Posts tagged ‘Graph Tech’

21/11/2016

Review: ESP LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N

Playing an acoustic guitar live on stage in a Rock/Pop-band setting is not as easy as one might think. A large acoustic body that has a floor monitor pointing straight at it is a recipe for howling feedback.

There are ways to lessen the danger of feedback, like applying equalisation in strategic frequency bands or using a mechanical sound-hole plug, but the easiest road to pursue, by far, is using a thinline (or even solid-body) acoustic guitar onstage.

ESP offers a model range for just this purpose, called LTD TL (TL = Thinline):

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The steel-string acoustic guitar goes by the model name TL-6.

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The bass guitar is called TL-4.

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And there’s the TL-6N, a nylon-string acoustic guitar.

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Kitarablogi received the bass and steel-string models in their most visually stunning versions – the ESP LTD TL-6Z  (650 €) and the LTD TL-4Z (682 €).

Both instruments sport zebrano tops. Zebrano is an African hardwood with a very striking wood grain that is reminiscent of a zebra’s stripes (hence the name). Zebrano has been in use since the 1990s in some boutique-grade bass guitars, but it has recently been adopted for more and more acoustic guitars and ukuleles, too.

The TL-6 is also available in a plainer, maple-topped version (in natural or black).

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The nylon-string LTD TL-6N (625 €) comes with a maple top, either with a gloss natural or a piano black finish (as reviewed).

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These instruments aren’t super shallow acoustic instruments, instead LTD’s TL-range features genuine thinline construction.

The bodies are based on solid mahogany backs, which have large areas routed out from the front before the top is glued into place. A ”centre block” is left standing from beneath the bridge all the way to the end of the body.

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A body chamfer next to the neck heel makes reaching the top frets a little easier.

The mahogany neck is glued together from three long side-by-side strips.

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All TL-instruments come with quality tuning machines:

The steel-string instruments use Grover machine heads.

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LTD’s TL-6N sports a set of open Hauser-style tuners.

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On the TL-6Z the strings are fed through the back part of the rosewood bridge, which makes for much faster and easier restringing than a traditional pin bridge.

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We find through-body stringing (with back ferrules) on the TL-4Z bass.

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It’s traditional knot-stringing for the nylon-string version (TL-6N).

All top nuts and compensated bridge saddles on these TL-Series instruments are made from Graph Tech’s high-quality NuBone material, a man-made alternative to bovine bone.

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Both the TL-4Z and TL-6Z come with a Fishman under-saddle-transducer and a TL-3 preamp.

The Fishman TL-3 features a built-in chromatic tuner and a three-band EQ section.

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For the nylon-string guitar ESP has chosen B-Band’s T7 system, which features a tuner, a three-band EQ section, and a feedback-reducing phase reverse-switch.

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Our review sample of the TL-6Z was the lightest guitar of the trio. Its thin body (5 cm) makes it sit nicely in your lap. This guitar’s strapped-on balance is also very good.

ESP call the neck profile a Thin U – I’d say the neck feels very comfortable, with a nicely rounded, not-too-thick cross section.

You can’t say anything negative about the workmanship on this guitar – this is a cleanly built guitar with a great feel, not least because of the smooth fret job.

Played unplugged, the TL-6Z isn’t very loud. In terms of volume it is on a par with an ES-335-style semi.

Plug the TL-6Z in, though, and it really comes alive. This is what this LTD is meant for, and the guitar delivers a quality piezo sound with plenty of dynamics:

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The LTD TL-4Z-bass is a well-made quality instrument, and plays great.

The TL-4Z’s neck profile is similar to that of a Jazz Bass, but the LTD’s jumbo frets and flatter-than-vintage fretboard radius take this bass into a much more modern direction.

The basic amped-up sound of this bass is fantastic. Our review sample suffered from a mild volume reduction in the g-string’s output level, though. Usually, problems like this one are caused by a tiny piece of wood, caught between the underside of the bridge saddle and the surface of the piezo pickup, which prevents the bridge saddle from making full contact with the pickup. In most cases this is very easy to remedy.

