• Very limited edition
• Handcrafted in Japan
• AAAAA flame maple top
• Seymour Duncan Antiquity Humbucker set
• Push/push switches in tone controls for coil-splitting
**** Demo Track
• Rhythm guitar – both pickups in split mode
• Lead guitar – starts with split neck pickup; second pass with full neck pickup
• Amp used – Juketone True Blood (handwired 5F1 Champ-clone)
• Recorded with a Shure SM57
If you’ve always lusted for a hand-soldered guitar amp you were left with two options until quite recently:
You could either buy an expensive boutique/custom shop amplifier, or – if you’re handy with a soldering iron – opt for a DIY amp kit.
Now there’s a third choice for those of us neither well-heeled nor technically savvy:
British company Juketone offers a range of tasty Fender tweed inspired, hand-wired guitar amplifiers at very moderate prices, thanks to Chinese production and selling direct via the Internet.
The Juketone True Blood (250 £; introductory offer for a limited time only) is the company’s smallest combo.
The True Blood is based on Fender’s legendary 1950s Tweed Champ (specifically the 5F1 version), with a few small tweaks.
Tweed Champs have been built with several differently shaped cabinets over the Fifties, depending on their exact vintage. The True Blood comes in the all-straight cabinet seen on most mid-Fifties originals, while Fender’s current Custom Shop version features the later angled front.
The tweed covering on our review sample was very neat and crisp.
The combo’s cabinet is made of plywood, except for the back covers, which looked (and felt) like MDF-board.
The two most important differences between a vintage Champ and Juketone’s True Blood combo lie in the speaker-type and rectifier valve choices.
In addition to the two audio signal valves – a Ruby Tubes 12AX7 and a 6V6GT – Juketone has chosen a slightly less-known 6Z4 rectifier tube. The 6Z4 used in Juketone amps is a Chinese version (aka the Sino 6Z4) that is not compatible with the American rectifier valve of the same name.
Jensen has traditionally been the speaker brand of choice for vintage tweed amps, but their bass response very often sounds a bit flabby by modern standards. In my opinion, Juketone has made a very good decision in choosing a more British-voiced speaker for their True Blood combo. The eight-inch Celestion Super 8 could be described as an alnico-driven version of their popular Eight 15.
Inside the metal amp chassis you will be greeted by high quality components and clean workmanship. This is genuine hand-soldering using soldering lugs riveted to a fibreglass board.
You’d be foolish to expect the wiring to be on the same, insanely high level – in terms of its neatness – as generally seen on boutique-grade amps, but the True Blood is definitely in line with Juketone’s ”affordable boutique” ethos.
Maybe the most important part in the charm of a 5F1-type Champ (or Champ clone) is the directness of this small combo’s approach to tonal nirvana. There’s no master volume, no tone control, no effects – just a single volume control, and the straightest signal path from input jack to speaker known to mankind.
To some, this type of diminutive Fifties practice amp looks like it’s hopelessly ancient, but the Tweed Champ still has a lot of fans.
The Juketone True Blood’s secret to success lies in the combo’s interactive behaviour. The most traditional way to use the True Blood would be to dial in the maximum amount of volume (and distortion) needed, and then control the amp using the guitar’s own volume and tone controls. Thanks to the naturally rich compression this combo produces when pushed, turning down the guitar volume for cleaner sounds will result in less of a volume drop than expected. Here’s a short clip using a double humbucker guitar (Hamer USA Studio Custom):
If you need more clean headroom from your True Blood (Blues harpists, listen up) than what the factory 12AX7 has to offer, you could easily drop in one of a number of ”cooler” 12A_7-family replacements, such as a 12AU7 or a 12AT7.
