It's no secret that I like Epiphone guitars. I also like Gibsons. And Fenders. And a good Gretsch. Gosh, I just really like guitars. I also like modding and even fixing them sometimes.
That said, if I were to pick my top 5 guitars from my woodpile, they would probably be these, and in this order.
Four of those guitars have been modded in some way. The Strat is the only one that is bone stock. I kept saying I was going to swap out the pickups in it, but every time I decide it's time to do so, I pick it up and play it, and like the way it sounds. So it has managed to remain untouched. I guess I did add a couple of springs to it to deck the trem, but I'm not sure that completely counts.
The Gibson ES-339 is mostly un-modded. The only thing I've done to it is to swap out the bridge. I didn't like the bridge that came was on it when I bought it. I'm not completely sure it was the original bridge either. So I bought one and swapped it out. It came with 57 Classics in it, and that's how I'm leaving it.
The Epiphone 339 has had the pickups swapped out and two of the knobs have been swapped. The original shipment of those that Epiphone sold were advertised to come with their Probucker pickups. When I ordered mine, and even when it came in, they were still advertising those as the pickups. However, when I got mine in and checked it, it had the Alnico Classic pickups. I found out that, after that first batch that came over, they had swapped the pickups in all the 339s, but they hadn't updated their ads or specs on the website. I was disappointed, but the ones in it didn't sound bad. Still, I always wondered what the Probuckers would sound like in it. A year ago, I ended up with an extra set of Probuckers, so I finally got to hear what the 339 sounded like with them in it.
The Epi LP originally came with Probuckers in it. A Probucker 1 in the neck and 2 in the bridge. I really liked them. In truth, I saw no reason to change them out. Played it for a year and a half or so with those in it. Then one day I got a wild hair and decided to grab a pair of Burstbuckers (a 1 and a 2) and drip them in to see what they sounded like. Honestly, I liked the Probucker 1 better that the Burstbucker in the neck, but the Burstbucker 2 sounds better than the Probucker 2 in the bridge. Because I'm lazy and didn't want to mess with it again, the Burstbuckers have stayed in the LP.
Those Probuckers out of the LP were what went into the 339.
The Epiphone 335 came with the Alnico Classic pickups. I was quite happy with those. They sounded as good as the 57 Classics that were in the Gibson 335 that I had traded off a couple years previous. I had no plans to replace them. I played it for a year with it being bone stock. Then, back in December, I unplugged my cable from it, and the jack fell back into the guitar. Then, while I was trying to fish the jack out and back into the hole, I screwed up one of the pots. So, since I didn't feel like I had the time to I decided to carry it into the my local luthier. And, since I was carrying it in for electronics work, I started making a list of what I wanted him to do to it. Basically, put in another jack and replace the push/pull pots in it. Since I was doing that, I decided to pick up a couple of 57 Classics to put in it. When I dropped it off to the luthier, I have him do all of that at the same time. Got it back, and have been super happy with the sound of it.
You'll notice that, by and large, it's the pickups that have been swapped. I know that there are a LOT of different pickups out there, and a LOT of those pickups sound really good. You may notice that all of the pickups that I have talked about are Gibson branded in some way. That's mostly because I know what they sound like because I've played them at some point in time. So I've stuck with them. I know that Lollar Imperials are supposed to be super good. I've also been told that the Bare Knuckle brand is super good.
By my own admission, with the humbuckers I've always picked, I have always seemed to chase that PAF sound. In the Gibson stable, the 57 Classics and the Burstbuckers are both supposed to get that sound. Of the Burstbuckers, the Burstbucker 1 and 2 would be closer to that vintage 50s LP kind of sound. In the Epiphone world, it has been my understanding that the Alnico Classics are the Epi version of the 57 Classics and the Probuckers are the Epi version of Burstbuckers. I once read that, from a PAF perspective, the Burst/Probucker 1 & 2 combination would be that 50s sound. The Burst/Probucker 2 & 3 combination would be that 60s sound. And the 57/Alnico Classic combination would be that 70s sound.
