Monday, February 28, 2011

Long Beach Antique Flea Market and Swap Meet

Good day!

I would like to fill you in on one of the gems of the greater Los Angeles Area: the Long Beach Antique Flea Market and Swap Meet.

The Long Beach Antique Flea Market and swap meet is held the third Sunday of each month (and 5th, if there is one) at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach. It has over 800 dealers spread over 20 acres of the parking lot.

Most swap meets these days are endless rows of brand new crap that you can buy from Harbor Freight, or are filled with new tacky furniture, clothing and “art”. The Long Beach meet has almost none of these things.

One of the stipulations for sellers is that there can be no new merchandise, which means there is plenty of ripe old stuff to dig through. There is everything from 1960s dinette sets to antique swords and everything in between.

And yes, there are musical instruments scattered amongst the millions of other things you will find out there. The last time I was out there I saw oodles of Spanish guitars, saxophones, clarinets, flutes, violins, trumpets, trombones, drums and even some Fender and Gibson electric guitars. It is definitely worth a walk through if you are in the neighborhood.

But, I have found that the real joy is getting a space and selling your own stuff there. I helped out a friend who was selling his parents’ estate and it was a real blast. If you price your stuff reasonably you can sell it all. The hardcore buyers come out for the first few hours and there are some frenzied sales, and then the rest of the day is more laid back, with plenty of people watching opportunities.

And getting a space is reasonably priced, with spots costing between $65 and $85. Plus, the organizers are the nicest bunch of people to deal with.

If you want to go, it is open from 5:30AM to 3:00PM. Admission is $10 if you want to get in early (between 5:30AM to 6:30AM) or $5 from 6:30AM to 3:00PM. If you get the online discount coupons, they are only good after 8:00AM. Oh yeah, admission for kids under 12 and parking are both FREE! You can get all of the details for buying or selling at


Sunday, February 27, 2011

5-string Basses and Me

Buenos dias, mi amigos!

Would you like some déjà vu? Remember my post about how I cannot play fretless basses? It appears that I have the same relationship with 5-string basses.

Well, maybe it is not the same relationship, though the results are the same. As you may remember, my big problem with fretless basses is that I am unwilling to take the time to learn how to play them properly. The 5-string dilemma is a little different. I can play a 5-string without much more effort (but quite a bit more concentration), but I have no good reason to own one. Apparently I have never run into circumstances where I really NEED to have a 5-string.

Please do not take this the wrong way: I do not have any good reason not to like them. I have owned a sampling of the best 5-string basses on the planet, including Sadowsky, Musicman, Steinberger, Spector and Fender. But when it comes down to it, I end up not playing them and selling them within a few months after I buy them.

Maybe I am just a traditional Precision/Jazz Bass kind of guy.

Perhaps I can blame my buddy Jack, because that is what he mostly plays, and he inspires me to make a little more out of my bass playing. If you combine that with my group of friends that seem to always be selling tasty 5-strings, you can see my problem.

Hopefully I will be able to withstand temptation again, but my friend John is selling a choice 25th anniversary MusicMan 5-string…


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Droid iTunes Substitute: Doubletwist


I love my iPod Touch, and am pretty ok with iTunes. But, I use a Droid phone (which I like), that I cannot put iTunes on. I searched around a bit and decided to try out Doubletwist, a free program that would let me put my iTunes music library on my Motorola Droid. Sort of.

I must say that I was not overly enthusiastic about having to download a new program and figure out how to transfer the files over. Steve Jobs should learn how to get along with everybody else, and I would happily buy songs through iTunes if they would let me put it on my Droid.

I had no trouble installing Doubletwist onto my Droid, as I just went to the marketplace and downloaded it. Installing it on my Windows-based computer was not much more difficult. I just went to and followed the usual bunch of prompts. The program automatically scanned my drive for media, and transferred everything over – both music and videos.

Any fears I had about learning a new computer interface were unfounded. The Doubletwist main page is a pretty effective rip-off of the iTunes layout, so it did not take me long to figure out how to use it. As on iTunes, there is the usual bunch of choices, such as the store, the libraries (music, video, photo) and playlists.

After that, it was just a matter of connecting my Droid to the PC with a micro USB cable, and it was all ”check the boxes” stuff after that. Doubletwist recognized my phone and wanted to know what I wanted to put on it. I had to choose wisely, as my memory card is limited, so I only picked a few of my playlists and videos. After that, I hit the sync icon and it was all good.

One cool feature is that it is easy to set any song in your library as a ringtone. Try it out.

