30 March 2014

Evidence Audio: Pay once, enjoy your whole life


You know, from time to time, you get some (nice) surprises, when you less weren't expecting it.
By a casual, I have answered back to a post (in Seymour Duncan's forum), where the Original Poster was asking "which is the best cable for you and why".

My answer was that "After testing a bunch of cables, from the cheapest Chinese to the expensive ones, I went to Mogami 2524 bulk cables" and that "While Vovox (Sonorus) and Evidence Audio (The Lyric HG) where in the top of the pyramid, Mogami's was just slighly under those in tone but, way lower in price" and that "while My Lyric HG broke, my Mogami's last still".

Well, you never know which eyes are reading you.
I've received a mail from Toni Marinello (Evidence Audio), same day, few hours later.

An Unique and Exemplar Customer Service

Toni's mail was short, barely a telegram but, with just what matters. He said he read in SD forum that my Lyric HG broke and, asked me if he could do something to help me.

My fault. I remember I read a nice interview to Toni Marinello in The Tone Quest digital fanzine, long time ago. I remember very clearly the key figures of such an interview but, I completely forgot the name of da man to be honest.

So, I was thinking that Toni was some kind of Customer Service Representative that was interested on washing Brand Image or, that maybe, Evidence Audio had a nice post-sale service, at the end.

In that scenario, my answer was something like: "hi Toni, thank you. Well, I don't know if you can do something for me. I bought the cable in that online store some time ago and, it broke just playing. You know, you move while you perform, and the cable breaks".

Typical, right?.
How many cables have broken due to the messes that occur while you move while playing?.
What do you do, then?.
You usually buy (or craft) one more and, maybe a new brand/model, with the secret expectation that, this time, it will last longer.

Ok. I have sent back my answer to Tony expecting to receive something like "We are very sorry. This is cable broken by a bad use, etc., etc.". But, what I received back was an answer llike "My cables are warranted for life. I've already talked to store X and I will make a replacement cable for you. The store will place soon an order for me and, I will include such a cable for you". I wanted to send me the Forte (more indicated for guitar to pedal board applications, because it's more flexible), instead of the Lyric HG.

I wrote back a mail saying how gratefully surprised me and thank you him for his interest and kind offer.
I've explained my experience with several of his products: Monorail (with George's L connectors), The Siren II, The Lyric HG and The Forte.

I've explained to him that I gave up trying to mount patch cables with Monorail using George's L connectors (as he suggested, originally), because it was a waste of time with very low success ratio.

Also, that I loved the Siren but, that it would be a nice thing if he was preparing some cables with an extreme with those metallic clamp connectors often seen in combo speakers. In that way I could upgrade my 3 combos.

And, also that being the Forte a great cable, in my honest opinion, it hasn't the same tone (or lack of tone, as per himself words) than the Lyric HG, that the Forte sounded warmer, not so EQ evenly sounding and slightly less defined and chiming as the Lyric HG. For this, I wanted him to send me a Lyric HG replacement that I would use for the run pedal board to amp or just for recording.

He answered me back that, even being a single-man company, he cares about all his customers the same and, he loves to do it that way. That he was glad to have to opportunity to update me with its upgrades and enhancements.

He understood my issues with Monorail / George's L connectors and, explained me that, after some time (I bet that based on customers feedback), he developed a perfect connectors system to work with his Monorail system (SIS) and linked me to his page, which has an impressive video showing how one of his Monorail cables mounted with the SIS system, was supporting the weight of a combo amp!!!.
Watch this video!.

He also pointed me to a page where I could buy the Siren with such a clamp connectors and, that this was released some time ago.

Finally, he understood my point with the Forte but, let me know that the Forte was re-engineered and that now sound exactly the same as the Lyric HG and, it's more expensive, because each thread of the double multi-thread core wires were insulated with Enamel (as big part of pickups' coil wires!!!).

So, I've thanked them again for the great update and, sent the original purchasing info for him to discuss the way with the store. I am waiting that replacement cable.

Pay it once, enjoy it your whole life

As already mentioned above, there are few cables that I will put on the top of the pyramid and, in my personal tests, tone-wise, the best sounding cables where Vovox Sonorus and Evidence Audio The Lyric HG, in every single variable: punch, loudness, definition, low microphonics, tone preservation, plain frequential response, etc. But both presented same issues: they were so thick and rigid that weren't unsuitable for real performance (at least that you stand up quiet as a mummy).

