GP’s Video Roundup: 19 Guitar Effects Pedals Tested
If you’re a reader of Guitar Player Magazine (Hunny, I swear, I only read it for the articles,) you may have caught their recent effects pedal “Pow-Wow” (July, 2007 issue.) It turned out to be a fine roundup of a whole slew of new effects, but the big news for me is that they’ve just posted video demos of nearly all of the pedals––a full 19 to be exact.
While I’m a big fan of a well-written review––I’ve been known to dabble in them myself ;)––guitar effects lend themselves particularly well to video demonstrations… let’s face it, you can hightail it down to your local guitar dealer to test drive just about any major brand guitar that you’d like, but your chances of finding a truly impressive collection of effects pedals is slim to nil.
And don’t even get me started about boutique pedals.
Anyway, these demos are rather short, and they certainly aren’t meant to be in-depth reviews, but if you’re in the market for any one of these effects (or perhaps one of their competitors,) it’ll definitely be worth your time to take a look––the ToadWorks Phantasm is worth the price of admission alone.
Your Chance To Win A Gibson SG-3 With Three Singlecoils
Well, I hope everyone here in the States had a great day of BBQ & fireworks yesterday, and for those of you around the world who don’t celebrate America’s Independence Day, well… I hope you had a lovely Wednesday just the same.
To ease ya’all back into the short work week I just thought I’d drop you a quick link to Gibson’s latest contest: yep, they’re giving away another Guitar Of The Week––the SG-3 Fireburst, to be exact.
This guitar was GOTW #21, and it features a body & neck of solid mahogany, a rosewood fretboard, unique Fireburst finish, a trio of Blade-type single-coil pickups, and a 6-way rotary pickup selector with an old-shool black chicken head knob.
Vintage Guitar Magazine Reviews Eastwood’s Airline H44 DLX
rrectly, Eastwood first introduced their Airline H44 back in January of this year (at Winter NAMM 2007,) as an inexpensive, updated & upgraded remake of the classic Harmony H44 Stratotone––a funky little slide guitar from the ’50s, with a neck the size of a small tree trunk, and some seriously down ‘n dirty humbucker tone.
The guitar has been getting rave reviews ever since.
Eastwood’s rendition of the Stratotone, known officially as the Airline H44 DLX, sees the single pickup of the original replaced by a shiny new pair of mini-humbuckers, and gone too is the neck-through-body design––reworked with a much more adjustable and reliable set maple neck.
The body is built of solid Ash, and the instrument also boasts a rosewood fretboard with 20 frets (24 3/4“ scale length,) floating wooden bridge with a compensated saddle, vintage ”open back“ tuning machines, and 3-way pickup switching.
Anyway, if you’re in the market for a cheap ($499 street,) funky, and dangerously raunchy blues/slide guitar you might want to check out Vintage Guitar Magazine’s rather short but informative review of the Eastwood Airline H44 DLX––first published in their May 2007 issue, and now available in PDF format from Eastwood’s website.
Well worth a look. You might also want to check out the video demo while you’re at it… about halfway through, Joey Leone gets into some nasty-fun solo work, though slide work is conspicuously missing.
The audio demo, however, is what truly satisfied my soul––guitarist Luther Tatum has his Airline H44 sounding like a freakin’ freight train.
Gibson Announces Guitar Of The Week #24 :: Firebird Studio
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Gibson’s Firebird (based purely on aesthetics mind you,) but I rather like this one for its Frankenstein-ish good looks.
The Firebird Studio is Gibson’s Guitar Of The Week #24, and it looks like a beauty, but unfortunately, as has happened on a few earlier occasions, the specs on Gibson’s product page for this instrument don’t seem to match up very well with the photo. Anyway, I’ll do my best to fill in the gaps.
At first glance the guitar appears to be a suped-up version of the standard Firebird Studio, sporting the same traditional “reverse-body” design, with a mahogany neck & body––however, the inclusion of Flame Maple “wings” has to make you wonder whether the instrument truly features the set-neck design of the Studio, or the classic neck-through-body design of the more expensive Firebird V.
In fact, if you take a closer look you’ll find that this guitar looks a lot more like a Firebird V than a Firebird Studio… the photo clearly shows what appears to be a pair of mini-humbuckers––probably high-output, and most certainly not the full-size 490R & 498T listed in the specs––not to mention trapezoid inlays (as opposed to dots,) a fancy Firebird headstock, and what are more than likely a set of inline tuners.
Taking all that into consideration, it seems a bit futile to post the rest of Gibson’s official specs, so I think I’ll stop right here. Anyway, I’ll keep you informed if and when more accurate info comes my way.
REVIEW: Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster
This review is Part 4 of the series: My Quest For The Perfect Strat.
MODEL» Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster
INTRO» The long awaited Eric Johnson Stratocaster was introduced in January of 2005, and has received accolades across the board ever since. Walk into your local music store, take one off the rack, and you’ll quickly see why. Simply put, the guitar is beautifully built, with all the vintage vibe and traditional Strat-appeal you could ask for.
