This gets a bit tricky, so bare with me. Originally there was Music Man, a company co-founded by Leo Fender which made instruments and amplifiers. One of their developments was the StingRay bass, which Sterling Ball helped to design. This company was eventually sold to Ernie Ball. In the noughties, Certain Ernie Ball Music Man designs were the basis for a budget line called OLP (which quite blandly stood for Official Licensed Product). They were great budget instruments but eventually that came to an end. Then there was (and is) Sterling By Music Man, which offers mid-priced (and brilliant) instruments based on classic MM designs. Now there’s SUB by Sterling by Music Man to cater to the budget end of the market again. These instruments were released at NAMM a couple of years ago and they feature several classic Music Man designs, one of which is the StingRay, in the form of the Ray4 four-string and Ray5 five-string. Continue reading
Blackstar is no longer the new kid on the block in the amp world, and while they’ve done a great job of quickly establishing themselves as a name to be reckoned with, their amp offerings can sometimes feel a little ‘samey’ – there’s a lot of crossover between different amp model lines in terms of what they can do, and at a certain point it becomes “How many channels do you want to work with? How many speakers? How loud?” That’s great but there’s also room for Blackstar to innovate. And innovate they have, with their ID:Series amps and now the ID:Core line. Continue reading
Vox’s Night Train series is hugely popular and rather modern-looking, with an exterior that looks like something that liquid metal Terminator guy would play through if he was into little lunchbox amps and mini combos. It’s a very distinctive look but some players feel that Vox already has a distinctive look, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a Night Train that looks like a Vox? If this point of view describes you, read on, my friend, read on. Continue reading
Poland’s Mayones makes extremely fine, high-quality guitars with a very distinctive look and style, great tone woods and amazing playability. But their basses are equally distinctive and high quality. The Comodous 6 is a breathtaking instrument – quite literally, because everyone I showed it to had the same shocked reaction to its sheer size, odd shape and the striking nature of its top. Aah, but as anyone who’s played a Mayones guitar will know, you can’t judge one on looks: it all happens when you pick that first note. Continue reading
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