The Mogami 2524 sounded to me slightly better than the Forte and slightly worst that those two heavy weights but, price-wise, the Mogami was way more affordable than any of those and, I could buy the bulk cable to make my patch, cords and cables to the lengths I needed. That's why I went for Mogami 2524, without any doubt.

To be honest, I didn't know that Evidence Audio offered a "for life warranty" and, if I knew that in some point of time, I would probably though that this was just "snake oil".
But, evidently, Evidence Audio is taking really seriously his compromise and, this completely changes my perception of what is really expensive or affordable.

How many cables have broken due to the messes that occur while you move while playing, in your life?.

Evidence Audio cables are the hell expensive, indeed. If you think you should buy again a replacement cable, then you end searching for a more reasonable alternative, as I did.
But understand this key point: you buy once, enjoy the whole life.

I don't know of any other product in musical world (honestly, even out of the musical environment) offered with such a level of warranty and compromise!. Only this subject sets completely apart Evidence Audio from other cable makers / assemblers.

I know that there are many people that think that cables make no difference and, this is just snake oil. And, to be honest, I was in the same position long time ago.
But, instead of discussing about something I had never experienced, I bought several cables, of variate prices and design to demonstrate to myself that I was right.
The surprise was to discover that I was wrong and, that cables make real difference, specially in long runs and when your pedalboard has some respectable number of pedals (12 in my tests).

For those that thing this is just snake oil, please, do your own tests (with significative lengths and number of pedals). This is the only way you will be in a real position to discuss about the subject.
For those that already know cables make a difference and, that were thinking on to go for Evidence Audio but, ended with a more affordable and reasonably well sounding cable (as myself), just consider that to buy an Evidence Audio cable is a one-time expense for your whole life.
Can it be considered as expensive from that point of view?.

Unfortunately, the news about the upgrades and enhancements that EA did, aren't easily seen in his own page. Tony has a presence in Thegearpage and, will probably provide right feedback in some social networks tools (facebook, twitter, etc.) but, since I'm not using those, I didn't new about what he enhanced.

Myself, once I can save the money, I will go back to EA stuff, this time knowing that I am getting the best sounding cables for my whole life, paying just once!.

More readings

The Tone Quest Report published a nice report The Truth about Audio Cables, where the interview with Toni Marinella will bring you a lot of interesting technical information about cables and cable makers.

In my own blog, I was discussing about the qualities that a good guitar cable should have, in my entry what is a good guitar cable? (including a video comparing several cables) and, a comparison Mogami vs Evidence Audio.

20 March 2014

Strat Fighters: Fender's Eric Johnson model vs Fender's American Deluxe Strato loaded with David Allen Dovers pickups


Few weeks ago, we went to an awesome store to test several Stratocasters for my fellow friend.
During that intensive testing of the best sounding axes under 2500 Eur, the winner in sound was the Eric Johnson model, that sounded several steps over any other model (including some relics and other interesting variants).

But, my friend election was an American Deluxe, because of its ergonomics and added features (deluxe tremolo, staggered locking keys, compound radius fretboard, etc.).

Our goal was to give to that axe, at least, same quality sound as the Eric Johnson model had, with the help of David Allen's Dover pickups.
I've designed some special wiring for this axe, to overwrite the no-sense stock alternative pickup combinations and, my fellow friend luthier did the wiring and overall set-up.

The axe was sounding really good but, did we success?.
How to know it without a fair axe to axe comparison, right?.

Strat Fighters

We needed to compare both guitars, in a fair way, by using exactly same gear without changing anything, between one or the other test.

We went back to the store and, ask them to allow us to test both axes with same rig, because we were very curious about final results. That Eric Johnson had the sound, the Deluxe the playability so, if we achieved the sound in the Deluxe, we had the complete axe on hands.

First, we were plugged in an amp that made everything to sound lifeless. It was the George Benson's model of the Fender's Hot Rod series.
Ok, maybe it can work for a semi-accoustic guitar and Jazz stuff but, it wasn't our coup of tea.

As soon as we moved on the Bassman reissue (same we used first time to test every Strato), bells, chime, spark, quack came back to life and, that was a key point to do a fair comparison.

For driven tones, we used the Bogner Ecstasy Red pedal, that would allow us to test how the singles stand under hi gain conditions. So we covered from clean to hi gain and, everything in between.

