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About: Guitars

Along with the piano, the guitar is the world's most played instrument because it combines rhythmic and harmonic richness while remaining relatively affordable… and transportable. Whether acoustic, electric or acoustic-electric, the guitar essentially consists of a fretted neck and a body (or resonance table), over which 6 to 12 strings are stretched, that are plucked to produce sound.

Reviews Guitar


iSolo Acoustic Guitar Microphone Review

Lone pleasure If you are in the audio world you have surely noticed how crowdfunding campaigns have multiplied in recent years. Everyday there are news stories about "groundbreaking" products on platforms like KissKissBankBank and Indiegogo. This tendency seems to only be going up, so we decided to test ride some of the products being crowdfunded. The first one is the iSolo, a microphone system for acoustic guitar that seems particularly comprehensive and customizable. read more…

A review of the Keeley Mod Workstation pedal

Mod About You At this year’s NAMM show, Keeley Electronics showed off their new Workstation line of pedals, which combine the functionality of several Keeley pedals in one. Although recently released, the pedals are in short supply, but we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the Mod Workstation. It’s an analog multi-effects pedal with three independent effect sections: Mod, featuring eight different modulation effects; Drive, with two varieties of overdrive, and Drive/Boost, which offers clean boost or a third flavor of overdrive, and all three sections can be run together. read more…

Review of the Electro-Harmonix Lester G Deluxe Rotary Speaker pedal

Spin Doctor One of the new pedals Electro-Harmonix debuted the 2016 NAMM show was a Leslie-speaker simulator called Lester G. Not only does it offer rotating speaker sounds, but also an overdrive circuit and a compressor. read more…

User reviews on Guitar products

Warm and Lush while Blending Chorus with Echo (IdiotBox - Dark Waves)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 13/02/2019
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A cross between classic and ethereal, Dark Waves allows you to add echo… or chorus… or both. Considering the Echo first, it is not an expansive delay with long tails; rather, it produces a warm delay that stands out in the mix without sounding muddy. The best way to describe it is an extensive and modified slap back response (you can hear 3-4 repeats), although it is not snappy in its delivery. It very much coordinates well with its Chorus counterpart and how they respond together. The Chorus aspect is very good and not shrill. Some chorus pedals, particularly as you increase the mix, depth and rate can sound somewhat edgy and even grating to the ears – settings you likely would never use. With the Dark Waves chorus feature up full (with Depth, Rate, Volume/Mix up full and the Filter completely counter-clockwise) you get a strange ray-gun-like sound, as though some vibrato had a bout of nervous laughter. Lastly, the Volume knob controls the extent of the chorus, which is very much a mix knob since the loudness of the pedal does not seem to increase (or if it does, it is subtle).

Sounding great with guitar, Dark Waves also has been engineered for use with Bass and Keyboards. At a very reasonable price of $129 it is an excellent buy considering you get two effects in one that work very well together. The Echo is straight forward, but it performs as intended (you will not get a spacey result, but it is solid sounding and its pulse synchronizes with the Chorus). The Chorus is rather good and in a number of ways. First, as with any quality Chorus, you can make the effect rather subtle and barely audible, which is ideal for lead playing when you want to add some dimension or thickness to a tone. Second, there are some very nice parameters and usable ranges with the Rate and Filter knobs, to control how rapid the chorus sounds, but also how smooth or edgy you would like it. Third, even with all the knobs turned up full you still get interesting chorus results that don’t sound unpleasant. Idiotbox produced the Dark Waves Echo/Chorus pedal with a focus on ‘Instant Death Rock’ (and there’s a good in-house demo video on its site) although it likewise sounds awesome with acoustic strumming and traditional or classic rock playing. The warm yet punchy echo certainly compliments the chorus and Dark Waves definitely is worth considering if you’re in the market for a highly-functional Chorus with the added bonus of an Echo.

