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Archive for the ‘gear announcements’ Category

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. πŸ™‚

To see the full pictorial, check out my page dedicated to Goldie!

Sound Clip

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!!!

For more information about Saint Guitars, visit the Saint Guitar Company web site!

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Sweetwood Guitar Company Ever since I started this blog back in 2007, I’m always tickled by how I sometimes just stumble upon gear manufacturers. With Tone Freak Effects, I happened to do a search on “tone freaks” to see if there were any interesting site out there. I found Red Bear Trading picks at a local guitar shop, and bought a couple after trying them out as I was curious what a $20 pick would play like (it was wonderful, of course). In other cases like Saint Guitar Company, a visitor to GuitarGear.org happened to mention that he had just got one in a comment. I at first thought the comment was spam, but decided to do some research. I’m glad I did because I’m going to soon take delivery of my first custom Saint Guitar Company Goldtop Messenger!

A couple of days ago, I was viewing a video of Tonic Amps, and noticed a guitar that I had never seen before (click on the video link, and you’ll see it at about 1:50). It was gorgeous! Birdeye maple top, solid maple body and neck from a company I had never heard of before called Sweetwood Guitar Company. Of course, The Dawg rarely passes up the opportunity to sniff out new gear to activate his GAS, so I did a search and found the Sweetwood Guitars site. These are VERY NICE guitars! Very simple and straight-forward in their design, with a real vintage vibe going on.

Not wanting to stop at just looking at pictures, I went to the contact page, and was blown away! Sweetwood Guitars is local to me! In fact, they’re only about 15 minutes away from my house! Shit! I’m in trouble! πŸ™‚ But it’s a good trouble!

Anyway, I gave Glenn, Sweetwood Guitars’ owner and luthier a call, and will soon be doing a test run on a couple of his guitars. When I called him, he was on the road traveling back up to the Silicon Valley from LA, where he has the finishes done, and he was bring back a bunch of guitars! I can’t wait to hook up with him and try out these beauties!

For more information, check out the Sweetwood Guitar Company web site!

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Tonic AmpsFane

I love living in the Silicon Valley. While it might not be considered a “destination” for music and culture like San Francisco, New York, Nashville, and Saint Louis, it is a destination for technology, and for decades has led the world in many of the technological advancements we enjoy today. Having lived in the Silicon Valley all my life, and watching it transform from a largely agrarian economy to the mecca of high-tech and venture capital, one thing has remained the same: The Silicon Valley has a certain magic about it that inspires innovation and invention.

So it is no surprise that there are several boutique amp manufacturers in the area. I’ve written about a couple in the past, namely Aracom Amps and King Amplification, but recently, I hooked up with Tonic Amps, located in Mountain View; less than 10 minutes from my home!

Darin Ellingson contacted meΒ  last week, and invited me to come to his shop. While I knew he built amps, what I didn’t know until I did a bit of research is that Darin is Fane International’s North American distributor for Fane speakers! That got me really interested in Tonic – especially Darin’s cabs. Over the years, I’ve heard so much about Fane speakers, but have never had the chance to hear how they sound. And what great fortune that the North American distributor is 10 minutes away from my house!

In a nutshell, I played through three types of Fanes in 2 X 12 and 4 X 14 cabs: Studio 12L, AXA12, and Medusa 150. Plus, I got a sneak peak at some prototype Fanes Darin is having specially made. Through Tonic cabs, the Fanes sound drop-dead gorgeous! I hooked up three different amps to various Tonic Amps: A Reason Bambino, Aracom VRX18 (tube rectified), and a Tonic Torpedo. No matter what amp I played through, the Fanes sounded crisp, articulate and incredibly dynamic. Folks, this is the way to evaluate speakers. Frequency response charts are useful, but until you’ve got the speakers loaded into a cab, you will never know how they truly perform. Tonic cabinets are absolutely top-notch, and if you’re in the market for a great cabinet, you can’t go wrong with these. They’re all solid wood (no pressboard here), and the dimensions Darin has specified really bring out the best character of the Fane speakers.

What was my favorite? It’s a toss-up between the Medusa 150 and Darin’s prototype that he will hopefully bring into production soon. I love the scooped tones of the Medusa and the mid-ranginess of the prototype. Hmmm… can you say 2 X 12 cab with these in it? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Dammit! Gave myself GAS again! It’s probably a good thing I can’t afford them right now – I will have to save my pennies. The speakers and cabinets don’t come cheap, but for this tonal quality, it’s worth every penny. You wouldn’t put a great speaker in a cheap cabinet… maybe… No, I won’t even get into that debate… πŸ™‚

Torpedoes Away

Based upon the classic Trainwreck circuitry, the Torpedo is a pedal lover’s wet dream! I played the 50 Watt version, which is powered by a pair of EL-34’s! Folks, we’re talking clean headroom with this amp, with minimal breakup at the top end of the volume sweep. The tone is thick and rich and very well-balanced. I didn’t notice an overabundance in any part of the EQ range… well… it did have just the slightest amount of midrange, but that’s good though, because this amp’s tone will play nicely in a mix.

