I’d guess this will change soon, because this ambitious Chinese acoustic guitar maker is not content with simply copying other people’s designs and building techniques. Mayson’s chief designer Alex Wang has come up with many structural improvements and updated manufacturing methods to make a better steel-string guitar.
Key changes include Mayson’s patented bolt-on neck joint, their own special top bracing pattern, and deeper bodies for a richer sound.
Mayson Guitars’ Finnish distributor NordSound kindly supplied us with a Mayson M3/OCE for this review.
The Mayson M3/OCE (price in Finland: 558 €; incl. gig bag) comes from the company’s Luthier Series and is a Mayson Marquis-sized (Grand Auditorium) cutaway model with a built-in pickup and preamp system.
The M3/OCE is an extremely beautiful steel-string with a richly grained solid ovangkol top, and laminated ovangkol sides and back. Ovangkol is a non-endangered African relative of rosewood.
The Mayson’s neck is crafted from mahogany and topped with an Indian rosewood fingerboard sporting narrow frets.
Mayson uses its own special style of open gear machine heads.
The tuners are sunk into the back of the headstock to prevent any sideways movement of the machine heads.
The M3/OCE comes with a top nut and a compensated bridge saddle both made from genuine bone.
Our review instrument comes with Mayson’s own MPC-6 Purecoustics pickup system.
The preamp offers you three unobtrusive knobs to adjust your sound – volume, bass and treble.
The only point deduction comes in the guise of a freewheeling battery pouch. The sticky tape holding the velcro supposed to hold the battery pouch in place (next to the neck block) has become unstuck somewhere down the line, leaving the battery hanging from the preamp by its connecting cables.
The M3/OCE comes adorned in tasteful wood binding.
The guitar has received a flawless natural gloss finish.
I must admit to it:
I’m a real sucker for beautiful woods, so the Mayson M3 got me on its side straight away, thanks to its stunning ovangkol soundbox.
But the M3/OCE isn’t only looks! This guitar plays great, not least thanks to its comfortable D-profile neck, and a very decent fret job.
In my view, the best thing about this Mayson is the way it sounds, though. The sound is rich, well-defined, and offers plenty of zing and sparkle. This is a huge sound with fantastic definition, which reminds me of a grand piano.
Mayson’s MPC-6 Purecoustics pickup system also ticks all the right boxes in my opinion, giving you a very decent piezo version of the M3/OCE’s acoustic voice.
Here’s a short clip played fingerstyle and recorded with a single AKG C3000 microphone:
…and the same clip recorded using the guitar’s pickup system:
Here I’ve used a plectrum and the AKG mic:
…and here’s the same piece recorded with the Purecoustics system:
The demo track consists of three different stereo guitar tracks, all recorded with a pair of C3000s:
The Mayson M3/OCE is a fine acoustic guitar with a very decent pickup system at a very fair price. The ovangkol soundbox makes this guitar a real thing of beauty.
I can only recommend you try one out for yourself.
For many guitarists the Vox AC30 is the greatest guitar amp ever made – bar none.
The combo was originally designed for the instrumental group The Shadows, but it became known worldwide as ”The Beatles Amp”. Over the decades, many other guitarists have favoured Vox’ best known design. Users include people like Brian May (Queen), Rory Gallagher and U2’s The Edge. Many Finnish Shadows-/Ventures-style bands (”rautalankka”) also favour the AC30.
Despite their legendary status, vintage Vox AC30s also do have their issues:
This large 2 x 12″ combo weighs quite a lot, making it a little hard to carry alone. Old Voxes also are non-master volume amps, which means that attaining natural distortion comes at the cost of serious sound pressure levels – often too much for small clubs and function gigs. Old AC30s also have all their valves – yes, also the power amp tubes – placed inside an almost completely closed metal chassis. This has led to vintage-Voxes getting an infamous reputation as relatively prone to catching fire.
Boutique amp makers Bluetone (from Helsinki, Finland) have recently come up with their special take on the beloved classic combo. Their new amp is called Bluetone Shadows Reverb, and it comes with a whole number of welcome improvements and modern features.
