Archive for tammikuu 29th, 2013

29/01/2013

Martin Guitars’ X-bracing explained

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Video by Music Villa Dot Com

29/01/2013

Review: Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic

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Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – body angle 2

Schecter probably aren’t known so much as manufacturers of acoustic guitars, but they do carry a few acoustic-electric models in their current line-up. We picked up a new model from Schecter’s Hellraiser range for a review – the Hellraiser Studio Acoustic.

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Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – full front

The Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic (current street price in Finland approx. 600 €) is a stunning looker with a Grand Auditorium -sized, full-depth body.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – full back

The whole body – top, rims and back – is crafted from beautiful, laminated quilted maple. Our review sample sports a fetching see-through-black gloss finish.

The glued-in neck, which is finished in solid gloss black, is made from mahogany.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – headstock

Judging by its headstock shape, Schecter seems to be aiming the Hellraiser Studio squarely at the Rock and Metal crowd. The headstock features intricate binding in luscious grey pearloid framed by black and white strips of plastic.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – Grovers

The sealed Grover-tuners sport a cool and moody black chrome finish.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – fretboard

The bound rosewood fretboard comes equipped with 20 jumbo-sized frets, giving the guitar an effortless modern playing feel.

The Hellraiser Studio’s ’board is adorned with cleanly executed gothic-style cross inlays, made from grey pearloid.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – binding on back

The stylish dark pearloid theme is carried over onto the soundbox – seen here in the back’s centre line.

Schecter’s Hellraiser Studio comes factory-equipped with a second strap button.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – body side view

The guitar’s flowing lines are a thing of beauty.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – kerfed linings

The test sample’s bracings and kerfed linings look well made, even if there are a couple of glue specks in places.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – soundhole rosette 2

The gothic theme continues in the rosewood rosette’s inlays.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – bridge 2

A very dark finish is a double-edged sword for any manufacturer, because any tiny imperfection shows up more clearly. On the review instrument a tiny amount of white glue can be seen seeping out from under the bridge – the only small slip-up on this nicely-finished guitar.

The bridge is an interesting design, made from a composite material based on wood and black resin. The octave-compensated bridge saddle is Graph Tech’s man-made alternative to ivory, called Tusq.

The under-saddle-transducer is a Fishmanin Sonicore piezo pickup.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – Fishman PreSys+

The UST’s signal is sent to a Fishman PreSys+ preamp featuring four-band EQ – bass, middle, treble and brilliance – a notch filter (to combat feedback or annoying stage resonances), a phase reverse switch (also for feedback removal), as well as a chromatic tuner, which also works without the guitar lead plugged in.

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – preamp opened

The PreSys+ makes battery changes a doddle.

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Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – beauty shot

Even though the Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic is aimed at Rock musicians, Schecter haven’t chosen an overtly ”electric” neck profile for this steel-string – which is good in my opinion. The guitar’s well-rounded, medium D-profile feels great, giving you ample flesh to hold on to.

Sadly, our review sample suffers from some minor fretting issues, which lead to the high-e string buzzing at the first and 14. frets. Otherwise the set-up is good and the guitar plays well.

Nowadays it seems that many manufacturers have found out how to put together a good-sounding acoustic guitar using a laminated body. The Schecter Hellriser Studio is a good example of this. Even though you cannot find the out-and-out volume and punch of an all-solid shouter in a laminated steel-string, this Schecter really manages to hold its own, and do so with panache.

The all-maple body gives you a lively tone with a tight, sinewy bottom end, a clear mid-range (typical of maple-bodied steel-strings), as well as a nicely rounded top end. I see the Hellraiser Studio as a great choice for accompanying vocals, as the guitar’s clarity leaves ample space in the frequency spectrum for the singer.

The Fishman Sonicore/PreSys+ is a high-quality combination that sounds great right off the bat, without even touching the EQ. Fishman have managed to filter out most of the infamous nasal quack and attack click, so often found on lesser piezo systems. Thanks to this the Hellraiser’s EQ is freed up to fine-tune your (already great) basic tone, instead of having to combat any annoying tonal problems inherent in the original signal.

I recorded the following examples both acoustically (using an AKG C3000) and direct (with the Fishman’s EQ flat):

Fingerstyle – miked up (AKG C3000)

Fingerstyle –  PreSys+

Plectrum – miked up

Plectrum – PreSys+

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – back beauty

The review guitar’s fretting (or neck?) problem really is a shame, because overall this Schecter is an extremely nice acoustic-electric. Schecter are known for their stringent quality control, so maybe this here was the one guitar that slipped through.

Schecter’s Hellraiser Studio Acoustic is a beautiful instrument, offering easy playability and a great sound. The guitar’s clear voice records very well – regardless of whether you’re using a microphone or the fantastic on-board Fishman-system. I can only recommend a test run!

