Guitar Gear Archives

Squier Electric Guitars

Squier is part of the Fender Musical Instrument company and generally produces derivatives of the Fender product line. Squier have had a colorful history and have been manufactured in a variety of world wide locations such as Japan, Korea, China and Indonesia. Each of these had various production quality. It is generally thought that Japanese built Squier Electric Guitars were the best produced.

There are a variety of ranges within the Squier Guitar brand (the full name will be visible on the guitar headstock).

Squier Guitars differ from their Fender counterparts in that the guitar components are of less quality than their Fender counterparts, woods and electrical components were generally cheaper and as with all budget brands the pickups specifically produced an inferior tone than their more expensive cousins. However as a beginner guitar they represent excellent value for money – the guitars are offered with a number of finish options which are outside the usual Fender range.

The current range of instruments include replica’s of Fenders Stratocaster, Telecaster Guitar – the guitars feature alder bodies, maple necks, standard squier pickups and chrome hardware.

Squier also produce the Bullet range of guitars these are affordable electric guitars (with a strat design and pickup selection) designed for beginners and students.

Squier also produce the Master Series guitars which are the top of the Squier range, and feature Duncan Designed humbucker pickups, special binding and inlays, metallic and satin finishes, set necks and platinum hardware.

Rickenbacker 660

rickenbacker660The Rickenbacker 660 features a cutaway body which harks back to the classic designs of the 1950′s. The guitar features 24.75” scale neck with a 21 Fret Rosewood fingerboard with pearloid inlays and Rickenbacker’s trademark “checkered” bindings. The body is also bound in front with that deluxe ‘checker’ binding. The headstock is that characteristic Rickenbacker shape and features Schaller Vintage-type machine heads. The strings are anchored in a vintage style tailpiece and the guitar has a fully adjustable bridge

The guitar has two vintage ‘toaster’ style pickups which in keeping with other hardware is chrome. The instrument features 2 volume and 2 tone controls a 3 way pickup selector switch and fifth control that allows you to blend either pickup into the overall sound.

The 660 is naturally resonant with a lush unplugged acoustic tone. Once amplified it produces that unique Rickenbacker nasal sound whilst being enviably versatile. Sonically this guitar can produce tones suitable for Jazz, Blues whilst still having enough ballsy tone to be on a par with a P90 equipped Gibson for use on rock tones.

The blender control has a lot to do with the guitars versatility providing a way to brighten the tone and “mix” the usual array of sounds that a twin pickup guitar offers. Whilst single-coils are not usually as supportive of an overdriven sound as well as humbuckers, through effective use of the blender control – the 660 is able to summon up authentic overdriven sounds (given an appropriate amp).

The Rickenbacker 660 is a very handsome instrument, beautifully crafted. It carries that unique Rickenbacker tone that have made these instruments so iconic. Different from a Strat or Les Paul – a totally beguiling sound that is underpinned by a rich heritage and attention to detail. The 660 represents an impressive part of the Rickenbacker arsenal.

Check out more at www.rickenbacker.com

Rickenbacker 620

rickenbacker620The Rickenbacker 620 is a solid body electric guitar featuring a 24 ¾” scale length a ‘Cresting Wave’ shaped Maple single cutaway body. The 21 fret thru neck features a Rosewood fingerboard with triangular pearloid inlay markers.

The 620 also features a 2-piece adjustable-height pickguard, 2 modern hi-gain Rickenbacker pickups a 3-way selector switch, 2 volume and 2 tone controls plus a fifth blend control to blend the sound of the two pickups together.

The guitar has the traditional Rickenbacker ‘R’ shaped tailpiece onto which you hang the strings. A minor grouch with Rickenbackers is that the tailpiece can make the strings challenging to change and altering the string gauge from the original factory set up can cause issues with intonation but these are very minor gripes on what can only be described as a quality instrument.

