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The new Vox AC10C1 combo amp nicely bridges the gap between the Custom Series’ AC4C1 four-watter and the 15-watt AC15C1.
The Vox AC10C1 (street price in Finland approx. 520 €) isn’t a copy or reissue of any of the AC10 versions from the 1950s or 60s, but rather a modern reinterpretation of the company’s Top Boost-theme in a more compact guise, and made in China, just like the rest of the Custom Series.
This being so, the new AC10C1 amp does away with the old version’s vibrato effect, adding instead such welcome modern features as a quality digital reverb, and separate Gain and (Master) Volume controls.
Vox’ new combo looks like a smaller version of their legendary AC30 combo, which isn’t a coincidence, I’m sure. It sports lots of black vinyl, white piping, a golden metal rail, and the famous maroon front cloth with the diamond pattern.
The AC10C1 only weighs 12 kilos, which means it’s very easy to carry by its single top handle.
As we are looking at a production line, Chinese valve amp, it would be totally unrealistic to expect hand soldered point-to-point wiring inside this combo. The AC10C1’s electronic components – tubes and all – are mounted on three PCBs. You can have a good looks at this combo’s innards in this picture.
The little Vox’ two EL84 main amplifier valves have been placed just beneath the ventilation grille on the top (next to the handle). The preamp valves – a pair of 12AX7s – get their ventilation via a small slot at the bottom end of the cabinet’s back wall.
The control panel sports the classic Vox chicken head knobs.
In addition to Gain and Volume, you will find a two-band EQ section, and the reverb control.
In practical terms, the Vox AC10C1 is a closed-back combo, despite the small opening for preamp tube ventilation.
A ten-inch Celestion VX10 has been chosen as the combo’s sole speaker.
In the EU the new combo is sold with an Eco-feature. When the Eco-switch is set to “on”, the AC10C1 will power off automatically if the amp isn’t played for two hours.
The AC10C1 can be connected to an external speaker cabinet, as long as the load is kept to 16 Ohms.
Let me say something about the Vox AC10C1’s volume first:
This little amp is quite the belter for a combo rated at only 10 Watts! Yes, it does have a master volume control, but I still wouldn’t recommend using this Vox as a living-room amp in an apartment block. The Volume control really has to be set to 10 o’clock, or higher, to make this baby come to life.
The basic character of this Vox combo is rather bright and bitey – I had to take the Treble knob down to below 10 o’clock to find the sounds that I like.
This AC10C1 doesn’t have oodles of clean headroom, still there are some very nice clean tones to be had in the first third of the Gain control’s range, when you use Fender-type single coil pickups (Fender Stratocaster; amp gain at 10 o’clock):
Many valve amp snobs will view a digital reverb circuit as a big no-no, but in my view, the AC10C1’s reverb is one of the very best I’ve ever heard in an amp in this price range. The reverb is a digital version of a spring tank, and has a charming sense of depth. At higher settings you can even get some “spring splash” by attacking the strings with gusto:
Due to its higher output a P-90-type pickup will require you to adjust the volume knob(s) on the guitar, if you want to achieve genuinely clean sounds. Here’s a clip of an Epiphone Casino (with Göldo P-90s), with the guitar’s volumes turned about halfway down (amp gain at 9 o’clock):
Here’s the same Casino with its volume controls set to 8 (the amp settings stay untouched):
Humbuckers, too, mean you will have to turn the guitar down a bit for clean sounds, otherwise the AC10C1 will start adding some of that famous Top Boost grit. The first clip uses a Hamer USA Studio Custom with its volume controls turned down to 5 (amp gain at 9 o’clock):
Same guitar, same amp settings, but the Hamer’s volumes have been set to 7:
You could sum up the AC10C1’s distorted sounds with one word – classic! This isn’t a high gain combo by no stretch of the imagination. This Vox feels most at home with Pop-, Blues-, and Rock-sounds of the Sixties and Seventies (and their modern descendants). If you want a piece of that classic Vox Top Boost tone (think Beatles, Queen, U2), the AC10C1 has it in spades at manageable volume levels.
Stratocaster; amp gain 3 o’clock:
Casino; amp gain 1 o’clock:
Hamer; amp gain 1 o’clock:
Stratocaster; full amp gain:
Casino; full amp gain:
Hamer; full amp gain:
In my opinion, the Vox AC10C1 is just the ticket if you’re after genuine Vox tones in a compact, easy-to-handle package.
Clean headroom isn’t to be had in abundance, but luckily this Vox combo reacts extremely well to volume changes on the guitar. The sound cleans up nicely, while the amp retains its full vigour and liveliness.
The Vox AC10C1 is loud enough for most rehearsal situations, and you might even use it in some small venues without a mike.
For studio work, too, I feel Vox’ AC10C1 has a lot to offer, because it enables you to get chunky Vox tones with much less bleed-through into other microphones, like the drum mikes.
current street price in Finland approximately 520 €
Finnish distribution: EM Nordic
A hearty “thank you” goes to DLX Music Helsinki for the loan of the review combo!
+ value for money
+ compact size
+ reverb sound
+ amp sound
– limited clean headroom
Jan Merivirta’s J. Leachim Guitars is still a young company, yet it already has managed to gain a reputation among guitarists.
Kitarablogi.com has had the pleasure to test drive two J.L.G.-models – a heavily relic’d S&T-Style, along with a brand-new addition to the lineup, the semiacoustic Royal.
J. Leachim has also started to import Mojotone pickups from the USA, recently – in addition to the Mojotone-equipped review guitars, I received three further instruments carrying Mojotone pickups to try out.
