Colorless writings, part 12 – The Preference (aka Yet Another Gear Talk episode)

Are you about to tell us what pedals you use and how you chain them?

Sure. I could do that. In addition, i’m asking you readers to reveal your preferences. My comments are moderated due to vast amount of spam i’m getting even with most current protection, so don’t worry if it’ll take a day before your comment appears.. More on that later, but to be honest i’ve never spkoken with a guitarist who doesn’t have any detailed preference to his/her gear. I think we should start with the guitar itself.

I’ll begin with saying that i have rather large hands. Due to that fact the Gibson style 24,75″ scale feels awkward and cramped when i try to play anything from around 12th fret. So i settled for Fender style scale. I did think of myself as a Tele man for a long time. I’ve always thought the humble Stratocaster to be the ugliest body design there is. I had even gone to such lengths as slandering some acquaintances for their instrument of choice. Needless to say i’m no expert in field of guitars, but i’ve owned a few dozen different ones over the years. As i happened to score a japanese Fender Contemporary Stratocaster for peanuts about a year ago, i just had to try it out at rehearsals once i got it up and running (it had missing parts etc. when i got it). Took it out of a bag and played loud with it. To my massive surprise, it was the first time i could hear myself clearly through the drums and bass. That started an avalanche of enlightenment. Even with a case of slight cognitive dissoonance, i had no choice but to retract all my previous comments about the strat. Sometimes only thing that can get you forward is admitting that you are wrong. Plain wrong.

The thing is, while Telecasters sound very good to my ears, mainly because of their fast and brutal attack, the body of the sound stays very thin regardless of pickups. In terms of envelope generator curve found on synthesizers, Telecaster has very fast and powerful attack. It’s decay is just as fast leaving the sustain short and meatless too. Not to talk about release. Teles die instantly. As for Stratocasters – the attack is definitely a bit slower, but the decay time is way longer. with sustain being fat and powerful. I can come up with only one explanation for this behavior. The bridge setup. Hard tailed bridge resonates the guitar body from a tiny area resulting in Telecaster behavior. Stratocasters with standard tremolos vibrate the whole body due to springs holding the tremolo. Plus the bridge is fastened in two different positions and the mass of wood is a lot thinner under the pickups. So there you have it. Stratocaster is the most powerful sound there is. Mostly due to its tremolo bridge. I believe the power comes from the bridge, not from the body shape.

Of course, you’re preference of strings and setup affect the power too. I wonder how a Telecaster body would sound with a standard strat tremolo.

Get on with it…

Ok, i will. For guitar, i prefer Stratocaster with standard tuning, rosewood fingerboard, 10-52 set of strings and high(ish) tension for the strings by fastening the tremolo springs rather tight. For pickup i’ve grown accustomed to Seymour Duncan TB-14 Custom 5 humbucking pickup on the bridge position. It is hot enough, but not dulling hot. Plus it has very pleasing clarity and bright highs to it’s overall tone. That’s basically all that i currently need. Sure, the preference may change, but the change would need to radically alter the tone, making it a lot better before i’m going to change anything.

Next up my “production” pedal board. The board itself is made from wooden Ikea cutting board that i’ve drilled full of holes. I tend to fasten my pedals to the board with large cable ties rather than velcro. Cable ties leave the pedal bottoms with their serial number stickers in tact, which is rather important to me as a collector. Pedal arrangement is subject to change from time to time. But as active player, i’ve come accustomed to certain sounds being available. Currently my signal on the board goes like this: Guitar -> TC Electronics Polytune -> Custom made Green Ringer adaptation to FYA STF Driver in a single box -> another Custom made Green Ringer adaptation to FYA Apiformis Fuzztortion in a single box -> Nux Mod Force -> Nux Time Force -> Amp. Up octaves, OD and fuzz are the ones that get a lot of stomping. The Nuxes are there just in case i want to fool around.

What’s you’re preference for the amplifier?

About 12 years ago, i was dreaming about buying a AC30 and tried to accumulate cash for one. I always seemed to be a little short. Around those times, one local musician wanted to get himself a Fender Twin Reverb to replace a Marshall JCM800 2205. He was selling the Marshall for a low “need-to-sell-this-right-away” price. So i thought if don’t like it, i can always sell it and make a little profit in the process. But the amplifier sticked. I learned to love its sound and dynamics offered by a pair of EL34s. Later i stopped using the OD channel altogether and i’ve been on the “British clean” sound for about five years now. Sure. It has very little to do with clean, but to me, it is the greatest guitar sound there is. And we should not dismiss the fact the 2205 Marshall can handle almost any pedal at its input. All this makes it simply the perfect amplifier for me. I pair it with its original 4×12 cabinet.

To be honest. I currently have no idea how to make my sound “better”. I think i don’t even want to. This is the shit.