With a deep-contoured, lightweight Alder body, single-piece quartersawn neck, a set of three “special design” Eric Johnson single-coil pickups, not to mention a host of other customizations, the EJ Strat feels and plays a lot more like a true Custom Shop guitar than a reasonably priced production model––but that’s exactly what it is.
The instrument was apparently designed by Custom Shop builder Michael Frank-Braun, in collaboration with Johnson himself, and the pedigree shows. For a production guitar, this thing has CS written all over it.
If you’re in the market for a truly high-quality Stratocaster with vintage styling and some modern amenities, you’ll definitely want to read on.
SPECS» two-piece ‘57-style lightweight Alder body, one-piece quartersawn Maple neck (soft “V” shape, Nitro finish,) Maple fretboard with 12“ Radius and 21 highly polished MJ frets, extra smooth neck-to-headstock volute, ‘57-style body cavities, staggered vintage style tuners (no need for string tree,) vintage tremolo w/silver painted block and ‘57-style string recess, and three special design Eric Johnson Pickups w/countersunk mounting screws.
The guitar also sports Fender’s Thin Nitrocellulose Lacquer finish, and is available in two-color Sunburst (shown here,) Black, Candy Apple Red, and White Blonde.
Ships with a deluxe Blonde hardshell case w/black ends, a black interior, strap, and a cable.
WHAT I LIKED» The big story here is what you get for your money––in the last few months I’ve spent quality time with just about every production Strat model on the market, and in my opinion the Eric Johnson Stratocaster is about as good as it gets in the sub-$2,000 price range.
Granted, depending on your neck/fretboard preference the EJ still may not be the guitar for you, and there are certainly some fantastic Strats in the $1600 range if and when you can find them––take a look at some of the ”thin-skin“ ‘62 Reissues… Mmmmm––but if you’re looking for a guitar that blends old-school Strat style & quality with a number of modern conveniences to boot, the EJ Stratocaster is at the top of the list.
Can you say resonant? Strum a few chords on the EJ Strat before you plug it in and you know you’re in for a treat––the guitar absolutely sings, even without amplification. Now I’m no luthier, but I suppose this is the effect of a top-shelf alder body paired with a true quartersawn maple neck, and perhaps even the complete lack of string trees. Whatever it is, it says loads about the quality of this guitar.
Plug it in and you’ve got a Strat that’s dripping with sustain, and a truly ear-pleasing variety of traditional yet somehow unique singlecoil Stratocaster tones. Between the three modified Custom Shop pickups, and that extra-thin Nitro finish, this thing is a veritable tone machine.
In fact, one of Johnson’s customizations––the re-wiring of the middle pickup tone control over to the bridge pickup––is one of those long-standing mods that really should at least be an option on Strats coming straight from Fender… there is very little downside to this tweak (how many of you spend time fiddling with the tone control of your middle pickup?) and the upside is a truly useable third pickup, with a darker, more punchy tone.
Another highlight of the EJ Strat is its gorgeous, vintage-tinted, Nitro-finished neck––now I’ll come right out and say that I’m not a big personal fan of the EJ’s soft ”V“ shape profile (it simply doesn’t fit right in my hands,) but I know plenty of folks who love it, and my own preference for a vintage ”C“ profile in no way diminishes the high quality and extreme playability of this neck.
I’ve read user reviews that complained of an annoying stickiness to the neck, usually attributed to the Nitrocellulose finish, but I experienced none of this myself. And while Fender’s own specs mention only ”maple“ in describing the neck material, the guitar I played boasted a beautiful flame pattern across the back of the neck and into the headstock.
When it comes to the fretboard, the Eric Johnson Strocaster steps right into modern territory––while the rest of the instrument exudes a thoroughly retro feel, the flat 12” radius fretboard makes for truly fast and accurate bends, and allows for what is arguably the lowest action I’ve come across on an otherwise vintage-style Strat.
Once again, if you’re a fan of Fender’s early, and much rounder 7.25“ neck radius (like me,) you may not take a liking to the EJ Strat’s downright flat fingerboard (we’re squarely into Les Paul territory here,) but it’s really just a matter of preference. This beauty absolutely excels at fast fret work.
Oh yeah, and forget those skinny, finger-eating vintage wires… the EJ is armed with 21 incredibly comfortable Medium Jumbo frets––the kind of modification you will find on the vintage instruments of many a serious player.
Rounding it all out, the Eric Johnson Stratocaster is just plain good to look at. All four of its available finishes––2-color Sunburst, Black, Candy Apple Red, and White Blonde––are lovely, traditional Strat colors. But on top of that, the EJ’s extra-thin Nitrocellulose finish is going to age like a fine bottle of wine––getting more complex, unique, and personal to the player as time goes by.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE» To be honest, I can’t say there’s a whole lot about the Eric Johnson Stratocaster that really rubbed me the wrong way. My only issues with the guitar are ones of personal preference, and certainly not anything that could be considered a true gripe.
What stops the EJ Strat from being my perfect Strat is simply the fact that I much prefer Fender’s vintage 7.25” neck radius and comfy “C” shaped profile to the flatter 12’ radius and “soft V” profile of the EJ. These are minor issues however, and I have no qualms in stating that for many, many guitarists, the modern conveniences of the Eric Johnson Stratocaster will end up being just what the doctor ordered.
