Posts tagged ‘new model’


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.


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.


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.:


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.


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


+ handcrafted in Finland

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ sound


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













Now on Soundcloud: Halla Custom Hallabird

Halla Custom Hallabird
Handmade neck-through electric guitar

• Made in Finland
• 9-stripe khaya/walnut through-neck
• khaya body wings
• long scale – 67 cm/ 26.37″
• ebony fingerboard
• brass nut
• 24 Jescar Evo frets
• two-way truss rod
• black Gotoh hardware
• two Halla Custom P-90 pickups
• three-way toggle, master volume, three-way impedance switch

Amp used – Bluetone Shadows Jr.
Pedals used – 1980s Ibanez SC10 Chorus (rhythm guitars), Morley M2 Wah (lead guitar)
Mic used – Shure SM57



Testi tulossa ++ Working on a review ++ Halla Custom HallaBird

Contact: Halla Custom Instruments


Review: Bluetone Shadows Jr.

Following in the wake of their very popular Shadows Reverb combo, Finnish boutique makers Bluetone Amps have recently introduced a smaller sibling, called the Shadows Jr.

The Bluetone Shadows Jr. (combo starting at around 1,300 €) is a hand-built, all-valve guitar combo, whose sound is based on the classic Vox AC15. Instead of being a straight, slavish copy, though, the Shadows Jr. incorporates many of the up-to-date features that have made Bluetone such a well-regarded boutique maker.


The Shadows Jr. has the clean and business-like looks that active players truly appreciate. You don’t want to be slowed down on stage by a control panel that’s hard to decipher. The Bluetone is clarity itself.

This is a single-channel all-valve combo running in Class AB mode giving you maximum output power at just over 10 watts.

The Shadows Jr. is designed around a trio of 12AX7 preamp tubes and a pair of EL84s powering the speaker. The combo’s power valves are cathode-biased, which means that swapping tubes won’t necessitate a trip to your friendly amp technician.

Bluetone is one of the very few amp makers who use torroidal power transformers. These doughnut-shaped devices (the black thing in the upper left corner) are lighter and more dependable than traditional transformer designs, and they offer more exact tolerances. As a valve amp is highly dependable on a stable and electronically quiet power supply for superior tone, Bluetone decided on using torroidal transformers early on, and they’ve never looked back.

The Warehouse Guitar Speakers Green Beret is an excellent choice for a strongly Brit-flavoured combo. Bluetone break in all of the speakers they use with low-frequency sine waves.

Despite being a compact single-channel combo amp (weighing only around 10 kg), the Bluetone Shadows Jr. offers an amazing amount of different clean and gain tones, thanks in no small part to the amp’s PPIMV master volume and the three-step OPC-switch.

PPIMV stands for ”post-power inverter master volume”, which is the preferred way of master volume design at Bluetone Amps, because it eats up the least amount of an amplifier’s tone, when in use. And if you turn the master volume knob all the way up, a PPIMV design makes the master volume ”disappear” electronically, making it completely transparent.

OPC, on the other hand, stands for ”output power control”. On the Shadows Jr. you have a choice of three settings, giving you 0.2, two or the full 10 watts of power, respectively. The magic of the OPC circuit is that it will turn volume levels down very noticeably without changing the tonal character of your settings, while also leaving almost all of the dynamics intact. Many lesser output power designs will turn a clean setting into an overdriven sound when you select a lower output level. The Shadows Jr. will sound almost the same on ten, two or 0.2 watts – the small tonal differences are the result of the speaker being driven differently. With the OPC at the lowest setting you will get approximately 95 percent of the full ”Shadows Jr. experience” at bedroom/apartment block volume levels. That’s fantastic!

The back panel gives you a choice of using the internal speaker or an external 4- or 8-ohm cabinet.

Bluetone have also included their tasty buffered, switchable effects loop with a dedicated volume control. When the loop is not in use, the circuit can also serve as a handy lead boost.


Are you looking for a cool little tone machine with a strong Vox-y flavour, and no-compromise build quality? You should do yourself a favour and try the Bluetone Shadows Jr.

The Shadows Jr. ticks all the right boxes:

You get that classic clean tone with that sweet mid-range ”attitude”. A clean tone that is lively, but never glassy or brittle.

With the front-end volume near the other extreme you’ll get overdrive and distortion that is more gritty and dynamic – think later era Beatles, windmilling Townshend, or multilayered May – than creamy and compressed.

But don’t forget to check out the wide scope of break-up Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll sounds to be had between 11 and 2 o’clock on the volume (gain) control (depending on the guitar used). You’re in for hours of wailing soloing and chunky rhythms without ever needing an overdrive stompbox.

