Posts tagged ‘testi’

16/05/2018

Kesä tulee – mistä löytyy sopiva ukulele?

Kitarablogista ja myös Rockwayn blogista löytyy useampi ukulele-aiheinen juttu. Olen kerännyt kaikki linkit tähän postaukseen.

Perustietoa ukulelen anatomiasta löytyy täältä.

Millaisia eroja on eri ukulelekielissä?

Vuonna 2013 ilmestyi Kitarablogin Tanglewood-mallien testi.

Vuonna 2017 ilmestyi Kitarablogin suuri ukulelekatsaus.

Rockway-blogissa ilmestyi vuoden 2017 lopussa kaksiosainen sopraanoukulele-katsaus.

OSA 1

OSA 2

Tässä Rockway-jutussa esitetään useampi erikoinen ukulele-tyyppi.

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14/05/2018

Testipenkissä: Hagström Fantomen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaikissa Hagström-kauloissa löytyy kaksi erikoispiirrettä:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hagström Fantomen

Katuhinta noin 850 €

Maahantuoja: EM Nordic

Plussat:

+ työnjälki

+ soundi

+ monipuolisuus

+ vastinetta rahalle

Miinukset:

– gigbag ei kuulu hintaanSave

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23/04/2018

Testipenkissä: Halla Custom Hallabird

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

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

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

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

Kitaran tyylikäs ja solakka runko muodostuu kahdesta khaya-palasta.

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

Kaksisuuntaista kaularautaa pääsee säätämään tässä Halla Custom -kitarassa viritinlavalta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Halla Custom Hallabird
Käsintehty kaula-läpi-rungon kitara

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

Lisätiedot: Halla Custom Instruments

Plussat:

+ suomalaista käsityötä

+ työnjälki

+ soitettavuus

+ soundi

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Halla Customsin Ville Mattila on Suomen Soitinrakentajien Killan jäsen.HmSave

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06/04/2018

Review: TOOB 12J & 12R

Some of the coolest inventions tend to make you go ”Geez, this is so obvious! Why didn’t I think of this?”

The truth is, though, that the basic idea usually is only the first impetus for going on an exploratory journey. You have to have the inventor’s drive and perseverance to grab the idea by its throat, and hold it there for as long as it takes to hew and mould it into its final shape.

Finnish guitarist/inventor Markku Pietinen had become increasingly frustrated by the weight and size of traditional speaker cabinets for guitar. Modern technology – like Class D power amps – has lead to ever smaller amplifier sizes, yet cabinets were still cumbersome and angular.

Then one day, a few years ago, Markku passed by a building site, where he spotted a leftover piece of corrugated plastic pipe (normally used for drainage) on the ground. The proverbial lightbulb went ”ping”, and Markku started pursuing his quest for a lighter speaker cabinet.

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Here is the finished product, called the TOOB™ (current price in Finland: 369 €), which stands for ”Thinking Out Of the Box”.

The TOOB is available in two guitar versions, the 12J and 12R (as reviewed), which come loaded with a 12-inch Jensen speaker. A bass version – the TOOB 12B – is also available, and it sports a Celestion unit.

Standard colours for all TOOBs are black and cinnamon, but you can also order custom options with a painted or covered veneer overlay (you can see a few examples in the opening picture).

The TOOB’s cabinet consists of a length of Uponor IQ drainage pipe. This is an extremely lightweight and strong corrugated tube made from double-walled polypropylene. The mounting rims are a proprietary design, injection moulded from ABS plastic specifically for use in the TOOB cabinets.

Clip-on stainless steel feet come as standard, but if this looks too spartan for your taste, you can always order your TOOB with a magnetically-attached wooden stand.

The main difference between the TOOB 12J (left) and the 12R (right) is easy to spot:

The 12J (stands for Jazz) is an open back cabinet, while the 12R (= Rock) uses a ported back wall. The 12J is also a few centimetres shorter than its brother.

Both guitar versions sport two parallel jack connectors, allowing you to daisy-chain two (or more) TOOBs.

The cabinets are equipped with painted wooden mounts for use with a micro-amp of your choice (professional velcro-type adhesive strips are provided). A top notch angled plug speaker cable is also part of the package.

