Posts tagged ‘Kitarablogi.com’

06/10/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 3 – Assessing a guitar’s condition

How do you assess the condition of an instrument?

In my view, the condition of any guitar can be gauged by dividing up any possible issues into three groups:

Group 1 – Things that can be changed/corrected easily:

++ truss rod settings

++ dead strings/”wrong” string gauge

++ intonation

++ string height (action)

++ pickup height

++ pickup model (if no woodwork/modification is required)

++ worn-out tuners (if no woodwork is required)

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Group 2 – Small and slightly bigger issues that a qualified repairperson can solve:

++ a cracked top nut

++ string slots in nut too deep or not deep enough

++ a faulty vibrato system

++ worn frets or high/low frets

++ crackling controls

++ faulty switches

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• Group 3 – Issues that are difficult and/or expensive to repair:

++ a badly warped neck (so-called corkscrew)

++ a set neck that is out of alignment

++ a broken truss rod

++ unrepaired (or badly fixed) cracks in the wood (for example a broken-off headstock)

++ a botched DIY ”customisation”

Would you buy a guitar from Pete?

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Here’s one way of assessing the condition of a guitar systematically:

• Tune the instrument and play it for a minute or two. You’ll get an idea of the current set-up, as well as of the general condition and sound of the instrument.

• Is the neck correctly aligned to the body (especially important in set-neck instruments)?

Look at the distance of the e-strings to the fingerboard edges at the 14th fret. If both e-strings are approximately the same distance from the edge of the fingerboard, you’re good to go.

• The truss rod setting (aka relief):

Press the bottom E-string down simultaneously at the 1st and 14th frets (you can use a capo at the first fret), and use it as a straightedge. Take a look at the string at the 8th fret; there should be a small gap between the top of this fret and the E-string – that’s what we call the relief. If the gap is around 0.5 mm, the truss rod is set as it should be. Check the treble e-string in the same way. If there’s a substantial difference between the relief at the low E and the treble e, you’re most likely looking at a warped neck.

If the truss rod setting is not ideal (too tight = no relief; too loose = relief greater than 0.5 mm) you should ask the seller to adjust the truss rod for you.

• Check the nut slots:

Each string is pressed down in turn at the 3rd fret. The string should now be resting on the second fret. Look for a small gap between the 1st fret and the string you’re pressing down. Using a regular 009- or 010-gauge set, there should be a tiny gap beneath the treble e-string and the first fret (when fretting the string at the third fret), just about large enough to fit a sheet of printer paper in there. Because the bass strings need more clearance to vibrate freely, the gap between the first fret and the bottom of each string increases slightly going from the top e-string to the bass E-string.

If the nut slots aren’t cut deep enough, the guitar will be hard to play, and sound badly out of tune in the lowest (open) positions, regardless of action settings and intonation. A luthier will be able to correct the matter for a small charge using a set of special nut files.

If the string slots are too deep (= the strings rest on the first fret, when pressed down at the third), a nut replacement will be in order (except with locking nuts that can be shimmed). Nut slots that are too deep will result in rattling open strings, even if the action and the truss rod have been adjusted correctly. Note: You should check for string rattling using clean amp settings. Playing the guitar unamplified might make you whack the strings harder than necessary.

In most cases replacing a nut is an easy procedure for a repairperson.

• The condition of the frets:

On a used guitar, slight wear marks on the frets are the result of normal use, and this light wear won’t cause any problems.

If the frets are very worn (like the ones in the picture below), you should take the cost of a fret dress (or even a complete refret) into consideration, and maybe try to get the seller to lower his/her asking price.

Refretting bound fingerboards is more complicated and time-consuming than dealing with unbound ’boards, which is usually reflected in the cost. Ask you luthier.

• Check the bridge:

Are all the screws and bridge saddles in working order? Is there ample scope for intonation adjustment?

If the guitar’s set-up is unsatisfactory – the action may be too high or too low; the intonation may be off – ask the seller to adjust the guitar for you before making a buying decision!

• Check the electronics:

Play around with all controls and switches – is everything working as it should? Do all the pickups work?

Scratchy, crackling pots and faulty switches are quite easy for a luthier to exchange. If we’re talking about a new guitar, the shop should take care of this before you buy. With a pre-owned instrument, you will have to take care of the repairs. Note: Replacing electrical components and pickups in semi-acoustic and archtop guitars is generally much more complicated, which will be reflected in the luthier’s quote.

• Check the vibrato:

Does the vibrato (aka the tremolo or the whammy bar) work as it should? Are all the parts in working condition, or are you faced with rusty screws or even broken parts? Is there ample scope for action and intonation adjustment?

If the vibrato bridge looks very worn, or if there are structural problems, like a broken off (or loose) bridge post, you might be facing a complete replacement or a costly repair.

• And finally: Plug the guitar into an amp, and play it some more. Listen to the sound of the instrument. Check its playing feel, its ergonomics, and make a final assessment of its overall condition.