So.. If you read this writing all the way to here, i’d like to ask what do you, my readers, use and/or prefer? You could simply answer your guitar style, string gauges, pickup preference, pedal board setup and amplifier to the post comments.Of course it doesn’t hurt to justify your preferences too…

2 Responses to “Colorless writings, part 12 – The Preference (aka Yet Another Gear Talk episode)”

  1. Csaba Says:

    Here are my (current) preferences:

    For a long while I tought I was a Fender person and had Starto and Tele copies from various companies. Actually only cheaper rip offs, but they served the purpose. Then I bought a Squier Jagmaster once and was really happy with the shortscale neck. Also about this time I got my hands on my first full mahogany guitar, a Slammer by Hamer. Both were cheap axes, but showed me the way: shortscale (or at least Gibson’s 24.75″ scale) and mahogany. Then I had a few LP rip offs, mainly Epiphones, but the LP is simply too heavy for me. First I didn’t like the form of the SGs, but I thought why not giving that a chance. And boy was I lucky to do that… So first I had a few Epi and Vintage SG copies and then about three years ago I got my current main guitar a Gibson SG Special from 2001, all white and with ebony fingerboard. I had to play around with the PUs, because the stock 490s were too dark for me. Actually almost anything is dark in that guitar, but now I’m using it with DeArmond humbuckers, and this is the magic combination for me. Of course one can’t live with only one guitar, and so I have a DeArmond (the PUs went to the SG, I have a Seymour Duncan SH4 at the bridge and a GFS Dream 90 at the neck) and lately I got a CIJ Fender Jaguar, but that is not complete yet, I need to have the PUs waxed. My main guitar is and will be the SG though. Very comfortable for me, even though the sound is not perfect (tad too dark). But close enough to keep this guitar as the main axe. Also I had a few semi acoustics, ES335-alikes. The last one was an Ibanez AS93, that I gave to my girlfriend, so it stays in the family (yes, she actually plays that guitar and doesn’t just “own it for me” :) )

    I was not too picky about amps in the past. I played on whatever I could put my hands on. For a while I had rack mounted gear (actually all solidstate). A few years ago I got my first really good tube amp, I bought it used and is from a Hungarian manufacturer called Greg. I don’t know if he is known outside Hungary, I know he used to work in Ireland too. It is a two channel 50Wer, just perfect for me. I only use the clean channel of it. Drive to the max, but it is still clean enough with just a little break up. I also was in the “AC30 fewer” for a while, and then I could get a Laney VC30 for real cheap. The chassis only, without the box, the speaker and the reverb unit. My girlfriend’s father made a good box for it, looks really professional now and I use it as a head. Actually my girlfriend uses it, but we play in the same band ;)

    At the beginning there was Boss… I think my first one was a DS2. Also for a long time I thought any OD/Distortion would do. I had Behringers, I had several Bosses, I had Tech21, etc. Mainly dirt pedals, I don’t use too many others. Then I started building these things and that’s where things have gone wild :D My current setup is guitar -> Korg PitchBlack tuner -> modded Cry Baby -> DOD250RI copy -> Wampler CrankedAC copy (slightly modded too) -> Mad Professor Fire Red Fuzz copy -> John Hollis’ Zombie Chorus -> Box Of Hall reverb (the version from John Kallas from tagboardeffects) -> AMZ Mosfet booster -> clean(ish) amp

    The sound? Well… If you are 100% happy with yours, then I don’t think you are the one who would read a blog like this in the first place :D Currently I’m in my pedal building phase of my life and change my effects every few months. I think I’ll keep doing this, as this is the cheapest way :) My amp and my guitars will stay until end of times. Or until I decide to change them :D

  2. mirosol Says:

    Nice write-up Csaba!

    This blog for me, is for sharing my enthusiasm about analog electronics and how these things are made, rather than looking to make my own gear “better”. Since i’ve been collector for a while, the need to understand more about gear in general is also one contributing factor. It’s all just a massive mesh of cause and effect – what component does what in which position and why..

    For example, i noticed some time ago that Morley Chorus and Boss MD-2 Mega Distortion pair up in amazing manner. It did use that a lot (maybe too much) the last time we were in a studio. Would i use that pair on my board? Probably not. But if i come across something that will sound better than the gear i currently use.. Well.

    As for guitars, my current main guitars are Fender FSR Stratocaster 2013 Black Paisley (otherwise stock, but with tortoise pickguard and a Duncan SH-14 on bridge) and Fender Blacktop Stratocaster 2013 in Sonic Blue (with dark tortoise pickguard and white Duncan 59 on neck and SH-15 on bridge). Both are cheap, but very good individuals. I do have some more, but those two are the ones i use the most. Plus i have a black Floyd Rose model of Fender Blacktop Strat, which i use as my bench guitar every day.

    I used to have SG Standard from 2010, but that was simply one of the worst quality of guitars in that price range, ever. Of course they are all individuals too, but that one was bad. They look very good (if not the best), but current build quality of Gibsons… And yup. SGs do sound dark, no matter what pickups you use. I have Hagström F200, which takes care of all my need for an SG :)

    Man i love guitars. And amps. And effects…

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