I’d guess this will change soon, because this ambitious Chinese acoustic guitar maker is not content with simply copying other people’s designs and building techniques. Mayson’s chief designer Alex Wang has come up with many structural improvements and updated manufacturing methods to make a better steel-string guitar.
Key changes include Mayson’s patented bolt-on neck joint, their own special top bracing pattern, and deeper bodies for a richer sound.
Mayson Guitars’ Finnish distributor NordSound kindly supplied us with a Mayson M3/OCE for this review.
The Mayson M3/OCE (price in Finland: 558 €; incl. gig bag) comes from the company’s Luthier Series and is a Mayson Marquis-sized (Grand Auditorium) cutaway model with a built-in pickup and preamp system.
The M3/OCE is an extremely beautiful steel-string with a richly grained solid ovangkol top, and laminated ovangkol sides and back. Ovangkol is a non-endangered African relative of rosewood.
The Mayson’s neck is crafted from mahogany and topped with an Indian rosewood fingerboard sporting narrow frets.
Mayson uses its own special style of open gear machine heads.
The tuners are sunk into the back of the headstock to prevent any sideways movement of the machine heads.
The M3/OCE comes with a top nut and a compensated bridge saddle both made from genuine bone.
Our review instrument comes with Mayson’s own MPC-6 Purecoustics pickup system.
The preamp offers you three unobtrusive knobs to adjust your sound – volume, bass and treble.
The only point deduction comes in the guise of a freewheeling battery pouch. The sticky tape holding the velcro supposed to hold the battery pouch in place (next to the neck block) has become unstuck somewhere down the line, leaving the battery hanging from the preamp by its connecting cables.
The M3/OCE comes adorned in tasteful wood binding.
The guitar has received a flawless natural gloss finish.
I must admit to it:
I’m a real sucker for beautiful woods, so the Mayson M3 got me on its side straight away, thanks to its stunning ovangkol soundbox.
But the M3/OCE isn’t only looks! This guitar plays great, not least thanks to its comfortable D-profile neck, and a very decent fret job.
In my view, the best thing about this Mayson is the way it sounds, though. The sound is rich, well-defined, and offers plenty of zing and sparkle. This is a huge sound with fantastic definition, which reminds me of a grand piano.
Mayson’s MPC-6 Purecoustics pickup system also ticks all the right boxes in my opinion, giving you a very decent piezo version of the M3/OCE’s acoustic voice.
Here’s a short clip played fingerstyle and recorded with a single AKG C3000 microphone:
…and the same clip recorded using the guitar’s pickup system:
Here I’ve used a plectrum and the AKG mic:
…and here’s the same piece recorded with the Purecoustics system:
The demo track consists of three different stereo guitar tracks, all recorded with a pair of C3000s:
The Mayson M3/OCE is a fine acoustic guitar with a very decent pickup system at a very fair price. The ovangkol soundbox makes this guitar a real thing of beauty.
I can only recommend you try one out for yourself.
It’s practically impossible to overstate the significance of Fender’s brand-new American Professional series of guitars and basses:
This isn’t just another new series among many others – the American Professional instruments are replacing Fender’s longest-running, mega-selling American Standard model range.
In addition to several Tele, Strat, Precision and Jazz Bass models, the American Pro range also includes modern versions of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars.
Fender’s American Pro instruments feature a multitude of improvements and updates over the American Standard models, but without doubt the most important upgrade comes in the form of the series’ V-Mod single-coils.
The V-Mod pickups have been developed by Fender’s electronics specialist Tim Shaw. The basic idea was to provide pickups that are tuned specifically for the position they are used in on the guitar. Shaw even went as far as harmonising the tonal response between the wound and plain strings inside each pickup, in some cases even using different magnets inside one pickup.
Depending on the chosen finish, the Fender American Professional Telecaster (price in Finland approx. 1,700 €; incl. case) comes with either an alder or ash body (as on the two-tone sunburst model reviewed here).
You can also choose between a one-piece maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard option.
The American Professional Stratocaster (price in Finland approx. 1,700 €; incl. case) uses alder for the body, and you can choose between one-piece maple necks and rosewood fingerboards, too.
After having used synthetic materials for a long time, Fender have now switched to genuine bone nuts on all their American Pro instruments.
The two-way Biflex truss rods have been kept over from the American Standards.
All Am Pro guitars come with modern tuners with staggered-height posts.
The fretboard radius is kept at 9.5 inches, which gives you an excellent compromise between a vintage Fender-feel and modern playability.
There’s been an important change regarding the fret material, though:
American Professional guitars come with a new fret type that is almost as tall as jumbo wire, but narrower than the frets on the discontinued American Standard models. Again, this new fret profile is meant to give you the feel – and the percussive attack – of vintage fretwire, combined with the bend-friendly height modern jumbo-sizes offer.
The Am Pro Telecaster’s bridge is a brand-new design, which is reminiscent of vintage-type Tele bridges, but includes a few contemporary improvements.
Tele anoraks will be pleased to see Fender reverting back to a three-saddle design using brass saddles. The new saddles sport machined slopes for better intonation adjustment.
For the most part, the sides of the bridge’s base late are lower than on a vintage-style Tele bridge to make fingerpicking easier. The rear-facing end is higher, though, and Fender even includes a short and snazzy bridge cover (not shown).
Why fix something that’s not broken?
The Am Pro Strat vibrato is basically the same well-designed two-point bridge we all know from the recent American Standard series Strats, sporting vintage bent-steel saddles, and a modern bridge plate and vibrato block.
The vibrato arm is push-fit.
The American Professional models feature a traditional four-screws-plus-tilt neck joint.
The Am Pro Strat’s deep contours make the guitar especially comfortable to play.
The V-Mod pickups on the Telecaster both use Alnico V magnets for the bass strings and Alnico II for the treble strings.
The bridge pickup is reverse-wound/reverse-polarity to give you a hum-free middle (both pickups on) setting.
The V-Mod set for the SSS-Strat is even more involved than the Tele’s set-up:
The neck pickup uses Alnico II magnets for the wound strings and Alnico IIIs for the plain strings, for a tight bass and warm trebles. The middle pickup comes with Alnico IIs for the bass strings and Alnico Vs for the top, which helps retain the sparkle and clarity in switch positions two and four. The bridge pickup has Alnico V magnets for all six strings.
