Saturday, November 17, 2012


A few weeks ago, I found a nice looking guitar in a trash heap outside my neighbor's apartment.

There was only one thing wrong with it: the headstock was broken off.

Where others see tragedy, I see potential!
A little clamping, glue, and magic putty later, and it was solid as a rock.
It didn't look too pretty at first, but a friend lent me some acrylic paints...
I got the ugly sticker off the front...
And now it looks (almost) as good as new!
My new beauty!

For $2 worth of parts, and a little patience, I have a nice guitar to play for the last few months of my stay in Seoul. I'm very happy for myself, and for this   gorgeous guitar; may it live long and sing many a tune!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Boss CE-5 Chorus Pedal (Pink Label version)

This is the Boss CE-5 Chorus Pedal. I bought it a few months back, not even really on purpose. It was part of a package deal with my Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner. It sat in the cupboard for a few months, and then I started to do some research, to see if I should sell it. Here's what I found out:

There are in fact three versions of the Boss CE-5, though the second and third ones are virtually identical, apart from having different colored labels on the bottom. All three are made in Taiwan, and all of the features are the same. The (BIG) difference between the first version (the Pink Label version) and the subsequent ones, is that the first issue of these pedals used analog circuitry, where the second and third issues used a fully digital, board-mounted circuit. Because of this major difference in design, these pedals sound radically different, despite looking exactly the same on the outside.

The first edition of the CE-5 (the Pink Label version), made in the early 1990s, uses an analog BBD circuit to produce a delayed effect. BBD stands for "Bucket Brigade Device", and essentially works the same way. The signal is fed into a capacitor, and then emptied into another capacitor, along a line in the circuit. This effectively slows down the signal because of the time it takes to complete this process. When the signal comes out the other end of the BBD, it is combined with the original signal to produce the "chorus" effect after which the effect is named. This type of circuit is used in many popular analog chorus pedals, including the Ibanez CS9, the Boss CE-1 and CE-2, and the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man.

I have always preferred analog effects to digital ones, and this distinction is why the first version of the CE-5 is so much more highly rated than the ones that followed.

Upon testing the pedal, I found the effect to be very subtle compared to most Chorus effects I have used. In the past, I have used a Boss CE-2, an Ibanez CS10, and both the vintage and reissue Ibanez CS9s. While the CE-2 produces a richer, more noticeable effect, the CE-5 adds just a touch of chorus sweetness, and preserves the original signal better than any chorus pedal I've tried. There is also the added feature of the High and Low Cut/Pass control knob, which allows a little better control of the signal path.

As with all the Boss pedals, the construction is very solid, and there are no issues whatsoever with reliability. I am not usually a huge fan of Boss pedals, but this one is a winner!

-Solid construction
-Warm analog sound
-Good controls

-Hard to find this version
-A little weak if you're looking for deep chorus

Rating: 8/10

Friday, July 20, 2012

New Guitar! Burny LP Custom Copy

This is my newest acquisition: A 2002 Burny Les Paul Custom copy.

I bought this guitar at the Nagwon Musical Instruments Arcade in Seoul, Korea. It's 10 years old, and starting to show the signs of a nice aged guitar. The playing feel is fantastic - right up there with my 1989 Gibson LP Standard. The sound is quite extraordinary as well, thanks to a Fernandes Sustainer System. It literally sustains forever, and the tone is immaculate. I'm not usually a fan of gold hardware on a Les Paul, but the blue paint job really makes it look great. The tuners are smooth and hold tune quite well, and the tune-o-matic bridge is as accurate as the real thing. Since 2002 was the year that Fernandes moved production from Japan to Korea, and later China, there is some dispute as to where this guitar was made. The playing feel and overall construction quality suggest that it was made in Japan, but Korean-made guitars from the early 2000s are notoriously well built. Regardless, the current Chinese-made equivalent model retails for over $1000, so at 350,000 Korean Won ($309), I think it was a pretty good score. Rock on!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Update III: Broken Sigma Guitar

Sadly, our friend the Sigma guitar is gone. This can only mean one of three things: 1) Someone thought it was worth fixing, and took it home to give it the proper care and love it deserved. 2) Someone was making a campfire, and looking for free wood to help it burn. or 3) Someone finally realized it was garbage, and made the necessary steps to ensure that it would end up where it belonged - in the dump.

Whatever happened, it is a sad day for bloggers everywhere (especially me), since I have that much less to write about. Since being in Korea, my guitar and pedal acquisitions have tapered off, and I am forced to relive old glory or go out and buy things at full price just to add some content to my blog. This is sad. If you have any ideas for things I could write about, please comment, or email me at All the best!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner

This is the Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner Pedal.

