25/09/2019

Review: Arvo Guitars – Arvo

”Is it possible to produce a handcrafted Finnish solidbody electric guitar at a price most working musicians can afford?”

Finnish guitarist Petri Matero kept pondering this question in earnest for some time, before deciding to try to find out. Together with Kanki Guitars’ Teemu Korpi they started to develop the idea of an affordable Finnish guitar. After much brainstorming and a row of prototypes Matero, Korpi and a man called Juha Tolonen, who runs a boutique guitar shop in Switzerland (called Captain Sounds), pooled their resources and started a new guitar company – Arvo Guitars.

Back to Leo, or: ”Keep it simple!”

The Arvo Electric Guitar follows Leo Fender’s basic principle of keeping things simple. The Arvo is not meant to be a boutique guitar, offering a myriad of options for the customer to choose from. Instead, by offering only a limited number of finishes and pickup types (all built to the same physical size), the Arvo’s price tag is kept in check, despite it being a handmade instrument.

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The Arvo Electric Guitar (prices starting from 1,240 €) is a pretty instrument that manages to look fresh and classic at the same time.

To make the life of working musicians a little easier, Arvo Guitars are very particular when it comes to weight, making sure that the finished instruments come in at around a mere two-and-a-half kilos.

The front-contoured body is crafted from Finnish poplar, which is both resonant and relatively easy to finish. The Arvo is available in four colours – red, white, black and grey.

The bolt-on neck is made from African mahogany, and it has received a transparent, open-pore finish.

The review sample is a very early production model that has been equipped with a set of Wilkinson machine heads. The ”proper” production instruments will sport a set of Graph Tech Ratio tuners. The nut has been cut from Graph Tech’s Black Tusq, a self-lubricating material.

The fingerboard uses walnut, which is a cool-looking choice. The fretwork is nothing short of excellent, with special care having been given to smoothly rounded fret ends.

The Arvo comes with two handmade pickups. The offered pickup types are humbucker, P-90 and single-coil, all built into humbucker-sized casings. The customer can choose any pickup combination he or she needs to capture their individual tone.

Because the pickups are connected to the controls using quick connectors inside the pickup routings, it is possible to swap between different Arvo-pickups relatively easily. Just remove the strings, take out the disconnected pickup, connect the new pickup and drop it in.

The bridge and stopbar tailpiece may look like standard Korean versions of Gibson’s original Tune-o-matic set-up, but they are in fact Graph Tech’s improved ResoMax parts. Graph Tech’s ResoMax hardware is made from their own proprietary metal mix, which they claim is much more resonant than the standard Zinc-based material used normally. A nifty additional feature are tiny magnets that keep the bridge and tailpiece secured to their height-adjustment posts, even after you’ve removed the strings.

In keeping with the Arvo’s design ethos, the controls are very straightforward – a master volume, a master tone, and a Tele-style three-way blade selector, all mounted onto a large plastic plate.

The soldering looks very clean and the control cavity has received a thorough foil shielding.

A gigbag comes included with the guitar.

Arvo Guitars covers its instruments with a lifetime warranty granted to the original owner. An additional incentive comes in the guise of a 50 € donation for every guitar sold to the Finnish section of Save the Children.

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The Arvo Electric Guitar is really light as a feather, yet, thanks to its design, it doesn’t suffer from neck heaviness.

In keeping with the Arvo’s classic looks the neck profile has been chosen to appeal to a wide range of guitarists. The profile is a chunky C, quite close in spirit to a late-Fifties Gibson, and good for sustain and long playing sessions. The 12-inch fretboard radius, along with the well-chosen narrowish, but medium-height frets, make for a very positive playing feel that will make you want to keep on playing.

The Arvo’s high-quality, resonant woods and the Graph Tech-hardware combine to give the guitar a loud and strident acoustic voice and plenty of harmonically rich sustain.

Amped up, much of the tone naturally hinges on the pickup type you choose for your own guitar. You could go double humbucker for a creamy and powerful voice, or maybe drop in a bridge single-coil to do a Keef or an Andy Summers.

Our review sample came with a pair of P-90 pickups, which gives you plenty of that juicy, but gritty classic Townshend and early Santana vibe. The neck pickup is warm and multidimensional, the mixed position clucky, and the bridge pickup wiry, but never thin.

Here’s a clean clip recorded direct with a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo:

For the demo song I miked up my Juketone True Blood and Bluetone Shadows Jr. combos with a Shure SM57. No overdrive pedals were used. The tremolo guitar part uses Bluetone’s new Harmonic Tremolo pedal.

