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Mesa Simul 295

Continuing with the Rack units… but… I’m not getting a rack… I’ll just use them as heads…

Man is this thing powerful or what?!? So… specs are: weighs around 22 kgs it has 2 output transformers capable of delivering 2x 95 watts each, you can push a lot of cabs! 4 in total if you use the outputs… however… with a cab switcher… you can push 4 16 ohm cabs per channel… a total of 8!! That’s a full Stadium rig!

6L6 and El34 tubes, so each channel has 2 modes.. Class A through the EL34 at 30 watts, or Class A/B at 95 watts using also the 6L6. What’s cool about this… well… apart from having different tones… you can run the channel at 30 or 95 Watts, which makes quite a bit of difference.

In total this unit has 12 tubes, which translates into £200 for a whole set of JJ tubes… it has 2 channels with independent stand by switches and volume knobs, it has 2 presence controls… one for each channel.

The volume knobs are just great, they behave like a hi-fi knob, you can just tame the volume to any level you want, but more importantly the volume sweeps in a beautiful way, there’s no sudden increases or drops like on Marshall amps.

I use a custom made amp switcher.

I’m running this power amp together with a Studio Preamp, this is pushing 4 cabs at a total of 4 ohms, and man…. this thing sounds huge! Also loud… but the sound has this 3D sort of thing about it, pretty much like a Matchless, I’m not entirely sure if this Power amp colours the tone or not… but I’ve read that some people are actually using it for hi-fi, so I’m guessing the unit just amplifies whatever the preamp is putting out.

If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know that I’m after the AC/DC Donington 1991 sound, during the razor’s edge tour, this combination of the 295 abd Studio Preamp pretty much nails the tone, it’s almost addictive!

I’m yet to use this in a live environment (thanks Covid 19) but I’ve played relatively loud at my studio (100db) and it is just a gorgeous tone! Of course I’ve been testing it with my SGs.

I hear that rack units are out of fashion… and people are buying 15W combos or heads… I’ll tell you what people are not thinking about… headroom… 100W is loud… but… running a 100W amp at half volume sounds much nicer than a 20 W amp at full volume, the articulation that you get with the massive transformers of a 100W cannot be achieved with a 20W head/combo.

The Power amp plus the preamp weighs a total of 26kg. My Marshall 1987x weighs around 15 and an SLP 1959 weighs 20Kg… so… yeah.. these Mesa are heavier, but can you out a price on tone? Would you care carrying an extra 6kg if you know your tone will be much closer to what you want?

Of course not… 6kgs is nothing… just ditch some other crap from your rig. These units are outstanding and I’m pretty sure that they will come back into fashion soon.

Gibson SG 1964 Reissue Custom Shop

The late part of 1963 was an important year for the SG, this is when the SG earned its own identity, they stopped calling it “les paul” and it also lost the “les paul” branded truss rod cover.

Some say that this is when the SG really took off, I’m actually not sure what was holding it back… but when you look at a 61 and a 64, the differences are obvious.

First, let me state that the 61 Reissue that we all know (and love) it is not period correct, the vibrola was a sideways one… the one that is used on the 61 Reissue actually came about on 63/64, this was a considerable change in design, the vibrola became more useful and stable.

So, what are the differences? Well… apart from the vibrola change, the neck is also different, the scale and amount of frets are the same, however it is no longer a 60s slim taper neck, it is much more C shaped, making it more like a “baseball bat” type of grip, this is similar to a regular production standard that you can grab off the shelves today.

The playability is great, I also own a 61 Custom shop and it also plays great… but the changes on the neck of the 64 certainly fit the SG well, in fact, the black SG that Angus uses almost exclusively on live shows is a 1964 which he removed the vibrola and painted black.

The finish is also quite different, the 61 has a much lighter cherry tone whereas the 64 is darker, which looks great with the vibrola.

