Category Archives: guitar review

Fender Made in Mexico Fretless Jazz Bass

I know for a fact that almost everyone reading this title pictured a certain bassist when they read it, which is one of the reasons i’m writing this. The Fender Fretless jazz bass is one of the most famous types of electric instruments that ever was. It’s unescapable association with Jaco Pastorius is one of its main selling points, as Fender makes this lower priced model available to those of us not willing to shell out two grand on an similar instrument, just with strategic, American-made wear marks all over it. It’s familiar hybrid tone of an upright bass in electric clothing has attracted thousands of musicians to adopt the fretless bass as a red-headed stepchild to their ventures in recording, taking advantage of seamless slides, docile tones and the softer edges of notes that only an instrument without metal frets can provide.  Well, that’s what you would hope, right? Alright, go to a guitar store, pick one of these up straight out of the box, and you’ll understand exactly why Fender Mexico will never be mentioned in the same sentences as Gibson, Rickenbacker, Jackson, or even Ibanez.

You may be asking why i’m reviewing this, and i’ll tell you why, I bought one a few months ago. As a guitarist first, I figured it couldn’t hurt to expand my instrument collections. I’ve got a drumset, harmonicas, keyboard, and now i’ve got a violin, so you can read this from a perspective of someone who realizes I am all for being a multi-instrumentalist. The bass was an impulse by in a state when I was a huge Jaco fan, and I was really digging the sound of a fretless jazz bass, so I felt it would be alright to drop around 500 dollars on a fretless bass. So, I went to my local guitar store…where else? Guitar Center.

The Specs: It’s got an alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and the standard hardware accompaniment you’d expect on all Fender Jazz bass. The only “difference” that Fender touts is that they put the American electronics into it to beef it up. There’s got to be some sort of profit reason behind it, because this is really a cut and dry bass. It’s the exact same electric bass they’ve been making for years, but for some reason it costs the same price as a normal bass, despite using a lot less labor and material to make. The fretboard doesn’t have frets in it, and instead uses little plastic lines which look like they just cut white plastic from a box and slid it into already made bass fretboards. So they save money on materials by not having to install frets, or fret markers on the front of the fretboard. All they need to do is run a 9.5 radius sanding block across the top, and call it a day. Hopefully you can see some sort of theme developing in my tone towards this bass. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end here.

The Neck: There’s not much to say. To me, all Fender bass necks feel the exact same. Nothing really astounding, and nothing to say it feels bad. The sad thing is that there is a lot of room between the end of the neck and the neck pickup, and for some reason they limit it to a 20 fret range. Not only that, but the fretboard was poorly done. The little plastic fretline fillers didn’t fit properly, and they were moving out of the fret slots. I had to sand the things down because I couldn’t play the 2-4th frets on the D and G strings without buzzing, and the only way to overcome it was to loosen the truss rod. Sorry, not about to sacrifice the action of the entire bass because the shop workers couldn’t run the sanding block a few times more. Not only was it poorly made, but they could’ve extended the fretboard over the pickguard, for petes sake. It’s not like there are frets or anything. It’s proof that Fender really doesn’t intend to reinvent the wheel. They feel they did a good enough job inventing the first wheel, so why improve/change it?
The Body: I’m glad they didn’t change this. It’s what makes a Fender bass look like a Fender bass. However, to my surprise, when i took off the pickguard, there was a 3/4 inch cylindrical hole under the pickguard, and it was filled with sawdust. For some reason, I had trouble contemplating how sawdust could get into a hole on a bass which was already finished.  There should be no reason for an instrument to come in contact with a sawdust creating process after the instrument has already been painted, clearcoated, and buffed. Stretch your own imaginations, I could use some explanation.

The Electronics: To me, the pickups seem underpowered, but really, the bass sounds like a Fender Fretless jazz bass. I’ve got no complaints there. Roll off a little of the neck pickup and you’ve got that Jaco sound. The only thing is, i’m/you’re not Jaco, so whenever you butcher Portrait of Tracy, people know it. It doesn’t change anything that you’re playing a Fender Fretless.

