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Posts Tagged ‘new gear’

Sorry, no pictures nor sound clips – yet – but I wanted to get out a first impressions post on this wonderful amp.

Personally, I’ve never heard or seen a real Dumble Steel String Singer other than Doug Doppler’s video of one of Henry Kaiser’s SSS, so I can’t really make a comparison between Sebago’s amp and the original. But if I were to sum up what I’ve heard from Bill’s newest amp in my short time playing with it, and if you don’t want to read any further, all I can say is that this amp sounds like nothing I’ve ever played before; presenting a complex and rich tonal palette that truly gives it the ability to be used in ANY type of genre. And make no mistake, it doesn’t lean towards a particular camp, as in Fender or Marshall. This amp has a sound all its own, and it has completely blown me away!

I don’t say that lightly, by any means. I’ve tended to be a bit jaded with Dumble-style amps probably due to all the hype that’s associated with them. And though it could be argued that Sebago is doing yet another knock-off of Dumble amps, I believe Bill Dunham’s approach is not to create pure clones, but rather to create great amps that he believes capture the spirit of a Dumble amp; and not be an exact reproduction. At least to me, being a copy-cat is absolutely boring, and Sebago amps are far from boring.

Before I get into discussing the amp further, let me go through its features:

  • 100-150 Watts (150 with 6550’s) from 4 power tubes
  • Reverb “loop” with send and receive knobs
  • Single input with switchable FET circuit
  • Gain control
  • Three-band EQ
  • Bright, Mid, Rock/Jazz mini toggles
  • Master control
  • Presence control
  • Individual High and Low notch filter knobs.
  • Power and Standby switches

When Bill first contacted me the other day about the new amp, I asked him if it would have the FET input. He replied no, but when he delivered the amp, he had constructed the FET circuit. I’m glad he did because it tweaks the tone in a very nice way. Unlike an original Dumble, the FET circuit on the Sebago amp is relegated to another input. Bill instead makes it an activated feature via switch (either push-pull or footswitch). According to Bill, the FET provides some extra gain at front-end that produces an asymmetrical clipping that’s not quite distortion though you know something’s happened. To me, it “feels” like a compressor as when it’s switched on, the tone feels much richer and fatter. If I were to own this amp, which I probably will in the future, I’d probably have the FET on all the time.

The distinctive thing about Dumble amps is all the EQ tweaking you can do. The Overdrive Special has the three mini toggles plus the three-band EQ knobs. But the Steel String Singer adds two incredibly useful High and Low notch filter knobs. I believe these two filter knobs are responsible for making the magic of this amp, and these are the knobs that I played with the most, once I set up the EQ. Having the filter knobs really helped me dial in all sorts of tones from spanky, sparkling cleans to big bottom-end crunch – with a Strat, no less! The Low notch acts like a cut, where the High acts like a midrange voicing knob that you find on various amps. The combination of these two allow you to adjust the amp’s basic tone to fit your guitar and cabinet. For instance, I’m playing the amp through my Avatar 2 X 12 with a Celestion Gold and a Jensen Jet Falcon. Even with the Falcon, which has a lot of bottom-end content, the cabinet tends to be bright. But a few clicks of the Low notch filter helped bring out the lows. Just incredible.

As far as the reverb goes, I dig that it’s in a loop, and that you can control how much signal goes into the tank, and control how much gets added back. It allows for really fine control of the reverb, and I spent quite a bit of the time playing with it to see what it could produce. In the end, I set the Send to about 10-11 am, and just twiddled with the Receive to control how much I reverb I wanted to add back into my signal. Very cool.

So how does it sound? With cleans on a Strat, it is other-worldly. There’s so much harmonic content in the signal that depending upon how you set the notch filters and reverb, you can get almost a chorus-like effect which is absolutely dreamy. But you can also get spanky country cleans again, by adjusting the notch filters. Those really give the amp its personality. As far as dirt tones go, as Bill put it, most of the harmonic content is in the preamp section, so you can crank the preamp and keep the master down. Me, I like cranking the power tubes to get them working. But either clean or dirty, there’s a real depth; almost a 3D quality to the tone that’s total ear candy!

