Christmas gift ideas for guitarists (2012)

With Christmas approaching here are some cool guitar accessories to add to your wishlist or sneak on to your family.  And if you don’t play guitar there’s a good chance you know someone who does, so these ideas will help expand your list.  All accessories should be available via Amazon or any local/online music store, except where stated otherwise.  Street prices are in USD and GBP to serve as a guide and I’ve ordered the list based on price (low-high).

NB- if you’re family and reading this, I have everything on the list so click here to make me a happy man! :P

1. Planet Waves Pro-Winder string winder & cutter:  An inexpensive yet invaluable tool for any guitarist that’ll make them wonder how they managed without one.  There’s a bass version available too.  $7.95 / £6.50.

Planet Waves Pro-Winder Guitar String Winder & Cutter

2. Guitar Tuner: All-instrument headstock tuners are becoming popular as their tuning accuracy improves, and it’s pretty handy as they work well with acoustics and electrics.  Check out the Planet Waves NS Mini Headstock Tuner and Snark SN-8 Clip-On Tuner.  The Snark is my favorite because it’s quick and has a built-in metronome. PW is $20 / £16 and Snark $15 / £13.
Planet Waves NS Mini Headstock TunerSnark SN8 All Instrument Clip-On Tuner

3. Strap Lock System: The majority of players don’t use or believe they need strap locks but think of strap locks as insurance, especially if you gig.  It basically locks your strap in and ensures the guitar never slips off while playing, even if you love doing crazy guitar spins à la Malmsteen.  I personally prefer Ernie Ball Super Locks ($20 / £16) but the Dunlop StrapLok System ($15 / £18) and Schaller Security Locks ($25 / £15) are also good.  A popular alternative for strap locks is the DiMarzio ClipLock strap ($22 / £20).
Ernie Ball Super LocksDunlop StrapLok SystemSchaller Security LocksDiMarzio ClipLock Strap

4. Guitar straps boil down to personal taste as there are numerous brands and types, but after trying many I settled on Planet Waves Joe Satriani woven guitar straps a few years ago.  Excellent quality, very comfortable, and they look cool.  If the JS designs don’t do it for you head over to Planet Waves and check out their strap collection.  Woven straps average $25 / £20.
Planet Waves JS Guitar Straps

5. FretWraps: A great accessory for muting and dampening strings to reduce unwanted noise.  I use it primarily as a string-dampener at the neck replacing packing foam.  Hair ties are just as effective but you’ve got to find the right size and elasticity while FretWraps are purpose-made and never wear out.  Available directly from GRUV Gear for $30 + shipping (worldwide).
GRUV Gear FretWraps

6. Guitar stand: A compact, sturdy and lacquer-safe stand for guitar or bass (GS401B for acoustics).  It also comes in a nice bag so you can fold and stash it in the back of your amp or with other accessories.  Hercules GS402B mini Electric guitar stand ($35 / £20).  Hercules GS401B mini Acoustic guitar stand ($35 / £23).  Don’t miss Hercules’ multi-guitar rack stands if you’d rather have all guitars on a single stand.
Hercules Mini Electric Guitar Stand GS402B Hercules Mini Acoustic Guitar Stand GS401B

7. Instrument cable: After I switched to Bullet Cable a few years ago I haven’t looked back.  Brilliant quality and durability, fun cable + plug designs, and a friendly team behind the brand always willing to help.  For your sonic pleasure I highly recommend the Bullet Vintage/Retro Coil 10′ or 25′ cable ($35-$45 / £25-£35) and Silver Bullet instrument cable ($35 / £35).
Bullet Mini-Coil CableSilver Bullet guitar cable

8. Vox amPlug Headphone Guitar Amp: These headphone amps have been around for a few years and Vox have done good by continually expanding the range, so no matter what genre of music you play there’s one for you.  Priced at $40 / £35.  If you’re willing to drop more coin, Vox have one-upped the amPlug recently with the release of their amPhones Guitar Headphones which is definitely worth a look.
Vox amPlug Headphone Guitar Amp

