Ibanez RG8 8-string
An 8-string guitar – just those words themselves arouse curiosity. For most guitarists that’s a guitar with two strings too many. But to a fair few, it sounds like a guitar offering more room to experiment with. ...more
Yamaha THR10 Guitar Amp
When a company with the research and development clout of Yamaha wades into the market with a new product – even one as diminutive as their new THR10 and THR5 mini amps, you can be pretty sure there will be some big ripples.
Peavey VYPYR 30 Combo & SANPERA II MIDI Foot Controller
As it happens my first amp was a Peavey keyboard amp. We used to plug both bass and guitars with Boss Overdrives and Metalzones into it and turn it up to max. It was loud! It never faulted. I have a deep respect for the pure punishment these workhorse amps can endure.
Fender's Super-Sonic 60 Combo
Fender have been full of surprises recently, throwing off their usual conservatism and showing they are keen to re-position themselves in the market as innovators, as well as manufacturers of some of the most respected and universally accepted guitar equipment on the planet. The ongoing success of many of the company’s flagship models had seemed to have given rise to a kind of ‘don’t rock the boat’ attitude to research and development, but times change, and standing still these days is tantamount to going backwards.
Fender's '51 Pawn Shop Series
In terms of wholly new designs it’s been a long time between drinks for Fender, so it was with well-piqued interest that I pulled into NZM Towers to take delivery of a butterscotch-coloured Fender ’51, one of three new Pawnshop Series models to join the Fender catalogue.
S.Yairi Acoustics YD-18 & YD-25
I’m reviewing two S.Yairi guitars, newly available here in NZ, and by all accounts not widely available elsewhere outside of Asian countries. Out of the box they are both very easy on the eye, and good to play, despite a price difference of several hundred dollars between them.
A little bit of sleuthing on the net finds a lot of Japanese and Chinese reviews, but very little in English, and the S.Yairi website is a little bit of a ‘lost in translation’ work in progress. All of which suggests a fairly new company, or at least one shy to the more modern marketing methods of their rivals. ...more
Martin's Grand Perfromance Cutaway GPCPA1
Those who are already fans will notice a few things have changed with this new Martin model. The finish, as always is spot on and the wood choice perfect, with sikta spruce top and East Indian rosewood sides and back. The addition of ovangkol wood bindings around the head neck and body give the acoustic/electric a nice visual tweak, but the changes are a lot deeper than a few cosmetic tickles. ...more
Schecter Solo-6 Custom
On its unveiling in my studio and noise retreat facility, Schecter’s Solo-6 Custom appealed instantly. Sleek and curvy, this is one good looking guitar. I’m guessing part of the appeal is due to my long term relationship and affection for Les Pauls, all standard five kgs of them. I can sense the Gibson in the corner seething at this new younger woman which clocks in a little lighter (0.7 kgs) – rather pleasingly given that my spine feels asymmetrical itself right now, probably from gigging the LP for 15-odd years. It’s not as blunt as a Les Paul, but has many of the qualities I love, and a slightly asymmetrical shape. ...more
Digitech JamMan Delay Looper Phaser Sampler
When I think Digitech I generally picture a long board of footswitches with dazzling lights, ripe and ready for the next alpha male to shred their way up and down a guitar fretboard at mind-numbing speed, sporting a facial grimace akin to dental extraction without anaesthetic. ...more
TC Electronic's Polytune
Normally, reviewing a guitar tuner would be a straightforward and not particularly exciting prospect. You’d check the accuracy, looks and build quality and that would be that. However the Polytune by TC Electronic is far from the norm, notably with an impressively unique feature TC have dubbed ‘polymode’, that allows you to get an overview of the pitch of all the strings (guitar or bass) simultaneously. By just strumming all open strings firmly and evenly you can instantly see which strings need tuning.
Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster
Here’s something new in the guitar line. Certainly it created a bit of a buzz at the recent NAMM music equipment show, earning a Best of Show award in the process. It’s the Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster, which was only released in January of this year and I’ve got one to play with for a whole lovely week. ...more
Hamer XT Series Quilt Top Sunburst Electric
Hamer Guitars are considered by some to be the first American ‘boutique’ guitar company set up specifically to cater to professional musicians. Starting up in 1974, their most popular designs were based rather adventurously on the angular Gibson Explorer and Flying V models. ...more
Morpheus Polyphonic Droptune Pitch Dropper
More and more modern rock songs these days utilise dropped tunings to tap into the power and aggressive tone they provide. Typically the only option for performing guitarists who want to play in dropped keys is to have a guitar for every tuning they intend using, especially where balanced tremolo systems are in use as they are notoriously slow and fiddly to tune. ...more
Yamaha PAC 112 Electric Guitar
Pacifica is an arm of the giant Yamaha brand, and according to their website, have been making guitars for 40 years. Originally designed in Yamaha’s custom shop as a test project, the Pacifica line was soon producing a variety of electric guitars from its Japanese factory. The two main body shapes that have become tried and true are (almost inevitably) the Telecaster and the Stratocaster, both originally designed by Leo Fender and co. Pacifica waves its hand of innovation over the latter here in the form of the 112V.
Digitech Time Bender Musical Delay
There’s an interesting story about Pink Floyd’s famous 7/8 time classic Money, other than the irony of the fact that the band themselves would soon be rolling in it as ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ went on to spend a gazillion weeks in the Top 40.
That cash register loop that introduces the famous riff was created by running recording tape over the play head of a tape machine via mic stands placed around the studio, so as to create a loop of exactly the right length to play in time to the music. It must have been a very complicated and time consuming process – snipping and splicing to get it just right, and I mention it only to demonstrate just how far technology has come in facilitating this type of creativity without raising a bead of sweat. Anyone with a sampler could bang out a loop like this in minutes rather than hours, although you’d still need the inspiration to come up with the idea and mercifully that will never change. ...more
Martin J12-40 E 12-String Acoustic
They say first impressions last, and I have just had an experience with a guitar that proves that saying right yet again.
Straight out of the box, this Jumbo 12-string tells you it has a lot going for it – clean, defined lines and simple, tidy inlay details that are the trademark of the Martin acoustic range. Gold Gotoh tuners in the enclosed style too, except a little bit smaller, which makes sense for the 12-string and gives the headstock a nice balanced look to it. ...more
(A late night encounter review by Jimmy Christmas)
The music is as hot as the atmosphere and smashes my senses with its swampy fury. Larger than life Auckland locals The Defendants are setting the stage on fire in a torrent of musical madness that calls to mind James Brown mud-wrestling with Black Sabbath in a dirty back-alley in Memphis. The guitars squeal and burn, the tubs are being thumped within an inch of their lives, the bass rolls and punches like an overweight gorilla, and the vocals touch parts of me I am not sure I am altogether comfortable with. I love it. It’s a perfect night out and one I have been building up to for a while. I am intoxicated, and now, more importantly, inspired. ...more
Way Huge Guitar Pedals
A diet of Fat Sandwich, Pork Loin and Swollen Pickle has left me feeling rather replete this month. No, I’m not being unnecessarily vulgar, I’m referring to the three corpulent specimens of the rare and elusive Way Huge guitar pedal family that have been on my review plate.
Jeorge Tripps introduced the line in 1992, helping to start the explosion of interest in boutique pedals that we see today. Sadly the company closed its doors in 1999, a couple of years before this phenomenon really took popular hold, making the relatively few Way Huge pedals that were in circulation rather sought after, allegedly fetching up to US $1000.
The Jim Dunlop crowd seem to know a good product when they see one, and thanks to them guitarists can once again thrill to the sonic beauty and mayhem that these lovingly crafted pedals gained renown for – and at a rather more realistic price.