Both guitar TOOBs come loaded with a lightweight 12″/8 Ω Jensen Jet Tornado neodymium speaker.

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Testing the TOOBs with two different valve amplifiers – a Blackstar HT-1R and a Bluetone Shadows Jr. – it became clear very quickly that both cabinets are focused on delivering tonal clarity and getting the job done with a minimal amount of fuss.

A TOOB isn’t meant to be an esoteric boutique-style speaker cabinet, full of voodoo-like mystical timbres. These are straightforward musical tools, made to withstand the occasional knock or two, and meant to lighten your load (both physically and psychologically).

Both TOOBs offer a very focused tone that is clear and bright, but not nasty or brittle. The mid-range also stays rather well-defined and uncoloured.

I think one shouldn’t get too hung up on the supposed Jazz- and Rock-connotations of the 12J and 12R models, especially as the 12J also performs well with acoustic-electric guitars, but the differences in sound are easy to hear. The TOOB 12J is the airier and more ”acoustic” of the pair, while the TOOB 12R offers much more low-end punch and overall focus.

CLEAN STRAT

Reference speaker (Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo with a 10″ WGS Green Beret; Shure SM57):

TOOB 12J:

TOOB 12R:

OVERDRIVEN LES PAUL

Reference speaker (Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo with a 10″ WGS Green Beret; Shure SM57):

TOOB 12J:

TOOB 12R:

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Any way you look at the TOOB™, you will have to concede that this new type of speaker cabinet is an ingenious solution to an age-old problem. The TOOB is just as rugged and roadworthy as it is lightweight and compact.

These unique cabinets sound great, with more than enough power on tap for most of us working stiffs, who play small to medium-sized indoor venues.

Combine a TOOB with one of the current micro-amps, like Vox’ MV50-series for example, and what you get is a powerful rig that’s hard to beat for ease of use and transportability.

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The TOOB

Lightweight guitar speaker cabinet

TOOB 12J: 369 €

TOOB 12R: 369 €

Contact: TOOB

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Pros:

+ made in Finland

+ ruggedness

+ weight

+ power handling

+ soundSave

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22/03/2018

Review: Hagström Fantomen

You could call Hagström’s Fantomen (Swedish for The Phantom) a signature guitar of sorts, as it has been designed in collaboration with Swedish Metal band Ghost.

In terms of its outline the Fantomen is not a million miles removed from Gibson’s forgotten Seventies classic the RD, which was sunk by the ill-advised addition of active electronics. The Hagström Fantomen, in contrast, has been designed as a straightforward and practical, yet versatile, electric guitar for the Rock and Metal guitarist. Let’s take a look…

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The Hagström Fantomen (current price in Finland ca. 850 €) marries a set mahogany neck to a relatively thin mahogany body (3.5 cm/1.38″).

The Fantomen is available in black and white finishes, too, but I must say that the sunburst finish on our test sample is a stunner, really showing off the two-piece body’s wood grain.

The front of the body sports multi-ply binding, while a comfortable ribcage chamfer has been added to the back.

Hagström’s stylish headstock is a bona fide design classic, as are the stepped tuner buttons.

Two special features are included in all Hagström models:

The Hagström H-Expander truss rod is an ingenious piece of engineering. The adjustable rod sits inside a metal rail with an H-shaped cross-section. The entire assembly is then inserted into a slot of the same shape that has been cut into the neck wood. The H-Expander requires less wood to be removed than any of the other traditional truss rod designs, which is a good thing for the structural integrity of the neck, which in turn benefits the guitar’s tone and sustain.

Hagström has also long been favouring its proprietary Resinator-material for all of the company’s fingerboards. Long before the recent ban of genuine rosewoods was even on the horizon, Hagström found a way to bond sustainable wood slivers and resin into man-made ebony, calling the material Resinator.

The Fantomen has a Fender-style scale of 64.8 cm (25.5″) and offers 22 medium-jumbo frets on its 15-inch radius fretboard.

The chrome hardware further comprises a tune-o-matic-type bridge and a stopbar tailpiece, as well as a set of Hagström’s H-embossed knurled control knobs.

For their Fantomen model Hagström turned to Swedish pickup guru Johan Lundgren, who designed a set of Far Eastern Lundgren Designed humbuckers for the model.