The Hardware: It’s typical Fender hardware. Big club-shaped tuners, ultra generic, cheap volume knobs, vibration prone bridge saddles, and the same bridge they’ve been using forever. Again, not reinventing the wheel.

The Whole Shebang: I bought a Fender fretless jazz bass, and it’s what I got. I went against my own pillars of guitar religion and bought something that wasn’t very good. It was terribly set up, and when I mean terribly, I’m not exxagerating. It took me days to finally set it up to where poorly made fretlines weren’t buzzing, the bridge was properly adjusted and the truss rod wasn’t bent like a 400 foot flagpole in a Chicago afternoon. Literally, the sales person admitted you could “drive a truck under the strings” because the action was so high. The problem was, when most people think about a guitar’s action, they look to the bridge. But the bridge was alright, it was the truss rod which looked as though they had never set it up. They just slid it into the neck, put the bass into a box and sent it to the Guitar Center from where I bought it. It’s probably the reason they didn’t sell it to anyone and the same one had been there for years. If a person who’s new to an instrument can’t play it or adjust it, then they won’t buy it. I only used it’s poor condition as leverage to drop the price from 450+ tax down to 375 out the door.

For the most part, Guitars aren’t like cars. Honda can still call the same thing a Civic for 20+ years, but improve it as technology changes. Fender can – and will – call their jazz bass the same thing forever, and they won’t change a thing. They won’t attempt to make that giant bolt-on block any less wieldy, they won’t add more output to their pickups, and they won’t add more frets.  The only way I turned it into a more tolerable instrument was with almost 50 hours of work to clean out pockets, clean up bad sanding jobs, tighten screws, adjust the bridge, tighten the truss rod and wait for hours for it to adjust. I basically paid 375 dollars to cause me stress, and to buy something that fills up my closet. The only good thing about is that when I want to play a Fender Made in Mexico Fretless Jazz bass, I can. Woo boy.

The Pros: It’s a Fender Fretless Jazz bass, so the Tone, and fretless sound. Comparable to buying a Chevy Bel Air if Chevrolet was still making it indentical to how they did in the 50’s.

The Cons: Just about everything else.
The Grade:

15 Comments

Filed under bass, Electric Bass, Fender, Fender fretless jazz, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar review, Jaco Pastorius, Jazz Bass, music, negativity

I’m still alive

Just as a reassurance that i’m not dead, look forward to reviews and rants coming an a day or two. I’ll be talking Parkwood acoustics, BC Rich platinums, and possibly a Fender Fretless jazz bass rant.

1 Comment

Filed under Bc Rich, Fender fretless jazz, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, Parkwood, player

And more guff?

For all of the people who might disagree with what i’m doing/done/have yet to do, I feel I might as well respond in a blog, because it can further give an idea of what i’m trying to do here. This person actually asks some good questions, and for that I will hopefully respond and further explain myself.

  1. Norrin Radd Says:
    September 6th, 2006 at 4:46 pm eSeems to me that Jimi D had more issues with your facts than with your opinions. AND, if you’re “just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer “, then why even post a review?

    A published review ought to be borne out of professionalism – in the sense that it is your job to do so. If you’re just another guy playing a guitar in a music store, what value does your opinion have? Why should anybody be interested in what you say? Give me some reason to care about your opinion!

    I think it does the reader a dis-service to publish a review on a site like this where the assumption is that you’re a trained professional giving an objective review. Otherwise, why not just post it up at Harmony Central?

