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Stringed Guitars

Created by a passionate guitarist, containing a bit of gear reviews and news

Marshall 1987x

We are in constant search for our sound… and I don’t think it’s a one way journey… it’s got many many curves, loops and we sometimes go back to places we’ve been, it’s definitely something that characterizes us musicians, there is always something we are missing, but I don’t want to come across as “hard to please” there are many many moments were you feel you have¬† the perfect rig, the perfect setup, the perfect tone, that moment during rehearsal or a gig were you just feel you are sounding exactly as you think you should.

But the journey must continue :p. what’s the thing that we bump into a lot of times in our journey? Amps… and which brand? Marshall…. there is just nothing like it.. I’ve tried many many brands and models in fact I went ahead and tried a Friedman… and a Victory… and you know what they all compare themselves to? a Marshall… and what is everyone trying to sound like? a Marshall… but don’t get me wrong… Marshall was at the right place at the right time, anyone could’ve done it… but Jim was there in his shop when Eric Clapton came in looking for an amp, and that is the sound my generation relates to, not Eric.. but Marshall.

But… which Marshall? would any of them do? YES! try them all please, some are crap.. some are awesome… some of them work for different stages in your guitar life.

Anyway…. yes.. as the title says this is about the 1987x a Marshall that looks as good as it sounds and as loud as your mom calling out for lunch while you were out playing with your friends.

I owed it to myself… a Marshall with no master volume, were the distortion would come from turning that bastard all the way up to 11 (actually.. anything above 3 or 4 just creates more distortion and not volume.. 7 is about right for AC/DC) I knew that this amp would only be useful in a rehearsal with a really loud drummer or in a gig…. (stadium gig) but I wanted it anyway, even if I didn’t have the right attenuator.

This amp sounds so good! it’s just so 70s in your face guitar distortion… not too distorted, not too clean.. just about where you want it. I bought mine used… as like everything I buy because it’s cheaper and it’s just as good as new or even better… it has been broken in already ūüôā

This is probably the purchase that I did more research for…. I’ve tried as I stated above… Friedman, Victory, JTM 45 and Cornell Amps (British made), the 1987 is the one that I liked best…. the one that represented the tone I was after… the Cornell one was awesome.. that came in second.. but I always knew that I would’ve still wanted a Marshall after buying¬† a Cornell.

it’s got the basic controls but the difference here are the inputs.. it’s got 4 inputs… but.. what for!! well.. they are actually 2 + 2… two of them are high and 2 normal…. brighter vs less bright….¬† but you can combine them… I only use the high input, but you can connect a short cable between a input 1 and input 2 and then you can mix high and low so you have a bigger spectrum of sound.

I’m currently using it with a Torpedo Reload, it’s an attenuator with a lot more functions…. apparently it is also awesome for recording… but I haven’t tried that part yet.. I can say the attenuation bit works like a charm… you can control the volume with a normal knob…. and not with those stupid decibel steps like the Palmer or many others… it also has a multiple OHM selector… so it will work with 4,8 and 16ohms, easily changeable.

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If you are into Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Hendrix, Ac/Dc or¬† any thing that uses an electric guitar and has classic distortion… do not hesitate.. and try this amp.. it is Loud! you WILL need a good attenuator.. and they are not cheap so you need to budget at least half of what the amp costs for an attenuator.

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Gibson SG Classic Custom

I’ve chosen the SG as my type of guitar since I saw the VHS of the Ac/Dc Show at Donington on ’91, I was in love with the band and the SG, what a powerful beast! those devilish horns yet so sexy with those feminine curves.

I’ve been trying to purchase all of the models I’ve seen Angus using… but the one that was harder to find was the Custom SG he uses on the back in black tour… and that he still uses every now and then, the black and white SG… such an iconic instrument that I’m still struggling to understand why Gibson hasn’t released a Angus Young Signature of that specific model.

Anyway…. I’ve been after this guitar for quite sometime. I know that I could’ve¬† just purchased a 70’s custom with 3 pickups and make some mods… but… I wouldn’t feel too comfortable with that… I would’ve kept the 70s custom with 3 pickups and try to buy another one with 2 pickups :).