In this particular example that I own, the pickups are also quite different, they are the same type… Custombuckers alnico III however the resistance is much larger, the 61’s bridge pickup reads around 6.9 whereas the 64 reads 7.8! It is much hotter and you can tell the difference when playing it, the neck pickup of the 1964 is also 7.8 and the 61 is 7.86, so much closer. Even though the bridge pickup is hotter, it still cleans up very nicely when the volume is turned down.

The feel of the volume control is also different, you don’t loose that much treble when rolling down the volume and the tone control is also quite nice to experiment with. I found myself for the first time being able to tame some of the brightness by just rolling the tone down, I believe this model has “black beauty” caps as opposed to bumblebee caps on the 61.

You can hear the 1964 in action here: https://youtu.be/J8UK_X6VTDA

The grain is beautiful and again.. the colour is not like any other SG I’ve seen.
The vibrola is probably one of the most luxurious additions to the SG, even if you don’t really use it, it dresses up the guitar quite nicely.

New AC/DC album Power Up!

I don’t really do album reviews and I’m not really a critic but… I’ve been waiting for an AC/DC album for 6 years! So I think I’ll try to express what this album sounds like, spoil alert… I love it!

Finally! AC/DC is back in the game, I suffered so much seeing Brian leaving the band, then Cliff, then Malcolm passed away, I saw Angus grieving his brother and it just shattered me, but I knew Angus can’t stand still, I knew he was itching for new things, I saw them live around 9 times and I know that Angus belongs with a guitar hanging from him and running around a stage.

The news came earlier this year (covid year) that AC/DC was about to release something, they are the quietest band ever! No one knows anything about them until they decide they want to be heard.

Alright… so… they release the single “Shot in the dark” instant AC/DC sound, sounded great but it was a bit too radioey, next… “Realize” came out… again… sounded awesome and unmistakably AC/DC, however… it was too radioey again.

I pre-ordered the album of course, I got the one that lights up! Looks awesome!

Ok… album arrives… oh wait… I don’t have a cd player… well.. I actually bought the album also on itunes at 5am that day and started listening to it.

Because I’m such a huge fan of AC/DC… thing take me a bit longer to process, the album sounded great, but the songs were different, Brian sounded awesome, Cliff can definitely be heard! And the drums sound like Phil of course, what about Stevie and Angus?. I’m amazed of how well Stevie has delivered so far, he not only sounds great.. he also adopted Mal’s style of playng!

What about Angus? He also sounds awesome but… there’s a general lack of solos…. his solos are shorter than usual (similar to last couple of albums) and sometimes they are more like fills… which do not gain that solo “momentum”

Well.. that was my first impression after the first spin…. I’ve now listened to it probably… 20 times, and I’m more in love than ever!

Man what a great album, apart from sounding incredible, every member is on their top shape! Brian belting vocals like if he was back in the 80s! Phil… well… just being Phil, and the rest of the gang just ploughing through like a freight train!

Every song has something… that makes you want to listen to it over and over, and you still discover more little things with each listen.

“Through the mists of time” made me shed a few tears, great track! Unusual for AC/DC. And according to angus this was written around the era of stiff upper lip! This one is for Mal, and even Brian says he gets the shivers!

“Money Shot” oh man, I love this one, brian is almost rapping again! The beat is great! Guitars are well defined and it sounds tight! At a nice pace.

“Code Red” is this the new “Back in Black” great track, again… Brian’s vocals are just great!

all the other tracks are awesome too! It’s great to hear the band again, this has made me very happy and I can feel some songs becoming classics already.

I still would’ve loved to hear some more signature solos from Angus, but… it’s ok, it’s still a great record that I listen to at least once a day.

THANK YOU!! You turned 2020 into a great year! And you’ve also made all the songs available for free on YouTube, well done! For always being there for us, for being humble but determined and for only caring of delivering the best to your fans.

AC/DC we salute you! And I’ll be attending as many shows as possible next year!

Gibson SG 61 Standard Custom Shop

Yes… another SG, this one took me a while to get, and I sold a few to get it, I found my self having 9 SGs and only using 3 or 4, it seemed wrong and I wasn’t comfortable with having unused guitars just hanging there.

So I published a bunch on on reverb and sold within like 3 days. I bought a few Marshall cabs and then this gorgeous SG came up for sale on reverb, my first Gibson Custom Shop

What an instrument! I don’t know what they do in the custom shop but playing one of these is like playing your favourite guitar, the one that just fits you…. maybe I got lucky but I doubt it… i think that is the purpose of a custom shop Gibson, to just… deliver what you need.

The finish is perfect, the intonation… perfect, the looks… perfect, the thin nitro finish… perfect, the smell of the case… perfect too! It smells like the nicest Gibson ever, Gibson owners know what I’m talking about.

Sound

It comes with PAF pickup replicas, in theory they use the same machinery used back in the 60s and pickups back then had uneven amounts of turns of wire… because apparently no one counted them, so they also replicated this process and people go crazy for these PAFs! I only just realised this. Owners are always changing pickups around but apparently Gibson Custom Buckers PAFs are probably the only ones that doesn’t get swapped.

The sound is nice, well formed, very balanced, slightly mid rangey, I’m not sure if this is the Custom Bucker or the bumblebee capacitor, the resistance is 6.8 on the bridge and 7.86 on the neck, I think the bridge could use a little more power, but the sound is still great and you can get very sweet sounding cleans and devilish distortion too!

The Looks

So… is it just another SG? Yes… of course, 2 horns, fat bottom and 6 strings, so what? Well… this one has the nice bevels, great looking tuners, the hardware is nickel which I loge because it looks like it’s been there for ever, and the most important of all… it has a very thin coat of nitrocellulose paint… which in theory allows the wood to breathe and resonate more, I don’t really think that’s true or at least impossible to prove… but… I love a nitro finish, it just looks great!

How does it play?

This is what I’m most amazed at, it just play as the nicest guitar you can possibly have, the first time you pick it up is like you’ve had this guitar all your life and you know everything about it, it might be the setup, it might be the size is just right, it might be the shape of the neck… the thin nitro on the back of the neck helps too. I truly don’t know what it is but… they have something different to Standard ones, it feels exactly like my 1971 Standard, like the wood has already settled in the instrument and the wood said “ok… this is my job for the rest of my life… I accept it… and I’ll behave”

Is it worth it?

Ah! The million dollar question. For me… it’s a resounding yes, I bought it used (like all my gear) so I paid half of what it costs new and getting a good deal always makes you feel better about the instrument, but money is relative… and the question here is… does it play twice as nice as a regular standard? I think it does… maybe not twice as good as my favourite Standard…. but it plays nicer than that one too… and I’ve bought many SGs before keeping only one standard…. definitely spent more then 4 thousand dollars on that journey, but the journey was great and it makes me realize how good this custom shop is.

So… should you buy one? YES! Go and play one somewhere… but don’t buy a new one… these custom shop cost a fortune and they lose a LOT of value as soon as you take it out of the shop.

you can see her in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNbn6GB0JI4

Guitar volume pots are important!

This next experience is related to a few gibson SGs and humbucker pickups.

Do you know what’s inside your guitar? It’s safe to say that we all know more than before… you can find anything on the internet about your guitar specs and whether they are good components or not.

Pots are often ignored, we look at wood, pickups, tuners and of course guitar brand, however pots are critical, think about them as the wheels of a car, you can have the best and biggest engine ever… but if your wheels are worn out or cheap quality then your car will just spin out of control.