At any volume level, the amp sounds great, but its true character comes out when you dime the volume and play it through a 4 X 12 cabinet. Throw a couple of pedals in front of it (we used the British Ball Breaker and a prototype GeekDriver/GeekRanger pedal in front of the amp), and the amp’s tone combined with the 4 X 12 will knock you across the fuckin’ room! Can you say wicked overdrive that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? It was amazing to witness!!!

The “Torpedo” moniker is totally appropriate for this amp. It is meant to fire out a shot of gorgeous tone, blow you out of the water, and knock you into tone heaven! Even at the volumes we were playing at, this tone isn’t a face-peeling raucous. Granted, a lot of that quality had to do with the Fane speakers we were playing through, but just as with you not putting great speakers in a shitty cabinet well, you don’t play a great amp with shitty speakers either.

If you live in the Silicon Valley, I encourage you to contact Darin and check out his workshop. It’s set up for jamming, so bring an axe or two! Darin’s even got beer! Though next time I go to his shop, I’ll bring a 12 pack. BTW, he like Tecate. πŸ™‚Β  For more information, check out the Tonic Amps web site! To get a reference for how great Tonic Amps sound, check out Darin’s YouTube site at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MrTonicAmps.

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GeekMacDaddy British Ball Breaker

I had such a great evening tonight! Darin from Tonic Amps invited me over to his shop to try some amps through his excellent speaker cabinets (be on the lookout for a review in the next day or so). He has a very cool workshop that he also shares with “GeekMacDaddy,” who makes some absolutely KICK-ASS pedals! I got to try out a few of them tonight, and absolutely fell in love with the British Ball Breaker, which GeekMacDaddy touts as a classic Marshall Plexi in a box. He’s not kidding, either. This is a helluva pedal, with rich, thick, overdriven Marshall tone. Just set your amp on clean, crank the master volume, engage the British Ball Breaker, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous Marshall-esque overdrive!!! YOWEE!!!

You gotta check out these pedals! They just rock! In addition, GeekMacDaddy is just about to release another freakin’ fantastic pedal called the GeekDriver that is a totally awesome take on a drive pedal. It sounds awesome by itself, but this pedal was built to be stacked, providing the foundation tone, then driving another fuzz or overdrive pedal. Rockin’!!!

Damn! Two freakin’ awesome pedals that I will have to get – as if I need more! But hey! You know me and overdrive pedals! I just can’t get enough of them!

Here’s a great demo video of both the British Ball Breaker and the GeekDriver from PremierGuitar:

Notice that GeekMacDaddy’s playing through a Tonic Amp! Those amps just rock as well! However, I’m getting ahead of myself!

For more information, go to the GeekMacDaddy site!

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td_main
Effectrode has long been known for its tube-driven effects such as the Tube Vibe. But they’ve just released a new overdrive pedal with three tubes that give you up to six gain stages of drive! OMG! Talk about saturation city! Note that this pedal ain’t cheap at $399, but if it delivers on what appears to be very promising features, I might be hard-pressed not to take a serious look at this pedal. It’ll be interesting what people say about this pedal.

Here’s the description of from the Effectrode site:


The Tube Drive, pure class-A tube overdrive pedal featuring three triode vacuum tubes for a total of six gain stages. The drive knob simultaneously controls the gain of all cascaded stages so that they progressively clip allowing the Tube Drive to respond empathically to your pick attack with a graceful breakup characteristic. At lower gain settings this pedal excels at producing authentic blues and mild break-up to add some “dirt” to playing whilst always sounding smooth and musical. Pushing the drive a little higher produces the classic 70’s overdriven tube amp tone and at even higher gains the sound becomes rich in harmonic content without masking the the natural sound of your guitar and amplifier. The Tube Drive allows you to effortlessly climb the gain curve to create sustaining, super-saturated lead tones, inspire you and power your solos beyond escape velocity, through the stratocastersphere soaring into high energy orbit!

