Archive for ‘sounds’

06/04/2018

Review: TOOB 12J & 12R

Some of the coolest inventions tend to make you go ”Geez, this is so obvious! Why didn’t I think of this?”

The truth is, though, that the basic idea usually is only the first impetus for going on an exploratory journey. You have to have the inventor’s drive and perseverance to grab the idea by its throat, and hold it there for as long as it takes to hew and mould it into its final shape.

Finnish guitarist/inventor Markku Pietinen had become increasingly frustrated by the weight and size of traditional speaker cabinets for guitar. Modern technology – like Class D power amps – has lead to ever smaller amplifier sizes, yet cabinets were still cumbersome and angular.

Then one day, a few years ago, Markku passed by a building site, where he spotted a leftover piece of corrugated plastic pipe (normally used for drainage) on the ground. The proverbial lightbulb went ”ping”, and Markku started pursuing his quest for a lighter speaker cabinet.

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Here is the finished product, called the TOOB™ (current price in Finland: 369 €), which stands for ”Thinking Out Of the Box”.

The TOOB is available in two guitar versions, the 12J and 12R (as reviewed), which come loaded with a 12-inch Jensen speaker. A bass version – the TOOB 12B – is also available, and it sports a Celestion unit.

Standard colours for all TOOBs are black and cinnamon, but you can also order custom options with a painted or covered veneer overlay (you can see a few examples in the opening picture).

The TOOB’s cabinet consists of a length of Uponor IQ drainage pipe. This is an extremely lightweight and strong corrugated tube made from double-walled polypropylene. The mounting rims are a proprietary design, injection moulded from ABS plastic specifically for use in the TOOB cabinets.

Clip-on stainless steel feet come as standard, but if this looks too spartan for your taste, you can always order your TOOB with a magnetically-attached wooden stand.

The main difference between the TOOB 12J (left) and the 12R (right) is easy to spot:

The 12J (stands for Jazz) is an open back cabinet, while the 12R (= Rock) uses a ported back wall. The 12J is also a few centimetres shorter than its brother.

Both guitar versions sport two parallel jack connectors, allowing you to daisy-chain two (or more) TOOBs.

The cabinets are equipped with painted wooden mounts for use with a micro-amp of your choice (professional velcro-type adhesive strips are provided). A top notch angled plug speaker cable is also part of the package.

Both guitar TOOBs come loaded with a lightweight 12″/8 Ω Jensen Jet Tornado neodymium speaker.

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Testing the TOOBs with two different valve amplifiers – a Blackstar HT-1R and a Bluetone Shadows Jr. – it became clear very quickly that both cabinets are focused on delivering tonal clarity and getting the job done with a minimal amount of fuss.

A TOOB isn’t meant to be an esoteric boutique-style speaker cabinet, full of voodoo-like mystical timbres. These are straightforward musical tools, made to withstand the occasional knock or two, and meant to lighten your load (both physically and psychologically).

Both TOOBs offer a very focused tone that is clear and bright, but not nasty or brittle. The mid-range also stays rather well-defined and uncoloured.

I think one shouldn’t get too hung up on the supposed Jazz- and Rock-connotations of the 12J and 12R models, especially as the 12J also performs well with acoustic-electric guitars, but the differences in sound are easy to hear. The TOOB 12J is the airier and more ”acoustic” of the pair, while the TOOB 12R offers much more low-end punch and overall focus.

CLEAN STRAT

Reference speaker (Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo with a 10″ WGS Green Beret; Shure SM57):

TOOB 12J:

TOOB 12R:

OVERDRIVEN LES PAUL

Reference speaker (Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo with a 10″ WGS Green Beret; Shure SM57):

TOOB 12J:

TOOB 12R:

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Any way you look at the TOOB™, you will have to concede that this new type of speaker cabinet is an ingenious solution to an age-old problem. The TOOB is just as rugged and roadworthy as it is lightweight and compact.

These unique cabinets sound great, with more than enough power on tap for most of us working stiffs, who play small to medium-sized indoor venues.