No one else does what I do on a blog, especially not one that registers into Google so quickly. No one publishes something from the view of the majority of guitar players. Many of which go to a guitar store but have no reason to write about what they see and feel when they’re there. We all read the magazines with creative-writing majors touting the glories of some guitar like a BC Rich Bronze series because he’s advertiser friendly, but what do we really gain from it? Do you really trust a company when they’re telling you how they’re doing? I hope not.
Instead, I am the friend of yours you ask when you’re thinking about buying a guitar. I’m the guy staring at a guitar in a window. And I’m the guy who knows what I like, and you compare your opinion to mine and figure out what you like. For instance, you’re thinking about buying a Charvel San Dimas 1H (You better be) and you want to look up what people say about it. You read the short blurbs on Musiciansfriend’s reviews, you read the specs on Charvel’s site, and maybe you’ve read a review in Guitar World. Then what? You’ve read something from the manufacturer, an advertisment, and an owner, none of which have done what I write about; go into a store, pick up a guitar that looks good and play. I’m not trying to be some sort of person speaking for the little guy, be it the 12 year old picking up a squier, or the 45 year old rekindling their youth, I am speaking from little guy to little guy. Those reviewers know what’s coming, they know they’re getting a Les Paul Supreme in their office. Me, however, i’m staring at a wall of guitars, waiting for one to sing to me. And i’m hear telling people if I like the tune.

This is the basis of opinion and critical thought. You know where the opinion is coming from, you judge accordingly. To believe you are informed, one must attempt to get as many opinions from as many different viewpoints as possible. You can take every opinion with a grain of salt, then you take what you’ve learned and evaluate accordingly. In this case, it’s musical instruments.

So why am I doing this here? Harmony Central is for anyone. Here it’s just me. How can you be sure that the review you’re reading on Harmony Central isn’t written by someone in the company? How can you be sure it’s not written by an advertiser? You can’t. Here, you can see that i’ve given reviews to some of the most highly competetive guitar companies honestly and unbiased. And, there’s only one person writing here. Not a mish-mash of bulletin board posts which are difficult to find and decipher. Here it’s simple.

I hope i’ve answered your question, Norrin, and answered others to come.

-The G.

2 Comments

Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, Ernie ball, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, music, Music Man, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Silhouette

Rabble Rousing?!

Apparently i’ve received my first flack for some of my comments on the Ernie Ball. Who knew they had such a militant following? Here it is for all to see, someone pointing out my flaws as a reviewer, something I would willingly admit on a business card. Instead of simply leaving it in the realm of comments, I feel I shall put it up here. Leaving the comments open to comment, including my response.

  1. Jimi D Says:
    September 6th, 2006 at 12:22 pm e
    This review is worthless – the reviewer is an inarticulate troglodyte and his opinions are valueless and misinformed. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have the same neck profile as the Petrucci Sig. – in fact, the necks are tangibly and undeniably different. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have active electronics – no 9-volt battery would ever be required. And lastly, Ernie Ball Music Man guitars are revered for their incomparable necks – check any decent guitar forum (The Gear Page, Birds & Moons, FDP) and you’ll find dozens of proponents of the Music Man gun stock oil & wax neck finishing, and every print publication for guitarists (including Guitar Player, Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar) that has reviewed the Axis has praised it’s neck. In fact, the Axis neck is a digitally carved copy of the neck from Eddie Van Halen’s # 1 favorite frankenstrat, developed when EVH had his signature guitar with EBMM, and this writer’s suggestion that he played an Axis that had an “unfinished” neck where “they forgot to round out the back” demonstrates an ignorance so monumental that it’s frightening. His assertion that it is somehow a substandard neck simply illustrates his complete lack of appreciation for a contemporary classic design that has found favor with a huge number of amature and professional musicians throughout the world.

As it turns out, this person is the moderator of an Ernie Ball forum…
Touching. Simply touching. Who knew that my few hours with a guitar in a store would be no match for that of someone who practically works for Ernie Ball. Anyway, on to my response.
However informed you believe you are, being an Ernie Ball owner, i’d like to direct you to this page:

http://www.ernieball.com/site/flyers/20th_ann.html

If you’ll notice that it says Piezo available, which was what I played. It was my mistake, I corrected it. I’ll pony up to that one.

However, if you had read my post, you may have read that I was at a Guitar Center. Maybe with a little bit of decisive reasoning, you could’ve concluded that it may have been a floor model, and it’s poor quality was attributed to that. And despite the fact that people say “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch,” it did in my case, 6 years ago, when I was new to electric guitar. It should be a testament to either Guitar Center or Ernie Ball that no one was taking responsibility for making the flagship model of a company in excellent condition at all times. Unless you work for them, I have no idea why you’re standing up for them.