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As a builder of thinline classical guitars you have the choice between two options:

Some manufacturers equip a guitar of this type with an electric or steel-string neck, to make it easier for an occasional nylon-string user to switch between different types of guitar.

ESP has gone for the second option, namely for making a thinline instrument with a neck that feels like the neck of a full-blown classical guitar. The LTD-6N has the wide and flat neck profile so typical of most traditional nylon-string acoustics. In my opinion this is a good choice, because the neck profile has a bearing on how you approach and play such a guitar. This is a thinline classical that feels ”real”.

Because of the much lower string-pull of nylon strings – when compared to steel strings – the TL-6N is the quietest instrument of this trio, when played unplugged.

The TL-6N will win you over with its tasty amplified voice, though. The B-Band pickup system is a fantastic choice for a nylon-string guitar, because the B-Band pickup – which works similar to an electret microphone – won’t give you any of that infamous piezo quack, which tends to make nylon-string guitars sound rather annoying.

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Here are two different versions of the demo song:

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In my view, ESP’s LTD TL-Series is a great choice if you want to add acoustic guitar tones to your onstage arsenal.

The TL-Series features instruments that combine stylish looks, great playability and quality electronics into instruments, which will give you a fine range of acoustic tones in a live setting, combined with a far lower susceptibility to feedback.

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LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N

TL-6Z: 650 €

TL-4Z: 682 €

TL-6N: 625 €

Finnish distributor: Musamaailma

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Pros (all models):

+ stylish design

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ amplified sounds

Cons (TL-4Z only):

– slight volume drop on g-string

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17/11/2016

Testipenkissä: ESP LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N

Akustinen kitara on Pop/Rock-bändin kontekstissa aina hieman haasteellinen soitin keikkatilanteessa, koska iso, akustinen kaikukoppa ja siihen suunnattu lavamonitori ovat herkästi feedbackia tuottava yhdistelmä.

Tarkalla ekvalisoinnilla ja mekaanisella kaikuaukon tulpalla pystyy kyllä vähentämään kiertämisen riskiä ideaalitapauksissa huomattavasti, mutta helpompi ratkaisu on käyttää keikoilla livetilanteita varten kehitettyä, lankkumallista akustista.

ESP tarjoaa nyt myös tällaisia soittimia LTD TL –sarjan muodossa (TL = Thinline):

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Kuusikielisen, teräskielisen kitaran mallitunnus on TL-6.

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Basson nimi on TL-4.

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Ja nailonkielisen kitaran mallitunnus on TL-6N.

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Kitarablogi sai testiin teräskielisestä kitarasta ja bassosta erittäin näyttävät ESP LTD TL-6Z  (650 €) ja LTD TL-4Z (682 €) -versiot, joissa on upeat kannet zebrano-puusta.

Zebrano on afrikkalainen jalopuulaji, jonka vahva syykuvio muistuttaa seepran raitoja. Zebranoa on käytetty jo 1990-luvulta lähtien mm. useissa boutique-luokan sähköbassoissa, mutta viime vuosina puulajia on nähty käytettävän yhä useammin myös akustisissa kielisoittimissa.

TL-6 on saatavissa myös vaahterakannella (värivaihtoehtoina musta tai natural).

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Nailonkielinen LTD TL-6N:ssä (625 €) on varustettu vaahterakannella, ja soitin on saatavilla vaaleana natural-versiona sekä kiiltävän mustaksi lakattuna.

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LTD TL-sarjan soittimissa on aito thinline-rakenne, sen sijaan että ne olisivat ainoastaan hyvin ohutkoppaisia akustisia.

Soittimien mahonkirunkoihin on jyrsitty edestä suuret kolot, ennen kuin kansi on liimattu paikalleen. Tallan alta rungon päätyyn asti ulottuu TL-soittimissa ”keskipalkki” runkopuusta.

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Kaulaliitoksen kohdalla runkopuuhun on veistetty kätevä viistotus, joka helpottaa otekäden pääsyä ylimpiin nauhoihin.

Mahonkikaula on kolmiosainen.

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TL-soittimet on varustettu laadukkailla virittimillä:

Teräskielisiin soittimiin on asennettu nykyaikaiset Grover-koneistot.