Combine a TOOB with one of the current micro-amps, like Vox’ MV50-series for example, and what you get is a powerful rig that’s hard to beat for ease of use and transportability.

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The TOOB

Lightweight guitar speaker cabinet

TOOB 12J: 369 €

TOOB 12R: 369 €

Contact: TOOB

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Pros:

+ made in Finland

+ ruggedness

+ weight

+ power handling

+ soundSave

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22/03/2018

Review: Hagström Fantomen

You could call Hagström’s Fantomen (Swedish for The Phantom) a signature guitar of sorts, as it has been designed in collaboration with Swedish Metal band Ghost.

In terms of its outline the Fantomen is not a million miles removed from Gibson’s forgotten Seventies classic the RD, which was sunk by the ill-advised addition of active electronics. The Hagström Fantomen, in contrast, has been designed as a straightforward and practical, yet versatile, electric guitar for the Rock and Metal guitarist. Let’s take a look…

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The Hagström Fantomen (current price in Finland ca. 850 €) marries a set mahogany neck to a relatively thin mahogany body (3.5 cm/1.38″).

The Fantomen is available in black and white finishes, too, but I must say that the sunburst finish on our test sample is a stunner, really showing off the two-piece body’s wood grain.

The front of the body sports multi-ply binding, while a comfortable ribcage chamfer has been added to the back.

Hagström’s stylish headstock is a bona fide design classic, as are the stepped tuner buttons.

Two special features are included in all Hagström models:

The Hagström H-Expander truss rod is an ingenious piece of engineering. The adjustable rod sits inside a metal rail with an H-shaped cross-section. The entire assembly is then inserted into a slot of the same shape that has been cut into the neck wood. The H-Expander requires less wood to be removed than any of the other traditional truss rod designs, which is a good thing for the structural integrity of the neck, which in turn benefits the guitar’s tone and sustain.

Hagström has also long been favouring its proprietary Resinator-material for all of the company’s fingerboards. Long before the recent ban of genuine rosewoods was even on the horizon, Hagström found a way to bond sustainable wood slivers and resin into man-made ebony, calling the material Resinator.

The Fantomen has a Fender-style scale of 64.8 cm (25.5″) and offers 22 medium-jumbo frets on its 15-inch radius fretboard.

The chrome hardware further comprises a tune-o-matic-type bridge and a stopbar tailpiece, as well as a set of Hagström’s H-embossed knurled control knobs.

For their Fantomen model Hagström turned to Swedish pickup guru Johan Lundgren, who designed a set of Far Eastern Lundgren Designed humbuckers for the model.

The neck humbucker is loaded with an Alnico II magnet, while the bridge unit uses a stronger Alnico V version.

The Gibson-type control setup of two volumes and two tones is further augmented by push/pull-switches in the tone controls that split the humbuckers.

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For such a comparatively large-bodied guitar the Hagström Fantomen is rather comfortable to ”wear” and play. Our test sample’s weight is on the moderate side of medium.

The neck profile is a slim D and the excellent, buzz-free setup makes the test sample a real player. The fretwork is very competent, even though our test guitar’s frets would have benefitted from a few minutes more attention during polishing. Straight out of the box there’s a tiny amount of coarseness you can feel during bends, which will disappear by itself, though, simply by playing the Fantomen regularly.

The decision to use humbuckers with a moderate output level in the Fantomen really pays off. The tones this Hagström delivers are nuanced, dynamic and three-dimensional. The Fantomen is a guitar that faithfully translates a player’s touch into music, meaning it can be gentle just as well as aggressive. The coil splits go a long way in providing fairly authentic single-coil sounds for those Fendery moments.

Here is a clip showing you the six main pickup selections played through a Bluetone Shadows Jr. boutique combo. The full humbucker settings come first:

The demo song was recorded using a Juketone True Blood amp (Tweed Champ clone) and a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo. No pedals were used:

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Even though the Fantomen was designed in collaboration with a Metal band, Hagström haven’t fallen into the trap of creating a one-dimensional, balls-to-the-wall screamer. The looks may say ”Rock”, but Hagström’s Fantomen also offers fine clean tones, turning this model into a great all-rounder.

