Friday, July 30, 2010

2008 Gibson Les Paul Standard Root Beer Flame Top!

Hi there!

Today we are looking at a lovely 2008 Gibson Les Paul Standard finished in Root Beer (now discontinued) with a flame top. It is, of course, made in the USA, and it has a rosewood fretboard.

It is an awesome guitar, in near mint condition. It has never needed repair, or been repaired in any way.

There is only a few light scuffs that are impossible to photograph, and 2 small flea-bite dings on the front. I have pictured one, and the other I could not get to photograph. No rash or fretwear, and no issues. It has not been modified, so it has the original pickups and hardware. It sounds good too!

This is in better condition than any “new” guitar you pull off the wall at Guitar Center. They’ll let ANYONE touch them. Ewww.

This one is equipped with the 60’s neck profile, according to the fine folks at Gibson (and the little sticker I peeled off the headstock).

It weighs right around 8 pounds, 2 ounces. Obviously it has a chambered body.

The serial number is: 007180330, dating this to 2008. Note that this is the last of the Les Paul Standards with normal wiring and pots.

Included is the original black Gibson hardshell case with the faux reptile covering, and a pimped-out fuzzy white interior. It is in excellent shape too. It has the Gibson inspection card and truss rod wrench, as well as the pickguard, which has not been mounted to the guitar yet, so no extra holes have been drilled.

It plays incredibly. My tech set it up with Slinky 0.010s, and it needs nothing, except for you to play it!

The list price on these was $3448, and the lowest I ever saw these at a retailer was for $2299 at Musician’s Friend, so let’s get this thing into your capable hands! Shoot me an e-mail and we can talk it over.

Author edit: THis guitar has been sold. Thank you every body for your interest!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fender Japan Custom Shop Keith Richards Sonny Telecaster

Good day! Here is another rare bit from the Fender Japan Custom Shop: a rare 1967 Reissue Keith Richards signature Sonny Telecaster. The serial number on this one is P021121, and it is marked Crafted in Japan, which according to Fender means that this was produced between 1999 and 2002.

This guitar is expertly crafted with a white ash body, sprayed with a 3-tone sunburst finish, so that the grain shines through. A single-ply flat black pickguard is mounted.

The neck has a medium C profile with vintage frets. A late 60’s type logo is used. Gotoh tuners are used on these Fender Japan Custom Shop models for their stability, although they look really out of place on this guitar. A four-bolt F-stamped plate holds the neck to the body.

The most unique feature is that the bridge is machined from a block of brass, with six solid brass saddles. It makes a huge difference in the tone of the guitar.

Ah, the pickups. This one uses a Fender humbucker at the neck and a traditional vintage single coil at the bridge. The pickup used in the neck position has that Gibson PAF '57 reissue humbucker sound. Sweet!

The craftsmanship on this guitar is impeccable. The fretwork, nut-detailing and finish is superb. The neck pocket fit is as tight as they come. There is a good reason that these guitars are not exported to the US, as they are a tough act to beat.

It plays as nicely as it looks, and I had it set up with 0.010 Slinkies when I owned it. It is SO crunchy with the pickup selector in the neck position. And it plays as well as any Telecaster I have ever owned, even the US Custom Shop models.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

QSC KSub Powered Subwoofer

You probably figured from my last review that I am pretty happy with the performance of QSC’s K8 loudspeakers. With their small size, it is not surprising that they are a little light on bass performance, which is where the QSC Ksub subwoofer unit comes into the game.

The Ksub is also a powered speaker assembly, using a built-in 1000-watt (2x500 watt) power amp. This class D amplifier powers two 12-inch drivers. The amplifier is cooled by an on-board variable-speed fan. The speaker uses a variable power supply (100 to 240 volts), and US and Euro spec connectors are both included.

Of course, the Ksub is the biggest and heaviest part of the PA system. The enclosure is 26-inches tall by 114-inches wide by 28-inches deep. It is made of birch plywood with a textured black finish. To ease transport, it has non-removable casters and nice recessed aluminum handles. This is important, as it weighs in at 74 pounds, or 33.6 kilograms (but the metric system will never catch on).