The only downside is that iTunes would not let me export all of the music I bought from them unless I paid an upcharge for each song. WTF, Steve Jobs? How many times do I have to pay for the same music? Anyway, this is an iTunes problem, not a Doubletwist problem.

So, I am impressed with Doubletwist. If you have a Droid phone, go to the trouble of adding the app and downloading the software. It is a nice way to move your media library to your phone. BTW, I believe this program will also work on the Blackberry and Zune.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Santa Cruz Guitar Company D Model


Today we are looking at the nicest guitar I have ever owned: a Santa Cruz Guitar Company D Model.

You may never have heard of the Santa Cruz Guitar Company which is probably because they do not make very many guitars, and they do not advertise much. But, they are some of the best guitar you can buy. Heck, Eric Clapton plays them…

Anyway, the company was founded by Richard Hoover in 1976, and they have evolved the traditional guitar designs of the 20th century about as far as they can go. Their designs and attention to detail cannot be faulted.

Looking at this D Model, you can see right off that it is a dreadnought with plenty of Martin inspiration. It has a Sitka spruce top and Indian rosewood sides and back. The top has tapered bracing, and it is adorned with some of the slickest binding I have ever seen. The glossy finish on the body is super-thin, which is exactly what I was hoping for when I bought this guitar.

The bound neck is fabulous. The frets came perfectly crowned are very well finished on the edges, like you would expect from a guitar of this caliber. The neck has a comfortable rounded shape to it with a non-sticky matte finish. The width at the nut is about 1 & 11/16 inches. The fretboard is ebony (like the bridge), and the open-backed tuners are a joy to look at.

As I said before, it is the nicest guitar I have ever owned, and this is not hyperbole. The craftsmanship and pride that went into building this guitar is obvious. I cannot find a single flaw on it: there is not a burr, finish flaw or spot of uneven binding anywhere on this guitar.

It plays perfectly, of course, and the neck works well for fingerstyle or however else you want to play.

But the biggest story is its sound. Guitarists choose dreadnoughts primarily for their big tone and volume, and the Santa Cruz GC Model D delivers this. This guitar is a cannon and would be great on stage.

But the SCGC has further improved the tone on these guitars. Generally, dreadnoughts are very bass-heavy, with thinner mid and treble tones. Santa Cruz has re-engineered the body shape and bracing to provide more even tones across all strings. When I was looking at this guitar, there was a Martin D28V for sale as well. I was able to A-B them and they were very close in finish, playability and volume. But the Santa Cruz won out due to its consistent tone.

If you are in the market for a high-end acoustic, I highly recommend checking out the offerings from the Santa Cruz Guitar Company. You will be happy you did.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Boss TU-12H Chromatic Tuner

How’s it going?

What do I really expect from a chromatic tuner? Not much, really: accuracy, simplicity and a reasonable price. Boss (part of the Roland Corporation) has been doing this for years with their effects pedals and with their venerable tuners.

I use a Boss TU-3 on my bass pedalboard, but in my practice space I exclusively use a Boss TU-12H tuner. I choose the TU-12H because I play the acoustic guitar quite a bit, and there is no microphone built into the TU-3.

In addition to the condenser microphone, on the TU-12H there is also a ¼-inch input jack located on the right side of the case. A ¼-output jack is included so the TU-12H can be used in-line.

This tuner uses a standard 9-volt battery, and it does not suck through batteries very quickly (unless you forget to turn it off, like I do). If you want to invest in an adapter, there is a power jack located on the right side of the case. Boss recommends the PSA-120 adapter, which is the same one for almost all of their effect pedals. If you are going to run the tuner in line and leave it on the whole time you are playing, you should go buy an adapter.

The controls are simple, with an ON/OFF switch that allows you to choose a low or high frequency range, and “PITCH”, “UP”, and “DOWN” switches. The “UP” and “DOWN” switches are used to hold a specific tone, or when used with the “PITCH” switch allow the user to change the reference pitch (A) from 440 to 445 Hz in 1Hz increments. There are corresponding LEDs that let you know what you are doing when you are messing with the switches.

But, I NEVER use those extra switches. I just turn it on go. It automatically detects and displays the note being played, and shows how close it is to being in tune. And, unlike cheaper tuners, it does not the spastically jump around all over the place and frustrate the crap out of me. The TU-12H is able to latch onto the strongest tone and hold it while I am tuning.

I can see what I am doing with high-visibility sharp/flat arrow LED indicators, as well as a really smooth analog meter for final fine tuning. All this and I never have to take my hands off my guitar. Handy!