During the first phase, we were just trying the Deluxe with Dovers alone and, fine-tunning pickup's heights, once the fair Bassman revealed every nuance.

Also, we checked the alternative wiring of my design, finding really useful the 5 alternative combos (LP Neck virtual humbucker / Tele single/single virtual middle position / LP virtual middle position / Tele humbucker/single virtual middle position / LP virtual bridge humbucker).
Results of virtual humbuckers with Dovers isn't vintage-alike but, hot output humbuckers, instead.
Virtual bridge humbucker sounded fatter than any LP vintage humbucker but, awesome for hi gain stuff, anyway.

Once we were satisfied with the sound of the Deluxe with DA's Dovers, the doubt floated on the air: "Ok, that is sounding crazy good but... really good?... did we achieved a sound with the quality of the EJ model?".

My fellow friend started to play a part of a song and, I said: "Stop here. Just get that EJ, select same position and replay same part!".

Just after the first note, everything was clear but, he finished the part, anyway.
We swapped the guitars several times more with some other song parts and, trying several (standard) positions. Always same results.

You know, sound differences are very difficult to explain but, I will try it.
Overall, the EJ model sounded as being pushed back in a Z edge of a tridimensional sound, while the Deluxe with Dovers sounded in your face. Similar effect to what happens when you change from an small combo to a bigger open back cab.

Dovers sounded string-to-string and note-to-note more defined but, not in a cold and aseptic way but, in a very musical and harmonically rich way.

Under hi gain, the Dovers stand firm without issues, delivering huge sound and, without going muddy, blurry or just undefined.  Any pinch or artificial harmonic is achieved with ease, shredding, tapping, palm mutes, everything works with attitude. The well defined piano-alike basses give a good body to the sound and, helps to achieve a powerful sound, without going undefined.

And the winner was...

Well, taking into account that the Eric Johnson model was BY FAR the best sounding Stratocaster under 2500 Eur in that store and, taking into account that such an axe sounded as shy or pushed back and undefined compared the Deluxe with Dovers then... the winner was... the winner was...

Yes, you can name it!
Deluxe with David Allen Dovers !!!.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to record a video with this comparison, since this could potentially affect brand's relations. So, if you are a follower of this blog, you will know that I care about tone and, you can just believe on this or not. But, to me, David Allen pickups are the most exciting pickups I've ever tried and, go some step over Bareknuckle Pickups (which were my preferred ones, up to now).

I don't know how David achieves it but, man, you owe a good set of David Allens to know how good your guitar can sound.

Some height adjustment tricks for David Allen single coils

If you are used to standard mass production pickups, you need to be aware that the sensitivity of awesome boutique pickups, as David Allen's ones needs a more careful approach to determine the right height for each pickup. I've lost lot of time with several sets and several Stratos so, I'm feeling in a position where I can share something to help you in the process.

First, you must understand that the balance side to side (low E / high E strings) is more important than the average height of the pickup. There is just one plane (determined by both sides height) were those pickups sound perfect, any slight side unbalance can mask the sound.

So, that's the procedure I've followed:

  1. Lower the three singles to pickguard level.
  2. Start fine tuning the Neck pickup.
  3. Raise the low-E side of the pickup until you get a clear defined, good output sound for bass strings.
  4. Around that spot, 1/8 of turn of the adjustment screw will make a clear difference.
  5. Raise now the high-E side of the pickup until you get a clear balance in every string. Double check balance by playing same note in same fret of low and high E strings. Check the chord overall body and consistence, note by note.
  6. Once the both sides are balanced, raise both up or down, same screw turns, up to get the best sounding result.
  7. Check now with some overdrive or distortion pedal. The sound should be liquid, sustained and well defined. Otherwise, readjust pickup.
  8. Once you have the neck pickup fine tuned. It's time for the Middle pickup.
  9. Just measure the gap between pole and string bottom in both sides of the neck pickup, while you press related string against the last fret of your fretboard.
  10. Once measure, press again the string for each side and adjust the gap for the middle pickup to the exact same height.
  11. Play with 1/8 turns of the adjustment screw to fine tuning the middle. Maybe, you will need to raise both sides 1/8 to 1/4 of screw turn respect of the neck. Be sure you have both sides well balanced, as explained for the neck pickup.
  12. Try the middle with some distortion and, readjust when needed.
  13. Now, check the notch position that combines neck + middle pickups. If you need to fine tune, do 1/8 screw turn adjustments to the middle pickup, until you get the perfect notch sound.
  14. Time to go for the bridge pickup.
  15. Measure middle heights (as described above) and fine tune the balance of the bridge pickup.
  16. Try with distortion and fine tune.
  17. Try then the notch position that combines middle and bridge pickups. Fine tune bridge height to get a good quacky sound.
  18. Check that the output of the three pickups seems the same, in loudness.
  19. You are done!. Enjoy it!.
The fair sounding the amp where you do the tests, the best the results.
Try to use some simple design single channel amp, with a good organic and clean sound.