The guitar has a rich and very full sound. Unsurprisingly it’s classic Rickenbacker, bright and punchy yet with a fair degree of warmth. The blend control provides versatility, panning it towards the neck pickup brighter tone whilst the opposite is true when turning it towards the bridge. For producing the classic Rickenbacker jangle tone – the bridge pickup is the businesses – evoking memories of the Beatles or the Byrds in one easy step.

The guitar is suitable for a variety of musical styles (although metal fans may want to look elsewhere) – whether your looking for a new jazz guitar through to country – the 620 has a lot to offer.

As always the handcrafted Rickenbackers are beautifully made, with quality components and fantastic construction methods. If your setting out to buy a new guitar make sure you try one of these along with the usual Fender/Gibson types. Rickenbackers offer a little something different both in style and sound – and as such – should be on your wish list.

Check out more at www.rickenbacker.com

Ovation Balladeer

balladeerThe Ovation guitar company released the first Balladeer in 1966. It featured a radical departure from traditional acoustic guitars as it featured the composite bowl. The first Balladeers featured a natural top, Grover tuners, dot fret markers, white-black-white binding. Needless to say the guitar became an instant classic and those early versions are today’s collectors items.

In the last thirty years Ovation have continued to refine and develop the Baladeer with the result that the modern version is one of the most sought after acoustic guitars.

Today’s Ovation Balladeer features a solid spruce top, mahogany neck and one of the best pre-amps around. There are no bridge pins on the Balladeer; the strings thread through the back of the bridge. It has a non cutaway design and piezo pickup under the bridge saddle with onboard EQ.

The pre-amp, a OP 30 lies at the heart of the Baladeer’s amplified tone and appeal, it has three bands of EQ plus the ability to alter the mid band which provides a wide range of options over your tone. The pre-Shape circuit extends both bass and treble, and reduces “rumble” from low frequencies (below 40Hz).

Whilst the bowl shaped back may take some getting used to for those players who are used to a traditional acoustic – it feels light and comfortable to play – the neck is fast and light with good response.

The resultant sound is bright with fantastic projection. Ovation guitars tend to have their own unique sound and excel when amplified. If your playing live – amplifying an acoustic whilst still getting a good tone can be really troublesome – the balladeer takes the pain out of this sounding great right out of the box. If your not plugging it in then there are other guitars out there that may have a tone that more appeals, electro acoustics can sound a little thin and soft – however this is a minor point – chances are if your buying an Ovation your going to want to amplify it.

As with any instrument – choose your amp carefully – Ovations were not designed to sound great plugged into a Marshall stack – go for a dedicated acoustic amp or solid state speaker.

Whilst there are cheaper electro-acoustics in the market – Ovation have a wonderful heritage and an unsurpassable build quality. The Balladeer is the biggest selling Ovation in the US and it’s not hard to see why as it has a great range of sound and does it with minimal fuss.

For more information check out Ovation Guitars

Line6 Variax 700

700When Line 6 first introduced the Variax modelling guitar back at the Namm show in 2002 there was a sharp intake of breath – while not the first modeling guitar getting 25 guitar tones from one instrument was a real innovative step – getting it into a mass produced guitar was something else.

These days there are three main models of the Variax Electric guitar – the 300, 600 and 700. The 700 is the top of the line, with attributes such as a Carved ash top over mahoganny body, maple neck, 22 Fret rosewood fingerboard, Gotoh Tuners and one tone, one volume control.

On first glance the 700 is a really handsome guitar – it’s nicely crafted with a nice strat-esque shape to it with a double cutaway design, it’s nicely contoured which means it’s comfortable to hold and it balances nicely when playing.

One of the first things you notice when you pick it up is how heavy it is – this is not a light weight guitar by any means. We’re not sure if it’s the mahogany body or the added electrics but it does take some getting used to.

Acousticly there’s a nice twang to be had before it’s plugged in – it sounds nice and bright – the neck is responsive enough and the sound sustains well enough.

