Archive for 21 elokuun, 2012

21/08/2012

Review: Yamaha CG142C + NTX900FM

There’s surprisingly little information available on the net when it comes to classical/nylon-string guitars.

Now Kitarablogi.com comes to the rescue:

Yamaha’s C- and CG-series instruments are the best-selling classical guitars in Finland. We selected a solid cedar -topped Yamaha CG142C for this review.

The Yamaha NTX900FM is a very interesting hybrid model – a nylon-string with a pickup and preamp system, as well as a narrower-than-classical nut width.

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Typical of the company’s output, Yamaha’s CG142C (current street price in Finland approx. 300 €) is an extremely clean piece of work with the understated charm of a classical guitar. All CG-series guitars are build with solid tops – spruce-topped models have an ”S” suffix to their name, while cedar models are denoted with a ”C” at the end of their model name.

The neck, as well as the body’s back and rims, has been crafted from nato-wood. Nato is a South-East Asian tree species (lat. Palaquium) which looks and sounds similar to mahogany. The neck is solid wood, while the body (apart from the top) uses nato-plywood.

The headstock sports a beautiful rosewood veneer.

The CG142C comes equipped with traditional, open tuners. The headstock has been glued to the main part of the neck right above the neck wrist.

The satin-finished neck has been made by gluing together three strips of nato side-by-side. Added onto this main part is the neck heel, built up from several pieces of nato. Using small cut-offs in this way not only keeps costs sufficiently low, but also helps to save natural resources.

The bound rosewood fretboard sports traditional small and narrow frets.

The CG142C’s beautiful rosette is actually a decal, stuck onto the top prior to lacquering, which is common practice on many budget classicals. Higher-priced models feature rosettes crafted from many small pieces of wood and other materials.

Here’s a close-up look at the top’s five-ply binding.

The back’s black binding is carried across to the heel cap.

The Yamaha CG142C’s rosewood bridge is quite fetching in its poised simplicity.

Yamaha’s classical guitars tend to display clean workmanship on the inside also.

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The Yamaha NTX900FM (current street price in Finland approx. 800 €) is the nylon-string cousin of the company’s APX-guitars. It has been designed for the guitarist who needs a quality pickup system, but doesn’t necessarily like the traditional wide and flat classical neck profile.

The NTX900FM’s top has been crafted from solid Engelmann-spruce.

The nato neck has been glued to the maple body.

The headstock displays a cool and contemporary look…

…which is complemented by the nice tuners.

The NTX’ bound fingerboard is rosewood and comes with traditional frets.

NTX-guitars have the same type of body shape as their APX-brethren, and, just like the APX-guitars, the NTX-body is also shallower than what you’d expect from a classical guitar (with a depth of about 75 %).

The NTX900FM’s rosette has been beautifully crafted from various pieces of wood, as well as small bits of abalone.

The honey-coloured finish of the flame maple soundbox looks good enough to eat.

Thes NTX900’s rosewood bridge also breaks with classical tradition in a stylish way.

This guitar’s preamp is Yamaha’s ART System 61, which is a two-band preamp with separate piezo transducers for the bass and treble string triplets. This enables you to adjust signal levels independently for the bottom and top halves. The ART System 61 preamp is equipped with a three-band EQ and a digital tuner.

The battery compartment has been placed next to the neck heel.

NTX900FM carries two strap buttons, with the bottom one doubling as the piezo system’s output jack.

The workmanship is clean and neat all around – inside and out.

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Yamaha’s CG412C feels like a typical classical guitar: The nut width is a whopping two inches (52 mm) and the neck profile is true to style, namely flat and broad-shouldered. Such a traditional neck gives your left hand plenty of breathing room for complex fingerings, but barre chords require more attention and strength compared to a steel-string.

From an electric player’s standpoint a traditional classical set-up looks impossible, with the action at the 12th fret typically somewhere around 3.5 mm, but this is standard, comfortable fare on a nylon-string. Nylon strings are much softer than steel strings, and they also require a higher action to allow for their larger excursion.

Yamaha’s CG412C sings with a nice, full-bodied voice and an open tonal character. The guitar doesn’t project as well as an expensive classical does, but in its own price bracket the Yamaha CG142C clearly is a winner.