So let’s get straight to it, we’ve got three main courses to get through and there’s quite a bit going on with these deceptively simple-looking stomp boxes. ...more
Larrivee RS-4 Electric Guitar
Larrivee Guitars is a Vancouver-based, family-owned business that has been largely hand-building high quality acoustic guitars since the company was founded in 1967. In 1982, with the market for acoustics in one of its down-cycles, they decided to branch out into electrics, and while it could be said they had pretty firm ideas about how an acoustic should be put together, with their electrics there was a tendency to pander to whatever the market was dictating at the time. That could mean anything from Flying V's with Floyd Rose whammies, to Eddie Van Halen spray jobs or derivative Strat and Telecaster clones. After seven years the bottom fell out of the electric guitar market and the decision was made to discontinue the entire line. ...more
Korg Jam VOX Guitar Practice System
Plug into your favourite band' proclaims the label on the JamVOX packaging. Cool. I jammed with The Rolling Stones once. Keith and I were grooving on each other's stuff, Mick was dancing and clapping and Bill and Charlie were laying down a great groove. Then I woke up. ...more
Intelligent Pitch Shifter
Way back in my tennis racket-guitar slinging days, one of my favourite bands to get down to was a British outfit called Wishbone Ash. They were ideal for my mate and me to ‘jam’ along to because they had two very accomplished lead guitarists who would often weave complex harmony guitar solos through their rather rambling prog-rock workouts. Ideal, because jammin’ with The Ash meant we never had to argue over who played the coveted lead guitar role – we could both be lead guitarists simultaneously and dazzle each other with our blazing virtuosity – brilliant! ...more
Look what's in the toy box this month - ooh ah! Sexy boutique effect pedals all the way from Brooklyn, Nu Yoik. It's pretty obvious that these bad boys mean business, because unlike most analogue floor pedals, they come with 12 page instruction booklets. Still, the day I read an instruction manual before plugging in a stomp box has not yet arrived, even if, like the Pigtronix OFO Disnortion, it's actually three pedals in one. ...more
SX Electric Guitar and Amp Starter Pack
This electric guitarists' starter pack from SX comes with pretty much everything you need to kick-start your career as a rock god. ...more
The MP-GT1 is an MP3 player designed to make guitar practising fun and easy - sounds well worth a look at. ...more
Fishman Aura Imaging Pedal
Fishman are looking to expand this range to include other instruments, such as the violin, but with the Aura Imaging pedal, have given acoustic musicians another valuable tool in the quest for the ultimate guitar sound. ...more
Fender VG 'Virtual' Stratocaster
There's another interesting distinction between this guitar and something like Line 6's Variax modeling guitar... ...more
Ibanez Artwood Acoustic Guitar & TA35 Troubadour Amplifier
Sometimes you find your muse in the most unlikely places. ...more
Epiphone- Faded Dot Studio
The low-cost arm of the mighty Gibson empire, Epiphone have long had a solid reputation as builders of good quality guitars which sell for a fraction of the cost of flagship models like the Les Paul, SG and 335 arch top. ...more
Reverend Jetstream 390 Electric Guitar
Janek Croydon is a man with a genuine passion for American-sourced stringed instruments and amps. ...more
Stonebridge 22CM Acoustic Guitar
There are no fancy flowers on this $3295 guitar - no extra inlays, or diving dolphin frivolity on the neck - there's not even any side strapping on the ebony fret board. ...more
Boutique Effect Pedals
Nothing so much resembles a kid in a candy shop as a guitarist with a bunch of new effects pedals to play with, and this month I'm making a real pig of myself with four stomp boxes to review. Functionally speaking these four pedals have very little in common. They are however a good illustration of the diversity of approaches taken by manufacturers these days in the hopes of catching the eye, ear and wallets of potential customers. ...more
Jackson Pro Series
When you think back to the glory days of heavy metal in the mid ‘80s your mind most often conjures up images of studded leather, peroxide blonde teased hair and pointy, awkward shaped guitars. ...more
