Archive for ‘new models’

10/03/2017

Review: Fender American Professional Series Telecaster & Stratocaster

It’s practically impossible to overstate the significance of Fender’s brand-new American Professional series of guitars and basses:
This isn’t just another new series among many others – the American Professional instruments are replacing Fender’s longest-running, mega-selling American Standard model range.

In addition to several Tele, Strat, Precision and Jazz Bass models, the American Pro range also includes modern versions of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars.

Fender’s American Pro instruments feature a multitude of improvements and updates over the American Standard models, but without doubt the most important upgrade comes in the form of the series’ V-Mod single-coils.

The V-Mod pickups have been developed by Fender’s electronics specialist Tim Shaw. The basic idea was to provide pickups that are tuned specifically for the position they are used in on the guitar. Shaw even went as far as harmonising the tonal response between the wound and plain strings inside each pickup, in some cases even using different magnets inside one pickup.

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Depending on the chosen finish, the Fender American Professional Telecaster (price in Finland approx. 1,700 €; incl. case) comes with either an alder or ash body (as on the two-tone sunburst model reviewed here).

You can also choose between a one-piece maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard option.

The American Professional Stratocaster (price in Finland approx. 1,700 €; incl. case) uses alder for the body, and you can choose between one-piece maple necks and rosewood fingerboards, too.

After having used synthetic materials for a long time, Fender have now switched to genuine bone nuts on all their American Pro instruments.

The two-way Biflex truss rods have been kept over from the American Standards.

All Am Pro guitars come with modern tuners with staggered-height posts.

The fretboard radius is kept at 9.5 inches, which gives you an excellent compromise between a vintage Fender-feel and modern playability.

There’s been an important change regarding the fret material, though:

American Professional guitars come with a new fret type that is almost as tall as jumbo wire, but narrower than the frets on the discontinued American Standard models. Again, this new fret profile is meant to give you the feel – and the percussive attack – of vintage fretwire, combined with the bend-friendly height modern jumbo-sizes offer.

The Am Pro Telecaster’s bridge is a brand-new design, which is reminiscent of vintage-type Tele bridges, but includes a few contemporary improvements.

Tele anoraks will be pleased to see Fender reverting back to a three-saddle design using brass saddles. The new saddles sport machined slopes for better intonation adjustment.

For the most part, the sides of the bridge’s base late are lower than on a vintage-style Tele bridge to make fingerpicking easier. The rear-facing end is higher, though, and Fender even includes a short and snazzy bridge cover (not shown).

Why fix something that’s not broken?

The Am Pro Strat vibrato is basically the same well-designed two-point bridge we all know from the recent American Standard series Strats, sporting vintage bent-steel saddles, and a modern bridge plate and vibrato block.

The vibrato arm is push-fit.

The American Professional models feature a traditional four-screws-plus-tilt neck joint.

The Am Pro Strat’s deep contours make the guitar especially comfortable to play.

The V-Mod pickups on the Telecaster both use Alnico V magnets for the bass strings and Alnico II for the treble strings.

The bridge pickup is reverse-wound/reverse-polarity to give you a hum-free middle (both pickups on) setting.

The V-Mod set for the SSS-Strat is even more involved than the Tele’s set-up:

The neck pickup uses Alnico II magnets for the wound strings and Alnico IIIs for the plain strings, for a tight bass and warm trebles. The middle pickup comes with Alnico IIs for the bass strings and Alnico Vs for the top, which helps retain the sparkle and clarity in switch positions two and four. The bridge pickup has Alnico V magnets for all six strings.

The tone control set-up has been modified to include the bridge pickup as well, by having the neck and middle pickups share the first tone control.

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Fender has given the neck profiles an overhaul, too, and this has clearly paid off:

The new, more oval C-profile feels fantastic, much better than the sometimes slightly generic feel of older American Standard necks. The neck is chunky without being fat or unwieldy.