Here are three clips of a Fender Telecaster, a Gibson Les Paul Junior and a Hamer Studio Custom, respectively, with their bridge pickups selected. Each clip has been recorded with the combo’s volume control set to ”6”, ”8”, ”10” and ”12”, using a Shure SM57:
The Juketone True Blood’s low volume and tasty compression make this combo an excellent choice for use in the (home-) studio. Just add a little EQ and compression, and season the result with a bit of reverb and/or delay during mixdown, and you’ll be surprised at how big this little chap really sounds:
I can only recommend Juketone’s True Blood warmly for use as a living room and recording amp.
Laying your hands on a hand-wired tweed-style combo has never been so easy or affordable. The warm, big bass response of the Celestion speaker is a definite improvement, at least in my book!
This Juketone combo is a serious alternative to your run-of-the-mill mass-produced practice. It sounds pure and sweet. A hand-soldered combo, such as this, is also far easier to repair (or modify) than a PCB-based design.
The classical (aka nylon-string or Spanish guitar) is still a very popular instrument. Many guitarists start their musical journey on an affordable classical guitar.
This is why Kitarablogi.com decided to do a little round-up of a cross section of nylon-string acoustic in the all-important price segment of 250-400 euros. These days you can get a decent instrument with a solid wood top for a moderate outlay.
A solid top is an important ingredient in an acoustic guitar, played regularly the top will ”come to life” and mature to its full tonal potential. It’s true, you can make music on a plywood-topped acoustic, too, but such a guitar’s tone and volume will always stay somewhat restricted.
The father of the classical guitar was Spanish cabinet maker and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado (1817-1892). Torres came up with the final shape of the Spanish guitar, the basic construction principles (like the top bracing pattern or the separate bridge saddle), and his choices of materials still inform and influence builders to this day.
Torres mostly used cedar for his necks and rosewood for his fretboards. Most of his tops were made from solid spruce. His choice of sound box woods was more varied, though. His back and sides were made from rosewood, mahogany, (flame) maple, and cypress.
Because cypress was a much cheaper wood in Torres’ time than, say, rosewood, cypress body instruments were usually the least expensive. Most flamenco guitarists of that time were cash-strapped, which is why they tended to play Torres’ cypress guitars. This, in turn, is the reason why many flamenco guitars are still made with cypress backs and sides today.
Most modern classicals are built with dovetailed glue joints – the neck and sound box are made separately, and only glued together relatively late in the building process.
Torres used a different technique, which is nowadays called a Spanish Heel:
The neck blank and the neck block are made from one piece of wood, with the neck block looking like an angular ”U” or ”L” (viewed from the side). Either side of the neck blank has a deep groove for the rims to be glued into. The neck blank and sides together then constitute a frame for the top and back.
Fans of the Spanish heel claim that this type of construction will give you maximum vibrational transfer and better tone. Distractors, on the other hand, point to the difficulties the Spanish heel will give you, should a neck angle reset ever become necessary. I think I’ll keep on sitting on the fence on this one…
I feel like a sleazy gameshow host writing this, but there aren’t really any losers in this round-up. All ten guitars are real instruments that are well up to the job of making beautiful music.
Still, it is very interesting to take a look at the different ways modern manufacturers use to re-interpret Torres’ time-honoured concept for the modern player.
We will proceed in alphabetical order…
Admira is one of the largest makers of classical guitars in the world.
German-born Enrique (orig. Heinrich) Keller founded an instrument workshop in northern Spain in 1944. Over time Admira has grown from a small maker into a well-known brand.
Admira guitars are distributed by Musamaailma in Finland.
The Admira A5 is an affordable instrument from the Spanish maker’s Handcrafted-series.
The workmanship is crisp and clean. The thin finish brings out the beauty in the A5’s woods. The golden tuning machines with their pearloid knobs add a nice touch of bling. The rosette is unusual, displaying a chain of little guitars in a row.
Admira’s A5 is one of three instruments in this round-up built with a Spanish heel.
The neck profile is genuinely classical, meaning the neck is wide and flat with slightly angular shoulders.
The moderate action results in a very comfortable playing feel.
The Admira A5 has a big voice with an even balance between its chunky bottom end and clear treble attack.