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Hagström Fantomen

Current price in Finland approx. 850 €

Finnish distributor: EM Nordic

Pros:

+ workmanship

+ sound

+ versatility

+ value for money

Cons:

– gigbag not includedSave

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21/03/2018

Hagström Fantomen – the Kitarablogi-video

Lisätiedot: DLX MusiikkiSave

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20/03/2018

Review: Halla Custom Hallabird

I first saw the Halla Custom Hallabird at this year’s Tonefest, where luthier-artisan Ville Mattila displayed it alongside its bass brother.

It was actually the bass that served as the original impetus for the Hallabird. Ville had made a slightly Gibson Thunderbird-influenced bass for his own use. The bass got so much positive attention that Ville decided to put more bread on the water, which is why he developed a guitar model along the same design ideas.

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The Halla Custom Hallabird (3,700 €; including case and more, see below) is a handmade neck-through guitar with a flawless clear finish.

The through neck is made from nine long strips of wood – African mahogany (khaya ivorensis) offset with walnut. While the neck construction follows Gibson’s lead, the Hallabird takes its own path when it comes to scale length. This custom guitar comes with an extra long scale length of 67 cm (that’s approximately 26.37 inches for our Imperial readers).

The streamlined body wings have been crafted from khaya, too.

The Hallabird comes equipped with black Gotoh-hardware. This guitar also sports a brass nut to insert a little brightness into the open strings. This is probably the smoothest brass nut I’ve seen in my guitar-playing life.

Access to the two-way truss rod is from the headstock end on this Halla Custom guitar.

Twenty-four gleaming Jescar Evo jumbo frets have been installed into the Hallabird’s ebony fingerboard. The fretwork is nothing short of excellent – this is one of the areas where a handcrafted guitar tends to outshine production models, regardless of their price.

Gotoh’s hardware is known for its consistently high quality, and the Hallabird’s TOM-bridge and stopbar are no exception.

Ville Mattila mostly uses his own pickups in his Halla Custom guitars. The Hallabird comes equipped with a pair of handmade P-90s, niftily placed inside EMG-style plastic covers. The pickups are reverse-wound/reverse-polarity, meaning they act as a humbucker, when used together. The pickups’ golden polepieces look great with the Jescar EVOs and the khaya mahogany.

The Hallabird’s electronics are a little bit different than what you’d expect, judging by the knobs. There’s a three-way toggle for pickup selection, as well as a master volume control (sans treble bleed). What looks like a tone control is in fact what Ville calls a three-way impedance rotary. While the rotary switch minutely changes the treble content of the overall signal, it clearly influences the volume control’s roll-off taper. This allows you to fine-tune the way the guitar’s volume control reacts to your playing style and your amplifier.

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Halla Custom’s Hallabird is one heck of a guitar. It is one of these rare cases, where a new design manages to look classic and fresh at the same time. A guitar that is understated, yet flashy. The quality of workmanship is excellent down to the smallest details.

The Hallabird is very lightweight, making it an ideal choice for long sessions or gigs. Thanks to the guitar being a non-reverse design, the Hallabird balances very nicely despite its longer-than-usual neck.

The neck profile is reassuringly round and chunky, without feeling clunky or unwieldy. Thanks to the outstanding fretwork the Hallabird came with a setup that made a set of 010s feel very slinky, even on the extra long scale neck. I’m quite sure many players won’t even notice the extra scale length, but if you wanted to order something more ordinary, I’m sure that Ville would happily oblige.

Acoustically, the Hallabird displays a piano-like attack with a long and even sustain. Note separation is excellent, even with complex chords, and there’s a great balance between warmth and clarity.

P-90s are a fantastic choice if you need humbucker-type power and girth, coupled to a single-coil’s dynamics. Even though its looks are probably a little ”too Rock”, the Hallabird can glide effortlessly into Country and Jazz mode, and then turn into a Rock machine at the proverbial drop of a hat.