15 March 2014

Guitars: Epiphone Korina Flying V review


Note: this blog entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around November 2011. I'm revisiting it here and updating it with more relevant info.

Who can resist to the attraction of the Gibson Korina Flying V?. Who wouldn't love to have one of those in his/her arsenal?.

Well, prices of a Gibson Korina Fying V are absolutelly out of my budget and, more if this shall not be my #1 guitar. So, I went to Gibsons' poor brother and bought an Epiphone Korina Flying V and, this is my experience and impressions with such a guitar.


No surprise. All these low cost guitars, Made in China, come with a cardboard box (which seems a casquet), wrapped in some kind of foam-foil that just protects the guitar from dust and nothing else.
With the guitar, some adds by Epiphone, a cheap instrument cable and an Allen key to set up the thrussrod.
But, wood looks really good. No flaw, nothing wrong to point here.

Well, you need to know that Korina is just a paint color, not the wood. Really, the wood for neck and body is just mahogany, with a Korina-colored clear coat.
So, if you expected a Korina made instrument, you will not get it.

Body, neck and peghead are really good finished and, even the fretboard has a nice look (not that cheap rosewood fretboards with zebra aspect).

Respect of plastics: the pickguard and the jack's plastic nut are triple-layered (cool!). The nut, even being a plastic one, looks hard plastic and not that bland plastics seen in most of cheap Chinese guitars.

Respect of hardware: we can find typical medium-cost asian stuff, not bad and, fully functional. Die-cast oil sealed tuning keys, etc. The gold plated coat is low cost so, it will wear really fast, as usuall.

Frets are of type of wide medium-jumbo but, a tad shorts on height so, if in a future your frets wear, you will probably need to completely refret the fretboard.

Two aspects that worry me are the narrow sparrows where stand the light weighted bridge and, that piece where the strings go to their anchoring spots thru the body.

Electronics are good. Not those typical mini-pots or cheap 3-way pickups selectors. The electronics work was neat and the guitar presents no hum or ground noise, at all.

Pickups have a very low output and, to get something good from them, you need to push them with some booster (Xotic EP Booster or Wampler Decibel+ are good ones for this task).
They sound PAF-alike but, they lack output, body, harmonical richness, and openess for a wide and huge sound. Well, they sound just plain and lifeless.

Anyway, as it comes stock (except for overall setup) it has an use but, as often happens with Epiphone's guitars, a new set of better sounding pickups will be very well welcome, indeed.

Playing the guitar

After, seen that the overall impression is favorable, this is time to hung the guitar on and to check how it plays. But What the hell is this?.

This guitar has a serious head diving issue. It's just unplayable as it cames stock!.

Without going to change the position of the strap anchors, the only way to get a bit rid of the issue is to use a lether (with big grip) strap, to minimize the diving issue.

I've finally decided to move the upper anchor to the back of the body, centered just below the neck junction (as you can see in Gibson's models). This completely fixes the diving issue but, then, you have that anchor drilling your belly, and certain lateral deviation.

Neck is easy to walk and smooth (well finished frets). Overall, it seems to me that strings haven't the right stress, they feel bland. But, after swapping stock strings with D'Addario XL110 (10") everything, in stress and sound made an awesome difference.

Pots and 3-way work smoothly. No issues.

Respect of sound, testing it with a Marshall 1923C and a few pedals: Xotic EP Booster, Hermida Audio Zendrive and Tiki Drive, it sounds a tad dark and warm, which makes it a bit difficult to cut the mix and, the sound seems as covered by a blanket but, this is a clear issue coming from the choosen pickups.

If I test the guitar unplugged, it's clear that the wood is very resonant and with a huge sustain.
As I said, new pickups are a must for this guitar to let it shine

Moding the guitar

Until now, we found three main issues: head diving, strings and pickups but, if you try to mod your guitar, you will soon find the forth and fifth issues with this guitar.