The Malaga is one of the lightest instruments in this review. The workmanship on this cedar-topped beauty is excellent. The affordable nature of this guitar is only reflected in the very clean, but thinner-than-usual (non-kerfed) wooden linings joining the top and back to the sides.
The neck profile on the Admira Malaga is traditional.
The review sample came with a surprisingly low action (for a nylon-string). This makes the Malaga an excellent choice for a beginner, but also a very viable candidate for flamenco players, who prefer a very fast action and a clicking attack.
Despite its very low action the Malaga plays with a clear and strong voice, completely devoid of string buzz or rattles.
Esteve is a very traditionally-minded Spanish maker of classical guitars.
Kantare guitars are designed in Helsinki by the grand old man of Finnish luthiery, Kauko Liikanen.
The special top bracing system sets these guitar apart from any other nylon-string. Instead of the traditional fan bracing (or a variation thereof), Kantares employ the patented LRS-bracing. Kauko Liikanen’s and Uwe Florath’s Lens Resonance System concentrates an oval pattern of braces around the top’s bridge area. The sound is concentrated in a way not dissimilar to an optical lens. LRS adds strength to the bridge area, while letting the rest of the top vibrate more freely than traditional bracing patterns.
Most Kantares are built in Romania. Hora is one of Europe’s largest makers of string- and bowed instruments.
Our review sample sports Kantare’s brand-new arm rest, which is sold separately. The arm rest has been developed to put your plucking arm into a comfortable playing position, as well as to minimise top damping.
The Dolce C hg is a very beautiful, cleanly built instrument.
Apart from the LRS bracing, a common denominator among most Kantare models is a maple neck.
Classical guitars traditionally feature mahogany or cedar necks; on the other hand, most bowed instruments use flame maple necks. The strength and density of maple makes it an enticing choice for use in a classical guitar neck, too, and the Hora factory has a large stock of flame maple.
Kantare’s Hauser-style machine heads are of very decent quality, and work precisely.
The Dolce C hg’s neck profile is noticeably more rounded than a traditional Spanish neck, probably making this neck feel more comfortable for many. To help the beginner with finding the right fret positions, Kantare have included side dots at the fifth and seventh frets.
The Kantare Dolce hg has quite a loud voice and projects nicely. The sound is clear and precise.
The Vivace C is finished using a new German-made (by Hesse Lignal) non-poisonous product, called Proterra Resit. Proterra Resit uses a novel mixture of shellac, oil and carnauba wax.
Shellac (also called French polish) is an organic polymer that has been in use by instrument makers for centuries. Traditional French polish is very time-consuming and work-intensive in use, which is why you’ll find it on only a limited number of handmade instruments. The huge advantage of Proterra Resit lies in the fact that it is quick and easy to apply.
The Kantare Vivace C looks and feels very ”eco” and ”organic”, in the best sense of these terms.
The new finish nicely accentuates the beautiful wood grain of the guitar’s maple neck.
The neck profile is rounder than a traditional classical guitar neck, and there are two side dots (at the fifth and seventh frets) on this Kantare, too.
The Vivace C’s voice is very woody and a little bit dry. You can clearly hear the wood amplifying the string vibrations. The bottom end isn’t overpowering, the mid-range is warm, and the trebles sound open, but never too bright.
LaMancha-instruments are design in Germany and made in China (under German supervision), in the company’s own factory.
LaMancha has managed to become Germany’s best-selling brand of classical guitars over the course of just a few years. Many of their models have already won awards by the European Guitar Teachers Association.
The top’s yellow tint is reminiscent of the look of French polish.
The stark and unadorned rosewood bridge of the GC3-NAT is a stylish contrast to the instrument’s beautifully intricate soundhole rosette.
Takamine is one of the very few makers of Spanish guitars who uses a truss rod inside their nylon-string guitars’ necks.