I finally stumbled upon the Guitars of the Week. something Gibson did back in the mid 00’s, I remember vividly these¬† models coming up… one of the most sought after is¬† the Diablo SG, but I didn’t remember the Guitar of the Week number 38… this is an almost exact replica of Angus’ black and white…. apart from the fact that it is not Black… it is Dark aged cherry or something like that.. but it really looks the part.

I went ahead and pulled the trigger, and man… is this a great guitar or what! I know it might not be the best investment I have… because no one really is after this specific model.. but who cares… this instrument is stunning in every way, I could make a few more adjustments to make it more similar to Angus’… but I choose not to… I even left the string gauge it came with it… ’10s even though I’ve been using 09’s for years… I fell¬† in love with the ’10s again.

I sort of believe in leaving guitars¬† as original as possible because that’s the way it was designed and intended to be played, every component and even the setup were carefully thought to work together

The guitar itself is a Standard SG built with Custom Shop parts, so for example you get:

Grover Tuners and an¬†Ebony Fingerboard, the previous owner had replaced the bridge ’57 pickup with an Angus Young model, I’ve read mixed reviews about this pickup… and of course Angus does not really use it but I like it… it’s a hot bright pickup it’s pure raw hard rock.

I almost forgot to mention… who doesn’t love a split diamond on a Gibson :).

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Recording guitars at home

I’ve read so many forums about recording at home… there is loads of info out there.. but as always… I can’t find someone normal with a normal budget who is not a purist and is just trying to get some decent tone out of his gear.

I’ve decided to just buy a few mics and an cheap interface to get me started.

Interface: Alesis IO2

Mics: SM57, SM58 and SEX1R Ribbon.

The interface was recommended by my guitar teacher who said “I’ve used this for years and has never failed me” and he records a lot… so I just bought it without hesitation.

The microphones… well.. the SM57 is just a must have according to everyone out there… the SM58 is more for vocals and I just wanted one, but the unusual one here is the Ribbon mic. Don’t know about you but when I recorded in the past I always found the guitar to be too dry… too much “in your face” creating an unnatural Tone… I believe that sound should have enough space to develop itself before it reaches a “reverb” ish state.

The Ribbon mic does this.. it picks up signal in an 8 shape giving you loads of space for the sound to develop, and the SM57 gives you that “in your face” sharp guitar tone, the combination of those two gives you an awesome result, a very natural tone without any effort, I downloaded Audacity which is a free recording environment without too many tricks but it gets the job done and did I mention… it’s free!

The interface is as simple as it gets and it’s very sturdy, I also use it to listen to music from my computer, it’s got 2 inputs and a separate gain control for both, it’s got phantom power, stereo/mono and master volume, very simple.

“Recording” is a very “scary”/”tedious” process… every time we see that red light suddenly our fingers get nervous and they don’t want to play as they always do… very frustrating, however.. having the interface at home means you can get used to this feeling.. of being recorded.. you can also do as many takes as you want or just leave it recording for hours without spending money on a studio. the other very useful aspect of Audacity + Audio Interface is that you can play along recordings/songs with great quality through your headphones… getting the true tone of your microphones wherever you are sat in your room, it also allows you to experiment with mic placement.

Conclusion… buy stuff and try… there is just too much information out there and too many good salesmen trying to get you to buy the expensive stuff.. talk to normal people.. approach your teacher or someone at the rehearsal place and ask them what they use, you’ll be surprised by the results!

I love what I achieved with all the little gadgets.. I bought everything 2nd hand except for the ribbon mic.. spending  a total of USD $370 (interface + microphones + cables) which is very cheap compared to what a lot of people spend on this first approach.

The 61 Reissue, best SG out there?

Why is it always that guitar manufacturers do reissues of the first year they released a¬†design? 61 Reissue for SGs, 52 for Telecasters, 54 for Stratocasters, Les Paul is probably the exception…

Whatever the reason is, it works. I’ve always found the 61 reissue to be the easiest to play, with a thin neck but a flat fretboard it’s just butter.