Also, had you read my posts, you’d also know that I am just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer who has had time to sit down and practice his sucking up to a company. These are my opinions, and opinions give people extra data that people can use in the event they purchase a guitar, and more knowledge for judging what they like in other guitars.

And I don’t know why you’re going out of your way to give me grief, I said the guitar was one of the best i’d ever played, and it might be the next guitar I buy. So I insulted the integrity of your favorite company in part of my post? Sorry I didn’t suck up to them for every sentence like you’d assume in the publications you quoted from memory.

-The G.

3 Comments

Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Music Man, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Silhouette

Ernie Ball Music Man 20th Anniversary Silhouette

I’ll admit it, for the my entire career as a guitar player, I have hated Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. I have very vivid memories of going to a Guitar Center, picking up a really nice looking Axis, only to have the experience ruined by the neck. It felt triangular to me, and almost like they forgot to round out the back of the neck. Not only that, but the wood was dirty due to some lack of sanding and finishing. So it stuck in my mind as one of the most uncomfortable guitars ever made, so I never picked one up again. It kept me away from Ernie Ball altogether until one of my favorite guitarists got picked up to do a signature guitar. John Petrucci, the guitarist for Dream Theater, rekindled my interest in Ernie Ball and gave me reason to touch them again. Maybe i’ll review the JP Signature at some point, but right now, we’re on a different mission with coincidental undertones (I’ll explain in a bit)

I went to Guitar Center with a friend of mine who plays bass. He had just purchased one of Ernie Balls new HH basses, so he felt some sort of brand loyalty to Ernie Ball. He sat in front of one of the cheapo Crate amplifiers, ready to butcher a song on guitar, an instrument he’d never really excelled at. He picked up the nearest Ernie Ball, it was the 1800 dollar, 20th Anniversary Silhouette which was positioned quite close to him. He played the guitar, and I looked at it with contempt, still remembering the experience with an Axis a long time ago. I’d never played the Silhouette, but I just assumed it had the same neck as the Axis, but with a double cutaway body. My friend got a phone call, and was just sitting there holding the guitar. I decided to take his seat, and he handed me the guitar. The transformation had begun…

The Specs: It’s a 24 Fret, Dimarzio Loaded beast of simplicity with no tremolo, locking tuners, three way pickup selector, volume and tone knobs. The top is an odd beast, a layered top like a triple ply pickguard, but with wood, plastic, then wood again. It was different, to say the least, from anything else i’d ever seen, as most guitars with plastic around the side consisted of cheap plastic binding, but this was a black plastic with a maple veneer on the top. Very attractive.

The Neck: This was what converted me. My hands fell into an immediate pattern which i’d never felt before. A different kind of comfort i’d never felt on medium jumbo frets. They were spectacularly finished, and with 24 of them, I was in heaven. My ideal prescription for a guitar consists of a 24 fret neck, and one as good as this will most definitely go on my list when some company comes to approach me about building a signature guitar. (I won’t hold my breath) It was smooth, unfinished (They did a bang up job!) and despite being a bolt-on, I felt no limitations like I would on a Fender Strat or Telecaster.

The Body: This might be the only thing I’ve got a problem with. The horns are stretched a little much for my tastes. The bottom one has a perfect curve to it, but the top is a little long, giving it an almost Danelectro Longhorn look to it. But it was perfectly contoured for playing, which is really all that matters. I say that knowing perfectly well that BC Rich wouldn’t be as well known as they are had feel been all that matters when people were buying guitars (Another review some time). Qualms aside, it was light, the pickups fit in there perfectly, and there was no clutter to it; just a beautiful looking guitars. Also, since my ideal guitar has a fixed bridge, (Though a trem is an option on some 20th anniversary Silhouettes) this one is starting to fit the bill as one of my favorite guitars.

The Electronics: Simple active (I am mistaken. An eloquent comment proved me wrong. What I thought was active pickups, was actually a piezo preamp.) circuitry with Dimarzio pickups. I’ve always been a fan of Dimarzios, but these just had a different dynamic, which was excellent. The were clear and crisp in all settings with no muddiness like some single coils tend to do, and some stock Humbuckers. Though, I’m not a big fan of active circuitry, as most people can’t find a 9 Volt battery when they need one.

