2nd special SG in my collection, the first one was the ebony board one and this one.. was an accident.
I tend to place bids and then forget about them, 99% of the times I usually lose the bid… but this time it was collection only and the guitar was filthy
So based on those factors, no one really placed any bids and to my surprise… mine won :).
I went to pick it up not being too excited as I really didn’t want it, having so many standards and custom shops… I wasn’t excited about just a special faded.
But you know how it goes… when you least expected is when you are surprised the most (not always!). So I pick it up… take it home… and the next day I went for a cleanup, man… the amount of sweat on this fretboard, i had to scrape it off, then do lemon oil, then scrape a bit more…. Even the back of the neck had to be scraped! Being unsealed wood… they seem to pip up a lot of dirt.
So once I finished with the neck… I did a good clean to the body, and then…. i used the instrument food from Monty’s guitar, again… as being unsealed wood… I was excited to try the clear instrument food.
I also used the coffee one on the fretboard because it give it a nice shade and males the pattern stand out.
After like 2 hours of cleaning and changing strings… I plugged it in, I loved it instantly. The neck is chunky just like the ebony special, the frets are well defined and on the big side, the pickups… Alnico II 490/498. i love these, much better than Alnico V which I believe the SG Standard comes with.
These specials are becoming my favourite! They do rock, you can beat them up a bit more , they are just a rocking machine with nothing fancy on them.
Debatable! Of course… probably the most debatable subject on guitars, us musicians are weird people, we love one thing today and hate the same thing tomorrow and we start tweaking things until we go “oh man.. I loved how this thing sounded yesterday “ we are almost never happy with what we have for more than a week.
Well… sort of, we get used to a sound and this will sometimes stop causing an impression on us… when something blows your mind out it’s because it’s new… fresh… different. But we often just get bored and our brain sort of fills in the blanks and the sound just becomes “standard”.
I’ve experienced this many many times. Now… I’m in a different mind set… I have enough guitars and amps that I can just switch stuff around when it’s just not working… this made me understand that sometimes one thing sounds better than the other, it could be us… could be placebo… could be voltage, humidity.. who knows! But… I try not to tweak things (apart from volume, treble, mids, etc) I’ll just swap guitars… and try again.
I stopped modding guitars (as much as I can) the guitar has to feel right… if it doesn’t… there is no mod that will make it “better” or more suitable for you, and once you break that “mod seal” there is no going back… and there is no end on the amount of mods you can do!
One of my Custom Shops sounded just slightly darker than others and there was something about the volume pot that I didn’t like… but I love the guitar… it feels like home… but that volume pot…just.. was weird. So I changed it with a vintage spec 550k ohms, and boom! There it was… missing piece.. feels perfect.. never touched it again and I play it a lot!
I had another custom shop.. that came with 57 plus humbuckers.. which I hated.. too nasal and bright.. I went ahead and purchased some custom buckers and installed them… got rid of the 57s. It sounded better… but I still wasn’t getting along with the guitar… it felt “stiff”. I ended up selling it because when I kept “rotating” guitars… that one never ended up pleasing me.
I’m a true believer of “magic dust” inside the guitar… the good ol’ mojo… if it has it… then maybe some minor tweaks will be acceptable.. if it doesn’t have any “magic” or mojo… then I think no mod will make it much better.
I even try not to open the control cavity if I feel that the guitar is perfect… because you know what? “Ignorance is bliss” if you open that up and you notice something that you don’t visually like… you’ll want to change that.
Just today.. I bought an SG Special that I just love how it sounds! But the pots where a bit stiff because the guitar was filthy!! I did a whole clean up… but pots were still stiff… I opened the control cavity to put some contact cleaner… and guess what… there’s a PCB controlling the pots… I just put the contact cleaner to loose them up and close it quickly before I convinced myself of “upgrading” to one of those fancy wiring kits.
To mod or not to mod… that’s the question… go for the small upgrades… maybe a pot… maybe a bit of a clean… but you know what the best upgrade is? a new set of strings :). And a guitar that feels just right. If it doesn’t feel right.. it is not for you… sell it and buy another one
So… when you see AC/DC live… you see tons of guitar cabs, and you have to wonder… how are these people pushing all these cabs??
Well… That I don’t know… however… you can do this at home pretty easily, given that you have more than one cab.
My recent OR15 purchase was because I wanted to use 4 cabs for a specific gig, and I either had to carry my mesa boogie which is a 295… meaning 2 amps.. 95Watts. Or… I have to buy a new amp to go with my SV20h
Well.. I bought the OR15 and then I remembered I had this Y cable which splits one signal into two different 1/4 inch jacks.
I can now push 4 cabs with these two amps, they also sound pretty similar.
I had one hiccup with the Orange as the cabs are 8ohms each and the OR15 has a minimum of 8ohms load… so.. Palmer sells a device that allows you to connect cabs in series or in parallel, meaning that 2 x 8ohm cabs can turn into a 4 or 16ohm load.