Just to be clear, I'm old school. A big proponent of analog equipment, I never thought I would be converted to using a digital tuner. I've been using a Boss TU-6 Stage Tuner (analog) for the last eight years - something about the little needle makes it seem like it has to be more accurate than any digital tuner could ever be. How wrong was I!

A few years ago, I had a Matrix 3000 digital tuner pedal, and it gave me nothing but grief, until I sold it for $60, which was actually a $20 profit for me. Ever since, I've been told repeatedly that the TU-2 is the pedal that would change my mind. Now that I have one, I thoroughly regret switching every string manually like a chump on my TU-6 for so many years.

This is a fantastic pedal! I can't stress that enough. To quote Ferris Bueller, "if you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up". The Boss TU-2 definitely joins the Ibanez Tube Screamer on my must-have list.

Price Range:

-Sturdy Boss construction
-bright, easy to read LEDs
-Bypass output
-DC power output (can power another pedal)


Rating: 10/10

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mini Amplifier Showdown!

This is a comparison/review of the Fender Mini Deluxe and the Epiphone EP-1.

Both these amps are rated at 1 watt of power. This means that they are appropriate for practice, but not for performance. As such, I will be reviewing them as practice amps - not judging them as compared to "real" amplifiers. That said, there are many plug-in style practice amps that do not come close to the quality and sound of these little beasts.

As you may know, I am currently living in Seoul, South Korea, and I brought these babies along with me from Canada so I wouldn't have to play acoustic guitar for a whole year - what a great decision!

First, the similarities: Both amps are 1 watt, solid state, single speaker amps. They are both quite portable, and feature a single input and a headphone jack. Both can be powered by either a 9v battery or a 9vDC adapter (a standard Boss pedal adapter does the trick). However, this is where the similarities end. Despite being designed for the very same purpose, these little guys are actually quite different in their features, their construction, and their sound.

First up, the Fender MD-20 Mini Deluxe. One of the neatest things about this portable tone machine is its appearance. It is essentially a miniaturized Deluxe Reverb (though obviously without the reverb). The casing is made from plastic, but the chassis is metal, and there is even a little handle on top!

The controls on this amp are pretty simple: Volume, Tone, and Drive, and all of them go up to 12! The clean sound is decent, but it is a little tinny, and if your guitar has bad pickups, the tone is almost intolerable. Conversely, if you have good pickups, especially humbuckers, the sound is totally tolerable. Where the Mini Deluxe really shines, though, is with the drive cranked all the way up, and the tone around 3 or 4.

Another cool thing you can do with this amp is use it as an overdrive pedal. Just plug your guitar into the amp, and run a patch cord out from the headphone jack into your amp (I actually saw Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead do this at a show back in 2007). Probably the best thing about this amp is its portability; it is pretty small (about 4"x6"x2.5") and weighs less than a pound.

Next up, we have the Epiphone EP-1, a solid, quality practice amp. It is about twice the size of the Fender Mini Deluxe, and much more ruggedly built. With its tweed-covered wood enclosure, and a larger 3" speaker, this amp has better acoustic qualities than its Fender counterpart. It is also much louder; again, most likely due to its larger size.

The controls are slightly different; there is a Volume and a Tone knob, and a 3-way switch to select between Off, On, and Drive (there are separate clean and overdriven channels) The clean sound is far superior to the Fender, but the drive channel leaves much to be desired. It is not very saturated distortion, and tends to sound a little like a chainsaw. However, if you put the amp on the drive channel and turn the drive down really low, it does fill out the sound quite a bit. The EP-1 is also more forgiving to low-quality pickups, and takes pedals much better than the Mini Deluxe.

The Verdict: Both amps are pretty nice, but which one is better really depends on what you want to use it for.

Fender Mini Deluxe
                                                  Epiphone EP-1

-Great lead tone                                                       -Great clean tone
-Super portable                                                        -Very solid construction

-Tinny clean sound                                                   -Bad drive tone
-Plastic parts (jacks, casing)                                   -No separate drive knob

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My First Homemade Pedal: Loop Bypass Box

This is my first attempt at making a pedal of my own. I decided to go really simple, and make a loop bypass box. This is essentially a pedal that makes your whole effects rack true bypass (if you step on it, your signal doesn't go through your effects, it goes straight to the amplifier).

I started with a simple wooden keepsake box I bought for $0.99 at the local thrift store.

Next, I removed the lid and hinges from the box, and saved the lid to close the bottom of the pedal once I was done building the insides. Nothing too complicated yet.

(Missing a few pictures here - I got too excited about the build and forgot to photograph the in-between stages)

 The only parts I used for this project were four (4) 1/4" input jacks, and an SPDT switch (Single Pole, Double Throw). Before installing them, I used copper shielding tape to insulate the insides of my enclosure. Using a metal enclosure would make this step unnecessary.