The workmanship, the fretwork and the general set-up were very good, but for some reason the intonation was off on our test sample. Nothing a digital tuner and a screwdriver can’t fix in a matter of minutes, though…

I look for a woody and throaty basic voice in my Teles, and the new American Pro Telecaster delivers. There’s enough twang in here for Country and early Rock ’n’ Roll, but the sound always stays satisfyingly fat and chunky.

Tweed-style clean:

Tweed-style crunch:

British-style distortion:

The new neck profile also does its magic when it comes to the Am Pro Strat. This is one guitar that’s hard to put down!

You can only admire Tim Shaw for his dedication and perseverance in developing the Strat’s V-Mod pickup set.

Every now and then I tend to veer towards the cynical, when dealing with marketing hype and pickup esoterics. I mean, come on, most traditionally constructed Strats (and S-type guitars) sound like a Strat – bright, sparkly single pickup selections and hollowed-out in-between settings.

Fender’s V-Mod single-coils do clearly make a difference in my opinion. Firstly, the string-to-string balance for each pickup on its own is outstanding, both in terms of level and timbre. Secondly, the in-between settings sound extremely good, too, despite the fact that the V-Mod set mixes three different Strat pickups.

This results in a Stratocaster model with five equally great-sounding pickup selections.

Tweed-style clean:

Tweed-style crunch:

British-style distortion:

The demo track has Telecaster rhythm tracks coming from the left side of the stereo field, and Stratocaster rhythm parts coming from the right. On the first pass the lead guitar part is played on the Tele, for the second pass the Strat takes over.

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In my view, the American Professional Telecaster and Stratocaster are very worthy successors to their American Standard counterparts.

These guitars will doubtlessly set a new standard for high-volume production line electric guitars, just as their predecessors have done since the late 1980s.

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Fender American Professional Telecaster & Stratocaster

Approximate price: 1,700 € each (includes hard case)

Contact: Fender

A big thank you to DLX Music Helsinki for the loan of the reviewed guitars!

Pros:

+ workmanship

+ neck profile

+ playing feel

+ updated hardware

+ V-Mod pickups

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09/03/2017

Fender American Professional Series – The Kitarablogi-video

Contact: Fender

27/02/2017

Review: Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb

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OK, people, let’s go wild here and start with the summary for a change:

In my view the good people at Bluetone Amps have outdone themselves with their Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb Combo.

I will stick my neck out really far by claiming that the Fried Eye 2+2 is the best-sounding and most-versatile compact two-channel boutique valve combo I’ve ever come across. This guitar combo is all tone and no hype!

If the demo video and this summary are enough to whet your appetite, I’d suggest you head over to Bluetone Amps’ website right away.

If you want to know more, read on…

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Helsinki-based Bluetone is a small boutique amp maker that handcrafts each and every one of their guitar and bass amplifiers, combos and cabinets. Bluetone offers a wide range of customisable options, both on the electronic as well as on the cosmetic front.

Our review combo (price of this version: 2,400 €; incl. footswitch and cover) is a two-channel all-valve affair comprising a Bluetone Clean channel partnered with a Fried Eye crunch channel, which is Bluetone’s take on the hot-rodded Marshall theme.

The 2+2-monicker in the combo’s name points to the special power amp architecture applied here. Instead of trying to emulate or approximate the different power amp sounds of, say, a Blackface-style clean channel and a Marshall-style crunch channel using heavy filtering and electronic trickery, Bluetone Amps go for maximum authenticity.

The 2+2 power amp uses two different pairs of output tubes – one pair for each channel. Selecting the clean channel switches on the power amp’s pair of 6L6GC-valves, while switching over to the Fried Eye channel will see a pair of EL34s spring into action.

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(Photo courtesy of Bluetone Amps)

Bluetone Amps have recently been moving away from building their complete model range using only point-to-point building techniques. Certain models are now available as modular designs, which makes production less time-consuming, and thus more affordable. Still, like the point-to-point amplifiers, Bluetone hand-solders all its PCB-based modules at their workshop.

The Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb has been made in this modular fashion.

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Like most Bluetone combos the Fried Eye is constructed with an open back.

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Our review sample is one of the first Bluetone amps to feature a Celestion neodymium speaker.

