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Showing posts from January 5, 2020

DeArmond S-65

DeArmond pickups of the past are a distinctive sound. Most guitarists associate them with contraptions that mounted onto archtop guitars that electrified them. For a brief period in the early 2000s, DeArmond made a brief resurgence, under Guild, before Guild was acquired by Fender. For just a few years, some very affordable, but interesting guitars were marketed under the DeArmond name. Some of them, like the S-65, were derivative of some of Guild's electrics. The S-65 is patterned after Guild's S-100, a slightly offset body version of the classic Gibson SG body style. The most common version offers a red/cherry finished agathis body, a bolt-on 22-fret nato neck, humbucking pickups, die-cast tuners, a stop tailpiece, adjustable bridge, and plain block neck inlays. Black and natural finishes were also offered. The S-67 was the same guitar set up as a seven-string. When guitarists saw this guitar in the music stores, theywould see the price, generally around the $200 price po

Korg Ampworks modeling effects processor

Korg produced a series of multi-effects units during the 1990s and early 2000s. Some, like the Pandora, still fetch a pretty good price. The rest have come down in price and are pretty much undervalued. Multi-effect units are not in vogue like they were back in the day. I talked to a guy who runs a used music gear store and he has racks and racks of processors on the wall that he says he can't move. The pendulum has swung back to pedals again, despite all the sonic shortcomings they have. Part of the Korg line included Toneworks and Ampworks. Toneworks generally were easy to use pedalboards with standard offerings like distortion, compression, modulation, delay, or reverb. Instead of lengthy menus, they offered knobs you could twist and then save the settings into memory. The Ampworks device, which interests us today, was designed for use in the home studio, not the stage. It ran on batteries or an AC adapter. With batteries, the power drain was crazy! A set of new batteries last

Gibson Super 400 China Dragon Custom Masterpiece Archtop

This blog is generally dedicated to finding you deals on eBay, but often it will bring you news of cool and unusual stuff. It's not necessarily a "deal" unless you happen to be a millionaire. The other day, we brought you the Cozart electrics which, if you watch for a while, you can catch on auction for under a hundred bucks. This one is the opposite end of the price spectrum. This auction on eBay offers a super-customized Gibson Super 400 that is an objet d'art . I am surprised it's not on auction at Sotheby's or some other high-end elite auction house. The guitar features stunning inlay and woodcarving unlike anything you've probably experienced. It's on the vulgar end of gaudy, but it is pretty amazing to see. Premium woods with ornate handcarved bas-relief sculpture of a Chinese dragon on the top and back on premium curly maple. Elaborate abalone inlay in the fingerboard and headstock. Just look at the carved dragon scales on the back of the neck

1975 Fender Starcaster

Previously, I presented you with a post on the Gibson S-1, which was an attempt for Gibson to co-opt the Fender single-coil sound. Essentially, it looked like a Les Paul Junior that was trying to sound like a Telecaster. Today's post is the sonic mirror-image: a Fender that tried to hedge into the market for the Gibson 335 semi-hollowbody. The Starcaster featured a bound, offset semi-hollow body with an arched top and back and F-holes. This body was mated to a 70's CBS-style 3-bolt neck. The strings were inserted through the back of the guitar to a substantial bridge, a meatier version of a hard-tail Strat, which sat on a big metal block to give the bridge the height to sit over the humbucking pickups and the more steeply-angled neck joint. Unlike the Gibson, it had a maple neck and fingerboard, with black dots and one of the weirdest headstocks Fender ever made. Like the 70s Strats, it also had the micro-tilt adjustment in the neck joint, which added to the unstable feeling

1976 CMI SG Systems Amp SG-212

In the mid-1970s, Gibson introduced an amplifier line called SG Systems. The amps were actually made, if I recall correctly, by Standel. This was one of the relics of the mostly abysmal Norlin/CMI days of Gibson. However this amplifier was one of the bright spots. The SG amp series came in a variety of sizes, housed in what looked like a rugged road case. They had giant, easy to read knobs you could see from halfway across the stage. They were tube amps with an unusual circuitry. They offered a built in "waveform" control, which provided a really nice harmonic distortion without having to crank the amp up. It also came with a contour knob, a notch filter for getting just the right amount of midrange, and some models came with a built in Maestro phase shifter. Shades of the Seventies! They came in combo amp models and some with separate heads and speakers in various configurations. The head alone weighed about 80 pounds because of the massive heat sink for the tubes. The s

1974 Gibson USA Model S-1

The big guitar manufacturers all underwent a tumultuous period in the mid-1970s. I was a high school student during that period, but I had an after-school job teaching guitar in a music store. I got to see firsthand the guitars of that period and the adjustments they had to make to compete in those times. Many of the guitar companies were bought up by huge multinational conglomerates. Fender was gobbled up by CBS. Gibson became part of Norlin. To these big companies, building musical instruments out of wood was just like building furniture. They tried to force the guitar manufacturers to adopt non-traditional methods of guitar making and cost-cutting measures. A lot of the guitars of the Seventies were junk as a result, but there were some unusual instruments that had a lot of personality. One of them was the Gibson S-1. Gibson wanted something with a strong single-coil sound that could compete with Fender, head-to-head. They got Bill Lawrence, famous pickup designer extraordin

Electro Harmonix Mel-9 Mellotron Pedal

Some of my favorite music, going way back, features the sound of the Mellotron, a keyboard instrument that used tape loops of actual strings, choirs, flutes, and cellos to provide orchestration for a working band. This is the sound of the Moody Blues, Beatles, King Crimson, and Genesis among others. You could hear it on songs like David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Led Zep's "Kashmir."  Mellotron keyboards were notorious for breaking down and they weighed a lot. Taking one on tour was a lot of frustration for many of the bands listed above--but that SOUND! It would give you goosebumps on top of your goosebumps! Years ago, I had a Roland guitar synth (the G707/GR707) that I could get some orchestral sounds out of, but the tracking was horrible, and nothing got that cool choir sound. I gave up on pitch-to-digital conversion using hex pickups and 25-pin cables. Now, many years later, Electro Harmonix worked out all the bugs and put the sound of the Mellotron in

Cozart Tobacco Burst Electric 12-String

You have probably seen Cozart guitars pop up on your eBay searches, but you've probably been skeptical about the quality and the prices--because the price is so low on them. I took a chance on one about a year-and-a-half ago and got one of their electric 12-strings. With a little bit of easy tweaking (adjust the truss rod and intonation, pickup height, etc.) I had a great sounding and playing electric 12-string. This was great because, I don't play one all the time. Some songs, it can be just the thing to add sparkle to a track. When I played in a band once, I happened to have an electric 12-string that I'd play for just about three songs a night: the Beatles' "Happy Birthday," Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Passionate Kisses," and the Eagles' "Hotel California." Whenever people heard the sound of that electric 12, they'd almost run for the dance floor. There are way more songs than you can imagine that have electric 12-string--stuf