One of the worst design decisions I've ever seen is that the posts of the bridge are drilled through the pickguard and, that means that if you wanted to remove the pickguard to swap your pickups, you need to unscrew the post (so ruining your setup) and, just when you had that post removed you could be able to remove the pickguard. So, you bet it, one of the best mods you can do is to carve that part of the pickguard to avoid that screw thru the pickguard.

Second issue is related to the way the strings are being inserted. Not having the typical stop tail piece, you cannot just loose the strings and remove bridge and stop-tail, you need to completely unstring the guitar.

Other issue that you can find is that there is no room for a push/pull pot. Body is slim and its cavity also so, any potential mod should go thru micro-switches, IMHO or, after routing the cavity deeper.


This is a great guitar for its price, even leaving it stock. Has an eternal sustain and a very particular voice, bumped in mid-low frequencies, with a very warm and vocalish sound, all arround.

But, it's highly recommended that you re-position the straps anchors to fix the peghead diving and, that you swap stock strings with a good sounding set (D'Addario XL110 sounded good to me) and, that you throw there a good set of pickups.

Other than this, cut that pickguard to avoid the bridge post to go thru it and, you are done.

With right strings and pickups and, after fixing the peghead diving issue, this guitar will give you lot of fun and satisfaction. I have to highlight, very specially, its sustain and very vocalish voice.

10 March 2014

Fender American Deluxe SSS (2010 model) - a succesfully mod story


As I've explained in a previous blog entry, my friend was in the market for a new Fender Stratocaster and, ended with an American Deluxe SSS, 2010 model.
Not because of its sound, but because of the rest of ergonomic and good enhancements.

We have already decided to swap those pickups with David Allen's pickups and, after hearing the EJ model, we decided to go for Dovers set, which should nail EJ's tone.

I myself own one of the first Deluxe versions (that was produced for very short) so, I knew what's good and wrong with that axe.

In some way, this entry is an overall review of the American Deluxe model 2010 and, a story of the wiring mod I've designed for this axe, to substitute non-sense factory tones.

The Beast and the Beauty

Seriously, this guitar is Hell and Heaven, Beast and Beauty.
They did an awesome job in some areas but, they have took scary decisions in other areas.
Let's talk about the good things first.

From a "wood-luthier" point of view, this guitar is what any strato ever dreamed.
I mean, wood quality is clearly superior, as well as inlays and overall finish.
It has compound radius fretboard (my own deluxe, hasn't), a good nut (not the LSR nut of mine), staggered tuning keys (that give the right angle to strings, to avoid the tree strings) and, locking keys (which help to keep the tuning stable.
It has a nice Deluxe Bridge, that works pivoting with its blade on two posts, as any modern bridge (Kahler, Floyd Rose, etc.), which gives a better touch, immediateness and accuracy to tremolo effect and, helps to tuning stability also.
Also, the junction body / neck was beveled to allow a more comfortable access to low frets.

Well, in wood, hardware and ergonomics aspects is a great enhancement respect of Standards.
Now the bad (and understandable) things.

Why in the Hell, the minds that prototyped such a guitar thought on a set of Noiseless Samarian-Cobalt N3 pickups?. Not sounding bad at all, they aren't organic and, this is more clear when you just play any other good Strato. Why a Deluxe model has such a thing?.

Then, the potentially interesting S-1 switch, which should bring you 5 new exciting alternative pickup combinations (or sounds) to cover lots of ground. A good configuration that can give you 10 different sounds (including the 5 standard strato sounds) sounds amazing on paper, right?.

Well, from an "electronics-tech" point of view, every taken decision during design phase was wrong for this axe. Even the combos that came with the first version of the Deluxe SSS made more sense.
Most of the 5 alternative combos (with the S-1 pushed down) have no real use and sound really awful.

So, I can imagine lots of people missing all the good that the Deluxe model has to offer, because it plainly sounds worst than any Standard, with stock pickups and wiring.
Fender people!. What were you thinking while designing the electronics side?.

Bringing back the Deluxe to life

An axe of this level owes stuff at its level. We were clear about to throw there a set of David Allen's Dovers, because that was the sound we wanted for this axe.
Now, it was time to re-design the alternative wiring for this axe and, I had some surprise, again!.