So, except for the Epiphone ES-339, all of the pickups were just swapped from the Epiphone version to the Gibson version. In that 339, I just swapped from one Epiphone version to another Epiphone version. In the case of the ones being swapped from the Epi version to the Gibson version, the Gibson pickups do sound better. The Epiphone ones sound good. They're not bad. I could absolutely play them and be happy. But, since I swapped them out, I'll say that the Gibsons seem to have the edge when it comes to clarity and range. I think there's a reason that they cost twice as much, and isn't just the name on the box they came in.
Maybe some day I'll try some other pickups like the Lollars I mentioned. I hear the low-wind Imperials are just the best. In fact, I've got a buddy that said that's what he has in his 335, and his guitar sounds amazing. Course his overall tone is a step above mine too.
All that to say, if you don't like the sound of the guitar, try some new pickups. Heck. Even if you like the sound, try some new ones and see if you like them better. Or leave them the same. At least for me, half the fun is in the tinkering.
Our personal musical journeys are always filled with twists and turns. So often we start down one road and end up going in a completely different direction. I was talking to Mrs Snarf the other day about that very thing.
I played for years and only played acoustics. Then I bought my first electric. It was a low end, import Parker. I don't remember the model number. I only remember a few things about it. I never really bonded with it. It was a weird Parker because it was an SSH. And I traded it at a guitar shop in a little town several hours away to a shop keeper that just saw Parker and gave me waaaaay to much for it because he thought he had something special (he didn't). I traded it straight up on my first Strat.
Honestly, I got that Strat to impress Mrs Snarf. We weren't even dating at the time, but I thought she needed to see me with a guitar for some reason. I immediately named it after her. It also made it into our engagement pictures. Kind of cheesy if you ask me. But sometimes life is ooey and gooey like that.
Neeways, I started playing that guitar, and I really liked it. It was, in my opinion, a much better guitar than the Parker. Honestly, though, it was probably more that I just didn't know what I was doing when I bought the Parker. But the Strat left an impression on me. When it came time to buy another electric, I bought a second Strat. Heck! At one point, I had 5 Strats. Currently, I only have 4. And, for the time being, that's probably where the count will stay.
Between that first and second Strat, I actually bought a really low end Les Paul. I don't really count it, because I never bonded with it. It was a low end instrument with a LOT of the problems that you would expect from something that was at that price point. The humbuckers in it were...I'll be nice and call them muddy. They didn't sound good. I ended up swapping them out for a pair of Burstbuckers, and it sounded a LOT better, but it still played terribly. So, by and large, it stayed in the closet.
About 10 years ago now, when Epiphone first started making the ES-339, I picked one of those up. I tried to get in on that first run of them, but didn't get one ordered in time. So I put my order in and waited like 6 months for the next shipment of them to come over. Got the guitar, and it almost never went in the case. I liked the way it sounded and the way it played. It made me think I might like humbuckers better than single coils. Then I got my 1962 50th Anniversary Sheraton. Loved the sound of that one! Initially I thought it was the fact that it had humbuckers too (even though it's mini-hums in it). Then, because I have always like the aesthetic of an ES-335, I got one of those. Oddly enough, I LOVED the sound of that one, but I never bonded with it. There was something just not right about it. But I got to wondering, at that point, my 3 favorite guitars were all semi-hollows, so was it the humbuckers or the semi-hollow that I liked.
Fast forward another couple years, and I was trading the 335 off. I picked up that Epiphone Les Paul when I did, and really liked the sound of it. I figured I was just turning into an humbucker kind of guy. But I realized that I still liked the sound of the 339 better than the LP. Then a year later, I picked up the Epi 335. I totally dug the sound of it. So I started doing the A/B thing with some of my guitars, and I realized that I think I have a thing for semi-hollows with humbuckers. That sound just really does it for me.