J. Leachim Guitars have really made a mark with their heavily relic’d guitars and basses. It’s true, you can also order a “mint” condition instrument from J.L.G., but many players have decided to go for the added mojo of a pre-worn guitar.
The J. Leachim S&T-Style (price approximately 1.600 €; includes a hard case and a custom-made leather strap) is such a mojo machine – a players solidbody electric, that combines a Stratocaster-type body with a Tele-style neck.
The S&T’s neck sports a relic’d satin finish, as well as a classy set of Kluson-style machine heads.
The guitar’s Wilkinson Vintage vibrato looks extremely worn, too.
This bridge is based on a vintage Fender bridge, but it features two practical improvements:
The vibrato arm is push fit with adjustable action, while the vibrato block has the string channels drilled so that they follow the octave compensation, which keeps the string pressure on the saddle uniform across all strings.
S&T-Style uses four vibrato springs for a very positive, muscular vibrato action that managed to stay on the right side of stiff.
The review guitar’s alder body looks like the guitar has been regularly used (and abused) on sweaty club stage for the last 50 years.
The Electrosocket jack receptacle keeps the Telecaster look, while offering much easier access for servicing and repairs that Fender’s original part.
The J. Leachim Royal (1.600 €; includes hard case and certificate of authenticity) is a step in a new direction for J.L.G. – it’s a thinline semiacoustic guitar.
The body shape owes a lot to the venerable Telecaster, but this isn’t a straight copy, though, as it is built in an involved, multilayered fashion.
The Royal’s one-piece bird’s eye maple neck is a true thing of beauty.
The tuners are Wilkinson’s updates of vintage Kluson machines.
Bird’s eye maple and abalone dots – sure looks like Custom Shop-luxury to me!
The chunky bridge on the Royal is a quality piece of hardware, but probably not the best choice on this model. The thick base means that the bridge saddles have to adjusted quite low to achieve a comfortable action. This in turn results in the sharpish height-adjustment grub screws protruding quite some way above the top of the saddles. Shorter grub screws would make this guitar more comfortable for the plectrum hand.
The J. Leachim Royal’s body is made in the UK (in Nottingham) by a small company called Bodge Fabrications (pun intended!).
The beautifully sculpted Bodge body is a layered affair made from walnut, maple, and mahogany. If you love nice woods, like I do, this body will sen shivers of delight down your spine.
The back of the body features a rib cage bevel for added carrying comfort.
The added maple block inside the neck pocket adds stiffness to the Royal’s neck joint.
J. Leachim’s S&T-Style is a very ergonomically sound instrument:
This guitar is lightweight, and sports a rounded 60s-style Tele neck that feels great. The fret-job is very smooth. This guitar is a fantastic player, and its vibrato works as smoothly as can be expected in a quality instrument in this price range.
This S&T-Style came equipped with a Mojotone Rene Martinez Texas Strat pickup set. Rene Martinez was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar technician, so it’s no wonder these pickups are specifically tailored to give you SRV-style tones.
The neck and (reverse-wound) middle pickup use Alnico III magnets for a bright sound with a sharp attack and a fantastically dynamic response. The bridge pickup is wound a little hotter and comes loaded with more powerful Alnico V magnets for a more muscular tone.
Here are two audio clips of the S&T-Style:
As a demo track I chose to record my own cover version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar solo on David Bowie’s hit China Girl (all guitar tracks have been recorded with the J.L.G S&T-Style):
J.L.G.’s Royal is a classy newcomer in the company’s range of models.
The Royal is all about the feel and sound of wood. This is a guitar that’s very hard to put down once you’ve picked it up. The semiacoustic body adds a charming vocal quality to this model’s acoustic tone.
This Royal comes with a Mojotone set of humbucker-sized P-90 pickups, which offer you a range of different sounds, from Jazz all the way to gritty Rock.
The neck pickups is built around an Alnico IV magnet, while the slightly hotter bridge pickup comes with an Alnico V magnet:
Carlos Santana used a P-90-equipped Gibson SG Special at the beginning of his career (for example at Woodstock), which prompted me to record a Santana-tinged demo track with the J. Leachim Royal:
Additionally, I got the chance to check out these three Mojotone pickup sets:
A J.L.G. TeleGacy loaded with Mojotone’s ’59 PAF Clone Reverse Zebra humbuckers:
A J.L.G. TeleGacy with a pair of covered Mojotone ’59 PAF Clone humbuckers. This guitar sported push/pull-switches to split the humbuckers for single coil type tones:
Finland really is blessed with a very diverse list of homegrown guitars, and J. Leachim is definitely one company to keep on your radar.
J. Leachim’s S&T-Style will make you boogie till the cows come home, and the company’s new Royal model is a beautiful new take on the Thinline Telecaster theme.
J. Leachim Guitars S&T-Style + Royal
S&T-Style – 1.600 €
Royal – 1.600 €
Contact: J. Leachim Guitars
+ designed and hand finished in Finland
+ quality of finish
– protruding bridge saddle screws (Royal only)
Kitarablogi’s year starts off with some really tasty guitars – three Japanese Tokai Love Rock models. Handcrafted Love Rocks just like these originally laid the foundation for Tokai’s legendary reputation as a maker of high-quality copies of vintage guitars.
Tokai’s LC-107 (current price in Finland: 1.219 €) is the company’s gorgeous version of a Les Paul Custom.
The gold-coloured hardware fits our review sample’s tasty see-through wine red finish to a tee.
In terms of built, the Tokai LC-107 follows closely the original 1950s recipe of an LP Custom – unlike many recent original Gibsons:
The mahogany body is genuinely solid, meaning there are no hidden holes or pockets serving as weight relief. Tokai keeps the weight of their Love Rocks down by carefully selecting lightweight mahogany.
