Archive for kesäkuu 4th, 2014

04/06/2014

Review: LTD James Hetfield Snakebyte

****

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – teaser

James Hetfield is a musician, who surely needs no introduction. He is Metallica’s frontman, singer, songwriter and guitarist, and has played a very important part in the development of the Metal genre.

James Hetfield with Snakebyte

Metallica’s guitarists – Hetfield and his colleague Kirk Hammet – have long been collaborating with ESP Guitars. The LTD James Hetfield Snakebyte is the most recent fruit of this partnership.

****

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – full front

In the early years of Metallica, James Hetfield used to play a Gibsonin Explorer, and looking at his new signature model, it’s easy to conclude that this guitar legend still holds a place in his heart for angular guitars.

LTD’s James Hetfield Snakebyte (current price in Finland: 1.098 €) is an ultra-modern Metal-machine, with a clear stylistic nod to the Explorer.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – full back

Both the guitar’s body and set neck have been crafted from mahogany, while dark-black ebony has been chosen for this model’s fingerboard.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – bevelled top edge

The Snakebyte’s body is noticeably more compact when compared to its vintage forefather, making for a lighter and more comfortable playing experience.

There’s a long, flat chamfer on the body’s bass side, which proved hard to photograph, but which really makes a difference in terms of the Hetfield signature model’s ergonomics.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – headstock 2

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – tuners

A set of locking Sperzel tuning machines have been chosen for their high quality and proven tuning stability.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – bridge

The Tone Pros bridge and tailpiece combination is locked in place after adjustment, meaning everything will stay perfectly put even under the most demanding onstage conditions.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – fretboard

LTD’s Snakebyte sports 22 jumbo-sized frets. The fretwork is first-rate, resulting in a fast and rattle-free playing surface.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – EMG pickups

Active EMG-pickups have long played an important part in James Hetfield’s sound. A couple of years back EMG have introduced a signature pickup set –the EMG JH ”Het” Set – made to the legendary guitarist’s specifications, and used on this signature LTD.

The JH-Nneck humbucker has been developed based on EMG’s Model 60, but Hetfield’s humbucker uses separate ceramic magnets and fatter coils. EMG’s Model 81 has formed the basis for the JH-B signature bridge pickup, but here steel polepieces have been added to the pickup’s ceramic bar magnets.

According to EMG the ”Het” Set has a warm and organic basic tone, coupled with a very clear attack and loads of output power.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – controls

OK, one three-way toggle, two controls – case closed…

Hold your horses! Yes, the toggle switch works in the usual way, but the controls aren’t a master volume and a master tone, but rather two separate volumes – one knob for each pickup.

James Hetfield doesn’t need a tone control, as all his settings are dialled in by his guitar technician. This way he only has to concentrate on pickup selection, while playing and singing at the same time.

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – control cavity

The battery compartment’s cover is held in place by machine screws and threaded inlets.

****

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – beauty shot 1

It’s true that in 1958 Gibson’s Explorer was a trailblazer thanks to its unusual, angular design. But it’s also true that this classic model is very large and cumbersome, often feeling like a bedside table strapped to your body.

Hetfield’s LTD signature model succeeds in keeping the Explorer’s angular spirit intact. Nonetheless, the LTD Snakebyte is a much more compact affair, which makes it far more comfortable to play and easier to hold.

The Hetfield Snakebyte is a fantastic player, as you would expect from a pro-quality guitar, such as this. The neck profile is a rounded ”C”. Our review sample came with a light action, measuring 1.8 mm (bottom E) and 1.6 mm (top e) at the 12th fret (with a set of 010s), and played well and rattle-free across the whole fretboard.

I must admit I was quite surprised at the sheer beauty of this guitar’s unplugged voice. There’s a strong, piano-like attack and an open character with a long sustain-phase.

EMG’s active ”Het” Set has the power of an approaching speedboat, yet the humbuckers still manage to offer open-sounding clean tones with plenty of organic mid-range character:

Switching to a High Gain channel takes the LTD Snakebyte straight into – surprise, surprise – legendary Hetfield-Metallica-territory. There’s power and attack to boot, and ample bite to cut through:

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – back beauty

****

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – beauty shot 2

In my view, LTD’s James Hetfield Snakebyte is a top-notch precision tool for the Metal- and Thrash-guitarist. This probably isn’t the most versatile electric guitar ever, but if you’re into Hard ’n’ Heavy this guitar offers the most direct way to sheer sonic bliss.

****

LTD James Hetfield Snakebyte

1.096 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

****

Pros:

+ workmanship

+ light weight

+ playability

+ acoustic tone

+ amplified sound

Cons:

– no tone control

LTD Hetfield Snakebyte – teaser 2

04/06/2014

Review: Italia Fiorano Standard + Mondial Deluxe

Italia Fiorano Standard – full front

The Italia Fiorano Standard (price in Finland approx.  640 €) is a beautiful thinline, double-cutaway semi.

The Fiorano’s body is made by routing large pockets into the front of a solid mahogany body. In contrast to Italia’s Rimini 6 or Mondial Deluxe models the Fiorano doesn’t have a full centre block, though, but features an opening in the block between the guitar’s pickups. The body is then finished by glueing on a bound spruce top.

Italia Fiorano Standard – headstock

Hard rock maple is used for the Fiorano Standard’s neck.

Italia Fiorano Standard – tuners

The modern tuning machines are embossed with the I-for-Italia logo, and work very nicely.

Italia Fiorano Standard – fretboard

The bound fretboard sports Italia’s stylish inlays, consisting of pearloid blocks and abalone dots.