A few months after that, I had always told myself I wanted a real live Gibson ES-339, preferably made in the area of 2010 when the Custom Shop was making all of them. I had been trolling for a particular color. Found what I thought was a screamin' deal on one on the other side of the Metroplex. So I got it. And it has been my main guitar since. When Mrs Snarf and I were having the conversation the other day, I had realized that the second guitar hanging on the wall since I got the 339 has been either the LP or the 335. And mostly been the 335.
I've kind of done a 180. I started the electric guitar journey with single coils in a solid body. For several years, I thought they were the only pickups that were any good. If you played anything with humbuckers, then you were just letting your tone suffer. Now I pull a Strat out on occasion, but I primarily grab a semi-hollow with humbuckers in it, and I sometimes think that single coils sound kind of anemic. Unless they're P-90s, but those are a whole other animal.
Funny how that happens sometimes.
Back in 2019 I became aware of the NuX brand of pedals. Maybe it was actually the end of 2018. It was whenever they announced that they were making a Klone. At that time, I was on a kick to try just about every pedal of that variety that I could find, especially the cheap ones. I already had several, and had my favorites (which are still my favorites today), but NuX announced their Horseman. It caught my interest because, knowing there were two types of Klons (the gold and silver), but not really knowing what the difference in them was, NuX was apparently making a klone that could be changed from one type to the other just by holding the switch down long.
So, shortly after it was announced, I placed my order for it. It was supposed to ship in like 2 months. After nearly 3, I got a notice that shipping had been delayed, but it was still coming. After waiting a total of about 4 months, I finally got it in hand. I excitedly pulled it out and put it in my chain to test out.
I was underwhelmed on all counts.
Granted, I'm not a huge Klon fan, I think in the right places, it is a standout pedal. Yes, I am one of those folks that Josh Scott hates because I like it at the front of all my drives on an amp that is just beginning to get some hair. Set the volume to push the amp and the drive at about 9 o'clock, and I think, on the right amp, that is one of those guitar tones that people chase. Sorry, not sorry, Mr JHS.
The NuX Horseman just didn't do much for me. It quickly got put in the closet and forgotten. A few months later, I pulled it out and tested it against some of the klones I had at the time. It didn't do very well. In fact, it went back in the closet, and was one of the first pedals I grabbed in the great gear purge of 2020.
On a sort of related note, in that same gear purge, I got rid of a Vertex Steel String Clean Drive. I had never really bonded with it, so it got sold. I'll come back to this in a sec.
So, earlier this year, I kept getting those targeted adds for the NuX Ace of Tone. I was completely unfamiliar with it. Turns out it is a double pedal with their Morning Star on one side and their Tubeman on the other. Two things caught my eye about it. First, it has a switch so that you can change the signal so it routes to the side that you want it to hit first. So it can go left to right or right to left. Second, the MS side is supposed to be their Blues Breaker circuit, and the TM side is a TS-type circuit. A good TS of some sort has been on my board since I first started buying pedals. The first OD pedal I bought was a TS-copy, but I didn't know it at the time.
Neeways, it was the BB side that I really wanted to try. I had heard a couple of guys talking about those along with the legendary King of Tone just before I started seeing the ads. I had never tried a BB-type that I knew of, and only knew that the KoT was talked about in the same hushed tones as the original Klons. Since, this had the circuit that I wanted to try as well as the circuit I always used and I could route it through either side first, I figured the worst that could happen would be for me to buy it, and then flip it because it sucked.
I had some Amazon gift credit, so I grabbed it there on the cheap. Got it the next day, plugged it in, and it has held a spot on my Affordaboard since. I prefer it routed right to left (BB -> TS). Honestly, I'm not super impressed with the TS side. It's just missing something that every other TS-type I've got (and kept) has. But I forgive that because the BB side sounds really good to me. It has a little thing on it called Shine-mode that pushes the treble, and, with that on, the pedal just sounds super good to me.