The Hardware: Good bridge, nice knobs, what else is there?

The Whole shebang: Now, what I mentioned before was that the only other Ernie Ball I really had enjoyed was the JP signature, and I have a feeling this guitar took some of it’s ideas from John Petrucci’s ideas for Ernie Ball. The neck is probably the exact same one, and the fact that the action is perfect shows that a real player had something to do with it, not someone trying to make one-off guitars without caring about playability. (Gibson SGs, anyone?) As simple as it is, this is a great guitar. It feels great, sounds great (even through a cheap amp), looks great, and is a product of American craftsmanship, of which I am a huge proponent. The Ernie ball 20th Anniversary Silhouette has brought me back into the realm of Ernie Ball, and I’m here to stay.

However, i’m not going to give it the A+ that the Charvel had. This Ernie Ball has everything i’d ever want in a guitar, no hassles, fuss or anything that would bother me, and it would sound amazing. The Charvel I reviewed only had 22 frets, and it had a Floyd Rose, some of my biggest irritations in guitars. The thing is, there was an electricity I felt when I picked up that Charvel; an almost undescribable feeling that just made me want to play, and I thought it was an amazing guitar. This Silhouette is, without question, my ideal guitar, and something that fulfills that criteria is a diamond in the rough. I want it to be my next guitar, even if they triple the price. However, it didn’t inspire me like that Charvel, and for that it get’s an A. That plus is reserved for something out of this world.
Pros: Everything is fantastic. My ideal guitar, all the way.
Cons: None.

The Grade:

21 Comments

Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, Charvel, Ernie ball, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, music, Music Man, Silhouette

The Charvel San Dimas 1H

Charvel1h

You look at that picture, what do you see? Do you see 80’s metal? Do you see an instrument indicative of an antiquated style of playing? These can be some of the emotions evoked by Charvel’s return to the guitar market. However, don’t be fooled. The only things Charvel about this guitar are the neck and the logo. The rest is made, pretty much, by everyone else. Seymour Duncan humbucker, Floyd Rose floating bridge and nut, Fender Strat body. Hell, Charvel and Jackson were bought by Fender, so they can cut the corners on the design process. So all in all, it’s a pretty standard looking guitar.

But when you pick it up, plug it in, and your fingers hit that board…

…you feel something that can only be described as magic.

The Specs: Alder body, Seymour Duncan TB14 humbucker, Standard Fender Strat body, bolt-on hard rock maple neck, ebony fretboard, 22 jumbo frets, original Floyd Rose, all wrapped up in the classic Charvel package. This is the essence of the words “Superstrat.” It is a simple guitar with one pickup, one volume knob, and a bridge that really looks like it’s floating there. There’s no pocket routing, and all of the electronics are from the back. The only thing on the front of the body is the pickup, one knob and a bridge. This is bauhaus minimalism, folks.

The neck: The first thing I do when I touch a guitar is wrap my left hand around the neck. I get a feel for how thick it is, how round it is, how flat the fretboard radius is, the finish on the neck, and the action of the frets. I’ll tell you, i’ve played 3 of the San Dimas 1Hs, and every single time I wrapped my hand around that neck, I didn’t let go. I picked it up and sat there for an hour with it every time. The neck that they put on this thing seems to epitomize perfection in neck form. It’s not paper thin as to make you want to flatten your hand, and it’s not bulky thick. Think about a fine line between an ibanez Wizard and an Ernie Ball Music Man. And now that I think about it, my descriptions can’t do it justice. My hand just seemed to have a mind of its own when I played this guitar. The action was perfect, the frets were finished perfectly, and they didn’t blast up and down the neck, they glided. As always, i’ve got to have my gripes. Usually, I love the feel of a through-neck guitar, but the bolt on seemed to fit perfectly here. However, the one neck complaint is the fact that there are only 22 frets. This is a super strat with plenty of room there with the lack of a neck pickup, so put 2 extra frets for that extra octave without risking a string-breaking bend.