The Ksub has a 2 combination XLR/1/4” socket inputs. Also, there are a few controls, including a gain potentiometer, and a digital signal processing option switch for normal or deep modes. There is a polarity switch, in case you run into some noisy voltage. And lastly, there is a connector where you can attach a remote gain control. I could see cases where this would come in pretty handy, particularly when trying to get the speakers to blend in with each other.

The QSC folks came up with a nifty threaded socket on top of the enclosure where a speaker pole (included) can be attached. This makes for a tidy PA package, and eliminates the need for carrying around more bulky speaker stands.

As with the other QSC K-Series loudspeakers, the warranty for the Ksub is 6 years, which provides plenty of peace of mind.

The Ksub completes the package when coupled with the K8 speakers, and really kicks this mother out. It has a frequency range of 44 Hz to 148 Hz, and a peak output of 130 dB. With the separate gain contol, you can blend it well with the output of the main speakers.

The list price for the Ksub is $1199, with a street price of $1049. This is not much of a discount, and seems a little like price-fixing to me. Regardless, these are a great addition to the K8 (or K10 or K12) speakers, and it is worth your time to check one out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

QSC K8 Powered Loudspeakers

Remember the good old days, when you wanted the largest speakers you could find, because bigger was better? QSC’s K8 loudspeakers prove that this theory is as dead as Chief Gates.

The QSC K8 speakers are a miracle of modern engineering and technology. The come in at a mere 27 pounds each, including an integrated 1000-watt (2000 watt peak) power amp. An on-board variable-speed cooling fan is included as well.

The amplifier is a class D (lightweight!) unit, with 500 watts going to the 8-inch driver, and 500 watts to the 1 ¾-inch driver. It has a variable power supply from 100 to 240 volts, and US and Euro spec connectors are both included.

The enclosure is small: only 17-inches tall by 11-inches wide by 10-inches deep. It is made of ABS plastic, and there is a heavy-duty steel speaker grill. A recessed aluminum handle is built into the top.

There are plenty of input options, including combination XLR/1/4” sockets, as well as RCA jacks, in case you would like to hook up an iPod or CD player without using a mixing board. There are also line and mix level XL outputs if you wish to hook up more speakers or a subwoofer. There is a great subwoofer option, the Ksub, which I will be writing about in my next blog post.

There are also quite a few controls on the back of these speakers. You get two gain controls, as well as two digital signal processing options for low frequency (Ext Sub/Norm/DEEP) and high frequency (Flat and Vocal Boost).

For mounting the speakers, there are a couple of cool options. The standard-size speaker stand socket in the bottom actually tilts up to 7.5-degrees so you can adjust the speaker angle. Also, there are threaded sockets on the top and sides of the speakers so they are easier to mount with cables, should you decide to hand them from the ceiling (or a truss, or a tree...).

QSC stand behind their products with a 6-year warranty, which is the best I have seen on any power speakers. Just make sure that you register them with QSC, or you are S.O.L.

So, on paper these speakers look like the best thing since canned beer. They have a frequency range of 61 Hz to 20 kHz, and a peak output of 127 dB. And the real world it all comes together and these things actually work. They have small drivers, so they are little light on bass performance, but they are clear and punchy, and can be as loud as a steel foundry that is stamping out the gates of Hell. They are very even across the frequency range, and I have not found any hot spots. They are the real deal.

The list price for the QSC K8 is $759 each, with a street price of $649. But, with their sound, size, weight, power capability and warranty, they are worth every penny.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Memory Lane: KNAC

For those of us that live in Southern California, I do not need to describe the wasteland that is broadcast radio. Whenever I travel, I am amazed that other markets still have a few radio stations that play real rock, and actually play new music. It is a shame that, in the birthplace of most rock music, we do not have one decent radio station.