Features

  • All Tube gain circuitry: 100% analog, class-A, clipping circuitry based on three cascaded tubes. No silicon in the signal path – guaranteed. This topology gives the Tube Drive fine control over a wide range of gain characteristics from mild breakup to creamy saturation.
  • Bax-Stack “active” tube tone control: The Tube Drive is the only overdrive with an active tube tone control. The Bax-Stack is a real treble boost (and cut) circuit with zero insertion loss, unlike passive tone stacks which can only remove frequency content (“tone-sucking”). The tone range is optimized to work over important frequencies essential for mellow jazz tones to some serious crunch.
  • Low-end coutour switch: Active low boost for a warmer, richer sound. Especially useful with single coil pickups to thicken the sound or when playing at low volumes to compensate for loudness.
  • Orange L.E.D.: Indicates when pedal is engaged.

Very cool! But even cooler are the sound samples. Check ’em out!!!

335 solo

Strat Solo

YYZ solo

Crunch

Saturation

Mild Breakup

Strat Drive

Crunch Too!

Red Barchetta

Sustain

Description and sound clips courtesy of Effectrode Pedals.

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Tonic Amps

As you know, the Dawg spends a lot of time sniffing around to find gear, but sometimes, manufacturers find me. Recently Tonic Amps contacted me, and I checked out their offerings. Tonic builds some nice reissue amps with their own twists, but they are also the North American distributor for Fane Speakers, the noted UK amp speaker manufacturer.

As you’d expect, if they sell speakers, Tonic probably builds cabs as well, and that is definitely the case. Darin (owner/builder of Tonic), has some very nice custom cabs in a variety of configurations and woods, all solid board cabinets: no pressed sawdust here, my friends. Tonic also offers custom cabs in a variety of hardwoods (though of course, you’re going to pay a premium for these, but hey! they’re available).

In any case, Premier Guitar has run a couple of videos that demonstrate Tonic Amps. You can check them out below:

From the 2009 New York Amp Show:

From the LA Amp Show:

These are some nice-sounding amps with some nice features! One thing that’s totally awesome for me is that Tonic Amps is literally ten minutes away from where I live! I can’t wait to try out Tonic’s amps and cabs!

Another cool thing is that Darin shares a shop with GeekMacDaddy, who makes a line of very cool pedals. Maybe I’ll get a chance to give ’em a whirl, in particular, his British Ball Breaker, which is touted as a Marshal stack-in-a-box. Yummy!

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I was perusing The Gear Page this morning, and saw one of Anthony’s postings of the colors the Bambino comes in. CHECK IT OUT!!!

bambino_colors

I have the blue tolex model shown at the bottom right. It is SO cool looking.

BTW, if you missed the sound clips, here they are again:

Clean fingerstyle in neck position of my Strat:

Clean, blues progression, with Strat in neck/middle position with just a minute amount of breakup:

All out, wide open with channels 1 and 2 dimed and StackMode volume at 3pm. I’m playing my Prestige Heritage Elite with ‘buckers in the bridge position:

This little amp has created quite a buzz on the forums, and at $699, it’s a deal. It has been so popular, that they haven’t been able to keep up with the demand, and that’s a good thing! To place an order or to get some information, contact the guys directly at info@reasonamps.com.

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Reason Amps BambinoWhat three word phrase begins with an “O” and ends with an exclamation mark (!)? You guessed it, OH MY GOD! That was my reaction when I first turned on the Reason Bambino I got for review today. For the unfamiliar, the Bambino is Reason’s brand-new entry into the sub-10 Watt amp market, and if this little monster doesn’t make a big splash, I’ll be very disappointed!

I won’t go in-depth into the features since I covered those in my recent pre-release announcement, but the Bambino is simply a miniaturized version of the Reason family of amps, sporting three modes: Normal, Bright, and Stack. Stack Mode ROCKS folks, as it runs the Normal and Bright channels in series, adds an extra gain stage, while retaining full EQ control over the individual channels. Can you say, “High Gain?” πŸ™‚ The volume knob on Channel 1 is a push-pull fat booster, while the volume knob on Channel 2 is a treble booster to add top-end sparkle. And of course, the Bambino is powered by two 6AQ5 power tubes. But enough of the features…

I opened up the shipping box and pulled out the amp to find a Navy Blue Levant tolex-covered amp. I just smiled as that is the exact color of my Aracom Amps! Talk about matching a set (though I don’t get to keep this eval model)! I’ve been so excited to get this amp as I’ve known about it for months, and couldn’t say a word about it. So despite the fact that I just finished a 4-hour solo gig tonight, how could I not open it up and try it out!

So I checked the tubes to see if they got unseated during shipping (they were fine), hooked it up, plugged in my Strat, and being that it was 10:30pm, switched the amp to 1 Watt mode (it’s switchable between 7 Watts and 1 Watt). I put the amp in Stack Mode, cranked the two channel volumes, turned the amp on, and got the Stack Mode volume to a reasonable level; that is, loud enough to move a bit of air but soft enough so as not to wake the neighbors (my studio is in my garage).