The tone control set-up has been modified to include the bridge pickup as well, by having the neck and middle pickups share the first tone control.
Fender has given the neck profiles an overhaul, too, and this has clearly paid off:
The new, more oval C-profile feels fantastic, much better than the sometimes slightly generic feel of older American Standard necks. The neck is chunky without being fat or unwieldy.
The workmanship, the fretwork and the general set-up were very good, but for some reason the intonation was off on our test sample. Nothing a digital tuner and a screwdriver can’t fix in a matter of minutes, though…
I look for a woody and throaty basic voice in my Teles, and the new American Pro Telecaster delivers. There’s enough twang in here for Country and early Rock ’n’ Roll, but the sound always stays satisfyingly fat and chunky.
The new neck profile also does its magic when it comes to the Am Pro Strat. This is one guitar that’s hard to put down!
You can only admire Tim Shaw for his dedication and perseverance in developing the Strat’s V-Mod pickup set.
Every now and then I tend to veer towards the cynical, when dealing with marketing hype and pickup esoterics. I mean, come on, most traditionally constructed Strats (and S-type guitars) sound like a Strat – bright, sparkly single pickup selections and hollowed-out in-between settings.
Fender’s V-Mod single-coils do clearly make a difference in my opinion. Firstly, the string-to-string balance for each pickup on its own is outstanding, both in terms of level and timbre. Secondly, the in-between settings sound extremely good, too, despite the fact that the V-Mod set mixes three different Strat pickups.
This results in a Stratocaster model with five equally great-sounding pickup selections.
The demo track has Telecaster rhythm tracks coming from the left side of the stereo field, and Stratocaster rhythm parts coming from the right. On the first pass the lead guitar part is played on the Tele, for the second pass the Strat takes over.
In my view, the American Professional Telecaster and Stratocaster are very worthy successors to their American Standard counterparts.
These guitars will doubtlessly set a new standard for high-volume production line electric guitars, just as their predecessors have done since the late 1980s.
Fender American Professional Telecaster & Stratocaster
Approximate price: 1,700 € each (includes hard case)
I will stick my neck out really far by claiming that the Fried Eye 2+2 is the best-sounding and most-versatile compact two-channel boutique valve combo I’ve ever come across. This guitar combo is all tone and no hype!
If the demo video and this summary are enough to whet your appetite, I’d suggest you head over to Bluetone Amps’ website right away.
If you want to know more, read on…
Helsinki-based Bluetone is a small boutique amp maker that handcrafts each and every one of their guitar and bass amplifiers, combos and cabinets. Bluetone offers a wide range of customisable options, both on the electronic as well as on the cosmetic front.
Our review combo (price of this version: 2,400 €; incl. footswitch and cover) is a two-channel all-valve affair comprising a Bluetone Clean channel partnered with a Fried Eye crunch channel, which is Bluetone’s take on the hot-rodded Marshall theme.
The 2+2-monicker in the combo’s name points to the special power amp architecture applied here. Instead of trying to emulate or approximate the different power amp sounds of, say, a Blackface-style clean channel and a Marshall-style crunch channel using heavy filtering and electronic trickery, Bluetone Amps go for maximum authenticity.
The 2+2 power amp uses two different pairs of output tubes – one pair for each channel. Selecting the clean channel switches on the power amp’s pair of 6L6GC-valves, while switching over to the Fried Eye channel will see a pair of EL34s spring into action.
(Photo courtesy of Bluetone Amps)
Bluetone Amps have recently been moving away from building their complete model range using only point-to-point building techniques. Certain models are now available as modular designs, which makes production less time-consuming, and thus more affordable. Still, like the point-to-point amplifiers, Bluetone hand-solders all its PCB-based modules at their workshop.
The Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb has been made in this modular fashion.
Like most Bluetone combos the Fried Eye is constructed with an open back.
Our review sample is one of the first Bluetone amps to feature a Celestion neodymium speaker.
The 12-inch G12 NEO promises genuine Celestion Creamback tones coupled with the benefit of considerably lighter weight.
The Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb uses an MOD reverb tank and Bluetone’s own valve-driven circuitry.
This Fried Eye combo comes with some interesting back panel features:
There’s a Front End signal booster, amplifying the signal right at the beginning of the signal path.
The Fried Eye’s switchable effects loop is an active affair, complete with a dedicated level control. If you don’t run any effects in the loop, you can use the loop’s make-up gain as an additional, foot-switchable boost in the signal path.
A chunky three-button footswitch unit is supplied with the Bluetone combo.
Bluetone’s Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb combo offers a wide range of options on its front panel. Thanks to the logical layout and the clear lettering, the front panel never seems complex or crowded, though.
The Fried Eye Crunch channel offers you a 3-Band EQ-section, plus Fat and Bite switches, to fine-tune your crunch tones.
The Bluetone Clean channel’s High/Low-switch offers two different pre-gain settings, which change the amount of available clean headroom.
Each channel features its own reverb level knobs – so you don’t have to compromise lush reverbs for clean tones with drier settings for crunch – as well as dedicated master volume controls.
Using all the different front panel and back panel features offers you a mind-boggling array of different tonal and drive options. With just a couple (or three) well-chosen guitars, Bluetone’s Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb will give you access to virtually any classic guitar tone you could dream up (with the exception of contemporary Metal).
Bluetone’s clean channel will take you from pristinely shimmering cleans well into Blues break-up territory.
This clip steps through the different boost options offered by the Fried Eye’s clean channel (using a Hamer USA Studio Custom). The sequence is Low dry –> Low plus reverb –> High –> High + FE Boost –> High + FE Boost + FX Boost:
Being able to use the FX loop as an additional booster turns the Fried Eye 2+2 into a two-channel-plus-solo-boost machine.
This clip steps through the different boost options offered by the Fried Eye’s crunch channel (using a Hamer USA Studio Custom). The sequence is Crunch –> Crunch + FE Boost –> Crunch + FE Boost + FX Boost:
Cleaning up the crunch channel using your guitar’s volume control works like a dream here. The Bluetone’s Fried Eye Crunch sounds juicy and lively, even with the guitar turned down to almost zero:
The demo track’s rhythm guitar parts were played on a Gibson Melody Maker SG (stereo left) and a maple-necked Fender Stratocaster (stereo right). The lead part was recorded with a modern Tele-type guitar, using the instrument’s volume control to adjust the amount of overdrive:
I will stick my neck out really far by claiming that the Fried Eye 2+2 is the best-sounding and most-versatile compact two-channel boutique valve combo I’ve ever come across. This guitar combo is all tone and no hype!