But it is able to work with more than just guitars. It has a very wide range (from C1 to B6), and will also work with most all string, brass and woodwind instruments.

The TU-12H tuner is a handy size. It measures about 6 inches wide by 2 inches deep by 1 ½ inches tall. It is pretty light, coming in at around 6 ounces. It is small and light enough that I needed to put some Velcro on it so it does not slide around too much when I have it plugged in. Oh yeah, and it comes in a nice vinyl case, too.

I was going to give the Boss TU-12H a hearty thumbs-up until I went online to check out the current price and found out it had been discontinued. It has been replaced by the Boss TU-12EX, which is also reasonably priced.

So, I guess you will have to stay tuned for a review of their newest model.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fender Jazz Bass Plus V


So far, my blog post on Philip Kubicki Factor basses has more page views than any other I have written. Philip Kubicki is a great guy, and he worked with Fender for many years. One of his most famous guitars was the rosewood Telecaster that was made for George Harrison.

Beside his famed Factor basses, he also had a part in designing the Fender Jazz Bass Plus, one of which we are looking at today.

The 4-string Jazz Bass Plus was introduced in 1989, and the 5-string version came out a year later. They were made in the USA, and have notable differences from the American Standard Jazz Bass of the era. Maybe that is why they called them “Plus”. The Jazz Bass Plus was discontinued in 1994 when the USA Deluxe Series Jazz Bass was introduced.

Visually, the biggest changes is that these basses do not have a pickguard or the traditional Jazz Bass chrome control cavity cover, and I think they look awesome. The logo on the headstock is a little more modern, which I do not think looks very awesome.

The hardware is a bit different too. Fender used high-quality open-gear Hipshot tuners on the 4-string basses and Gotoh tuners on the 5-string basses. They all got a really beefy bridge (Schaller for the 4-string and Gotoh for the 5-string) for excellent sustain. The knobs are the same as the ones that the Fender Custom Shop used on the Kubicki Factor basses they built around the same era.

The color palette for the Jazz Bass plus had the conventional black and sunburst, and some horrifying pastels and disastrous reverse fade finishes. Both maple and rosewood fretboards were available.

But the biggest difference was in the electronics package they loaded into these basses. These got a pair of silver Fender Lace Sensor Jazz Bass pickups and a Philip Kubicki 9 volt active pre-amp. Controls were stacked volume and tone knobs, and a 4-way selector that works as follows: passive/active/active with boost and standby (off).

The bass in the photos is a very nice 1992 5-string Jazz Bass Plus that I owned about 5 years ago. It was in great original condition with its original 3-tone sunburst.

The body had the traditional Jazz Bass profile (not a boner bass) was nicely balanced. It appeared to be made out of alder, but then again I am not a carpenter, so I cannot say for sure.

The build quality was fine, and I never had any issues with it. I loved the tones from the Kubicki pre-amp, and the standby mode on the knob was a handy feature. A really nice bonus was that it weighed in under 9 pounds, which is hard to find on a quality 5-string bass.

Of course I sold this bass because I remembered that I do not play 5-string basses (and because I sell everything eventually).

If you decide to go looking for a Jazz Bass Plus, be careful when you look at them, as many I have seen in recent year no longer have the original pickups and pre-amplifier. Choose wisely.

If you hold out, you can still these for sale in the $600 to $800 range on Talkbass or eBay. Ignore the ones that are in the $1000+ range – those guys are smoking crack.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Ernie Ball MusicMan Axis Guitar

¿Como estas?

I run into guitarists all the time who think that the Ernie Ball MusicMan company only makes Stingray basses. That is a shame because they also make fantastic guitars, and their most famous endorsee ever was Eddie Van Halen (or Mr. Bertinelli, as I like to call him).

The Eddie Van Halen signature model guitars were introduced in 1990 and were a hit with shredders everywhere. If you look for one on eBay nowadays you will spend a lot of coin to pick one up.

There is a cheaper alternative that share the same look and many of the features: the MusicMan Axis guitars. These guitars were introduced later in the 1990s, and are still in production today.

The biggest differences between the EVH guitar and the Axis are:

1. The logo on the headstock no longer includes Mr. Van Halen’s signature.

2. On the Axis, the pickup select toggle switch is below the volume knob, instead of below the neck pickup.

3. The Axis body has a belly contour on the back.

4. The Axis neck is 1/32” wider at the higher frets to reduce high E string slippage.

5. The Axis has a tone knob instead of volume knob.

6. Axis guitars with Floyd Rose-type bridges have non-offset saddles (EVH had offset saddles).

I see most of these as improvements, and the rest of the guitar is about the same. So, let’s take a look at what you get when you buy one of these. The example we are looking at today is a rare bird: a 1997 Axis hard tail.