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Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic

Current street price in Finland approx. 600 €

Finnish distributor: Soundtools

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Pros:

+ beautiful design

+ overall workmanship

+ playability

+ acoustic tone

+ pro-quality Fishman-electronics

Cons:

– some fretting issues on review sample

– some glue visible at bridge

Schecter Hellraiser Studio Acoustic – beauty shot 2

29/01/2013

Review: Roland AC-33RW

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ac-33-rw_front_gal

Roland’s AC-33RW (current price in Finland: 467 €) is the new sister model to the all-black AC-33. The acoustic combo is finished in a faux-rosewood finish – the same kind as seen on many pieces of furniture.

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The AC-33RW is the company’s smallest amplifier for acoustic guitar and vocal. It can be plugged into a wall socket, using the power adapter included with the amp. Alternatively, the AC-33 also runs on eight AA-size batteries, giving you somewhere between eight and nine hours of continuous use (depending on the type of battery used).

The AC-33RW weighs only a little over four and a half kilos, but is still able to dish out a whopping 30 Watts of power (20 W, if run on batteries)! The cabinet comes equipped with a pair of five-inch speakers, with a bass reflex port placed between them.

ac-33-rw_top_gal

There are two channels on offer in the AC-33RW:

The Guitar-channel, which is meant for use with an electro-acoustic guitar, comprises a volume knob, as well as three-band EQ. The second channel is called Mic/Line, and it is best used for the amplification of a dynamic microphone or a line level sound source (which could also be a second acoustic guitar). Mic/Line only offers you two-band equalisation in addition to its volume control. By the way, you cannot use both of the Mic/Line-channel’s inputs simultaneously! Plugging into the phone jack mutes the XLR-input.

Both channels feature a nice, switchable chorus-effect in two different permutations – Space is a light chorus setting, while Wide will give you quite a fat chorus sound.

The AC-33RW’s master section offers you an automatic anti-feedback circuit, a looper with 40 seconds of recording time, a headphones output for quiet practising, the Reverb/Ambience-control, as well as the master volume.

ac-33-rw_back_gal

Regardless of its diminutive size, Roland’s AC-33RW sports a well-equipped back panel, too:

Next to the power supply input you will find two foot switch connectors. With two (optional) twin foot-switches you can control all looper functions, as well as turn on/off the chorus and/or reverb effects on the fly.

The amp’s output can be sent to a mixing console or a sound-card via the stereophonic line output. The Line Out signal is routed pre-master, meaning you can use the Roland freely as your stage monitor, without inadvertently changing the signal level going to the front-of-house mixer.

The Aux In offers you a choice of two different connectors (RCA and mini-jack), and even has its own level control. The incoming signal is also send through the looper, meaning you can even use your mp3-player to provide the raw material for your live loops.

Roland AC-33 RW

The additional fold-out stand angles the combo for a better listening position, whenever the Roland is placed on the floor.

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ac-33-rw_room_guitar_gal

The Roland AC-33RW is a very nifty little combo for acoustic guitarists and solo performers. The amp sounds clean and clear, and dishes out a surprising amount of wallop for its compact size. There’s enough power on tap for busking and small-scale, bistro-type gigs. For larger venues I’d suggest turning to one of Roland’s larger models – like the Roland AC-60 – because otherwise the usual din in a pub will most likely drown out your playing.

I tried both channels using the same guitar (a Tanglewood TW1000HSRE), and found out that they’re voiced slightly differently. The Guitar-channel has a perceivable presence lift, while Mic/Line sounds more neutral (with both channel-EQs set to neutral).

There are two small points I’d like to raise, though:

Even if the life of an acoustic performer most probably isn’t as rough as a Rock gig, I would have liked to have seen corner protectors on the AC-33RW. As it stands, you will have to be rather careful not to bump into things with the combo during set-up and teardown, if you want to preserve the Roland’s pristine looks. My second point of criticism concerns the global Reverb/Ambience-control. It would be nice to be able to set different amounts of reverb for each channel – either via separate channel sends or a reverb balance knob. The compromise on offer now is workable, but having different reverb-levels for guitar and vocals would be just that bit more convenient.

I recorded some AC-33RW sounds by miking up the combo:

Fingerstyle with Ambience

Plectrum with Wide-chorus and Reverb

Vocals and guitar

Even though this small unit has been designed specifically to work with modern acoustic-electric preamps, I also tested the AC-33RW with a magnetic soundhole pickup (Seymour Duncan Woody). The Guitar-channel didn’t really offer enough preamp gain for this application, but Line/Mic worked rather nicely:

Magnetic soundhole pickup (Mic/Line-channel)

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The Roland offers a great basic sound, nice effects, and all the most important features. The combo works really well. I’d warmly suggest buying a set of foot-switches to make the most of the AC-33’s cool looper.

Regardless of its small size, the Roland AC-33RW really is a fine little amp for acoustic performers in small settings.

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Roland AC-33RW

Current price in Finland: 467 €

Finnish Distribution: Roland Scandinavia

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Pros:

+ size

+ weight

+ power

+ sound

+ effect quality

+ looper

+ value-for-money

Cons:

– global Reverb-control

– no corner protectors