The neck humbucker is loaded with an Alnico II magnet, while the bridge unit uses a stronger Alnico V version.

The Gibson-type control setup of two volumes and two tones is further augmented by push/pull-switches in the tone controls that split the humbuckers.

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For such a comparatively large-bodied guitar the Hagström Fantomen is rather comfortable to ”wear” and play. Our test sample’s weight is on the moderate side of medium.

The neck profile is a slim D and the excellent, buzz-free setup makes the test sample a real player. The fretwork is very competent, even though our test guitar’s frets would have benefitted from a few minutes more attention during polishing. Straight out of the box there’s a tiny amount of coarseness you can feel during bends, which will disappear by itself, though, simply by playing the Fantomen regularly.

The decision to use humbuckers with a moderate output level in the Fantomen really pays off. The tones this Hagström delivers are nuanced, dynamic and three-dimensional. The Fantomen is a guitar that faithfully translates a player’s touch into music, meaning it can be gentle just as well as aggressive. The coil splits go a long way in providing fairly authentic single-coil sounds for those Fendery moments.

Here is a clip showing you the six main pickup selections played through a Bluetone Shadows Jr. boutique combo. The full humbucker settings come first:

The demo song was recorded using a Juketone True Blood amp (Tweed Champ clone) and a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo. No pedals were used:

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Even though the Fantomen was designed in collaboration with a Metal band, Hagström haven’t fallen into the trap of creating a one-dimensional, balls-to-the-wall screamer. The looks may say ”Rock”, but Hagström’s Fantomen also offers fine clean tones, turning this model into a great all-rounder.

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Hagström Fantomen

Current price in Finland approx. 850 €

Finnish distributor: EM Nordic

Pros:

+ workmanship

+ sound

+ versatility

+ value for money

Cons:

– gigbag not includedSave

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20/03/2018

Review: Halla Custom Hallabird

I first saw the Halla Custom Hallabird at this year’s Tonefest, where luthier-artisan Ville Mattila displayed it alongside its bass brother.

It was actually the bass that served as the original impetus for the Hallabird. Ville had made a slightly Gibson Thunderbird-influenced bass for his own use. The bass got so much positive attention that Ville decided to put more bread on the water, which is why he developed a guitar model along the same design ideas.

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The Halla Custom Hallabird (3,700 €; including case and more, see below) is a handmade neck-through guitar with a flawless clear finish.

The through neck is made from nine long strips of wood – African mahogany (khaya ivorensis) offset with walnut. While the neck construction follows Gibson’s lead, the Hallabird takes its own path when it comes to scale length. This custom guitar comes with an extra long scale length of 67 cm (that’s approximately 26.37 inches for our Imperial readers).

The streamlined body wings have been crafted from khaya, too.

The Hallabird comes equipped with black Gotoh-hardware. This guitar also sports a brass nut to insert a little brightness into the open strings. This is probably the smoothest brass nut I’ve seen in my guitar-playing life.

Access to the two-way truss rod is from the headstock end on this Halla Custom guitar.

Twenty-four gleaming Jescar Evo jumbo frets have been installed into the Hallabird’s ebony fingerboard. The fretwork is nothing short of excellent – this is one of the areas where a handcrafted guitar tends to outshine production models, regardless of their price.

Gotoh’s hardware is known for its consistently high quality, and the Hallabird’s TOM-bridge and stopbar are no exception.

Ville Mattila mostly uses his own pickups in his Halla Custom guitars. The Hallabird comes equipped with a pair of handmade P-90s, niftily placed inside EMG-style plastic covers. The pickups are reverse-wound/reverse-polarity, meaning they act as a humbucker, when used together. The pickups’ golden polepieces look great with the Jescar EVOs and the khaya mahogany.

The Hallabird’s electronics are a little bit different than what you’d expect, judging by the knobs. There’s a three-way toggle for pickup selection, as well as a master volume control (sans treble bleed). What looks like a tone control is in fact what Ville calls a three-way impedance rotary. While the rotary switch minutely changes the treble content of the overall signal, it clearly influences the volume control’s roll-off taper. This allows you to fine-tune the way the guitar’s volume control reacts to your playing style and your amplifier.

