Products Archives

A Little Love for the Les Paul Tribute Plus

Epiphone Les Paul Tribute PlusAfter nearly a year, I’m still loving my Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute Plus.  I‘ve played a number of gigs with it and it has proven itself absolutely reliable and roadworthy.  It has really excelled in every situation – loud indoor gigs, scorchin hot outdoor summer gigs, and of course my everyday practice, both unplugged and amplified.

This model seems to be a diamond in the rough at Epiphone- a truly great collection of features, including the awesome Gibson ‘57 Classic pickups, for a very competitive price.  

140 Years. Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute PlusI’ve often wondered why I haven’t seen Epiphone really promoting this model as much as it deserves.   Well today, I noticed that it’s currently featured on the front page of Epiphone’s website, as part of their 140 years (1873-2013) anniversary.  There’s a nice write up with a few choice quotes from Les Paul, and some gorgeous pictures. 

Maybe they’ve finally decided to seriously promote this gem of a guitar!

New Amplitube iRig HD interface

iRig HD with iPhone and AmpliTubeIn my series on building your own iDevice Guitar Interface, I demonstrated an interface which connects through the headphone/microphone jack.  This is similar to the commercial products like IK Multimedia Amplitube iRig, Peavey AmpKit Link, Griffin GuitarConnect.   And like all those, it works well, but it is not the most high-fidelity solution.

There are also a number of products that instead connect using the dock connector on the bottom of the iDevice, for example the Apogee Jam, Sonoma GuitarJack, Alesis iO Dock and Line 6 Mobile In.  These interfaces have their own A/D converters, and pass the signal digitally to the iDevice providing higher quality audio.   The downside is that you can’t charge the iDevice on battery while using the interface, which may be an issue for live performance and recording.

There’s a new contender in the dock-connected interfaces, and it looks pretty nice: the IK Multimedia iRig HD.  In appearance, it looks very similar to the Apogee Jam.  I prefer this style of interface, rather than the Sonoma, and Line 6 approach which have the entire unit hanging off the dock – that seems very precarious and likely to break the dock. 

iRig HD connector cabllesAlso, at $99 the iRig HD is cheaper than the $129 Apogee Jam.  If you have a newer iDevice with the lighting connector, the iRig HD is an even better deal, as it includes the lightning adapter cables as well as the older-style 30-pin connecter, and also a USB connector for use with a computer.

All that said, I’m perfectly happy with my DIY interface for practice, but if I was using it for recording or live performance, I might consider buying this iRig HD.

Alternative Pedal Enclosures from Rixen

Rixen Pedal EnclosuresIn pedal building, we almost exclusively see the Hammond-style diecast aluminum enclosures.  You know their names- the ubiquitous 1590B (aka 1290NS) and its plus-size cousin the 125B.  Then there’s the larger 1590BB, and the tiny and temperamental 1590A.     What these all have in common is the simple generic rectangular shape.

Rixen Chorus ExampleBut what if you’re a fan of the spring-loaded foot-pedal enclosures made famous by the BOSS and Ibanez pedals? 

Typically, the only way for DIY pedal builders to achieve that look was to buy an old pedal and gut it- but then you’re stuck with the original pedal’s drilling layout. 


Now there’s a new option- I just came across these new enclosures from Rixen Pedals.

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A Worthy Tribute

Epiphone Les Paul Tribute PlusEpiphone Les Paul Tribute PlusEpiphone Les Paul Tribute PlusEpiphone Les Paul Tribute PlusEpiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus

My new Epi Les Paul Tribute Plus arrived yesterday for my birthday, and it’s a beauty!  These things are hard to find- none of the local stores have inventory, and every online retailer is backordered.  I managed to get Guitar Center’s last one in the country(!) – from the store in Tonawanda, New York.  The store manager there was great- sent me some pics, played it for me to confirm it was all good, gave me a great July 4th discount, and shipped it over for free.   Thanks Chip!

Cosmetically, it’s really nice.  Clean, well-defined flamed maple top and cream bindings.  The cherryburst finish looks near-perfect- with rich warm coloring- not the bright overexposed yellow in the pictures at Guitar Center’s website.  The Grover locking tuners feel fantastically smooth, and the switch, knobs and jack all seem good.  And after some quick adjustments, it plays pretty well (but still needs some fine tuning).

Push/Pull for Series/ParallelThe ’57 Classic pickups sound really dynamic, rich and beautiful – they’re warm when played gently, and crank when spanked. Love em.  There’s quite a range of sounds with the push/pull series/parallel switching on the tone knobs.  When a tone knob is pulled, the humbucker’s two coils are wired in parallel giving a lighter, brighter, thinner sound, somewhat reminiscent of a single coil (though different).    It’s completely different from the ultra-thick and heavy series-humbucker sound (knob pushed in).  This is a really versatile setup: a total of 8 different sounds using the 3 switches, not to mention the variations you can get by adjusting the volume knobs in the middle switch position.