The electronics: For what the electronics are, they’re perfect. The Seymour Duncan TB-14 was designed for Jackson/Charvel style superstrats, because they know what the buyer had in mind when they got one. They wanted to be able to move fast, and they wanted it to be comfortable, and they wanted tone to match the style. This TB14 fits perfectly with this guitar. I’m trying to avoid using a poetic cliche` to describe the tone of the guitar; Guitar magazines do it, and I can’t believe their advertising induced wordings, but this guitar truly sings. That’s it. It’s meant to be overdriven and played loudly, and these electronics fit extremely well. A coil tap might have been clever, but since they were going for the most you can do with the least stuff, they did extremely well. Granted, it’s not very versatile, but it’s not like this is going to replace your Joe Pass signature hollowbody in your jazz quartet (not unless you really want to shake things up). This is meant for speed, shredding, leads, and pretty much everything synonymous with lead playing. Simply put, this guitar was meant to take the lead.

Hardware: Perfectly finished frets resting in an ebony fretboard, simple Gotoh-style tuners. Charvel wasn’t exactly trying to reinvent the wheel here. Despite my hatred for floating bridges, nothing else would’ve fit on this guitar. It wouldn’t have had the same pinache on that rack with through-body bridge ferrules. So you’ll spend an hour restringing the thing, re-calibrating the bridge, and tuning it, but whenever you start to play it, you won’t care that you just spent over two hours making your guitar perfect again.

The Whole Shebang: Simply stated, this guitar is magnificient. When you pick it up, it tells you exactly what you’re going to play on it. You’re going to want to play Eruption, Hot For Teacher, or some sort of 80’s shred fest with some sort of galloping rhythm. And since it is a very expensive guitar for something so simple as a standard alder Strat body with a maple neck and ebony fretboard, you’re going to get it perfectly set up. The Floyd Rose will be parallel to the body, new strings, perfectly tuned, ultra-low action, and perfectly intonated. You’re going to realize it’s got limitations without a neck pickup, 24 frets, a fixed bridge, a tone control, or a through neck. But trust me on this, you’re going to forget every single one of those things whether you’re playing it through a 15 watt Crate or a Marshall JCM 900. Every one of those possible flaws I felt I could never get over, just seemed to disappear. Amazing, this guitar makes you not care about anything that might be wrong with it. That’s powerful stuff.

The Pros: Perfect neck, perfect frets, looks gorgeous, perfect tone for that guitar, feels perfect. Absolutely perfect.

The Cons: It’s about as versatile as a drag racer, but you only get a drag racer for one reason. 22 frets? No tone knob? No fixed bridge? No thru neck? No one cares.

The Grade:

12 Comments

Filed under Charvel, Charvel San Dimas 1h, Fender Guitars, guitar, guitar rant, guitar review, Jackson guitars, San Dimas

Roland Cube 60

Roland’s new(er) kid on the block, the Roland Cube 60 is one of Roland’s first stabs at making a modeling amp. In fact, what this really is, is a Boss amp. The modeling capabilities and tones on the lead channel come straight from Boss’s COSM database of tones, but stamped with the Roland name so people might actually buy it. This 60 Watt amp is reasonably priced, and is perfect for just about everyone, but before everyone gets one, lets dig into the nitty-gritty shall we?

Construction: This amp is pretty solidly built; well actually, it’s very solid. It’s closed back, steel grille front, plywood panel and thick plastic corners make it one of the most durable amplifiers i’ve ever seen. Not only that, but the controls are recessed into the top like so:
Image Courtesy of Elderly music. 2006

so that if your amp happens to roll backwards or have something resting on the top, you don’t need to worry about the settings getting messed with or that the knobs will get broken. The knobs themselves are basically a slightly meatier version of the knobs that Boss uses on their multi-effects pedals, so they’re meant to be bumped around. All of the inputs are plastic and don’t have that metal feel to them that quality amps have, but they are nonetheless strong, and none have loosened in my time of use.