The LC-107’s curved top, too, has been carved from mahogany (!), just like Gibson did it in the Fifties.
There is one change, though, that Tokai made for environmental reasons:
The bound fingerboard is made from rosewood, not ebony.
The multiply binding on both top and back add a nice dose of panache to the looks of the Tokai LC-107.
The Tokai LS-130F (1.514) is an LP Standard-type instrument with a thin satin finish.
The letter F in its name hints at the beautiful solid flame maple top of the LS-130F.
Our review instrument comes in a beautiful tobacco sunburst, whose edges may look brown at first glance, but actually turn out to be a dark, see-through violet, allowing you to see the chatoyant wood grain beneath it.
The LS-130F’s neck and the back of the body have been finished in cherry red.
Due to the runaway popularity of tiger striped maple on Les Pauls, many younger guitarists might think that all Standards made between 1958 and ’60 have flame maple tops. Actually, there are many original ‘Bursts that were produced with what is nowadays called a plain top.
Tokai’s LS-160 (1.773 €) is a stunning, top-of-the-line version of such a plain top LP.
Adding to the LS-160’s vintage-style prestige is this instrument’s nitrocellulose finish, taking this model’s specifications right back to 1958.
The headstock on the Tokai LC-107 sports plenty of inlay works, as well as multiple binding.
The tuners are modern sealed Gotoh heads.
The headstocks on both the LS-130F and the LS-160 follows the more restrained LP Standard pattern.
These two models come equipped with Gotoh’s quality versions of vintage Kluson tuners.
The Tokai LC’s sports oblong position markers made from pearloid plastic…
…while both LS’ come with crown inlays.
The fretwork on all three instruments is exemplary.
All three guitars have long tenon neck joints, with a part of the neck extending into the neck pickup cavity.
Many players claim that this type of neck joint makes for better tone and sustain.
The tune-o-matic bridges and stopbars on all three models come from Gotoh’s Japanese hardware range.
The LC-107 comes with a pair of Tokai’s fabled PAF Vintage Mark II humbuckers.
The LS-130F and LS-160 have been equipped with a pair of Seymour Duncan ’59 Model pickups.
The control cavities look clean and neat, displaying Japanese craftsmanship and parts, as well as thorough shielding with conductive paint.
Our review trio is sold with a nice Tokai hard case included in the price.
In order to protect the LS-160’s delicate nitro finish, this model is placed inside the case in its own velours bag.
In terms of their playability, all three guitars – the LC-107, the LS-130F and the LS-160 – are all on an equally high level. In terms of their feel, though, close inspection reveals a few minute differences.
The neck profile on the Tokai LC-107 is a medium-depth, well-rounded D-shape. LP fans would probably describe this neck as a ’59 Neck – meaning there’s enough meat on the bones for tone, but the overall dimensions are not unwieldy.
Tokai’s LS-130F comes endowed with a 58 Neck, meaning the full chunky Monty. The fantastic matte finish makes this neck feel very “fast”, despite its considerable girth.
The LS-160’s neck profile is the slimmest neck of this trio. It’s what you call a 60 Neck – not as deep as a 59 Neck, and with an oval C-profile.
Despite the fact that all review instruments came strung with the same set of 010-strings, and notwithstanding identical setups (string height at the 12th fret: low E: 1.9 mm/treble e: 1.6 mm), Tokai’s LS-160 felt a little bit bendier than the LC-107 and LS-130F.
Played acoustically, the Tokai LC-107 had a sweet voice with nice woody mids and a little helping of shimmering highs, which is most likely down to the all-mahogany body.
Tokai’s own PAF Vintage Mark II pickups are great remakes of Gibson’s fabled late-Fifties humbuckers. Their output levels are relatively low, keeping the tone dynamic and fresh:
Tokai’s LS-130F turned out to be a little shouter, when strummed unplugged. This guitar gives you that famous freight-train-jumped-off-the-tracks-at-full speed experience that so many LP players love.
Seymour Duncan’s ’59 Model humbuckers make the LS-130F sound a little bit bigger and broader, when compared directly to the LC-107:
Unplugged the Tokai LS-160 sits right between its cousins. It isn’t as vociferous as the LS-130F, but there’s a bit more presence than what you’d find in the LC-107.
What is surprising, though, is that the LS-160 has the most “vintage-accurate” tone of this trio, when plugged into an amplifier, even though the pickups are exactly the same as in the LS-130F. The neck pickup is dipped deep in tasty cream, while the bridge pickup is more dynamic and a bit brighter than many would expect from an LP Standard. The end result is a very versatile clean tone:
The demo track keeps the same guitars on clean rhythm duty throughout (left channel: LC-107; right channel: LS-160). The riffs and lead parts, on the other hand, change – first up is the LC-107, then the LS-130F, and the last to go is the LS-160:
Tokai’s LC-107, LS-130F and LS-160 offer you top quality for a very fair price. All three models are professional grade instruments that play like a dream and sound fantastic.
The LC-107’s woody tone makes it a good choice for Jazz- and Fusion-guitarists, but will work equally well in other genres, too.
Tokai’s LS-130F would be my choice for an all-rocking, all-riffing Love Rock. Put on your top hat and travel to Paradise City.
The LS-160 takes you all the way back to the vintage Les Pauls that have served as Tokai’s inspiration. This authentically minded vintage-style guitar is full of dynamic Bluesbreaker-mojo.