Messrs. Kneckt and Vauhkonen don’t run around wearing strange clothes or wild hairdos, pretending to be exalted tone gurus. You also won’t be required to send in mp3s of your guitar playing to prove you’re worthy to join the ”Bluetone Cult”.
Bluetone’s dynamic duo are down-to-earth guys, out on an ongoing quest to bring you maximum tone and usability, and no bullsh*t.
For a genuine boutique-grade amp of its calibre, I can only call the Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb’s price tag extremely fair.
Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb Combo
This version: 2,400 € (including footswitch unit and dust cover)
Italiasta on kovaa vauhtia muodostumassa eräänlainen Mekka meille kitaristeille, tai ainakin siltä vaikuttaa, kun tarkastelee saapasmaan alati kasvavaa ryhmää innovatiivisia vahvistin- ja efektipajoja.
Yksi todella kuuma nimi on Gurus Amps Faenzasta (noin puolessa välissä matkaa Bolognasta Riminiin). Gurus valmistaa sekä vahvistimia että efektipedaaleita – heidän analoginen, putkivahvistettu Echosex-viivepedaali on saavuttanut jo miltei legendastatuksen.
Gurus Ampsin Sinusoid (479 €) kuuluu samaan efektisarjaan, ja se on todella kiehtova yhdistelmä vanhaa ja uutta. Ison pokkarin kokoinen Sinusoid tarjoaa kaksi putkisoundilla höystettyä efektiä samoissa kuorissa– optisen tremolon, sekä aidon jousikaiun.
Sinusoid myydään ilman virtalähdettä. Pedaali toimii 9-12 voltin tasavirralla, ja virtajakin polariteetti on Boss-standardin mukainen. On kuitenkin tärkeää valita sen kanssa käytettäväksi astetta järeämpi virtalähde, sillä kyseinen Gurus-efekti on melko janoinen kaveri, joka tarvitsee toimiakseen 230-400 milliampeeria. Sinusoid toimi testin ajan ongelmattomasti Kitarablogin Cioks-pedaalilautavirtalähteen kanssa käytettynä.
Gurusin Sinusoid-pedaali on monofoninen tuplaefekti. Kitaran (tai kosketinsoittimen) voi liittää joko suoraan Sinusoidin tuloon, tai vaihtoehtoisesti pedaalin voi sijoittaa vahvistimen efektilenkkiin.
Remote control –jakin ansiosta Sinusoidin efektit voi kytkeä päälle ja pois ulkoisella kytkimellä, mikä mahdollistaa Sinusoidin sijoittamisen kauas muista efekteistä, mikä puolestaan voi auttaa häiriöäänten hillitsemisessä.
Guru Ampsin Sinusoid on todella helppokäyttöinen:
Kummallekin efektille on varattu oma jalkakytkin, kaksi säädintä sekä (vanhoista putkiradioista tuttu) vihreä Magic Eye -merkkivalo.
Tremolopuolella merkkivalo ilmaisee vatkauksen nopeuden. Jousikaiun Magic Eye -valo taas ilmaisee Accutronics-jousitankille ohjattavan signaalin volyymitason, jota säädetään Volume-säätimellä. Volumen ”väärinkäyttö” on mahdollista, ja sen myötä Sinusoidilla voi tuottaa hyvinkin rapeita ja säröisiä Surf- ja Rockabilly-kaikuja.
Sinusoid on saanut nimensä laitteen muhkeasta, siniaaltoon pohjautuvasta tremoloefektistä. Intensityllä säädetään efektin voimakkuutta, ja siinä riittää säätövaraa lähes huomaamattomasta aina rajuun vatkaukseen. Myös Speed-säädin tarjoaa laajan säätövaran tremolon nopeudelle.
Tämä klippi esittelee Gurus Sinusoidin tremoloefektiä eri säädöillä. Testikitarana toiminut Fender Stratocaster oli kytketty suoraan pedaaliin:
Ensimmäinen ajatukseni oli ”Hullut italialaiset!”, kun kuulin että Sinusoidin uumenin on asennettu aito jousikaiku. Kaikua testattuani täytyy kuitenkin myöntää, että pedaalin herkulliset kaikusoundit voittivat minut nopeasti puolelleen. Sinusoidin kaikusoundi ei ehkä ole ihan niin vivahteikas ja tiheä, kuin esimerkiksi Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb -kombossa. Mutta täytyy muistaa, että tässä on kyse huomattavasti pienemmästä jousitankista, ja siihen nähden Gurus Sinusoidin tarjoama jousikaiku kuulostaa jopa hämmästyttävän hienolta:
Tässä on vielä yksi esimerkki, jossa hyödynnetään molempia efektejä yhtä aikaa:
Mainitsin aiemmin, että Sinusoid-pedaali toimii, kitaran lisäksi, myös todella hyvin koskettimien/synan kanssa. Äänitin siksi demobiisissä kitararaitojen lisäksi myös kosketinosuudet Gurus-pedaalin kautta:
Gurus Sinusoid on vallan mainio laite, jos kaipaa omaan soundiinsa putkivahvistettuja, aitoja tremolo- ja jousikaiku-efektejä. Laite on helppokäyttöinen ja samalla myös suhteellisen kompakti.
Keikkaympäristössä täytyy kuitenkin tarkkaan miettiä Sinusoidin sijaintia pedaalilaudassa sähköisten tai mekaanisten häiriöäänten ehkäisemiseksi. Nimensä mukaisesti jousikaiku tuottaa efektinsä sähkömekaanisesti resonoivilla metallijousilla, minkä vuoksi kaikki kaikutankit ovat herkkiä tärinälle ja iskuille. Tavallisesti jousikaiku on sijoitettu turvallisesti kombovahvistimen pohjaan tai sille on jopa rakennettu oma kotelo. Gurusin Sinusoidin tapauksessa jousitankki on lattiaefektin uumenissa, ja laite kytketään päälle ja pois jalkakytkimellä. Jalkakytkimen ytimekäs käyttö ja/tai vahinkopotku laitteen kylkeen voi saada jouset rämisemään, mikä kuulostaa eriasteiselta ukkosen jyrinältä. Suosittelen siis solumuovikerroksen tms. asentamista pedaalin pohjan ja pedaalilaudan rungon väliin iskujen vaimentamiseksi.