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Sweet ES-355

When I purchased my Riviera P93, what I really wanted was a semi-hollowbody in the traditional Gibson ES shape, with a Bigsby tailpiece.   I didn’t want to invest the extra several thousand dollars in a Gibson, and the only model available from Epiphone was the Riviera P93.

I took a chance on the P93, and as you may have seen in my blog, it turned into quite a project trying to improve its sound.  In the end, even after replacing the pickups and electronics, I am ultimately frustrated by the three pickup, three volume, one tone configuration.  I would have preferred the traditional two humbuckers, two volume, two tone configuration.

I still haven’t completed my planned changes to improve the usability of the middle pickup, nor have I replaced the buzzy bridge with the roller.  Changing these three pickups to two humbuckers is certainly possible, but the result would be less than beautiful due to the different hole-spacing and routing requirements of dog-eared P-90’s versus humbuckers.

A couple months back, Epiphone announced the guitar which I wish had been available when I purchased the Riviera P93: the new Epiphone ES-355

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A POD in your Pad

Line6 Mobile InThe new Mobile In iOS guitar interface and Mobile POD app from Line 6 claims to put the POD sound library in your iPhone or iPad.

This interface connects to the 30-pin dock, which as I described in my DIY iOS interface project, is the higher-fidelity lower-noise way to get audio into your iPhone/iPad.  This is because there is a high-quality 24-bit 48kHz D/A in the interface itself, and the signal is transferred digitally into the iDevice.

Again, my main concern with this type of device is that it hangs off the bottom of your iPhone/iPad on that delicate dock connector, with the guitar cable plugged into that.   It makes me nervous that the inevitable kick-the-cord accident will brick your $600 iPad.  Also, the iPhone/iPad can’t charge while this is plugged in, so you have to make sure you’re fully charged up.

At $79.99, this is cheaper than the other digital guitar interfaces (Apogee Jam, Sonoma GuitarJack, etc).   The iOS app is free, but is tied to the hardware.  You currently can’t use the app with another interface.

Intriguing, but I’m not rushing out immediately to get one.  Are you?

Ktone Travel Guitar

Ok, I admit it. I was seduced by the low low price.   This Ktone travel guitar, found cheap on ebay, is apparently a knockoff of the Hofner Shorty.  The Shorty gets reasonably good reviews, so I took a chance on this one.    After a few minutes with the Ktone, it became very clear that the flaws in workmanship and detail far outweigh the price savings.

Turns out, sometimes you get exactly what you pay for…  Take a look:

So, I’m now turning my attention to the significantly more expensive, but undoubtedly waaaay better Traveler Guitar Escape EG-1 Vintage.  I had a chance to play it at a local GC, and this one looks to be a winner.

Here’s some pictures of the Ktone guitar, which start off promising and then go downhill fast:

Ktone Travel Guitar- Ultra cheap gig bag, cord and wrench includedKtone Travel Guitar

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Oh, For the Love of an AC15

Vox AC15C1 Wow.  Yesterday, I had a chance to play a session through a new Vox AC15C1.  Really dynamic and responsive to play.  Great character and presence, and a really nice break up when you dig in.

My usual session amp, a late-eighties solid-state Fender Stage 185, is increasingly unsatisfying to play- seems I can never find the right level of brightness in a band setting.  Cranking up the presence, or tweaking the treble tends to make it harsh before it becomes pleasant.  The clean channel is pretty nice, but the drive/boost channel tends to feel a bit fizzy.  

Vox AC15HW1 Vox has just released a new hand-wired series, including the AC15HW1, pictured left.  After my experience with the AC15C1, I’m anxious to hear whether the use of top-shelf components, hand wiring, tube rectifier, birch cabinet, ruby tubes, can make the already great sounding AC15 even better.

I also really like the ability to kick in extra gain with the new hot/cool foot switch, and the the OP mode switch to drop to 7.5W for nighttime playing.

The only things missing from the hand-wired series are the tremolo and reverb.  One tune in yesterday’s session, Glen Phillips’ excellent laid back version of I Want A New Drug, calls for a bit of tremolo- but every time I tried kicking in the AC15C1’s trem, I just found it distracting and reached back to flick down the knob- perhaps I was just overdoing it, but I think I can probably live without it :)   And while the AC15C1’s reverb is very warm, smooth and pleasant- I rarely use reverb.  And I must say, if you turn the verb knob up over about 10%, it just sounds huuuuge, like you’re playing inside a water tower.

Warning- explicit photos follow:

Vox AC15HW1 Turret Board Wiring Vox AC15HW1 Ruby Tubes

Full disclosure- I work for Korg R&D, which owns Vox.  So perhaps I’m a little biased towards Vox, over other alternatives (employee discount, woo-hoo!)

UPDATE 3/22/2011: I did eventually buy that AC15HW1, and it is a thing of beauty.  I borrowed Chuck’s AC15C1 again and made a video comparing the two.