Tokai Love Rock
LC-107 – 1.219 € (case included)
LS-130F – 1.514 € (case included)
LS-160 – 1.773 € (case included)
+ Made in Japan
+ hard case included
When guitar synthesisers first came into being (at the beginning of the 1970s) they all were fully analogue and used the actual guitar signal as the raw material of their output. The guitar’s output was fed into a chain of different effects, including distortion, octaving, filters and modulation, to make the sound resemble that of an analogue synth.
Many old guitar synths sound great, but they require a very clean playing technique to track cleanly, and almost all of the devices were purely monophonic (meaning: no chords).
Roland’s GK-pickup – as well as the MIDI standard – changed all that drastically:
Thanks to the GK-pickup it was (and still is) possible to make use of chords, bends and double stops, and incorporate them all in your synth performance. The GK system also makes it easy to trigger rack synths, software synths or samplers using your guitar, turning the instrument into a full-blown orchestra.
The brand-new Boss SY-300 (street price in Finland approx. 720 €) returns to the original idea of the guitar synth, but takes advantage of the huge advances that have been made in digital technology recently. Boss say the SY-300 tracks quickly and accurately, while delivering huge and fat sounds with lots of scope for editing. But the best thing about it is: The synth is polyphonic and works straight off the regular guitar signal.
The Boss SY-300 is a chunky piece of gear and looks like a compact multi-effects unit. The external power supply unit is included in the price.
You can assign the synth’s four footswitches to different functions, but in the factory default they work as follows:
The switch on the far left is the On/Off-switch (well, actually the bypass). CTL 1 is used to change a predetermined parameter in the chosen patch (like vibrato or modulation). The last two switches (CTL 2 and CTL 3) take over patch changing duties; step on them both, and you’ll switch on the built-in digital tuner.
As we are talking about a fully featured digital piece of equipment, the amount of editable parameters is quite staggering. Luckily, the graphics-based user interface in the Boss SY-300 is well-designed, making it fairly easy to programme the synthesiser using the controller knobs beneath the display, and the navigation buttons to the right of it.
The SY-300’s well-spec’ed back panel will not leave you wanting:
Placed next to the guitar input are the phone jacks for the guitar synth’s external effects loop. The Ground/Lift-switch makes it safe and easy to break any hum-inducing earth loop. Boss even included two sets of stereo outputs in their synth. The Main Output could be sent to your onstage amplifiers, for example, while the Sub Output feed could be connected to the FOH console. The Main Output’s left output also doubles as a headphones jack.
It’s also easy to integrate the Boss guitar synth into any MIDI-setup, thanks to its two MIDI-ports. The jack labelled EXP/CTL 4,5 is for use with additional (optional) footswitches and/or expression pedals. The SY-300 is compatible with EV-5- and FS-7-pedals, as well as the FS-5U- and FS-6-footswitch units.
The Boss SY-300 can also be utilised as a versatile external soundcard, with the synth offer four different USB Audio-modes for just this purpose, like the nifty Re-Synth-mode, which works in the same way as reamping. The unit also sends and receives MIDI-data using USB. You can also edit patches, load new ones or share your settings with other SY-300 users with the free Boss Tone Studio software (Win/Mac OS).
The above graphics show you the internal architecture and the signal path of the Boss SY-300. Each patch (Preset: 70; User: 99) can use up to three oscillators as sound sources (OSC1-OSC3). Each oscillator comes with a number of different waveforms to choose from (from saw to PWM, and beyond), as well as its own set of dedicated filters, LFOs and ADSR-envelope modules. A good indication of the SY-300’s versatility lies in the fact that exact placement of the oscillators in the signal path can be changed. You could have two oscillators running in parallel, with the third one placed behind the pair in series. Furthermore, the Sequencer feature makes it possible to use each oscillator as a 16-step sequencer, turning each note you play into a rhythmic and melodic pattern.
But there’s still more to come:
Boss’ new guitar synth also comes with four FX modules, each offering a very wide selection of different pro-quality effects. Depending on the chosen oscillator routing, the signal routing of the FX modules can also be changed by the user.
The new Boss SY-300 is a very user-friendly device, but due to its versatility – as well as the huge amount of editable parameters – you should take some time to read the user manual, before trying to programme your own patches. Especially if you’re new to the subject of synthesis, you shouldn’t be disappointed if it takes a little time, before your creations sound the way you intended.
I’m old enough to have learned synthesiser programming in the age of polyphonic analogue synths and the Yamaha DX7, which meant I felt right at home with the SY-300.
A good test of any user interface is trying to create something completely from scratch. I chose to use the Boss synth to come up with a slightly Eastern-influenced patch, that uses two oscillators in series to produce a sitar-style twangy tone, with the third oscillator assigned to produce shimmering overtones.
The resulting patch sounds like this (a single guitar synth track, plus three tracks of Roland HandSonic-percussion):
This clip gives you some idea of the types of patches included in the factory settings:
I also recorded a demo track that uses the Boss SY-300 for everything, except for the drum tracks:
Boss’ new guitar synth is a fantastic piece of gear, if you’re a fan of real synthesiser sounds.
The SY-300 locks on to your guitar signal very well and it tracks like a dream, staying true to both the dynamic, as well as the melodic and harmonic content of your playing.
The SY-300 isn’t meant to replace Roland’s GK-/GR-products – if you’re after realistic-sounding, multitimbral sounds, using a GK-pickup is still the easiest and best option. The Boss SY-300 is meant as a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a genuine guitar synth – in the original sense of the term. You will get huge and fat synthesiser sounds, seasoned with great effects, from the SY-300, not pianos, violins or trumpets.