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Halla Custom’s Hallabird is one heck of a guitar. It is one of these rare cases, where a new design manages to look classic and fresh at the same time. A guitar that is understated, yet flashy. The quality of workmanship is excellent down to the smallest details.

The Hallabird is very lightweight, making it an ideal choice for long sessions or gigs. Thanks to the guitar being a non-reverse design, the Hallabird balances very nicely despite its longer-than-usual neck.

The neck profile is reassuringly round and chunky, without feeling clunky or unwieldy. Thanks to the outstanding fretwork the Hallabird came with a setup that made a set of 010s feel very slinky, even on the extra long scale neck. I’m quite sure many players won’t even notice the extra scale length, but if you wanted to order something more ordinary, I’m sure that Ville would happily oblige.

Acoustically, the Hallabird displays a piano-like attack with a long and even sustain. Note separation is excellent, even with complex chords, and there’s a great balance between warmth and clarity.

P-90s are a fantastic choice if you need humbucker-type power and girth, coupled to a single-coil’s dynamics. Even though its looks are probably a little ”too Rock”, the Hallabird can glide effortlessly into Country and Jazz mode, and then turn into a Rock machine at the proverbial drop of a hat.

These two clips have been recorded using a 1980s Boss SD-1 and a Bluetone Shadows Jr. boutique combo:

For the demo song I used a 1980s Ibanez SC10 chorus pedal on the rhythm guitars, and a Morley M2 Wah for the lead, through the Shadows Jr.:

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Halla Custom’s Hallabird is a great-sounding and classy-looking guitar, made by somebody who clearly knows what he is doing. Don’t be fooled by the Classic Rock looks – this is a very versatile instrument for the discerning player.

Naturally, handcrafted quality like this never comes cheap. This is a true boutique guitar, made by a trained luthier-artisan highly dedicated to his craft.

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Halla Custom Hallabird
Handmade neck-through electric guitar

3,700 € – includes hard case, high-end guitar cable, quality strap (with Schaller locks), one free setup (after 6-12 months of use), and lifetime tech support

Contact: Halla Custom Instruments

Pros:

+ handcrafted in Finland

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ sound

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

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06/02/2018

Review: Tokai TJM-140

We at Kitarablogi HQ received a very special instrument for review this time – the new Tokai TJM-140, which is based on Fender’s Jazzmaster.

When the original Jazzmaster was released in 1958 Fender aimed it squarely at Jazz and Lounge musicians, who had found the company’s earlier offerings much too bright and Country-sounding. The Jazzmaster also was Fender’s first model with a rosewood fingerboard, something their sales force had been requesting for years (for cosmetic reasons).

Sadly, the new model wasn’t received very enthusiastically. Most Jazz guitarists still felt that Fender guitars were nothing more than mere breadboards with strings, while others complained that the new control setup was too complicated. A shame, really…

Over the last years Jazzmaster-type offset guitars have definitely become en vogue again. Thanks to this trend Tokai, too, has decided to come up with its own version of this guitar classic.

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The Tokai TJM-140 Silver Star (reviewed version: 1.495 €; basic model: 1.445 €) is a top-quality Japanese rendition of the Jazzmaster model, which stays faithful to the original classic in most respects, with a few modern improvements. The review sample has been customised further with a set of Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups.

Tokai’s TJM-140 strongly channels an early-Sixties spirit – this guitar comes with the original, small Fender-style headstock, as well as an unbound rosewood fretboard with small dot markers.

Beneath its classy Olympic White finish the curvaceous body is crafted from alder, while the satin-finished neck is maple.

Putting the truss rod adjustment at the headstock end is one of the welcome improvements on the TJM-140.

The Tokai sports a set of fine Kluson copies made by Gotoh.

This model comes with 22 medium-sized frets. The fretwork is very clean.

Leo Fender had a thing for vibratos, which he called tremolos. For the Jazzmaster he came up with a special new system. The Jazzmaster-vibrato (which was later used on the Jaguar, too) comprises a front-installed vibrato/tailpiece-combination, paired with a separate bridge. The bridge stands on height-adjustable poles inside long ferrules, and it rocks slightly back and forth during vibrato use. The Tokai Silver Star uses a well-made Japanese copy of the original system.

