Archive for 11 helmikuun, 2014

11/02/2014

Review: Tokai ATE-33N Thinline

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Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – beauty shot 2

Tokai Guitars are known for their well-made copies of classic guitar and bass models.

The brand-new Tokai ATE-33N Thinline is part of Tokai’s more affordable Chinese-made range, and represents their version of a Thinline Tele-type guitar.

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Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – full front

The Tokai ATE-33N Thinline (current price in Finland 437 €) is a real looker and will delight fans of the natural look, despite its moderate price tag.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – f-hole

Roger Rossmeisl – known for his classic Rickenbacker designs – hit upon the concept of the Thinline Telecaster in the late 1960s when working for Fender. The original version was made with a body which featured three large pockets routed out from the back. A separate, glued-on solid piece of wood served as the body’s back.

Tokai approaches the construction of the ATE-33N Thinline the other way around: the pockets are routed into the front of the alder body, which then receives a beautiful, five millimetre thick swamp ash top. This solid ash top was made from three side-by-side pieces on our test sample, with the nicely matched grain efficiently disguising the glue lines.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – full back

The body of Tokai’s ATE-33N Thinline sports a gloss finish, while the neck has received a thin satin finish.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – headstock

This Tokai is no slave to vintage fashion – truss rod adjustment is at the headstock end of the neck, which is a far more practical solution.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – tuners

These nice Kluson-copies work fine.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – fretboard

The maple fingerboard has a larger radius (meaning it’s flatter) and fatter frets than its Sixties counterpart, making the ATE-33N easier to play. Especially string bending is far more comfortable with this type of neck.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – neck joint

The neck joint is a traditional four screw affair.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – body beauty 1

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – bridge

From a sonic standpoint, the traditional three-saddle, bent sheet-metal bridge that doubles as a pickup frame is probably a Tele-style guitar’s most important ingredient.

With these bridges octave compensation is always a matter of compromise, but most guitarists learn to live with the design’s limitations.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – pickups

The ATE-33N Thinline is equipped with two singlecoil pickups that use soft steel slugs as polepieces and bar magnets stuck to the bottom of the bobbin.

Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – controls

Here’s a look at Tokai’s three-position switch and the guitar’s master volume and tone controls.

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Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – beauty shot 1

Now seems to be the perfect time to buy an electric guitar, judging by the sheer quality displayed by the very favourably priced Tokai ATE-33N Thinline.

The ATE-33N Thinline seems to tick all the right boxes with ease:

The satin-finished maple neck feels great. It’s rounded D-profile provides a sturdy fundament for tone and sustain, and it is comfortable to play, too. This model’s well-dressed frets and the fretboard’s flatter radius make a slinky set-up possible. Our test sample measured 1.4 mm for the low E and 1.2 mm for the high e (at the 12th fret), and it played well and without string rattles all across the neck.

Played acoustically you can clearly hear the open character of the hollowed out thinline body. Naturally, a T-style thinline won’t win a shouting match over a ES-335, but the hollowed out pockets do still make a discernible difference in this Tokai.

There’s lots of talk on guitar forums about the nastiness of many budget Tele-pickups, but I can only state that Tokai’s set of Mk3-pickups perform rather well. The neck pickup is war and round, but never muddy or one-dimensional. The bridge unit dishes out the Country twang with the right amount of bite and conviction. And the Tokai also nails my favourite Tele tone – the chimey middle setting with both pickups on. This means that changing the Tokai pickups for some aftermarket brand wouldn’t be my first priority, at least…

Here’s a taste of the ATE-33N Thinline’s clean tones, starting with the neck pickup and moving on from there:

And here’s a bit of Rock riffing:

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Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – body beauty 2

In my opinion the Tokai ATE-33N Thinline scores high in the value-for-money stakes. It is a beautiful-looking instrument that plays very well indeed.

I have to admit having some reservations about the pickups before plugging in, but the sound of the Mk3-units has really won me over. This Tokai dishes out all the T-style tones we’ve come to expect from a traditionally styled and built example.

And should you decide to upgrade the pickups, regardless, the ATE-33N Thinline will prove to be a great starting point for any such ventures.

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Tokai ATE-33N Thinline

437 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

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Pros:

+ outstanding value for money

+ workmanship and finishing

+ playability 

+ sound

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Tokai ATE-33N Thinline – logo

11/02/2014

Review: Bluetone Amps Princeton Reverb

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Bluetone Princeton Reverb – opener

Finnish boutique amp company Bluetone is yet to become a household word. Nevertheless, Bluetone’s dynamic duo of Harry Kneckt and Matti Vauhkonen have already garnered lots of praise with their all-valve designs, and the word keeps on spreading steadily.