Minun mielestäni Gurus Sinusoid -tuplapedaali on mainio valinta vintageen kallistuvalle soundiesteetikolle. Tiedän, että nykyään on tarjolla loistavia vintage-tremolon ja -kaiun mallinnuksiakin, mutta aitoja analogiefektejä arvostaville Sinusoid on juuri oikea valinta.
Italy is fast becoming one of the top countries for tone hounds, thanks to the ever-growing number of cool Italian guitar amp and effects companies.
One such company is Gurus Amps from the town of Faenza, about halfway between Bologna and Rimini. Gurus makes both amplifiers and effect pedals, with their valve-driven Echosex analogue echo pedal probably being their best-known product.
Gurus Amps’ Sinusoid (price in Finland: 479 €) is another cool design, which seems both anachronistic and up-to-date at the same time. The Sinusoid is a paperback-sized effect pedal, offering you two valve-driven analogue effects in a very compact format — optical tremolo and genuine spring reverb.
The Sinusoid is sold without a power supply unit. This double pedal’s power input can handle DC between nine and twelve volts, and its polarity follows the well-established Boss-standard. Be aware, though, that this Gurus effect is relatively power hungry, requiring anything from 230 mA to 400 mA, which means running the Sinusoid off a professional pedalboard PSU is strongly advised. The effects unit worked fine with Kitarablogi’s Cioks PSU.
The Gurus Sinusoid is equipped with mono in- and outputs – you can plug your guitar (or keyboard) directly into it, or run the effects pedal in an effects loop.
The Sinusoid is loop-switcher-ready, sporting a remote control input jack in the upper left corner.
Guru Amps’ Sinusoid is extremely easy to use:
Each of the two effects comes with its own footswitch, two control knobs, as well as a green ”Magic Eye” indicator.
On the optical tremolo side the indicator light gives you the speed of the tremolo effect. The spring reverb’s ”Magic Eye” tells you how hot you’re currently driving the reverb tank’s (manufactured by Accutronics, by the way) input stage (using the Volume control). It is possible to overdrive the reverb circuit, should you wish to achieve extreme Surf or Rockabilly effects.
The Sinusoid’s name has been taken from its very musical tremolo circuit, whose modulation uses a sinusoidal wave generator. The Intensity takes you from completely off to quite choppy, with an ample range provided by the Speed control, too.
This clip gives you an idea of the range of tremolo effects offered by the Gurus pedal, when plugging a Fender Stratocaster into its input:
My first thought at realising that the Sinusoid incorporates a genuine spring reverb was ”These Italians must be nuts!”, but I must confess that the pedal has quickly won me over with its classic tones. To my ears, the pedal’s spring reverb sounds a tad less dense, rich, and wet, when compared to something like a Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb. But when you remember that the Gurus Sinusoid is far smaller than a full-sized reverb tank, you will have to admit that the sound quality offered here is truly astounding:
Here’s a short clip of both effects running at the same time:
I already mentioned this before, but Gurus Amps’ Sinusoid also works very well, when used with a keyboard. This is why I’ve recorded the demo track’s keyboard and guitar parts using the effects pedal:
In and of itself the Gurus Sinusoid works wonders in delivering genuine vintage-sounding tremolo and reverb effects in a compact and easy-to-use format.
There is one thing worth considering, though, and that is the effect’s working environment. Due to the way a spring reverb creates its magic – namely by means of vibrating metal springs – all reverb tanks are susceptible to mechanical shocks, at least to some degree. Normally, a spring reverb tends to be safely tucked away at the bottom of an amplifier cabinet, but the Sinusoid is meant to be mounted on your pedalboard and switched on (and off) by foot. Depending on your stage volume and/or the vivacity of your showmanship, accidentally kicking the Sinusoid (or switching the reverb on very forcefully) will inevitably lead to audible spring reverb rattling (sounds like distant thunder). I’d recommend using some type of shock absorption when mounting the Sinusoid to your pedalboard, if you want to minimise reverb rattling.
In my view, Gurus’ Sinusoid is a great two-in-one pedal that scores high in the vintage tone and coolness stakes. Sure, you can get nice-sounding digital models of tremolo and spring reverb effects for less money, but the Sinusoid is the real McCoy!
Tokai Guitars’ workshop in Japan will do the occasional special run of Limited Edition models that come with some features that differ from the regular models on offer. To our delight, we at Kitarablogi managed to get hold of two such special Love Rock guitars for this review.
The Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates (price in Finland: 1,550 €; hard case incl.) is a factory-modded instrument for Billy Gibbons fans …
… while Tokai’s LS-200F-5A(2,995 €; hard case and pickguard incl.) represents the maker’s take on the ”ultimate Love Rock guitar”. This Premium Series instrument shows off an AAAAA figured maple top, and a set of Seymour Duncan Custom Shop pickups.
Even though this isn’t an official signature model by any stretch of the imagination, Tokai’s LS-100F Pearly Gates is clearly modelled after Billy F. Gibbons’ main squeeze.
The solid figured maple top looks fantastic in its gloss brown Ice Tea Burst. The guitar comes with a set of Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbuckers.
The Tokai LS-200F-5A has been built in an extremely limited edition (less than 20 guitars worldwide), with a whopping three instruments finding their way to Finland.
The LS-200F-5A isn’t ”just” a top-of-the-line instrument, it’s a thrilling experience. The flame on this guitar’s top is so deep you can lose yourself in it, and the instrument’s semimatte finish only accentuates its sensual qualities.
Both models are equipped with top quality Gotoh machine heads.
The fretwork is second to none. Both instruments sport a fret size that’s slightly larger-than-vintage.
The bridges and tailpieces are also supplied by Gotoh.
For some reason Pearly Gates – a 1959 Les Paul Standard – comes with a set of humbuckers that offers a strong mid-range peak, while the bridge humbucker is clearly much louder than the neck unit.
Tokai has ordered a batch of custom-made Seymour Duncan Antiquity-humbuckers for the LS-200F-5A.
The Antiquity is Duncan’s most faithful recreation of Gibson’s original PAF. The custom-version used here differs from the regular issue in two points – these humbuckers have not been aged, but look brand new, and both pickups come with four conductors to facilitate pickup splitting.