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In my view Arvo Guitars has achieved what Petri Matero and Teemu Korpi set out to do; here we have a handcrafted electric guitar, made in Finland, offered at a very reasonable price.

The Arvo Electric Guitar doesn’t want to be a boutique guitar that stuns you with its figured woods, its upmarket cosmetics, and esoteric pickups. This is a straightforward, high-quality tool for the working musician, meant to be played and gigged a lot.

Actually, I liked the review guitar so much that I had to buy it.

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Arvo Electric Guitar

1,240 € as reviewed (includes gigbag); Duesenberg Les Trem optional (+ 150 €)

Contact: Arvo Guitars

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Pros:

+ handcrafted in Finland

+ workmanship

+ fretwork

+ playability

+ sound

+ value-for-money**Save

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24/09/2019

Review: PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple

PRS Guitars have recently introduced a Europe-only special edition of their SE Custom 24 model – the PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple Neck (price in Finland: 899 €), which is available in four very tasty finishes.

The Custom 24 is the foundation of PRS Guitars’ model range and the starting point of the company’s success story. Paul Reed Smith’s first handmade guitars were basically carved top, humbucker-equipped, deluxe versions of Gibson’s late-50s Doublecut Les Paul Special, not unlike Hamer Sunbursts. Mr Smith knew, when he started his guitar company, that he wanted to come up with a guitar that was truly his own brainchild.

This guitar was the PRS Custom 24, a model which fuses certain Fender elements (the double cutaway body and the vibrato bridge) with the glued neck, mahogany body and general aesthetics the Gibson Les Paul was known for. The 25-inch scale lies halfway between Gibson and Fender, while the improved vibrato, the straight string pull headstock and many cosmetic touches, such as the bird inlays, the deep treble cutaway chamfer, and the faux binding, were all Paul Reed Smith’s own designs.

PRS’ successful SE (= Student Edition) range is made in South Korea, which is where the special edition models come from, too. The Roasted Maple’s body stays faithful to the original by combining a contoured mahogany back with a carved maple top. To keep costs down the beautiful quilted maple front is a thin veneer on top of a plain maple top. The faux binding is achieved by masking the top’s rim prior to colour staining. The masking tape is then removed before the final clear coats are applied.

What makes this special edition special indeed is the neck:

Instead of mahogany topped with a rosewood fretboard, the Custom 24 Roasted Maple uses thermo-treated (aka torrefied or baked maple) as the material for both the set neck and the fingerboard. The theory behind the pressure cooker-type thermo treatment is that the heat and steam applied turns new wood into wood that closely resembles decades old, well-seasoned wood in terms of its look, and more importantly, its physical properties.

The fingerboard sports 24 gleaming, medium-sized frets, as well as black versions of PRS’ famous bird inlays. The smooth and well-cut nut is self-lubricating for optimum return to pitch.

The Custom 24 Roasted Maple’s twin humbucker’s are the newest SE-version of PRS’ US-made pickups, called the 85/15S. PRS promises that these ceramic pickups deliver an excellent mix of high output levels and juicy tones.

The 85/15S pickups are connected to a three-way blade switch and a master volume and master tone. A push/pull-switch in the tone control splits both humbuckers into single-coil mode.

PRS’ patented vibrato bridge is much chunkier than vintage designs, and it also features a push in arm with adjustable tension.

Naturally, PRS also includes their high-quality SE-gigbag with the Custom 24 Roasted Maple.

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The only small gripe I have with the review sample, is the guitar’s weight. Mind you, we’re not talking 1970s millstone Strats or Les Pauls here, but this particular guitar is heavier that I would have expected.

The workmanship, the quality of the finish, and the set-up puts PRS’ SE models in a league of their own, and the new Roasted Maple-version of the Custom 24 is no exception. The finish and fretwork are flawless, the action (with the supplied set of .009s) extremely slinky, yet completely buzz-free, and the floating vibrato works smoothly and without any tuning hiccups.

Even after all these years in the business I still find PRS Guitars’ neck profile names highly confusing. The company calls the carve on the Roasted Maple guitar a ”Wide Thin” neck. To me this always sounds like an early-Nineties super flat Superstrat neck, when in fact the SE Custom 24’s neck profile is slightly oval, well-rounded and of medium depth.

I don’t know it’s only my mind playing tricks, but to me it sounds like the maple neck adds a tiny bit of zing to this guitar’s acoustic tone. There’s a tiny amount of added ”Strattiness” in the mix, if you like.