When I think about this sad situation, I remember the good old days when we had stations like KMET and KNAC. KNAC was located at 105.5 on the FM dial, and was based in my hometown, Long Beach, California. It always had a pretty weak signal, but worked well enough where I worked and lived.

The station had been around since the sixties, but I started listening to it in the early eighties when it was an alternative station (Rock N Rhythm!). This was where you could go to hear ska and reggae, and hear about ne bands like UB40. Not the hard-rockingest station around (we had KMET for that), but there was no shortage good stuff. You could hear the new music on KNAC long before it showed up on the more powerful KROQ.

KNAC hit its prime in 1984 when the station was sold and changed to a heavy metal format (PURE ROCK!). To get a slightly larger audience, they installed a more powerful transmitter in Dominquez Hills (a nice name for Compton). Their exclusively metal format proved to be a hit with a younger demographic, and the station actually started to appear in the Arbitron ratings for the first time. This was the only place on the radio that I could find bands like Danzig or Loudness, and really expanded my knowledge and appreciation of many different rock acts.

A funny thing about KNAC during this era: it was very popular outside of the its broadcast area. I would often t-shirts and bumper stickers when I travelled, probably because they advertised in heavy metal magazines to garner a cult-like following.

Sadly, in around 1992 the grunge movement happened, and the popularity of heavy metal waned. The program director added grunge and alternative acts to try to please more listeners, only to disenfranchise the true metal worshipers. Rating declined, and eventually the station was sold in 1995, for 10 times what it sold for in 1984. From that point on it has been a Spanish-language station that seems to play mostly Mexican polka music, interspersed with announcers shouting into the microphone.

But, it turns out that PURE ROCK KNAC is not really gone. In 1998, a group of former KNAC staffers brought the station back via Al Gore’s internet at You can go there to stream live music and download podcasts. And, sure as anything, there is lot of new music. I guess the internet really is good for more than just adult entertainment.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gibson Custom Shop Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom

Hi there! Today we are looking at the coolest-looking guitar ever made. It is a black and white bullseye Gibson Les Paul Custom Zakk Wylde Model.

For those of you who have spent the last ten years listening to Matchbox 20 and crying at Twilight movies, Zakk Wylde is Ozzy Osborne’s former guitarist, and is the founder of the Black Label Society. He is a guitar hero of the highest order, and this guitar is a fitting tribute to him and his mad skills.

For starters, it is a Les Paul Custom, so it has the traditional body shape, multi-layer binding, pearl block inlays, and gold hardware. It has a one-piece mahogany body with a carved maple top. There is nothing really out of the ordinary with these parts. But, it does have some pretty major differences

The most significant difference is the electronics package. It comes with high-power EMG 81 and 85 pickups, with two volume controls, two tone controls and a 3-way (3-way!) pickup selector switch. So, it is going to have that EMG sound, love it or hate it.

Also, these guitars come with an unfinished 3-piece maple neck with an ebony fretboard.

Cosmetically, obviously there is the dizzying bullseye paint job, as well as the special Zakk Wylde graphic on the back of the neck and the gold truss rod cover.

The guitar we are looking at here is serial number is ZW 478, dating it to early 2001. I sold it a few years back, but it was a very fun to play guitar. It brought out my inner Fonzie.

It was in excellent condition, with no issues. It was unmodified, and never needed any repairs during the time that I owned it. I had it set up with Zakk Wylde GHS Boomers (.010). Not the world’s greatest strings, but it only seemed appropriate. Rawk!

It sounded incredible (I like EMG pickups), but my favorite part of it was the maple neck. It had a great feel, and I felt that the maple neck gave it an even more aggressive tone.

So, it is cool, but here is the deal-breaker. The list price on this guitar is now an eye-popping $6880.00. The cheapest you can get them online is at Musician’s Friend for $4699.99. That is a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps it would be better to build your own, and spend the $2500 you would save on lessons.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Komehyo Guitar Shop, Nagoya Japan

Good day!