Bluetone’s Shadows Reverb (reviewed version: 1,950 €) is a single-channel all-valve amp loaded with a genuine spring reverb. The combo represents the company’s view of what constitutes a perfect Top Boost-channel tone, all presented in a much more compact format.
The Shadows Reverb is a class AB amp, and it offers between 15 and 30 Watts of output power, depending on the setting of its built-in Variac.
The combo’s cabinet is made from high-grade plywood. The Shadows Reverb is a good deal smaller and less deep than its classic forebear from the 1960s.
This reduction in heft is due mostly to the use of 10-inch Celestion Alnico Gold speakers in place of the AC30’s 12-inch speaker pair.
The speakers in the Shadows Reverb combo have been ”played in” for a number of hours (using an oscillator) to get rid of the typical tightness of brand-new Alnico Golds.
This Bluetone-combo uses three 12AX7-tubes, and a single 12AT7 in its preamp section.
The power amp runs on a quartet of EL84 valves. The Shadows Reverb is a cathode-biased valve amp, which means that replacing the power amp tubes doesn’t usually necessitate any rebiasing.
Yes, the Bluetone Shadows Reverb is ”just” a single-channel combo, but it is far from a single sound guitar amplifier. In large part this is thanks to the brilliant modern features Bluetone has incorporated into this homage.
The Shadows Reverb offers you two guitar inputs – High and Low – for use with single coil- and humbucker-equipped instruments.
The preamp features a two-band Baxandall EQ-section – with typically interactive controls for Bass and Treble – as well as a three-stage Bass Cut rotary switch, which offers you two fatter alternatives to the famously bright and wiry Vox Top Boost sound.
The onboard spring reverb sounds fantastic and is a real treat to work with, giving you everything from completely dry tones to Surf Music antics.
The power amp section comes with three controls:
Cut allows you to make overall adjustments to the combo’s treble output.
Bluetone’s Master Volume-control is placed after the phase inverter, right at the end of the signal chain. This allows you to get juicy power amp distortion at low volume levels, and with only minimal changes in the amp’s tone.
As mentioned before, the Shadows Reverb comes with a built-in Variac circuit. Although the Variac also has a bearing on the combo’s output level, it works in a completely different way to the master volume, namely by dropping the voltage the power amp runs on. Turning the Variac down will result in a good deal less clean headroom and more power amp sag.
Due to large public interest, I had to return the Shadows Reverb much earlier than anticipated, but I still managed to record two different demo tracks with the Bluetone amp.
The first (clean) track features rhythm guitar tracks played on a Fender Telecaster (left channel) and a 1970s Japanese copy of a Gibson ES-335 (Kasuga; right channel). The lead guitar part was played on a Fender Stratocaster. All guitar tracks have been recorded with an AKG C3000 microphone placed approximately 80 cm from the combo’s front:
The second track (overdriven) has been recorded with a Stratocaster. The distortion comes from the Shadows Reverb (no pedals used), and all tracks have been close-miked with a pair of Shure SM57s:
Bluetone’s Shadows Reverb is an outstanding boutique amp take on the Vox AC30 motif. Like all other Bluetone amps, the Shadows Reverb is carefully handmade in Finland to the company’s strict quality standards. This results in reliable top-drawer tools for the musician, with extremely low levels of hiss and negligible AC hum.
I had a great time test driving this combo. The Bluetone Shadows Reverb simply delivers all it promises with style and panache. The combo weighs approximately half of the original classic (AC30s usually weigh between 31 to 36 kg, depending on their specific vintage and the speakers they come loaded with). The reduced size means you won’t be having any problems lifting this beauty into the boot of a small car, such as a Ford Fiesta.
Thanks to the additional features of this Bluetone combo – like the Bass Cut and the Variac – you will be able to enjoy the great sound of the Shadows Reverb anywhere you want, be it at home or on stage.
Bluetone Shadows Reverb
Prices starting at approx. 1,700 € (reviewed version: 1,950 €)
Monelle kitaristille Voxin AC30-kombo on se yksi ja ainoa varteenotettava kitaravahvistin.