The body on this guitar has a flat top and is made of basswood. This makes the guitar very light, and it weighs less than 7 pounds. It has a a bookmatched maple top with a classy flame to it. It is finished off in a transparent red, which show little fading (an issue on the original EVH guitars).

The neck is maple, and does not have a traditional poly finish. MusicMan uses a gunstock oil finish that that is baby’s-butt smooth, but does require maintenance when it wears off or becomes dirty. There is plenty of bird’s-eye in the wood, which I find attractive. Axis guitars have a 25.5-inch scale, so they should very comfortable to you if you are defecting from the Fender guitar camp. As with other MusicMan guitars the truss rod has a handy adjustment wheel, making set-ups a snap.

The hardware is very nice, with Schaller non-locking tuners and a hardtail string through the body bridge. The recessed 5-bolt neck plate is a classy touch. I guess I should point out that current production Axis guitars only come with locking tuners, and that the hardtail option is no longer available.

The pickups are Dimarzio humbuckers that were wound to Eddie’s specifications. The controls are simple: a 3-way pickup selector (3way!) and a volume control. There is no knob farm to be found here. The internal body cavities are shielded with graphite resin to prevent unwanted noise.

The Axis is an incredible rock guitar, and this one was as good as any EVH I ever played. When I owned this one I had it set up with Ernie Ball 0.010s and it was a slick guitar. The neck was playable over its entire length and the action was nice and low with no buzzing. The electronics were clear and the pickups were very crunchy. It was a beauty, but something sparkly caught my eye, and I ended up selling it.

You may have noticed that there is also an Axis Super Sport Model, so I should probably cover the differences between the Axis and the Super Sport.

The most obvious difference is the bridge. The Axis has a locking Floyd type tremelo while the Super Sport is available with a vintage tremolo or string-thru-the-body hardtail.

Another major difference is the pickup selector: the Axis has a 3-way selector while the Super Sport has a 5-way switch. And lastly, the Super Sport is also available with P90s (which come with an ash body).

The Axis and the Axis Super Sport are both fantastic guitars that are made to high levels of craftsmanship in the United States. So, it is not surprising that you are going to pay good money to get ahold of one of these. The Axis has a base price of $2450 (street price of $1715) and the Super Sport has a base price of $2475 (street of price $1732).

Why don’t you stimulate our economy and buy one of two of these guitars today?


Friday, February 11, 2011

Steve Lukather: All’s Well That Ends Well Album Review


My friend Jack has spent the last month or two yammering on about Steve Lukather’s latest studio album, All’s Well That Ends Well. He thinks it is the best thing since canned beer (or bottled vodka), so I figured I had better check it out for myself.

Steve Lukather is not a household name, but he should be. He is most known for his work with Toto, but he has been working as a studio musician for the past 35 years, and has played with everybody and has had a hand in writing or playing on over 1000 albums. He is a guitar god and a rock star in every sense of the word.

All’s Well That Ends Well is Luke’s sixth studio solo album, and he gets top billing for writing all 9 tracks. He also played lead guitar and provided the lead vocals. Keyboardist CJ Vanston also gets writing and mixing credits. And one of my all-time favorites, Fee Waybill, Joined Steve again to help write a song and provide some backing vocals.

Before listening to this album I had zero experience with Luke’s solo work. Los Angeles radio is a wasteland filled with small pillars of crap, and there is no chance of hearing anything outside of the usual Bieber/Ranchera/hip-hop/Blink-182 mainstays. But I had a few ideas of what I would be getting for my $8.91.

I figured the album would be slicker than snot, and it is. Steve has been on so many albums that he knows exactly what to do in the studio. I also anticipated that the songs would be well-written, and I got that too. And lastly, I expected a guitar-fueled Vai-esque Satriani-fest. I did not get this at all.

Obviously there are some great guitar parts, but musically this album goes a lot deeper. There are rich synthesizer layers, funky bass parts and really tight percussion that goes beyond a double bass drum kit. The feel goes from poppy rock to boogie to Hendrix/Stevie Ray and even a little Steely Dan. I effing hate Steely Dan, but that is a personal problem that I need to work through.