You get a nice hint of the Chorus effect with volume set at 12-noon, while remaining behind the main signal and without overpowering it. With Volume up full there seems to be an equal mix of the original signal and Chorus. The Depth knob controls how deep the chorus effect is or its ‘reach,’ whereas the Rate controls the speed or shimmering of the Chorus (up full and it still sounds good rather than a chorus out of control, if you know what I mean). The Filter shapes how subtle or extreme the chorus effect is: fully clockwise produces a very smooth sounding chorus, whereas fully counter-clockwise creates more aggression in the effect. There’s also a Swell knob that produces a quick rise and a slow fall in the effect (fully counter-clockwise), a slow rise and quick fall (fully clockwise) or anything between. The Echo knob is what it is, and about 12-noon produces a nice subtle effect that floats softly in the background, whereas cranked full makes the echo very noticeable, but not overpowering. A setting of about 12-noon to 1-o’clock works well when playing some heavy riffs, whereas slower more ambient passages sound good with the effect up full or nearly so.

Dark Waves Echo/Chorus is a standard pedal size, measuring approx. 122 x 62 mm (4.7 x 2.6 inches). Encased in a 125B sized solid steel chassis, the purple sparkle paint on black gloss appears to be of good quality and its looks certainly portray the atmosphere of this pedal. Likewise the six control knobs and their pots are both smooth and of high quality when turned. The foot switch produces a solid click under foot, but remains noiseless in the signal when switching on-and-off. The footswitch also is far removed enough from the control knobs that damage should not occur from a stomping foot; regardless, the knobs feel very solid and should take some abuse. Both input and output are located in the back, whereas the power input is located along the right side and next to the footswitch (exercise some modest care, and so no heavy drinking and stomping). Dark Waves accepts a 9V battery or it can be powered by a standard 9V DC ‘center negative’ 2.1mm BOSS style input while drawing 100mA.

Quick action, clear pickups and an EverTune bridge makes this guitar worthy in its price-range (Solar Guitars - S1.6ETC)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 16/02/2019
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Solar guitars are designed by Ola Englund and then made in Indonesia, which some may consider of lesser quality based on the country of origin (vs Japan or USA made). Experience has told me otherwise, since standard issue Strandberg guitars also are made in Indonesia and they are fine instruments. Likewise, I have a Steve Vai Ibanez Euphoria with an Aura preamp and it was made in China (it is not a copy, but actually was manufactured there for Ibanez) and it’s one of the easiest and lowest action acoustics I have ever played.

The Solar S.16 ETC 6-string guitar upholds similar standards in quality craftsmanship, and I’ve never seen or read a review to suggest otherwise. Its carbon matte black finish on an Alder Type-S body (with white binding) is flawless (and very Metal looking), together with a maple 25.5” scale neck-thru neck/body joint design, ebony fingerboard and graphite nut. There are 24 super jumbo nickel frets with exceptional access to the highest frets, thanks to the deep lower cutaway and the recessed neck heel. The neck has a 13.78” radius and a C-shape, although it’s not baseball fat thick like some older Les Paul models – it’s a rather small neck considering. I have smaller hands and find it quite comfortable to play. There are Luminlay (glow-in-the-dark) side dots of a fair size that are encircled in black (to make them stand out against the white binding). Their size and obviousness certainly help since there are no position markers on the fretboard, aside from the cool looking Solar guitar logo at the 12th fret. The S1.6ETC comes ready with D’Addario NYXL (09-46) strings and a truss rod tool.

The pickups are medium-high output passive Solar/Duncan Alnico V type pickups in both the bridge and neck positions. Although they respond very well to distortion or high-gain performance, their flat response (no apparent bass, midrange or treble output bias) reacts to clean and lower-gain playing very well. However, I suspect most people buying a Solar will be into Hard Rock, Metal or Prog and the organic cleans and clear output will certainly impress. Other features include a 473K condenser and a mono 2Poval steel jack cover.