Street price in Finland approximately 720 €
+ graphic user interface
+ three OSC-modules
+ four FX-modules
+ external effects loop
As Christmas is just around the corner, we at Kitarablogi felt it was a good idea to review one of the starter packs offered by a local music dealer:
DLX Music’s own affordable starter pack (299 €) combines a Sterling S.U.B. Silo3 guitar with a Vox AmPlug 2 Classic Rock headphone amplifier. The only things you need to add are a plectrum and a set of headphones – and off you go. And what’s best: Thanks to the headphone amp you won’t be disturbing any neighbours with your playing!
The Sterling (by Music Man) S.U.B Silo3 is an affordable licensed copy of the legendary Music Man Silhouette HSS-model. To my knowledge, the S.U.B. Silo3 is currently offered in Finland only as part of three DLX Music guitar packs. In other countries of the EU this guitar model is sold for around 300 €.
This Made-in-Indonesia Sterling uses different local hardwoods (all of which are said to resemble alder in terms of their sound) for the body.
The Silo3’s neck has been crafted from maple, same goes for the separate fretboard.
The whole neck comes with a thin satin finish, while the body is finished gloss black.
The fingerboard sports 22 medium-sized frets.
The Sterling’s very comfortable neck joint is a straight copy of the bolt-on joint used in Music Man’s US-manufactured guitars.
Thanks to the four-plus-two machine head arrangement on this guitar’s headstock, the Sterling Silo3 offers a straight string path from the nut to the tuner posts, without the need for any string retainers, which might impede on the vibrato’s return to pitch.
The tuners themselves are of decent quality.
The vibrato bridge on the S.U.B. Silo3 is a modern take on the venerable vintage vibrato, featuring a knife-edge bearing with two height-adjustable posts.
Between the neck pickup and the end of the fingerboard you can see the truss rod adjustment wheel, typical of Music Man-instruments. Thanks to the wheel you can use an object that’s sturdy enough for the job – like a small screwdriver or a metal rod – to adjust the truss rod, without having to detach the neck or loosen the strings.
The Silo3 comes equipped with a set of ceramic pickups, which features slightly hotter singlecoils in the neck and middle positions for an overall balanced output level.
The controls comprise a master volume, a master tone, and a five-way blade switch.
The new, second-generation Vox AmPlug 2 headphone amps come with an updated set of features, both in terms of their sound and their practicality.
The AmPlug 2 Classic Rock (39 €) is the “Marshall-type” model in the line-up.
The new AmPlug 2 models now come with a rotating jack plug, which makes it easier to use the device with any electric guitar shape known to mankind.
The AmPlugs runs on two AAA-sized batteries.
The AmPlug 2 Classic Rock sports three controls:
Gain adjusts the preamp levels from clean all the way to distorted. Tone lets you control the amount of treble in your output signal, while Volume is your master volume control, which adjusts the volume level in your headphones.
The Classic Rock’s effects department (labelled FX) lets you choose between three different guitar effects (chorus, delay, reverb), with each effect type offering you three different variations. You can only use one effect at any given time.
The Vox also comes with an Aux-input for connecting an mp3-player (or your mobile phone) for play-along sessions.
This Vox headphone amp also comes with a built-in mid-range booster. The current boost setting is indicated by the colour of the on/off-LED (green: boost off; orange: mild boost; red: full boost).
Sterling’s S.U.B. Silo3 offers you a lot of guitar for very little money.
The neck’s oval, slightly flattish C-profile will feel comfortable to most players, while the nice fretwork on the Silo3, as well as its 12-inch fretboard radius, makes string bending easy. Our review sample came well-adjusted and with a player friendly action (low E: 2.2 mm; high e: 2.0 mm @ 12th fret). Sterling uses a quality set of Ernie Ball Super Slinkies (a 009 set) as factory strings.
Used moderately, the Silo3’s vibrato bridge returns well to pitch, but if you want to dive bomb, you’ll probably need a locking nut.
I must admit to have been positively surprised by the quality of the Sterling Silo3-model’s pickups. Don’t forget, we’re talking about a 300 € guitar!
The clean sounds are nicely rounded and fresh, and even the singlecoil pickups retain a healthy dose of bottom-end warmth. Because of their overwound nature, the singlecoil pickups also manage to hold their own – output-wise – against the bridge humbucker.
This sound clip (recorded straight off the AmPlug) starts with the neck pickup:
The Sterling S.U.B. Silo3 is such a versatile instrument that it manages to cover the whole range of overdriven and distorted guitar tones – from slightly crunchy old-school Blues to full-frontal Metal. For my part, I wouldn’t have any qualms about dragging this guitar on stage with me right now…
As you could already witness from the two above Silo3-clips, Vox has managed to improve further on the already great sound of its range of headphone amplifiers. There are, for example, definite improvements in the hiss levels of the AmPlug 2 Classic Rock.
The range of sounds on offer will cater for all you Marshall-spirited needs from the 1960s all the way to the 80s – Classic Rock, indeed. If you’re after contemporary High Gain-sounds, I’d steer your attention towards the AmPlug 2 Metal instead.
The Classic Rock’s effects section does its bit to spruce up your guitar tone, and the quality on offer is amazing (especially, when considering the tiny price tag). The audio clip starts with a completely dry guitar sound:
The AmPlug’s mid-boost function makes even fatter and more aggressive sounds possible, whenever you need them. This audio clip starts with the boost off, and continues with the mild boost, before giving you an idea of what the full mid-range boost will do for you:
In my opinion, this is a great starter pack, making learning to play the guitar, as well as practising, a lot of fun.
Sterling’s S.U.B. Silo3 isn’t the cheapest electric guitar that you can lay your hands on in Finland, but it most certainly is one of the best (and most versatile) instruments in its class. The Silo3 is a real electric guitar, and not a cheese grater with strings. This Sterling both plays and sounds great!