Yamaha CG142C

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The nut width of the Yamaha NTX900FM’s neck lies halfway between a standard steel-string and a classical guitar, measuring 48 mm. The neck’s more tapered, slimmer and rounder D-profile makes for a much friendlier feel for the non-classical guitarist.

The NTX also comes with a lower string action (bottom-E: 3,1 mm/high-e: 2,6 mm at the 12th fret). This clearly narrows the guitar’s dynamic range, but also makes it easier to play for most of us.

Due to its shallower body and the use of maple for the soundbox, the NTX900FM isn’t particularly loud or full-bodied acoustically. The available volume is enough for practicing or song-writing, but this guitar doesn’t project in the way a traditional nylon-string does.

Yamaha NTX900FM – acoustically

Using the on-board pickup system changes things dramatically, turning the Yamaha NTX900FM into an interesting addition to your guitar arsenal. Yamaha’s ART-system works extremely well, and the separate volume controls for the bass and treble sides come in handy for fine-tuning your tone. The under-saddle transducers are also quite immune against handling noises, and the whole system is refreshingly low on hiss.

In my opinion the Yamaha NTX900FM is a good choice if you’re looking for nylon-string tones with a steel-string feel – or if you’re into juicing up your nylon with effects.

Yamaha NTX900FM – ART System 61

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Yamaha CG142C + NTX900FM – nylon-string guitars

Finnish distributor: F-Musiikki

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Yamaha CG142C

current street price in Finland around 300 €

Pros:

+ value-for-money

+ workmanship

+ traditional neck and action

+ sound

Cons:

– traditional neck requires different technique

****

Yamaha NTX900FM

current street price in Finland around 800 €

Pros:

value-for-money

+ workmanship

+ rounder and narrower neck profile

+ tone/pickup system

Cons:

–  acoustically rather quiet

****

21/08/2012

Review: Hagström Viking Deluxe Baritone + Northen Swede

This time Kitarablogi.com takes a closer look at two Hagström models: The Viking Deluxe Baritone is a Far-Eastern-made baritone-guitar, made to please the friends of low riffage, while the brand-new Northen Swede is part of the company’s new high-end line, which is handmade in the Czech Republic.

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The Hagström Viking Baritone (current street price in Finland approx. 600 €) is the newest addition to the Viking-line. This long-necked beauty features the same stylish curves and semi-acoustic body as the rest of the Vikings.

The Canadian hard rock maple neck is glued into the body, which is made from flame maple plywood.

Hagström’s headstock simply oozes 1950’s glitzy panache, with its ultraclean binding and inlay work.

The top nut, on the other hand, is up to date, using self-lubricating, man-made Black Tusq.

Modern sealed Hagström-tuners keep things steady.

One of Hagström’s special features is their Resinator-fingerboard. Resinator is a man-made alternative to ebony – in both looks and sound – and is made using wood fibres and resin.

The fretwork is rather good on our test sample, apart from a few fret ends, which felt a tiny bit sharpish in places.

Inside the plywood soundbox you can see the Viking Baritone’s full-length mahogany centre block.

The centre block is what turns a fully acoustic guitar into a semi. It improves attack and sustain, as well as greatly reducing the danger of howling feedback at higher volume levels.

Hagström have optimised this Viking’s choice of pickups for use in a baritone-guitar:
The neck pickup is Hagström’s new P-Urified unit, which is a P-90-type singlecoil in humbucker-size. Employing a singlecoil in the neck position makes great sense, as it improves tonal clarity, while steering clear of any potential mushiness.

The bridge unit is Hagström’s great Custom 58 -humbucker, whose moderate output and nice dynamic range fit the P-Urified perfectly.

The three-way toggle sits on the Viking Baritone’s top horn.

It’s nice to see quality long-throw pots and clean workmanship inside the Viking.

The classic Gibson-type bridge and stopbar combination works fine on a semi like this.

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Thanks to its nice, moderate weight the Hagström Viking Baritone sits comfortably in your lap, with good strapped-on balance, too, regardless of a whiff of neck-heaviness due to its long neck.

The neck profile is a fleshy, but not too fat ”D”. Due to a baritone-guitar’s longer scale length (28″/71,1 cm) a newbie will need a little time to adjust his (or her) technique, but after a few minutes or so muscle memory will take the reigns without any problems.