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TL-6N:ssä taas on sulavasti toimivat, Hauser-tyyliset, avoimet virittimet.

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Teräskielisen TL-6Z:n ruusupuisen tallan takaosassa on reiät, joista kielet kulkevat läpi. Kielten pallopäät juttuvat reikiin, mikä on nopeampi ja varmempi tapa kiinnittää kielet kuin perinteinen tappikiinnitys.

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TL-4Z-basson kielet taas vedetään rungon läpi.

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Nailonkielinen TL-6N luottaa perinteiseen solmukiinnitykseen.

TL-sarjan satulat ja kompensoidut tallaluut valmistetaan Graph Techin laadukkaasta NuBone-materiaalista, joka on synteettinen vaihtoehto naudanluulle.

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TL-4Z ja TL-6Z on molemmat varustettu samalla Fishman TL-3 esivahvistimella, jossa on sisäinen viritysmittari.

Volume-säätimen lisäksi TL-3 tarjoaa kolmikaistaisen taajuuskorjaimen.

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Nailonkitaran tapauksessa ESP taas luottaa B-Band T7 -järjestelmään, jossa on viritysmittarin ja kolmikaistaisen EQ:n lisäksi vielä vaiheenkäännin.

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Testissä käynyt TL-6Z on tämän kolmikon kevyin soitin, ja sen ohut runko (5 cm) istuu hyvin syliin. Myös hihnan varassa tasapaino on hyvä.

ESP kutsuu tämän kitaran kaulaprofiilia Thin U:ksi – minä taas sanoisin, että se on oikein mukavan tuntuinen kaula, pyöreällä, hieman keskivertoa ohuemmalla läpimitalla.

Työnjälki on kiitettävää tasoa – erittäin siisti nauhatyö (22 jumbo-kokoista nauhaa) on tästä vain yksi esimerkki.

Akustisesti soitettuna TL-6Z ei ole kovinkaan äänekäs. Lankkuakustisen tuottaman äänen taso on samalla viivalla esimerkiksi ES-335-tyylisen puoliakustisen kanssa.

TL-6Z onkin tarkoitettu akustisen vahvistimen kautta tai suoraan linjasoitolla miksauspöytään (tai äänikorttiin) soitettavaksi, jolloin se todellakin herää henkiin. Tarjolla on todella laadukas ja dynaaminen piezosoundi:

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TL-4Z-basso on laadukkaasti toteutettu lajinsa edustaja, jota on erittäin mukava soittaa.

TL-4Z:n kaulaprofiili on Jazz-basson kaltainen, mutta LTD:n jumbo-kokoiset nauhat ja tasaisempi otelaudan kaarevuus (= isompi radius) tekevät soittotuntumasta selvästi nykyaikaisemman.

Basson vahvistettu ääni on sinänsä erittäin laadukas, mutta testiyksilön hieman muita kieliä vaimeammin soiva g-kieli johtaa lievään pistevähennykseen. Usein tämänkaltaiset ongelmat johtuvat pienestä puulastusta, joka on päässyt tallan uraan, luun ja mikrofonin väliin, estäen kielen värähtelyn optimaalisen välityksen piezomikrofoniin. Tämä ei ole iso ongelma, vaan sen saa ratkaistua useimmiten hyvinkin nopeasti.

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Tämän kitaratyypin ”klassisissa kitaroissa” kitaravalmistaja voi valita kahden koulukunnan välillä:

Jotkut valmistajat tekevät nailonkielisiä lankkukitaroita teräskieli-tyylisillä kauloilla, koska he uskovat tällaisen kitaran käyttäjän todennäköisesti olevan pääasiallisesti sähkökitaran soittaja.

ESP taas kuuluu niihin valmistajiin, jotka haluavat, että myös nailonkielinen lankkukitara tuntuu aidolta klassiselta kitaralta. LTD TL-6N -mallissa on siis aito klassisen kitaran kaulaprofiili, joka on tunnetusti teräskielisen kitaran kaulan profiilia leveämpi ja harteikkaampi. Minusta tämä on ainoastaan hyvä asia, koska soittotuntuma on sen ansiosta ”aidompi”.