9. Patch cables: If you’re putting a pedalboard together or would like to upgrade patch cables on your existing board, you can’t go wrong with either the Bullet Cable SLUG Connector Kit ($80 / £69) or Lava Cable Mini ELC Pedalboard Kit ($70 / £70).  I find both equally good and use them in 2 different rigs but Slugs are easier to make, by far.
Bullet Cable SLUG Connector KitLava Cable Mini ELC Pedalboard Kit

10. Buffer pedal: Last on the list is another invaluable tool to help retain the integrity of your guitar signal (read- prevent high frequency loss).  An absolute requirement for long cable runs but equally effective when you plug straight into an amp, you cannot discount the value of adding a high-quality buffer in your signal chain.  The RJM Tone Saver and Radial PB1 are the most transparent and natural buffers I’ve come across with one differentiating feature (isolated output vs. clean boost), so read up to determine which one is better suited for your rig.  RJM Tone Saver Audio Buffer/Isolated Splitter ($149 / £129), Radial BigShot PB1 Class-A Power Booster ($140 / £139).
RJM Tone Saver Audio BufferRadial BigShot PB1 Class-A Power Booster/Buffer


Pre-1990 Ibanez SDGR SR300/SR400 Bass

Scored this Ibanez SDGR bass a couple months ago.  The serial number dates it before 1990 but it’s  not been easy identifying the model.  Pickups, controls and output jack all suggest it’s a pre-1990 SR300 or SR400 but the flamed maple top and gold hardware toss this theory out the window.  I’ve seen a SR400 with a quilted maple top but it didn’t have gold hardware.  Either way, this is a great bass that plays and sounds better than all mid-range Ibanez basses I’ve tried.

Specs: Basswood body, 3ply maple neck, active pickups, adjustable bridge.  The neck is really slim, nice countoured light weight body with a sweet flamed maple top, matching headstock and AANJ (all access neck joint).


Ibanez SDGR SR400 bass guitarIbanez SDGR SR400 bass guitar
Ibanez SDGR SR400 bass guitarIbanez SDGR SR400 bass guitar

Ye Olde Pedalboard

Redid and tidied up the old pedal board after swapping pedals in and out the last few years.  Covers anything from blues to heavy rock and everything in between.

Signal chain: Boss TU-3 tuner » Ernie Ball VP Jr volume » Radial PB1 power booster » Boss NS-2 noise suppressor (NS-2 FX loop: Maxon CP101 optical compressor » Maxon VOP9 vintage overdrive pro » Suhr Riot distortion) » BBE Sonic Stomp » TC Electronic Corona chorus » Eventide TimeFactor twin delay w/Digitech FS3X footswitch.

Other good stuff: Diago Showman pedalboard, Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus, Lava patch cables, CAT boots.

NEWS: Ice9 Overdrive pedal by Vox/Satriani

Update: Here’s a demo of the Ice 9 Overdrive.  While it does sound good, I have no love for it after trying one – the Maxon VOP9 fits my OD needs perfectly whether I’m running into a clean or overdriven amp.

Holy cow, didn’t see this coming!  Vox announced a new Ice9 Overdrive pedal created in collaboration with Joe Satriani.  I was expecting an Octave or Modulation pedal next but this is a sweet surprise.

Love the name and colour, I’m sure it sounds as great as it looks.  Need to create some space on ye olde pedalboard I guess.

Thank you Joe!!