• Based on this checklist (and any possible issues you might have found) you should ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I like this instrument?
  2. Do I think this guitar is worth its asking price?

Gretsch Streamliner G2420T – full front

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04/10/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 2 – New or used?

What are the advantages of buying a new guitar vis-à-vis a pre-owned instrument?

ESP Eclipse II Distressed – toggle switch

• Buying a guitar in a reputable shop has the following advantages:

++ Your new guitar will be just that – brand-new and untarnished (unless you go for a relic’ed axe).

++ The shop assistant can help you finding the right guitar for your playing style.

++ Many shops also offer to set up your new guitar to your own specifications.

++ Should there be any problem due to faulty workmanship, you’re covered by a warranty.

• Why can it make sense to buy a used guitar?

++ In many cases, you will be able to afford a slightly more expensive instrument. Depending on the age and condition of the guitar, a used guitar usually goes for about 60-80 % of its price when new.

Please note: This kind of price reduction tends not to apply to collectable (vintage) guitars, as well as many special run and/or custom shop instruments from sought-after brands. The value of some of these instruments may even rise considerably with the passing of time.

++ A pre-owned guitar is also pre-aged, so the possibility of nasty surprises due to wood shrinkage/expansion is also considerably lower. If a three- or five-year old guitar’s neck is still straight and its fingerboard hasn’t shrunk, chances are that things will remain stable in the future, too.

Shopping for a used instrument does require some experience from the buyer, though, because he/she will have to be able to correctly gauge the condition and market value of the instrument on offer. If you feel unsure take a more experienced guitarist along with you.

Hagström Pat Smear – body beauty 1

• If you want to buy a used guitar via the internet, you should make sure to apply the same amount of care, as with other shopping on the net. Don’t hand over any credit card details to a private seller, and direct payment in advance is also generally a no-no. The safest way to do business is by using well-known platforms, such as Ebay or Reverb.com, which provide for relatively secure payment options, such as Pay Pal.

Remember there are also pirate copies of popular guitar models sold on the internet. Again, if you feel unsure, as a friend for additional advice. And remember the old adage: ”If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

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29/09/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 1 – Make a plan, make a budget

So, you want to buy an electric guitar? Let Kitarablogi.com help you find the guitar that’s ”the right one” for you.

There are a few things you should think through in advance, before setting out to your local guitar shop.

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What guitar do I really want/need?

• The way you feel about a guitar’s looks and design can be an important factor in making a buying decision, and the same goes for the guitar your favourite artist plays. There’s nothing ridiculous in choosing an instrument for its looks, as there’s always a psychological component to how you approach a guitar. If you really dig the way an instrument looks, you will want to play it, and play it more often. This goes the other way, too – if you feel your guitar is ugly, playing it won’t be as much fun.

• Nevertheless, the most important criterion for buying your guitar should be the style of music you plan to use it for. Yes, theoretically you can play any guitar in any style – as Ted Nugent proves by playing loud Rock on an all-hollow archtop (a Jazz guitar) – but if you choose the ”right” instrument for a musical style, it will make things much easier.

Here are some examples of musical genres:

++ Modern Metal: As you’re dealing with large amounts of volume and gain, the best choice would be a solidbody guitar, equipped with humbuckers. Some prefer active pickups, while others like traditional passive designs more. Lead guitarists often go for a model equipped with a locking vibrato system, like a Floyd Rose.

LTD AJ-1 – body angle 1

Halla Custom SG – Floyd Rose

As many bands in this genre use lower than standard tunings, you could consider opting for a seven-string model (which offers an additional lower string), or even go full-out for a baritone electric.

++ Jazz: Most Jazz guitarists like to stay in the traditional sonic space offered by all-hollow archtops or semi-solid ES-335-type guitars. The preferred pickup choices are humbuckers and P-90s.

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++ Blues: Blues musicians use a wide variety of different guitars, depending on their personal taste. Here the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your chosen instrument, in order to express your feelings without being hindered by your guitar. Locking vibratos and active pickups are very rarely seen in Blues music.

Tokai ES-138 – body beauty

++ Country: Traditional Country guitarists tend to drift towards guitar models with a lot of chime and bite in their tone. Very often this means Fender-style single coils or a Gretsch guitar. Over the past couple of decades there’s been quite a lot of crossover from Rock into Country music, though, which has lead to more variety in the choice of instruments in this genre.

++ Classic Rock: Traditional 1970s Classic Rock is built upon humbucker-equipped solidbody guitars, which offer enough grit and output for this genre. Think Les Paul, SG or Telecaster Deluxe.

ESP USA Eclipse – body beauty

Tokai SG-75 – body angle

++ If this is going to be your first electric guitar: If you’re a beginner, we would suggest choosing a model that won’t confuse you with a large array of pickup- and switching-options. A non-vibrato bridge would also be a welcome feature, as vibrato bridges are generally harder to set up and keep in tune.

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Set yourself a budget and stick to it!