Although I tend to be more in favour of low-to-medium output humbuckers, I have to admit that the PRS 85/15S units sound rather juicy, in spite of their high output. Thanks to the volume control’s treble bleed circuit you can really use the Custom 24’s controls to their fullest effect, without compromising your tone. The option to split the humbuckers for more wiry tones is an additional plus.

The first clip is an example of the PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple’s basic sounds. It starts off with the humbuckers split:

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The special edition PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple Neck is a worthy addition to the company’s SE-range. If you’ve ever fancied a mid-priced PRS with a set maple neck, here’s your chance.

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PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple Neck

899 € (including gigbag)

Distribution: EM Nordic

Thanks to DLX Music Helsinki for the loan of the review guitar!

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Pros:

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ versatility

+ sound

Cons:

– review guitar a little bit heavy

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18/09/2019

Guitar Porn: Arvo Guitars – Arvo

Contact: Arvo Guitars or Captain SoundsSave

17/09/2019

PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple – the Kitarablogi-video

16/09/2019

Arvo Guitars – Now on Soundcloud!

Arvo Guitars – Arvo 2 x P-90

• handcrafted in Finland

• Finnish poplar body

• khaya ivorensis neck, bolt-on

• walnut fretboard

• 25.5″ scale

• Wilkinson tuners

• Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece

• two humbucker-sized P-90 pickups

• three-way switch

• master volume, master tone

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Demo Song

• No overdrive pedals used!

• All guitar tracks recorded using a Juketone True Blood (Fender Tweed Champ clone) and a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo.

• ”Spaghetti Western” style guitar played through a Bluetone Harmonic Tremolo pedal into the Juketone combo.

• Microphone used: Shure SM57

12/09/2019

Review: Bluetone Bass 200

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Finnish boutique amplifier makers Bluetone have recently introduced a compact bass combo – the Bluetone Bass 200 (1,450 €).

The Bass 200 is a modern hybrid bass amplifier that combines an all-valve preamp section with a compact and efficient Class-D power amp. The preamp’s architecture is based on four tubes (2 x ECC82/12AU7, 1 x ECC83/12AX7 & 1 x EF86), while the modern power amp section and the combo’s light poplar plywood cabinet result in a low weight of only 12 kilograms.

Another factor in keeping the combo’s weight player-friendly is Bluetone’s choice of speaker – a neodymium-powered Eminence Kappalite 3012HO, with a power handling of 400 W and an impedance of eight ohms.

The combo’s cabinet features two ports in the back, and it comes covered in black textured vinyl.

Thanks to its low weight the amp’s top handle is all you need to move the combo around, and its compact size (W= 42.5 cm, H= 52.5 cm, D= 29.5 cm) means it will fit in a car’s boot easily.

I very much like the business-like look of the Bass 200’s control panel, which means it’s very easy to find you way around the amp’s features.

The Bluetone Bass 200 offers separate knobs for preamp gain (Volume) and power amp output (Master). The active three-band EQ (plus Bright-switch) offers three-way selectable mid-band rotary switch, with centre frequencies of 300 Hz, 500 Hz and 1 kHz. The Mute-switch is a handy addition, which should be made a regular feature on any bass amplifier.

The Bluetone Bass 200 may be compact, but it is still fully spec’ed:

Around the back we find a switchable effects loop with its corresponding level control, an adjustable balanced, line level DI output (XLR), and Speakon and phone jack speaker outputs. Many bass combos have the speaker cable soldered to the internal speaker, which can be a real pain if the cable gets damaged. Bluetone’s Bass 200 goes the professional route, using a short high-quality speaker cable, which connects the back panel’s output to a sturdy phone jack on the combo’s back wall.

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The Bluetone Bass 200 offers plenty of clean headroom, but should you desire a little overdrive or some genuine valve distortion the combination of the Volume and Master controls will happily oblige. In terms of the drive character the Bass 200 is clearly more of an ”old school” amp, dishing out plenty of Ampeg-style tube goodness. For modern metal tones I’d probably suggest you use an appropriate distortion pedal.

In my mind a bass amp’s EQ-section should be a tool to fine-tune the amp’s tone to your personal taste and/or the room and playing situation you’re faced with, and not, as in some lesser amps, to make up for the amplifier’s tonal deficiencies. Bluetone’s Bass 200 scores full marks in this respect – even with the three-band EQ’s controls set to 12 o’clock the bass sound is great and well-balanced. This combo keeps the different tonal characters of different bass models intact, freeing up the EQ-section for additional tweaking.

Despite its name, the Bluetone Bass 200 actually delivers 250 watts of output power connected to the combo’s own Eminence speaker. This is more than enough power to use the combo ”as is” for most of the smaller and medium-sized venues most working bassist play in these days. And if you need to be louder, the excellent DI output will send the combo’s signal to a PA system.