The Japanese electronics inside the LS-100F Pearly Gates are of a very high standard.
For the LS-200F-5A Tokai uses Orange Drop capacitors, US-made volume pots, and two ESP push/push tone pots for coil-splitting.
Both models are sold with a top-drawer hard case.
Our review sample of the Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates is a fine-playing instrument, with a nice, moderate weight, and a great neck profile, that’s rounded, but not too big (somewhere between a ’59 and a ’60 profile).
The Pearly Gates humbuckers deliver a good deal more output than a traditional PAF (or its copy), coupled with a very strong mid-range. Yet, despite this signature sound, the Pearly Gates set never feels one-dimensional, clunky, or hard-to-control. There’s ample top end and a great dynamic range.
This is what the LS-100F Pearly Gates sounds like played through a handwired Tweed Champ-clone set clean:
Overdriven and distorted tones clearly show off the signature pickup set’s Texan accent:
It’s fairly easy to coax artificial harmonics from this Tokai, if you’re into Billy Gibbons’ playing style:
Tokai’s LS-200F-5A is too good an instrument to be locked away in a display case!
The LS-200F-5A is a surprisingly lightweight solid-body guitar. It plays at least as good as the LS-100F, but thanks to its semimatte finish one seems to make a more intimate connection with this fantastic guitar.
Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity-humbuckers really let the woody aspects of your guitar’s inherent tone shine through. These humbuckers have a clear, precise and dry (in a good sense) sound:
The coil-split option opens up a whole bag of additional tonal choices, whenever you look for more single-coil-type tones from this Love Rock:
Overdriven and distorted tones, too, will benefit from the possibility to drop the output level with the simple pressing of a button (or two):
The demo track features two rhythm guitar tracks, which were both recorded with split humbuckers. The first half of the lead part starts off with the split neck pickup, switching to the full unit for the second half of the song:
Both the LS-100F Pearly Gates as well as the LS-200F-5A are prime examples of the kind of top grade workmanship that has made Japanese Tokais legendary.
The LS-100F Pearly Gates is a great choice for Blues- and Rock-inclined players, who thrive on chunky mid-range power and bags of sustain.
For an investment grade instrument Tokai’s LS-200F-5A is still rather affordable. This guitar will give you Japanese Custom Shop quality at a very fair price, but the edition is, indeed, very limited…
Two Tokai Love Rock models
LS-100F Pearly Gates – 1,550 € (case included)
LS-200F-5A – 2,995 € (case included)
Pros (both guitars):
+ (LS-100F Pearly Gates only) Billy Gibbons signature humbuckers
Tokai Guitarsin paja Japanissa valmistaa aika ajoin pieniä eriä erikoismalleja, joilla on tavalliseen mallistoon nähden poikkeavia ominaisuuksia. Kitarablogin iloksi saimme tällä kertaa testiin jopa kaksi tällaista Love Rock -kitaraa.
Tokai LS-200F-5A(2.995 €; laukku kuuluu hintaan) taas on firman näkemys ultimaattisesta Love Rock -mallista. Se on Premium-sarjan soitin AAAAA-luokan loimuvaahterakannella ja Seymour Duncan Custom Shop -mikrofoneilla.
Vaikka se ei olekaan virallinen nimikkomalli, on Tokain LS-100F Pearly Gates silti kovin Billy Gibbons -henkinen soitin.
Upeassa, kiiltäväksi lakattussa kitarassa on ruskehtava Ice Tea Burst -liukuväritys, sekä Seymour Duncanin valmistama Pearly Gates -mikrofonisetti.
Tokai LS-200F-5A –mallia on valmistettu erittäin rajoitettu erä (noin 20 kappaletta yhteensä), joista peräti kolme kitaraa löysivät tiensä Suomeen.
LS-200F-5A ei ole ”vain” laatukitara, se on elämys. Sen loimuvaahterakannen kuviointi on niin syvän kolmiulotteista, että melkein alkaa huimata, ja sen puolihimmeä viimeistely tukee sopivasti tätä kokonaisuutta.
Molemmissa kitaroissa on käytetty Gotoh:n laadukkaita Kluson-kopioita.
Soittimien nauhat on työstetty erinomaisella tarkkuudella. Molemmissa kitaroissa on käytetty samaa, hieman vintagea isompaa nauhakokoa.
Myös tallan ja kieltenpitimen suhteen Tokai luottaa Gotoh:n vankkaan laatuun.
Jostakin syystä mestarin omasta 1959 Les Paul -kitarasta löytyy epätavallinen setti PAF-mikrofoneja, joissa on vahva keskialueen korostus, sekä selvästi kaulamikrofonia voimakkaampi tallamikki.
LS-200F-5A:ta varten Tokai on tilannut Seymour Duncan Custom Shopilta erikoiserän firman Antiquity-settiä.
Antiquity on Duncanin tarkin jäljitelmä legendaarisista PAF-mikrofoneista. Tässä erikoiserässä on kaksi eroa tavallisiin Antiquity-mikrofoneihin nähden – niiden ulkonäköä ei ole vanhennettu lainkaan, ja kummankin mikrofonin voi halutessaan puolittaa.
LS-100F Pearly Gates -mallin elektroniikka edustaa selvästi japanilaista pro-tasoa.
LS-200F-5A:ssa on sen sijaan käytetty Orange Drop -kondensaattoreita, amerikkalaisia volume-potikoita, sekä ESP:n valmistamia push/push-potikoita tonea ja mikkien puolitusta varten.
Molemmat soittimet myydään oman laadukkaan kovan laukun kera.
Testattu Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates on erittäin mukavan tuntuinen soitin. Painoa löytyy vain maltillisesti ja mallin pyöreä, muttei liian paksu kaulaprofiili tuntuu erittäin mukavalta.
Pearly Gates –mikrofoneissa on huomattavan paljon enemmän tehoa kuin tavallisissa PAF (-kopioissa), ja myös keskialueesta löytyy rutkasti vääntöä. Silti Pearly Gates -setti ei kuulosta millään lailla yksitoikkoiselta, kömpelöltä tai kovaotteiselta, vaan soinnista löytyy silti dynamiikkaa ja selkeyttä.