Matamp 'King St' Amplifier and 2x12 Cabinet
America is rightly regarded as the home of the boutique amplifier, with California in particular throwing up a great variety of expensive, hand-built amps along the lines of Matchless, Dumble and Bogner. England of course gave us the legendary Marshall stack and the Vox AC30, plus a number of lesser-known brands like Hiwatt, Orange, WEM, Acoustic and Ampeg, for which we can be eternally grateful. ...more
JamMate UG-1 USB Electric Guitar Pack
For all that rock'n'roll rebellion and boundary pushing, musicians can be a conservative lot. Although there have been many innovations over the years, the electric guitar - symbol and staple instrument of the rock revolution - has in essence remained unchanged since Fender and Gibson led the charge into a brave new plugged-in world. ...more
Larrivee L-03MHB Acoustic Guitar
My first Canadian love affair had come to an end. We parted company this morning, although I took it harder than she did. I had to be cajoled to hand her back and it was with a very heavy heart that I closed the case on the Larrivée L-03MHB for the last time. ...more
Cole Clark Fat Lady 1 Acoustic Guitar
There were four different Cole Clark Fat Lady models on display at Mojo Sound when I visited the Cuba St, Wellington shop. ...more
Ibanez ARC 300 DVS Electric Guitar
The full-page ad for the new Ibanez ARC 300 and ARX 300 guitars in last month's NZM featured a skinny white guitarist with an afro, silk scarf and flares, and boldly asked the question 'Why Retro Now?' ...more
Hughes & Kettner Matrix 100 Amplifier
German amp makers Hughes & Kettner have built a solid reputation on producing well-engineered, rugged and fat-sounding amplifiers and valve preamps at the top end of the range. ...more
Marshall MG15 Rock Kit Combo
I spent some of my best summers travelling around the country’s pubs, playing blues/rock with a Marshall JCM amplifier. ...more
Lexicon MX200 Dual Reverb Effects Processor
Lexicon is to reverb is what Ferrari is to sports cars. Few people I know in the business would disagree with this statement. ...more
Takamine TAN-16C Acoustic Guitar with Cool Tube Pre-Amp
Taking acoustic guitars loud, and yet still authentic sounding seems to be one of those musical holy grails. ...more
Fishman Aura Acoustic Imaging Blender
The howls of feedback were echoed with howls of dismay from the audience. Expecting pleasant sounds from the James Taylorish 40-something on the small stage, they got only a tinny, nervy jangle. ...more
Maton MS500/12 Mastersound 12-String Electric
It was very cruel of the folks at NZM to give me this Australian-made 12-string to review. They probably thought they were doing me a favour, but that eternal dilemma remains; when you've finished reviewing equipment you have give it back or pay up. ...more
The World Series of Tone: Four Guitar Overdrive Pedals Compared
First of all a hale and hearty round of back-slapping goes out to the hard-working crew at NZM Towers on reaching this milestone 100th issue - a truly awesome story of achievement in the ‘devil-take-the hindmost’ world of print media. ...more
Silvertone Electric Guitar Starter Pack
I was always drawn to music, like the proverbial dog-poo to a running shoe. From my earliest school days I itched to play some kind of instrument, and would always gravitate to any piano I found at other people's houses. ...more
Akai Head Rush E2 Delay Pedal Plus
In appearance alone, this new offering from Akai Professional is clearly no ordinary delay pedal. Measuring 18 x 14 x 5 cm it is sized more like a Big Muff, and the brushed blue metal finish really lends it a semi-pro look. ...more
Alhambra W1 Dreadnought Acoustic
When I was a teenager and started earning money one of the first things I saved up for was a guitar - a big, loud, solid top dreadnought acoustic. ...more
Silvertone Paul Stanley Apocalypse Special
KISS was a band arguably as famous for its glam-rock sartorial excesses as for the music it played, so it follows that a Paul Stanley-endorsed guitar is going to be no shrinking violet in terms of both looks and sound. ...more
Yamaha Magicstomp: Guitar Effects Processor
Hi everyone - well what a pleasure it is to be back writing for the wonderful pages of NZM. Before I commence upon the review I would like to acknowledge Angus McNaughton as he kindly assisted me in navigating the various features of the Magicstomp Guitar Effects Unit. Thanks man!