When you hear the name Komehyo, you think of the Japanese chain of department stores, right? No? Hmm? Well, I do. It seems like the last place to go to find a great guitar shop, but you will be surprised.

The Nagoya Komehyo guitar has expanded so much over the years, that they finally split the guitars and cameras off and gave them their own location in Nagoya’s Osu Kannon market. Right there next to the souvenir shops, clothing stores and Brazilian food joints.

Komehyo has an impressive selection of American Fender and Gibson guitars, as well as their Japanese-built equivalents. But, where this shop really shines is with their selection of used guitars.

This is a great place to find second-hand Japanese instruments at fantastic prices. As I have said before, vintage American guitars are pure gold in Japan, and used Japanese instruments are seen as an inferior good. Which is funny, because the quality of these instruments is often times better than their U.S.-made counterparts. Pretty much, you can expect to pay $350 to $300 for a nice Telecaster or Jazz Bass, and around $500 for an Aria Super Bass. Not too bad, really.

Their new location is much more spacious and clean, and also sells drums, brass and woodwind instruments. The staff moved over from the old location, and they are super-friendly. Just ask, and they will get a guitar down for you, and let you look it over. Their English skills are pretty limited, but all of your negotiations can be done with a calculator.

If you want to try one out, they will find a cord/amplifier for you to use. If someone is already trying out an instrument, they will put you on a waiting list. It is a pleasure to listen to others trying out instruments while you are waiting. These guys practice like mad men, and they have the chops to show for it. Which also reminds me to always check the frets carefully on any guitar I am thinking of buying. Sometimes they are worn down to nubbins.

There is no repair counter at this location, but there are a few pretty good ones within the Osu Kannon market.

The shop is easy to find via subway. Just take the Tsurumai Line to the Osu Kannon Station, use exit 2, and head west though the temple and market a few hundered meters and the shop will be on your left.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Simon and Patrick Songsmith Acoustic Guitar

If you are looking for the best bargain in the acoustic guitar world, I have found it for you. The Simon & Patrick Songsmith guitars are an incredible value.

Oh. You have not heard of these, have you? Simon & Patrick guitars are an offshoot of the Godin family of guitars. They are handmade in a 3rd world country (Canada) in LaPatrie Quebec. My understanding is that they are subsidized by the government. Sort of a make-work program for luthiers, I guess.

I found out about them when I asked my repair guy about bargain acoustics, and his shop just happened to carry them. I was impressed by the sound and the build quality, and even more by the price, which is less than half of a comparable Martin or Taylor guitar.

Today we are looking at a Songsmith model, which is also available as a Folk model. The only difference is the smaller body on the Folk, which gives a little thinner tone.

It is a pleasant-looking guitar, with a solid spruce top, and red wild cherry back and sides. The neck is made of maple with an Indian rosewood fretboard. The finish is sort of a semi-matte burst, and the body has a simple binding around the top.

The sealed tuners seem to be of acceptable quality, although time will only tell if they hold up. It has first-rate Tusq (synthetic bone) compensated nut and bridge saddles that are made by Graphtech.

The neck is made of a single piece of maple, with added sections for the headstock and heel. It has the same satin finish as the body. There is a dual-action trussrod in the neck. The nut is 1.72-inches wide, so it is a little narrow if you do a lot of finger picking. There are 21 medium frets, and they are finished well. This one had a great set-up right out of the box, and the frets are finished well, with nice edges.

As I said, the top is solid spruce, which has some compound curves in it above the soundhole to make it a bit louder, and to make it more structurally sound. Supposedly, it reduces the amount of fingerboard pressure on the top. It is flat on the bridge end, to allow the necessary vibrations to take place.

So, overall it is a nicely-made guitar, with solid materials. But, it sounds good and plays well too! It has a sweet, balanced tone. It has impressive volume when picked hard, and has a nice low-end tone. It is pleasant to play, and would be great to gig with.