It sports two 57′ humbuckers, which for me are ¬†the finest pickups ever produced by Gibson, they have a really smooth tone and crazy sustain, almost Les Paul like. The hardware is nickel instead of chrome, that means it’s not annoyingly shiny so you get this sort of faded metal colour which ages very nicely.

These where produced until 2013 where they were replaced by the SG Standard, the Standard from 2013 is not the exact same guitar as a 61 reissue.. but it comes pretty close, they use 57′ humbuckers and half pickguard, although the hardware is all chrome instead of Nickel.

The 61 reissue actually started under the name “62 Reissue”, which wast first produced somewhere in the 80s and around mid 90s the name changed to 61 reissue, I think the specs and hardware were maintained.

If you are in the market for an SG standard… which will set you back roughly 1200 US dollars.. try to find a used 61 Reissue… they will hold their value a lot better than a standard and for me… it’s a superior guitar, just be careful with the fretwear.

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Marshall JMP 2200 & vintage Celestions

I was in the market for some Celestion Greenback speakers (G12M) which are supposed to be the holy grail of speakers… together with the GH12.

Browsing on ebay… -as you do- I found someone selling this odd looking Marshall supposedly from circa 1976 which some Rola / Celestion speakers designed for Jim Marshall.

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The seller was claiming that these speakers were in fact the famous GH12 -50 watts in this¬†case- so I started doing my research, there is almost nothing about the JMP2200 all the Internet¬†knows is that it’s a mid 1970¬†Marshall and it appears to be one of the first Solid State amps created by them.

I then moved on to researching the speakers, checked the serial number.. and boom! again.. 1976 Rola Celestions, I was so¬†excited! long story short.. I went ahead and purchased the amp. It is probably the heaviest amp I’ve ever carried! after 3 days my arms¬†are still in pain.

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I plugged in my Gibson SG tinkered around with volume and… it was pure magic, the tone that comes out of this thing is unreal, I’ve owned probably around 20¬†Marshalls from different price brackets including of course 100% valve amps… and to me this JMP 2200 is the best thing I’ve heard, you get Ac/Dc tones without any effort, just plug in and play.

These beasts are not easy to find… but if you do see one on sale, do yourself a favour and purchase it! I paid around $180 US dollars for mine but I would’ve paid a lot more knowing it sounded this good.

Controls are pretty simple, the only thing that stands out are the inputs, it’s got 2 + 1 inputs, being bright¬†and normal (?)¬†-at least that’s how they sound to me- and one that combines and a volume for each.

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Going custom

“Custom”… that is such a sexy word for¬†guitar players, for some of us getting a custom is just reaching the top! -of guitar shopping that is-

So 2 years ago I decided to give myself a birthday present… and this in fact was¬†a Jaydee guitar, made by John Diggins, who is the genius who came up with the Lightning bolts on Angus Young’s guitar, -our good friend¬†Solo Dallas has this info covered on this link– back in late 70s and early 80s John used to repair Angus’ guitars, to a point were¬†Angus’ original 1971 Standard only had the Gibson headstock left from the original guitar… everything else had been rebuilt by John.

So to me… ordering this guitar wasn’t only a big deal because it was custom made… but also because it’s something very unique that was ¬†built specifically for Angus’ and he toured with it during the tour of ’81, and they are not that many out there, in fact there are only 4, so it is pretty unique!.

The whole experience of ordering the guitar is such a surreal thing,¬†you feel special… the fact that you are talking to the guy who is a legend and will be building your guitar is just… incredible.

Fast forward 12 months, and I started getting updates via their Facebook page and you see how these guys create a masterpiece from just a piece of wood.

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And you also see your name on that wood! might not mean much to some… but it does mean a lot to us!.

Fast forward 2 months and I got this:

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All sanded and ready for spraying!

and just 2 weeks later I get this:

Step by step… built, paint, finish!

I was so excited! of course…I drove up to their office in Birmingham that same Saturday to pick her up:

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It was such a mix¬†of emotions… because you wait for so long you get the updates and then that’s it… it’s done… and¬†you are there… playing it… it feels that it doesn’t still belong to you… feels like you need to tame her… for me it is such an iconic guitar… that I felt I need to gain her respect, which I’m still doing… and playing her as often as I can.