Alun perin brittiyhtye The Shadowsia varten kehitetty AC30 tuli kuuluisaksi The Beatles -vahvistimena, mutta se on löytänyt tiensä monien erityylisten kitaristien backlineen. Tunnetuimpiin käyttäjiin kuuluvat mm. Brian May (Queen), Rory Gallagher sekä U2:n The Edge. Myös Suomen rautalankabändien keskuudessa AC30 kuuluu vakiovarustukseen.
Suosiosta huolimatta vanhoilla AC30-komboilla on myös huonot puolensa:
Isokokoinen, kahdella 12-tuumaisella kaiuttimella varustettu putkikombo on melko painava ilmestys. Vanhoissa Voxeissa ei myöskään ole master volume -säädintä, mikä tarkoittaa sitä että vahvistimen omaa säröä pystyy hyödyntämään asianmukaisesti vain isoissa keikkapaikoissa. Lisäksi vintage-Voxeissa kaikki putket – kyllä, myös pääteputket – on sijoitettu lähes kokonaan suljettuun metallikoteloon, minkä takia vintage-AC30:t voivat (käyttötavasta rippuen) syttyä palamaan herkemmin kuin moni muu vanha kombovahvistin.
Bluetone Shadows Reverb (testattu versio: 1.950 €) on yksikanavainen, jousikaiulla varustettu täysputkikombo, joka lupaa aitoa Top Boost -soundia selvästi pienemmässä paketissa ja nykyaikaisilla ominaisuuksilla höystettynä.
Shadows Reverb on AB-luokan vahvistin, joka tarjoaa 15-30 wattia tehoa, riippuen Variac-säätimen asennosta.
Shadows Reverbin kaiutinkotelo tehdään vanerista, ja se on selvästi pienempi ja litteämpi kuin 1960-luvun esikuvansa.
Pienempi koko on osittain mahdollistettu käyttämällä klassikkokombon 12-tuumaisten kaiuttimien sijaan 10-tuumaisia Celestion Alnico Gold -kaiuttimia.
Shadows Reverbin kaiuttimia on, siniaaltogeneraattoria käyttäen, ajettu sisään useamman tunnin ajan, minkä ansiosta on saatu vähennettyä uusille Alnico Gold -elementeille tyypillistä alkukireyttä.
Tässä Bluetonessa käytetään etuasteessa kolmea 12AX7-putkea, sekä yhtä 12AT7:ää.
Päätevahvistin tuottaa tehonsa neljän EL84-putken voimalla. Shadows Reverb on katodibiasoitu kombo, mikä tarkoittaa sitä, ettei pääteputkia yleensä tarvitse biasoida vaihdon yhteydessä.
Vaikka Bluetone Shadows Reverb on ”vain” yksikanavainen kombo, sen soundimaailma on selvästi laajempi kuin uskoisi. Kiitos siitä kuuluu Bluetonen monipuolisille ominaisuuksille.
Shadows Reverb tarjoaa kaksi kitaratuloa – High ja Low – single coil- ja humbucker-mikrofoneja varten.
Etuasteesta löytyy kaksikaistainen Baxandall-EQ – interaktiivisilla basso- ja diskanttisäädöillä – sekä kolmiasentoinen Bass Cut -bassoleikkuri, joka tarjoaa aidon Vox Top Boost -soundin lisäksi kaksi hieman muhkeampaa vaihtoehtoa.
Reverb-säätimellä hallitaan kombon putkivahvistettua jousikaikua. Kaiun soundi on erinomainen, ja säätimen skaala yltää täysin kuivasta kaikuisaan Surf-vatkaukseen.
Päätevahvistimelle on varattu jopa kolme säädintä:
Cut-säätimellä voidaan säännöstellä kombon kokonaisdiskanttia.
Bluetonen Master Volume -säädin on signaaliketjun loppupäässä (vaihekääntäjän jälkeen), ja sen ansiosta voidaan tuottaa päätesäröä myös pienillä volyymeillä.
Shadows Reverbissä on myös kolmiasentoinen Variac-tehonsäädin. Variac toimii eri tavalla kuin perinteinen master volume -säädin, se nimittäin muuttaa pääteasteen sisäistä jännitettä. Tehoa laskettaessa päätevahvistimen puhdas headroom ja putkikompressio muuttuvat.
