are in tune and which aren’t.

In my experience, more likely than not, at any given time only one or two will be out of tune. So imagine the time you save by NOT having to check and tune each string – only the ones that need it! Check out this video to see how it works!

And at $99 bucks… SOLD!!!

Here are some features:

  • 0.5 cent accuracy
  • Standard size box
  • Tune by strumming
  • Can automatically switch between chromatic and polyphonic tuning (it will detect if you’re hitting a single string)
  • Customizable preference settings
  • Has a 9V output jack for powering other pedals
  • True bypass
  • Adjustable reference pitch from 435Hz to 445Hz
  • Supports drop tuning all the way down to B!
  • Works with 4 and 5 string basses as well

It may not have the accuracy of a TurboTuner, but who the hell gives a flying f$%k! .5 cent accuracy is nothing to shake a stick at, and the fact that you can see the tuning of all your strings at once is incredible! Can  you say KICK ASS!!! I’ve never even seen this thing and I want to give it 5 Tone Bones! Check out the TC Electronic web site for some detailed information!

Could this be the last tuner I’ll ever want? Until someone comes out with something better – and at a better price, for that matter, probably not. I want to get one right now. Unfortunately, they’re only available for pre-order. Hmm… oh well, I supposed I can wait. 🙂

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »