Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Tubes for Mesa Boogie Mark III

After getting the Mark III out and giving her a few test plays it was obvious that the old tubes needed changing. I actually had a brand new set of five JJ 12AX7's laying around from when I bought the Fender Blues Jr. I had planned to replace the tubes in the Jr. with JJ's, but I ended up not keeping that amp so I had these AX7's left over from that experiment. I replaced all five of the Boogie's preamp tubes with the new JJ's and the difference was immediate and striking. Much brighter, tighter sound and a much cleaner clean channel with a ton more headroom. I was still running old power tubes, until today...

A new batch of tubes I ordered finally came in today (I love it when packages arrive!). I ordered another set of five JJ 12AX7's (for backups) and a quad matched set of JJ 6L6 power tubes. The old Sovtek 6L6's that were in the Boogie were pretty frazzled and worn. It has been over 14 or 15 years since all the tubes were changed! ...and that was with at least 2 years of hard playing on them. They were way over due to say the least.

With the new power tubes in I can tell that the amp is much brighter, has more sparkle and has less early breakup. I expect the amp's tone to "warm up" a little more as time goes on and as the tubes start to break in and get a little "softer". It already sounds wonderful and the clean channel is just amazing. I get compliments on the sound of this amp from everyone that hears it. It's particularly amazing on my recently acquired Bogner 2x12 cabinet with the Jekyll & Hyde distortion pedal for OD and distortion tones.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

R7 Les Paul Gets New Pickups

Well, I finally got sick of the squealing pickups and decided I've had enough. :) I bought a Seymour Duncan JB (for the bridge) and Jazz (for the neck) and installed them in the R7 Goldtop. I really like the sound of these pickups! The overall brightness of the guitar still comes through (this Les Paul is bright!), but the new pups also help tame some of this brightness, as well. The JB has plenty of balls to play metal, shred and classic rock, and the Jazz is bright and "tubular" sounding with enough bass to produce the sound I like in a neck pickup... yet it never gets muddy.

Installation was simple, as usual. I carefully labeled the original pickups for storage so I can always bring the guitar back to stock if I need to. I may send these off for re-winds at some point so I can keep the guitar totally stock and eliminate the squealing at the same time. I have some ideas on who I might send them to for this task... I'll post back if I decide to have this done at some point in the future.

The look isn't quite the same with uncovered Duncans, and I suppose I could have gone with covered ones... but in the end I figured I could live with the uncovered look. Besides, the R7 has kind of become my "shred" metal Les Paul so the look is justified. ;)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sebastian Gets a New Guitar!!

My wife and I thought we'd surprise our little 4 year old nephew, Sebastian, with a Pee Wee Les Paul this Christmas. His older brother has a guitar and amp, and both kids play "Guitar Hero" on the XBox, so Sebastian is officially "guitar crazy". :)

I have never seen him so excited about a gift as he was when he finally pulled off all the wrapping from the box. He was giggling the whole time and kept saying, "It's a real guitar!" He has been used to playing with toys up to this point, so having a real guitar just blew his mind.

This is what Christmas is all about! I hope Sebastian's love of the guitar stays with him throughout life and that it brings him as much joy and satisfaction as it has brought me over the years. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ordered a Kingsley ToneBaron Amplifier!!

Wow! I am so excited about this amp. :) Trawling through The Gear Page forums, as I normally do, I came across a posting about Kingsley Amplifiers and was intrigued. So I went to the website to hear some clips and I was floored by the tone and versatility of these boutique amps. I normally play and prefer a compressed 80's type of distorted tone... sort of an EVH "brown sound" meets Metallica black album. Lately, however, I have turned my taste towards a more harmonically complex, more refined tone (a la Eric Johnson).

I want an amp that has an impressive clean channel that accepts pedals well (in which case I can almost turn it into any sort of amp depending on the pedals used), but one that also has a usable gain channel without the fizz and "fuzz face" ragged/woolly distortion many tube amps seem to have when pushing the preamp to distort. The ToneBaron has something similar to the Dumble/Two Rock/Fuchs style distortion going on with all the sustain, harmonics and overtones (without the fizz) while still retaining its own unique voice as an amplifier.

I am very excited about this amp, and I cannot wait until I get it. Simon Jarrett, a phenomenal guitarist, makes each of his Kingsley boutique amps by hand using point to point wiring, so it can take a little while to get one after you've ordered. I am hoping mine will arrive in the next several weeks. I ordered the head version for use with my Bogner cabinet. I still need to decide which color tolex I want the amp covered with. :)

I'll be getting clips up as soon as I receive it and get it dialed in. In the meantime, you can go here for clips from Simon's web site: Kingsley ToneBaron Audio Clips

Sunday, December 16, 2007

New Cab!! Bogner Over-Sized 2x12 Cabinet

I decided to return the Bogner Shiva 1x12 today because it really didn't have the sound I was looking for. Great rhythm amp, but not suitable (to my ears) for lead... too fizzy. Since I already have a Mark III that sounds fizzy on the lead channel I felt there was no need in having two fizzy tube amps when my Mark III is available, in working condition and already paid for. :)

While I was there, however, my sales guy (Devin) suggested I demo a great Bogner cabinet they had safely stored in the back. It turned out to be an awesome closed back Bogner Over-Sized 2x12 cab with black tolex and tan grille cloth, loaded with a pair of 16 ohm Vin 30s wired in parallel for a load of 8 ohms. Super classy looking cabinet and the sound is unreal. It literally sounds like a 4x12! So I had the idea of buying this to use with my Boogie to help give it some bottom end that an open backed 1x12 can never have and also to help clean up some of the unmusical chainsaw fizz inherent in pretty much all Mesa Boogie amps. The fizz didn't totally go away, but this cabinet improved the sound of the Mark III by an exponential amount. The low end is there in spades and the overall sound is much more focused and less harsh.

I love this cabinet and I'll always keep it for whatever amps I may get in the future. It was a great find and a bargain for only $750 tax and all! Thanks, Devin!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Amp!! Bogner Shiva 1x12 Combo

Predictably, I returned the JSX because it wasn't doing it for me. I decided to add a bit more money to the pot and take home a Bogner Shiva 1x12 combo. Pretty cool!

This is a used model that GC had sitting around from a trade in. I really love the aggressive rhythm tone this amp is capable of. It has tons of balls and sounds really big. Overall though, it does have a bit of the stuffiness that 1x12 closed-backed combos tend to suffer from. It also has a bit of fizz on the single notes in high gain mode... not good considering I already have a great sounding amp (my Boogie Mark III) that is a bit fizzy in the lead channel but sounds great on clean. Not sure if it is worth keeping the Shiva if I already have a great sounding tube amp with an awesome clean channel that takes pedals really well.

Overall, the Shiva is a nice amp!

Old Amp!! Mesa Boogie Mark III Combo

I dug out my old Mesa Boogie Mark III from the closet today, just to fire it up and see if I could get some use from it. The tubes really need to be replaced, but other than that this amp is in fine condition.

I got my Boogie way back in 1992 as a graduation present from my parents. Mine is a "Green Stripe" Simul Class 85watt combo with reverb and was ordered to spec from Strings and Things, Memphis which, at the time, was the local Mesa Boogie dealership. I got one of the very last Mark III's Mesa Boogie made because at the time of my order (in 1991) they were discontinuing the Mark III in favor of the Mark IV. My amp took over 6 months to be made and shipped, but it was worth the wait. I finally had a really loud, great sounding all-tube amplifier! I played this amp a lot with my buddy Jonathan (the guy who used to have his drums in my home studio), but after I quit playing guitar in college this amp got tucked away in various closets over the years. I am now going to get it back into playing shape again.

The clean channel on this amp is truly magnificent. It is very punchy, warm and round with a certain "sparkle" reminiscent of a Fender. The crunch channel has a nice Marshall-like sound and the lead channel is really unreal. Tons and tons of gain thanks to the cascading pre-amp design. When I was a kid I didn't even use a distortion pedal with this amp because I had all the gain I needed right in the amp. Now, however, I might prefer running pedals since my tastes have changed quite a bit since 1992. This amp sounds great, but has quite a bit of fizz in lead mode and tends to sound a bit too much like Carlos Santana. :) Oh, and this thing is friggin' LOUD!

Overall, I love this little amp and I have a lot of history with it. I only wish I had gotten it out sooner. I plan to have a cabinet built for it to convert it into a head so I can play it with a 2x12 or 4x12 cabinet. Should be pretty cool, so be looking for that blog entry soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ibanez JPM P100 Gets New Pickups

I was playing around with the pole piece height on the bridge pickup of my JPM recently and I think, as a result, I somehow damaged the winds on the pickup. What really sucks is the fact that they are the original pickups and I really wanted to keep the guitar stock. The bridge pup squeals pretty uncontrollably now on any amp with any sort of high gain combined with high volume settings.