Testikombon palautuksen suhteen tuli ylättäen hieman kiire, mutta ehdin kuitenkin äänittää kaksi erilaista demobiisiä Bluetone Shadows Reverbillä.
Ensimmäisessä kappaleessa komppikitarat soitettiin Fender Telecasterilla (vasen kanava) ja vanhalla japanilaisella puoliakustisella (Kasuga, oikea kanava). Soolokitarana toimi Fender Stratocaster:
Toisessa biisissä särösoundi tulee pelkästään kombosta itse. Kaikki raidat on soitettu Stratolla:
Bluetone Shadows Reverb -kombo on erinomainen boutique-luokan muunnelma Vox AC30 -teemasta. Kuten muutkin Bluetone-vahvistimet, Shadows Reverb rakennetaan kokonaan käsin Suomessa tiukkojen laatustandardien mukaan, mistä kielivät mm. kombon erittäin alhainen kohinataso, sekä käytännössä olematon verkkohumina. Vahvistimen laatuun suhteutettuna pidän Shadows Reverbin hintaa erittäin reiluna.
Testikokemuksen perusteella voin vain todeta, että Bluetone Shadows Reverb lunastaa lupauksensa avokätisesti ja tyylikkäästi. Bluetone-kombo painaa lähes tarkalleen puolet vanhan klassikon painosta (AC30 painaa noin 31-36 kg, vuosimallista ja kaiutinvarustuksesta riippuen), ja sen pienempi koko tarkoittaa, että Shadows Reverb mahtuu helposti esimerkiksi Ford Fiestan takakonttiin (kokeiltu on).
Bluetonen lisäominaisuuksien – kuten bassoleikkurin ja Variacin – ansiosta Shadows Reverbin tarjoama soundikattaus on yllättävän laaja, ja kombon erinomaisista soundeista voi nauttia sekä omassa olohuoneessa että keikkalavalla.
When I wrote the original (Finnish) version of this review, the company behind this guitar lead, Spindeco Oy, had been making tentative noises about marketing the cable using the Spin X brand name. Since then I have been informed that Spindeco won’t start marketing this lead, after all. The cable will continue to be sold as the Mad Professor RED Cable – same specifications, different colour.
For the sake of clarity, the English version the review will refer to the product as the Spin X cable, too.
Seldom has there been this amount of Internet chatter and general hysteria about any guitar accessory, as there has been about the Finnish Spin X cable, which is only a guitar lead of approximately 75 cm length, with two giant 1/4-inch connectors (a female input; a male output).
The Spin X cable (sold for 129 € as the RED Cable by Mad Professor) is manufactured by a Finnish company called Spindeco Oy. The cable promises to improve the efficiency of its conductors by means of a nano-electrical phenomenon, known as the electron spin. Special graphite-coated conductors are meant to rearrange the signal-carrying electrons in such a way, that the signal flow is improved. Spindeco claim that the main benefit of this technology in a guitar lead is an improved phase correlation between the different frequency bands of the signal. Apparently, traditional leads tend to pass high frequencies quicker than low frequencies, which tend to arrive at the amplifier with a very tiny time lag.
Using the benefits of the noble search engine, I quickly ascertained that the electron spin is, in fact, no voodoo, but rather generally acknowledged quantum physics. Still, we guitarists are interested in audible results; we ask questions like:
Does the Spin X cable do what it says on the tin? Is there truly a discernible difference in sound? Do I have to own one if I want to be a Tone God?
I was given a Spin X cable for reviewing purposes.
There’s been some rumours about miniature transformers, or buffers, inside the lead’s giant connectors, which is why I had to take a closer look inside. Nope, it’s just a bunch of different conductors – some left unused – attached with traditional soldering tin!
The short length of the Spin X cable has also been the centre of some speculation. Guitarists have been asking: ”Why is it just a short extension cord, instead of a full-length guitar lead?”
Take a closer look at these pictures (click on them for a larger view), and the answer becomes rather obvious:
It seems that Spin X relies on two identical conductors to function in the desired way. One is the hot (signal) conductor, while the other goes to earth (ground). But using this type of cable results in a less-than-ideal setup, when it comes to mains hum and electromagnetic interference.
