REVIEW: Ormsby TX GTR Eaton Special

Of all the Ormsby guitar designs, my favourites personally are the SX and the TX. Something about the SX just feels super-right to me and it’s always a treat to get to play one, whether it’s a Custom Shop made-in-Australia model or a Korean-made GTR version. But for me the TX is really where it’s at. Imagine if an Ernie Ball Music Man Edward Van Halen model got it on with a Fender American Deluxe Telecaster but then spent a summer hanging around with a gang of Jazzmasters. Yes, before you even realise that it’s a multiscale guitar, the offset design tells you there’s something very different about this instrument, something that gives it great ergonomics even before you even take into account the fretting-hand-friendly multiscale design.

In its 7-string configuration, this guitar has a 27.8” scale length on the lowest string, shortening to a 25.5” scale on the highest. The 6-string has a 25.5”-27.5” scale. By this point I think most of us know about the benefits of a multiscale design, even if you haven’t tried one yet. For starters, the longer scale for the lower strings makes them tighter and snappier. For another, they just seem to intonate better. But most importantly for me, they naturally guide your hand into a very comfortable, tension-free playing position. After about five minutes of playing time, most players completely adjust to the different fret layout, and from then on it’s all smooth sailing.

The TX I reviewed was an Eaton Special model (owned by my brother Steve – hi Steve) with a 42mm-thick Alder body and a Flame Maple top. It has a bolt-on three-piece Maple neck and an Ebony fingerboard with Mother of Pearl inlays, and the beck of the neck is a Thin-U shape, like a D but with round shoulders. It’s not ultra-chunky but it’s not super-thin either. In fact it’s probably the perfect depth to be instantly accessible to as many players as possible, and it naturally guides your hand to a comfortable position for best orienting yourself to the multiscale fret layout. There are 29 Stainless Steel frets, with the last five being partial frets that follow the diagonal flow of the end of the neck.

Hardware includes Hipshot USA locking tuners and a custom Hipshot multiscale bridge, and the controls are volume and tone pots (with a push-pull switch on the tone for coil splitting), and a three-way pickup selector switch. The pickups are a PVH A5 humbucker and an Old School single coil, wound to Ormsby’s specs. Another nice touch: the curved control plate.

Unlike the super-popular Hype GTR model, which is a set-neck with a nice natural compression, the TX’s bolt-on neck gives it a snap and dimension that recalls the Telecasters that partly inspired it. It’s a very bold, in-your-face-sounding guitar with great note separation and a very tight attack. The pickups further enhance this natural quality with a very clear, focused vibe, and while they can handle some fatter tones with a bit of EQ work, they really excel at percussive chunk and screaming solos. Crucially, they’re not super hot in output, allowing for great clarity no matter how much gain you pile on, and also ensuring that when you split the humbucker into a single coil it sounds nice and twangy like a low-output single, not chewy and barks like a hotter one. The clean and semi-dirty tones are fantastic, especially in the middle selector position with the coil tap engaged, and are great for indie/alternative styles. The guitar itself doesn’t really look like something you’d see in that genre, but rules are made to be broken. It really sounds great for that stuff.

Although metal players seem to be the ones really embracing the multiscale, this isn’t just a metal guitar. Sonically it’s incredibly versatile, ergonomically it’s very player-friendly, and its design has enough of a classic vibe to appeal to forward-thinking traditionalists as well as modernists.

REVIEW: Pickmaster Plectrum Cutter


I don’t know where my guitar picks disappear to. I’m pretty sure it’s the same place my socks and my abs went. Some days I spend at least as much time searching for plectra as I do playing guitar, and although for years I was strictly a one-pick dude (the Jim Dunlop Jazz III), I’ve trained myself to now use whatever pick I find, wherever I find it. It’s just better and more musicianly to remain adaptable than to be bound to any one type of pick.