The 12-inch G12 NEO promises genuine Celestion Creamback tones coupled with the benefit of considerably lighter weight.

The Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb uses an MOD reverb tank and Bluetone’s own valve-driven circuitry.

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This Fried Eye combo comes with some interesting back panel features:

There’s a Front End signal booster, amplifying the signal right at the beginning of the signal path.

The Fried Eye’s switchable effects loop is an active affair, complete with a dedicated level control. If you don’t run any effects in the loop, you can use the loop’s make-up gain as an additional, foot-switchable boost in the signal path.

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A chunky three-button footswitch unit is supplied with the Bluetone combo.

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Bluetone’s Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb combo offers a wide range of options on its front panel. Thanks to the logical layout and the clear lettering, the front panel never seems complex or crowded, though.

The Fried Eye Crunch channel offers you a 3-Band EQ-section, plus Fat and Bite switches, to fine-tune your crunch tones.

The Bluetone Clean channel’s High/Low-switch offers two different pre-gain settings, which change the amount of available clean headroom.

Each channel features its own reverb level knobs – so you don’t have to compromise lush reverbs for clean tones with drier settings for crunch – as well as dedicated master volume controls.

Using all the different front panel and back panel features offers you a mind-boggling array of different tonal and drive options. With just a couple (or three) well-chosen guitars, Bluetone’s Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb will give you access to virtually any classic guitar tone you could dream up (with the exception of contemporary Metal).

Bluetone’s clean channel will take you from pristinely shimmering cleans well into Blues break-up territory.

This clip steps through the different boost options offered by the Fried Eye’s clean channel (using a Hamer USA Studio Custom). The sequence is Low dry –> Low plus reverb –> High –> High + FE Boost –> High + FE Boost + FX Boost:

Being able to use the FX loop as an additional booster turns the Fried Eye 2+2 into a two-channel-plus-solo-boost machine.

This clip steps through the different boost options offered by the Fried Eye’s crunch channel (using a Hamer USA Studio Custom). The sequence is Crunch –> Crunch + FE Boost –> Crunch + FE Boost + FX Boost:

Cleaning up the crunch channel using your guitar’s volume control works like a dream here. The Bluetone’s Fried Eye Crunch sounds juicy and lively, even with the guitar turned down to almost zero:

The demo track’s rhythm guitar parts were played on a Gibson Melody Maker SG (stereo left) and a maple-necked Fender Stratocaster (stereo right). The lead part was recorded with a modern Tele-type guitar, using the instrument’s volume control to adjust the amount of overdrive:

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In my view the good people at Bluetone Amps have outdone themselves with their Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb Combo.

I will stick my neck out really far by claiming that the Fried Eye 2+2 is the best-sounding and most-versatile compact two-channel boutique valve combo I’ve ever come across. This guitar combo is all tone and no hype!

Messrs. Kneckt and Vauhkonen don’t run around wearing strange clothes or wild hairdos, pretending to be exalted tone gurus. You also won’t be required to send in mp3s of your guitar playing to prove you’re worthy to join the ”Bluetone Cult”.

Bluetone’s dynamic duo are down-to-earth guys, out on an ongoing quest to bring you maximum tone and usability, and no bullsh*t.

For a genuine boutique-grade amp of its calibre, I can only call the Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb’s price tag extremely fair.

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Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb Combo

This version: 2,400 € (including footswitch unit and dust cover)

Contact: Bluetone Amps

Pros:

+ handmade in Finland

+ lightweight

+ multiple boost stages

+ versatility

+ reverb sound

+ dedicated reverb and master controls for each channel

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19/02/2017

Fender American Professional Series – Now on SoundCloud

17/02/2017

Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb – now on SoundCloud

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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16/02/2017

First View: Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb

Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb

• Handmade in Finland
• Two-channel valve amp
• Class AB
• 20-40 W
• 5 x 12AX7 plus 1 x 12AT7
• Two pairs of power amp valves – 2 x 6L6GC (Clean channel) and 2 x EL34 (Crunch channel)
• Switchable boost
• Switchable effects loop
• Switchable spring reverb
• Single Celestion G12 Neo speaker

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Demo Track
• Two rhythm guitars (Clean channel) – Gibson Melody Maker SG (left) and Fender Stratocaster (right)
• Lead guitar (Crunch channel) – modern Tele-type guitar

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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15/02/2017

Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 ^^^ Testi tulossa! ^^^ Review coming soon!

