The Ernie Ball Music Man model started life as the Edward Van Halen guitar around 25 years ago. After Eddie’s association with that company ended, the guitar design lived on with a few changes as the Axis, while a new variation called the Axis Super Sport was also introduced. Compared to the Floyd Rose-loaded regular Axis, the Super Sport typically features a fixed bridge (a Music Man vintage tremolo is also an option) and five-way pickup switching (with single coil modes in positions two and four), but is still very much an Axis. The Semi Hollowbody version was introduced at the NAMM Show this year. Continue reading
There are certain things we think of when we hear ‘Gibson Les Paul.’ Chief among these are the single cutaway design, two pickups each with their own volume and tone controls, and a carved top. And Gibson’s long-running Melody Maker model differs from this in many key ways, including a slab body, pickguard-mounted controls (most often just single volume and tone knobs), and usually just a single pickup. The Les Paul Melody Maker combines aspects of both designs and it does so in a way that brings out the best elements of each at a price that’s almost unheard of for a US-made guitar. Continue reading
Duesenberg Guitars was founded in Hanover, Germany in 1991, but if you were to look at their guitars without knowing this fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re a classic American brand from the 50s. Their designs have that retro-futuristic cool, like something from an Eisenhower-era science fiction movie about rock n’ rollers from 2014. This vibe is enhanced somewhat by the branch that the company opened in Fullerton, California in 2004. Their designs are augmented by Art Déco motifs including a recurring ‘three step geometry’ vibe which you can see in the headstock, pickguard, pickup surrounds, selector knob and of course the ‘D’ of the Dusenberg logo itself. No matter the model, when you see a Dusenberg you know exactly what it is. The particular model on review here is a Starplayer-TV, essentially Duesenberg’s flagship model. Continue reading
Don’t let the name throw ya: the Gibson Les Paul Standard of 2014 is a very different guitar to a 1959 Les Paul Standard, the guitar that launches a million riffs. But in a way the use of the name here makes perfect sense: there are all sorts of design enhancements on the 2014 Standard which represent what a guitar can be in 2014, rather than 1959, in terms of tone, playability and tuning stability, and Gibson has seen fit to apply the Standard name to this new evolution of the instrument. So what exactly is so different? Continue reading
Just over a year ago, TC Electronic released the Ditto Looper. It’s an incredibly handy little pedal which has single control knob and a single footswitch, yet allows you to create and control looped audio so you can build up beds of awesomeness to solo over, or to make your single guitar sound like an army. It offers record, undo/redo, stop and erase commands all via that single foot switch. And it’s heaps of fun. But TC is great at identifying where players would appreciate more control or less control – witness the Flashback Delay and Flashback X4 delay, both of which offer the same great delay sounds but with different approaches to controlling them in a live situation. And now there’s the Ditto X2 Looper, which takes the functions of the original Ditto and ups its game with more control.
The story of the Seymour Duncan Jason Becker Perpetual Burn humbucker is a very interesting one. Back in the day, a young Jason Becker became taken with the tone of a Gibson Les Paul loaded with a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker. The guitar belonged to Bob Rock, who was producer of David Lee Roth’s A Little Ain’t Enough album, and Jason used it on the title track. He was so intrigued by the tone of the JB that he started talking with Seymour Duncan about this pickup needs. Some prototypes were developing and the project was well on its way when Jason had to call a halt due to his progressively worsening ALS. But recently, while listening to friends play his guitars through prototypes of a possible signature amp, Jason was blown away by the tone of the prototype pickup. So he reached out to Seymour Duncan to finish was started. The Jason Becker Perpetual Burn bridge humbucker is the result.
Mayones Guitars have been around for decades but in recent years they’ve really risen to prominence, partly through better distribution, partly through home high-profile players such as Periphery’s Misha Mansoor, and partly because the world is finally catching up to their extremely high quality. You can ogle photos of a Mayones online all you want but that doesn’t tell you the whole story: they feel as great as they look, and you get a definite sense of ‘Daaaaaamn that’s a high-quality guitar’ when you pick one up. Continue reading
The Gibson Les Paul is an iconic instrument, and in many ways they got it right back in the 1950s. There aren’t many other products that you can buy a newly-made version of which was built to the same specs as 60 years ago. But Les Paul himself was forever tinkering with his namesake guitar, and as great as those classic Les Pauls are, they aren’t for everyone. I get the feeling that’s why Gibson has created models like the Les Paul Futura, to capture the spirit of the Les Paul while also making something that non-traditionalists can call their own. Continue reading
Guitar strings are a tricky thing. They can be very personal. What’s deliciously bendable for one player is too slick for another. And that’s kinda what makes string shopping so much fun. If all strings were the same, what would be the point? Dean Markley offer many kinds of string at all sorts of price points and for all sorts of applications. And their Helix Pure Nickel electric guitar strings feature an added twist every bit as cool as their revolutionary Blue Steels cryogenically treated strings. The trick to the Helix strings is that they feature a patent-pending Elliptical Winding process: the nickel core is bound up by wire that’s elliptical in shape rather than round, which means the strings feel smoother, there’s less space for gunk to intrude, and they’re easier on your frets and fingertips. Continue reading
A few years ago a revolution began in guitar processing. Fractal Audio Systems’ Axe-FX processor arrived in 2006, bringing together amplifier modelling and effects processing – both of which had been tackled by dozens of companies for decades, so that was nothing new, right? And yet something set the Axe-FX apart from the others: a level of sonic realism and a degree of control that transcended pretty much any piece of digital gear to date, combined with incredible flexibility for professional stage use. The Axe-FX was followed by the Axe-FX Ultra in 2008, and now the Axe-FX II. It’s a modelling preamp which simulates various famous guitar and bass amps as well as including original models designed by Fractal, plus simulations of speaker cabinets, effect pedals and studio effects. And it’s found its way into the guitar rigs of players as picky as Steve Vai, Dream Theater’s John Petrucci, Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Devin Townsend, Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thorendal, Dweezil Zappa, and of course Periphery, who have done so much for demonstrating the capabilities of the Axe-FX that they must hear “Dude, I bought an Axe-FX because of you,” like, all the time. Continue reading
Gibson unveiled the ES-335 in 1958 and it was an instant success, but even so the model underwent a few changes in 1963 which led to it becoming a bona fide icon. Those changes are often referred to as ‘Clapton-spec’ in tribute to this variant’s most famous proponent (have a guess who. Hint: it’s not Richard Clapton), and the most obvious change is the move from dot inlays to big chunky blocks. Gibson Memphis pays tribute to this revision with the 50th Anniversary ES-335. This version of the ES-335 is available in two period-correct finishes: ‘60s Cherry or Historic Burst, each of which is finished in hand-sprayed nitrocellulose lacquer and given Gibson’s VOS treatment for a gently aged look. This isn’t a ‘relic’ guitar by any means: rather it looks like it’s accumulated a few decades’ worth of natural ageing while being kept totally safe from dings and scratches. But it does feel nicely weathered. Continue reading
Steve Lukather is one of Ernie Ball Music Man’s greatest ambassadors. He’s been playing his signature line on stage and in the studio for decades now, on G3 tours, with Ringo Starr, as a solo artist and of course with his legendary band Toto. Luke’s EBMM models are all incredibly playable and they all have a rich, rounded tone – especially the most recent iteration, the Luke III line featuring Luke’s new signature DiMarzio Transition passive humbuckers. Now Luke’s design is more accessible thanks to the Sterling By Music Man LK100D, which includes his signature pickups as well as much of the LIII’s distinctively smooth vibe. Continue reading