Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: November 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Malmsteen Strats Get Callaham Bridges

My last post stated that I had no other mods planned for my Sonic Blue Malmsteen Strat, but that changed once I decided to take the plunge and order a couple of Callaham Strat tremolo replacements. I had heard of Callaham guitar parts (especially their Strat trems) for years but for one reason or another I never got around to buying one to try out. Now that I am much more handy with guitar repair and modification I am able to do simple things like swapping a bridge out without a problem, which makes it much easier (and cheaper) to try different things to see if they really do improve the instrument.

All I can say about this product is WOW! What an incredible difference in tone from the original bridge. Callaham bridge parts are all machined by hand in-house and are made from quality cold rolled steel and other alloys that truly enhance the tone and vibration transfer from the strings to the guitar. The quality is quite apparent when handling the trem itself. All the screws fit snugly and thread in effortlessly... it is easy to tell the metal and machining is of higher quality than the standard Fender fare (even all the screws supplied with the bridge kit are made of hardened steel with heads that are much less likely to strip out; which, by today's standards, is quite rare and wonderful!).

I immediately heard the difference in both the plugged in and unplugged tone of the guitar. The overall tone is brighter and much louder than before. Definitely more musical and richer. Unplugged the guitar is perhaps 30% louder than before, and plugged in it has a longer natural sustain and a gorgeous "classic Strat" tone that has equal parts "spank" and "fatness".

A big problem with Malmsteen Strats (and many other Fender Start models) is the wide string spacing of the vintage tremolo combined with overly dressed fret ends. The low and high E strings tend to slip off the edge of the neck when playing. Very annoying! Well, I solved this by ordering the Callaham replacement bridges with vintage 2 7/32" (56mm) mount spacing but with the narrow 2 1/16" string spacing (normally found on modern, two-point Fender trems). This helped bring the E strings back from the edge... the guitar now plays like normal with zero slippage! I couldn't be happier with the result.

I cannot say enough good things about this product. I bought two of these and I will soon be converting my Vintage White Malmsteen over to the Callaham. I have also learned of a cool kit that Callaham makes to convert two point modern Strat trems over to the vintage six-point style. I will definitely be converting my '04 Deluxe Strat to a Callaham vintage Strat trem as soon as my funds allow! :)

I give these bridges my highest rating!!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New Guitar!! Yngwie Malmsteen Sonic Blue Stratocaster

Yes! I finally got one of my favorite Strat colors, Sonic Blue, and on one of my favorite Strat models, the Yngwie Malmsteen signature Stratocaster. I have wanted a Sonic Blue Malmsteen Strat for a while now so when I came across this one I jumped on it. Unfortunately, I had to trade my Custom Shop '60 Relic Strat for it (I also got some cash in addition), but so far I can report that it was well worth it. I loved the Relic Strat but the tone was just too thin and harsh for my taste (even despite trying different pickups), so I decided to move it.

This American made Malmsteen is a 2001 make with a maple fretboard, nice deep scallops and the usual huge fretwire (Dunlop 6000, I believe). It is identical in every way to my '05 Vintage White Malmsteen, but I believe the fit and finish to be a tad bit better on this one. The really awesome thing about this guitar is that despite being 7 years old, it's brand new. And I mean brand new! This particular specimen was bought by the previous owner to collect so it has never been played, has all the hang tags on it and the cellophane pickguard protector still applied. Even the trem arm sticker dot that keeps the arm spring from falling out hadn't been removed. This guitar is factory mint.

I have a new set of pickups currently on order for it. Since I am now in a band (and especially since I plan to gig this guitar) I have to be able to get a certain type of tone from my instruments that compliments the music that we play. In the case of Stratocasters, I usually prefer having a humbucker in the bridge position and a couple of good, high-output, fat-sounding single coils in the middle and neck positions (nothing too ice pickish). My favorite set for a Strat at the moment (and the set currently in my '05 Malmsteen) are: the DiMarzio Fast Track 2 single coiled sized humbucker (bridge) and two DiMarzio Virtual Vintage Blues single coils in the middle and neck positions. I also install a treble bleed on the volume knob potentiometer so that the tone stays nice and crisp as the volume is rolled off on the guitar.

Other than pickups, I plan to install an off-white pickguard to replace the mint-green one currently on it. The off-white color is the most typical pickguard seen on Yngwie's guitars. Also, with the creme pickup covers I have on order the contrast between the off-white guard and the creme covers will look cool and have a vintage vibe. At the moment, no other mods for this guitar are planned (other than Schaller strap locks).

The neck is a fine piece of craftsmanship. It is very level with an easy adjusting truss rod and it feels and plays beautifully with minimal to no buzzing anywhere on the neck. The brass nut is superbly cut and the bridge parts are the typical Fender steel vintage trem fare. Should be easily whipped into shape and made playable in no time. I can't wait to get it broken in so I can start gigging with it! I can definitely say that I am very pleased with this acquisition.

Monday, November 03, 2008

New Pickups in R9 Les Paul

Ever since I had my R9 Les Paul I have had a problem with the pickups being too microphonic for high gain, high volume amps. Some time ago I also changed the pickups in my R7 Les Paul for the same reason (in that case I replaced the OEM pups with a Duncan Jazz and a Duncan JB, neck and bridge respectively).

I wanted to try something a little more "special" in my R9 since I really did like the sound of the stock BurstBuckers that it came with. So, during my "Great Acquision" :) I scored an assortment of WCR pickups at great prices. Two of them happened to be exactly what I was looking for to put in my R9... a double cream WCR Goodwood (bridge) and a double cream WCR Crossroads (neck). This is the "American Steele" combo set as seen on the WCR website.

I love the sound of these pickups in my R9. They have a lively, harmonically rich tone and are very responsive to input. The output is in the lower range, as you would expect from a PAF clone, so they are both very open and woody sounding... but with plenty of high-end "spank" that helps tame some of the dark muddiness that a mahogany body can produce.

Finally, I added a cool lightning bolt strap; which, with the double cream pickups, completes the Ace Frehley look. :)