CTS. I’m sure you’ve all heard of this brand, it’s probably on 90% of guitars out there, and they are the best of the best, however… they can be even better… there’s a company called RS Guitarworks that worked with CTS to develop a more authentic vintage taper and a more realistic value of the pots, humbuckers almost always are installed with 500k pots, however… they are not always 500k, they can be 450, 510, 460, etc. And even though the number is not really important… there’s a reason why they need to be 500k, and this is how the pickup was designed to work, with a 500k pot, because that’s just how it sounds like the developer wanted.

I was tired of having different tapers on the guitars I use live, the taper defines how steep the volume increase/decrease is when you turn the pot. This can be ok for your home guitars because they can all have a different character and you might actually like this, but for live performances you want to be able to switch guitars and at least for me… hoping for a similar performance when using the volume, I manage how much distortion the guitar gets by using the volume on it.

So I bought 4 RS Guitarworks superpots for my main SGs, after 2 hours of dealing with my not great soldering skills I was able to test the first guitar, I was blown away and I don’t say this lightly, I don’t often go around changing things in my guitars. The guitar sound just became more clear and more alive, the old pot probably with a below than 500k reading was holding the pickup down.

The volume taper was amazing, the sound of the pickup was amazing instantly, I was now able to get a crunchier sound by setting the volume to around 5 and then getting an angrier sound when I turned it up to 10.

By the way… I’m not associated with them in any way.

I play in an AC/DC tribute band called Meanstreak, and being able to use the volume on the guitar to control distortion is key and absolutely necessary, to cut a long story short… I can’t recommend them highly enough, they are a bit more expensive than regular CTS but they are totally worth it! Give your guitar a treat and get one of these to try out.

Playing with tone

Don’t be a knob snob, that is my advice and second advice is… follow suggestions to prove them wrong or right.

I don’t have much patience when it comes to trying things out, usually I just try to plug in and play, I have little time to play during the week and I sort of think that I waste time when I find myself fiddling with gear for hours.

However I’ve decided to start locking some time in and try to record a few things (I also don’t like recording) just to see if I could come at peace with this tedious and boring task. To my surprise… I still found it tedious and boring… but… it helped me re-discover my amp controls and equalization, I know this sounds obvious and most of the amps have had those 3 basic eq controls since the beginning of time, but I’m sure that most of you keep everything in the middle… (noon).

We all know what they do… but we often play with treble or bass controls and leave the mids in the middle right? I learnt what the mids does when I started playing heavy metal… I had one of those valvestate marshalls that had the “contour” control which scoops the mids, scooping the mids means taking out mids, remember that U shaped eq on your dad’s hi-fi system? Well it’s the same thing.

What does this does to my tone? Well… it adds “tightness” it changes the way distortion sounds, it’s an awesome thing to play with, suddenly everything sort of sounds better, the problem is that if you scoop them too much your sound will not cut through the mix, but a little bit of it can get you to that sweet spot you’ve been waiting for.

Even though I knew about mids (of course… I’m not a rookie… right? :p) when I finished my recording tests I found that the guitar was too much in my face… like a gritty sound, I tried mic placement (another art) which it changed the sound but I still wasn’t happy, so I went to the Eq section and started moving things around until I remembered that U shape!!, so now even though I mainly play AC/DC I still scoop the mids a bit… if listen to “Shoot to Thrill” you’ll see that mids are heavily scooped.

Long story short…. spend time playing with the knobs, try recording and playing with the eq on the computer/ipad, you’ll be surprised how closer you’ll get to the sound you are after and then you can try yo mimic those settings in your amp. Remember that all the records or live concerts you hear have a myriad of experts sorting out every detail of the sound until it’s perfect. Remember that old story “guitar straight to amp”? Well… it is true… but remember there’s a team between the amp and the sound you finally hear.

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, John 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’, he toured with it on 1981, 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, 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 needed 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 Angus just jumped on stage with it… you find yourself talking to someone that is part of rock and roll history, and also… you get to be in a place where Tommy Iommi’s been… he is local to Birmingham 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.

Personal review of the Jaydee SG

 

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:

guitar-stores-nyc

 

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.

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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