After removing all the solder and, leave components unwired and clean, I've discovered that the new Deluxes are mounting some kind of hybrid super-switch.
It has one wafer as the original 5-way (that is, 3 real positions and 2 fake notch positions) and, one more wafer as the super-switch (that is, 5 real positions) so, this is a mix of a DP3T (with two notch positions) and a real DP5T. So, you have all the issues of the typical standard 5-way and, just few advantages of the super-switch.

Once more, Fender people, what were you thinking on when designing this axe?.

Well, we had to buy a new brand Super-switch (4P5T) to have 4 poles with 5 real positions to re-design the wiring for some interesting alternative sounds.

My plan was to preserve the original strato sounds in the normal mode (S-1 switch up) and to, provide LP-like sounds and some other interesting alternatives (as the middle position of the tele and, one of my favourite combinations).

So, my plan was to have:

1. Virtual LP Neck humbucker (Neck in series with Middle)
2. Virtual Middle position of Telecaster (Neck in parallel with Bridge)
3. Virtual LP Middle position (Neck in series with Middle - in parallel with - Middle in series with Bridge)
4. HS combination (Middle in series with Bridge - in parallel with Neck)
5. Virtual LP Bridge position (Middle in series with Bridge)

Results exceeded our expectations. In words of my fellow friend luthier: "this axe covers several decades of music styles. Every combo makes sense and has a real use. This is the most versatile guitar I've ever heard.".

Our plan is to go back to the store where my other fellow friend bought it and do a face-to-face comparison with the amazing Eric Johnson's model. We all (us and store' staff) know how both axes sounded before so, it will be a very exciting test, which I hope to record and hang in Youtube later.

This will leave you to understand how amazing would be a Deluxe with the right electronics from factory and, if you like how it plays, you will be able to enhance it with some additional economical effort but, at least, you will have a great ergonomical axe (with Charvel's compound radius fretboard!), versatile and sounding good as hell.

New heart and neurons for the beast

Before going for the wiring diagram, I would like to warn you about a very important issue, if your plan is just to swap stock pickups with a new set of good sounding strato pickups.

Warning about mounting sets with RWRP middle in a Deluxe!

If your intention is just to swap the annoying N3 stock pickups with a good sounding replacement set of pickups, be aware that you will be able to use there a set without RWRP middle pickup.
Reason is that stock wiring uses some (awful) out-of-phase combinations and, an RWRP pickup reverses the whole wiring sense and, makes no good to something that already sounded bad.

If your plan was to just swap original set of pickups with a new one, just be sure you use regular middle pickup.

With David Allen's Dovers

Most of DA' sets have a RWRP middle pickup so, they aren't direct candidates for direct replacement pickup but, since stock alternative combos made no sense, we've already decided to re-design the whole axe for versatility and real application.

My design includes no out-of-phase position so, you can throw there any kind of set of pickups (with or without RWRP middle) and, it will work flawless. If you use a RWRP middle, you will have real virtual humbuckers (alternative positions 1, 3 and 5), with hum cancellation, otherwise just expect some hum but, that's all.

The Diagram

As ever, click on the diagram for full size.

Pickups white conductors are drawn in light blue for readability.
This wiring will give you 100% satisfaction if you use mentioned DA Dovers, even that other pickups of similar quality level (if they are) can give you very good results.

Eric Johnson is originally using a 300K volume pot and 250K tone pots. He also uses a 0.1 mF cap, while my design works with a 0.047 mF cap.
DA pickups were designed to work with standard strato configuration and, therefore, they deliver same (or better tone, we will discover it in the comparison video!) with just three pots of 250K (stock).

Also, Eric Johnson is assigning Neck pickup to Tone 1 (middle pot on diagram) and Bridge pickup to Tone 2 (lower pot on diagram). But, we are using standard strato tones assignment here, therefore, Neck to Tone1 and Middle to Tone2.
To go for the EJ tone arrangement, just move the olive green wire from the tab where M+ lands to the tab where B+ lands and you are done.

The feedback

The owner of this axe is a fellow friend, who has not knowledge and not real interest on any technical subject. He just loves to play guitar and has "tone". Plays a broad range of styles and does it with feel and technic, with some special magic. You know what I'm talking about.

Who did the work was my other fellow friend luthier (and brother of the owner), who is a beast of wood and hardware but goes lost in electronics (even that solders as a pro). He couldn't understand what all those wires that he had to solder were going to do and, was scared to loose the standard strato sounds.