Press release:

Vox product page:

Promo video:

Vintage Pedal Day: Maxon VOP9 Overdrive and CP101 Compressor

What we have here are high-end reissues of two classic Maxon pedals – the VOP9 Vintage Overdrive Pro and CP101 Optical Compressor. Maxon VOP9 and CP101

The VOP-9 is basically an OD-820 in a nine-series chassis with the same JEC NJM4558D op-amp and negative feedback loop clipping diode.  I am not a fan of tubescreamer pedals (stock, modded or clones) and the VOP-9 is nothing like a tubescreamer, which is what got me excited when I heard Dave Weiner review it here.  In fact, I was sold on the pedal based on a few of Dave’s Riff Of The Week videos.  Since no retailer in England stocks the VOP9, I could not try it before I plonked the money down for one, so a big thanks to Dave for doing a brilliant job of demoing the VOP9.  I’m completely blown away at the warmth, headroom and clarity of the VOP9.  I’ve owned an Xotic BB and Fulltone OCD before and while they were high quality boutique pedals with amp-like characteristics, they didn’t really bowl me over or inspire.

The CP101 is an optical compressor unlike any compressor I’ve owned or tried, with it’s optical circuit for low-noise operation.  When turned on, you notice this really smooth and transparent compression.  Without the hiss of normal compressors it’s hard to tell, just by listening, whether it’s turned on or not but it does an excellent job of keeping those levels in check.  It was either the CP101 or the Barber TonePress but as I was looking for a compressor with a subtle effect on tone, the CP101 made sense.

Detailed reviews with audio samples to follow, meanwhile you can check out Dave Weiner’s review of these pedals here.

Continue reading

Old Guitar Day & Review: 1987 Ibanez RG550 RF

Pics from previous owner:

Ibanez RG550 RFR rg550rfr

Pics after restoration & setup:

Ibanez RG550RF Ibanez RG550RF Ibanez RG550RF

1-piece original Wizard neck (quartersawn maple), square heel joint
17mm 1st fret – 19mm 12th fret
430mm radius rosewood fretboard
43mm nut width
Jumbo frets
Light-weight basswood body
Edge tremolo with die-cast saddles

It’s unbelievable how well this 22+ year old guitar was maintained before I bought it off a Jemsite member in September 2008.  The price wasn’t wallet-friendly but when you come across an original RG550 in good condition, you don’t negotiate! :)  No cracks in the neck pocket or behind the nut which is pretty common with old RG’s.  The only signs of age are a few paint cracks. Continue reading

New Pedal Day: Eventide TimeFactor Delay

After owning a bunch of delay pedals – Boss DD-5, DD-20 Giga Delay, DigiDelay, MXR Carbon Copy and Vox Time Machine – and trying many others, I may have found the perfect delay solution for my needs.  From the list above my favorite was the Time Machine because it was so easy to use and the vintage mode sounded warm, but the lack of trails was a real bummer.  I liked the DD-20 for it’s functionality – easy of use, presets, tap tempo out – but I found only 2 modes usable, dual-delay did not sound good and the warped/twist modes were pretty useless.  The modes that I liked in the DD-20 were achievable with my DD-5 at the time so I sold the DD-20 when pedalboard space became an issue.  The other delay pedals I kept for short periods of time because they either had issues or did not work well for me.

Enough of the past: Enter the Eventide TimeFactor.  I’ve only had it a few days so this is not a review, just a list of reasons why I like and bought this unit: eventide,timefactor

– Two independent 3-second delays in one stompbox
– Studio quality effects (Digital, Vintage, Tape, Modulated, Band & MultiTap delays sound authentic)
– Flexibility: Mono/stereo operation, instrument or line-level inputs/outputs, expression pedal out, aux out for single or 3-button footswitches and full MIDI support
– True or buffered bypass selectable based on your setup
– 100 presets (2 per bank) onboard: I don’t need more than 10 but it’s nice to have
– Global Tap Tempo (optional) so it’s easy to call up presets and retain the same tempo, or dial in a new tempo
– Delay trails when changing presets or going into bypass
– I don’t use much modulation, reverb or filters in my music but if I need some, the TimeFactor can pull it off
– Regular software updates from Eventide with bug fixes and improvements
– Eventide support forum/staff are very helpful