These two clips have been recorded using a 1980s Boss SD-1 and a Bluetone Shadows Jr. boutique combo:

For the demo song I used a 1980s Ibanez SC10 chorus pedal on the rhythm guitars, and a Morley M2 Wah for the lead, through the Shadows Jr.:

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Halla Custom’s Hallabird is a great-sounding and classy-looking guitar, made by somebody who clearly knows what he is doing. Don’t be fooled by the Classic Rock looks – this is a very versatile instrument for the discerning player.

Naturally, handcrafted quality like this never comes cheap. This is a true boutique guitar, made by a trained luthier-artisan highly dedicated to his craft.

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Halla Custom Hallabird
Handmade neck-through electric guitar

3,700 € – includes hard case, high-end guitar cable, quality strap (with Schaller locks), one free setup (after 6-12 months of use), and lifetime tech support

Contact: Halla Custom Instruments

Pros:

+ handcrafted in Finland

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ sound

****

Halla Customs’ Ville Mattila is a member of the Guild of Finnish Luthiers.HmSave

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16/03/2018

Barnes & Mullins, Ohana and Kala – Ragtime ukes

12/03/2018

C.F. Martin T1K vs Ohana TK-100BJU

08/03/2018

Now on Soundcloud: Halla Custom Hallabird

Halla Custom Hallabird
Handmade neck-through electric guitar

• Made in Finland
• 9-stripe khaya/walnut through-neck
• khaya body wings
• long scale – 67 cm/ 26.37″
• ebony fingerboard
• brass nut
• 24 Jescar Evo frets
• two-way truss rod
• black Gotoh hardware
• two Halla Custom P-90 pickups
• three-way toggle, master volume, three-way impedance switch
Contact: halla.tv/

Amp used – Bluetone Shadows Jr.
Pedals used – 1980s Ibanez SC10 Chorus (rhythm guitars), Morley M2 Wah (lead guitar)
Mic used – Shure SM57

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06/03/2018

Hagström Fantomen – Now on Soundcloud

Lisätiedot: DLX MusiikkiSave

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13/02/2018

Hagström Fantomen ++ Testi tulossa ++ Working on a review

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06/02/2018

Review: Tokai TJM-140

We at Kitarablogi HQ received a very special instrument for review this time – the new Tokai TJM-140, which is based on Fender’s Jazzmaster.

When the original Jazzmaster was released in 1958 Fender aimed it squarely at Jazz and Lounge musicians, who had found the company’s earlier offerings much too bright and Country-sounding. The Jazzmaster also was Fender’s first model with a rosewood fingerboard, something their sales force had been requesting for years (for cosmetic reasons).

Sadly, the new model wasn’t received very enthusiastically. Most Jazz guitarists still felt that Fender guitars were nothing more than mere breadboards with strings, while others complained that the new control setup was too complicated. A shame, really…

Over the last years Jazzmaster-type offset guitars have definitely become en vogue again. Thanks to this trend Tokai, too, has decided to come up with its own version of this guitar classic.

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The Tokai TJM-140 Silver Star (reviewed version: 1.495 €; basic model: 1.445 €) is a top-quality Japanese rendition of the Jazzmaster model, which stays faithful to the original classic in most respects, with a few modern improvements. The review sample has been customised further with a set of Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups.

Tokai’s TJM-140 strongly channels an early-Sixties spirit – this guitar comes with the original, small Fender-style headstock, as well as an unbound rosewood fretboard with small dot markers.

Beneath its classy Olympic White finish the curvaceous body is crafted from alder, while the satin-finished neck is maple.

Putting the truss rod adjustment at the headstock end is one of the welcome improvements on the TJM-140.

The Tokai sports a set of fine Kluson copies made by Gotoh.

This model comes with 22 medium-sized frets. The fretwork is very clean.