I want to share with you their comments, after testing the guitar with selected pickups and new brand wiring design, because it made me laugh a lot.

Owner comments:
"There is only one word that can define this: PERFECTION".
"I give thanks to God to allow me to play THIS axe".
"It has so huge sounds that I have to redo my whole rig' setup"
"I even don't need pedals, this is pure crazyness!".

Luthier comments:
"Gooooood, this is a fucking MASTER WORK!. A real beast!."
"I have no words to explain it... 10 sounds that cover most of the great decades of music.
Sound covers from Van Halen to pure Gilmour, Knopfler, Clapton, Prince... anything!"
"Clean, you get all the best sounds of the musical history, I swear it!".
"Man, my sincerly congratulation!. This is the more complete guitar I've ever heard. Anything he plays sounds to a disk record. Hiperpolivalent.".
"We MUST build guitars exactly as this one. They will be sold with ease".
"You should be here. Drive to here and, get some cava, dozens of bottles!".

Just stay tuned. We will arrange a demo session with Auvisa store's people to make a fair comparison with the expensive (but awesomely sounding) Eric Johnson's model.

07 March 2014

Auvisa: a day on Guitarists' Heaven

Yesterday was a great day for some friends of mine and me.
One of my friends was in the market for a new brand Fender Stratocaster and, I was there also searching some amp with a solid clean channel that could take pedals with ease and cover a wide range of loudness.

We went to Auvisa, a nice music store here in Spain.
We were received by Auvisa staff, which seemed to me very knowledgable, kind and friendly.
They were able to answer any technical question we did, with full sense and, they've helped us to narrow our search to just an small number of items to be tested in depth, as per our description of what we were after.

The store has a very classy but modern look. Spaces are well illuminated and, everything seems sorted and well classified, in separated sections (Guitars, guitar parts, technical support, drums, keyboards, studio and gig gear, bass guitars, etc...).

The Store runs a lot of guitar brands like Fender, Ibanez, Tokai, Jackson, Martin, Vigier, LTD, Shur, Vox, etc. And an impresive number of amp brands as well, as: Marshall, Fender, Vox, Mesa Boogie, Yamaha, Line6, George, Victoria, Ampeg, Custom Audio, TC Electronics, Mark Bass, Shur, Engl, etc.

There is at least a representation of each guitar and amp lines, so we were able to test a broad range of stratos, from the cheapest (but good sounding) Mexican ones to Eric Johnson's model.

Auvisa people had everything ready for our tests. We were lead to the testing room. An impressive room full of nice guitars (Fender, Tokai, Taylor, ...) and full of amps, regular production and more arcane boutique ones and, of any size, from lunchboxes to the half-stacks.

We spent the whole morning just to narrow the set of stratos to just three models, the ones that impressed we all the most. So, before lunch, we narrowed the search to a Vintage Strato with Ash body, an American Deluxe and Eric Johnson's model.

To be fair, Eric Johnson's model was the one sounding the best. That model had a binding around the fretboard (often seen in Gibson's guitars and rarely in Fender's), which is just anecdotic but, the sound was incredible good and resonant.

But, my friend was more concerned about ergonomical aspects of the axe and, in that area, the American Deluxe wins hands down. Features of the Deluxe are very wellcome: two posts blade floating bridge, compound radius, staggered locking tunners and, alternate wiring (with the S-1 switch).

My friend felt at home with the Deluxe so, that was his finally election, during the afternoon.

Not sounding bad at all, the Noiseless Samarian-Cobalt 3 pickups that these axes mount stock, aren't so organic as other strato replacement pickups.
But, we weren't worried about it, because we had already a set of David Allen's Dovers (that David sent very kindly to me, to test) and we were already planning to swap the stock pickups with that great sounding set, who should let us close to (or surpass) the sound of EJ's model.

We are planning go back to Auvisa, once the guitar is being setup by my other fellow friend (the luthier) and, those David Allen are in place, to demo the enhancement to Auvisa's people.

To test those stratos, I've initialy selected the Fender Bassman LTD (4 x 10" speakers), because is a fair sounding amp that helps to reveal everything you want to hear in wood and pickups.
Unfortunately, the Bassman had some kind of tube hiss that was a tad uncomfortable and, it doesn't sounds very well at low volume levels. You need to push that baby to get the very well known organic sound.
But, it was ok to select the guitar, anyway.