• It is important that you set yourself a budget for your guitar shopping. If you have a good idea of your target price range, you will be able to sift through all the different guitars on offer much more quickly, by leaving out any models that are too expensive (or too cheap). This will make choosing your instrument a bit easier.

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22/09/2016

Review: Tokai TST-50-FS Modern

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The guitar maker Tokai is known worldwide for its high-quality versions of classic vintage guitars, and the instruments are loved and played by many.

But now there’s an interesting new model, devised by Tokai Guitars Nordic, called the Tokai TST-50-FS Modern (current price in Finland: 1,650 €; hard case included). This is an S-type guitar for the player who wants classic looks combined with modern features.

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Tokai’s brand-new TST-50-FS Modern is available in three different versions, which share the same basic build and features, but which differ in terms of finish and pickup choice.

The Modern is available in a traditional Three-Tone Sunburst

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… a beautiful Sienna Sunburst

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… and in a cool, dark Ebony Transparent.

The TST-50-FS’ body is made from two pieces of beautiful swamp ash, with a – near invisible – centre glue line.

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The new model makes it a jiffy to adjust the truss rod by moving the adjustment to the headstock side of the neck.

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The TST-50-FS Modern sports a high-quality set of Gotoh Magnum Lock locking machine heads, resulting in lightning-fast string changes and rock steady tuning stability.

The neck comes with a thin satin finish.

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We find a rosewood fretboard with a modern radius (9.5″), as well as 22 gleaming medium jumbo-sized frets (Dunlop 6105), making string bending much easier than on a vintage guitar.

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The bridge on the Tokai TST-50-FS Modern represents Gotoh’s view of the perfect updated Strat-style vibrato.

Gotoh’s 510T-SF bridge is a two-post affair made of steel. The height-adjustable posts can be locked inside the threaded ferrules to increase vibrational transfer into the body.

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In terms of its pickups, the Three-Tone Sunburst version is the most traditional of the new trio:

The neck and middle pickups are genuine single coils (Seymour Duncan SSL-1), while the bridge humbucker is Duncan’s vintage-voiced Model ’59 (SH-1B Zebra).

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The Sienna Sunburst-variant is completely noise-free thanks to its stacked-coil neck and middle pickups (Seymour Duncan STK-S4; aka Classic Stack Plus). The bridge unit is a hotter-than vintage, covered JB (SH-4).

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The hottest guitar in our trio is the TST-50-FS in Ebony Transparent, which comes with a pair of Hot Stack Plus pickups (STK-S7) and the sheer force of nature that is Seymour Duncan’s SH-14 Custom 5 humbucker.

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The Tokai TST-50-FS Modern is part of the brand’s Made-in-Japan Premium Series, and all three instruments are perfect examples of the excellent workmanship Tokai has to offer.

The new model comes with a rounded neck profile (Tokai call it ”Thin U”) that feels and plays like a dream. The modern fingerboard radius and excellent fretwork make string choking a thing of the past.

The vibrato feels very precise and stays in tune far better than any vintage-style vibrato bridge ever could.

The ash body, locking tuners and steel bridge give the TST-50-FS Modern a sparkling unplugged voice with a long and clear sustain.

Played with an amp the differences between the three versions become very clear:

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The Three-Tone Sunburst version gives you the tones you’d expect from a factory-modded vintage S-type.

Thanks to the vintage-style single coils – as well as the PAF-inspired bridge humbucker – you get a lot of clarity, dynamics and spank.

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I’d call the FS Modern’s Sienna Sunburst variant the ”LA Studio model”, which will deal with any musical situation by giving you a first-rate West Coast sound.

The stacked coil pickups are free from hum and buzz, and they give you a fine, slightly ”pre-compressed” sound that sits well in any mix. The JB-humbucker offers just the right amount of ”push” to complement the neck and middle pickups perfectly.

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If you look for an S-style electric that will take to high gain settings like the proverbial duck to water, you need look no further. The TST-50-FS Modern in Ebony Transparent simply loves gain and distortion, while still making a great figure when it comes to clean tones.

This is noise-free high gain heaven with a healthy dose of bottom end punch and a chunky mid-range.

The demo track features the trio in the following order: Sienna Sunburst –> Ebony Transparent –> Three-Tone Sunburst. Each guitar plays both the rhythm as well as the lead parts of its section:

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The new Tokai TST-50-FS Modern really made a big impression on me.

This is a fantastic alternative to the traditional, vintage-flavoured Tokai models. Both the playability and sounds this trio has to offer are top-notch, and I’m sure you will find your favourite modern S-type guitar from one of the three alternatives.

Tokai’s TST-50-FS Modern offers you custom shop quality at a very fair price.

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Tokai TST-50-FS Modern

1,650 € (hard case included)

Distributor: Musamaailma

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Pros:

+ value-for-money

+ workmanship

+ three different pickup configurations

+ playability

+ sound

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19/09/2016

Testipenkissä: Tokai TST-50-FS Modern

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Kitaravalmistaja Tokai tunnetaan laadukkaista klassikkokitaroiden uusintapainoksista, ja soittimet ovat löytäneet tiensä monen vintage-fanin käsiin.