Vox’ updated AmPlug 2 Series wins you over with even more features and an even better sound. This inexpensive little device makes it possible for you to rock out in most places, and almost at any hour – whenever and wherever inspiration might strike.
You can really make music with this quality pack from DLX Music Helsinki, as you can hear from the demo track. All guitar tracks have been recorded straight off the Vox AmPlug 2 Classic Rock, without any additional effects (save for a tiny bit of compression added during mixdown):
Sterling by Music Man Silo3 and Vox AmPlug 2 Classic Rock (DLX Music starter pack)
Contact: DLX Music
+ quality started pack
+ great even for use in an apartment block
+ good enough for more advanced players, too
+ playability (guitar)
+ sound (guitar and headphone amp)
Not all custom pickups are created equal.
Most custom winders seem to be on the hunt for the “ultimate vintage experience”, whatever that really means. Those makers try to source the most vintage-correct materials and try to zone in on the right way to bring their pickups to the desired authentic NOS specifications. For a Fender Stratocaster this could mean either going for a dry and woody Fifties-style tone or for a juicier and grittier Sixties version.
Vuorensaku’s Saku Vuori fearlessly approaches the subject of custom pickups from a different angle. The result is a pickup set with a refreshingly personal sound that isn’t frantically trying to reclaim past glories.
The Vuorensaku S. Kamiina set’s (prices starting at around 200 €) is based on thicker magnet wire, compared to what an original Fender pickup uses. The S. Kamiina set is wound using 40 AWG gauged wire, while most classic Fender creations use 42 AWG wire (except the Telecaster’s neck pickup, which is wound with a thinner 43 AWG wire). The thicker wire in the S. Kamiina set is complemented with Alnico II magnets, which are a milder type of magnet than Fender’s preferred Alnico V variety.
Vuorensaku’s set includes a reverse wound/reverse polarity middle pickup, resulting in hum-cancelling switch positions two and five. The set’s bridge pickup has received a few extra windings for a little bit of extra output.
In terms of its electronic values the Vuorensaku set clearly differs from your traditional Strat pickups:
The resistance of a regular Stratocaster singlecoil lies in the ballpark of around six kilo-ohms, with a typical inductance of 2,3-2,4 henries. The pickups in the S. Kamiina set read 2,2 kΩ for resistance (bridge pickup: 2,3 kΩ) with an inductance of two henries.
Judging by these numbers only, we can surmise that the Vuorensaku pickup set will probably sound brighter than a traditional vintage Strat set, while also having a slightly lower output.
Saku Vuori was kind enough to provide a S. Kamiina-equipped Classic Series Fender 70s Stratocaster for this review. The guitar has an ash body, as well as a maple neck with a maple fingerboard. For comparisons I used my own Fender Japan Stratocaster with one-piece maple neck and an alder body.
I was right in expecting the Vuorensaku set to sound brighter than most vintage-style Stratocaster pickups, but the supposed drop in output level is of a more theoretical nature than of real practical importance. The S. Kamiina set imbues the 70s Reissue with a very cool Gretsch- or Rickenbacker-type jangly tone and grit. The Vuorensaku pickups also feature a cleaner lower mid-range, when compared to traditional Stratocaster pickups.
For comparison purposes the first (neck pickup) and last (bridge pickup) phrases of the sound clip have been played using my own vintage-style Strat, while the five phrases in between have been recorded with the S. Kamiina set (starting with the neck pickup):
The presence lift in the Vuorensaku set is also easy to spot in distorted sounds. The S. Kamiina’s delivery is a bit more aggressive and in-yer-face, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
For comparison purposes the first (neck pickup) and last (bridge pickup) phrases of the sound clip have been played using my own vintage-style Strat, while the five phrases in between have been recorded with the S. Kamiina set (starting with the neck pickup):
The demo song contains four guitar tracks:
• two rhythm guitar parts – left channel: neck and middle pickup; right channel: neck pickups
• a mystically floating backing guitar: middle and bridge pickup
• lead guitar: neck pickup with the tone control turned halfway down
If you’re an stickler for authentic vintage specs, the Vuorensaku S. Kamiina set probably isn’t what you’re looking for – these pickups are no mere vintage clones.
If you’re after a brighter tone, though, especially if you dislike the neutrality of many active pickups, the S. Kamiina set is definitely one to check out! Vuorensaku’s pickups will breathe life into a dark-sounding guitar, while also giving your controls a wider tonal range to work with. These are pickups that won’t mush up.
By the way:
Saku Vuori applies his “low output principle” to other Vuorensaku pickups, too, like the Telecaster- and P-90-style pickups he uses in his handcrafted Vuorensaku T. Family guitar models.
Vuorensaku Custom Pickups S. Kamiina set
Stratocaster sets start from 200 €
Additional options: pickup cover, relicing
+ handmade in Finland
+ original sound, no vintage copies
+ rw/rp middle pickup
Tokai Guitars has built its reputation on very well-crafted and vintage-correct copies of classic models. The original Japanese Tokai instruments from the Seventies and Eighties gave most US manufacturers a good run for their money, and in some respects Tokai’s – ahem – “versions” were even better than some of the originals from that era.
Tokai’s top-of-the-line instruments are still made in Japan. The company’s Chinese output, though, makes it possible to own a genuine Tokai guitar (or bass), even on a tighter budget.
The idea behind the brand-new Tokai Classic series is to offer very reasonably priced guitars and basses, which combine a classic look with a few modern tweaks for easier playability.