Then, back during the fall, I was talking to someone about trying to get that Robben Ford sound, and they told me that a lot of it was because he was using a Dumble amp. I don't ever see me getting a Dumble. Even if I am ever in a position to afford one, I don't think I could rationalize it. So I decided to try a D-type pedal. When I googled those, I saw the NuX Steel Singer. Since I had been liking the Ace of Tone so much, I decided to check them out. I found one on Reverb for $25 that looked in good shape, so I got it.
When it came in, I thought it looked an awful lot like that Vertex I had never liked. So, I immediately discounted it because I never really liked the Vertex. Although, in retrospect, I may not've given it a fair shake. I plugged the pedal in and started playing around with it. I immediately dug it! Kind of like this klones I have always had at the front of my ODs, I leave the gain really low and was using it to just push the amp. I like it better than any of my sub-$100 klones enough that it ended up taking that space on my Affordaboard.
Then, last week, I was thinking I wanted to try a cheap Marshall in a box. Saw one of the NuX Plexi Crunch pedals on Reverb for $20 and grabbed it. I don't have a Marshall to judge it against, but it sounds about like I expected it to sound. It'll probably get traded off at some point, but I'll hang on to it for a while.
Now they're advertising that Queen of Tone. It's a BB-circuit and their klone. Granted, I didn't like their stand-alone klone, I may give the dual pedal a shot. Just because. I haven't decided though. I got the Ace of Tone brand new for $110, but they're asking $200 for the Queen of Tone. I could get the two individual pedals for $120, so why would I want to spend an extra $80 just for them to be in the same box. If they drop the price to the price of the Ace of Tone, I may grab one.
That's been my NuX journey since I first heard about them. Some of their stuff has been extremely average, and some of their stuff I have really liked. You'll see the Steel Singer and Ace of Tone both on my Affordaboard below.
What budget-minded pedals have you tried that surprised you? Was it a good surprise or a bad one? Did any of them stay on your board? Let me know in the comments.
Last week was the day to try to get in on the annual Premier Guitar Mystery Stocking. I've tried to get in on it every year since I first heard them say they were doing it. Some years have been better than others, but this year is the first year I can honestly say that I've been disappointed in it. In fact, not only am I disappointed in what I got, I really feel like PG phoned it in on this one.
Over the years, I feel like I've been a pretty loud voice in my circles reminding folks that PG doesn't promise them anything other than the fact that, if you get one, you're going to get $xx amount of stuff. They never say it's going to be good stuff. They never say it's going to be stuff that you're going to use. They never say it's going to be stuff that you'll like. They just say that, if you'll give them $40 (this year's price), then they'll give you at least $40 worth of stuff. That's all they say. And every year, including this year, that's what they do.
The very first year they did the Mystery Stocking, I actually got a pedal. I don't remember which one...a distortion of some sort that I've long since sold to get something else. That was super cool! And that is also why I continue to buy one every year. Every year since, I've gotten the standard box. That includes this year. At least I think I got the standard box this year. I may've actually gotten the "what do we have left after all the other boxes have been sent out" box this year. If I didn't, and this is indeed the standard box, they just think they've had folks complain about the box contents in years past.
Here's what I got:
So this year, in the box, I got about $62 worth of stuff. I might use the D'Addario strap. I have several Epiphones (and really like them), so I might keep a couple of the Epi picks just because I don't have any picks that say Epiphone on them. Everything else will go in the giveaway box.
PG promised $40 worth of stuff. The dollar value of what I got was right at $60. So why did I say up at the beginning that they phoned it in this year? Why did I say that, if this was the standard box, more people were going to complain this year than have done so in the past? Simple. Two guitar straps. Did they have so little stuff this year from which to choose that they couldn't put a strap and something else in every box?