The GC3-NAT’s neck profile conforms to tradition – it’s wide, flat, and a touch angular. The action is low-ish (for a classical), making for a very comfortable playing feel.
This Takamine needed a bit of breaking in to realise its potential fully, but it was well worth the effort. The GC3-NAT has a beautiful and fluid voice, a clean and open mid-range, as well as a precise attack.
Valencia was a new name to me, even though the company has been in existence since 1972.
Valencia-guitars are designed in Australia, and built in several factories in China and Indonesia.
The spruce-topped Valencia GC50 is probably the most richly ornamented instrument in this review.
There is multi-ply binding on both top and back, with the outermost ply being mahogany.
The back’s centre seam has also been adorned with a mahogany inlay.
The neck of the GC50 is glued together from three side-by-side strips. The middle piece’s grain orientation is reversed to make neck warping less likely.
Valencia’s neck profile is fairly traditional, with just a touch of added roundness.
The action on our review instrument felt a bit high and stiff for my taste (I’m not Andrés Segovia). A guitar repairer (or a reasonably skilled guitarist) shouldn’t have a problem lowering the bridge saddle, though. Shaving off a millimetre, or so, should result in a much better playing feel.
The Valencia GC50’s voice is beautifully lyrical and open. Even in the highest registers the notes still have an astonishing richness and depth.
Classical guitars have always been a very important part of Yamaha Guitars’ wide range of models. The C40 is still the best-selling classical guitar on the planet.
The more recent Concert Series bears testament to Yamaha’s ongoing commitment to research and development.
The Yamaha CG122MS is one of the most affordable Concert Series instruments.
TheCG122MS’s matte finish is applied very thinly, which is great for tone and feels nice, too.
The CG122MS is a lightweight instrument with a slightly more rounded neck profile.
Side dots at the fifth and seventh frets make finding your way around the fingerboard a little bit easier.
The CG122MS plays very well with a nice, traditional action.
The tone is warm and woody. The Yamaha sounds well-balanced, and displays a crisp and clear attack.
The Yamaha CG142S is the only guitar in this round-up that combines a gloss-finished body with a satin-finished neck.
Understated beauty is the thing with the CG142S. This is a very cleanly built guitar.
On this Yamaha, too, the neck profile is a tad more rounded compared to a traditional neck profile. The playability is very comfortable.
The CG142S’s fretboard also has a couple of side dots for easier orientation.
Yamaha’s CG142S sings with a well-rounded, beautiful voice. There’s a healthy amount of clarity in the mid-range.
To summarise I could state the obvious – there are many well-built, well-playing instruments in the 250-400 euro price segment. There should be the right guitar for everyone, depending on finish, neck profile and sound preferences.
Jos on halunnut itselleen uuden, käsinjuotetun putkivahvistimen, vaihtoehtoja on tähän mennessä ollut käytännössä kaksi – joko ostaa kallis boutique- tai custom shop –vahvistin, tai kasata vahvistin rakennussarjan pohjalta.
Brittiläinen Juketone tarjoaa kuitenkin kolmannenkin vaihtoehdon tweed-faneille – edullisia, Fender-henkisiä putkivahvistimia, jotka suunnitellaan Englannissa ja valmistetaan Kiinassa.
True Blood perustuu suurilta osin legendaariseen 1950-luvun Fender Champ -komboon (5F1-versio), johon Juketone on tehnyt pieniä muutoksia.
Tweed-Champeja on rakennettu 1950-luvun eri vaiheissa kolmella eri kaiutinkotelolla. True Bloodin kaiutinkotelo on kokonaan suorakaiteinen (niin kuin 1955/56-malleissa), kun taas Fenderin Custom Shop -versiossa pohja on syvempi kuin kansi (50-luvun lopun versio).
Tweed-kankaalla päällystetty kotelo on valmistettu lähes täysin vanerista, lukuun ottamatta takalevyjä, jotka ovat kuitulevyä.
