Posts Tagged ‘gibson’

One of the guitarists in my church band recently got a Carr Mercury, which is a great little amp. In addition to sporting vintage styling, it has some great power scaling from 8 Watts down to 1/10 Watt, a three-position boost to vary the drive to the single EL34 power tube, and a very nice and liquid reverb. All in all, it sounds pretty killer. Add my bandmate’s Barron Wesley custom guitar, and it’s a great tone combo!

But as he plays next to my rig, which consists of a Les Paul going into an Aracom PLX18BB Trem (“PLX”) which is a clone of the very simple Marshall 18 Watt Plexi, I felt the Carr’s tone paled in comparison to the tone my rig produces. Mind  you, the Carr sounds  killer. But in comparison to the PLX, its attack is much faster, and there’s noticeably less sag from rectifier than the PLX, so my perception is that there’s not much sustain with the amp..

Granted, I realize this is purely subjective, but there is something very special about the PLX. Perhaps it’s due to that classic “Bluebreaker” tone – hence the BB designation of the amp – that Clapton made so popular while with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. The Les Paul/Plexi combination is absolutely magical. Perhaps it’s also due in part to the absolute simplicity of the 18 Watt Plexi’s circuitry. Or perhaps it’s due to how the amp sags that gives it this almost reverb-like tone. Whatever it is, it’s a tone with which I completely identify.

I realize that I probably mention the PLX in this blog more than any amp that I have or have tested. But it has become my “go-to” amp. As the title of this article says, some rig combinations just never get old.

In front of the PLX, I have just a few pedals because I like to keep things simple. Here’s the complete chain:

Les Paul R8 -> Timmy Overdrive -> TC Electronic Corona Chorus -> Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay (handwired) -> DigiTech RV-7 Reverb -> Aracom PLX18 BB Trem -> Aracom PRX150 Attenuator -> Fane Medusa 150 12″ speaker.

I typically only use the  delay and reverb when playing clean, which is actually quite a bit.  But when I’m  playing driven, either with the Timmy or with the amp cranked, I just let the amp speak for itself. 🙂

I mentioned the sag of the PLX. It’s not so saggy that you get a lot of crosstones. But Jeff Aragaki (amp builder) did find a sweet spot in setting up the rectifier that balanced the classic responsiveness of the original Plexi with enough sag in the rectifier to make the amp absolutely expressive.

I made some modifications of my own in the way of tubes. I have gorgeous 1959 RCA grey glass pre-amp tubes in it to drive the pre-amp. I actually kept the original JJ EL84 power tubes in the amp because they compress quite nicely when driven without over-compressing into mush. Then to add fatness, I dropped in the gorgeous, super-sensitive (103 dB) Fane Medusa 150 12″ speaker. Combine that with a large 1 X 12 combo cabinet, and you’ve got a nice resonating chamber for the speaker which adds further depth to the tone.

Upon writing the above, I think a huge reason why I love the tone of this amp so much as compared to the Carr probably has a lot to do with the size of the cabinet, which can also easily house 2 10″ speakers.  That extra room for the sound to bounce around creates a lot of complexity.


In any case, that particular combination of gear never gets old to me. Even though I have lott of other guitars and amps, when I gig, I go to that setup. Now if only Jeff will build me my FlexPlex 50… 🙂


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Okay, boys and girls… After announcing this guitar over a year ago, Gibson has finally released the Firebird X er… system. Not just a guitar, this baby packs built-in effects, completely on/off switchable and coil-tapped pickups. It also includes a piezo pickup for getting an acoustic sound. But wait! There’s more! The pickups can be switched to run in series and parallel. But we won’t stop there! The on-board effects can be controlled by sliders on the upper bout of the body, and with the included switch pedal, you can activate those effects.

But just to make sure Gibson didn’t forget anything, they also include an expression pedal for the effects. By the way, the effects are all programmable via USB interface to a computer. Oh yeah… There’s also a boatload of software included.

Even the case is revolutionary (Gibson’s words). It’s lightweight, and includes the obligatory straps, but it’s strong enough to withstand a fall from a six-story building (I wonder if that’s with the guitar in it). 🙂 Oh! And let’s not forget the robot tuning system.

So what’ll all this cost? Supposedly, somewhere in the neighborhood of US$5500.

My thoughts? I’m not sure. It’s certainly very cool. All this in a 7 pound guitar! Wait! It’s not a guitar, it’s a system! 🙂

It certainly is a system, and mind you, I only mentioned a fraction of the features of this guit… er… system. The technology that has gone into it is pretty amazing in both breadth and depth. That, I can’t deny. And to have your pedalboard right in your guitar is pretty freakin’ cool – ala Matthew Bellamy of Muse.

There’s a part of me that says this screams of overkill. But on the other hand, it’s not as if this guitar will be a high-production model. It’s a limited edition. But who knows? If demand is high, Gibby may turn it into a sales platform.

Also, for myself, and myself only, I just want to play. I’m not sure that I’d want to spend a lot of time niggling over effects patches. And besides, though the effects may very well be good – perhaps even awesome – I’ve got the effects I like on my board, and for the most part, especially for my modulation effects, I rarely change where they’re set to (well… except for my Deep Blue Delay).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really not trying to be cynical here, but something like this would take me awhile to dial in. Like I said, I’d rather pick up a guitar and just start playing, knowing what sounds the guitar will make.