Kitarablogi received these three Tokai Classics for review:
A Tokai Classic TE (current price in Finland: 249 €) in a 50s-style two-tone sunburst finish…
…a creamy white Tokai Classic ST (249 €)…
…as well as a Classic JB bass (299 €) in a fetching three-tone sunburst.
Tokai’s Classic series features bolt-on maple necks.
On the TE and ST models the face of the headstock sports a gloss finish.
The JB bass’ headstock front has received the same thin satin finish as the neck.
All Classic instruments offer easy access to the truss rod at the headstock, so you won’t have to take off the neck to make adjustments.
There’s a set of very decent Kluson-copies installed on the guitars.
The Classic JB comes with a set of Schaller-copies, which are less massive than vintage-style Klusons.
The Classic TE and ST come with a flatter-than-vintage fingerboard radius and chunkier frets, which makes the playing feel much more modern and bend-friendly.
The same goes for the Tokai Classic bass.
All Classic series bodies are made of basswood, a proven tonewood with a sound similar to alder.
The black plastic cushion beneath the neck plate protects the finish.
There are different versions of the three-saddle Tele-style bridge in circulation:
The Classic TE goes for the late-Sixties variety sporting three saddles with pre-set grooves for the strings.
The TE came strung the regular way, though the body, with the strings’ ball-ends anchored in ferrules. This setup is favoured by most Tele players.
Tokai’s Classic TE nevertheless offers an additional interesting feature:
It’s possible to string this guitar through the back of the bridge, too. This was a rare feature on original Fender Telecasters in 1958/59 that noticeably alters the feel and sound of the guitar.
At first glance, the bridge on Tokai’s Classic ST looks like a dead-on copy of a vintage Strat vibrato.
The vibrato block, though, isn’t as chunky as on the original. It’s about the same size as the block on a Floyd Rose vibrato.
Vintage-anoraks will sniff disapprovingly at the sight of such a block, claiming that it’s bad for the tone of the guitar. Let me tell you that the review guitar’s acoustic ring and sustain were actually quite healthy. So much for preconceptions…
The Classic JB sports a nice copy of a 1970s Fender bass bridge.
Most self-appointed “vintage-gurus” will tell you to steer clear at all times of ceramic Fender-style singlecoils.
Traditionally, a Fender-type singlecoil is constructed from six small, cylindrical magnets, which are tapped into vulcanised fibre plates. Around this magnet core a coil of thin copper wire is wound to complete the pickup. In traditional pickups the polepieces you see are actually the top ends of the alnico magnets.
Tokai’s Classic series uses ceramic pickups, which are made a little differently. The polepieces aren’t magnets, but rather soft steel rods, which are in physical contact to a ceramic bar magnet (or sometimes two magnets) stuck to the bottom of each pickup.
When ceramic pickups first appeared on budget guitars in the Nineties, their sound was admittedly often very spiky, brittle and sharp. This gave ceramic singlecoils a bad name, which wasn’t all that undeserved.
But that was then, and ceramic pickups have been improved drastically since. Despite this, there’s still quite a lot of prejudice against this type of guitar pickup.
In the case of these Tokai Classic instruments, I’d suggest you approach their pickups with an open heart and open ears – you might be in for a positive surprise!
The Classic series features electronic parts of inexpensive, but very decent quality. All the switches and controls work fine, and without any hiccups.
As you can easily see from this picture, the workmanship is very clean in the Classic TE.
The rout for the Classic JB’s component cavity wasn’t quite as clean on our review sample. Luckily, this has no bearing whatsoever on the functionality of this bass guitar.
Tokai’s Classic TE is a very nice, well-playing Tele-style electric guitar.
Quite often, you will find uninspiring, flat and generic neck profiles on instruments in this price bracket.
The Classic TE is quite an exception, as it sports a comfortable, well-rounded and chunky neck, that still manages to stay on the right side of “fat”. The fretwork is really great on our review sample. Combined with the bigger frets and flatter fretboard radius, this results in a slinky and bend-friendly playing feel.
Tokai’s Classic TE is no slouch in the sound department, either:
The neck pickup is warm and round, but never sounds boring or one-dimensional. The middle position of the switch will give you a cool, funky rhythm tone. The bridge pickup on its own offers enough twang for Country playing, and enough whack for the Classic Rock crowd.
I’d never have thought an electric guitar costing only 249 € could be as utterly inspiring as this Tokai Classic ST!
The neck feels great with its oval C-profile. The fretwork and setup make this a real player’s guitar. The vibrato works well in a vintage-style way, and the ST’s acoustic tone is woody and dynamic.
The ceramic pickups on the Tokai Classic ST are a bit hotter than the alnicos on my 50s-style Fender Stratocaster reissue. They also have a bit more sizzle and bite, but in a good way, making this more of a “Jimi Hendrix” than a “Buddy Holly” guitar.
Tokai’s Classic JB truly offers a lot of bass in a very pocket-friendly package.
The Classic JB will give you all the features you’d look for in a Jazz Bass-type instrument:
There’s the slender, distinctly tapered neck profile, the comfortable balance, and the wide variety (for a passive bass) of different sounds.
This last clip lets you listen to the video’s bass and guitar tracks in isolation. During the first half all guitar tracks are played on the Classic TE, in the second half the Classic ST takes over:
Tokai’s Classic Series may well prove to set a new standard for vintage-style instruments in this price range. The three reviewed guitars were well-made, well-playing instruments, and their sound was inspiring.
While the Classic series is aimed mainly at beginners, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the instruments crept up on pub or club stages!