Italia Fiorano Standard – body beauty 2

The Fiorano Standard’s neck is glued in at the 19th fret.

Italia Fiorano Standard – bridge

Great to see Italia using a modern version of the venerable Tune-o-Matic-bridge. The updated design does away with the annoying and ever-rattling piece of wire, used to keep the bridge saddles in place in the vintage version.

Italia Fiorano Standard – tailpiece

The snazzy chrome tailpiece adds its own bit of panache to this stylish semi.

Italia Fiorano Standard – pickups

As you might know by now, I’m something of a P-90 fan. The Fiorano Standard comes equipped with not one, but two of my favourite pickups. These are made by Wilkinson and come with chromed dog-ear covers.

Italia Fiorano Standard – controls

Like many of Italia’s models, the Fiorano also features a sping-suspended plastic tray as an unusual control cavity cover. The electronics comprise a three-way toggle, as well as master volume and tone controls.

****

Italia Mondial Deluxe – full front

Italia’s Mondial Deluxe (price in Finland approx. 675 €) is a genuine semiacoustic hybrid, offering you a piezo-equipped bridge (and active preamp) for acoustic-style guitar sounds alongside its traditional magnetic humbuckers.

Thinline-type mahogany body is mated to a maple top, which sports a very fetching Rickenbacker/Mosrite-style German Carve -edge. The top’s edges have been left natural, constituting what is usually called ”fake binding”.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – back beauty

The Mondial comes with a set maple neck.

You can also see the quick-release battery compartment for the 9 V battery used to power the piezo preamp.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – headstock

Italia’s top nut is made from a self-lubricating material containing graphite.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – tuners

We find the same decent-quality tuners on Mondial Deluxe as on the Fiorano.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – fingerboard

Look at the all the nice hues of blues and greens in the guitar’s abalone dots!

Italia Mondial Deluxe – piezo bridge

The Mondial’s bridge may look identical to the Fiorano’s, but this here is a piezo-equipped model. There’s a thin lead going from beneath the bridge and through the maple top to feed the piezo signal to the preamp.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – tailpiece

”I” – stands for Italia…

Italia Mondial Deluxe – pickups

Two vintage-voiced Wilkinson WVC-humbuckers handle magnetic duties on the Mondial Deluxe.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – piezo EQ

The sliders on the guitar’s shoulder control the piezo side’s three-band EQ.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – controls

The magnetic signal is fed to a three-way toggle selector and master volume and tone controls.

There’s a dedicated volume control for the piezo signal, as well as a second output jack, enabling you to feed the acoustic side to a mixing console or a dedicated acoustic amplifier.

****

Italia Fiorano Standard – beauty shot 1+

Italia’s Fiorano Standard is just the guiar for me. It is comfortably lightweight and balances nicely. Its relatively thin body sits nicely against your belly/ribcage, even without any contouring or bevels.

The neck has a nice, mid-depth C-profile, which will feel comfortable to most players. The Fiorano arrived extremely well set-up with a slinky action (E: 1.9 mm/e: 1.7 mm).

Even if you cannot expect a thinline guitar, such as the Fiorano Standard, to out-shout a fat Jazz guitar, the Italia’s spruce-topped mahogany body results in a warm and woody acoustic voice.

In my opinion, P-90s are the best choice for a guitar of this type, because their singlecoil construction makes for a more percussive and dynamic tone than what you’d get from a creamy humbucker.

Played into a clean amp channel you’ll get a nice, clucky attack and a open, yet strong overall voice, that will fit Jazz just as well as Brit Pop, Country, Blues or early Rock’n’Roll (why not add a Bigsby, perhaps?):

If you’re after warm, rich and dynamic dirty tones P-90s are just the ticket! The Fiorano Standard will work great for any Beatles-, Kinks- or Who-inspired player, as well as George Thorogood-style electric Blues:

Italia Fiorano Standard – beauty shot 2

****

Italia Mondial Deluxe – beauty shot 1+

Italia’s Mondial Deluxe is a medium-weight instrument. The well-executed German Carve and very clean fake binding make this guitar look more expensive than it really is.

The neck’s D-profile feels really good. Thanks to its clean fretwork and fine set-up this instrument also plays great (E: 2.0 mm/e: 1.3 mm).

Unplugged, Italia’s Mondial Deluxe is rather quiet, but its fresh acoustic voice and clear attack bode well for things to come.

This hybrid’s piezo sound was the real surprise for me in this review. Italia’s piezo system simply sounds that good and genuinely ”acoustic”:

Naturally, it’s good to hear the Mondial’s magnetic side perform to equally high standards. This guitar’s vintage-voiced Wilkinsons do a fine job of translating the Mondial’s fresh unplugged voice into nice clean tones:

Switching over to the distortion channel will turn the Mondial into a Seventies-style Blues Rock machine:

Italia Mondial Deluxe – beauty shot 2

****

Italia Fiorano Standard – body beauty 1

It’s nigh on impossible not to get a crush on these Italia-guitars: Both the Fiorano Standard and the Mondial Deluxe are distinctly different from the mainstream of guitars on the market, but their design idiosyncrasies  never get in the way of easy playability and great sound. If you want to steer clear of the usual copies, bust still look for a guitar with its own charm, you should definitely check out an Italia.

Italia Mondial Deluxe – body beauty 1

****

Italia Guitars – Fiorano Standard + Mondial Deluxe

Fiorano Standard – approx. 640 €

Mondial Deluxe – approx. 675 €

Finnish distributor: R-JAM Group

****

Pros (both models):

+ idiosyncratic design

+ workmanship

+ finish

+ playability

+ sound