Nailonkielten teräskieliin verrattuna heikomman kielivedon vuoksi TL-6N on akustisesti tämän kolmikon hiljaisin soitin.

TL-6N:n vahvistettu soundi kuulostaa erittäin terveeltä. B-Band-mikrofonijärjestelmä on mielestäni todella hyvä valinta juuri nailonkieliseen kitaraan, koska elektrettimikrofonin tavalla toimivasta B-Band-mikistä puuttuu täysin se useista piezomikrofoneista tuttu ärsyttävänkin naksahteleva atakki.

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Tässä vielä kaksi versiota demobiisistä:

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ESP LTD:n TL-sarjan soittimet tarjoavat mielestäni erittäin toimivia ratkaisuja tilanteisiin, joissa halutaan tuoda bändisoundiin akustisia vaikutteita.

TL-soittimissa tyylikäs ulkonäkö, hyvä soitettavuus ja laadukas elektroniikka muodostavat toimivan kokonaisuuden, jolla saa vaivattomasti hyvän lavasoundin todella vähäisellä feedback-vaaralla.

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LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N

TL-6Z: 650 €

TL-4Z: 682 €

TL-6N: 625 €

Maahantuoja: Musamaailma

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Plussat (kaikki mallit):

+ tyylikäs ulkonäkö

+ työnjälki

+ soitettavuus

+ sähkösoundi

Miinukset (vain TL-4Z):

– g-kieli soi hieman muita heikommin

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02/11/2016

Guitar Porn ESP LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N

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Lisätiedot: Musamaailma

31/10/2016

Now on SoundCloud: ESP LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N

Lisätiedot: Musamaailma

24/10/2016

ESP LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N – the Kitarablogi-video

Lisätiedot: Musamaailma

21/10/2016

First View: ESP LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N

Demo Track

Cover version of ”Big Love” by Fleetwood Mac (Lindsey Buckingham).

Demo track recorded using all three instruments plugged straight into a Focusrite Saffire 6 USB sound card.

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Lisätiedot: Musamaailma

07/10/2016

ESP LTD Thinline TL-6Z, TL-4Z + TL-6N ++ Testi tulossa ++ Review coming soon

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Video by Stephen Lane

Lisätiedot: Musamaailma

09/02/2015

Review: Jericho Guitars Fusion

Usually, we get the products we review from the Finnish distributors, or directly from Finnish guitar- or amp-makers.

This time, though, I was approached by guitarist Jaakko Rytsölä. Jaakko had ordered a guitar for himself, liked what he got, and is now thinking seriously about importing this brand, in partnership with Espoo-based company Guitarworx.

Jericho Guitars – who are based in Plano, Texas – are a brand specialising exclusively in long-scale baritone electric guitars. Jericho use what they call a ping-pong manufacturing process: The raw tonewood is hand-selected at a wood supplier in British Columbia (Canada), and then sent to a manufacturer in South Korea for all the basic neck and body work. The half-finished guitars are then shipped back to Texas, where they are assembled and set up. According to Jericho, this process results in high-quality instruments with a player-friendly price tag.

Jericho have already caused quite a few waves with their Avenger model, which is squarely aimed at the Hard ’n’ Heavy crowd. Now the company has introduced a new model, called the Jericho Fusion. We received a preproduction version of the Jericho Fusion Black And Gold-version for review.

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Jericho Fusion – full front – smaller

The Jericho Fusion (price in Finland approximately 999 €) is a sleek and elegant baritone guitar, with a body outline that is based on the venerable Fender Telecaster.

The Fusion has a three-piece mahogany set neck, as well as a mahogany body with a contoured front.

The Fusion has a scale length of 26.9″, which means 68.3 cm in the metric system.

Jericho Fusion – back beauty

The body’s back features a generous rib cage chamfer.

Jericho Fusion – headstock

Jericho’s headstock design looks very nice, and offers almost straight string pull, which is a definite plus for tuning stability.

The Fusion comes with a self-lubricating black Graph Tech Tusq XL nut.

Jericho Fusion – tuners

A set of golden Grover Rotomatics keeps the tuning solid.

Jericho Fusion – fingerboard

The black ebony fretboard sports 22 medium-sized frets.