If you’ve always lusted for a hand-soldered guitar amp you were left with two options until quite recently:
You could either buy an expensive boutique/custom shop amplifier, or – if you’re handy with a soldering iron – opt for a DIY amp kit.
Now there’s a third choice for those of us neither well-heeled nor technically savvy:
British company Juketone offers a range of tasty Fender tweed inspired, hand-wired guitar amplifiers at very moderate prices, thanks to Chinese production and selling direct via the Internet.
The Juketone True Blood (250 £; introductory offer for a limited time only) is the company’s smallest combo.
The True Blood is based on Fender’s legendary 1950s Tweed Champ (specifically the 5F1 version), with a few small tweaks.
Tweed Champs have been built with several differently shaped cabinets over the Fifties, depending on their exact vintage. The True Blood comes in the all-straight cabinet seen on most mid-Fifties originals, while Fender’s current Custom Shop version features the later angled front.
The tweed covering on our review sample was very neat and crisp.
The combo’s cabinet is made of plywood, except for the back covers, which looked (and felt) like MDF-board.
The two most important differences between a vintage Champ and Juketone’s True Blood combo lie in the speaker-type and rectifier valve choices.
In addition to the two audio signal valves – a Ruby Tubes 12AX7 and a 6V6GT – Juketone has chosen a slightly less-known 6Z4 rectifier tube. The 6Z4 used in Juketone amps is a Chinese version (aka the Sino 6Z4) that is not compatible with the American rectifier valve of the same name.
Jensen has traditionally been the speaker brand of choice for vintage tweed amps, but their bass response very often sounds a bit flabby by modern standards. In my opinion, Juketone has made a very good decision in choosing a more British-voiced speaker for their True Blood combo. The eight-inch Celestion Super 8 could be described as an alnico-driven version of their popular Eight 15.
Inside the metal amp chassis you will be greeted by high quality components and clean workmanship. This is genuine hand-soldering using soldering lugs riveted to a fibreglass board.
You’d be foolish to expect the wiring to be on the same, insanely high level – in terms of its neatness – as generally seen on boutique-grade amps, but the True Blood is definitely in line with Juketone’s ”affordable boutique” ethos.
Maybe the most important part in the charm of a 5F1-type Champ (or Champ clone) is the directness of this small combo’s approach to tonal nirvana. There’s no master volume, no tone control, no effects – just a single volume control, and the straightest signal path from input jack to speaker known to mankind.
To some, this type of diminutive Fifties practice amp looks like it’s hopelessly ancient, but the Tweed Champ still has a lot of fans.
The Juketone True Blood’s secret to success lies in the combo’s interactive behaviour. The most traditional way to use the True Blood would be to dial in the maximum amount of volume (and distortion) needed, and then control the amp using the guitar’s own volume and tone controls. Thanks to the naturally rich compression this combo produces when pushed, turning down the guitar volume for cleaner sounds will result in less of a volume drop than expected. Here’s a short clip using a double humbucker guitar (Hamer USA Studio Custom):
If you need more clean headroom from your True Blood (Blues harpists, listen up) than what the factory 12AX7 has to offer, you could easily drop in one of a number of ”cooler” 12A_7-family replacements, such as a 12AU7 or a 12AT7.
Here are three clips of a Fender Telecaster, a Gibson Les Paul Junior and a Hamer Studio Custom, respectively, with their bridge pickups selected. Each clip has been recorded with the combo’s volume control set to ”6”, ”8”, ”10” and ”12”, using a Shure SM57:
The Juketone True Blood’s low volume and tasty compression make this combo an excellent choice for use in the (home-) studio. Just add a little EQ and compression, and season the result with a bit of reverb and/or delay during mixdown, and you’ll be surprised at how big this little chap really sounds:
I can only recommend Juketone’s True Blood warmly for use as a living room and recording amp.
Laying your hands on a hand-wired tweed-style combo has never been so easy or affordable. The warm, big bass response of the Celestion speaker is a definite improvement, at least in my book!
This Juketone combo is a serious alternative to your run-of-the-mill mass-produced practice. It sounds pure and sweet. A hand-soldered combo, such as this, is also far easier to repair (or modify) than a PCB-based design.
The classical (aka nylon-string or Spanish guitar) is still a very popular instrument. Many guitarists start their musical journey on an affordable classical guitar.
This is why Kitarablogi.com decided to do a little round-up of a cross section of nylon-string acoustic in the all-important price segment of 250-400 euros. These days you can get a decent instrument with a solid wood top for a moderate outlay.
A solid top is an important ingredient in an acoustic guitar, played regularly the top will ”come to life” and mature to its full tonal potential. It’s true, you can make music on a plywood-topped acoustic, too, but such a guitar’s tone and volume will always stay somewhat restricted.
The father of the classical guitar was Spanish cabinet maker and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado (1817-1892). Torres came up with the final shape of the Spanish guitar, the basic construction principles (like the top bracing pattern or the separate bridge saddle), and his choices of materials still inform and influence builders to this day.
Torres mostly used cedar for his necks and rosewood for his fretboards. Most of his tops were made from solid spruce. His choice of sound box woods was more varied, though. His back and sides were made from rosewood, mahogany, (flame) maple, and cypress.
Because cypress was a much cheaper wood in Torres’ time than, say, rosewood, cypress body instruments were usually the least expensive. Most flamenco guitarists of that time were cash-strapped, which is why they tended to play Torres’ cypress guitars. This, in turn, is the reason why many flamenco guitars are still made with cypress backs and sides today.
Most modern classicals are built with dovetailed glue joints – the neck and sound box are made separately, and only glued together relatively late in the building process.
Torres used a different technique, which is nowadays called a Spanish Heel:
The neck blank and the neck block are made from one piece of wood, with the neck block looking like an angular ”U” or ”L” (viewed from the side). Either side of the neck blank has a deep groove for the rims to be glued into. The neck blank and sides together then constitute a frame for the top and back.
Fans of the Spanish heel claim that this type of construction will give you maximum vibrational transfer and better tone. Distractors, on the other hand, point to the difficulties the Spanish heel will give you, should a neck angle reset ever become necessary. I think I’ll keep on sitting on the fence on this one…
I feel like a sleazy gameshow host writing this, but there aren’t really any losers in this round-up. All ten guitars are real instruments that are well up to the job of making beautiful music.