You don’t need to be a guitar expert to see that Leo Fender was aiming for a Gibson P-90-vibe with his flat and wide Jazzmaster pickups. Both the P-90 and Jazzmaster pickup have similar coils, but their magnetic structure puts them apart. Gibson’s P-90 uses two long bar magnets placed underneath the coil, either side of a metal spacer, to magnetise its pickup. Fender, on the other hand, uses six slug magnets, which also serve as the pickup’s pole pieces.

The pickups in Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity-set are reverse wound/reverse polarity, resulting in a hum-cancelling middle position on the toggle switch.

The special feature of Jazzmasters is the so-called rhythm circuit. The slide switch above the neck pickup switches between the lead and rhythm circuits. In rhythm, only the neck pickup is selected, with a slight treble roll-off and its own set of volume and tone control wheels.

The solo circuit uses the regular set of controls – a three-position toggle, plus master volume and tone. Each circuit works independently of the other’s settings.

****

In my view, every guitarist should try a Jazzmaster- or Jaguar-style guitar once in his/her life, just to experience that comfortable offset body. Some players feel that the offset waist of a Jazzmaster is even more ergonomic that a Strat.

The Tokai TJM-140 is a fine example of a Jazzmaster-style guitar. Our test sample is light in weight, the neck’s oval C-profile feels great in your hand, and the guitar arrived with an expert setup.

Still, the Jazzmaster-vibrato will continue to divide opinions for the foreseeable future. The push-fit vibrato arm isn’t as foolproof as the screw-in Stratocaster arm, and it tends to swing rather loosely, when not in use. With a contemporary string set of 009- or 010-gauge you will probably run into some problems sooner or later, due to the shallow string angle over the bridge. Forceful strumming and/or large bends tend to cause light string gauges to jump out of the bridge saddles’ grooves, spoiling your setup and tuning in the process.

You cannot blame the Tokai TJM-140 Silver Star for using a faithful copy of the original vibrato, because this guitar is meant to be a vintage-inspired instrument. Nevertheless, it’s important to know about any possible pitfalls and solutions.

The easiest way to get a Jazzmaster-vibrato to play nicely is to use the correct string gauges of the late 1950s – read: flatwound 011s or 012s with a wound g-string. If this seems unbearable there’s always the screw-on Whizzo Buzz Stop, a Bigsby-style roller that adds much-needed downward pressure at the tailpiece. Others like to take the far more drastic step of replacing the whole Jazzmaster-system with a Mastery-vibrato, a replacement made specifically for use with modern strings.

Tokai’s TJM-140 Silver Star nails the Jazzmaster tone like a champion. The Antiquity pickups give you lots of chime and sparkle, but the top end is much warmer than on a Strat, and there’s a nice dose of mid-range chunk. The rhythm circuit rolls off a little bit of the neck pickup’s treble, but still keeps things from going all dark and muddy.

Here are a few clips of the Tokai TJM-140, recorded with a Bluetone Shadows Jr. combo, a Boss SD-1 overdrive and a Shure SM57:

****

Tokai’s TJM-140 is a pro quality Japanese version of the Fender Jazzmaster. The Tokai plays and feels great, and its sound really leaves nothing to be desired. The original Jazzmaster-/Jaguar-vibrato might become a deal-breaker for some, but I feel the original system adds a lot to this guitar’s sound and mystique. Tokai uses a high-quality copy of the original vibrato, which works as smoothly as it should. Taking this instrument for a spin is highly recommended!

****

Tokai Guitars TJM-140

Price with Antiquity pickups: 1.495 €

Distribution: Tokai Guitars Nordic

Pros:

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ sound

+ idiosyncratic vibrato system

Cons:

– idiosyncratic vibrato systemSave

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29/01/2018

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

Pros:

+ Handmade in Finland

+ Master volume

+ OPC

+ Effects loop

+ Sound

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

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25/01/2018

Testipenkissä: Tokai TJM-140

Tällä kertaa Kitarablogi sai hieman erikoisemman herkkupalan testattavaksi – Fender Jazzmasteriin perustuva Tokai TJM-140.

