Once upon a time, Ernie Ball Music Man had a certain high-profile endorser, one of those epoch-defining chaps who changed the way we approach the instrument. He designed a signature model with the company and it was very popular – as current used prices for said instruments will demonstrate – but eventually he moved in a different direction. Production was stopped on his signature guitar but most of the model’s features survived in the form of the Axis. Now almost 20 years later it’s still a great seller for Music Man, and an iconic guitar in its own right. And we described all that without once mentioning Eddie Van Halen. Continue reading
Joe Satriani needs his amps to cover a lot of ground during the course of a single gig, from vintage bluesy sweetness to chunky rock to screaming harmonically overstimulated lead. For years he’s (generally) used clean amps and distortion pedals for his tone, but when it came time to lay down some riffage with his supergroup Chickenfoot, Joe realised only Marshall would do. So they worked together on an amp based on the JVM410. Let’s let Joe explain: “It’s got four channels and three modes per channel, and we just set the thing up in the control room when we were doing overdubs (for Chickenfoot III) and we went from channel to channel, and I think the only time we used a different amp was when we plugged in a ’59 Fender Twin amp to add a little something to a ballad. Everything else was done through that amp. I never felt like I wasn’t punching enough or I never had enough gain or I wasn’t clean enough. It’s really an outstanding amp.” Continue reading
Although Schecter was initially known for slightly more traditional guitars, they’ve really hit their stride in the past decade-plus as purveyors of fine high-performance axes aimed at the metal market. They still cater to the traditionalists – especially with the new USA Production Series unveiled at NAMM in January), but the SLS Blackjack C-1 FR-S is a great example of how Schecter unifies a whole stack of shred-friendly features that are unashamedly pitched at those who dwell on the dark side.
The SLS has a mahogany body with your choice of Crimson Red Burst or Satin Black finish. The latter is the model on review here: the finish seems particularly well applie, and nicely offset by multi-ply binding. The neck is made of three-piece maple for enhanced stability, and there are 24 Jumbo frets on the ebony fretboard. The headstock is a bound three-tuner-per-side variant featuring Grover Rotomatic tuners with an 18:1 gear ratio for smoother tuning and a higher degree of backlash elimination. The only inlay on the fretboard face of the Satin Black version is a ‘Hell’s Gate Skull’ which looks pretty bitchen’, and definitely positions this as a metal guitar. Personally I think it’d do fine without it, as on the Crimson Red Burst model which has offset dots instead, but it’s not a deal breaker. The set neck is carved into Schecter’s Ultra Access shape, which mimics a neck-thru instrument, and the profile is the Ultra Thin spec, which is 19mm at the first fret and 20mm at the 12th.
Schecter is well known on the metal scene for their incredibly shredworthy axes (which is a huge about-face when you consider the company’s earlier days making great Strat and Tele-type instruments for players like The Who’s Pete Townshend). And this helps Schecter’s basses to have a lot going for them too: the company really understands how to make a fast, playable and comfortable neck on an instrument that is designed to handle the rigours of the road.
The Studio-4 is a neck-through instrument with a multi-laminate maple/walnut neck and body core, given some extra visual pop by mahogany body wings topped with slices of bubinga. Combined with a rosewood fretboard, the look is elegant and refined, and it’s the kind of bass that could look equally at home on a country, blues, rock or metal gig. There are some hints to the company’s modern metal leanings, particularly in the form of the pointy headstock, but the overall look gives the impression that this is not a one-trick pony. Continue reading
Gus G requires a lot from his amps. He needs them to keep up with his power metal shredding in Firewind, but he also demands that they keep up with the various eras of rock and metal tone that he needs to convey during the course of a typical Ozzy Osbourne set. As Ozzy’s guitarist he has to dip into vintage 70s metal, 80s neoclassical and hard rock, the more gained-out approach of Zakk Wylde and his own, modern-voiced Ozzy material. The Blackstar Blackfire 200 is a 200 watt beast of an amp designed to pump out the required tones at the required volumes.
Ever played with an analog synth, or at least a good digital recreation of one? Well, for me, the best way to think of the SUPEREGO is as a component that converts part of your guitar sound into a waveform that can be twisted and manipulated in a similar way to an analog synth. I have to think of it that way, because it’s such an unusual idea compared to regular guitar effects that I need to hook my brain around it somehow! It’s in the same family of EHX effects as the Ravish, the POG2, and Micro Synth, but like EHX founder Mike Matthews, the SUPEREGO is its own man.
TC Electronic’s TonePrint line of effects ignited a revolution in the way guitarists approach stopboxes. These compact but powerful little pedals give you all sorts of effect parameters which you can set by yourself, but they also reserve a separate memory slot for you to load presets designed by some of the greats, who have access to even more parameter control than the pedals themselves let you tweak. You can beam these presets to your pedal via an iPhone or with a USB cable, and sound like your favourite artist. The Flashback Delay is a very versatile little pedal with six seconds of delay time, multiple delay types and a handy toggle switch for varying between quarter, 16th or dotted 8th notes, but it’s a little too simplified for those with complex delay needs. Enter the new Flashback X4.
The Blackjack SLS range includes a variety of models with similar specs but across different body shapes, hardware features and string counts; the single cutaway Solo-6, the eight-string superstrat-style C-8, the Tele-like PT, the Floyd Rose-loaded V-1 FR V… they’re all unmistakably Schecter but they each offer something slightly different to each other. What unites them is that ‘SLS’ – it stands for Slim Line Series. These guitars feature a thinner arched top body measuring 45mm deep for a lighter feel. And many players swear by the tonal qualities of lighter guitars.
The original TC Electronic G-System is pretty hard to top. An integrated effects and switching system, it’s been at the heart of the guitar rigs of some pretty influential artists, including Steve Vai, Peter Thorn and Bullet For My Valentine. Pro players love the way it brings together all the essential elements of their rig (more on that in a minute) along with some very high-quality effects. But TC Electronic knows good advice when they hear it, and the G-System iB Modified was born out of some helpful suggestions from a few industry insiders.
Sweden’s Hagstrom began making electric guitars in 1958, at a time when Europe was desperate for the kind of electric guitar variety available to American musicians. The company was there at the right place at the right time to capitalize on the existing visual style from its successful accordion line, with eye-catching features like sparkly and pearloid celluloid finishes. Hagstrom users over the years include Elvis, Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe, Dusty Hill and the Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Pat Smear from Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Dweezil Zappa, Frank Zappa (who created an advertising campaign for the company), David Bowie, and Franz Ferdinand guitarist Nicholas McCarthy.