Traditional guitar cables are built as coaxial leads, where a centre conductor carries the guitar signal. The centre conductor runs inside a layer of insulation, which in turn is covered by one (or several) shields. The shield is connected to ground and serves two purposes – one: its the audio signal’s earth; two: it’s a Faraday cage that shields the signal conductor from extraneous interference, like mains hum.
If you connect only the Spin X cable to an amp, and turn up the volume, you will be greeted by an unacceptable amount of hum and microphonics, but as soon as you plug your regular lead into the Spin X, all the noises disappear. This means that the Spin X needs the traditional, coaxial guitar lead to do away with all the interference.
The Spin X cable seemed reasonably rugged and well made.
The only thing that bothered me in the road-worthiness department were the badly secured strain relief cuffs in both connectors of our review sample.
I wanted to find out, whether you could ”measure” any real speeding up of the guitar signal in the confines of a home studio. I came up with the following setup:
I recorded the acoustic sound of a Fender Stratocaster using an AKG C3000 condenser microphone onto the left channel of a stereo signal, while direct-injecting the high-impedance guitar signal going through a Whirlwind Leader cable into my sound card.
As you can see above, the DI’ed guitar signal (waveform on the bottom) is a tiny bit behind the miked up acoustic sound.
This picture shows clearly that the Spin X doesn’t ”speed up” the guitar signal in any way noticeable in a standard audio sequencer.
The listening test also doesn’t reveal any noticeable differences between using only the traditional lead or adding the Spin X cable. If anything, adding the Spin X might even add a minuscule amount of time lag to proceedings, at least to my ears:
I then recorded a series of sound clips, using my trusty Blackstar HT-1R valve combo. In each clip the first half is played through just the traditional Whirlwind lead, while the second half has the Spin X cable added into the signal chain.
For comparison purposes here’s a clip of a Fender Stratocaster DI’ed into the sequencer (first half Whirlwind only; second half Whirlwind plus Spin X):
A Strat through the Blackstar:
Gibson LP Junior:
Hamer USA Studio Custom:
Gibson Melody Maker SG:
Next I took the Spin X to the guitarist of Rock-Ola & The Freewheelers. Sami Saarinen went through several different vintage and custom shop guitars and amps at band rehearsal volumes – both straight into the amp, as well as using a pedalboard.
The differences in sound between using only a traditional guitar lead and adding the Spin X cable seemed a little bit more pronounced using Sami’s setup at higher volume levels, compared to what I could make out in my home studio.
For the last bit I wanted to make sure that the Spin X cable’s function was not dependent on valve technology:
I borrowed my son’s Marshall MG30CFX combo for a short test run. All sound clips start with only the Whirlwind cable connected; the Spin X comes in at the halfway point.
Fender Telecaster (neck pickup):
Based on my tests I have to state that the Spin X cable really does add a little ”something” to the sound. The Spin X’ effect is more easily spotted with a quality guitar and a quality amp at slightly higher volume levels. It also seems that the tonal effects are more pronounced in singlecoil-equipped guitars – like a Stratocaster, a Telecaster, a Les Paul Junior, or a non-reverse Firebird – than when using humbucker-carrying guitar models.
The Spin X’ ”sound” is similar to the effect a buffer amp has on a long signal chain. You will get a slightly more refined top end, a whiff of added presence and openness, as well as a tighter and more pronounced bass. Strats and Teles will sound a tiny bit more HiFi, while a P-90 pickup will lose a little of its lower-mid congestion.
The Spin X seems to make the signal louder by an inkling, but this could also be a mere psychoacoustic effect, caused by the added presence.
There’s no simple and straight answer to the question, whether the Spin X cable genuinely ”improves” your tone. Many Rockabilly, Punk or Metal guitarists wouldn’t want to make their guitars sound ”more polite”. Some styles and genres simply demand a gritty, unruly top end, and some chunky mid-range grind.
For some tone hounds and sound aesthetes, however – players following the in the footsteps of guitarists, such as David Gilmour, Michael Landau or Eric Johnson – the Spin X cable’s tiny tonal changes might make all the difference.
In any case, it is up to you to decide how much this minuscule fine-tuning of your guitar signal is worth to you.
Spin X Cable
For more info on the Mad Professor RED Cable go HERE.