There is a Volume and Tone control, as well as a 5-blade switch for a host of sound options (bridge humbucker, bridge split, neck humbucker, neck split and neck/bridge split mix). The machine heads are Grover 18:1 tuners (I believe Ola Englund is now making his own brand of tuners that have a more modern look) and the headstock has a unique reverse hook, which also looks very modern and Metal. The S1.6ETC comes with a gig-bag or case option for an additional fee. I’m a studio/home musician, and so opting out of a gig-bag/case just saved me some closet space. It does come well packed and double-boxed.
Now, although this guitar plays and sounds like a dream, the piece de resistance is the EverTune F-type constant-tension Bridge. The internal spring-tension technology of the bridge returns each string to perfect tuning, no matter how hard and often you bend or chug power chords (changing string gauges require modest set-up of the bridge). It’s amazing when a guitar arrives fully tuned and remains fully tuned after hours of play, which is incredible for gigging musicians.

The Duncan-Solar pickups are quiet; as are the controls when turned. The most notable thing about these pickups is that they are ‘flat,’ which means there is a balance among bass, midrange and treble without any of the three being dominant (you don’t get that overpowering bass response when playing the lower strings, nor do the upper strings sound weak). Together with the pickups being only moderate high-gain output makes them ideal for high-gain application – viz., you can use high-gain gear and still cut through the mix without a bloated muffled tone. This follows the philosophy of Joe Satriani – use pickups that are not excessive in output so that you have better control over your sound and equipment, and let the rest of the gear determine how intense or high-gain you want to be.
Even when playing melodic lead I tend to use high-gain gear while keeping the drive reasonable and around 1-2 o’clock, including the Kraken V4 preamp. The Solar S1.6ETC not only keeps this signal clear with the Kraken, but works equally well with Friedman gear, fuzz pedals, etc., in my collection. Although the sound from this guitar may not be considered ‘rich’ (usually reserved for pickups that have a lot of midrange) and more on the flat side, they hold up very well with clean tones (a very even response), as demonstrated in the demo. There are five pickup selections via the blade switch: Bridge Humbucker, Neck Humbucker, Split Bridge, Split Neck and Split Bridge/Neck combo. All five positions provide very natural sounding cleans that make it easy to apply an EQ or effects for customizable tones.

The S1.6ETC was set up beautifully, and since it has an EverTune bridge it was in tune upon arrival (and remains so). I had to adjust the tuners/bridge slightly to allow for string bending (as per EverTune’s instructions), but that took only a few minutes. It’s very interesting to play a guitar that remains in tune no matter how hard you chug or bend. String action is relatively low (I experienced lower, but not by much) and definitely low enough (comfortable enough) that I would not bother messing with it. Pickups are adjusted at a good height with no concerns in that regard and all routing for pickups and bridge were done with precision.

The black matt finish is even throughout, although the neck is smoother for obvious reasons (a very nice transition from the light matt texture at the body, then up the heel and into the neck). The white/natural binding around the body and along the neck shows no flaws and the frets all are well beveled and smooth. The Luminlay side dots also include a black circle around each, making for very easy neck positioning as the markers stand out against the white binding. The neck heel has an excellent smooth carve, as do the armrest and belly contour. The carbon nut has a proper cut/finish, and the tuning pegs have a solid feel.

Reliability & Durability
Designed by a Metal touring musician, Solar guitars were developed for home hackers, professional musicians and anyone between. There is nothing flimsy or cheap feeling about the S1.6ETC, while playing or listening. With the EverTune bridge system in place, it can take far more playing abuse without worry and when compared to other guitars in its price-range. The Grover tuners (a trusted name in the industry), knobs, strap buttons, pots, etc., are all up to standard for a quality instrument. The Solar S1.6ETC does have a matt finishing, which means as it collects swirls, marks and scratches they cannot be covered up (fixed) as well as a guitar with a gloss finish. Regardless, a matt finish looks so Metal and any scuffs add to the hardcore charm.

Overall Impression
Sound-wise, the S1.6ETC may not be ideal for the country or blues musician, but it sits very well with Classic Rock and up to Prog and Metal. The ‘flat’ response pickups not only make them diverse (insofar as being able to more easily sculpt unique and different tones), but they were designed to cut through the mix without all the added mess (excessive noise, distortion and EQ imbalances).

