Posts tagged ‘Bluetone’

14/05/2018

Testipenkissä: Hagström Fantomen

Hagströmin uusi Fantomen on tavallaan nimikkomalli, sillä kitaraa on kehitelty yhteistyössä ruotsalaisen metallibändi Ghost:in kanssa.

Ulkonäöltään Fantomen tuo mieleen vanhan Gibson-klassikon 1970-luvulta, RD:n, jonka suosion rajoitteena silloin toimi Moogin kehittämä aktiivielektroniikka. Hagströmin Fantomen taas on suunniteltu suoraviivaiseksi ja käytännönläheiseksi, mutta monipuoliseksi rock- ja metal-kitaraksi. Tutustutaan siis tarkemmin…

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Hagström Fantomen -mallilla (katuhinta noin 850 €) on mahonkikaula ja suhteellisen ohut mahonkirunko (paksuus: 3,5 cm).

Vaikka Fantomen on saatavilla myös valkoisena tai mustana, minun täytyy sanoa, että testiyksilön sunburst-viimeistely on erittäin näyttävä.

Runko on tehty kahdesta isosta mahonkipalasta, ja sen etupuolta on reunalistoitettu useammalla mustalla ja valkoisella kerroksella. Rungon takapuoleen on veistetty mukavuusviiste.

Hagströmin viritinlapa on jo itse saavuttanut klassikon aseman, samoin kuin virittimien art deco -tyyliset nupit.

Kaikissa Hagström-kauloissa löytyy kaksi erikoispiirrettä:

Firman itse kehittämä Hagström H-Expander -kaularauta on oiva keksintö. Systeemin säädettävä kaularauta on rakennettu metallikiskoon, jolla on H-muotoinen poikkileikkaus. Koko rakennelma istuu kaulapuuhun tehtyyn samanmuotoisen aukon sisällä. H-Expander-järjestelmää varten ei tarvitse poistaa kaulasta niin paljon puuta kuin perinteisille kaularaudoille, mikä parantaa kaulan kestävyyttä, ja samalla myös kitaran soundia ja sustainia.

Hagström on myös jo pitkään käyttänyt ruusupuun ja eebenpuun sijaan firman omaa Resinator-materiaalia otelaudoissaan. Kauan ennen kuin ruusupuun käyttöä rajoitettiin oli Hagström löytänyt tavan yhdistää ohuet puukerrokset hartsin kanssa keinotekoiseksi eebenpuuksi, joka ei rasita maailman sademetsiä.

Fantomenilla on Fender-tyylinen pitkä mensuuri (64,8 cm/25,5″), ja se tarjoaa 22 medium-jumbo nauhaa, sekä loivan 15 tuuman otelautaradiuksen.

Kitaran kromattuun metallitavaraan kuuluu tune-o-matic-tyylinen talla, palkkimainen kieltenpidin, sekä ”Hagström H:lla” koristetut säädinnupit.

Hagström Fantomen -kitarassa käytetään ruotsalaisen mikrofonigurun, Johan Lundgrenin, suunnittelemia Lundgren Designed -humbuckereita.

Kaulamikissä on alnico II -magneetti, kun taas tallamikrofonissa on vahvempi alnico V -vastine.

Gibson-tyylistä säädinjärjestelmää (kaksi volumea, kaksi tonea) on laajennettu tone-säätimiin upotetuilla nostokytkimillä, joilla humbuckerit saa puolitettua.

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Vaikka tämän mallin runko on melko isokokoinen, tuntuu Hagström Fantomen kuitenkin hyvin mukavalta. Testiyksilön paino on vähän keskivertoa kevyempi.

Kaulaprofiiliksi on valittu hoikka D, ja testisoittimen erinomaisen setupin ansiosta Fantomen on erittäin vaivaton soittaa. Nauhatyö on tärkeimmissä kohdissa laadukas, vain viimeiseen kiillottamiseen olisi voitu käyttää hieman enemmän vaivaa ja aikaa. Suoraan kuljetuslaatikosta vedettynä nauhat tuntuvat kielten venytyksissä hieman karhealta, mutta karheus katoaa nopeasti soittamisen kautta.

Minusta päätös käyttää Fantomenissa maltillisen voimakkaita humbuckereita on ehdottomasti hyvä, koska se tekee kitarasta monipuolisemman, dynaamisemman ja kolmiulotteisemman. Fantomen reagoi mallikkaasti soittodynamiikkaan, ja se voi soida sekä pehmeän lempeästi että purevan hyökkäävästi. Mikrofonien puolitus toimii hyvin, kun tarvitsee välillä Fender-tyylisiä soundeja.