Tokai Guitars Nordicin kehittämä uutuusmalli Tokai TST-50-FS Modern (1.650 €, sis. kova laukku) on sen sijaan suunnattu kitaristeille, jotka haluavat tuttua Tokai-laatua nykyaikaisilla ominaisuuksilla.

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Tokai TST-50-FS Modern on saatavilla kolmessa eri versiossa, joiden rakenteelliset ominaisuudet ovat samat, mutta jotka eroavat toisistaan värityksen ja mikrofonien suhteen.

Kitaran värivaihtoehtoina on Three-Tone Sunburst

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… vaalea Sienna Sunburst

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… ja tumma Ebony Transparent.

Kaikissa versioissa runko on veistetty kuvankauniista suosaarnista. Rungot on koottu kahdesta saarnipalasta, joiden (käytännössä näkymätön) liimasauma kulkee siististi keskeltä runkoa.

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Kaularaudan säätäminen on TST-50-FS-mallissa todella helppoa, koska säätöruuvi on sijoitettu viritinlavan puolelle.

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Tässä mallissa on erittäin laadukkaat Gotoh Magnum Lock -lukkovirittimet – kieltenvaihto sujuu nopeasti ja vire pysyy.

Kaulassa on ohut mattapintainen viimeistely.

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Otelaudan radius on selvästi vintagea loivempi, ja ruusupuuhun on siististi asennettu 22 medium jumbo -kokoista nauhaa (Dunlop 6105), minkä ansiosta venytykset vaativat vähemmän voimaa.

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Tokai TST-50-FS Modernin talla on huippulaadukas, Gotohin valmistama modernisoitu versio Strato-vibratallasta.

Gotoh 510T-SF -talla on valmistettu teräksestä ja se on veitsenterälaakeroitu. Vibraton tapit lukitaan kierreholkkeihinsa, mikä parantaa tallan sustainia.

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Three-Tone Sunburst -version mikrofonitarjonta on tästä kolmikosta se perinteisin:

Kaula- ja keskimikki ovat aitoja yksikelaisia (Seymour Duncan SSL-1) ja talla-asemasta löytyy Duncanin ’59-humbucker (SH-1B Zebra).

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Sienna Sunburstin mikrofonivarustus on täysin hurinaton, sillä kaula- ja keskimikrofonit ovat kahdella päällekkäisellä kelalla varustettuja Seymour Duncan STK-S4 -mikrofoneja (Classic Stack Plus), kun taas tallahumbuckerina toimii vintagea kuumempi JB-malli (SH-4 JB).

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Malleista lähtöteholtaan kuumin on Ebony Transparent -versio, joka yhdistää tehokkaat Hot Stack Plus -mikrofonit (STK-S7) Seymour Duncan SH-14 Custom 5 -humbuckerin tarjoamaan täyslaidalliseen.

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Tokai TST-50-FS Modern kuuluu valmistajan japanilaiseen Premium-sarjaan, ja testissä käynyt kolmikko on – jälleen kerran – täydellinen esimerkki japanilaisesta, erinomaisesta soitinrakennusosaamisesta.

Uutuusmallin pyöreä, mutta suhteellisen ohut kaulaprofiili tuntuu erittäin nopealta, ja nykyaikainen nauhoitus ja otelautaradius luovat kevyen soittotuntuman.

Vibratalla toimii sulavasti ja erittäin tarkasti.

Saarnirungon, lukkovirittimien ja teräsvibran ansiosta TST-50-FS Modernin akustinen ääni on hyvin raikas ja pitkällä sustainilla höystetty.

Versioiden väliset erot tulevat esiin vahvistimen kautta soitettaessa:

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Three-Tone Sunburst -versio antaa soittajalle aimon annoksen kustomoidun vintage-kitaran hehkua.

Aitojen yksikelaisten mikkien, sekä PAF-tyylisen tallahumbuckerin ansiosta vahvistettu ääni on tuore ja erittäin dynaaminen. Pletraniskujen naksahteleva luonne tuo väkisinkin mieleen vintage-Straton.

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Kutsuisin 50-FS Modernin Sienna Sunburst -kitaraa LA Studio -malliksi, jolla hoituu sessio kuin sessio aidolla länsirannikon soundilla.

Stacked coil -mikrofonit eivät hurise, ja niillä on oikein mainio, hieman ”esikompressoitu” soundi, jonka saa mukavasti istutettua miksaukseen. JB-humbucker on sekä teholtaan että soundiltaan oiva valinta näiden ”yksikelaisten” rinnalle.

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Jos etsit S-tyylistä kitaraa, joka tarjoaa loistavia high gain -särösoundeja, mutta joka samalla kuulostaa myös mehevältä puhtaasti soitettuna, Ebony Transparent on sinulle oikea valinta.

Tämä kitara tarjoaa hurinatonta high gain -meinikiä tuhdilla alakerralla ja herkullisella keskialueella.