Steve Lukather steps out lyrically too on All’s Well That Ends Well. He has had a few rough years and really poured his heart into each song. He doesn’t write the world’s most poetic lyrics, but I get the feeling that he means everything that he sings.

And to me, the album is made by these more personal songs, such as “Watching the World” and “Don’t Say It’s Over”. These slower songs are the last thing I was expecting to hear. The mood that is set by the lyrics, guitars and background instruments is very real.

”Flash in the Pan” and “You’ll Remember” provide a useful contrast to the more introspective and slower tunes. These quicker blues/rock tunes have the boogie, but still carry the darker lyrical theme that is present throughout the album.

The album ends up with “Tumescent”, an instrumental that is tight and provides a good showcase for Luke’s guitar prowess, in case you did not get enough in the rest of the album.

I liked this album well enough that I am going to dig a little deeper into his catalogue and check out more of his solo work.

So, I give All’s Well That Ends Well a big thumbs up, and recommend that you head on over to iTunes and download a copy today for $8.91. It looks like Jack was right again.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gary Moore, 1952 - 2011


I am sure that many of you have heard that Gary Moore passed away in Spain this past weekend while on holiday with his family. He was only 58, which is way too young.

Gary had been a long-time guitar hero for me: I loved the music from his time with Thin Lizzy, and I kept touch with his work throughout his extensive solo career. I even had the joy of owning one of his original-series signature model Gibson Les Paul guitars, which I reviewed on this blog last May.

The mainstream music industry press is doing an efficient job of covering Gary’s biography and speculating about how he died. Unfortunately I never got to see him live or meet him, so I do not have any up-close and personal anecdotes, but I would like to share a Gary Moore memory with you all today.

About 10 years ago I traveled overseas and stayed at a Hilton hotel in Japan for 3 weeks. Every morning I would go down to breakfast when the hotel restaurant opened at 7:00 and was usually the only diner in the place. Apparently having an early breakfast is not terribly popular in Japan.

It took me a few days, but I finally figured out that the barely audible Muzak in the restaurant was playing the same album every morning, and I recognized it Gary Moore’s Wild Frontier album. Not his best work, but it was a pretty big hit for him back in 1987.

I asked my waiter (who spoke perfect English, of course) about their mood music. He said that the sound system had a 6-disk CD changer that constantly cycled through, and Wild Frontier was the 1st CD in the magazine. It turned out that the waiter was a guitarist (with a Les Paul, of course) and this was one of his favorite albums.

Music makes the world a little smaller, I guess. For the rest of my stay we chatted a little about music and guitars each morning, and it made the lonely trip a little brighter for me.

Godspeed, Gary, and thanks for everything.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Aria Pro II Les Paul Copy

Good morning!

It seems like I cannot let a month go by without writing about a Japanese Les Paul copy. February will not be an exception as we take a look at fine Aria Pro II Leopard guitar.

Aria was ones of many Japanese companies that ripped off Gibson’s (among others’) designs in the 1970s and 1980s. Generally the copies very well made, and this one is no exception.

I found this guitar at a Hard-Off shop in Japan a few years back and picked it up on the cheap. It was in unusually good condition, and was well worth the few hundred dollars I paid for it. I have not seen very many of these on this side of the Pacific.

Although this is a copy, it has everything you would expect to find on a real Les Paul Standard. It appears to be unmodified and there are no signs of repairs.

The non-chambered body is mahogany, with a bound and lightly flamed 2-piece maple top. It is finished in a gorgeous glossy cherryburst.

This Aria has a set neck, although I have seen others with bolt-on necks. It has a bound rosewood fretboard with mother-of-pearl trapezoidal inlays. As usual with these Japanese copies, the frets and nut are very well done. The neck is nicely rounded, and it is between the 50s and 60s style Les Pauls as far as feel.

The pickups are original to the guitar and are a perfect knock-off of Dimarzios in the tone department. This is a good thing, in my book. The rest of the electronics are nice and quiet, and the controls are set up with a 3-way pickup selector, two volume and two tone controls.

As a bonus, this Aria weighs in at a little under 8.5 pounds, which is light for a non-chambered Les Paul.

Everything sounds good so far, doesn’t it? Well, it keeps on being good. This guitar was built well, and looks, sounds and plays incredibly. It has a light action with a truly soulful crunch, and can do anything a $2000+ Gibson can.