So I decided to order some replacement pickups, and store the older ones for later should I want to make the guitar all-original again. I ordered some super-cool colors... the exact ones that Petrucci used on the video "Rock Discipline"! The only thing is DiMarzio screwed up the colors on the bridge pickup, as it should have been black/purple, not blue/purple. My GC guy, Devin, is getting this straightened out with DiMarzio but in the meantime I am free to use the blue/purple pickup until the correct one arrives. How cool is that?! :)

I ordered a Steve's Special for the bridge and an Air Norton for the neck (purportedly the pickups that were used on the original JPMs... either stock or slightly modded to Petrucci's tastes). Installation was simple. I just removed the tremolo with strings attached and placed it off to the side. I then removed the old pickups and soldered in the new ones, popped the tremolo back on and I was done! Easy as that.

I can definitely say the new pickups are very close tonally to what was originally there. I took the time to raise the pickup shims (this guitar uses direct mount pickup cavities) to get some more gain and balls from the guitar. I love this guitar, and it looks even cooler and sounds better than ever now with the new pickups.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Amp!! Peavey JSX 2x12 Combo

Based on my last entry on the Princeton Recording-Amp, it's no surprise that I decided to return it. While I was at Guitar Center I saw a Peavey JSX 2x12 combo that I remembered playing when I demo'ed my R9 Les Paul. So I worked out a deal with my sales guy, Devin, to return the Princeton and put that money toward the JSX. You can see some pics of Devin (last photo) and the local Guitar Center here in Memphis, below:

After getting this amp home I have found that the distortion is pretty fizzy. I am not a fan of the super fizzy, Mesa Dual Rec. sound and this amp really has that "buzzing bees" sound to it with each note played. Now that I have spent a few hours with the amp at home, I am pretty sure I'll be returning it as soon as possible. It gets very loud and sounds great at volume, except for the fizz. The clean channel is pretty nice, but not quite as ballsy as I would have hoped. Tons of headroom, though.

Overall, not too impressed with this amp.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

ES-335 Gets Locking Tuners

My friend Christian Arena (with whom I often play guitar) bought a brand new Gibson ES-335 over the summer. It is has a lovely Vintage Burst finish and plays really well, but Christian was having trouble keeping it in tune. I recommended the Planet Waves self-clipping, locking tuners for better tuning stability and the convenience of the self-clipping action.

I happened to have some Planet Waves Locking Tuners in my workbench storage that belong to my friend, Nik. He was never planning to use them so I sold them to Christian, and proceeded to install them. They retro-fit perfectly so no drilling was necessary. Once I got these babies on I went ahead and thoroughly cleaned the guitar, set it up, smooth sanded the saddle slots and re-intonated the bridge. Now the guitar plays and sounds better than ever. ;)

New Amp!! Fender Princeton Recording Amplifier

I have been wanting one of these for a while now, so I finally ordered one. I returned the Blues Jr. to help finance the purchase of this amp. The very first Princeton Recording-Amp I played at Guitar Center sometime last year was defective, so I waited to see if Fender would resolve what were rumored to be production problems with this amp. It appears that they have now fixed whatever component(s) that caused the amps to stutter, lose volume or simply fail.

I really like the cleans on this amp, but they do strike me as being a bit sterile. The included effects (overdrive and compression) are a bit muddy sounding and somewhat difficult to dial in to a good sounding tone. The reverb is fantastic, however. One of the biggest and coolest features of this amp is its power attenuator. You can crank up the amp's volume to drive the tubes harder and then dial back the attenuator to lower the volume without killing the tone that only hard driven tubes can produce. It works on this amp, but the distorted sounds become very fizzy at lower, attenuated volumes.

The Princeton Recording-Amp has a lot of very cool features, some of which I hope to see in other Fender amps some day, as well as amp models from other makers. Apart from the attenuator, one of those features is the speaker emulated, XLR output. Speaker emulated outputs are great and they allow completely silent recording and can produce a tone close to that of the amp miked up. Very cool.

Overall, I am not too impressed with this amp after spending some time with it. I have decided
to return it and keep looking for something else. I really like the Blues Jr., so maybe I'll just buy that one again.