I used some orange spraypaint to cover the enclosure, and made paper stencils for the symbols on top. If you want to go low-fi, a Sharpie would work equally well, I think.

The finished product: a fully functional, and actually pretty useful pedal (and it's my favorite color!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gratuitous Thank-you Post!

 Thanks to my new and loyal readers, I have officially reached 2000 views! In honor of this momentous occasion, I give you this: a nice picture of a sweet Les Paul/SG custom. It's not mine (yet), but it looks like a prize worthy of such an achievement. Now I just have to find one for sale in Seoul, and I can treat myself...

Stay tuned for more updates, pedal reviews, and random blathering about guitar-related issues. I promise someday this will be your favourite blog, unless of course you're not into guitars, in which case you probably already think it's shite. Rock on!

Update II: Broken Sigma Guitar

Someone appears to have stomped the shit out of our friend the Sigma guitar. The whole left side of the guitar is crushed now, and it's starting to look more and more like trash. However, in the meantime, it has attained a certain celebrity status, with many neighbourhood passers-by stopping for a glance, and many internet users like yourself coming to my blog to check its progress. Sadly, it has also become a receptacle for random trash, the latest being a juice box. 

Interestingly, the several bouts of pouring rain we have been experiencing lately seem to have had little to no effect on the wood, proving once again that Korean made Sigma guitars are not only beautiful, but tough as well. I am a little sad that someone chose to take out their aggression on (what's left of) this beautiful instrument, but on the other hand, I wouldn't have anything to write about otherwise. Stay tuned for more updates and random stuff from Korea!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Fender Van

This is one of the best things that I have seen since coming to Korea. Not only can you tell that this person is awesome just from looking at their van, you can be sure that it's on its way somewhere cool. Follow the Fender-mobile to the rock!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New guitar! Ventures Strat-style

Just bought a new guitar yesterday to keep me occupied during my year in Seoul. I visited the famous Nagwon Arcade in Jongno, Seoul in the hopes of finding a nice used guitar, or a cheap new guitar I wouldn't miss too much if I had to leave it behind when I go home. While the Arcade was impressive, and there were thousands of guitars there, I did not find what I was looking for until I went outside and visited a very small shop on the second floor of a building across from the subway entrance (#5). The store is called Guitar Muse, and they had a decent selection of used guitars, including some very nice Gibsons and Fenders. Even these premium guitars were reasonably priced. There was a 1980 Gibson Les Paul custom (Black Beauty) for 2.5 million Won (around $2100)

After looking around at the selection, I determined that all of the used guitars were either out of my price range, or not exactly what I was looking for. That's when I saw this beauty hiding between two other guitars on a rack. The brand is "Ventures", a sort of house brand for the store. The guitars were made in China, but they are some of the best quality I have seen in a Chinese guitar. After viewing several incarnations of this model, I determined that there was very little consistency in the construction, set-up, and overall feel of the guitars. One had the wrong strings on it, one had a horribly bowed neck, and the three that I tried all had very different neck thicknesses and profiles. This one was almost perfect. It had a little fret-out on the 15th fret when bending, but the gentleman at the store fixed it for me.

The body is solid maple, with a flamed top, and the neck (also maple) is nice and skinny, and also has a flamed figure to the wood. The frets are made from beefy stainless steel jumbo fret wire, and the inlays are even real mother-of-pearl! The electronics are all functional, though the single-coil pickups are MUCH weaker than the humbucker. The machine heads are vintage Kluson-style in-lines, and they hold tune well, and have very smooth action. Overall, I am very impressed with this axe. I spent the whole afternoon playing it, and it didn't let me down once. It has great tone, especially when driven a bit, and it feels and looks spectacular! The best part: the price. This guitar cost me 150,000 won ($132). Nowhere in North America could you find a guitar of this quality for even close to that price. So if you're in Seoul, or planning on traveling there in the future, be sure to check out Guitar Muse, and keep an eye out for one of these beauties!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Update: Broken Sigma Guitar

Since it appears that this guitar is still not considered garbage by local trash collectors, I have decided to document its slow decay and deterioration through a series of photographs. The chopsticks are gone, but someone has stuffed a twisted clothes hanger inside, and it looks like it's been stepped on. Stay tuned for more tragic updates on the worsening condition of this once-beautiful and still interesting guitar!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Broken Sigma Guitar

A broken Sigma (Martin) guitar I found lying on the street outside my new apartment in Bangbae, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Korea. I guess these are more common here than they are back home in Canada. It's a real shame that this one is beyond repair; I've known a few of these guitars in my time, and they are gorgeous instruments. This is (was?) one of the earlier Korean-made Sigmas, which came into production in the 1980s, when Japanese manufacturing became too expensive to compete in the entry-level market. Made from high quality materials and built to the same specifications as their American cousins, these guitars are renowned for having a fantastic sound, and being able to take a beating (though, apparently, not this one).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Briefcase Pedal Board

A couple years back, I saw a blog about someone making a pedal board out of an old briefcase, and I decided to make one for myself. I scored the case from the local thrift store for $3.99, and went to work! This is what I came up with. The board has a two-level bottom made from 3/8" plywood, with a slightly lower area on the right to accommodate a wah-wah pedal. All of the wiring connecting the pedals runs neatly underneath the bottom layer, and the entire rig runs on a one-spot power adapter.