This pretty much sums up why I chose the TimeFactor over the Empress Superdelay which costs the same, £299.  A more detailed review with samples coming up in a few weeks or months :)

New Guitar Day: Ibanez J Custom RG8470F FE

I’ve been a good boy this year so Santa got me this rare Ibanez J Custom, a couple weeks early too ;)

RG8470F pics:
Ibanez JCRG J Custom RG8470F Ibanez JCRG J Custom RG8470F Ibanez JCRG J Custom RG8470F Ibanez JCRG J Custom RG8470F

RG8470F specs:
Mahogany body with AAA flamed maple top and natural binding
5 piece maple/walnut neck with matching headstock and flamed maple binding
430mm radius rosewood fretboard with abalone and mirror J Custom vine inlay
Jumbo frets finished to the highest standard
Cosmo black hardware and Edge Pro bridge with locking studs
Recessed volume & tone controls
Direct mount pickups: Dimarzio Air Norton neck, DiMarzio Blue Velvet mid, DiMarzio D-Sonic bridge
FE – Fire Agate finish

It’s hardly been a week since I scored this beauty and I can’t wait to swap out the D-Sonic for a Tone Zone, string some 10’s on and wail away!  This is the first guitar I’ve owned that is “perfect” straight out of the case, thanks to the flawless fretwork, awesome setup and brilliant craftmanship.  I’ve played many high end guitars before and never felt the urge to buy one because there was nothing special that made them play better than my modded Jackson/Ibanez super strats.  This JCRG is easily on par with my ’87 RG550 in terms of playability, even though the necks and neck joints are different.

The previous owner kept this guitar in excellent condition (thanks Andras), there were only 2 small nicks in the body that is visible at a specific angle.

A detailed review will follow in a month or less so Merry Christmas and I hope 2010 holds another J Custom for me…

New Pedal Day & Review: Korg Pitchblack+ Tuner

I spent the last few weeks reassessing what’s on my pedal board and made some decisions that led me to replace stompboxes I’ve had for the most part of this year. The first was my tuner – I was quite alright using a Planet Waves CT-04 for over a year but it’s tuning accuracy isn’t great and there were times when it would be about 2 cents off forcing me to fine-tune by ear. I chose the CT-04 over a Boss TU-2 because Planet Waves claimed it was true bypass, which I found to be inaccurate on opening the pedal. To kill my curiosity however, I got a TU-2 last month to compare with the CT-04 since they share the same accuracy. In a few minutes it was clear that the TU-2 was more accurate, although I preferred the LED meter on the CT-04, and the buffered bypass of the TU-2 sounded better at higher volume.

Now I’m planning to start repairing and setting up guitars part-time and know that I will need a very accurate tuner for intonating guitars, so I ended up selling the CT-04 and TU-2 and turned my attention to the Peterson StroboStomp 2 which is regarded as one of the best tuners – fast, accurate and easy to use. I could not justify the £150 price tag, however, so I looked for alternatives and remember reading good reviews about the Korg Pitchblack series and DT-10 last year, which are reasonably priced. Their accuracy is pretty good (+/-1 cent) but the Pitchblack+ was more tempting for it’s accuracy that was on par with the StroboStomp and it’s price that was a small step up from the Pitchblack and DT-10.

Korg Pitchblack+ Tuner
Korg Pitchblack+ TunerIf you’ve always want a high precision tuner like the Peterson Strobostomp without spending that kind of money, I would recommend getting your hands on a Pitchblack+ for £95. The price is lower in the U.S. (as is the case always) but it would cost the same after shipping and duty had I imported one.

Right out of the box I was impressed by how Korg thoughtfully included a 4-way daisy chain to power other pedals with the Pitchblack+. A 9V DC output is common on pedal tuners but none of the manufacturers bundle a daisy chain so buyers can use this feature right out of the box. Continue reading