The makers of Pickmaster must realise this quandry because they’ve created the ideal way to ensure you are never left pickless. The Pickmaster Plectrum Cutter is a very chunky and solidly built tool which lets you stamp out picks from whatever material you find around the house – old credit cards, the lid from the butter tub – you could even be super-ironic and use it to cut a guitar pick out of one of those large triangular bass picks. Read More …

REVIEW: Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail Analog Delay

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It’s interesting that analog delay seems almost as popular today as it was back when it was the only option, before it had to compete with digital delays, multi-effect pedals, rack units, MIDI-controllable delay stations and all-in-one processors like the Axe-FX. Many players seem to really connect with the organic nature of analog delay at the moment: its rounded down, smoothed off, often more compressed, richly harmonic charms. The MXR Carbon Copy has proven the popularity of analog delay pedals with inbuilt modulation effects, and the Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail takes this to a new level while retaining its analog credentials. Read More …

REVIEW: Michael Kelly Guitars 1957

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There are so, so many guitars out there that follow the basic Telecaster-style footprint but either they ape the Tele so closely that you might as well get a Fender, or they diverge from the design so radically that they may as well be an entirely different instrument. Fender’s American Deluxe series does a great job of updating the Tele with modern playability and features but they’re pretty damn pricey. I get the feeling that this is where the Michael Kelly 1957 fits in. It’s far more affordable than an American Deluxe and it certainly doesn’t try to copy its features, but it’s no vintage-style Tele reproduction either.  Read More …

REVIEW: FGN J-Standard Odyssey JOS-FM-R

fgnFujigen has built guitars for some of the biggest names in the guitar world for decades. Ibanez’s incredible Japanese instruments including the Jem and JS, for example. Or the beautiful Fender Japan instruments. The much-loved Heartfield Talon. But the company makes its own instruments too. FGN guitars have been available in Japan for quite a while but they’re a relatively recent entrant on the world scene. The J-Standard Odyssey JOS-FM-R is a great place to start because it blends elements of the traditional and the modern in the same instrument. Read More …

REVIEW: Epiphone 1984 Explorer EX

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The Gibson Explorer was ahead of its time when it was released in the 50s, and still seemed like a bit a quirky anachronism in the 70s. But in the 80s it found itself at the centre of a revolution in guitar: thrash. This highly technical, highly aggressive new form of music required a guitar that could have plenty of punch, was playable, and looked badass. Certain players took the Explorer and popped a set of EMG pickups in it, and went on to create history. The 1984 Explorer EX pays tribute to the meeting of Explorer and EMG that helped to define the future of heavy music.

Click here to buy an Epiphone 1984 Explorer EX in Ebony or here to get one in Alpine White.

Or click here to see Gibson Explorers on eBay.

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REVIEW: Gibson Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul

Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul

Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher’s first signature instrument was the Gibson Golden Axe Explorer, a visually stunning instrument that combined classic explorer looks with an eye-catching golden brown sunburst finish and Kelliher’s signature Lace Sensor Dissonant Aggressor passive humbucker pickups. The Golden Axe is already becoming quite hard to find because these limited edition beasts are very much coveted, not just by Mastodon fans – they achieve the rare feat of crossing over to guitar fans in general – and anyone who gets one tends to hang onto it. The new Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul follows a similar track, kitting out a classic Les Paul design with a few of Kelliher’s own personal touches and in the process creating a guitar that will please all sorts of players, whether they’ve heard of Mastodon or not.

Click Here to buy the Gibson Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul

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REVIEW: Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive

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Overdrive pedals are a funny thing: some of us like to use them to get crunchy, amp-like warmth. Some of us like to use them to boost an already overdriven amp channel into the next level. And almost everyone defaults to a certain green box when they think of analog overdrive pedals. The Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive was designed with those classic tones in mind as a starting point but this pedal has significant differences from the Tube Screamer, beginning with the chip that powers its sound. While early development focused on the same chip, SD engineers eventually ended up with the MC33178 due to what they felt were superior sonic characteristics (along with a lower noise level and longer battery life). Click here to buy one.

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