For more information, check out Gibson’s Firebird X site!

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So much focus in the Les Paul world seems to be on the Les Paul Historics; especially the R7 through R0 models. Perhaps rightfully so, as those Custom Shop models are built to those specs. I myself have an R8, and it’s my go-to guitar. But before I got really interested in the Historics, I totally dug on the Les Paul Supreme – actually still do. I dig the look of it from the headstock logo to the brass hardware to the striped mother-of-pearl inlays. Plus, the AAAA figured maple top and back are simply gorgeous to me. I’m normally attracted to plain top bursts, but that figured top and back just ooze tons of mojo to me. I love the thick binding all around. This is a beautiful, artistic guitar.

Yeah, I know, I’ve heard the complaints about the Supreme not having control access panels on the back. I suppose that’s a big inconvenience for tweakers who’ll  want to swap out the stock pickups. Personally though, I have no problem with the 490R and 498T pickups. They’re ballsy and expressive. I have a 498T in my 2009 Nighthawk, and it rocks.

One thing that’s important to me with a Les Paul is that it has a 50’s-style neck; to be more precise, a ’58 or ’59 neck, and the Supreme has that style of neck – not the ’57’s baseball bat neck.

In any case, to me, it’s a fine instrument, and one that I would like to own sooner or later. Here’s a great video I found on YouTube showcasing the Les Paul Supreme:

I might’ve posted this before, but here’s a great video of the making of a Les Paul Supreme.

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Okay, I’m a Les Paul/Gibson guy, but I hate Gibson just the same. Why? Well, lemme tell ya:

  1. Just looking at Les Pauls gives me serious GAS!
  2. My Les Paul GAS makes me spend my money.
  3. I lose countless hours playing my Les Pauls because they sound so damn good, I lose track of time.
  4. Because of my Les Pauls, I’ve had an itch to get appropriate amplifiers to showcase their incredible tone (call it “ancillary GAS”).
  5. That ancillary GAS further drains my wallet.
  6. They keep on coming out with kick-ass new Les Pauls that I want. For instance, this one. Then I get even more GAS.
  7. I’ve become obsessed with Les Pauls, dammit! And I’m not an obsessive person – or am I? 🙂
  8. But besides Les Pauls, they make the ES-335. I want yet another – dammit again!

Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! I hate you Gibson! You ROCK and I hate you so much that I’m giving you my hard-earned cash! 🙂

Yeah, yeah, I know all you anti-Gibson naysayers out there. I’ve heard your arguments, and I’m not getting into a debate. Gibson guitars just do it for me just as PRS, Fender, Taylor, etc. do it for others. Give me a Les Paul, or Nighthawk (2009), or ES-335, and I’m a happy man!

But I still hate Gibson for triggering my frequent GAS attacks.

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Several months ago, while looking for a Les Paul, I once again got sidetracked by another guitar which I bought in its stead; the Gibson 2009 Limited Run Nighthawk. Back in 2009 Gibson release several guitars with limited production runs. The Nighthawk, which had a run of 350, was a revival of sorts of the VERY quirky original Nighthawk that saw a very short life of six years back in the 90’s. The 2009 is not a duplicate of the original; rather, it is more of a hybridization of three guitars. It has the body shape of the original Nighthawk; has a mahogany body and neck, and a maple top like a Les Paul; and it sports the P-90/Humbucker configuration of the Les Paul BFG. It has a very thin, yet highly resonant body, which gives the guitar a very light weight (~6 lbs), but has tons of sustain; it’s a just a little less than the sustain of a Les Paul, but a lot more sustain than a 335 to give you an idea the range of its sustain.

Tone-wise, the Nighthawk 2009 has a much fatter sound than a Les Paul. The P-90 is super-hot and produces a thick, rich clean tone, and ballsy overdrive, and the bridge pickup has lots of gain on tap, and is just a bit darker than the bridge pickup of a Les Paul.

  • Grade A two-piece mahogany body
  • Grade AAA “bookmatched” solid figured maple top
  • solid piece of Grade-A mahogany neck
  • Gibson’s traditional ’50s neck profile
  • Grade-A rosewood fingerboard
  • 12-inch radius
  • 22 frets
  • Figured, swirl acrylic dot inlays
  • P-90 Neck Pickup
  • Gibson’s 498T “Hot Alnico” Bridge Pickup
  • Two Gibson Gold Top Hat volume controls
  • 50’s-style pickup wiring (tone doesn’t bleed off highs as much & volume knobs both act as master volume)
  • Gibson Gold Top Hat master tone knob
  • Three-way toggle switch
  • 1/4” output jack made by Switchcraft
  • Pearloid tuning keys
  • Tune-o-matic bridge
  • Nitrocellulose Translucent Amber finish
  • Approximately 6 lbs


Took these with my Nikon D40 and a f1.8/35mm lens, using available light to warm up the photos (though a couple were taken with a flash).

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I provided these in my original review of the Nighthawk, but rather than have you go back to the review, here they are:

Neck Pickup


Dirty Lead

Rock Rhythm

Both Pickups


Dirty Lead

Rock Rhythm

Treble Pickup


Dirty Lead

Rock Rhythm

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