Leo Fender had a thing for vibratos, which he called tremolos. For the Jazzmaster he came up with a special new system. The Jazzmaster-vibrato (which was later used on the Jaguar, too) comprises a front-installed vibrato/tailpiece-combination, paired with a separate bridge. The bridge stands on height-adjustable poles inside long ferrules, and it rocks slightly back and forth during vibrato use. The Tokai Silver Star uses a well-made Japanese copy of the original system.

You don’t need to be a guitar expert to see that Leo Fender was aiming for a Gibson P-90-vibe with his flat and wide Jazzmaster pickups. Both the P-90 and Jazzmaster pickup have similar coils, but their magnetic structure puts them apart. Gibson’s P-90 uses two long bar magnets placed underneath the coil, either side of a metal spacer, to magnetise its pickup. Fender, on the other hand, uses six slug magnets, which also serve as the pickup’s pole pieces.

The pickups in Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity-set are reverse wound/reverse polarity, resulting in a hum-cancelling middle position on the toggle switch.

The special feature of Jazzmasters is the so-called rhythm circuit. The slide switch above the neck pickup switches between the lead and rhythm circuits. In rhythm, only the neck pickup is selected, with a slight treble roll-off and its own set of volume and tone control wheels.

The solo circuit uses the regular set of controls – a three-position toggle, plus master volume and tone. Each circuit works independently of the other’s settings.

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In my view, every guitarist should try a Jazzmaster- or Jaguar-style guitar once in his/her life, just to experience that comfortable offset body. Some players feel that the offset waist of a Jazzmaster is even more ergonomic that a Strat.

The Tokai TJM-140 is a fine example of a Jazzmaster-style guitar. Our test sample is light in weight, the neck’s oval C-profile feels great in your hand, and the guitar arrived with an expert setup.

Still, the Jazzmaster-vibrato will continue to divide opinions for the foreseeable future. The push-fit vibrato arm isn’t as foolproof as the screw-in Stratocaster arm, and it tends to swing rather loosely, when not in use. With a contemporary string set of 009- or 010-gauge you will probably run into some problems sooner or later, due to the shallow string angle over the bridge. Forceful strumming and/or large bends tend to cause light string gauges to jump out of the bridge saddles’ grooves, spoiling your setup and tuning in the process.

You cannot blame the Tokai TJM-140 Silver Star for using a faithful copy of the original vibrato, because this guitar is meant to be a vintage-inspired instrument. Nevertheless, it’s important to know about any possible pitfalls and solutions.

The easiest way to get a Jazzmaster-vibrato to play nicely is to use the correct string gauges of the late 1950s – read: flatwound 011s or 012s with a wound g-string. If this seems unbearable there’s always the screw-on Whizzo Buzz Stop, a Bigsby-style roller that adds much-needed downward pressure at the tailpiece. Others like to take the far more drastic step of replacing the whole Jazzmaster-system with a Mastery-vibrato, a replacement made specifically for use with modern strings.

Tokai’s TJM-140 Silver Star nails the Jazzmaster tone like a champion. The Antiquity pickups give you lots of chime and sparkle, but the top end is much warmer than on a Strat, and there’s a nice dose of mid-range chunk. The rhythm circuit rolls off a little bit of the neck pickup’s treble, but still keeps things from going all dark and muddy.

Here are a few clips of the Tokai TJM-140, recorded with a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo, a Boss SD-1 overdrive and a Shure SM57:

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Tokai’s TJM-140 is a pro quality Japanese version of the Fender Jazzmaster. The Tokai plays and feels great, and its sound really leaves nothing to be desired. The original Jazzmaster-/Jaguar-vibrato might become a deal-breaker for some, but I feel the original system adds a lot to this guitar’s sound and mystique. Tokai uses a high-quality copy of the original vibrato, which works as smoothly as it should. Taking this instrument for a spin is highly recommended!

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Tokai Guitars TJM-140

Price with Antiquity pickups: 1.495 €

Distribution: Tokai Guitars Nordic

Pros:

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ sound

+ idiosyncratic vibrato system

Cons:

– idiosyncratic vibrato systemSave

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