Custom Sounds in Helsinki have recently started to stock Bluetone-amplifiers, and they were kind enough to supply Kitarablogi with a Bluetone Princeton Reverb combo for testing.

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Bluetone Princeton Reverb – full front

The Bluetone Princeton Reverb (current price in Finland approx. 1,600 €) is Bluetone’s handwired – and slightly updated – version of a 1960s Fender Princeton Reverb (in its AA1164 guise). Bluetone’s improvements over the original issue include a post phase-inverter master volume (PPIMV), a larger speaker, as well as an external bias point. The Bluetone Princeton Reverb is rated at 15 Watts.

Bluetone’s Princeton is factory-equipped with a 12-inch WGS Black Hawk Alnico speaker, but you can order yours with a different speaker, if you wish.

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – side view

Bluetone’s cabinets are made from 15 millimetres thick Finnish birch plywood, resulting in a very sturdy, yet lightweight combo.

The level of workmanship displayed on the Princeton Reverb really doesn’t leave anything to be desired – this combo is the real boutique deal!

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – full back

True to form the cabinet is open-backed.

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – valves + transformers

Bluetone’s Princeton uses three 12AX7-valves and one 12AT7 in its preamp.

A 5AR4-valve deals with the combo’s tube rectification, while the output section employs two 6V6s.

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – spring reverb

The amp’s full-length spring reverb comes from MOD Kits.

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – Warehouse Blackhawk speaker

The 50 W WGS Black Hawk speaker has originally been designed with Vox AC30-type tones in mind, and seems like a strange choice for a small Fender-style combo.

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Bluetone Princeton Reverb – control panel

This Bluetone is a single-channel combo equipped with a three-band EQ-section, reverb and tremolo. Thanks to its master volume control you can drive the combo’s preamp hard while keeping the volume levels down.

Our test sample was one of the last pre-production models; the final series has all the front panel lettering placed below the controls for improved visibility.

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – back panel

On the back panel you’ll find two speaker outputs, plus a jack for the footswitch.

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – footswitch

This rugged footswitch comes included with the amp.

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Bluetone Princeton Reverb – pilot light

For a mid-sized valve amp Bluetone’s Princeton Reverb is quite lightweight, yet it feels very sturdy.

Switch the combo on, and you’ll be surprised at the absence of mains hum and noise in general. This beauty is really quiet – great!

Many original Blackface and Silverface Fender Princetons have been modified along the way with a larger speaker. The original 10-inch Jensen sounds OK, but many find the tone to be a little too thin for their taste.

The Bluetone Princeton sounds much bigger and fatter from the get-go, thanks to its larger, 12-inch speaker.

This is what my Fender Telecaster sounds played through the Bluetone with clean amp settings:

Bluetone’s tremolo circuit sounds very tasty:

If you use the Low input there’s plenty of headroom to be had from the Princeton Reverb for clean humbucker tones (played on a Hamer USA Studio Custom):

But this little combo can also bare its fangs if you add some gain. Soundwise you’ll get just the type of distortion you’d expect from a low-powered, Fender-style amp. There’s plenty of bite with a healthy dose of compression and an open-sounding mid-range. Don’t expect oodles of cream from this combo, but if you’re after a gritty Sixties and early Seventies Blues- and Rock-vibe, the Bluetone Princeton Reverb is just the ticket.

Here’s the Telecaster, plugged into the High input, with Gain turned up all the way:

Plugging the double-humbucker Hamer into the combo’s Low input resulted in these sounds:

The Bluetone reacts very nicely to your guitar’s volume control, allowing you to turn down for clean-ish tones and turn up for overdrive:

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – front panel angle

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Bluetone Princeton Reverb – Telecaster

In my view Bluetone’s Princeton Reverb offers genuine Finnish boutique quality at a very fair price. The workmanship is outstanding and the combo sounds fantastic. The Bluetone Princeton Reverb could be described as the ultimate Blackface-combo.

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Bluetone Amps Princeton Reverb

Current price in Finland approximately 1,600 € (Bluetone amp cover: 50 €)

Contact: Custom Sounds Finland

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Pros:

+ genuine custom shop quality

+ point-to-point-wiring

+ Master Volume control

+ high-quality, 12-inch speaker

+ fine reverb and tremolo-effect

+ footswitch included

Bluetone Princeton Reverb – logo