NEWS: VHT Standard 12 combo

This looks like cool news for anyone who feared that the VHT brand name would just be chucked onto pre-existing AXL amps after the latter bought the former. VHT founder Stephen Fryette now has his own amp company, Fryette, where he will continue to build the various designs that made VHT famous, including the Sig X and the Pitbull. But AXL seem to be very respectful of the ideals of the VHT brand name and the opinions of the company’s fans, as evidenced by the release of the Standard 12, a handwired, US-made combo.

Here’s the press release.

VHT is proud to announce the release of the first handwired amplifier from “The Standard Series,” The Standard 12. The Standard 12 amplifier is carefully handwired in the VHT workshop just outside of San Francisco, where experienced VHT designers are looking it over every step of the way.

All VHT handwired amplifiers are carefully pre-tested for quality. Extensive burn-in time insures excellent reliability. Each amp is given an initial sound test before burn-in and then given a second, more extensive test after the burn-in process is completed. It is then A/B tested to make sure that each individual amp offers the same level of quality. The Standard 12 uses 12AX7 tubes on the preamp side and 6v6 tubes for the poweramp. The rectifier tube is a 5Y3GT. The high-grade VHT finger-jointed birch cabinet houses a 12″ Celestion G12H30 speaker. All of the components of The Standard 12 were chosen to provide the ultimate in sensitivity and expressiveness to let the individual sound of each player shine through.

The Standard 12 sounds great for classic rock styles, breaking up easily as the volume knob is turned up. The Standard 12 also excels at overdriven blues sounds as it is extremely touch-sensitive and retains its chime throughout the entire volume spectrum. It does everything that a classic tweed-voiced amplifier is supposed to do. The Standard 12 has a very vocal clean tone with a powerful midrange and great headroom. Although the design goal was to capture a vintage sound, the Standard 12 doesn’t “brown out” like vintage amps — the low end doesn’t become loose and muddy — the 12 doesn’t compress to the point where the low end gets mushy. It doesn’t sacrifice a “crunchy” top end in order to gain powerful midrange, but instead maintains articulate, sugary highs throughout the volume spectrum.

The Standard 12 has that classic American amp sound with a warm tone and strong mid-range that really sings. It was specifically designed with simplicity in mind, for players who want to just plug in and sound great. The Standard 12 lists for $1,799.99 and is available now.

For more information, visit their web site at http://www.vhtamp.com/.

NEWS: AXL offers Badwater hardware kit

I’ve long been a vocal supporter of AXL guitars – after I reviewed a few Badwater models for Mixdown magazine I fell in love with their tone and ‘make you fight for it just enough’ playability, not to mention those cool weathered finishes.

Now the distinctive weathered hardware of the Badwater series is being made available separately, for those who want to add some rusted-ass, beaten-down vibe to their favourite Strat-based axe. Here’s the press release:

Capitalizing on the successful and critically acclaimed Badwater series of guitars, AXL presents the Badwater Hardware Kit for players who want to individualize any guitar.

The Badwater guitar line features incredible antiqued finishes and hardware that Guitar World labeled “anything but run of the mill, and a first for the budget-guitar market.” The Badwater Hardware kit helps any guitar achieve the same kind of road-worn look and feel without an expensive “relic-ing” process.

The Badwater Hardware Kit (PG-820) comes with a carefully aged pickguard cut for 3 single-coil pickups, two tone knobs and one volume knob, a selector switch tip, output jack plate, bridge assembly and tremolo arm, six tuning machines, and a set of strap buttons and mounting screws. Each plastic component has been antiqued and every metal piece has been anodized for a unique look and vintage feel. The Badwater Hardware Kit has a list price of $49.99, and is designed to fit most 3-pickup guitar designs.

Badwater hardware comes standard on AXL Badwater Series guitars, including the V-styled Jacknife. AXL Guitars is also the builder of the Mayhem, Bloodsport and Marquee Series of electric guitars and basses.

CLICK HERE to see AXL Badwater guitars on eBay.

REVIEW: Jackson Mark Morton Dominion


The other day I bought Lamb of God’s new CD, Wrath, and it’s got some killer old-school thrash moments on it. Lamb of God played at the Soundwave festival the other day but unfortunately they were scheduled to play at the same time as Nine Inch Nails, and a decision had to be made, so NIN won out and I’ll catch Lamb of God next time. Anyway, here’s my review of the Jackson Mark Morton Dominion signature model.

This made-in-Japan metal machine looks a little unassuming at first. The body outline almost resembles an amoeba or a melted Fender Jaguar, but structurally the guitar has more in common with Gibson’s classic designs than Fender’s. (Interestingly, Fender Musical Instrument Corporation owns Jackson, after reportedly trumping an offer to buy Jackson by Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine a few years ago).

Buy the Jackson Mark Morton Dominion from Musician’s Friend.

The Dominion is available in five transparent colours: Wine Drunk, Primer, Bourbon Burst, River Bed and Old School Burst. It features a chambered mahogany body with a quilt maple top – yep, chambered. It’s almost unheard of for a metal guitar to be chambered or hollow (with the exception of the weight relieving in later Les Pauls), because some feel that such construction techniques would invite uncontrollable feedback to burst through the door and stomp all over your guitar tone, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue with this axe, and I’m sure it plays more than a little role in helping to give this guitar a tone all its own.

Construction is of the neck-through-body variety, with the mahogany neck reinforced with graphite rods for stability. The bridge is a Schaller 456 fully adjustable bridge with anchored tailpiece. The neck has 22 jumbo frets on an ebony fingerboard, a wood prized for its solid, consistent tone, tight grain, and blacker-than-black looks.

Pickups are a pair of Seymour Duncan ’59 models in the bridge and neck. Each pickup has dedicated volume and tone controls, as well as a coil tap switch for single coil sounds.

I tested the Dominion out by using it to record some rhythm tracks for a song I had kicking around. First up was a chunky rhythm part which combined palm-muted pedal tones and ringing chord stabs. I selected the bridge humbucker for the first take, and switched it to single coil mode for the second. This allowed me to blend the two sounds during mix down to get the best of both worlds. The Dominion’s tone is loud and bold, no doubt aided by the chambering inside the body. Every strum or pick sets off a palpable resonance within the body, and single note lines blossom with harmonic complexity. Although Morton uses this axe in a band with two guitars, it sounds fat enough to fill up more than enough space in a single guitar band, and it covers enough ground for rhythm and lead styles.

Playability is not what you would expect from a metal guitar. It’s not a firey-fingered shred monster, and if you’re more at home with Gibson-style designs you’ll feel comfortable with this guitar. It’s not hard to play at all, but it does expect you to do most of the work, unlike most metal axes which seem to play themselves.

While there are signs this is Morton’s signature guitar – his signature on the truss rod cover, the distinctive gothic headstock outline, the shark eye inlays – the Dominion has enough common appeal to transcend the signature axe stigma and be seen as a unique guitar in its own right.