The first clip features a Jazz Bass played fingerstyle:

I used a plectrum to play my Rickenbacker 4003:

And here’s an example of the Bass 200’s distorted sound, played with a short scale Squier Vista Musicmaster Bass:

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The Bluetone Bass 200 is a great choice if you want a compact and lightweight professional bass combo. No, this isn’t a cheap mass-produced bass combo from China, but I feel that for a handcrafted Finnish amplifier the price tag is really rather moderate.

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Bluetone Bass 200

1,450 €

Contact: Bluetone Amplifiers

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Pros:

+ handcrafted in Finland

+ size

+ weight

+ features

+ soundSave

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11/09/2019

Bluetone Bass 200 – the Kitarablogi-video

10/09/2019

PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple – Now on Soundcloud

PRS SE Custom 24 Roasted Maple

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04/09/2019

Now on Soundcloud: Bluetone Bass 200

Here are two demo clips of the Bluetone Bass 200 hybrid combo (valve preamp & Class D power amp).

• Jazz Bass (fingerstyle) – Based on the song ”Did I Hear You Say You Love Me” by Stevie Wonder

• Rickenbacker (plectrum) – Based on the song ”Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney & Wings

Amp recorded combining the built-in DI Output with the signal coming off a Shure SM57.

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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29/08/2019

Testipenkissä: Edwards EX-125D ja SA-160LTS

Japanilainen ESP Guitars on yksi maailman isoimmista kitaravalmistajista, ja etenkin Rock- ja Metalkitaristien keskuudessa arvostetaan firman luomuksia kovasti. ESP on kuitenkin paljon monipuolisempi yritys, kun mitä eurooppalaisesta näkökulmasta ehkä luullaan, sillä jotkut yrityksen alamerkeistä ovat saatavilla ainoastaan Japanissa – tunnetuimmat niistä ovat varmasti Grass Roots ja Edwards.

Edwards Guitars on ESP:n vintage-tietoinen laatubrändi ja sen mallisto tehdään Japanissa.

Edwards EX-125D (1.139 €; gigbägi kuuluu hintaan) on Edwardsin näkemys päivitetystä Gibson Explorerista, jolla on virtaviivaistettu säädinosasto ja aktiiviset mikit.

Edwards SA-160TLS (1.460 €; laukku kuuluu hintaan) näyttää vuoden 1964 Gibson ES-335:n (Clapton!) suoralta kopiolta, mutta todellisuudessa mallista löytyy yksi ratkaiseva ero esikuvaansa nähden.

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Kun kävin noutamassa testikitarat Musamaailman päämajasta, piti oikein tarkistaa oliko EX-125D:n topatussa pussissa varmasti kitara. Edwardsin versio aiheesta on selvästi kevyin Explorer-tyylinen kitara, joka minulla on ollut käsissäni tähän mennessä!

EX-125D tehdään miltei kokonaan mahongista – vain soittimen otelauta on pau ferro -nimisestä jalopuusta.

Kaulaliitos ja muut rakenteelliset seikat ovat hyvin uskollisia Gibsonin klassikolle. Edwards on kuitenkin päättänyt jättää alkuperäismallin isokokoiset pleksit käyttämättä, minkä vuoksi EX-125D:ssä myös kolmiasentoinen mikkikytkin on siirretty diskanttisarvesta tallan läheisyyteen.

Testikitaran ohut mattamusta viimeistely (Stain Cloudy Black) jättää mahongin syykuviot kauniisti esille.

Klassiseen lätkämailalapaan on asennettu laadukkaat, mustat Gotoh-virittimet, sekä luusta veistetty satula.

Myös soittimen talla ja kieltenpidin tulevat Gotoh:n tuotannosta.

Mikrofoneiksi on valittu kaksi aktiivista Seymour Duncan Blackouts -humbuckeria, jotka on kehitetty nimenomaan nykyaikaista Metallia soittavan kitaristin tarpeisiin.

Edwards EX-125D:n hintaan kuuluu myös laadukas topattu kantopussi.

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Edwards SA-160TLS näyttää vanhalta ES-335-kitaralta, mutta sen ominaisuuksissa on yksi hyvin ratkaiseva ero – kitaran kaikukoppaan on käytetty kaiverrettua kokopuista vaahteraa kannessa ja pohjassa, perinteisen vanerikopan sijaan.