Demobiisissä testikitarat kuullaan järjestyksessä Sienna Sunburst –> Ebony Transparent –> Three-Tone Sunburst. Samalla kitaralla soitetaan aina sekä komppiosuudet että soolo:

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Minun mielestäni Tokai TST-50-FS Modern lunastaa lupauksensa täydellisesti ja avokätisesti.

Uutuusmalli on huippulaadukas, nykyaikainen vaihtoehto vintage-tyylisille Tokai-kitaroille. Soittotuntuma ja soundi ovat enemmän kuin kohdillaan, ja jokainen meistä löytää varmasti kolmesta vaihtoehdoista sen itselleen sopivan.

TST-50-FS Modern tarjoaa custom shop -tasoista laatua reiluun hintaan.

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Tokai TST-50-FS Modern

1.650 € (kova laukku kuuluu hintaan)

Maahantuoja: Musamaailma

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Plussat:

+ hinta-laatu-suhde

+ työnjälki

+ kolme mikrofonivaihtoehtoa

+ soitettavuus

+ soundi

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14/09/2016

Now on Soundcloud: Tokai TST-50-FS Modern

Tokai TST-50-FS Modern

• Premium Series model

• Made in Japan

• Premium swamp ash body (two-piece, centre-joined)

• Rosewood fingerboard with 9.5″ radius

• 22 Dunlop 6105 frets

• Locking Gotoh tuners

• Two-post Gotoh vibrato

• Sienna Sunburst version: 2 x Seymour Duncan STK-S4 + TB-4

• Ebony Transparent version: 2 x STK-S7 + TB-14

• Three-Tone Sunburst version: 2 x SSL-1 + ’59

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The demo track has the three guitars in the order Sienna Sunburst –> Ebony Transparent –> Three-Tone Sunburst.

12/09/2016

Tokai TST-50-FS – the Kitarablogi-video

Uusi Tokai TST-50-FS on tällä hetkellä saatavilla kolmella eri mikrofonivarustuksilla:

Three-Tone Sunburst -versiossa on kaksi yksikelaista SSL-1-mikrofonia, sekä Seymour Duncan ’59 -humbucker.

Sienna Sunburst -mallissa on kaksi SD Classic Stack Plus -mikrofonia (hurinattomia, stacked-coil mikrofonia), sekä JB-humbucker metallikuorella.

Ebony Transparent -kitarassa taas on kaksi Duncanin Vintage Hot Stack -mikrofonia (hurinattomia) ja tallamikrofonina toimii saman firman Custom 5 -humbucker.

Kitarablogin testi on tulossa lähiaikoina!

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The new Tokai TST-50-FS is currently available with three different pickup configurations:

• The Three-Tone Sunburst version has a pair of SSL-1 single-coils and a Seymour Duncan ’59 humbucker.

• The Sienna Sunburst model comes with two noiseless SD Classic Stack Plus pickups, as well as a covered JB model.

• The Ebony Transparent guitar sports two noiseless Duncan Vintage Hot Stacks and a Custom 5 in the bridge position.

Watch this space for a full review in the very near future!

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08/09/2016

Upouudet Premium-sarjan Tokai-kitarat tulivat taloon!

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24/08/2016

Review: Bluetone Black Prince Reverb

The Bluetone Black Prince Reverb guitar combo sees the boutique amp makers from Helsinki branch out into a new and interesting direction.

Bluetone Crossroad head – 1

All the Bluetone models we have known thus far have been (and still are) produced as pure and genuine custom-made valve amplifiers.

This means that each new amp is ordered by the customer based on a certain Bluetone configuration on their website – like an à la carte-menu. The chosen model is then tweaked according to the customer’s wishes, and there are plenty of different options available – from the details of the amplifier’s internal specifications all the way to the type of finish of the cabinet and the font on the control panel.

Bluetone Crossroad – handwired board 3

Due to the nature of custom amps, such as these, every Bluetone Custom amp is built completely by hand, starting with a clean slate – meaning: an empty metal chassis, and an empty fibreglass eyelet-board.

The board is then riveted at the right spots to take all the necessary wiring and electronic components going into this specific custom order. Everything is soldered into place by hand (point-to-point).

This is a very involved and time-consuming process, requiring a steady hand and a keen eye, which of course is reflected in the price of a Bluetone Custom amp. The advantage of building this type of point-to-point amp is, of course, that it gives the customer free reign to have his dream amp built.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – hybrid PCB 2

Bluetone’s dynamic duo – Harry Kneckt and Matti Vauhkonen – have recently decided to launch a second model range alongside their strictly custom-made amps. The new range will include a few models that will be made and sold ”as is”, with only very limited options to choose from.

These new amps will be made using so-called hybrid boards.