Kun alkuperäinen Jazzmaster ilmestyi vuonna 1958, Fenderillä oli tähtäimessä Jazz- ja Lounge-musiikin soittajat, joiden mielestä firman aikaisemmat mallit soivat aivan liian terävästi ja kantrimaisesti. Jazzmaster oli myös ensimmäinen Fenkku, jolla oli ruusupuusta veistetty otelauta (jotain, jota firman myyntitiimi oli jo pidemmän aikaa toivonut ulkonäöllisistä syistä).

Valitettavasti uuden huippumallin vastaanotto oli suhteellisen vaisu. Monille Jazz-kitaristeille myös Fenderin uutuusmalli näytti kielillä varustetulta leipälaudalta, ja alkuinnostuksen jälkeen monet sen aikakauden soittajista pitivät kitaran elektroniikkaa turhan monimutkaisena, mikä oli sääli.

Viime vuosina Jazzmaster-tyyliset offset-runkoiset kitarat elävät uutta nousukautta, minkä ansiosta myös Tokai on päättänyt julkaista oman versionsa kitarasta.

****

Tokai TJM-140 Silver Star (testattu versio 1.495 €; perusversio 1.445 €) on hyvin laadukas japanilainen tulkinta Jazzmaster-teemasta, joka pysyy kaikissa pääasioissa uskollisena alkuperäiseen klassikkoon, muutamalla hyvin perustellulla nykyaikaisella parannuksella. Testiyksilöä on lisäksi kustomoitu testiä varten erittäin laadukkailla Seymour Duncan Antiquity -mikrofoneilla.

Tokai TJM-140:ssä elää vahvasti varhaisen 1960-luvun henki – tässä mallissa on alkuperäinen pieni viritinlapa, sekä ruusupuinen otelauta ilman reunalistoitusta ja pienillä pyöreillä otemerkeillä.

Olympic white -tyylisen viimeistelyn alta löytyy kurvikas leppärunko, kun taas mattaviimeistelty kaula on veistetty vaahterasta.

TJM-140:n kaularautaan pääsee kätevästi käsiksi lavan puolelta, mikä on erittäin tervetullut parannus.

Tokain laadukkaat Kluson-kopiot tulevat Gotohin valikoimasta.

Otelautaan on siististi asennettu 22 medium-kokoista nauhaa.

Leo Fender kehitti Jazzmasteria varten uuden vibratojärjestelmän. Jazzmaster-vibrassa (jota käytettiin myöhemmin myös Jaguarissa) on edestä runkoon upotettu veitsenterä-laakeroitu kieltenpidin, sekä erillinen talla, joka keinuu runkoon upotetuissa metalliholkissa hieman edestakaisin, silloin kun vibratoa käytetään. Tokai Silver Starissa käytetään järjestelmästä tarkkaa japanilaista jäljitelmää.

Jazzmaster-mikrofoneja voi hyvällä omatunnolla pitää Fenderin versiona Gibson P-90 -mikrofonista. Molemmissa mikkimalleissa on hyvin leveät, mutta suhteellisen matalat kelat. Mikrofonien magneettikenttien rakenteet kuitenkin poikkeavat toisistaan: Gibson käyttää P-90:ssä kahta pitkää ja matalaa harkkomaista magneettia kelan alla, kun taas Jazzmaster-mikissä on kuusi lyhyttä, kelan läpi menevää tankomagneettia.

Seymour Duncan Antiquity -setissä tallamikrofoni on kaulamikrofoniin nähden käämitty vastasuuntaan ja sen magneetit ovat ylösalaisin (reverse wound/reverse polarity), minkä ansiosta mikeistä muodostuu yhteiskäytössä humbucker.

Elektroniikan erikoisuus on Jazzmaster-kitaroihin lisätty erillinen ns. “komppi-piiri”. Kaulamikrofonin yllä olevalla liukukytkimellä voi kytkeä TJM-140-mallin ns. soolotilasta komppitilaan, jossa ainoastaan kaulamikki on päällä, ja sen signaali menee tällöin kytkimen viereen pleksiin upotettuihin volume- ja tone-säätimien läpi.

Soolotilassa taas kitaran soundia säädetään sen sijaan soittimen perinteisellä kolmiasentoisella kytkimellä, sekä master-volumella ja -tonella.