Still, it is very interesting to take a look at the different ways modern manufacturers use to re-interpret Torres’ time-honoured concept for the modern player.
We will proceed in alphabetical order…
Admira is one of the largest makers of classical guitars in the world.
German-born Enrique (orig. Heinrich) Keller founded an instrument workshop in northern Spain in 1944. Over time Admira has grown from a small maker into a well-known brand.
Admira guitars are distributed by Musamaailma in Finland.
The Admira A5 is an affordable instrument from the Spanish maker’s Handcrafted-series.
The workmanship is crisp and clean. The thin finish brings out the beauty in the A5’s woods. The golden tuning machines with their pearloid knobs add a nice touch of bling. The rosette is unusual, displaying a chain of little guitars in a row.
Admira’s A5 is one of three instruments in this round-up built with a Spanish heel.
The neck profile is genuinely classical, meaning the neck is wide and flat with slightly angular shoulders.
The moderate action results in a very comfortable playing feel.
The Admira A5 has a big voice with an even balance between its chunky bottom end and clear treble attack.
The Malaga is one of the lightest instruments in this review. The workmanship on this cedar-topped beauty is excellent. The affordable nature of this guitar is only reflected in the very clean, but thinner-than-usual (non-kerfed) wooden linings joining the top and back to the sides.
The neck profile on the Admira Malaga is traditional.
The review sample came with a surprisingly low action (for a nylon-string). This makes the Malaga an excellent choice for a beginner, but also a very viable candidate for flamenco players, who prefer a very fast action and a clicking attack.
Despite its very low action the Malaga plays with a clear and strong voice, completely devoid of string buzz or rattles.
Esteve is a very traditionally-minded Spanish maker of classical guitars.
Kantare guitars are designed in Helsinki by the grand old man of Finnish luthiery, Kauko Liikanen.
The special top bracing system sets these guitar apart from any other nylon-string. Instead of the traditional fan bracing (or a variation thereof), Kantares employ the patented LRS-bracing. Kauko Liikanen’s and Uwe Florath’s Lens Resonance System concentrates an oval pattern of braces around the top’s bridge area. The sound is concentrated in a way not dissimilar to an optical lens. LRS adds strength to the bridge area, while letting the rest of the top vibrate more freely than traditional bracing patterns.
Most Kantares are built in Romania. Hora is one of Europe’s largest makers of string- and bowed instruments.
Our review sample sports Kantare’s brand-new arm rest, which is sold separately. The arm rest has been developed to put your plucking arm into a comfortable playing position, as well as to minimise top damping.
The Dolce C hg is a very beautiful, cleanly built instrument.
Apart from the LRS bracing, a common denominator among most Kantare models is a maple neck.
Classical guitars traditionally feature mahogany or cedar necks; on the other hand, most bowed instruments use flame maple necks. The strength and density of maple makes it an enticing choice for use in a classical guitar neck, too, and the Hora factory has a large stock of flame maple.
Kantare’s Hauser-style machine heads are of very decent quality, and work precisely.
The Dolce C hg’s neck profile is noticeably more rounded than a traditional Spanish neck, probably making this neck feel more comfortable for many. To help the beginner with finding the right fret positions, Kantare have included side dots at the fifth and seventh frets.
The Kantare Dolce hg has quite a loud voice and projects nicely. The sound is clear and precise.
The Vivace C is finished using a new German-made (by Hesse Lignal) non-poisonous product, called Proterra Resit. Proterra Resit uses a novel mixture of shellac, oil and carnauba wax.
Shellac (also called French polish) is an organic polymer that has been in use by instrument makers for centuries. Traditional French polish is very time-consuming and work-intensive in use, which is why you’ll find it on only a limited number of handmade instruments. The huge advantage of Proterra Resit lies in the fact that it is quick and easy to apply.
The Kantare Vivace C looks and feels very ”eco” and ”organic”, in the best sense of these terms.
The new finish nicely accentuates the beautiful wood grain of the guitar’s maple neck.
The neck profile is rounder than a traditional classical guitar neck, and there are two side dots (at the fifth and seventh frets) on this Kantare, too.
The Vivace C’s voice is very woody and a little bit dry. You can clearly hear the wood amplifying the string vibrations. The bottom end isn’t overpowering, the mid-range is warm, and the trebles sound open, but never too bright.
LaMancha-instruments are design in Germany and made in China (under German supervision), in the company’s own factory.
LaMancha has managed to become Germany’s best-selling brand of classical guitars over the course of just a few years. Many of their models have already won awards by the European Guitar Teachers Association.
The top’s yellow tint is reminiscent of the look of French polish.
The stark and unadorned rosewood bridge of the GC3-NAT is a stylish contrast to the instrument’s beautifully intricate soundhole rosette.
Takamine is one of the very few makers of Spanish guitars who uses a truss rod inside their nylon-string guitars’ necks.
The GC3-NAT’s neck profile conforms to tradition – it’s wide, flat, and a touch angular. The action is low-ish (for a classical), making for a very comfortable playing feel.
This Takamine needed a bit of breaking in to realise its potential fully, but it was well worth the effort. The GC3-NAT has a beautiful and fluid voice, a clean and open mid-range, as well as a precise attack.
Valencia was a new name to me, even though the company has been in existence since 1972.
Valencia-guitars are designed in Australia, and built in several factories in China and Indonesia.
The spruce-topped Valencia GC50 is probably the most richly ornamented instrument in this review.
There is multi-ply binding on both top and back, with the outermost ply being mahogany.
The back’s centre seam has also been adorned with a mahogany inlay.
The neck of the GC50 is glued together from three side-by-side strips. The middle piece’s grain orientation is reversed to make neck warping less likely.
Valencia’s neck profile is fairly traditional, with just a touch of added roundness.
The action on our review instrument felt a bit high and stiff for my taste (I’m not Andrés Segovia). A guitar repairer (or a reasonably skilled guitarist) shouldn’t have a problem lowering the bridge saddle, though. Shaving off a millimetre, or so, should result in a much better playing feel.
The Valencia GC50’s voice is beautifully lyrical and open. Even in the highest registers the notes still have an astonishing richness and depth.
Classical guitars have always been a very important part of Yamaha Guitars’ wide range of models. The C40 is still the best-selling classical guitar on the planet.
The more recent Concert Series bears testament to Yamaha’s ongoing commitment to research and development.