Bluetone’s hybrid boards are very sturdy PCBs made of fibreglass, and are of a considerably higher quality than what you’d find in mass-produced valve amplifiers. Each component’s place on the hybrid is clearly labelled, and some of the ”wiring” is already incorporated into the board itself. In contrast to many mass-produced affordable amps, Bluetone’s new range will see all tubes and transformers mounted securely to the metal chassis (like on their custom-made amps, too), and not directly on the PCB (like on many affordable Far Eastern designs).

The rest of the building process is virtually identical to the more costly custom-made amplifiers – the components are fitted to the hybrid board by hand (from the top) and hand-soldered to the board. Thanks to the hybrid board the new amplifier range will be much easier and faster to produce, which will be reflected in the pricing of the new hybrid amps vis-à-vis the point-to-point custom orders.

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – front view 1

The first new Bluetone-combo is called the Bluetone Black Prince Reverb (approx. 1.500 €).

This compact and handy combo takes a lot of inspiration from Fender’s legendary ”Blackface” Princeton Reverb (version AA1164), but due to the Bluetone’s many refinements you can’t really call the Black Prince a straight copy.

In addition to the basic version in wine red tolex, you can also order the Black Prince Reverb in genuine tweed, or with an oiled cabinet made from mahogany (both at extra cost).

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – control panel

I very much like the businesslike and sober look of the Blacktone’s front panel. Everything is clearly labelled, which can be a great plus on a dimly lit stage.

The Bluetone Black Prince Reverb offers two different inputs for singlecoil and humbucker-equipped guitars (High and Low). The EQ-section is a three-band affair, with an additional Bright switch to liven up dull sounding pickups.

Even though the Black Prince Reverb is such a compact combo, it still featured both a genuine, valve-driven spring reverb and a tube tremolo.

Bluetone uses a post phase-inverter master volume in most of their designs, because it has the least negative impact on an amp’s tone and feel.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – back panel

There’s a Fender-style open back on the Black Prince.

The back panel sports outputs for additional speakers, as well as the jack for the combo’s two-button footswitch unit (included).

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – footswitch

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – back view

This is what the Bluetone looks like with the open back removed.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – valves

The Black Prince Reverb combo is an all-valve machine, loaded with the following tube types (from right to left):

The first 12AX7 is the combo’s preamp valve. The spring reverb circuit uses a 12AT7 and a 12AX7 valve. The 12AX7 works as the amp’s phase-inverter and tremolo tube.

The Black Prince leaves Bluetone’s workshop equipped with a pair of 6V6GT power valves, which will translate to about 20 watts of output. You can also re-bias this amp for a pair of 6L6GCs, which would boost the output to almost 30 watts.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – spring reverb

This combo’s short reverb tank is supplied by MOD.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – Warehouse Retro 10 speaker

Bluetone have chosen a Warehouse Guitar Speakers Retro 10-speaker for their new combo, even though this model is distinctly different from the old Jensen speakers in vintage Fender designs.

This choice is, of course, deliberate and based upon many listening tests:

The WGS Retro, which is made to withstand far more output than this combo can deliver, keeps the Black Prince Reverb’s tones clean and dynamic under all circumstances. This speaker’s British character also makes the Bluetone-combo sound larger and fatter than you’d expect.

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – pilot light from PS

Oh, boy, this is a sound you cannot get enough of! At least in my case only a minute or two of playing the Black Prince was enough to make me consider getting myself in debt.

It’s hard to put into words what that special ingredient is, but this is what a clean electric guitar should sound like! This combo sounds clean, fresh and dynamic, but never clinical, cold or brittle. There a good dose of chime, but it doesn’t hurt your ears. The bass strings sound big, but never mushy.

The sound of the short MOD reverb tank is surprisingly dense and complex, and there’s more than enough of it to satisfy Surf Music fans. The Black Prince Reverb’s tremolo works like a treat, too, offering you anything from slow and soft to machine-gun mania.

Here’s a clip, recorded with a Fender Telecaster, gives you an idea of the Bluetone Black Prince Reverb’s dry tone, as well as its spring reverb and tremolo effects:

The Black Prince also excels in keeping your guitar’s own character intact. These three clips feature a Fender Telecaster…

…an Epiphone Casino…

…and a 1970s Japanese ”lawsuit” copy of a Gibson ES-335:

This combo’s fantastic clean tone is a fantastic platform for pedal addicts. The demo track was recorded using an analogue chorus pedal, a tube screamer-type overdrive, as well as the amp’s built-in reverb and tremolo.

The rhythm parts were played on a Fender Stratocaster, while the lead was played on a Hamer USA Studio Custom:

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – power valves

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – front view 1

In my view, Bluetone’s Black Prince Reverb is a top-drawer choice as a combo for use at home or in the studio. It’s also great for smaller gigs, when too much noise on stage can be a problem, or you can mike it up for larger venues.

The Black Prince Reverb is a nicely compact boutique-grade valve combo offering fantastic cleans, as well as fine reverb and tremolo effects.

This amp hasn’t been spoiled by unnecessary ”tube voodoo” or distracting graphic. I’m all for the clean and understated looks this Bluetone has to offer!

This is a handmade, Finnish boutique combo, offered at a very fair price.