There’s two outputs for the guitar – a standard jack socket and a Digital I/O that can be used to attach to a PoD XT, Vetta or the included footswitch (this will also help power the device).

The variax features an integral bridge mounted Piezo pickup, there’s no visible pickup which for traditional guitarists renders the variax slightly strange looking. The sounds are responsive and articulate, the piezo is very quiet leaving the natural sounds of the guitars to shine through.

Switching between the emulated guitars is a dream – simply select the type of guitar you want e.g. Spank for Stratocaster, flick the pseudo pickup selector switch for the model you want and go for it.

What Line 6 have managed to achieve with the Variax is nothing short of astonishing and although some of the sounds that are produced are a little on the synthetic side – notably the 12 strings the sounds all useable – in our opinion the Strat sounds, Les Pauls, Gretsches and the Jazzboxes are superb – close your eyes and you really wouldn’t know that there coming from the one guitar.

Select any of the strats and your dialled in to strat heaven – responsive with enough bite, the Semi’s all have that natural sustain that comes with a hollowbody and that rounded woody tone even the Les Paul (Lester on the dial) has that authentic Gibson tone going for it. Throw in the dead on takes of the resonator and Jumbo acoustics and you’ve got a smile a mile wide.

One question levied at the Variax is how accurate the sounds are – well there won’t be too many of us with the vintage guitar collection that the sounds are based on so this is open to interpretation – however for a very usuable mixed pallatte of sounds the variax excels.

One thing to note is that the sounds on offer with the 700 are the same as are on offer with the 300 and with the list price for the 700 being three times as much as it’s counterpart – those just looking for the range of sounds may opt for the cheaper instrument – however the 700 is the better guitar with a wiser choice of materials going into the final product.

The variax has a number of applications from those wanting to pad out a home studio to those in covers band looking to reproduce the authentic sounds of a variety of bands – the Variax fits in nicely.

Add into the mix the limitless options with the Workbench software and PoD XT then you could argue that you have a sound for all purposes.

There’s a certain romance attached to guitars and the sounds they make are often associated with the way a guitar looks – and a fun game to play with the Variax is to play around with the settings with your eyes closed and see if you can guess the model -

At around $1400 the variax 700 is always going to be a guitar that splits the guitar community – some will love it – the purists may take some convincing. With the price you could afford a quality guitar with albeit with a little less tonal options – and there’s no doubting that the likes of Fender and Gibson have the edge over the quality of the end product and while that can’t be entirely forgiven Variax can be partially forgiven. The important thing here is that the market has forever changed – and over the coming months/years we’ll see more and more guitar modelling hit the marketplace.

For more information visit Official Line 6 site

Jackson King “Flying” V

kingvThe Jackson guitar manufacturers have, since the 1980’s, made a variety of King V guitars. Reminiscent of the Flying V guitar it features a “V” shape formed with two angled parts of the body.

Although there have been a few varieties the King V generally features two humbuckers (these days Seymore Duncan TB4’s) a Floyd Rose locking Tremolo unit, two volume controls and a master tone control. It features a 25.5” scale length and is light and comfortable to play (despite the shape!).

The bolt on maple neck features 22 jumbo frets upon a rosewood/ebony fingerboard. The action is fast and close, making fast legato runs a delight.

Visually these guitars are eye-catching – there are a variety of colors and finishes (there are currently 31 color choices in the Jackson Guitar brochure).

Sound wise the guitar has a nice acoustic tone when played without an amp, they resonate well and has suitable treble and bass tones. When amplified these guitars are great for rock/metal. The bridge pickup, produces a tight but bright raw tone great for rhythm playing with a tough gutsy bass which calls out for some intense riffing. For soloing the neck pickup produces a fantastic tone with bags of sustain. Great for rock but with enough dynamics to cater for blues enthusiasts also – just be carefull not to overdo the distortion!