If you need to plug in, S & P can hook you up with a model that has a B-Band A3T preamp and piezo transducer. The control panel is unobtrusive and has controls for volume, treble, middle, bass and presence. There is a battery compartment near the endpin jack socket. The B-Band system does an impressive job of amplifying the acoustic sound. I have not been a fan of the tone of piezos, but it works as well as other ones I have seen on much higher-priced acoustics.

The only downsides I can see are if you play left-handed (you’re out of luck), or if you are looking for something with a flashier appearance.

I have saved the best part for last: the price. MSRP on these is a mere $429 (without electronics), with a street price of about $320. You will not find a better guitar for the money.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Deftones Diamond Eyes Album Review

The Deftones Saturday Night Wrist album from 2006 introduced a new sound for the band, and was their best album to date. In May, the band released their sixth album, Diamond Eyes, which is an even better album.

The Deftones, based out of Sacramento, have been cranking out hard-edged alternative music since 1988. There was a pretty long gap between Saturday Night Wrist and Diamond Eyes, due to serious injuries to their bassist, Chi Cheng. He is still recovering from an automobile accident and did not participate in making their latest album (or supporting tour).

Diamond Eyes was released on May 4, which was two weeks earlier than planned, probably because the entire album had already been leaked out onto the internet. The band’s line-up was the same, except that Sergio Vega (formerly of Quicksand) played bass.

As I said, this is a fantastic album. Listeners will do themselves a disservice if they go to iTunes and cherry-pick a few songs. This is not the product of today’s typical one-hit wonder band. Diamond Eyes is very well-crafted and the unification/integration of the songs is something that is hard to find from any artist.

The Deftones’ music is still as heavy, perverted and violent as it has always been, but their most current albums have been increasingly melodic and (dare I say) hopeful. Perhaps the best way I can put it is that their sound has matured since the angrier White Pony years. The first track on the album (also titled Diamond Eyes) is the one that most obviously combines these two diverse themes: both heaviness and new-found sensitivity. The remainder of the songs waver back and forth between these two extremes. Pulling this off would be impossible without the genius of producer Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Coheed and Cambria, Foo Fighters, Danzig, Marilyn Manson, Velvet Revolver). Of course, the musicians had to pull their weight too.

Frank Delgado’s synthesizer work sets the mood for the whole album. The synths are not overdone, and sometimes are quite simple, almost like special effects in a movie. They really help to combine the tracks into a unified theme.

The rhythms of Sergio Vega and drummer Abe Cunningham are about as good as it gets. On the first listen they seem very loose, but if you listen closer, they are super tight with each other. Their pinnacle on Diamond Eyes is "You've Seen the Butcher", which is some of smoothest metal you will find.

Stephen Carpenter’s guitar riffs are probably the most diverse stylistic elements of the album. He is a metal god, and can groove like a madman. He also has the ability to pull off some amazingly melodic lines, like you will find in "Sextape".

Chino Moreno’s vocals are not as brilliant as they were on the manic White Pony album, but he still has a lot of chops. His efforts on Diamond Eyes range from the subdued "Beauty School" to falsetto on “976-EVIL” to outright howling on "You've Seen the Butcher". None of the tracks would have been special without his input. Imagine Tool without Maynard, if you will.

Anyway, these guys pulled it off again. It is hard to outdo yourself, and the Deftones have done it twice in a row. Head on over to iTunes and download Diamond Eyes. You will not regret it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

1962 Fender Jaguar Guitar

This 1962 Fender Jaguar is not the Holy Grail of collectible guitars, despite being a pre-CBS model.

The original run of Fender Jaguars were built from 1962 to 1975. They were intended to be the top of the line model, but never became as popular (or collectible) as the Stratocaster and Telecaster. They were, of course, popular with the surf crowd and later with the grunge bands.

This one is all original and 100% complete. That means no changed parts, and no modifications. There is a lot of finish wear, with nicks and dings, but this vintage Jaguar is structurally sound with no cracks, breaks, or repairs. One of the tuners is chipped on the end, but it still works ok, and I chose not to mess with its originality. I hope I look this good when I am 48.