Tokai Classic Series
Tokai Classic TE – 249 €
Tokai Classic ST – 249 €
Tokai Classic JB – 299 €
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
There was this strange booth at Frankfurt Musikmesse 2015 that had everybody stop and take notice:
A company called Ogre displayed a variety of very goth-looking effect pedals, but the real show-stopper was a medieval-looking electric guitar made completely out of magnesium alloy, called the Magnox-M1.
Thanks to Finnish distributor R-Jam Group we were able to take a closer look at this intriguing new concept.
The all-metal Ogre Magnox-M1 (current price in Finland: 1,399 €) truly is a sight to behold. It isn’t often you get to see an instrument that looks like old metal, and which features beautiful rose-and-thorns reliefs on its body.
The twin-cutaway Ogre Magnox-M1 has a scale of 25.5 inches (64.8 cm), and its thin body is partly hollow.
Our two review instruments both come with a pair of humbuckers, but there’s also an HSS-loaded Magnox-M1 available.
The back of the body sports a deep ribcage bevel.
The output jack sits in its own recess.
The top nut is also made from magnesium alloy. Even though it looks a bit like a locking nut, the strings aren’t locked.
Ogre go for top-drawer quality in the tuner department by using Sperzel locking tuners equipped with Ogre’s own metal tuner buttons.
The pewter-coloured Magnox-M1 sports black dot markers.
The position markers on the bronze-coloured Ogre are golden.
The Magnox comes with 22 medium jumbo frets.
Ogre’s neck joint is very smooth, so you can widdle your way up to the dusty end with ease.
The wraparound bridge is Ogre’s own design, its base cast from the same metal alloy as the rest of the guitar.
Twin-humbucker equipped Magnox-M1 models are available with two different sets of pickups:
In our case, the pewter Ogre sports a pair of the company’s own PAF-style ‘buckers.
The bronze-coloured Magnox comes with a Seymour Duncan ’59 at the neck, and a JB model at the bridge.
These Ogres are equipped with a three-way toggle switch, as well as master volume and tone controls. There’s a push/pull-switch hidden in the master tone control, which allows you to split the humbuckers for singlecoil tones.
A close look under the hood reveals quality parts and clean workmanship.
A fancy graphite-composite hard case is included in the price.
Thanks to its semi-hollow body the Ogre Magnox-M1 only weighs a very comfortable 3.8 kg. Despite the fact that the neck and fingerboard are not hollowed out, the M1 stays perfectly balanced .
Ogre’s expertise in the finishing department is really something else:
Both guitars look old, rusty, and oxidised, and some parts even look coarse and scratched, but this is all a very cool illusion conjured up by the excellent finishing job. In reality the Magnox-M1 feels very smooth and friendly, even if it’s a tad cool when pulled out of its case. The only things that are real are the beautiful reliefs on the front and back of the body (as well as on the control cavity lid), all other dings and scratches are an optical effect.
In my opinion Ogre’s not-too-chunky C-profiled neck feels really great. The fretwork is excellent, and the fretboard’s edges are comfortably smooth.
Ogre’s own PAF-style humbuckers have a very dynamic, crisp and open sound, thanks to their moderate output levels. The split-coil settings sound remarkably Fender-like.
The sound clips both feature the split humbuckers first, followed by the full humbucker settings, both starting with the neck pickup:
The Seymour Duncan set is higher in output, and the sounds have a fatter mid-range character. Played into a clean channel, the bridge humbucker can sound a bit honky at times, but using crunchy settings will make the JB model rock even harder than the Ogre bridge humbucker.
The sound clips both feature the split humbuckers first, followed by the full humbucker settings, both starting with the neck pickup:
The demo track features the pewter-hued Magnox-M1 exclusively for the first half, while all the guitar tracks in the second half have been played on the bronze Ogre model.
• rhythm guitars (split pickups) – left channel: both pickups, right channel: bridge pickup
• lead guitar – full neck humbucker
The Ogre Magnox-M1 is a very fine electric guitar, which offers a viable alternative to traditional wooden instruments. I really like the visual design of these guitars, too, but some might disagree. The best thing about the Magnox-M1 guitars, though, is the great sound they make. These are very inspiring instruments, indeed!
Finnish distributor: R-JAM Group
+ cool design
+ different pickup options available
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? It’s a Wednesday evening, and you want to jam; but the drummer’s at the hairdresser’s and the bassist has to babysit all evening long.
So what do you do? You get bored to tears sitting on the sofa with your fingers widdling away idly on your favourite couch guitar…
Actually, now there’s a better, much more creative way to spend your spare time – Digitech’s brand-new Trio Band Creator pedal lets you jam and work on new song ideas by supplying an indefatigable rhythm-section-in-a-box.
The Digitech Trio (current street price in Finland approx. 240 €) uses a learn function that detects the chord changes (and tempo) of a part straight off your guitar’s audio signal. There’s no need for complicated step-by-step programming or an expensive (and fiddly) MIDI-pickup – just plug in your guitar lead, and you’re ready to go.
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This time Kitarablogi.com takes a look at two different Markbass bass combos – one is already a bona fide classic, while the other is a brand new, affordably-priced signature model.
The Markbass Mini CMD 121P (current price in Finland: 799 €) is one of the company’s best-selling combos, as it manages to put all of Markbass’ trademark features into a compact, hard-to-beat package.
The Mini CMD 121P comes loaded with a lightweight, but powerful 12-inch neodymium speaker with Markbass’ cool yellow cone, as well as a piezo tweeter in the top right corner.
The back-ported cabinet is covered in a hard-wearing carpet style exterior, and comes equipped with sturdy plastic corner protectors.
The whole combo measures only 38 x 43 x 36 centimetres (w x h x d) and weighs in at just above 13 kilos, which makes it easy to carry around by its single top…
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