In its price-range you are getting a lot of guitar and good quality. When you subtract the $200+ EverTune bridge you are left with a $900 guitar ($1099 total), which is very equivalent to what is out there from other companies for the same quality and performance. This makes the S1.6ETC a reasonable and fair purchase as opposed to being neither an exceptional buy nor an expensive one – you get what you pay for in most instances, and this guitar fits well within that philosophical range. It certainly plays as well and sounds as good as some guitars in my studio that cost nearly double. Overall you get fantastic stay-in-tune ability, easy playing, low action, and a super high-range fret access guitar that is the same out-of-the-box quality of axe (no additional set-up by a guitar tech) that is played by many Metal heads (bands like Necrophobic, The Gates, The Haunted/Witchery, Sorcerer, Hypocracy, etc.). And you get to support a great guy in the business, Ola Englund.

There is little not to like about this guitar, particularly if you are a Rock, Prog or Metal player. But like some others who have tested a Solar guitar, if it had stainless steel frets with locking tuners (some Solar models do have these, by the way), the S1.6ETC would be about perfect. I don’t even miss the fretboard markers, since the side dots are so obviously visible and the Solar logo inlay looks awesome on its lonesome.

Incredible Quality in a Pedalboard (Maple Rock Pedalboards - Standard Series (16x30))

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 22/02/2019
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I was looking for a new pedalboard for my home studio, something that would be functional, yet appealing visually for recording gear demo videos. This pedalboard had to be something more than metal framing or a basic structure, but of higher quality (and not something built in a foreign country with a North American logo added to it). My search began with a list of Canadian companies, although I have nothing against American brands (FYI, for Americans and the current exchange rate of 1.3 USD to 1 Canadian dollar, and with free shipping on orders over $250, you may want to check out Maple Rock Pedalboards!). Of those I investigated, the standards and hand-constructed quality of Maple Rock Pedalboards was an obvious choice.

Maple Rock Pedalboards is a young, yet strong company out of Acton Ontario (it could take a few weeks to get your build based on demand) that also makes flight cases, road cases, pedalboards with lids and certainly custom pedalboards, cabling and installs to fit very specific needs. The company has various styles or models on its site, but I liked the ‘Standard Series’ design best. Available in various sizes, from 9x20 inches and up to 16x30 inches, I choose the largest model, since I have so many pedals and tend to do a lot of arranging of the board while filming demos. The specs for this board include:

• Built with 5/8" Baltic Birch frame
• 21 Tolex Finishes from which to choose (I went with classic Tweed)
• Cable Access Slotted for all ¼-inch and power cables
• Velcro carpet top
• IEC power input plug
• 2 Locking IN/OUT jacks wired with leads (I went with Stereo outputs, since some pedals I demo have a stereo option)
• Choice of nickel or black hardware (I went with nickel)
• Choice of nickel or black rack mount handles (nickel)
• The underside is painted flat black
• Non slip rubber feet
• 1 YEAR - Limited Warranty

There were other options as well, including having a built-in FX-Loop, MIDI input/output, Power Wire Harness to keep the underside wiring organized and from dragging on the floor, a built-in Signal Buffer, and also Voodoo Lab power units.

The quality of construction is fantastic; you can feel it when lifting the board (solid, but not overly heavy) or touching any of the features. The locking input/outputs are a great feature (for those with careless feet), as well as the ability to run all cables from under the board. The attention to detail certainly produces a feeling of pride in owning a Maple Rock Pedalboard; and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a Canadian company. I also should add that the quality of service was unbelievable, from regular email updates and speed of service (both in construction and shipping).

News Guitar

Empress Effects releases Reverb stompbox

Published on 05/31/16
Empress Effects has announced their Reverb pedal has started shipping, and requests customer inputs for next feature to be added in a free update.

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The best brands for acoustic folk guitars

Published on 07/14/17
The best brands for acoustic folk guitars
Today is the turn to list the top brands for acoustic guitars. Indeed, after having done the same with electric guitars, we decided to let acoustic guitar players express their opinion.

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