****

Minun mielestäni jokaisen kitaristin pitäisi ainakin kerran elämässään kokeilla Jazzmaster- tai Jaguar-tyylistä kitaraa, niiden mukavan offset-rungon takia. Joidenkin mielestä näiden mallien epäsymmetrinen vyötärö ja pyöristetty olemus tuntuu jopa Stratoa mukavammalta.

Tokain TJM-140 on malliesimerkki mukavasta Jazzmaster-tyylisestä kitarasta. Testikitara on suhteellisen kevyt, kaulan ovaali C-profiili istuu todella hyvin käteen, ja kitara saapui testiin esimerkillisillä säädöillä.

Jazzmaster-vibrato tulee kuitenkin jatkossakin jakamaan käyttäjien mielipiteitä. Paikkaan työnnettävä vibrakampi ei ole aina niin toimintavarma kuin ruuvattava Strato-kamppi, ja se repsottaa myös melko löysästi mekanismissa. Jos taas on tottunut käyttämään nykyaikaisia 009- tai 010-kielisatseja vibrajärjestelmän loivasta kielikulmasta tallassa voi koitua ongelmia. Raskas plektrakäsi ja/tai isot bendaukset voivat johtua suhteellisen ohuilla kielillä siihen, että yksi kuin toinenkin kieli voi hyppiä välillä pois tallapalan urasta, mikä vaikuttaa sitten suoraan kitaran vireeseen ja soittotuntumaan.

Tokai TJM-140 Silver Staria ei oikein voi kritisoida vibraton toiminnasta, sillä kitaran tarkoitushan on olla tarkka kopio alkuperäisestä klassikosta. On kuitenkin tärkeää, että tietää näistä mahdollisista ongelmakohdista ja niiden ratkaisemisesta.

Helpoin tapa ratkaista Jazzmaster-vibran ongelmat on käyttää 1950-luvun kielikokoja – siis: 011- tai 012-satseja punotuilla g-kielillä. Jos tällainen tuntuu liian karulta voi vibramekanismin eteen helposti lisätä (ruuvaamalla) Whizzo Buzz Stop -nimisen Bigsbyn-kaltaisen rullan, joka lisää kielten alasvetoa, mikä pitää kitaran kielet paremmin talapalojen urissa. Jos lisärulla ei miellytä jostain syystä, voi myös korvata alkuperäisen järjestelmän Mastery-vibratolla ja -tallalla, jotka on suunniteltu nykyaikaisia kielisatseja varten.

Myös soundiltaan Tokai TJM-140 on erinomainen lajinsa edustaja. Antiquity-mikeillä kitara soi heleästi, mutta paljon lämpimämmin kuin esim. Strato-tyylinen kitara. Komppi-piiri leikkaa tahallaan kaulamikrofonin signaalista hieman diskanttia, mutta ilman että soundi muuttuisi mutaiseksi.

Tältä kuulostaa Tokai TJM-140 Bluetone Shadows Jr. -kombon ja Boss SD-1 -särön kautta soitettuna:

****

Tokain TJM-140 on hyvin laadukas japanilainen versio Fender Jazzmasterista. Tokain soittotuntuma on erinomainen ja sen soundi ei todellakaan jätä toivomisen varaa. Alkuperäinen Jazzmaster-/Jaguar-vibra tulee varmaan jatkossakin jakamaan kitaristien mielipiteitä, vaikka Tokai-kitarassa on käytössä laadukas versio alkuperäisestä. Vibraton pehmeässä soundissa ei kuitenkaan ole mitään vikaa. Suosittelen koeajelua!

****

Tokai Guitars TJM-140

Hinta Antiquity-mikeillä 1.495 €

Maahantuoja: Musamaailma

Plussat:

+ työnjälki

+ soitettavuus

+ soundi

+ omintakeinen vibrato

Miinukset:

– omintakeinen vibratoSave

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12/12/2017

Review: Tokai TST-50 Modern

Tokai Guitars’ extremely well-made Japanese – uhm – tributes to classic electric guitars from the 1950s and ’60s were one of the main reasons why industry giants, such as Fender and Gibson, started their own Far Eastern brands, like Squier and Epiphone, in the Eighties.

Yet Tokai doesn’t cling slavishly to the past, instead the company is also regularly coming up with up-to-date versions of their best-loved models. Their newest updated Strat-style electric is the Tokai TST-50 Modern (999 €; comes with a hard case), which was developed in cooperation with Tokai Guitars Nordic.