Tässä esitetään kitaran pääsoundeja puhtailla vahvistinasetuksilla (käsintehty Bluetone Shadows Jr. -kombo). Täydet humbuckerit tulevat ensimmäisinä:

Demobiisissä käytin sekä Juketone True Blood -vahvistinta (Tweed Champ -klooni) että Bluetone Shadows Jr. -komboa. Biisi on äänitetty ilmain efektipedaaleja:

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Vaikka Fantomen-kitaran takana on yhteistyö metallibändin kanssa, Hagström ei tehnyt sellaista virhettä, että malli olisi kehitetty vain ja ainoastaan metallikitaristeja varten. Fantomen ei ole tylsä huutaja, vaan sen sävyissä löytyy myös pehmeyttä ja syvyyttä. Hagströmin Fantomen on ulkonäöltään selvä rocksoitin, mutta kitara tarjoaa todellisuudessa selvästi laajemman soundimaailman.

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Hagström Fantomen

Katuhinta noin 850 €

Maahantuoja: EM Nordic

Plussat:

+ työnjälki

+ soundi

+ monipuolisuus

+ vastinetta rahalle

Miinukset:

– gigbag ei kuulu hintaanSave

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09/05/2018

Review: Bluetone Load Box

Finnish boutique amp company Bluetone has released a Swiss Army Knife-style lifesaver for valve amp users on stage and in the studio.

The Bluetone Load Box (370 €; incl. 1.5 metre speaker cable) is a professional quality dummy load (100 W/8 Ω) in a very compact format (only slightly larger than a big paperback) that doubles as a DI-box for guitar amps.

As any valve amp user should know, using an amplifier with a valve-driven power amp without a speaker (cabinet) connected – unless expressly allowed by the manufacturer – is a surefire path to disaster. The results of driving an amp without a speaker load can range from the output transformer catching fire to larger-scale component meltdown inside the amp, depending on the volume levels the amplifier is played at, and how quickly the fuses react.

This is where load boxes – also called dummy loads – come in. A load box allows you to run a valve amp safely without any speaker connected, while usually also offering signal attenuation and/or line level outputs. As a result, you are able to direct inject any amp into a PA system or recording equipment, as well as running the amp at full tilt without blasting everybody off the stage.

Doing away with the speaker (cabinet) isn’t as straightforward as you might think, because the impedance stated on a speaker is only nominal. The speaker, being an electromechanical transducer, behaves in a frequency- and signal level-dependent way, which results in dynamically shifting impedance values.

This means that a dummy load is a much more involved design than just a few resistors thrown together. Dummy coils, and a heap of capacitors and resistors are needed to simulate realistically the behaviour of a speaker, to attenuate the speaker signal (by dissipating part of it as heat), and to produce a quality DI-signal.

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Bluetone’s Load Box has a very clear and logical layout:

The left side carries all speaker-related connectors, offering an input, as well as both an attenuated output (Speaker Out) and a straight speaker output (Speaker Through). Why would anyone need two speaker outputs? The answer is simple: If you want to run an isolated cabinet backstage at full speaker output for the FOH engineer, and an attenuated speaker signal for the backline to keep onstage volume levels manageable.

The right side sports two output jacks – one is carrying a headphone signal, while the other one is the balanced output for connection to a mixing console or a soundcard.

The controls and switches are self-explanatory:

Top left is a four-way rotary switch for speaker attenuation, with ”Off” muting the Speaker Out signal completely. I should also mention that you can use the Bluetone Load Box without any speakers connected, regardless of the selector setting.

The middle knob is the headphone level control. Because the Load Box is a completely passive design – meaning there’s no need for any sort of power supply – the output level of the headphone output is directly dependent on the signal level (and wattage) of the connected amplifier. On the early production model used for this review the headphone signal can be a tiny bit on the quiet side, when using a low-wattage amp and power hungry headphones. This is a known issue, and Bluetone will increase the signal level in future.

The line level output offers a healthy output levels. If you need an XLR connector for the Load Box’ balanced output, Bluetone offers a handy adapter for 20 €.

A three-way mini toggle gives you two different types of cabinet simulation – 1 x 12″ and 4 x 12″ – while its two-way counterpart makes it possible to bypass speaker simulation for the Line Out signal.

The Bluetone Load Box’ dummy load and attenuator work really well in dropping volume levels while keeping virtually all of your amp’s tone intact. Now you can run your non-master volume valve amp at pub-friendly levels, without sacrificing your sound.

Bluetone’s DI-output captures your amp’s tone without the need for a speaker cabinet and microphones, which is great news for home recordists and small project studios. The Load Box’ analogue speaker modelling offers a fine solution for capturing your sound with the least amount of fuss.