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb

1.500 €

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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Pros:

+ value-for-money ratio

+ handmade in Finland

+ workmanship

+ fine spring reverb and valve tremolo

+ sound

+ master volume-control

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22/06/2016

Testipenkissä: Bluetone Black Prince Reverb

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb -kitarakombo on uusi aluevaltaus helsinkiläiselle putkivahvistimien valmistajalle.

Bluetone Crossroad head – 1

Tähän mennessä kaikki Bluetone-mallit olivat puhtaasti kokonaan custom-periaatteella rakennettuja pelejä.

Se tarkoittaa, että firman sivustolta löytyy useita valmiita konfiguraatioita – ikään kuin à la carte -ruokalista – joista asiakas valitse hänelle sopivamman kustomoinnin lähtökohdaksi. Ja näitä lisäoptioita löytyy runsaasti – oman vahvistimen tarkoista sisäisistä ominaisuuksista kotelon viimeistelyyn ja säädinpaneelin fonttiin.

Bluetone Crossroad – handwired board 3

Tällainen valinnan runsaus tarkoittaa, että Bluetone custom-vahvistimen teko lähtee aina ns. tyhjästä pöydästä – sopivan kokoisesta metallikotelosta ja tyhjästä lasikuituisesta reikälevystä.

Reikälevystä tehdään ns. eyelet board lisäämällä oikeisiin kohteisiin popniittejä, joihin elektroniikan komponentit ja tarvittavat johdot juotetaan käsin kiinni (= point-to-point-rakenne).

Tämä on hyvin monimutkainen ja aikaa vievä prosessi, mikä näkyy luonnollisesti valmiin tuotteen hinnassa. Point-to-point-tekotapa kuitenkin antaa Bluetonen asiakkaille kustomoinnissa käytännössä vapaat kädet.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – hybrid PCB 2

Bluetonen johtokaksikko – Harry Kneckt ja Matti Vauhkonen – on hiljattain päättänyt laittaa firman custom-vahvistimien rinnalle uuden sarjan, joka tulee tarjoamaan muutamia ”valmiita” vahvistinmalleja, joille on tarjolla vain hyvin rajattu määrä valittavia lisäoptioita.

Uutuusmalleissa voi virtaviivaistaa kokoonpanoprosessia käyttämällä elektroniikan alustana ns. hybridilevyä.

Bluetonen hybridilevyt ovat lasikuituisia, ja erittäin laadukkaita ja kestäviä, eikä niitä voi verrata massatuotannossa käytettäviin, heppoisiin piirilevyihin. Jokaisen komponentin paikka on tarkoin merkattu, ja monet osien välisistä ”johdotuksista” on hybridilevyssä jo valmiiksi olemassa. Uutuusvahvistimien putket ja muuntimet asennetaan kuitenkin edelleen tukevasti vahvarin metallikoteloon, eikä piirilevylle (niin kuin monissa halpavahvistimissa).

Muu valmistus tapahtuu uusissa malleissa ihan samalla tavalla kuin Bluetonen custom-peleissä – komponentit lisätään käsin (ylhäältä) hybridilevylle ja ne juotetaan käsin paikoilleen. Hybridilevyn ansiosta vahvistin valmistuu vain huomattavasti nopeammin ja helpommin, mikä tullaan näkemään myös hintaerona hybridilevy- ja point-to-point-mallien välillä.

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – front view 1

Ensimmäinen hybridilevyä käyttävä Bluetone-kombo on nimeltään Bluetone Black Prince Reverb (1.500 €).

Kätevän kokoisen, yksikanavaisen boutique-kombon inspiraationa on toiminut Fender ”Blackface” Princeton Reverb (versio AA1164), mutta Bluetone-vahvistimessa on niin monta parannusta, ettei Black Princen tapauksessa voi edes puhua kopiosta.

Viininpunaisella tolexilla päällystetyn perusversion lisäksi tarjotaan Black Prince -kombo (lisämaksua vastaan) myös aidolla tweed-kankaalla tai öljytyllä (täyspuisella) mahonkikotelolla.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – control panel

Tykkään itse kovasti Bluetonen hyvin asiallisen näköisestä etupaneelista, jossa jokainen säädin ja kytkin on selkeästi merkitty. Hektisissä live-tilanteissa selkeä etupaneeli voi olla kullan arvoinen.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb tarjoaa singlecoil- ja humbucker-kitaroille omat tulojakit (High ja Low). EQ-osasto tarjoaa kolme säädettävää kaistaa, sekä lisäksi Bright-kytkimen, josta saa tarvittaessa vielä enemmän eloisuutta preesensalueelle.

Vaikka kyse on melko kompaktista putkikombosta, löytyy Black Prince Reverbistä sekä aito, putkivahvistettu jousikaiku, että putkitremolo.

Bluetone käyttää vahvistimissaan aina PPIMV-kytkennällä (post phase-inverter master volume) toimivia master volume -säätimiä, koska tällä tavalla toteutettu master volume vaikuttaa vähiten vahvistimen soundiin.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – back panel

Black Prince -kombon takaseinä on Fender-tyylisesti avoin.