Or maybe I'm just a little salty because this is the third year in a row that I've gotten one of those standard Fender straps. No, I don't think that's it. I'm just disappointed that they stuck two straps in the same box. That just seems lazy to me.
So now the question I always conclude with. Will I do it again next year?
Absolutely I will! If they do it again and I am able to get my name on one of them, I still think they're a lot of fun. Like I said, that first year I got a pedal out of it. I also know a guy on a forum I'm on that got a guitar from it 4 or 5 years ago. So I know that they really are giving away the good stuff too. This year, even though I'm disappointed in the box I got, PG still did what they said they were going to do. I gave them $40, and they sent me at least $40 worth of stuff.
At least $40 worth of stuff for $40. That was the agreement. They never said that I would like what that $40 worth of stuff was. They just said they'd send me stuff in a box. Disappointed this year, but I can't wait til next December to do it again.
Various sleeper pedals. That's what I want to talk about today. A few of those pedals that I have come across over the years that (1) are surprisingly good and (2) won't break the bank. Also, some of these have been "discovered" so, when I mention the price I paid, I'll try to mention the current pricing as well. No pics on this one either, so it's going to be another wall of text.
First up is the Danelectro Chicken Salad vibrato pedal. It's a super simple vibe pedal that only has two knobs, Intensity and Speed. I got turned on to them back when Max and Travis were still working at Wampler and the two of them and Brian W were doing the podcast/youtube thing. I think Max was the one that mentioned them. Picked up the only one that was listed on Reverb the evening after I heard about it. Cost me $30. Got mine in and plugged it in. I've got a little board that I call my grab and go board because it's the one that I throw in my backpack if I'm just running to a buddy's to play. It's got tuner, a drive, a delay, a reverb, and that Chicken Salad. It's been a great little pedal that, at the price point I paid, has been a super pedal. Nowadays, it seems they go for around $70 on Reverb.
Next would be another vibe pedal. In fact, it's one that I picked up just recently. It's the Moen Shaky Jimi. I paid $35 for mine. New they're going for $60-ish on Amazon. It's got the whole univibe thing going one. It has the chorus/vibe switch and then knobs for rate, depth, and hue. I still haven't figured out the hue knob, but it's on there too. So far, I've been really enjoying the vibe side of the pedal. Not that I really needed another vibe, but it does seem to be my fave effect, and this one is good enough I won't be getting rid of it anytime soon. Not as good as my Fulltone DejaVibe, but it was also 20% of the price.
Now we leave the vibes and go to a distortion. The Donner Dark Mouse. It's a Rat clone. I like it better than the Rat. Granted, I'm not actually sure I'm being totally honest in that statement. I have several Rat clone-ish pedals, including the Wampler Ratsbane, but this is the one that I like the best of them all. When I want that Rat sound, it's the one that I grab. I paid $35 for mine on Amazon. That's about they're going for these days. It has the whole Rat thing down pretty good, including the backwards tone knob. This one also has a switch on it to change from the classic Rat sound to the Turbo Rat. Another one that, for the price paid, I'd do it again.
Two left, and the next one is the Behringer CL9 Compressor/Limiter. Now, I admittedly don't completely understand what a compressor does. That's not right. In theory I know what a compressor does and how it should affect the tone. But put a compressor pedal on the board, and I'm still not really sure how to use it well. I've tried a bunch of different compressors. I've got like 5 of them in the closet in there. This is the only one that I use. It's different than the others somehow, but I'm not really sure how. I just hear something different in it and the others. And, to my ear, this one doesn't do that squishy, compressor thing quite as...squishily. It actually looks kind of out of place on my main board next to the array of much more expensive pedals. It cost me $25 when I got it. That's 15% of what I paid for the Klon KTR sitting next to it. This is also the Behringer that changed my mind on Behringers.