Although these are no longer all the same pedals I have on the board, they are, from left to right:
(top row) MXR Smart Gate, MXR Micro Amp, MXR Phase 90
(bottom row) Ibanez DL10 Digital Delay, Ibanez CS9 Stereo Chorus, Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
(far right) Modified Jim Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby Wah

I have since painted the bottom black to give the whole thing a cleaner look; I will post pics as soon as I have them. Thanks for looking, and feel free to contact me for any advice if you're trying to make one for yourself!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My New Guitar: Peavey HP Special CT

This is my latest guitar, a Peavey HP Special CT. This is one of the finest guitars I've ever played. Along with my Levinson Blade, this guitar is proof that you don't need a Fender, a Gibson, or a PRS to get the highest possible quality in an instrument. This particular guitar is the brainchild of Hartley Peavey, the owner and sole proprietor of the Peavey Musical Instrument Company, and the only guitar to bear his name and signature.

The similarity to the EVH Peavey Wolfgang is no coincidence: while Eddie van Halen had an endorsement deal with Peavey - this guitar could be considered the evolution of the Wolfgang. The body shape is slightly different, but the same woods are used (birdseye maple for the neck, and an alder body with a thick flamed maple cap). The bridge is a solid, well-built Floyd Rose style tremolo that can be set (by means of a movable brass block inside the spring cavity) to down-only or floating.

Although the guitar itself is pretty impressive in many respects, by far the best feature of this axe is the pickups, which are hand-wound humbuckers designed by Hartley Peavey himself. They are splittable as well, by means of push-pull volume and tone pots, although in my opinion they sound much better in humbucker mode. These pickups are extremely high output, and have a clarity I've never heard anywhere else. Unfortunately, they are ONLY available in this guitar (I'd love to take them out and put them in one of my other guitars, but then I'd have no pickups in this one!).

The original retail price for these guitars was almost $3000, which is, I'll admit, a bit steep, especially for a guitar made by a company without a reputation for world-class instruments. And, although this is an exception, the price was too much for most, and very few of these made it to market. Nowadays, you can buy them used for around half that ($1500) on Ebay, in a shop that sells used guitars, or from someone who for whatever reason, actually bought one brand new. For this money, I'd say the HP Special is a great deal and can truly compete with anything in that price range.

My only recommendation for someone looking into purchasing one of these is to try and find one of the later ones that were made without a tremolo system, unless you a) REALLY love whammy bars, and can't live without one, or b) are a professional guitar tech with a ton of experience setting up guitars with Floyd Rose style tremolos. Otherwise, you will have trouble getting the bridge to 'float' properly while still achieving perfect tuning. If you set the guitar to down-only mode, there is an unpleasant 'clunk' noise when the bridge hits the brass stopper, and because of the hotness of the pickups, this can come through your amp when you don't want it to.

Overall, this is a great axe, and a very beautiful one at that. As I said to my wife earlier today, "this guitar doesn't make me miss my other guitars," and that's really saying something!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Score: 1983 Boss DS-1 Distortion

It sounds as dirty as it looks - and as beautiful! I've been told for years that there is no contest between the original Boss DS-1 Distortion pedals made in Japan before 1988 and the ones made in Taiwan thereafter. Now I know for sure. I was fortunate enough to pick this one up at a pawn shop for $35, a very reasonable price, considering they run upwards of $180 on Ebay on a regular basis. Like most pedals from this era, it is not in the best shape cosmetically (dirty, paint-chipped, and a nice hole drilled through the back of the case), but it is fully functional, and sounds like a million bucks.

Made in 1983, this is not the first issue of the DS-1, which had silver screws, a silver thumb-screw to open the battery compartment, and a longer dash in between the 'S' and the '1', putting the 'D' underneath the 't' in Distortion, instead of the 'i'. This one has black screws, a black label, and a black thumb-screw. However, this version of the pedal uses the same Toshiba TA7136AP op-amp as the earlier versions, and, besides the appearance, is identical to the silver screw version.

So far, I've only had a chance to try this baby on a little 1-watt Fender Mini Deluxe, but I figure if it sounds good running through that (and it does, believe me!), it should sound awesome when I plug it into a real amplifier. I can't wait!