Then, it was the time to select my amp. This time I went with open mind and not particular prejudices, not positive or negative about brands or models. I've clearly explained what I wanted and, which other amps I've already tested and what I didn't liked. Even that the Bassmann is an awesome amp, it wasn't what I was actually after.

I've bring with myself the whole rig, guitar, pedalboard and cables, to be sure that the amps that I was going to check will deliver with my gear.

This was also a good oportunity to demo to Auvisa people the sets of David Allen Stratcats pickups that I've got actually mounted in my American Deluxe Strato (the old one, without the compound radius).

It seems that a collaboration between David Allen and Auvisa can be possible and, if it works, I will feel really proud of have being the nexus between both parts, without any economical reward.
I believe on David Allen' stuff and, I love how Auvisa run their musical store, how they care about music, tone and people. So, I only wish good luck for both, if there is some agreement.

Well, going back to the amps.
Auvisa's people bring me a George boutique amp. I think it was the Tornado Duo model but, with a snake-skin tolex. I had good expectations with George's amps, after reading a bunch of reviews in guitarists forums.

To be honest, that amp wasn't my cup of tea. To me, it lacked loudness, body and, it was breaking up in a wrong way when pushed hard. It seemed to be as the speaker was farting under high preassure. Probably is a good amp but, it didn't worked fine with my gear so, it was quickly discarded.

Thinking on next one, I was very curious about the Hot Rod series of Fender, that seemed to me (on the paper) good candidates. So I've asked to test some Hot Rod and, a Hot Rod III Deville was already there, in the testing room.
So, I've plugged my gear to that Hot Rod III Deville and, tone was instantaneus. We all smiled and, nodded our heads.

I wasn't really interested on the gain channel, since I wanted to build my own gain textures with my pedals. I just wanted a nice clean channel that could take pedals with ease and that can sound good a lower levels and impressive a gig levels.

In the meanwhile, Auvisa people made me interested into test a Bogner distortion pedal (Ecstasy, the blue one) but, even having a good tone, I prefer myself how the Jetter Gear JetDrive pushed the amp and made those 6L6 tubes to sing. Wah, modulation, vibe, overdrive, distortion, delay, everything worked to my taste. The sound clean was really good and, rock stadium with my gain pedals.

I've jumped out my chair to check where the volume knob was dialed, because I thought the volume should be at 3/4 of its range and, I was concerned about headroom.
My surprise was huge. I was scared seeing that the volume was just at 2.5 !!!.
Mother of God!. What a big sound!.

I thought: "man, this seems the definitive amp, at least for my #1, the strato". But, while I was thinking that way, my friends were saying: "bro, get that one home and sell your rest of amps!. This will be the best amp in your collection. Forget the rest. Even that Marshall cannot be compared to this one".
Unfortunatelly for my pocket, I had to agree with all them so... I did it!!!.

Scared about price, I was greatefully surprised with the deal. Around 900 Eur, with VAT included. This is less than I had to pay for my Princeton Reverb reissue and, the sound has no comparison.

Since I had negative experience with Jensen' speakers, that usually sound beautiful, detailed and silky when playing alone but, that tend to be lost in the mix, I've talked about my concerns with this amp and, wanted to test the rig with some backing tracks, to check if the amp was able to cut the mix with authority.

But then, Auvisa's people told me that starting on series III (or maybe II) of Hot Rods, Fender started to mount Celestion speakers. This one had a couple of 2 x 12 G12P-80 celestions, that are very commonly used in modeling amps, that need to represent a broad range of frequencies and, therefore, every ecualization is able to work with such a speakers.
After this clarification, I was satisfied and finished the economical transaction, to bring that monster home.

Well, probably the speaker isn't the best around there but, to me, it did a nice job in this particular amp.
In any case, this is the only amp I've got loading 6L6s.
I never liked an amp loading 6V6GT tubes. Those sound really nice and sweet alone but, the tend to be lost in the mix and, they have some kind of sag and compression that tames the attack too much for my own taste. 6L6s are other kind of beast, very powerfull and big sounding.

At such a price, it seems to me difficult to get so much tone.

Well, I have a queue of gear to review / demo and, not so much free time.
Will try to post about all this in further entries.

But, yes, we felt ourselves as in guitarists' heaven, yesterday.
A big musical experience in an awesome store.
Thanks to Auvisa' staff!!!.