The Yamaha CG122MS is one of the most affordable Concert Series instruments.
TheCG122MS’s matte finish is applied very thinly, which is great for tone and feels nice, too.
The CG122MS is a lightweight instrument with a slightly more rounded neck profile.
Side dots at the fifth and seventh frets make finding your way around the fingerboard a little bit easier.
The CG122MS plays very well with a nice, traditional action.
The tone is warm and woody. The Yamaha sounds well-balanced, and displays a crisp and clear attack.
The Yamaha CG142S is the only guitar in this round-up that combines a gloss-finished body with a satin-finished neck.
Understated beauty is the thing with the CG142S. This is a very cleanly built guitar.
On this Yamaha, too, the neck profile is a tad more rounded compared to a traditional neck profile. The playability is very comfortable.
The CG142S’s fretboard also has a couple of side dots for easier orientation.
Yamaha’s CG142S sings with a well-rounded, beautiful voice. There’s a healthy amount of clarity in the mid-range.
To summarise I could state the obvious – there are many well-built, well-playing instruments in the 250-400 euro price segment. There should be the right guitar for everyone, depending on finish, neck profile and sound preferences.
Jos on halunnut itselleen uuden, käsinjuotetun putkivahvistimen, vaihtoehtoja on tähän mennessä ollut käytännössä kaksi – joko ostaa kallis boutique- tai custom shop –vahvistin, tai kasata vahvistin rakennussarjan pohjalta.
Brittiläinen Juketone tarjoaa kuitenkin kolmannenkin vaihtoehdon tweed-faneille – edullisia, Fender-henkisiä putkivahvistimia, jotka suunnitellaan Englannissa ja valmistetaan Kiinassa.
True Blood perustuu suurilta osin legendaariseen 1950-luvun Fender Champ -komboon (5F1-versio), johon Juketone on tehnyt pieniä muutoksia.
Tweed-Champeja on rakennettu 1950-luvun eri vaiheissa kolmella eri kaiutinkotelolla. True Bloodin kaiutinkotelo on kokonaan suorakaiteinen (niin kuin 1955/56-malleissa), kun taas Fenderin Custom Shop -versiossa pohja on syvempi kuin kansi (50-luvun lopun versio).
Tweed-kankaalla päällystetty kotelo on valmistettu lähes täysin vanerista, lukuun ottamatta takalevyjä, jotka ovat kuitulevyä.
Tärkeimmät erot vanhan Champin ja Juketonen True Bloodin välillä löytyvät tasasuuntaajaputkesta ja kaiuttimesta.
Audio-osaston Ruby Tubes 12AX7- ja 6V6GT -putkien lisäksi vahvistimesta löytyy hieman harvinaisempi kiinalainen 6Z4-tasasuuntaaja, joka ei ole yhteensopiva samannimisen amerikkalaisen putkityypin kanssa.
Vanhoissa tweed-Champeissa on yleensä Jensen-kaiutin, mutta Juketone on valinnut komboonsa selvästi brittiläisemman, kahdeksantuumaisen Celestion Super 8 -mallin, joka on alnico-versio saman valmistajan suositusta Eight 15 -kaiuttimesta.
Metallisen vahvistinkotelon sisältä löytyy kauttaaltaan laadukkaita komponentteja, jotka on juotettu siististi lasikuitulevyn juotoskorviin.
Työnjälki ei kuitenkaan (luonnollisesti) ole aivan samalla viivalla verrattuna esimerikiksi Bluetonen valmistamiin boutique -vahvistimiin, joissa styrkkarin sisälmykset näyttävät suorastaan taideteokselta. Juketone True Blood tarjoaa kuitenkin hämmästyttävän laadukkaan putkivahvistinelämyksen todella edullisesti.
Tärkeä osa 5F1-tyypisten Champien (ja Champ-kloonien) viehätystä on se, että ne tarjoavat soundille suorimman mahdollisen tien kitarasta kaiuttimelle. Ei masteria, ei taajuuskorjaimia, ei efektejä – yksi kanava, kaksi tuloa ja pelkkä volume-säädin, siinä kaikki!
Vaikka tämä 1950-luvun harjoituskombo vaikuttaakin monien silmistä muinaisesineeltä, on Tweed Champillä silti yhä monta ystävää.
Juketone True Blood -kombon salaisuus piilee vahvistimen interaktiivisuudessa. Luontevin tapa käyttää tällaista pikkukomboa on asettaa sen volume-säädin täysille (tai lähes täysille), ja hallita soundia soittimen omilla volume- ja tone-säätimillä. Vahvistimen tuottaman luontaisen kompression ansiosta saadaan eloisia ja täyteläisiä puhtaita soundeja myös pienelle säädetyillä humbuckerilla.
Jos kaipaa True Bloodilta hieman enemmän puhdasta headroomia (esim. huuliharppua vahvistettaessa), kannattaa etuasteessa kokeilla 12AX7-putken sijaan 12A_7-perheen hieman ”heikompia” malleja, kuten esimerkiksi 12AU7 tai 12AT7.
Tällä tavoin soivat Telecasterin, LP Juniorin ja Hamer Studio Customin tallamikrofonit True Blood -kombon kautta. Jokaisessa klipissä kombon Volume-säätimen asennot ovat ”6”, ”8”, ”10” ja ”12”. Taltiointiin on käytetty Shure SM57-mikrofonia:
Juketone True Bloodin pieni teho ja muhkea kompressio tekee kombosta myös oivan työkalun (koti-) studiossa. Hieman kaikua ja kompressiota, sekä pieni ripaus EQ:ta lisämausteiksi miksausvaiheessa, ja lopputulos kuulostaa paljon isommalta ja mehevämmältä kuin uskoisi:
Juketone True Blood on mielestäni oiva valinta suoraviivaista putkikomboa olohuoneeseen tai kotistudioon etsittäessä.
Se on helppo ja edullinen tapa saada itselleen aitoa tweed-tyylistä soundia. Celestion-kaiuttimen tuoma jäntevä keskialue ja muhkea basso ovat minun mielestäni ainoastaan plussaa!
Juketone-kombo on varteenotettava vaihtoehto tavallisille, massatuotetuille pikkukomboille – eikä vain hyvän soundinsa ansiosta. Käsinjuotetun elektroniikan etuja ovat myös helpompi huolto ja modifiointi.