Jericho Fusion – bridge

The bridge is a chunky Hipshot design, constructed from a machined brass base and stainless steel bridge saddles.

Jericho Fusion – pickups

The Jericho Fusion comes equipped with a classic pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers – a ’59-model in the neck position, and a Custom TB-5 at the bridge.

Jericho Fusion – controls

The guitar’s controls are configured in traditional Les Paul-style, giving you independent volume and tone controls for each pickup.

Jericho Fusion – control cavity NEW

A look under the hood reveals quality components and clean workmanship. Our preproduction review guitar has regular Les Paul-style wiring, but production models will come with push/pull-pots for splitting the humbuckers.

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Jericho Fusion – beauty shot 2

The Jericho Fusion is a great player. Actually – and this might come as a bit of a surprise – it is very easy for the guitarist to adjust to the longer-than-usual scale length. After a minute or two, you simply forget about the longer scale, and just get on with playing.

The guitar’s neck profile is a neither too slim, nor too fat, ”D”. Our review sample had a comfortable medium weight, and it came with a very low and slinky setup.

While Jericho’s Avenger was designed to be a balls-to-the-wall Metal-machine, the new Fusion model covers much more musical and tonal ground, thanks to its less powerful pickups. Don’t worry, the Jericho Fusion can do the head-banging stuff with aplomb, too, but this guitar also holds very lush clean tones in store, should you be so inclined.

Here’s a short clip of all three toggle switch settings (starting at the neck), played through a clean amplifier:

And here’s the audio track from the You Tube-video:

Jericho Fusion – body beauty

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Jericho Fusion – beauty shot – NEW

Jericho Guitars’ Fusion is a great-playing, versatile modern baritone electric. This guitar is well-made, no-nonsense tone machine for the player who wants to go low or even lower. Let’s hope that Jericho’s instruments will soon become more widely available in Finland.

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Jericho Guitars Fusion

Price in Finland: c. 999 €

Tiedustelut: Guitarworx

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Pros:

+ elegant design

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ sound

22/01/2015

The Fender Telecaster – tone at the expense of intonation?

Why do we need intonation adjustment?

On string instruments, the fret spacing along the fretboard is calculated according to a mathematical formula. This formula is theoretical, though, and doesn’t take into account variables, such as string tension (tuning), string thickness (gauge) and string height (action). These variables make the actual pitch of a string, which is pressed down against a fret, deviate from the theoretically correct pitch. To compensate for this pitch offset, you need some sort of intonation adjustment that sets the correct intonation (or octave compensation) for each string.

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On acoustic guitars correct intonation is achieved by an angled bridge saddle, often carefully shaped to fine-tune the compensation further.

Jazz guitar bridge

Early electric guitars were basically modified archtop acoustics, which carried on using traditional rosewood (or ebony) archtop bridges with carved ”steps” presetting the intonation. Overall intonation adjustment was carried out by moving the whole bridge carefully closer to (or further away from) the neck.

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Fender 52 Reissue

The advent of the – much clearer-sounding – solidbody electric guitar necessitated a more precise approach to the problem of intonation adjustment.

52 Tele Bridge

Leo Fender’s novel Esquire/Broadcaster/Telecaster-bridge featured a mounting plate for the bridge pickup, as well as individual action adjustment for each string, and octave compensation in string pairs.

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Fender’s Telecaster bridge assembly plays a huge part in this model’s distinctive, twangy tone, laying the foundation for the model’s classic status.

close-up Fender bridge

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Over the course of the 1950s and 60s, Fender experimented with different saddles – smooth brass, smooth steel, threaded steel, and steel saddles with a single notch per string – but the basic, three-saddle formula stayed firmly in place. You got fantastic tone, but not perfectly spot-on intonation.

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70s Fender six-saddle

Twenty years after the original launch of Fender’s first solidbody electric, things had evolved.

In 1952 the original three-saddle bridge was less of a compromise, because the regular string sets of that time (012s or 013s) had a wound g-string. With a wound g-string the biggest step in intonation adjustment was between the b- and the g-string, and, as they were catered for by different saddles, a good, working compromise could be found.