Ibanez Artcore AM73TBL
In a grungy warehouse party in Greenlane, sometime around 1986, a rock band called 45 South sprays out Bob Seger, Cold Chisel and Sprinsteen covers. In the dimly lit haze, it looks like the scene of nefarious intent.
Jackson DKMGT Guitar
Checking out the Jackson Guitar website I was greeted by a picture of porn starlet Jenna Jameson holding a Jackson guitar. ...more
Vox Valvetronix ToneLab
Digital modelling is the current technological attempt at recreating the elusive and desirable sound of valve amplification. Line 6, arguably the most prominent of the digi-amp makers introduced their 'Pod' back in 1999, which made its way into many a studio and guitarist's gig bag.
The EM225C falls within the entry level 225 range, but it is by no means a cheapie with an rrp of $1499. Maton products are placed at the upper end of the guitar spectrum where the quality of the wood treatment and hand finishing are vital. ...more
An Introduction to Pre-Amplifiers: Four Budget Pre-Amps Compared
Once upon a time (I've always wanted to start an article like that), sound recording studios that had the big bucks could afford to have a nice selection of exotic microphone pre-amplifiers to choose from when recording, and/or they had super duper (read: expensive) consoles that already had great pre-amps built in.
Line 6 Variax Modelling Guitar
Eureka! Brilliant! And it all seems so glaringly obvious in hindsight, like hang gliding or the wheel - or the wringer washing machine.
G2D Morpheus Pedal
First appearances of the Morpheus are good! A chunky well constructed solid steel box and a foot switch with 'Go Hard' written next to it. ...more
Heritage H-535 Jazz Guitar
When Gibson decided to shift their operation from Michigan to a factory in Tennessee back in 1984, some of their key employees were not happy about moving. So in 1985 five formed a company and bought a part of the old Kalamazoo factory complex, turning it into the home of Heritage guitars. ...more
Mesa Boogie F-50Guitar Combo Amp
Mesa Boogie have been supplying the guitar world with loud rocking amplifiers for a number of years, and have built a deserved reputation of solidity, volume and crunch that comes from attention to detail and fine tuning.
SX D29 Acoustic guitar
The greater part of my teen years was spent huddled in my bedroom with the tapedeck being thrashed and rewound – again and again, trying to pick up the chords of that 'killer' song I was trying to copy. The major part of the process was trying to replicate the song and to make it sound interesting, considering the lack of other instrumentation involved. For this reason, my guitar had to be as versatile as possible while I was trying to cover all bases. ...more
Samick DC4E Acoustic/Electric Guitar
From the moment you touched the fretboard of your first guitar, you dreamed of creating sound, producing music that touched people, and expressed your ideas and personality (and let's face it, if you're a bloke, you possibly hoped you'd pull some women too!). ...more
Tokai's 'Love Rock' Guitar
It's a rare and beautiful thing when situations play right into your hands. You can't count on it, but it's nice when it happens. ...more
Vox Valvetronix AD60VT Digital Guitar Amplifier
The first Vox amp - the grunty little AC15, emerged in the late '50s, and it was not long before this now legendary company was playing a frontline role in defining the backline sound of the early 1960s 'British Invasion' of America, spearheaded by a certain Vox-totin' quartet from Liverpool. ...more
G2D Cream Tone Overdrive Pedal
After the exertions of last issue's grapple with five digital amp emulator/effects units, it's been great this issue to get a couple of products that plug in and go, without any reliance on binary code and the associated necessity of poring over user manuals. ...more
Gibson Les Paul Gothic
Seldom does a year slip by without some fashion industry cognoscenti attempting to regale us with notions about indigo or magenta being the new black. ...more
Peavey Wiggy Amplifier and 2 x 12 Cabinet
Fast cars and loud guitars: who could deny the connection? Road songs have always needed guitars. The pleasure of swooshing through the countryside in your gleaming auto is improved out of sight by a great soundtrack, so step carefully away from the Enya, the Dark Forest and the Moby, and cut to the opening credits of 'That '70s Show'.