Perinteisesti Gibsonin ES-335 – ja sen sukulaiset, kuten ES-330, ES-345 ja ES-355 – käyttävät muotoon prässättyä vaneria, tavallisesti kolme tai neljä kerrosta vaahteraa (joskus löytyy myös poppelia keskikerroksissa, riippuen mallista ja vuosimallista). Edwards SA-160TLS taas on tehty kalliin orkesterikitaran tapaan kaivertamalla kitaran kanta ja pohja kokopuisista vaahtera-aihioista. Vaan kaikukopan reunat on tässäkin edelleen muotoiltu höyryprässätystä vanerista.

Vastapainoksi kokopuisen vaahteran soundilliseen tuoreuteen, Edwards käyttää tässä soittimessa mahonkista keskipalkkia. Kanteen ja pohjaan on jätetty keskipalkkia varten sisäpuoleen pienet ”askelmat”, niin ei tarvita tässä mallissa perinteisiä kuusikaistaleita kopan ja palkin väliin.

Erittäin kaunis puolihimmeä kirsikanpunainen viimeistely on Edwardsin versio Gibsonin VOS-viimeistelystä, minkä ansiosta SA-160TLS näyttää vanhahtavalta myös täysin ilman naarmuja.

Reunalistoitettu otelauta on pau ferroa, yläsatula aitoa naudanluuta ja soittimen virittimet ovat Gotoh:n valmistamia.

SA-160TLS varustukseen kuuluu vintage-tyylinen Gotoh-talla, jossa rautalangasta tehty jousi pitää tallapalojen ruuvit paikoillaan.

Tähän Edwardsiin on asennettu aavistuksen vintagea tehokkaammat humbuckerit – kaulamikiksi on valittu Seymour Duncanin Jazz-malli, kun taas tallamikrofonina toimii Custom 5 -humbuckeri.

SA-160TLS:n hintaan kuuluu laadukas kova kotelo.

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Koska Explorer-tyylisissä kitaroissa, niin kuin Edwards EX-125D:ssä, on iso ja kulmikas runko, ne eivät ehkä ole luontevin valinta sohvakitaraksi, mutta seisten tämän kitaran kevyt olemus on selvä plussa.

Työnjälki on ensiluokkainen ja säädöt olivat testikitarassa kohdillaan. Kaulaprofiiliksi on valittu pyöreä, mutta maltillisen paksu C – Gibson-fanit kutsuisivat tätä 60-luvun profiiliksi. Edwards EX-125D:n kaula tuntuu hyvin nopealta, ilman 1990-luvun vauhtikaulojen ylimääräistä leveyttä tai ohuutta.

Vaikka tämän kitaran ulkomuoto on 60 vuotta vanha, vaikuttavat mallin aktiiviset mikrofonit siihen, että Edwardsin soundi on nykyaikainen. Duncanin Blackouts-humbuckerit tarjoavat runsaasti lähtötehoa ja selkeyttä, eikä ne ulise runsaalla gainella, mikä tekee niistä hyvän valinnan nyky-Metallille.

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Kitaraklassikoista ES-335 on – Fender Stratocasterin ohella – yksi monipuolisimmista sähkökitaroista, joka kelpaa lähes kaikille genreille Jazzista Bluesiin tai Countrysta Rockiin.

Edwardsin SA-160TLS on erittäin tyylikäs versio ES-335:stä, jossa yhdistyy 1960-luvun kosmetiikka ja 1950-luvun soittotuntuma. Kaulaprofiiliksi on nimittäin valittu vuoden 1959:n Gibson profiili, joka on melko paksu ja pyöreä.

Työnjälki on loistava ja säädöt olivat kohdillaan. Tämäkin Edwards on kevyt kitara.

Akustisesti SA-160TLS soi hivenen verran kirkkaammalla äänellä kuin mitä odottaisi hyvältä puoliakustiselta. Vahvistimen läpi tämä pieni ero kuitenkin häviää, ja Edwardsin ja referessikitaran väliset pienet soundilliset erot johtuvat varmaan enemmän soittimien eri mikrofoneista kuin niiden perusäänistä.

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Sääli, että Edwardsit ovat – ainakin tähän mennessä – olleet Suomessa hyvin harvinaista herkkua. Tämän testin perusteella Edwards-kitarat nimittäin vaikuttavat hyvin laadukkailta soittimilta, ja myös niiden hinta on varsin kohtuullinen.

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Edwards EX-125D & SA-160TLS

EX-125D – 1.139 €; topattu pussi kuuluu hintaan

SA-160TLS – 1.460 €; kova laukku kuuluu hintaan

Maahantuoja: Musamaailma

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Plussat (molemmat mallit):

+ työnjälki

+ ominaisuudet

+ soundi

+ hinta-laatu-suhdeSave

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