By the late Sixties, ”slinky” string sets with plain g-strings had become the norm. This shifted the intonation step between the highest wound string and the lowest plain string onto a single, rigid bridge saddle (for the D- and g-string).

Fender retained the traditional three-saddle bridge on its standard Telecaster, but introduced six-saddle bridges on many of its new models in the Seventies. Pictured above is the six-saddle bridge from a (second version) Custom Telecaster (introduced in 1972).

Although this bridge finally offered perfect intonation, some players criticised this type of bridge for ”sounding” thinner (or brighter) than the original version. This might also have been due to changes in the precise specifications of the bridge pickup at that time, though.

Hipshot 6-saddle

Modern Fender 6-saddle

More recent six-saddle designs by makers like Hipshot, Gotoh or Fender are based on a thicker bridge plate. These are perfectly serviceable, modern designs, which offer precise intonation. Many Tele-anoraks still steer clear of these bridge types, however, because the more rigid bridge plate tends to tame the bridge pickup’s twang noticeably.

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Another approach to better intonation on a Telecaster is to keep the twang-enhancing three-saddle ashtray bridge in place, but modify the saddles.

Joe Barden angled

Pickup specialist Joe Barden came up with angled brass saddles in his design for the late Tele-master Danny Gatton.

Wilkinson

Graph Tech

Wilkinson’s and Graph Tech’s designs have two different, preset jump-off points per saddle – one for each string.

These three approaches (Barden, Wilkinson, and Graph Tech) work very well in providing good intonation, while keeping the Telecaster-tone intact, as long as you use string sets with a plain g-string.

pivoting brass saddles

Mastery stainless steel

If you want to retain your three-saddle twang, but want to have more freedom in choosing your string gauges, the best way to go are saddles with an angle adjustment. Good examples are Wilkinson’s replacement brass saddles (above), or this stainless steel Tele-bridge by Mastery.

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How come that the vintage-type Fender Telecaster, with all its intonation flaws, is still in production and still very successful? The answer is that people have always been creative in working out solutions to design shortcomings.

In the Telecaster’s case this means finding a way to ”sweeten” the guitar’s slightly flawed intonation.

Here are three (of a myriad of) possible approaches:

1.) The fifty percent approach

After you’ve put on a set of new strings, use your digital tuner to set the (12th fret) intonation correctly for both E-strings, as well as the g-string (I call them the most critical strings). Then tune your guitar by tuning the open E-strings and the g-string to pitch. The remaining three strings (A, D, and b) are then tuned, so that the pitch at the seventh fret is correct (giving you E, a, and f#).

The A-, D-, and b-strings will be a little off in their intonation going up (or down) from the seventh fret, but overall the pitch will be much sweeter, than if you had tuned these strings to their correct open string pitches. You can then fine-adjust your sweetening by ear, using first position chords as a reference.

2.) Tuner sweetening

After you’ve put on a set of new strings, use your digital tuner to set the (12th fret) intonation, so that each string pair is slightly off in an approximately even way. With the E- and A-pair this would mean that the E-string’s intonation comes out slightly sharp, while the A-string’s intonation is a tiny bit flat. The next pair would see the D-string a bit flat, while the (plain) g-string is a tad sharp. The last pair would have the b-string a bit sharpish, with the e-string a little flat. Then tune the guitar by tuning all strings, so the pitch is correct at the seventh fret.

Now all strings will be a little off in their intonation going up (or down) from the seventh fret, but overall the pitch will be much sweeter, than if you had tuned them to their correct open string pitches. You can then fine-adjust your sweetening by ear, using first position chords as a reference.

3.) Sweetening to the A

After you’ve put on a set of new strings, use your digital tuner to set the (12th fret) intonation, so that each string pair is slightly off in an approximately even way. With the E- and A-pair this would mean that the E-string’s intonation comes out slightly sharp, while the A-string’s intonation is a tiny bit flat. The next pair would see the D-string a bit flat, while the (plain) g-string is a tad sharp. The last pair would have the b-string a bit sharpish, with the e-string a little flat. Then tune your guitar by first tuning the open A-string to pitch. Next, tune all the other strings by ear, using the A-string as your reference:

• E-string at the fifth fret against open A

• D-string at the seventh fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)

• g-string at the second fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)

• b-string at the tenth fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)

• e-string at the fifth fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)

You can then fine-adjust your sweetening by ear, using first position chords as a reference.