The Viking Baritone’s choice of pickups really does it for me, fitting this guitar’s acoustic tone to a tee. The freshness of the neck pickup, together with its deliciously woody response, will keep even the lowest runs clear and punchy. And the moderately-powered bridge humbucker adds just the right amount of bite and grit to proceedings.

I feel that Hagström’s Viking Baritone is a fine baritone for all occasions and all styles of music (well, probably apart from the most massive of high-gain applications).

Listen to these two audio clips (the pickup order is: neck – both – bridge):

Hagström Viking Deluxe Baritone – clean

Hagström Viking Deluxe Baritone – crunchy

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The Hagström Northen Swede (current street price in Finland approx. 1.200 €) is a high-quality, EU-made reissue of the classic Swedish model of yore.

We’re talking about a set-neck solidbody, made almost completely from African mahogany (note: the cover plates look strange in this pic, because they still have their protective foils stuck on top).

The large pearloid inlay proudly displays the Northen-series’ logo.

The Hagström-tuners have an 18:1 gear ratio and a smooth and precise feel.

The Northen Swede’s Resinator-board looks more lively than its counterpart on the Viking Baritone. The fretwork is very good.

One special, time-tested feature of all Hagström necks is the H-Expander truss rod system. The H-Expander truss rod sits in a rigid aluminium bar with an H-shaped cross-section. The whole system is then mounted into a tight-fitting, profiled slot inside the the neck, resulting in greater rigidity and thus a better vibrational transfer than most other truss rod systems provide.

The Swede features Hagström’s idiosyncratic tailpiece, using individual string retainers mounted onto a perspex plate.

Swedish pickup-guru Johan Lundgren is the force behind the Northen Swede’s classy pickups. The guitar is equipped with a pair of No. 2 -humbuckers, which are powered by Alnico 2 magnets.

The Hagström Swede sports two three-way toggle switches: The switch on the guitar’s shoulder is your usual pickup selector, while the one on the treble-side horn is a tone filter -switch.

The tone filter’s middle position is off, with the ”up” selection giving you a mild presence roll-off, while the ”down” position results in a noticeably greater treble and high-mid cut.

The control knobs work in the standard Les Paul -fashion, with each pickup being provided with its own set of volume and tone controls.

Quality components, clean soldering and thorough screening, using conductive paint and an aluminium-lined lid, get the thumbs up from this here reviewer.

A sturdy and beautiful Hagström-case is included in the Northen Swede’s price.

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The Hagström Northen Swede’s well-rounded neck profile feels great to me. The nicely polished frets and the ’board’s 12-inch camber make for a fast and effortless playing experience.

Thanks to the fantastic interplay between the tone filter -switch and the guitar’s controls, the tonal options afforded by this Swede are virtually limitless. The Lundgren-designed pickups have a very clear and clean basic tonal character, which enables you to make the most of the Northen Swede’s passive electronics.

In my opinion Hagström’s Northen Swede is a top-quality guitar offering a great deal of tonal variation to the discerning guitar connoisseur. In light of its Czech origin, I must say that the Northen Swede truly represents quality European workmanship at a very moderate price.

All the following audio clips have been recorded with the tone filter -switch starting at off, then going to moderate roll-off, with the last phrase using the full treble cut selection:

Hagström Northen Swede – neck pickup/clean

Hagström Northen Swede – both/clean

Hagström Northen Swede – bridge pickup/clean

Hagström Northen Swede – neck pickup/crunchy

Hagström Northen Swede – both/crunchy

Hagström Northen Swede – bridge pickup/crunchy

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…and here we have both Hagströms in action:

Hagström Viking Baritone + Northen Swede – the video’s audio

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Hagström-guitars

Finnish distributor: EM Nordic

A big thank you to DLX Music Helsinki for the loan of the review instruments!

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Hagström Viking Deluxe Baritone

Current street price in Finland about 600 €

Pros:

+ sound

playability

+ workmanship

+ weight

+ pickups

Cons:

– fingerboard binding felt a tad angular on test sample

****

Hagström Northen Swede

current street price in Finland about 1.200 €

Pros:

+ made in the EU

+ sound

+ versatility

+ Lundgren-pickups

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ weight

****

21/08/2012

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister + Mr Fastfinger

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Lisätiedot: F-Musiikki