With both the Gain and Master cranked, I have to admit that the amp doesn’t sound all that good. The overdrive sound becomes really muddy, and even more so with the reverb on, and no amount of EQ would clean it up. But backing off the Master to about 2:30 to 3pm, gave me a nice, ballsy growl. Can’t wait to try that out with my Les Paul.

Bill did say that at least to him, the amp is a great pedal platform, and that putting a Tube Screamer in front of the amp can get you that SRV tone. Based upon my eval thus far, with the FET and a Tube Screamer, that may just be true. There’s TONS of clean headroom with this amp, so using it with pedals will be ideal.

I found that the sweet spot of the amp is setting it at the edge of breakup with the FET on. In addition to the aforementioned compressor-like quality the FET introduces, the clipping gives the signal a bit of “hair.” I wouldn’t necessarily call it breakup, but you know there’s some distortion. It’s a great tone that I hope to be able to capture once I make some recordings of the amp.

Gawd! I know I’m loving a piece of gear when I write a lot about it. This amp has so much character, and I have yet to really do an exploration of it in both the studio and at a gig, which I will be doing this weekend. I am SO looking forward to playing with it more!

By the way, the name of the amp obviously will not be “Steel String Singer.” Bill has told me what he intends the name to be, but I won’t share it until the product’s actually out the door. It will have a Southwest-flavored name in celebration of that SRV tone. But make no bones about it, this amp can do way more than the blues.

And thank goodness I have my Aracom PRX150-Pro attenuator. I could not do the dirty tests without breaking windows. 🙂

For more information, and to keep up to date with the release, go to Sebago Sound’s product page.

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I’ve been looking at envelope filters for a long time, and I just haven’t had a need to use one yet with any regularity. But this latest vowel-shaper from EH makes me think I might just give it a whirl to see where it takes me creatively. I was just thinking yesterday that I hadn’t really thought of any new songs in the last couple of weeks; not too much of a surprise as I’ve been really focusing on delivering a major project at my regular job. But now that I can come up for some air, I’m starting to get a bit of a creative spark again, and an envelope filter might just be the pill that the doctor ordered.

As far as the Stereo Talking Machine goes, what I think is attractive is that it has a fairly straight-forward interface. There aren’t too many voices, and it seems you can get a lot out of it. This is definitely on my “things to check out” list!

Here’s a demo video:

For more information, check out the Stereo Talking Machine page!

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Got a call over the weekend from Bill Dunham at Sebago Sound who wanted to tell me that he was releasing a Steel String Slinger based upon the topology of a SSS owned by a well-known, grammy-award-winning, blues/pop artist (I know who it is, and based upon the description, you should be able to figure it out).

Don’t have a lot of details on it right now, though I will be doing a demo/review of his pre-production prototype. I’m excited about playing around with the on-board reverb that is in its own loop to control the signal going in and out of the reverb unit. Very cool.

From what I know of the original SSS, the amp is a single-channel amp, but has two inputs: Normal and FET. The FET input is like having an on-board overdrive. Having played with a real Dumble, that FET circuit is pretty special. The prototype will not have this feature, though Bill does have plans to put that in.

For more information on the Sebago SSS, check out Sebago Sound!

In other news with Sebago, Bill has done a fantastic job of creating Dumble clones with his Double Trouble 50 and 100 Watt amps based upon the Dumble Overdrive Special. But more importantly, unlike other boutique Dumble cloners out there such as Two Rock and Bludotone, Bill’s mission is to create Dumble-style amps and not charge a premium. For instance, Sebago’s 50 Watt Double Trouble is only $1995. Believe me, it’s a well-made amp, and the retailers who carry that amp can’t keep it on their shelves for more than a couple of days. I’m not quite sure what the price-point for the SSS will be, but it will be far less than the competition; and you won’t have to wait more than a couple of weeks at most to get one, as opposed to having to wait up 18 months for other builders’ Dumble-style amps.