I attached it to the back of the Orange with zip toes tot the grill and I plugged everything in, neat and tidy.
Spent last Sunday at the Birmingham Guitar Show here in the UK, it was a great day, the place was buzzing and there were loads of stands.
ATB had their display of vintage guitars including two 1960 Les Pauls at £300k! There was a nice 1962 ebony block SG. First time I see one of them in person. All in all it was a feast for our eyes.
As I walk past the Orange stand… it comes to my mind a distant memory of me using an Orange at a rehearsal place and quite liking it. So I stopped to see what they had, it wasn’t much… but one of the guys from Orange approached me and talked me through their collection, they had this OR15 heavily discounted because it was in black tolex and apparently hadn’t sold well.
I was with a friend who was lugging his 69SG which he offered me for trying out the amp, these places tend to be loud and it’s hard to really test anything out… but as soon as I plugged in and hit a note… I knew I was buying this thing.
It sounds like something between a Marshall and a Mesa Boogie, it has the Marshall growl but the mesa boogie sustain and body. I heard that Orange amps tend to be a bit on the darker side. This could be true… but speakers play a big part.
It sounds great, it complements the SG really well, it also has great response at al volumes, it doesn’t fall apart if you abuse the gain or the volume.
It’s not made in the UK as it’s not top of the line but still it is a great amp, this black edition i saw it retailing at anything between £550 and £600, I paid £349 at the guitar show!
If you are looking for a small amps that can kick like a mule… try this one out, it’s more manageable than the SV 20 H as it has a master volume and gain knobs, which means you can probably get a clean-ish sound for pedals.
Last week was my 40th birthday, I spent a great week with my wife, my kids (I didn’t have kids when I started this blog) we did all sorts of things, but every year I buy something for myself… like a self-present… however this year was a bit different because I already have everything I wanted.
I swear, I spend at least 1 hour per week browsing through ebay, reverb, etc. Looking at guitars, just seeing how the market is and what is available, but lately… nothing was catching my attention, I already have 10 SGs, 3 custom shops… a jaydee… I think I’m good in the SG department.
But… never say never…. Well… I never had a yellow SG, and who doesn’t like a TV Yellow SG!? Well… I couldn’t find one… but! Andertons in the UK and CME in the US, did a special run of SGs with some really cool colours, green, pink, black/purple-ish/yellow. So… I found one used and it was yellow :). These are a reissue of the 70s SGs, the square inlays, the neck, the slightly smaller frets, and… they created T-Top replica pickups which are somewhat unique.
I went ahead and pulled the trigger, drove an hour to pick it up, in fact I took my son and we saw some sheep and goats on the way, we had loads of fun.
I got the guitar and I instantly removed the old strings, gave it a good clean, a nice fretboard run with instrument food from Monty’s guitars, a bit of fret polish with nomad products, and man. It looks and feels incredible.
The frets are a bit on the low/small side… I got a heavy hand.. I need to work on this, so not my most comfortable guitar to play, but oh boy! Does it look cool!
These are cute, aren’t they? Like little monsters before they get angry and start roaring!
The SV20H is part of the new series of Marshall, attempting to deliver classic rock sounds at friendly volume levels, they also have a re-vamp of the jcm800 called Studio Classic.
The SV20H is a 1959SLP but with 20 Watts instead of 100, or… a 1987x at 20 Watts instead of 50.
It also has the ability to go down to 5. Now… you might think… oh good, I can use this at bedroom levels… wrong!
5 watts is borderline ok for a rehearsal, the full 20W is loud enough for a gig and no microphone required for the cabs.
The SV20H is an awesome bit of gear, the tone is there, the classic Marshall tone we all want.. is there, I used to have a 1987x and sold it on, It was heavy and I was always carrying an attenuator I also sort of fell out of love when I bought the Mesa Boogie 295 + the studio preamp.
I honestly think that the SV20H is an improved version of the 1987X and also a friend of mine has the same feeling… and he owns an original 1987.
It cuts through better… it creates better feedback.. more responsive, better clarity. It’s an improved Marshall, companies seem to have taken the chance to make things better and not just repeat history… I also cover this subject on my latest Gibson SG Custom Shop.
Technology is better than 50 years ago, this doesn’t mean we live in the future and we stop using the same concepts as before, there’s no need to revolutionise the gear we use… but… better components, more reliable, and more importantly… better testing environments, more time… smarter people and… a bigger customer base always gives you more feedback. There is more competition than we ever seen before and brands are listening.
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’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 and 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 put 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.
Mesa is one of those brands that we look up to… but sometimes we don’t really know why, it’s high end… but it’s mainly used by shredders, so…. I don’t know I just never really considered them however they always had a very respectable position on my Amp brand ranking.
So… I was born on 1983, my first AC/DC memories are from razors edge album and the famous 1991 Donington concert, this for me… is the AC/DC sound, this is what I listened to a thousand times, this is what I played air guitar to, this what I sang to, this is the VHS that I watched so many times that tape was beginning to stretch.