It’s such a massive¬†experience, I don’t know why it has hit me so much, I think the combination of such a great instrument but also being one of Angus’ guitars… is just too much to take in.

The instrument itself is flawless, the craftsmanship that goes into this thing is out of this world, but I think what I enjoyed the most was the whole treatment I got, the way these guys deal with you.. they make you feel like a rock star, they reply to your emails in record time, they send you updates via Facebook and also.. you get to meet them and have a chat with them at their office. I got to hear some stories from Mike -John’s son- ¬†of when he was in the show that Angus’ received this guitar from John and jumped on stage… you find yourself talking to someone that is part of rock history, and also… you get to be in a place where Tommy Iommi’s been… he is local to Birmingham, UK and John builds guitars for him.

Waiting 18 months is not easy… but the reward is so big… you’ll be wanting to wait another 18 months pretty soon!.

If you do have the chance… treat yourself to something special.

 

A day in NYC…(support the locals!!)

So I recently went on holiday to the Big City, did the typical touristy stuff but I wanted to do something special with the music stores… of course we can go to Guitar Center and fool around with pretty much anything they have there… but I wanted a “true” NYC experience…
I woke up that day and added to my google maps all the music stores up to Central Park, after 30 minutes of research, my itinerary looked like this:

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I’ll go into more detail later… but it took me around 2 days to do the whole thing¬†,¬†it was a tremendously rewarding experience, I¬†used to¬†skip local stores and go¬†to big chains like Guitar Center or Samash, mainly because I used to find it a bit uncomfortable asking to play a specific guitar to the owner in a small store where “everyone” is watching you or expecting to buy something or “get the hell outta my store”, but this was just my perception of being just a kid and not realizing how annoying big stores are… filled up with kids treating instruments like toys or¬†people shredding away at high volume disturbing everyone else at the store.

So I packed up by bag put some comfortable shoes and headed to the streets.

From South to North.. these are the stores I went into:

Rudy’s Music ¬†Shop(461 Broome Street):¬†had an extremely luxurious selection of guitars, it was just breathtaking seeing not only custom shop guitars but also guitars owned by famous artists and some limited runs.¬†A great place to visit and admire some gems they have there…

 

 

Rivington Guitars 73 East 4th Street: As the owner describes it “Little guitar store” it is little but packed with some gorgeous SGs,¬†most of them vintage and at a great price! he had a 68 for like 3 grand or something, so you can tell the guy is not trying to pull one on you by selling you overpriced vintage stuff! I wish I had gone back to that store because my visit didn’t make it any justice,

 

 

Chelsea Guitars (224 West 23rd Street):¬†This¬†is the one that will steal all my good memories from New York, I went into the store presenting my self as a “blogger” I’m sure that’s what every store owner wants to hear… I almost wanted to tell him… “I have a blog.. but I’m still cool”, anyway… I think I spent 2 to 3 hours in total ( I visited the place twice) Danny had so many cool stories and he dedicated time to each one of them, he had some exquisite and beautiful guitars there… some old and some newer ones (he did take the time to explain¬†what really is an Old guitar!, thanks Danny). This is a must visit and please dedicate time¬†to it and of course buy something! although he won’t force it on you,¬†if you don’t have much cash on you (we musicians never do!) just buy a t-shirt they are very cool.

 

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30th Street Guitars (27th between 6th and 7th ave) : This store reminded me of Rudy’s but it’s “friendlier” you can browse around without any guilt, they had some beautiful guitars, I spoke to the technician or the owner.. (who knows) and he confessed that he had spent time fixing Angus’ guitar for the show of the 14th of September at the Madison Square Garden, (my whole purpose of the trip). again… great place to visit

Rogue Music (30th between 6th and 7th ave):¬†Another cool store this one, I don’t think they had any of my particular interest… I mainly care about SGs, but the owner was exceptionally nice.

I won’t comment on Samash or ¬†Guitar Center… you probably already now what a chain store looks like :).

That’s my list… those where my best 2 days in NYC, I loved every minute of it, everyone was exceptionally nice and now I understand the concept of supporting local business… I’m sure they have plenty of customers in NYC… but if you have local stores in your area that you haven’t been to, please do… go there talk to people and get involved, they’ll surely appreciate your custom.

