gear reviews

REVIEW: Gibson 2014 Les Paul Standard

Gibson Les Paul StandardDon’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

REVIEW: TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper

TC Electronic Ditto X2 LooperJust 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.

Click Here to find the TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper on eBay.

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REVIEW: Seymour Duncan Jason Becker Perpetual Burn Humbucker

Seymour Duncan jason becker perpetual burn humbuckerThe 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.

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REVIEW: Mayones Regius PRO 7

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

REVIEW: Gibson Les Paul Futura

Gibson Les Paul Futura

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

REVIEW: Dean Markley Helix Pure Nickel Strings

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

REVIEW: Fractal Audio Systems Axe-FX II

axe fx II

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

REVIEW: Gibson 50th Anniversary 1963 ES-335

ES63SBNH1-Finish-ShotGibson 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

REVIEW: Sterling By Music Man LK100D

lukeSteve 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

REVIEW: Ernie Ball M-Steel Strings

M-Steel-PackErnie Ball has been around for 52 years now – can you believe it? – and in that time they’ve spearheaded some pretty revolutionary innovations in the string world, such as the Slinky range and the brilliant Cobalt series. The latter are incredibly strong, powerfully-voiced strings that pretty much refuse to die. So what does Ernie Ball hope to achieve with the new M-Steel line? Well, they feature new patent-pending technology based on a defence-grade alloy known as Maraging Steel in order to keep the strings stronger. By the way, before we get into the review: to celebrate the introduction of M-Steel strings, Ernie Ball is launching “M-Steel Madness.” Starting April 1st, fans will be asked to post videos or photos of themselves with their newly purchased M-Steel strings using the hashtag #msteel. One lucky winner will be chosen at random on July 1st, and receive a prize package of exclusive musical gear.

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REVIEW: Epiphone Black Royale Dot & ES-399 PRO

Epiphone-Black-Royale-collectionBlack Royale Dot: The Epiphone Dot may have been conceived as a more affordable alternative to the Gibson ES-335 but it quickly established itself as a great guitar line in its own right. It has a certain classic rock swagger about it but is also great for jazz, blues, country and indie styles. The large body really lends an air of ‘serious guitar,’ and the styling just makes you feel good about yourself, dammit. The version on review here is part of Epiphone’s Limited Edition Black Royale line, which brings together some of the company’s most well-known guitar designs all kitted out with a Black Pearl fine metallic color finish with silver sparkle binding. The full line-up includes this Dot, the ES-339 PRO reviewed below, the radical and super cool Riviera Custom P93 with three P-90R pickups, the groovy Emperor Swingster with SwingBucker Plus Humbuckers, series parallel wiring, and Bigsby tremolo; the ground-breaking Wildkat with P-90s and Bigsby tremolo, and of course, because no Gibson line-up is complete without one, the Les Paul Standard with Alnico Classic Plus humbuckers. Continue reading

REVIEW: Marshall Handwired Series 2245THW

Marshall 2245THWIf you’ve never plugged into an old-school tube amp with no master volume control, dude, you’re missing out. If the closest you’ve ever come to blasting through a cranked Plexi is a digital model, you’ve never experienced the majesty and power of rock. There’s a special kind of alchemy that occurs when you put some hurt on those power tubes and really push some air through those speakers. But first, a little history lesson: the 1962 has its roots in the JTM45, the first amp Marshall ever made. It was first produced in 1962, inspired by the Fender Bassman but with various changes related to the differences in parts available in the UK compared to the USA. Released in 1965, the Model 1962 was basically the bass version of the JTM 45 (Model 1986), and the basic design underwent various revisions over the years, partly in an effort to improve the Tremolo circuit. This version, from Marshall’s Handwired Series of authentic all-valve amp reproductions, is based on the 1962HW ‘Bluesbreaker’ combo, itself a recreation of a 1965 version of the amp. Continue reading

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Peter Hodgson Hi! I'm Peter Hodgson. I write for Gibson.com, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, Mixdown Magazine (including my instructional column, 'Unleash Your Inner Rock God,' which has been running since 2007), BluntBeat (including their weekly hard rock/metal column Crunch) and The Brag. And I'm Assistant Social Coordinator with Seymour Duncan. I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old, and I've been writing for magazines since I was 18. I've also worked as a guitar teacher (up to 50 students a week), a setup tech, a newspaper editor, and I've also dabbled in radio a little bit. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and my hobbies include drinking way too much coffee, and eating way too much Mexican food. You can check out my guitar playing at Bandcamp or on YouTube, and feel free to email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com

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