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Remember, none of the above tuning tips is set in granite. Tuning and intonating a three-saddle Telecaster is a dark art, and most players have developed their own way of sweetening their guitar’s intonation. Let your ears be your guide!

Fender-American-Special-Telecaster-Olympic-White-Maple004

12/12/2013

Review: Hagström Viking P + Pat Smear Signature

Hagström Guitars’ new models, which had been announced at Frankfurt Musikmesse 2013, have finally arrived in Finland a few weeks ago!

Kitarablogi had the pleasure of receiving two of these guitars for testing:

Hagström Viking P – body beauty 2

The Viking P is a new version of Hagström’s very popular semi-acoustic, and it comes equipped with two Custom P-50 singlecoil pickups.

Hagström Pat Smear – body beauty 2

The Pat Smear Signature is a solid-body electric tailored to the Foo Fighters-guitarist’s needs.

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Hagström Vking P – full front

The Hagström Viking is probably the company’s best-known guitar model, not least because of Elvis Presley’s use of a Viking during his legendary ’68 Comeback Special TV show.

The brand-new Hagström Viking P (street price in Finland around 650 €) adds a pair of P-90-style singlecoils to the mix.

Hagström Vking P – full back

The Viking P’s maple neck is glued into the body, which is made in traditional style from form-pressed plywood maple.

A solid wood centre block – made of what looks like nato or meranti – runs the full length of this instrument.

Hagström Viking P – headstock

”Beautiful”, ”classic” and ”timeless” are fitting adjectives to describe Hagström’s bound headstock.

Graph Tech’s self-lubricating Black Tusq-material has been chosen for the Viking P’s nut.

Hagström Viking P – tuners

The Hagström-branded tuning machines are modern enclosed units that work very well.

Hagström Viking P – fretboard

The deep black fingerboard of the Viking P has been crafted from Hagström’s proprietary Resinator-material, which is a composite of birch fibres and resin. Resinator aims to be a man-made alternative to ebony, offering similar properties in terms of stability, looks and sound.

The ’board sports 22 medium-sized frets, which have been installed cleanly and finished well.

Hagström Viking P – pickups

Hagström have chosen a stylish and practical way of installing their own Custom P-50 pickups on this semi:

Instead of opting for traditional, so-called dog ear covers, which are screwed to the guitar’s top, the Viking P comes with two black soap bar units. Originally developed for solid-body guitars, soap bar pickups offer the advantage of height adjustment via two Phillips-head screws placed between the adjustable pole pieces. With traditional dog ears the only means of adjusting pickup balance is by using the pole pieces – and often this leaves the bridge unit sounding a tad weaker than the neck pickup.

The three-way toggle switch has been placed on the Viking’s top horn.

Hagström Viking P – bridge

The solid centre block cuts down feedback howl very effectively, and it also allows for the use of sturdy hardware.

Hagström Viking P – controls

The control setup is traditional, offering separate volume and tone pots for each pickup.

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Hagström Pat Smear – full front

The Hagström Pat Smear Signature (street price in Finland around 670 €) takes the company’s F-200-model as its starting point.

Pat liked the general shape of the F-200, but requested a thicker mahogany body with a bound maple top. In terms of thickness, we’re talking similar dimensions as on a PRS Guitars Custom 22, for example.

Hagström Pat Smear – full back

The Smear Signature features a set mahogany neck.

Hagström Pat Smear – headstock

Any way you look at it – the Hagström headstock sure looks classy.

Hagström Pat Smear – tuners

Pat Smear’s signature can be found on the back of the headstock.

Hagström Pat Smear – fretboard

It’s a Resinator fingerboard with 22 medium-sized frets on the Smear Signature also, but the position markers are large pearloid blocks here.

Hagström Pat Smear – pickups

Mr Smear selected a pair of vintage-voiced Hagström Custom 58 -humbuckers for his signature model.

Hagström Pat Smear – toggle switch

A special feature of this guitar is the toggle switch installation through a hole in the pickguard.