Instant Angus

This is the reputation the SD Storm earned, a pedal that you plug in and Angus Young sound comes out of the speakers… so, is it true?

Yes!, definitely the pedal gives you that extra bite that Angus achieves with his tone, this is not a distortion pedal, in my opinion it’s a combination of an aggressive booster and a compressor,¬†allowing you to have sustain and overdrive without loosing clarity on your tone.

The pedal is simple… 3 knobs, Power, Storm and Snap, which I think they mean Input, Output and Compression, I could be wrong though but to my ear this seems to be the effect they cause on the tone.

The achieved¬†tone from¬†the pedal is very¬†affected by the Amp setup (duh) but really… you can’t just set your amp to clean and plug and play like a distortion pedal,¬†because it’s not a distortion pedal… so it needs the right level of gain and volume from the amp.

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I tested it using my 71 Gibson SG and the Eric Clapton Stratocaster. I’ll comment on both separately:

Gibson SG: I used the¬†OD1 channel with very little distortion (3) and on volume on 7 on the Marshall TSL, with the overall master on 1 (Yes, I got neighbours), the pedal configuration was: Power:10, Storm:7,Snap:5. I loved the tone that came out of the speaker but I was missing something… and it was volume… as we all know, great guitar tone is achieved by volume so I switched to my Blackstar HT1R using the emulated output straight to my headphones, used the clean channel with gain on 6 and master on 9, and it just blew my mind, everything was there the clarity of Angus’ tone but also the heavy “distortion” he has, Angus has a very distinctive E Chord sound.. it just sounds so bassy but clear… and you get just this with the Storm, using the guitar volume on 6¬†¬†and 10 for the solos.

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EC Stratocaster:¬†Marshall TSL on the clean channel, with gain on 5 and master on 1.5,the pedal:¬†Power:10, Storm:7 and Snap on 5. SRV instantly came hrough my amp,¬†using the neck pickup I fell in love all over again with my Strat, (tuned half step down), that classic glassy sound you get on the Strat but slightly overloaded¬†it’s a very addictive tone, and again the clarity remained there, every note and string sounded as clear as it would be coming out of the clean channel.

Overall I liked the pedal very much, it’s very hard to describe the sound, sometimes I think it is¬†similar to what you can¬†achieve with a distortion pedal, but it’s also far away from it, because the clarity that your tone has with the Storm can’t be achieved with a normal distortion pedal. If you are after a classic rock¬†sound THIS is the only thing you need to add to your rig.

The price tag on this baby is $335 US dollars, it’s not cheap but you have to think that this pedal is hand built by one guy… not an assembly line in a massive factory, so this impacts directly on the cost of the product.

The presentation was very good, I got a T-shirt and a big picture of Fil and Angus, signed by Fil, there are no instructions manual, which of course are not needed, however I feel that this should’ve included some sort of ideal set up to achieve Angus’ tone, Fil has worked extremely hard to achieve this and I’m sure he has a few tips that we would all love to hear.

Head to www.solodallas.com to get the pedal.

Reading material

It’s pretty obvious that I’m a Gibson SG fan, and as soon as I saw this book coming out I had to have it.

The best thing about it it’s that it’s new… so¬†you’ll find up to date info ¬†and great quality pictures, the data seems to be correct ¬†as well, I know the history of the SG quite well and I didn’t find any mistakes which is a good thing.

The book takes you on the journey since the SG was designed and went on the market for the first time, it also tells us about the most famous guitar players that use the SG as a main guitar, giving us detailed pictures on their custom models and also what was different about their guitars.

This book is intended for someone that:

a) wants great quality pictures of SGs

b) is really into the history of the SG

With this I’m not trying to say it’s a boring book… but you have to be a keen SG person to¬†fully enjoy the book as it takes us through every change on the model over the years, and that is the main reason I love it.

I recommend the book for any Gibson SG fans out there, it’s a great read and also a very good reference book to have, if you are someone that collects SGs this will help you identify your new guitar on the Gibson timeline

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