****

You could be forgiven to think the TST-50 Modern was a cracking 1960s reissue model at first glance, especially as some of the basic ingredients are virtually identical:

We find a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, and a premium class alder body adorned with a beautiful two-tone sunburst finish.

But a closer look at the headstock gives us a clue that this isn’t a run-of-the-mill TST-50:

A bullet truss rod adjuster on the TST-50 Modern allows you to tweak your neck relief without having to detach the neck from the body, as on vintage style S-type guitars. But despite the bullet truss rod, Tokai have chosen – wisely, in my opinion – to stick with the original four-screw neck attachment.

The Tokai TST-50 Modern comes with a 9.5 inch fingerboard radius, which means that the feel is slightly flatter than on vintage Stratocasters (that usually feature a 7.25 inch radius), but still more curved, and thus more Fender-ish, than Gibson’s flatter 12 inch radius. The TST-50 Modern also sports chunkier frets (Dunlop 6105), making it easier to play than the thin wire used on vintage originals. In combination with the flatter fingerboard radius the bigger frets also make string bending a great deal less work. As a final flourish this models gives you an additional fret (22 instead of 21).

The classic six-screw Stratocaster vibrato bridge was a huge engineering achievement back in 1954. No other vibrato offered that much travel, coupled with excellent sound and very fair return to pitch.

Now – 60 years later – many players do look for an even smoother and more precise ride, than what the vintage model can offer. For these guitarists the Tokai TST-50 Modern offers a modern, two-post vibrato bridge – the Gotoh 510T model.

Gotoh’s 510T-vibrato comes with the company’s groundbreaking FST-block. The string channels inside the FST-block have been drilled much deeper than in a vintage block, which anchors the ball ends much closer to the bridge plate. The strings then pass the bridge plate at a shallow angle, without being pressed hard against the plate’s sharp edges. Thanks to Gotoh’s FST-system the vibrato’s return to pitch is improved vastly, because the strings’ ball ends stay in place firmly. Additionally, this system cuts down significantly on string breakages due to friction between the strings and the bridge’s base plate (like normally seen on vintage Strat bridges).

When it comes to its pickups and control layout, Tokai’s TST-50 Modern follows a classic footpath – a trio of Tokai’s acclaimed Vintage ST pickups, along with a five-way switch, a master volume, and tone controls for the neck and middle pickups. Hidden beneath the three-layer scratchplate there’s a humbucker routing, in case you want to customise you guitar further.

****

Vintage or modern, fans of Strat-style guitars expect a high level of ergonomics from their instrument, and Tokai’s Japanese TST-models never disappoint. All the body contours have been copied from the famous 1957/58 originals – it doesn’t get any more streamlined than this.

The satin-finished neck features an oval C-profile, which is just the Sixties-type of neck shape I enjoy the most on an S-style guitar. Thanks to the flatter fretboard radius and the medium-jumbo frets, the playing feels of the TST-50 Modern is similar to that of a well-loved, much-played, and refretted vintage model (but without any scratches or dents, of course).

The Gotoh 510T vibrato works like a dream. It’s smooth and precise, but doesn’t add any unwelcome metallic overtones or sharpness to the sound (unlike some Floyd Rose bridges).

The Tokai TST-50 Modern sounds like a top-drawer Strat should.

Here’s a clip with the Tokai TST-50 Modern plugged into a hand-wired Tweed Champ clone (a Juketone True Blood):

I’ve used Electro-Harmonix’ Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi and Nano Big Muff Pi pedals on the demo track (in addition to the Tokai and a Blackstar HT-1R valve combo):

****

Gear reviewers often face criticism for not ”dishing the dirt” on the equipment they test, but in the Tokai TST-50 Modern’s case there isn’t really anything negative to write about. This is an extremely well-made updated version of the most famous electric guitar of them all. The Tokai combines modern playability with delicious vintage sounds.

****
Tokai Guitars TST-50 Modern

999 € (quality hard case included)

Finnish distribution: Musamaailma

Pros:

+ Japanese craftsmanship

+ sensible updates

+ playability

+ sound

+ outstanding value-for-money

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