I struck an A chord on the fifth fret, and almost jumped out of my shoes! I could not believe what I was hearing! As expected, like all Reason amps, the Bambino is brightly voiced. But the 6AQ5 has a sound all its own. The overdrive tone is sizzling, with a nice, open character, incredible touch-sensitivity and dynamics, but it’s amazingly smooth at the same time. I liken that type of overdrive to the way 6V6’s break up, but the Bambino with its 6AQ5’s has a tone that is wholly unique! I LOVE IT!!! I did a few legato runs, and tested out the sustain and feedback. All I can say is that I was totally blown away! And I got this tone running the amp at bedroom levels in ONE FREAKIN’ WATT MODE!!!

Now, before you go thinking that 1 Watt doesn’t seem like a lot. In amp vernacular, it’s not much at all. But from an audio perspective, a 1 Watt amp running through a 1 X 12 speaker is as loud as a jack-hammer! That’s where the Stack Mode Volume comes into play as it is a PPIMV (Post Phase Inverter Master Volume), which effectively controls the amount of signal going into the power amp. At the volume I was running at, I was probably down to 1/2 or maybe even a 1/4 Watt, and that was at about loud conversation level.

But the gain that I was getting in Stack Mode was plenty for my needs, and as a home studio recording amp, being able to get that kind of tone without needing an attenuator, is incredible! I do have to say, that if I really want to take advantage of the third gain stage, I’d have to run the amp through an attenuator. Even at 1 Watt, with Stack volume cranked, it’s very loud, and that’s a testament to Obeid Kahn’s genius with power management.

As far as cleans are concerned, from what I can perceive with my Strat, the tone sits between an EL-84 and a 6V6 clean tone. It’s not as glassy as an EL-84 clean, and not as rich as a 6V6 clean. But what I like is that the clean tone has a real nice three-dimensional quality about it. There’s nothing flat about the cleans this amp produces. Adding just a touch of reverb accentuates this quality. It’s pure ear candy. While I love high-gain, to me, the real test of the amp is how it sounds clean. From that perspective, the Bambino totally delivers!

It’s almost midnight, I’m incredibly exhausted, but I have to play a little more before I turn in. So, in summary, my first impression of this amp is that it KICKS F-IN ASS! I haven’t even begun to explore all its features like its balanced line out (can’t wait to re-amp this with my Aracom VRX22 or do direct recording). All I know is that this is one special amp, and one that I am definitely adding to my collection! It’s a no-brainer at $699 for a hand-wired, US-made amp. Like the Aracoms amps that I love so dearly, I’ll take this amp over any name brand boutique amp out there!

Check out my review of the Reason Amps Bambino

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I like to keep track of where my visitors come from, and I was surprised to see a YouTube URL that was a referrer to GuitarGear.org. Curious, I clicked on the link, and lo and behold was a video demo of the brand-new Reason Amps Bambino! Check it out!

The guy on the guitar is none other than Obeid Kahn, the designer of the amp, and absolutely SICK guitarist in his own right. That dude can make a Strat do just about anything! What chops!

For more information, go to the Reason Amps web site!

I will be geting a Bambino in for a review in the next few days, so hang tight! Damn! Based on that video, I can’t wait to play it!

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Electro-Harmonix Riddle: Q-BallsQ-Balls, that is… Introducing the new RIDDLE: Q-Balls from Electro-Harmonix, an envelope filter for guitar. The RIDDLE also has a brother for bass called the ENIGMA: Q-Balls.

So what exactly is the RIDDLE? As EHX put it, the RIDDLE is an “envelope controlled filter for guitar.” Synthesizer players have long known the beauty of adjusting a signal’s envelope or volume profile by emphasizing or limiting certain frequencies to create wholly unique sounds. Now, apparently, that is available for guitar with the RIDDLE. Check out this very cool demo video:

Damn! He did all that with an acoustic guitar!

I’ve grown to appreciate EHX over the last couple of years as they’ve come up with some really cool, thinking out-of-the-box pedals, like the Q-Tron, and of course, the POG. Yeah, they have your basic overdrive, distortion, delays, reverbs, etc., but stuff like the RIDDLE that open up the tonal possibilities of your guitar are quite commendable.

I’m not sure if the RIDDLE is something I’d use, but I’m writing about it here just because of its cool factor. Maybe I’ll take some time this weekend to see if I can’t check it out at a store.

For more information on the RIDDLE, go to the EXH web site.

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