The tone (clean channel): The clean channel’s electronics are supposedly taken from Roland’s Jazz amplifier series, giving them a very reputable name in clean channeling. Personally, it just sounds like any other clean channel, which is probably good and it shows that they’re not really trying to reinvent the wheel. The only unique thing about the clean channel is the bright button, an awkward attempt at adding a little boost in brightness. It barely sounds like it does much, but it’s a decent idea.

The tone (Lead channel): I really have liked the versatility of the different models of amps. They sound very similar to what they’re named, but it takes a little bit of tweaking to really get the sounds to sparkle. Turn on the Black Panel amp, and you’ll get the surfy 50’s spank that you’d expect, the Brit combo has the extra treble and slight bit of dirt to give you a slight Brian May style wail to it, and the Tweed has a decent twang to it if it’s set up properly. For the lead players, the Classic amp setting is a decent way to get some crunch out of it, but it never really stood out above the rest, so it’s one of the least used settings. The Metal and the “R-fier” (Roland trying to get away with Rectifier without paying Mesa Boogie any dues) are very similar, except the R-Fier amp has a more scooped mid on it already to evoke the Metallica-like tone, whilst the Metal setting has a good amount more mid, a little less bass, and more treble. If you’re going for that real crunchy Pantera/Megadeth sound, it’s all R-fier with full bass, low mid, and high treble.

What Roland did do was attempt to put two different, slightly odd things on an amp like this; the Acoustic setting and the Dyna-amp.

The acoustic setting sounds slightly acoustic-like, basically making your normal notes sound more bouncy and hollow. If you’re wondering what I mean by bouncy, it’s rather hard to explain. It’s almost like it’s being thrown into a small wood body then being heard to get the acoustic reverb, instead of a generic reverb tank like all amps have.

The Dyna-amp setting is supposed to be touch sensitive to playing. If you play hard, it distorts, if you play soft, it’s clean. It’s not really that great. I’d rather just switch channels to go from clean to distorted, and even if you do use the Dyna-amp, it still sounds a little distorted when playing lightly.

Taming the Beast: It’s 60 Watts out of a 12 inch speaker, and it’s loud. If you want more out of it, there’s a powered extension speaker jack in the back, but this thing is already loud as hell. It’s quite good at high volumes, no evasive feedback or ringing, so there’s one for Boss for keeping it quiet when it’s loud.
So what’s wrong with it?: There are a lot of good things about this amp, but as always, it has it’s flaws:

The effects: It’s the generic effects channel meant to give versatility to an amp. It seems to be par for the course today, with upper end Marshall’s even being stocked with them. They’re boring, and they rarely get any use. You can’t adjust the settings, you can only make them more or less noticeable. Want a longer or shorter delay? Less repeats on the echo? Sorry, get a delay pedal. Want to use phaser and tremolo? Sorry. Get both of those. The effects on this amp are solely there to take up space, and occasionally color your sound. They should’ve just left the reverb and the chorus there, and called it a day.

The R-fier: It’s a great sounding channel when you’re playing, but they screwed up one thing…they put a noise gate onto it. Not only that, but it’s a bad noise gate. It doesn’t really quiet it when you’re not playing, but it cuts the sustain of off the notes you want to ring out, and that’s bad for a distorted setting. Distortion is known for high gain and sustain (Rhyme intended), but when there’s a cheap noise gate there cutting you off, it’s irritating. After awhile you get used to it, but it really shouldn’t be something you have to get used to.

The Equalizer: Another mess-up, they only put one on. So if you’re going from the scooped mid, monstrous metal tone to a neck pickup, clean jazz chord, you’re going to have to sacrifice one for the other. Basically, it means that if you set up the knobs for a high treble, low bass clean sound, and you switch to the R-fier setting, it’s going to sound terrible. Best bet? Find a happy medium between both of them and leave it. If you’re really put off, get two of em. There only 350 dollars, and that extra money might be worth saving you the small hassles.

The Pros: Versatile, sturdy, cost-effective, and it sounds great.

The Cons: One equalizer, generic effects, no footswitch included.

The Grade:

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