In the end, there’s really not much to dislike about this guitar.
FINAL WORD» Custom Shop quality in a production level instrument is kind of the holy grail of guitar buying, and it’s the reason that many of us can spend literally months hunting down, checking out, and madly tossing aside instruments in our search for the perfect guitar––the one that absolutely must go home with us today.
Simply put, Fender’s Eric Johnson Stratocaster is one of those guitars.
Before you blow $1200 on an American Deluxe, before you mortgage your house for that Custom Shop Relic, go out and spend some quality time with an EJ Strat––you won’t be disappointed.
Gibson Accidentally Lets The Cat Out Of The Bag :: Guitar Of The Week #36?
Well, it’s still more than thirteen weeks away, but EGR reader Sten Nygren wrote this morning to let me know that an apparent glitch at Gibson.com has exposed what is potentially Guitar Of The Week #36––the Explorer New Century in Satin Ebony (here’s a screen shot for when they inevitably take the page down.)
More than likely someone in Gibson’s web development department just hit the upload button when they should have hit save, but it’s kind of fun to have some early info on the instrument.
According to what is obviously a still unfinished page, week #36 will see the addition of what appears to be an aesthetically modified Explorer New Century to the Guitar Of The Week line. Gone is the full-body mirrored pickguard (thank gawd!)––replaced by an eminently cooler “rugged, recessed carbon fiber pickguard” (sweet.)
The traditional gloss Ebony finish has been switched out for a subtler Satin finish, but otherwise the guitar’s specs appear to be in lockstep with the earlier Explorer New Century––mahogany body, classic 1960s mahogany neck, and a pair of Gibson’s 496R & 500T humbucker pickups.
Not a bad looking guitar… I’ll be keeping my eyes open for any more glitches that might come our way.
Line 6 Goes Small With Pocket POD & TonePort GX
Line 6, makers of what is easily some of the most affordable digital modeling gear available to guitarists today, have released two new products that appear to be aimed squarely at those looking for portable solutions to their signal processing needs.
The Pocket POD is an extension of Line 6’s popular POD line of digital modeling effects boxes, and is apparently battery operated, and so small it can fit in the palm of your hand.
According to Line 6 you can use the Pocket POD as a traditional effects box, in between your guitar and amplifier, or you can just use it to drive a set of headphones, allowing you to shred at full-volume without driving your roommates to drinking (as if they needed an excuse.)
The Pocket POD comes loaded with 300 artist-created presets, but if you can’t find something in there you like you can hook it up to a USB port and use either the free Vyzex software to tweak your tone, or log onto customtone.com and download your pick of some 3,000 other presets from guitarists around the globe.
If you want to dig a little deeper, check out Matt’s coverage––he’s done a bit of a comparison between the POD 2.0 and the new Pocket POD.
The TonePort GX is the latest addition to Line 6’s TonePort family of USB audio interfaces, but unlike its larger brethren, the GX is built specifically for guitar, and appears to be small enough to fit in your pocket.
TonePort GX includes just a single 1/4” input jack––for guitar, bass or microphone (you’ll need an adapter for XLR)––a standard USB-out jack for porting those virtuoso guitar licks over to your computer, an 1/8” headphone jack, and a volume control.
In spite of its diminutive size, the TonePort GX appears to be built for professional-quality results, offering over 100dB signal-to-noise ratio, and recording modes consisting of 16 & 24-bit at 44.1 & 48KHz, and a 96KHz mode with built-in sample rate conversion for simultaneous input and output.
TonePort GX also comes with Line 6’s incredibly fun (I know, I own it,) GearBox 3.0 digital modeling software, which boasts a full compliment of effects, including vintage and modern amp models, speaker cabinets, stomp-boxes, and even studio effects for guitar, bass and vocals.
Speed Linking: Gibson’s Guitar Of The Week #23, Epi Les Paul Ultra Giveaway…
Gibson released Guitar Of The Week #23 this morning, but the instrument––a standard Les Paul Money Bass in Natural Satin––was so yawn-inducing I didn’t think you’d want to read a whole post about it. Anyways, for the sake of the Guitar Of The Week Index I thought I’d better at least provide a link.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a fine instrument, but unless there’s something I’m missing here––or perhaps that Natural Satin finish is just flat-out gorgeous in real life––I’m not sure how this one warrants inclusion in the series. Yikes… is GOTW losing its mojo?
Moving right along, Epiphone is giving away a Les Paul Ultra––one of their newer LPs, which apparently contains a number of hollow cavities in its mahogany body (for increased resonance and weight reduction,) and features a pretty snazzy looking Grade “A” quilted maple top.
The guitar also sports a contoured back, slightly narrowed nut (42mm,) a satin-backed neck, and Epi’s new LockTone Stopbar/Tuneomatic bridge. Not bad for free.
Oh yeah, and IG has dug up Cpt. Beefheart’s thoroughly entertaining 10 commandments for guitarists… pure poetry, through and through.