With a decent mid-range price – these guitars will definitely appeal to those that want a heavy tone with visual credibility – a burgeoning second hand market should mean those wishing to partake should pick one up for a decent price.

For more info check out JacksonGuitars.com

Gretsch Guitars – Tbe Gretsch Duo Jet

gretsch-6119-tennessee-roseThe Tennessee Rose features a 16″ laminated maple body, rock maple neck, ebony Neoclassical fingerboard, twin “High-Sensitive” Filtertron™ pickups, “tone-pot” circuitry, Gretsch by Bigsby® vibrato tailpiece, and is finished in a stunning deep cherry stain.

The body of the Tenessee Rose is laminated maple, it has a single cut-away design featuring f-holes. The neck of the guitar features a Rosewood ebony-stained bound fingerboard, a 25-1/2″ scale length with a pearl inlaid headstock. This Gretsch has two Filtertron pickups a tone control, pickup selector switch and a volume control for each pickup.

The guitar has been beautifully manufactured featuring Chrome parts, Deluxe machine heads, an adjustable bridge and authentic Bigsby Tremolo unit.

For those new to a Gretsch, well Don’t expect Strat or Les Paul sounds from the Tennessee Rose : however it simply produces that well known Gretsch sound beautifully. Mellow, smooth and rich – perfect for Jazz, great for country

The Filtertrons pickups produce a warm clear sound. The guitar is fairly quiet and the tone has just enough twang and jangle to emote a country sound, but enough mellowness to delve into Chet-land when desired.

The Tennessee Rose has a medium neck and fairly comfortable to play – Gretsch now build their guitars in Japan and over the years there have been some minor quality issues for example strap locks working loose, noisy pickup selector switches. Bigsby tremolo’s as ever are also not for dive bombing whammy enthusiasts – better suited to gentle waggling. However all these are minor complaints and don’t alter the impression of great instrument.

Gretsch have been played by a number of musicians over the years from George Harrison to Chet Atkins and this with their unique history add to the cost, Gretsch guitars do have some cheaper competition (Ibanez hollowbodies) however for a slice of classic tone they’re worth it – so why not give it a go!

Gretsch Bono Irish Falcon

irishfalconThe Gretsch Bono Irish Falcon (G6136I) is the result of a collaboration between Bono and The Gretsch Guitar company. Gretsch contributes a portion of the proceeds to Bono’s chartity DATA (www.data.org).

The Gretsch Irish Falcon incorporates classic Gretsch Falcon specs with an all-new lustrous “Green” finish.

The guitar features a Arched laminated Maple body,two piece Maple neck with a ebony finger board. The fingerboard features Mother of Pearl hunch back inlays with Bono’s signature on the 12th fret. The neck is slim and features nice big frets making it a dream to play. The pickguard features the slogan “The Goal is Soul” – reminiscent of U2’s Elevation tour where this guitar got it’s first outing.

The Irish Falcon is one of the most visually appealing Guitars on the market today with the green body and gold hardware producing a really eye catching instrument.

Electronics wise the Irish Falcon is fitted with two FilterTron pickups tone and volume control two pickup selector switches.

Sound wise the guitar delivers on that classic Gretsch tone – full fat and sparkly, whilst there isn’t much sustain to write home about if you want that classic 60’s tone the Irish Falcon delivers it in spades. The FilterTron pickups seem to produce a sound that’s halfway between a traditional humbucker and a single coil – the result is that traditional Gretsch bark.

Under the hood there that much difference between the Irish Falcon and the White Falcon other than the custom paint job, price wise the Irish is a little more expensive than it’s sibling but as a portion of the proceeds go to Bono’s Aids awareness charity it’s a moot point – for the U2 enthusiast, they’ll probably already have one, for the regular guitarist – classic Gretsch Tone – killer looks – interesting heritage – certainly worth a look

G6192 Gretsch Country Club

clubThe Gretsch G6192 Country Club is one of the Professional collection guitars released by Gretsch. The Country Club has a long history with Gretsch who first introduced the guitar back in the 1950’s and then over the years it was refined and tinkered with different woods and component – although not as popular as Gretsch’s Falcon series the Country Club remains admired as one of their prestige instruments. 