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Contact: Bluetone Amps

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14/02/2017

Fender American Professional Series == Testi tulossa! == Review coming soon!

06/02/2017

Review: Tokai Love Rock LS-100F Pearly Gates + LS-200F-5A

Tokai Guitars’ workshop in Japan will do the occasional special run of Limited Edition models that come with some features that differ from the regular models on offer. To our delight, we at Kitarablogi managed to get hold of two such special Love Rock guitars for this review.

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The Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates (price in Finland: 1,550 €; hard case incl.) is a factory-modded instrument for Billy Gibbons fans …

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… while Tokai’s LS-200F-5A (2,995 €; hard case and pickguard incl.) represents the maker’s take on the ”ultimate Love Rock guitar”. This Premium Series instrument shows off an AAAAA figured maple top, and a set of Seymour Duncan Custom Shop pickups.

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Even though this isn’t an official signature model by any stretch of the imagination, Tokai’s LS-100F Pearly Gates is clearly modelled after Billy F. Gibbons’ main squeeze.

The solid figured maple top looks fantastic in its gloss brown Ice Tea Burst. The guitar comes with a set of Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbuckers.

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The Tokai LS-200F-5A has been built in an extremely limited edition (less than 20 guitars worldwide), with a whopping three instruments finding their way to Finland.

The LS-200F-5A isn’t ”just” a top-of-the-line instrument, it’s a thrilling experience. The flame on this guitar’s top is so deep you can lose yourself in it, and the instrument’s semimatte finish only accentuates its sensual qualities.

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Both models are equipped with top quality Gotoh machine heads.

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The fretwork is second to none. Both instruments sport a fret size that’s slightly larger-than-vintage.

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The bridges and tailpieces are also supplied by Gotoh.

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Seymour Duncan’s Pearly Gates set is a recreation of the slightly unusual PAFs found in Billy Gibbons’ legendary guitar.

For some reason Pearly Gates – a 1959 Les Paul Standard – comes with a set of humbuckers that offers a strong mid-range peak, while the bridge humbucker is clearly much louder than the neck unit.

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Tokai has ordered a batch of custom-made Seymour Duncan Antiquity-humbuckers for the LS-200F-5A.

The Antiquity is Duncan’s most faithful recreation of Gibson’s original PAF. The custom-version used here differs from the regular issue in two points – these humbuckers have not been aged, but look brand new, and both pickups come with four conductors to facilitate pickup splitting.

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The Japanese electronics inside the LS-100F Pearly Gates are of a very high standard.

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For the LS-200F-5A Tokai uses Orange Drop capacitors, US-made volume pots, and two ESP push/push tone pots for coil-splitting.

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Both models are sold with a top-drawer hard case.

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Our review sample of the Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates is a fine-playing instrument, with a nice, moderate weight, and a great neck profile, that’s rounded, but not too big (somewhere between a ’59 and a ’60 profile).

The Pearly Gates humbuckers deliver a good deal more output than a traditional PAF (or its copy), coupled with a very strong mid-range. Yet, despite this signature sound, the Pearly Gates set never feels one-dimensional, clunky, or hard-to-control. There’s ample top end and a great dynamic range.

This is what the LS-100F Pearly Gates sounds like played through a handwired Tweed Champ-clone set clean:

Overdriven and distorted tones clearly show off the signature pickup set’s Texan accent:

It’s fairly easy to coax artificial harmonics from this Tokai, if you’re into Billy Gibbons’ playing style:

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Tokai’s LS-200F-5A is too good an instrument to be locked away in a display case!