Tärkeimmät erot vanhan Champin ja Juketonen True Bloodin välillä löytyvät tasasuuntaajaputkesta ja kaiuttimesta.
Audio-osaston Ruby Tubes 12AX7- ja 6V6GT -putkien lisäksi vahvistimesta löytyy hieman harvinaisempi kiinalainen 6Z4-tasasuuntaaja, joka ei ole yhteensopiva samannimisen amerikkalaisen putkityypin kanssa.
Vanhoissa tweed-Champeissa on yleensä Jensen-kaiutin, mutta Juketone on valinnut komboonsa selvästi brittiläisemman, kahdeksantuumaisen Celestion Super 8 -mallin, joka on alnico-versio saman valmistajan suositusta Eight 15 -kaiuttimesta.
Metallisen vahvistinkotelon sisältä löytyy kauttaaltaan laadukkaita komponentteja, jotka on juotettu siististi lasikuitulevyn juotoskorviin.
Työnjälki ei kuitenkaan (luonnollisesti) ole aivan samalla viivalla verrattuna esimerikiksi Bluetonen valmistamiin boutique -vahvistimiin, joissa styrkkarin sisälmykset näyttävät suorastaan taideteokselta. Juketone True Blood tarjoaa kuitenkin hämmästyttävän laadukkaan putkivahvistinelämyksen todella edullisesti.
Tärkeä osa 5F1-tyypisten Champien (ja Champ-kloonien) viehätystä on se, että ne tarjoavat soundille suorimman mahdollisen tien kitarasta kaiuttimelle. Ei masteria, ei taajuuskorjaimia, ei efektejä – yksi kanava, kaksi tuloa ja pelkkä volume-säädin, siinä kaikki!
Vaikka tämä 1950-luvun harjoituskombo vaikuttaakin monien silmistä muinaisesineeltä, on Tweed Champillä silti yhä monta ystävää.
Juketone True Blood -kombon salaisuus piilee vahvistimen interaktiivisuudessa. Luontevin tapa käyttää tällaista pikkukomboa on asettaa sen volume-säädin täysille (tai lähes täysille), ja hallita soundia soittimen omilla volume- ja tone-säätimillä. Vahvistimen tuottaman luontaisen kompression ansiosta saadaan eloisia ja täyteläisiä puhtaita soundeja myös pienelle säädetyillä humbuckerilla.
Jos kaipaa True Bloodilta hieman enemmän puhdasta headroomia (esim. huuliharppua vahvistettaessa), kannattaa etuasteessa kokeilla 12AX7-putken sijaan 12A_7-perheen hieman ”heikompia” malleja, kuten esimerkiksi 12AU7 tai 12AT7.
Tällä tavoin soivat Telecasterin, LP Juniorin ja Hamer Studio Customin tallamikrofonit True Blood -kombon kautta. Jokaisessa klipissä kombon Volume-säätimen asennot ovat ”6”, ”8”, ”10” ja ”12”. Taltiointiin on käytetty Shure SM57-mikrofonia:
Juketone True Bloodin pieni teho ja muhkea kompressio tekee kombosta myös oivan työkalun (koti-) studiossa. Hieman kaikua ja kompressiota, sekä pieni ripaus EQ:ta lisämausteiksi miksausvaiheessa, ja lopputulos kuulostaa paljon isommalta ja mehevämmältä kuin uskoisi:
Juketone True Blood on mielestäni oiva valinta suoraviivaista putkikomboa olohuoneeseen tai kotistudioon etsittäessä.
Se on helppo ja edullinen tapa saada itselleen aitoa tweed-tyylistä soundia. Celestion-kaiuttimen tuoma jäntevä keskialue ja muhkea basso ovat minun mielestäni ainoastaan plussaa!
Juketone-kombo on varteenotettava vaihtoehto tavallisille, massatuotetuille pikkukomboille – eikä vain hyvän soundinsa ansiosta. Käsinjuotetun elektroniikan etuja ovat myös helpompi huolto ja modifiointi.