After a few years in the wilderness the Country Club was re-introduced in the late 1990’s. The current incarnation of the country club still features the single cutaway design, the modern version utilizes a laminate maple top – maple body and three piece maple neck. The 21 Fret fingerboard is rosewood with a 12” radius. Tuners are supplied by Grover and are Gold plated Die-Cast Grover Imperial tuners. Electronics are covered by 2 DynaSonic single coil Pickups, a volume control for each together with a master volume and master tone control.

Looks wise well it’s a Gretsch and as with most Gretsch it looks really beautiful up close and personal – The G6193 is available in Sunburst (and Amber Natural for the G6193 version). Gretsch finish this Country Club Guitar with a Gloss Urethane finish – hardware is Gold – the tailpiece is the traditional Gretsch G-Cutout tailpiece. The G6192 comes with some pretty features – mainly around the looks – the guitar has aged finishing including the Position markers, f-holes and body bindings – these all add up to a really nice looking instrument.

When you pick up the guitar as with all hollowbodies it’s light and comfortable to play – size wise the guitar is 17” wide and 2.75” Deep – with a single cutaway design it’s nice to play sitting down without a strap – the single cutaway gives good access to the higher points on the neck and the action is nice and smooth.

The DynaSonic’s (long a mainstay of Gretsch guitars) seem to fit somewhere between a Fender single Coil and a P90 and sound wise the single coils have a vibrant clean tone with some top end oomph – this will please the Jazzers amongst us and give a pure clean tone and with a touch of reverb give that classic semi tone. The pickups have enough about them to offer some versatility too they provide enough dynamics and clarity that suit country sound to a tee whilst with a little encouragement can offer just enough growl to keep blues enthusiasts content.

Gretsch – TVP Powerjet Firebird

tvpWith the release of the Gretsch G6131T-TVP Power Jet Firebird, which comes under the professional range, Gretsch have modified a homespun classic with the result being a rockier guitar that still has that classic single-cutaway design but now with a semi-hollow lightweight mahogany body, one-piece mahogany neck with pretty unique looking thumbnail inlays and updated pickups and arched maple top. 

The Gretsch TVP Power Jet Firebird has a one-piece mahogany neck that has a custom, medium sized, profile , the ebony fingerboard is a nice change from the usual rosewood found on Fender’s et al – and feels nice and pacy – The Bigsby offers little new – but has that distinctive feel and design that just wants to be touched – I’ve never been too hot on vibrato unit’s but give me a Bigsby and I can’t put them down – great for use on Chords – really a unique and instantly recognizable tone.

Pickup wise the TVP power jet firebird has TV Jones¨ Power’TronTM Pickups. Originally firebirds, came with FilterTron pickups which as anyone who’s serious about their guitars will know have their own distinctive voice – lacking bite perhaps – but you know a Gretsch when you hear one. The TVP Power Jet Firebird changes these pickups to specially-voiced TV Jones PowerTron pickups. These take the classic FilterTron sound and then push it some – Gretsch calls it that classic Gretsch sound – with a snarl – what your left with can support crunchy rhythm to steaming lead tones and just about everything in the middle. Gretsch continue with the modern spin by adding a Pinned Rosewood-Based Adjusto-Matic Bridge, locking tuners.

With the single cut-away design you could be forgiven if on first glance you say “not another LP clone” but this Power Jet Firebird is so much more that that – the Professional collection are made in either Gretsch’s Japan or USA production centers and there is a distinct show of quality here – from the moment you pick it up you can see that it’s been well thought out – and put together with a deal of care – with a retail of around $2,000 Gretsch lovers take note!

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