Although it was a great playing guitar, I never did play it very much. I eventually sold it to a friend of mine who was a diehard strat guy and wanted to try out a Les Paul. It turned out to be a great fit for him and he still has it.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Memory Lane: Peavey TNT 150 Bass Amplifier


Today we are looking at my first bass amplifier: a Peavey TNT 150. A friend of mine once said that after the nuclear holocaust, only cockroaches, AK-47s and Peavey amplifiers will remain.

I think he may be right, as this amplifier was built like a brick house.

I bought my first electric bass back in the mid 1980s, and after a few weeks of monkeying around with it, I started looking around for an amplifier. I was still in school and did not have a ton of extra cash from the part time jobs I was working, so I ended up roaming the pawn shops. At AV Pawn in Long Beach I found this Peavey for a reasonable price ($150, I think), so I dragged the heavy beast home in the back of my Honda.

This made in the USA (really?) combo amp put out 150 watts at 4 ohms, I have since seen other TNT 150 amps that put out 160 and 200 watts. They must have made a few changes over the years.

This one had a really heavy-duty plywood cabinet that was covered in the most durable tolex ever created on this planet. It held up like one of those spray-on bedliners. There was only one carry handle on top which made transporting it a bit tough, so eventually I added handles to each side of the cabinet. This made it a little easier to get it in and out of my car.

The speaker was a 15-inch Scorpion (if I remember correctly). These could also be had with Black Widow speakers. It held up well with the abuse that I gave it.

There were plenty of controls for me to mess around with, including a 9-band equalizer with sliders. Every 19 year old loves eq’s with sliders. It also had a chorus effect that sounded pretty awful, but I did not have much money so at least it gave me the ability to try out some new sounds on the cheap.

The TNT 150 worked fine for me with the passive P-J Fender basses I was playing back then. It could put out enough sound to keep up with a drummer playing at a reasonable volume. The tone was boomy and did not provide crispy highs, but it worked well enough. I wonder sometimes how much benefit we really get from the high-end equipment that everybody and their brother wants today.

I ended up selling this combo when I decided to go with the GK/Hartke set-up that everybody else was using in the early 1990s. For the stuff I played, I cannot say that it really made much of a difference, but the new rig did look cooler…


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ESP Vintage Plus Guitar

Hi there!

Today I want to tell you about a solid guitar: the ESP Vintage Plus. This Stratocaster clone is a quality guitar that is made by craftsmen in Japan, not by little kids in some third world country like the LTD models. But…

I do not care much for factory-reliced guitars, and this ESP is no exception. The whole process of wearing out a guitar on purpose seems contrived to me. But, then again, people buy them, so what do I know?

While I am ranting about things I do not like, if this is supposed to be a “vintage”-looking guitar, there are a ton of inappropriate features on it. Want to hear my list? Of course you do:

1. Gotoh tuners. These are fabulous tuners that hold well and work smoothly. But their shiny-assed modern look is completely out of place on a reliced strat copy.

2. Wilkinson bridge. Ditto all of the nice things (and bad things) I said about the Gotoh tuners and add in some brownie points for adjustability. But it looks wrong – we need bent steel saddles, dang it.

3. The cut-away neck joint and plate. No no no no no no no. Cut that goofy stuff out right now, ESP designers.

I am complaining a lot, but I started out saying what a great guitar this is. Well, it is a great guitar despite these gripes. When you play it you can forget about all of that poo I just wrote about. This is one of the smoothest and easiest playing 6-strings I have run into.

The build quality is tremendous, with a perfectly fitted neck. The nut and fretwork are spot-on and the frets are leveled to a degree that Gibson can only dream of.

The neck is as comfortable as they get, right out of the box. It is pretty thin from front to back, and the frets are huge.

The electronics have no hum, and the Seymour Duncan SSL-1 pickups are very good. ESP lost none of the classic Stratocaster sound when they designed these guitars.

These guitars ship in a black ESP deluxe tolex hardshell case, which is to be expected at this price.

I picked the one you see here from a local shop a few years back. It was pretty light, coming in a little under 8 pounds, and when I owned it I had it set up with .010 Ernie Ball Slinkies. I only used the tremolo a few times, but it held tune well and I did not have any problems with string breakage. I only ended up selling it because I really did not care for the overdone relic look.

Should you go looking for one of these, brace yourself as it has been a while since the dollar has been strong compared to the yen. The list price for the ESP Vintage Plus is a mind-blowing $1869, and I did not see new ones for any less than $1399 online. There is really stiff competition at this price point, and you can probably find a better value for something else if you want to buy something new.

On the bright side, the used market for these is horrible, so if you can find one of these used on eBay (For around $700 to $750), you can get a great guitar for small money.