It has a very nice straight neck with great frets. The finish is worn off the back of the neck and it feels great. There are faint impressions along the top edge where someone wrote the names of the notes along the top of the neck. This is not a big deal, and it does not affect playability at all. Actually, it is kind of cool (I think).

The serial number is 94XXX, dating this one to 1962.

All of the electronics work fine and it sounds great, perhaps with less hum than other guitars of the era I have played. When I had it, it had a pro set-up with 9s, and I think it played as well as it could. It has a nice mojo, and was a good catch for a guy that actually likes Jaguars.

However, I did not like it very much. I had trouble adjusting to the shorter scale, and was never fond of the goofy tremolo set-up and had a very hard time finding strings for it that worked well for me. Add in the horrible control layout, and it was a pretty easy decision to move it on to another owner.

Live and learn.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aria Pro II SB-LTD Bass

You don’t see these very often, and as a long-time collector of Arias I have only seen two of these outside of catalogs, and I have own them both. It is pretty much the poor man’s Alembic.

This is an Aria Pro-II SB-LTD with factory-installed 2AXY/AE-1 Alembic pickups and active electronics. They made these in Japan from 1988 to 1994. The retail price back then was $1895. By the way, a new set of Alembic AXY pickups will set you back over $1000 today (if you can get them to call you back, and they NEVER answer their phone).

It is all-original and unmolested. It has a nifty adjustable brass nut, an ebony fretboard and neck-thru construction. The wings are made of Sen wood, and the neck is made of laminated maple and walnut. There is only the lightest fret wear. Controls are volume/volume/active control.

There is no serial number on this one, which is the norm for SB-Elite basses. This makes it impossible to figure out exactly what year it was built.

For a neck-through bass, it is pretty light, coming in around 9 ¼ pounds.

Amazingly, it came with the original hardshell case. These are very hard to find for any of the original Super Bases.

It plays like a dream and sounds like the thunder of the gods. It will blow away an Aria SB-1000 right out of the water.

The other one of these that I owned was finished in transparent red. The Alembic pre-amplifier crapped out in that one, which was a major-league pain. I had to deal with the folks at Alembic, and it took over 9 months to get the part -- their customer service leaves much to be desired.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

1982 Walnut Fender Precision Special Bass

Hi! We are looking at an early 1980’s Fender Precision Special Bass today. Some say this was the first mass-production bass with active electronics, but they are full of crap. Musicman was making active basses back in the seventies.

The original Precision Specials were made between 1980 and 1982. As I said before these are active basses, and they also have a switchable passive mode. Maple or rosewood fretboards were available, and gold hardware, including a very sturdy brass bridge, were standard. Color choices were available in Candy Apple Red, Olympic White, and Lake Placid Blue, all with matching headstocks. There were also about 200 built with walnut bodies and necks. The subject bass is one of these rare walnut ones from 1982.

This bass is in very good condition considering it is 28 years old. I was the third owner of this bass (more on that later). It was used over the years, because it is a GREAT sounding bass, so it is not a fabled closet or under-the-bed model bass. It has surface scratches indicative of its age, but nothing major or through to the finish.

It is unmodified, except for the addition of Dunlop straplock buttons. Note that the customary gold-plated brass thumbrest is missing. On the walnut basses, they were whipped in a baggie inside the case, leaving it to up to the owner to install it or leave it off. This one never had it installed.

As I said earlier, it is a fantastic-sounding bass, and it plays very well. I have had a few of the colored Precision Specials over the years, and this one blows them all away. The neck is fantastic, with nicely rolled edges, and my tech was able to get a very low action with no buzz or high spots.

The only reason I passed it on (other than because I had a very good offer on it), is that it is THE HEAVIEST bass I have ever owned. It came in at a little bit over 13 pounds. To put that in perspective, it weighs over five pounds more than my favorite Sadowsky. Geez.