Here’s what my Fender Strat sounds like played through a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo on clean settings, and recorded with a Shure SM57:

Here’s the same clean example direct recorded with the Load Box set to 1 x 12″:

Here’s a distorted clip with the sound of the Shadows Jr. recorded with the SM57:

And the same clip recorded through the Load Box:

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In my opinion the Bluetone Load Box offers great value for money. Bluetone’s compact Load Box is a product every owner of a valve amp that doesn’t come with output attenuation built in should at least consider adding to his/her equipment.

The clever bit is how Bluetone has managed to fit the different functions into a lightweight, easy-to-carry, handcrafted piece of equipment. The Load Box is a sturdy device that will get the job done with the minimum amount of fuss, and it comes at a fair price.

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Bluetone Load Box

370 € (including a 1.5 metre speaker cable)

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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Pros:

+ handcrafted in Finland

+ lightweight and compact

+ features

+ sound

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07/05/2018

Now on SoundCloud: Bluetone Load Box

Bluetone Load Box

• 100 W/8 Ohm passive, reactive load box
• Four-stage speaker attenuation
• Line level out with analogue speaker emulation
• Headphone output

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Audio clips recorded with a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo (1 x 10″ WGS Green Beret speaker), and the Bluetone Load Box set to 1 x 12″ speaker emulation.

02/05/2018

Bluetone’s ”Gothenburg Special” Fried Eye Played By Tuomas Wäinölä

Finnish top guitarist Tuomas Wäinölä demonstrates a few of the Bluetone Fried Eye Special’s tones using a Bluetone 4 x 10″ cabinet.

Guitars used:

• 1968 Fender Stratocaster

• 1967 Gibson ES-335

• 2013 Gibson Custom Shop ’59 Les Paul Standard

Cable used: UTA Vari-Cap

The audio was recorded with a Shure SM57 and an AKG C414 plugged into a UTA MPDI-4 running into Pro Tools HD.

For additional audio clips go to: http://www.bluetone.fi/fried-eye/

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Audio recorded and produced by Tuomas Wäinölä at Sunbeam Imperial Studio.

Video filmed and edited by Martin Berka for Bluetone Custom Amplifiers.

23/04/2018

Testipenkissä: Halla Custom Hallabird

Näin Halla Customin Hallabird-kitaran ensi kertaa vuoden alussa pidetyssä Tonefestissä, jossa se oli esillä soitinrakentaja-artesaani Ville Mattilan ständillä samantyylisen basson kanssa.

Siitä bassosta koko Hallabird-ajatus lähti alun perin liikkeelle. Ville oli rakentanut omaan käyttöönsä Gibson Thunderbirdiltä vaikutteita saaneen sähköbasson. Ville sai keikoilla niin paljon myönteistä palautetta uudesta bassostaan, että hän päätti tehdä samoilla designperiaatteilla myös sähkökitaran.

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Halla Customin Hallabird (3,700 €; mm. kova laukku kuluu hintaan) on käsintehty kaula-läpi-rungon kitara täydellisellä natural-viimeistelyllä.

Kitaran kaula on kasattu yhdeksästä vierekkäisestä puurimasta, jossa afrikkalainen mahonki (khaya ivorensis) ja pähkinäpuu vuorottelevat. Kaulan perusrakenne on siis hyvin Gibson-tyylinen, mutta mensuurin suhteen Hallabird lähtee omille teilleen. Tässä custom-kitarassa on nimittäin erikoispitkä mensuuri (kielten soivan osan pituus), joka on 67 senttimetreillä kaksi senttiä Strato-mesuuria pidempi.

Kitaran tyylikäs ja solakka runko muodostuu kahdesta khaya-palasta.

Hallabird-mallin mustat metalliosat tulevat Gotohilta. Soittimen messinkisatula lisää avoimien kielten soittoon hieman diskanttia. En ole tähän mennessä koskaan kohdannut näin sulavasti muotoiltua messinkisatulaa.

Kaksisuuntaista kaularautaa pääsee säätämään tässä Halla Custom -kitarassa viritinlavalta.

Hallabirdin eebenpuiseen otelautaan on asennettu 24 kiiltävää Jescar Evo jumbonauhaa. Nauhatyön laatu on esimerkillinen. Tällaista laatua on miltei mahdotonta löytää edes kalliimmissa tuotantolinjan soittimissa.

Virittimien tavoin myös Hallabirdin tune-o-matic-talla ja palkkimainen kieltenpidin ovat laadukkaita Gotoh-osia.