The LS-200F-5A is a surprisingly lightweight solid-body guitar. It plays at least as good as the LS-100F, but thanks to its semimatte finish one seems to make a more intimate connection with this fantastic guitar.

Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity-humbuckers really let the woody aspects of your guitar’s inherent tone shine through. These humbuckers have a clear, precise and dry (in a good sense) sound:

The coil-split option opens up a whole bag of additional tonal choices, whenever you look for more single-coil-type tones from this Love Rock:

Overdriven and distorted tones, too, will benefit from the possibility to drop the output level with the simple pressing of a button (or two):

The demo track features two rhythm guitar tracks, which were both recorded with split humbuckers. The first half of the lead part starts off with the split neck pickup, switching to the full unit for the second half of the song:

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Both the LS-100F Pearly Gates as well as the LS-200F-5A are prime examples of the kind of top grade workmanship that has made Japanese Tokais legendary.

The LS-100F Pearly Gates is a great choice for Blues- and Rock-inclined players, who thrive on chunky mid-range power and bags of sustain.

For an investment grade instrument Tokai’s LS-200F-5A is still rather affordable. This guitar will give you Japanese Custom Shop quality at a very fair price, but the edition is, indeed, very limited…

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Two Tokai Love Rock models

LS-100F Pearly Gates – 1,550 € (case included)

LS-200F-5A – 2,995 € (case included)

Pros (both guitars):

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ sound

+ (LS-100F Pearly Gates only) Billy Gibbons signature humbuckers

+ (LS-200F-5A only) collectible

+ (LS-200F-5A only) coil-split

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27/01/2017

Testipenkissä: Tokai Love Rock LS-100F Pearly Gates + LS-200F-5A

Tokai Guitarsin paja Japanissa valmistaa aika ajoin pieniä eriä erikoismalleja, joilla on tavalliseen mallistoon nähden poikkeavia ominaisuuksia. Kitarablogin iloksi saimme tällä kertaa testiin jopa kaksi tällaista Love Rock -kitaraa.

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Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates (1.550 €; laukku kuuluu hintaan) on ns. valmiiksi modattu soitin Billy Gibbons -faneille.

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Tokai LS-200F-5A (2.995 €; laukku kuuluu hintaan) taas on firman näkemys ultimaattisesta Love Rock -mallista. Se on Premium-sarjan soitin AAAAA-luokan loimuvaahterakannella ja Seymour Duncan Custom Shop -mikrofoneilla.

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Vaikka se ei olekaan virallinen nimikkomalli, on Tokain LS-100F Pearly Gates silti kovin Billy Gibbons -henkinen soitin.

Upeassa, kiiltäväksi lakattussa kitarassa on ruskehtava Ice Tea Burst -liukuväritys, sekä Seymour Duncanin valmistama Pearly Gates -mikrofonisetti.

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Tokai LS-200F-5A –mallia on valmistettu erittäin rajoitettu erä (noin 20 kappaletta yhteensä), joista peräti kolme kitaraa löysivät tiensä Suomeen.

LS-200F-5A ei ole ”vain” laatukitara, se on elämys. Sen loimuvaahterakannen kuviointi on niin syvän kolmiulotteista, että melkein alkaa huimata, ja sen puolihimmeä viimeistely tukee sopivasti tätä kokonaisuutta.

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Molemmissa kitaroissa on käytetty Gotoh:n laadukkaita Kluson-kopioita.

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Soittimien nauhat on työstetty erinomaisella tarkkuudella. Molemmissa kitaroissa on käytetty samaa, hieman vintagea isompaa nauhakokoa.

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Myös tallan ja kieltenpitimen suhteen Tokai luottaa Gotoh:n vankkaan laatuun.

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Seymour Duncanin Pearly Gates -setti mukailee Billy Gibbonsin vintage-kitaran erikoisia humbuckereita.

Jostakin syystä mestarin omasta 1959 Les Paul -kitarasta löytyy epätavallinen setti PAF-mikrofoneja, joissa on vahva keskialueen korostus, sekä selvästi kaulamikrofonia voimakkaampi tallamikki.