Takapaneelista löytyy lähtöjä lisäkaiuttimille, sekä liitin kombon mukaan tulevalle jalkakytkimelle.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – footswitch

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – back view

Tällainen on näky, kun takaseinä on irrotettu Bluetone-kombosta.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – valves

Black Prince Reverb on täysputkikone ja putkivarustus on seuraavanlainen (oikealta vasempaan):

Ensimmäinen 12AX7 on kombon etuasteputki. Kaiun send ja return toimivat yhden 12AT7- ja yhden 12AX7-putken varassa. Viimeinen 12AX7 hoitaa sekä vahvarin vaiheenkääntämistä että tremolo-efektin tuotantoa.

Black Prince lähtee Bluetonen pajalta kahdella 6V6GT-pääteputkella, jotka tuottavat noin 20 wattia lähtötehoa. Tätä komboa pystyy myös käyttämään – biasoinnin jälkeen – kahdella 6L6GC-putkella, jolloin lähtöteho nousee lähelle 30 wattia.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – spring reverb

Tämän kombon lyhyt jousikaikutankki tulee MOD:n valikoimasta.

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – Warehouse Retro 10 speaker

Bluetone on valinnut Warehouse Guitar Speakersin Retro 10 -kaiuttimen uutuuskomboonsa, vaikka tämä on ihan erilainen kaiutin kuin vanhoissa Fendereissä käytetty Jensen.

Valinta oli kuitenkin tietoinen ja monien kokeilujen tulos:

Tehonkestoltaan ehkä hieman ”ylimitoitettu” WGS Retro varmistaa, että Black Prince Reverbin soundi pysyy mahdollisimman puhtaana ja dynaamisena. ”Britti-soundiin” viritetty luonne taas tekee Bluetone-kombon soundista tukevamman ja isomman.

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – pilot light from PS

Voi pojat, tästä soundista voi tulla riippuvainen! Ainakin minun tapauksessani vain muutaman soinnun soittaminen riitti herättämään ajatuksia pikalainan ottamisesta.

On hyvin vaikea kuvailla tarkoin, mitä se on, mutta juuri tällaiselta puhtaan sähkökitaran pitää soida! Soundi on puhdas ja dynaaminen, mutta ei koskaan kylmä tai kliininen. Kombon sointi on kuulas ja raikas, muttei ärsyttävän terävä. Bassokielet soivat tukevasti, mutta ne pysyvät kuitenkin selkeinä.

Lyhyen MOD-jousikaiun soundi on yllättävän monitahoinen ja tiheä, ja sitä on tarjolla hyvinkin runsaasti. Myös Black Prince Reverbin tremolo toimii esimerkillisesti – tarjolla on kaikenlaisia tremolomuotoja kevyestä ja hitaasta hyvin nopeaan ja rankkaan vatkaukseen.

Tässä pätkässä esitetään Telecasterilla Bluetone Black Prince Reverb -kombon kuivaa soundia, sekä kombon kaiku- ja tremolo-efektit:

Black Prince säilyttää myös mallikkaasti eri kitaroiden soundillisia eroja. Näissä kolmessa pätkissä soivat Fender Telecaster…

…Epiphone Casino…

…ja japanilainen 1970-luvun kopio Gibson ES-335 -mallista:

Kombon erittäin terve puhdas soundi toimii myös todella hyvin efektipedaalien kanssa. Demobiisissä on käytetty – Black Princen oman tremolon ja kaiun lisäksi – analogista chorus-pedaalia, sekä Tube Screamer -tyylinen säröpedaali.

Komppikitarana toimii Fender Stratocaster, kun taas soolo-osuudet on soitettu Hamer USA Studio Custom -kitaralla:

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – power valves

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb – front view 1

Bluetone Black Prince Reverb on mielestäni erittäin laadukas valinta koti- ja studiovahvistimeksi, sekä sellaisille keikoille, joissa ei tarvita lavalla suuria äänenvoimakkuuksia (tai joissa mikitys ja monitorointi toimii hyvin).

Black Prince Reverb on kätevän kokoinen boutique-luokan putkikombo loistavalla clean soundilla, täyteläisellä jousikaiulla ja tyylikkäällä tremolo-efektillä.

Vahvistinta ei ole pilattu lapsellisella putkivoodoolla tai sekavalla graafisella toteutuksella, vaan vankalla asialinjalla mennään – ja hyvä niin!

Tämä on käsintehty, kotimainen laatuvahvistin. Tämän valossa pidän Black Prince Reverbin hintaa jopa melko edullisena.

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Bluetone Black Prince Reverb

1.500 €

Lisätiedot: Bluetone Amps

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Plussat:

+ hinta-laatu-suhde

+ käsintehty Suomessa

+ työnjälki

+ jousikaiku ja putkitremolo

+ soundi

+ master volume -säädin

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