Why is this concert one of the best ever live performances not only of AC/DC but… of every band that has ever rocked this earth. well… I don’t know, it is beautifully shot, the crowd size is overwhelming, that little acrylic floor was a groundbreaking idea, Angus and Malcolm’s playing is just incredible, Chris Slade sitting on the drum throne with those massive ground toms up in the air… such an iconic image. The stage is also incredible, Angus walking up and down those ramps… it looked like something from the future.
Fast forward a lot of years! (Like 25) and I find out that AC/DC used Mesa Boogies in their late 80s, thanks to this Japanese magazine I now knew part of the secret recipe of why Donington sounded so good.
What is this preamp? Is it a combo? Is it a head? No rubber feet?
Well… this is a rack unit and according to the internet, these are not in fashion anymore… but that might change :p
This bit of kit is outstanding. 4 ecc83 + 1 ecc81 for the reverb, this is built like a tank!! Remember the boss pedals that you could run over with a car and still work? Well… this feels the same, metal enclosure, metal panel, the wiring is a mix of point to point and hand-wiring.
So what does it do? Well… it creates happiness, some say these are difficult to dial in, but… with a little bit of research… I was riding the good tone wave within a few minutes, this thing is awesome, I tried not to get carried over with the amount of gain you can get out of this thing just because at the end of the day I’m after an AC/DC tone and not Megadeth, the unit has a lot of mids! But… there is a graphical 5 band EQ to tame anything you want.
The sound is great, it’s very articulate, even at high gains… notes don’t get lost, the tone cuts through nicely and the sustain is just the sweetest thing.
Within a few knob adjustments I was able to get the donington sound I’ve been after for a long time.
This unit requires a power amp, which I’ve ordered and it is still in customs… (thanks brexit) but for now I’m using my trusty 1987x FX return to skip the Marshall preamp and use the Power Amp section only.
One of the things I love about this unit is that it sounds big… it sounds like an arena… even at low volumes… although… I’m always playing at at least 95db in my studio.
I never thought I would buy a Mesa, they always intimidated me, a lot of knobs… and… can I only shred? Well… it seems like they are just awesome amps… and a bit infamous… I think you need to know how to dial them in. I’ve heard great things about the Lonestar and the Stiletto.
Do yourself a favour and go play one of these bad boys! You’ll be surprised!
Big year this one, I finally managed to acquire a Matchless amplifier, something I’ve been wanting for a looooong time.
Being totally honest… I loved the way the look, that was the main reason I wanted them, something that looks that good has to be good too.
There are not that many artists that use matchless, but the main one I care for is Ricardo Mollo, guitarist from Divididos and probably the Argentinean Hendrix, the guy is an animal and a tone freak, very colourful playing, interesting rhythms and sounds.
A few weeks back as usual I started watching videos about it… then reviews, then more videos, then pictures… and then I found one in Reverb at a very decent price, so I pulled the trigger.
The seller brought it to my house that very same day, I was super excited, a few hours later… the amp arrives. Oh my god, what a feeling… I think level of excitement matched the one I had when I got the 71SG and the Jaydee.
I first plugged in the telecaster… don’t ask me why… but I wanted to hear a single coil pickup
Man… as soon as I started playing I was in a sensory overload, the cleans… the depth of sound, it was like the first time you enter a house of mirrors… you just look everywhere and think “what the hell is going on”
Every chord just sounded perfect, every string had its own character, suddenly you can hear how the guitar was truly designed, I think this should be Matchless’ moto: “hear your guitar for the first time”
Let me dig deeper into this concept, I’m a Marshall Man, I have like 10 of them and I’ve always loved them way more than anything else, I’ve always thought that any other brand with a similar sound was just trying to imitate them, so… why bother trying them.. just get the real thing. But… you know when you are playing with the band.. or with just background music and your solos don’t cut through or you can’t really hear that high E string on the G chord? I know of course you can tweak your sound, etc. But I’m talking about a different level of “hearing everything”
Matchless provides cut through 360 degree sound, I don’t understand how they do it, my Matchless is a Lightning 15 Reverb, so it’s not top of their line but everything they do is top of the line…. everything is done to a level of detail that is out of this world.
I’ve started testing tones and everything just sounded incredible, the Treble and Bass control (yes… no mids) interact with each other in a ver intuitive way… and they are extremely responsive, you can go from scooped mids, high bass, high mids, high treble, etc but just playing around with these two knobs.
I play in an AC/DC tribute band, and I tell you… this amp does better AC/DC tone than a Marshall, and my usual setup is either the JTM45 or the 1987x with a 1960AX cab… so.. also top end stuff, but again… Matchless is just incomparable.
They are crazy expensive, but I suggest you find a way of trying them out, it’s a before and after experience, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing another brand any time soon… at least until I get to buy their flagship model… DC 30.
So… to summarise… Matchless is just that… something that is impossible to Match, something that has been done with so much care and thought that it can’t be better… everything has a purpose nothing was left to chance or to economic reasons, everything is there for a reason.