So lower price, short wait time (if any, if you get it from one of the local retailers)? Kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me… In any case, stay tuned for my review! I’m getting the amp tomorrow evening and will be playing with it for the rest of the week.

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Kinman is generally known for its excellent – and I mean really excellent – single-coil pickups. My Strat American Deluxe Standard has a set of Kinman HSX single coils, and they’re the reason I went back to playing a Strat. They’re a bit higher output than the stock single-coils, and are also much fatter and smoother in tone. You still know you’re playing a single-coil with them, but you don’t get that “ice-pick-in-your-ear” tone that I just couldn’t deal with my other Strats.

A year ago, I went to the Kinman site to see if Chris made humbuckers, as I wanted to replace the pickups in my Epi Korina Explorer. Unfortunately, he didn’t make them. But he sent out an email to his mailing list this morning, announcing his new humbuckers. I may have to try a set out. In any case, here’s a video that he provided demoing one of his models.

The pricing is fantastic on these pickups. A single pickup costs just $139. That’s really competitive. Check out the new ‘pups here!

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There’s something about “Fender” and “high-gain” that seems like an oxymoron. Most people equate the Fender tone with lush cleans and open, low-gain overdrive. They’ve tried to break into the high-gain market in the past with the ProSonic and SuperSonic models, and they haven’t fared too badly, considering the likes of Matthias Jabs of the Scorpions uses a ProSonic. But it’s hard to break through an image, decades-long in the making.

To help “cut” (pun intended) through that image, Fender recently released the new Machete. This is a two-channel, 50 Watt, 1 X 12 combo that has the capability of producing the classic Fender cleans we all know and love, to some very high and over-the-top high-gain tones. Each channel has independent 3-band EQ. But there are other features that will help players dial in their tones such as an input pad switch for use with guitars with active pickups; a Notch control that changes the midrange point, and a Damper control to roll off highs.

All in all, this is a pretty smart offering from Fender. Here’s Fender’s official demo video:

It’s very cool-looking with that 60’s-70’s, black, retro styling. But it does cost around $1900. That’s actually not too bad of a price, but it’s not cheap either. That’s the other image thing with Fender. They’re known for inexpensive gear relative to their competition. I suppose if they’re competing against the boutique manufacturers, then they’re staying true to that practice. However, most popular boutique amps follow a more vintage path to tone.  I suppose they could be going after Soldano and Hughes & Kettner for high-gain.

No matter, it’ll be interesting to see how this amp fares in the market.

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Just this email from Fender this morning. Usually I take my time with manufacturer ad emails, and this particular one was no exception. So I waited until a few minutes ago to read the email, and my mind stopped dead in its tracks. For on my screen in front of me was a Strat that has finally blown me away. Don’t get me wrong, I love my American Deluxe Strat. For single-coil work and especially the Kinman pickups it has, I get some freakin’ awesome tones.

But I was always thinking that I would love a Strat that had two humbuckers as opposed to the HSS; in fact, my wish was to have an HSH. My thought was that I would love a Strat that always had the fat tones of a humbucker, while still retaining that Strat vibe, and lo and behold, here was a picture of a brand-new American Standard Hand Stained Ash Stratocaster® HSH!!!

Talk about getting some serious GAS! Not only does it have the HSH pickup configuration, it has an alder body, a maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard: Exactly how I like my Strats! Fender lists it at $1569 MSRP, but I’ve seen some stores online advertising it pre-order for $1149.

You can read details on the Fender product page.

Damn! Just when I was over my latest GAS attack with my DV Mark Little 30 L34, here comes more gear that’s seriously – and I mean seriously – giving me GAS.

I’ll take the Wine Red one, please!

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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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