Hagström Pat Smear – roller bridge

Even though the Pat Smear Signature isn’t equipped with a vibrato, the guitar comes with a roller bridge to ensure maximum tuning stability and string life.

Hagström Pat Smear – tailpiece

Hagström’s idiosyncratic tailpiece is made up of six brass string retainers mounted onto a plexiglass plate.

Hagström Pat Smear – body beauty 1

There are four controls on the Smear-model, instead of the F-200’s single pair of master volume and master tone.

Hagström Pat Smear – control cavity

Both review guitars come with high-quality switches and pots.

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Hagström Viking P – beauty shot 1

Both review guitars suffered from a very slight bout of fretboard shrinkage due to dry weather conditions. It seems that Hagström’s Resinator composite doesn’t only look and feel like ebony, but also reacts to changes in air humidity in a similar fashion. Fretboard shrinkage isn’t a real ”fault” per se, but rather something that happens to a large proportion of new guitars. Luckily, your friendly guitar repair shop can take care of the sharpish fret ends easily and inexpensively.

The Hagström Viking P is of medium weight, and balances well in the lap or on a strap.

The neck profile is a flattish D, which feels great.

Straight out of the shipping-box the setup was spot-on. The Hagström Viking P comes factory-equipped with a 010-gauge string set. Thanks to the flat (15″) fingerboard radius and the low action (low E: 1.9 mm/high e: 1.6 mm) this Viking is a really comfortable player.

Due to its semi-acoustic build, the Viking P’s unamplified voice is quieter and closer to a solid-body than the acoustic performance of all-hollow thinlines, such as the Gibson ES-330 or the Epiphone Casino. Acoustically, the Viking P sounds clear and fresh.

Hagström’s fantastic Custom P-50 pickups add a nice shot of warmth and roundness to the mix, without clouding the Viking’s inherent clarity and dynamics.

There are great clean sounds on tap:

But the fun doesn’t end there, as the Viking P also delivers when it comes to the crunchy side of things, with its fat midrange and dynamic punch:

Due to the physical limitations inherent in single-coil pickups, high-gain sounds are always a somewhat tricky endeavour in P-90-equipped guitars. The sound is really great, but you have to decide for yourselves how much how much hum and buzz you can stomach:

Hagström Viking P – body beauty 1

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Hagström Pat Smear – beauty shot 1

Hagström’s Pat Smear Signature feels very comfortable, thanks to its rounded body shape and moderate weight.

This guitar’s neck is a slightly more rounded affair, when compared to the neck profile on Viking P, making it feel even better, in my opinion.

Again, the setup was great straight out of the box – a low action, such as the one on the Smear Signature (low E: 1.6 mm/high e: 1.4 mm), only works as well as it does here when the frets are level. This guitar plays like a dream.

Acoustically, this Hagström speaks with a strong and clear voice. The Smear-model features a healthy attack coupled with long and even sustain.

I really like Hagström’s vintage-voiced Custom 58-humbuckers, because their moderate output level leaves enough room for the guitar’s acoustic clarity and dynamics to shine through:

The crunchy tones of the Pat Smear Signature manage to combine clarity and Rock-muscle in a very appealing fashion:

Hagström Pat Smear – body beauty 1

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Hagström Viking P – beauty shot 2

These new Hagström-models are very welcome additions to the company’s range of models.

Of these two, the Viking P leans somewhat more in the vintage direction tonally, dishing out a delicious and rootsy P-90-fuelled alternative to Hagström’s regular Viking. The Pat Smear Signature is a signature model that can work for many friends of double-humbucker solid-bodies, even if you’re not familiar with the man’s oeuvre.

In any case, both Hagström-models are quality instruments at prices even the amateur can afford.

Hagström Pat Smear – beauty shot 2

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Hagström Viking P + Pat Smear Signature

Viking P – street price in Finland approx. 650 €

Pat Smear Signature – street price in Finland approx. 670 €

Finnish distributor: EM Nordic

A big thank you to DLX Music Helsinki for supplying the review instruments!

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Pros (both models):

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ Hagström-pickups

+ sound

+ value-for-money

Cons (only Viking P):

– single-coil hum in high-gain

Hagström Viking P – crest