Ville Mattila käyttää monissa Halla Custom -malleissa oman pajan mikrofoneja. Hallabirdistä löytyy kaksi P-90-tyylistä mikkiä, jotka on sovitettu taitavasti EMG-tyylisiin muovikuoriin. Yhteiskäytössä mikit toimivat humbuckerin tavoin. Mikrofonien kultaiset naparuuvit ovat hieno yksityiskohta, joka sopii hyvin yhteen mallin Jescar EVO -nauhojen ja afrikkalaisen mahongin kanssa.

Hallabirdin säätimissä piilee vielä yksi mielenkiintoinen yksityiskohta. Kitaran kolmiasentoinen vipukytkin ja myös sen mastervolume (ilman treble-bleediä) toimivat odotetusti, mutta toisen mustan nupin alta paljastuukin kolmiasentoinen kiertokytkin. Ville kutsuu tätä kytkintä impedanssikytkimeksi, joka vaikuttaa sekä kitarasignaalin diskanttipitoisuuteen että volume-säätimen käyttäytymiseen. Impedanssikytkimellä pystyy siis hienovirittämään volume-säätimen tuntumaa omaan musiikkigenreen ja vahvistimeen sopivaksi.

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Halla Customin Hallabird on helvetinmoinen kitara. Ville Mattila on onnistunut luomaan sellaisen soittimen, joka näyttää samalla tutulta ja tuoreelta. Kitara on samanaikaisesti hillitty ja huomiota herättävä tapaus. Työnjälki on ensiluokkaista pienintä yksityiskohtaa myöten.

Pitkiä sessiot tai keikat eivät tunnu missään, koska Hallabird on niin kevyt. Non-reverse rungon ansiosta Hallabirdin tasapaino hihnassa on myös hyvin mukava, erikoispitkästä kaulasta huolimatta.

Kaulaprofiili on mukavan lihaksikas ja pyöreä, ilman että se tuntuisi kömpelöltä. Erinomaisen nauhatyön ja loistavan trimmin ansiosta kitaran kymppisetti tuntuu erittäin nopealta ja kevyeltä. Veikkaisin, että tällaisella setupilla monet soittajat eivät edes huomaisi testikitaran pidempää mensuuria. Asiakas pystyy kuitenkin tilaamaan oman unelmakitaransa omien speksien mukaan.

Hallabirdissä on tarkka, pianomainen atakki, sekä pitkä ja tasainen sustain. Kielten välinen erottelevuus on ensiluokkainen, jopa hyvin tiheitä sointuja soitettaessa. Soundissa on erinomainen balanssi lämmön ja avoimuuden välillä.

P-90-tyyliset mikrofonit ovat oiva valinta, jos hakusessa on humbuckerin soundillinen leveys ja voima yhdistettyinä yksikelaisen mikin dynamiikkaan. Vaikka sen ulkonäkö on melko ”rock”, pystyy Hallabirdillä kuitenkin liikkumaan ongelmitta myös kantrimusiikin tai Jazzin piireissä.

Nämä kaksi ääniklippiä on äänitetty 1980-luvun Boss SD-1 säröpedaalilla ja Bluetone Shadows Jr. -putkikombolla:

Demobiisissä käytin komppikitaroissa 80-luvun Ibanez SC10 chorusta, sekä Morleyn M2 Wah -pedaalia soolo-osuuksissa. Vahvistin oli tässäkin Shadows Jr.:

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Halla Customin Hallabird on hyvin kaunis ja erittäin hyvin soiva käsintehty sähkökitara, joka on suomalaisen kitararakennuksen huipputason loistokas hedelmä. Hallabirdin Rock-asenteen takana löytyy hyvin monipuolinen soitin vaativalle soittajalle.

Luonnollisesti, tällaisella huippulaadulla on aina myös hintansa. Mutta vastineeksi saa tässä aidon boutique-luokan soittimen, jonka takana seisoo osaava ja omistautunut käsityöläinen.

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Halla Custom Hallabird
Käsintehty kaula-läpi-rungon kitara

3,700 € – hintaan sisältyy: kova laukku, boutique-luokan kitarajohto, laadukas hihna (Schaller-lukoilla), yksi ilmainen säätökäynti (6-12 kk jälkeen), sekä elinikäinen tekninen tuki

Lisätiedot: Halla Custom Instruments

Plussat:

+ suomalaista käsityötä

+ työnjälki

+ soitettavuus

+ soundi

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Halla Customsin Ville Mattila on Suomen Soitinrakentajien Killan jäsen.HmSave

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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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23/03/2018

Now on Soundcloud: The TOOB

Contact: TOOB

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

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

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