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LS-200F-5A:ta varten Tokai on tilannut Seymour Duncan Custom Shopilta erikoiserän firman Antiquity-settiä.

Antiquity on Duncanin tarkin jäljitelmä legendaarisista PAF-mikrofoneista. Tässä erikoiserässä on kaksi eroa tavallisiin Antiquity-mikrofoneihin nähden – niiden ulkonäköä ei ole vanhennettu lainkaan, ja kummankin mikrofonin voi halutessaan puolittaa.

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LS-100F Pearly Gates -mallin elektroniikka edustaa selvästi japanilaista pro-tasoa.

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LS-200F-5A:ssa on sen sijaan käytetty Orange Drop -kondensaattoreita, amerikkalaisia volume-potikoita, sekä ESP:n valmistamia push/push-potikoita tonea ja mikkien puolitusta varten.

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Molemmat soittimet myydään oman laadukkaan kovan laukun kera.

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Testattu Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates on erittäin mukavan tuntuinen soitin. Painoa löytyy vain maltillisesti ja mallin pyöreä, muttei liian paksu kaulaprofiili tuntuu erittäin mukavalta.

Pearly Gates –mikrofoneissa on huomattavan paljon enemmän tehoa kuin tavallisissa PAF (-kopioissa), ja myös keskialueesta löytyy rutkasti vääntöä. Silti Pearly Gates -setti ei kuulosta millään lailla yksitoikkoiselta, kömpelöltä tai kovaotteiselta, vaan soinnista löytyy silti dynamiikkaa ja selkeyttä.

Tällaiselta LS-100F Pearly Gates kuulostaa puhtaan Tweed Champ -kloonin kautta soitettuna:

Särösoundeista löytyy sopivasti rosoista Teksas-asennetta:

Billy Gibbons -tyylinen huiluäänikikkailukin on helppoa, kun käytössä on oikeanlainen kitara soittotyyliä tukevilla mikrofoneilla:

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Tokai LS-200F-5A ei ole pelkästään kuvankaunis esine, vaan myös erittäin monipuolinen ja laadukas soitin.

LS-200F-5A on todella kevyt kitara. Sen soitettavuus on yhtä vaivatonta kuin LS-100F-mallissa, mutta soittotuntuma on puolihimmeän viimeistelyn ansiosta jotenkin intiimimpi, suorempi.

Seymour Duncanin Antiquity-mikrofonit antavat todellakin puiden soida, ja näiden humbuckereiden tarkkavainen, dynaaminen ja avoin ääni on positiivisella tavalla kuiva:

Mikrofonien puolitus lisää rutkasti tämän kitaran monipuolisuuta, kun 5A:sta lähtee melko autenttisia yksikelamikkien soundejakin:

Myös särösoundeissa mikrofonien puolitus suo soittajalle mahdollisuuden nostaa välillä kaasujalkaa polkimelta:

Demobiisissä molemmilla komppiraidoilla käytetään mikkien puolitusta. Soolokitara aloittaa ensin puolitetulla kaulahumbuckerilla, minkä jälkeen molemmat kaulamikin keloista aktivoidaan:

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Sekä LS-100F Pearly Gates että LS-200F-5A ovat loistavia esimerkkejä laadusta, jota japanilaiset Tokai-kitarat tarjoavat, ja joka on tehnyt niistä legendaarisia.

LS-100F Pearly Gates on todella hyvä valinta Blues- ja Rock-kitaristeille, jotka kaipaavat soundiinsa aimon annoksen keskialueen voimaa.

LS-200F-5A on keräilyluokan kitaraksi vielä melko edullinen. Se tarjoaa aitoa japanilaista Custom Shop -laatua reiluun hintaan. Tässäkin tapauksessa nopeat syövät hitaat…

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Tokai Love Rock -kitarat

LS-100F Pearly Gates – 1.550 € (kova laukku kuuluu hintaan)

LS-200F-5A – 2.995 € (kova laukku kuuluu hintaan)

Plussat (molemmat mallit):

+ työnjälki

+ soitettavuus

+ soundi

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