Here’s a Gibson Les Paul Junior on its own:

Demo track number one features two rhythm guitar tracks – a Fender Stratocaster (stereo left) and a Gibson Les Paul Junior (right) – as well as a Hamer USA Studio Custom on lead duty:

The second demo track features a Gibson Les Paul Junior (rhythm left), an Epiphone Casino (rhythm right), and a Fender Telecaster (lead guitar):


The Bluetone Shadows Jr. is a fantastic little tone machine for the Vox-inclined player, who likes warm clean tones, dynamic break-up sounds, and gritty late-Sixties/early-Seventies dirt.

The build quality is miles ahead of any mass-produced guitar amplifier – this is a handcrafted boutique-grade valve amp. Modern additions like the PPIMV master volume, the OPC circuit, and the switchable effects loop, also raise this amp above any vintage-style copies.

For many the crucial question with low-wattage amps is volume. How loud is the Bluetone Shadows Jr?

Let’s just say that if you’ve only ever tried 10-watt tranny combos before you’re in for quite a surprise! These are ten (-plus) watts of British-style valve amp majesty, with every last ounce of loudness wrung out of the power amp and speaker.

With the OPC and the master on full, this little chap will easily get you into trouble with your neighbours in your block of flats on clean tones alone. If you don’t need 100 percent clean tones, the Shadows Jr. will easily get you through many rehearsals and gigs in small venues. And there’s always the option to stick a mic in front of the speaker.

So, don’t expect a Heavy Metal-type volume onslaught, but be prepared for some serious business.

Bluetone Amps Shadows Jr.

Prices starting from 1,300 €

Contact: Bluetone Amps


+ Handmade in Finland

+ Master volume


+ Effects loop

+ Sound

+ Value-for-money*****Save









Bluetone Shadows Jr – The Kitarablogi video

Bluetone Shadows Jr.

• Handmade in Finland
• All-valve Class AB single-channel combo
• 10 W, 2 W or 0.2 W of output power (OPC)
• Diode recitified
• Two-band EQ
• PPIMV Master Volume
• Built-in buffered FX loop/booster
• 3 x ECC83 (12AX7) & 2 x EL84
• One 10-inch WGS Green Beret speaker (25 Watts/8 Ohms)

Demo Track

All guitars recorded with the Bluetone Shadows Jr. (no pedal effects used). Delay and reverb added during mixdown.

• Rhythm guitars: Fender Stratocaster (left channel) & Gibson Les Paul Junior (right channel)
• Lead guitar: Hamer USA Studio Custom

Recorded with a Shure SM57.



Testi tulossa === Review coming soon === Bluetone Shadows Jr

Contact: Bluetone Amps


Huomenna: Tokai TST-50 Modern


Now on SoundCloud: Tokai TST-50 Modern

Demo track recorded using Electro-Harmonix’ Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi and Nano Big Muff Pi pedals going into a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo. Additional effects added in Garageband during mixdown.

Lisätiedot: Musamaailma


Testi tulossa +++ Working on a review +++ Tokai TST-50 Modern

Lisätiedot: Musamaailma


Review: Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid, Liekki 290-T Classic & 57HM-H Master

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – headstock

This spring is bringing exciting news from Flaxwood Guitars – the Finnish maker has given its model line-up a thorough overhaul.

One important change sees Flaxwood rearranging their models into three distinct series:

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – flying

The (newly-expanded) Hybrid Series encompasses Fender-inspired electric guitars, which combine Flaxwood’s famous injection-moulded WFC-necks (Wood Fibre Composite) with wooden bodies.

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – flying

Flaxwood’s bona fide classics – such as the Äijä, Laine or Rautia models – have now been grouped into the aptly-named Classic Series.

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – flying

The brand-new Master Series is offering the guitarist ”factory customised” Flaxwood guitars. These models have received special finishes and/or hardware, in addition to pickup choices that differ from similar Classic Series instruments.

For this review we received one guitar from each series – the MTQ Hybrid (current RRP in Finland: 1.750 €), the Liekki 290-T Classic (current RRP in Finland: 2.054 €) and the 57HM-H Master (current RRP in Finland: 2.707 €).


Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – beauty shot 1

The Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid is the company’s beautiful take on the Telecaster Custom theme, with its wood-composite Flaxwood-neck and a swamp ash body with a bound flame maple top.

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – back beauty

The MTQ’s gorgeous Honeyburst finish shows off some luscious wood grain.

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – Gotoh HAP tuners

The golden machine heads on the MTQ Hybrid are locking Gotoh H.A.P. units with height-adjustable tuning posts.

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – bridge

The bridge is a traditional Tele-ashtray design, but it comes updated with six bridge saddles for perfect intonation and action adjustment.

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – pickups

The MTQ’s pickups are made by Seymour Duncan:

The neck unit is a (PAF-style) Antiquity Humbucker, while the bridge single coil is a chunky STL-1B.


Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – beauty shot 1

The Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic (liekki means flame in Finnish) is without doubt one of the best-known guitars from this Finnish maker. This slender and gracious f-holed beauty is offered in several cool finishes.

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – back beauty

The Liekki 290-T Classic is an all Flaxwood-WFC instrument. This injection-moulded material – which was developed in co-operation with the University of Eastern Finland – is eco-friendly and fully recyclable.

The Flaxwood body is partially hollow, and capped from the back with a resonating back plate.

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – neck joint

Flaxwood Guitars’ proprietary 3D neck joint is very smooth.

As you can see from this picture, newer Flaxwood instruments now sport a matte black neck, instead of the original, structured look of the early Flaxwood necks.

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – headstock

The company uses it’s own compensated X-Tune Nut on all Classic and Master Series models. The X-Tune Nut will make open chords ring out much more in tune than most traditional guitars.

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – vibrato

The Liekki’s 290-T-version comes equipped with Schaller’s ingenious LP Tremolo vibrato bridge.

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – pickups

Two Seymour Duncan P-90-type pickups (SP90-1 Vintage Soapbar) have been installed on the Liekki Classic.


Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – beauty shot 2

Flaxwood’s brand-new 57HM-H Master is a Metal guitarist’s dream machine.

The 57HM-H comes with a suitably moody matte black finish with golden pinstripes, Schaller Security Locks, and a pair of active EMG pickups.

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – back beauty

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – body cavity

The 57HM-H Master’s battery compartment has been installed into the instrument’s back plate.

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – headstock

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – bridge

The Gotoh hardware – locking tuners and a tune-o-matic bridge plus stopbar – has been finished in black chrome.

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – pickups

EMG’s 57/66-set comprises a pair of alnico-loaded humbuckers, and promises to deliver an intriguing combination of vintage warmth with active punch and clarity.


Even though Flaxwood Guitars’ brand philosophy is based on the ultra-modern use of injection-moulded WFC-composite material, there is still a surprising amount of traditional handicraft that goes into the making of each and every Flaxwood model. There isn’t a machine in existence that will churn out finished instruments from raw materials, you do still need lots of guitar-making skills to build a top notch instrument.

You can see and feel the touch of a craftsman when you pick up a Flaxwood guitar. Our review trio displayed excellent workmanship, and all guitars came with a top grade set-up.

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – body beauty 2

Any old Telecaster lover will feel right at home with the Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid, because the most important design elements – like the vintage bridge or the control positioning – have been carried over from the classic to this new model.

The neck profile is slim and slightly oval, with a mere whiff of a V-neck’s spine along its back. The playing feel is fast, effortless and precise.

The tone of the Flaxwood MTQ doesn’t come as a surprise – this model offers an array of very tasty Tele-style sounds!

Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – body beauty 1


Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – body beauty 2

Flaxwood’s Liekki 290-T Classic is a lightweight and compact instrument that balances perfectly on a strap.

In addition to the three-way pickup switch, most Flaxwood models traditionally feature a single master volume control and two tone controls (one per pickup).

I can’t understand why Schaller’s excellent LP Tremolo isn’t used on more guitars as a standard feature. I can only applaud Flaxwood for featuring the LP Tremolo on several of their models!

The Seymour Duncan P-90s give you a wide range of different tones on the Liekki, from jazzy warmth all the way to gritty Rock.

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – body beauty 1


Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – body beauty 1

The Flaxwood 57HM-H is a fantastic addition to the company’s line-up in my opinion:

The playing feel of the 57HM-H is quite similar to the Liekki model, but the fatter frets and stable, non-trem bridge will be just the ticket for fans of detuned high-gain riffage.

The EMG 57/66-set is a great update on the US-maker’s original active humbucker recipe. There’s more than enough power and punch on tap, but you could never call these active humbuckers cold, clinical or sterile!

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – body beauty 1


Flaxwood MTQ Hybrid – beauty shot 2

Flaxwood Liekki 290-T Classic – beauty shot 2

It’s really great to see Flaxwood Guitars expanding their line-up further!

In my view the new three-tiered model range makes a lot of sense, making it easier to find the right Flaxwood for any player.

The Liekki 290-T Classic has become a genuine classic over the years, while the brand-new MTQ Hybrid and 57HM-H models further widen Flaxwood’s appeal to include both traditional and modern guitarists. A test drive is highly recommended!

Flaxwood 57HM-H Master – beauty shot 1

Flaxwood Guitars

MTQ Hybrid – 1.750 € (comes with a gig bag)

Liekki 290-T Classic – 2.045 € (comes with a case)

57HM-H Master – 2.707 € (comes with a case)


+ made in Finland

+ workmanship

+ quality parts and pickups

+ playability

+ sound