Finally, I want to mention the Tone Bakery Creme Brulee. It's a klone. On several occasions, including one here a couple of years ago, I've plugged all my klones in and tried to be objective about the ones that I like and want to use. Oddly enough, the Tone Bakery consistently comes in either first or second place. The only one that ever beats it is the KTR...the actual Klon. I only ever use the klone as a clean boost kind of pedal to push the amp, and the Creme Brulee does that incredibly well. I think I paid $70 for mine new like 4 years ago on Reverb. Looks like they're going for $100 give or take now.
So that's it. My list of sleeper pedals that won't break the bank. I might could list a couple more. The Sonicake Twiggy Blues or maybe the Tone City Durple. Depending on the circles you're in, you may agree or disagree about whether they're actually sleepers, but they're definitely a great bang for the buck.
What about you? What pedals have you used that were super good but either aren't widely use or are relatively inexpensive?
This is going to be weird post. I was initially thinking that it was just going to be kind of hodge podge of thoughts, but then realized that, with us coming off this most recent election cycle and certain entities being bound and determined to be sure we don't get a break before starting the next, most of them seemed to come back to some sort of political thought. So here are some thoughts. They may be political or they may not. Those that are, I'll try to un-politicize a little bit. Agree or disagree; take them or leave them. I don't care.
I've recently been thinking about multi effects. I've got a couple of them. Sitting on my desk here next to the laptop is an old Vox ToneLab. It's what I generally use when I'm recording to my DAW. I may work up a patch for it that includes some effects and an amp sound or I may have my pedals on the floor and run them through the ToneLab to get an amp sound in the mix. It's one of the Valvetronix ToneLabs and not one of the original ones. I got it because my first "real" amp was one of the Valvetronix amps, and the tweed Bassman model in it was what sold me on tube amps.
Sitting on the floor next to the desk in front of my amp is a Fender Mustang Floor. I pulled it out of the closet a couple of days ago. When I did, I put the pedals boards in their respective bags and back in the closet. That was mostly to just save some space on the floor, but I digress.
I bought the Mustang Floor back like 7 or 8 years ago. I bought it for a couple of reasons. I had heard some good things about that original Mustang line (the v1 and v2 series), and so I knew it has some good sounds in it. They hadn't announced that the Floor had been discontinued, but I noticed that the were getting harder to find, so I got one used before everyone else realized the same thing and the price on them went up. They never announced that the Floor had been discontinued. Retailers just no longer had them. I'm not sure if they even made the Floor in the v2 line; I don't think they did. I also wanted something that was a one-size-fits-all piece of gear. You need an amp model or a small pedal board or both? You need a 1/4" out or maybe a balanced xlr out? The Floor seemed to check the boxes I had pretty well and was a good bang for the buck.
Neeways, they've both served their purposes well, and they continue to do so. But, I've recently been thinking that the tech in my ToneLab is the same tech that was in that old Valvetronix amp that I bought in 2007, and those Mustang v1 amps came out, I believe in 2010. That means that both of the multi effects that I use are running tech that is 12 and 15+ years old.
That got me to thinking, with the changes in modeling technology that have been made and the addition of IRs and other improvements to multi effects, I'm betting the stuff being made today is pretty good in comparison to what I've got.
I mean there's the Helix/HX Effects stuff that's supposed to be really good. Then there's the Fractal and Headrush units. You've also go Zoom still putting stuff out, and now Mooer and NuX and some of the other more budget minded brands have multis on the market too. So I've started asking around for opinions on what folks are using and what they like and dislike about it.
I think the big question I have to answer for myself at the moment is, if I get one of the new generation multis, how do I see it being used. Do I want it to take the place the ToneLab sitting next to me on the desk? Do I want it to take the place of the Mustang Floor sitting just to the right of my chair? Do I want something that will do both? Once I decide that for sure, I reckon I start to decide what I want to do.
I don't expect myself to do anything quickly. Heck, what started me down this whole line of thought was that I saw a NuX somethingorother last weekend on Amazon, and I almost made an impulse buy because I thought that I had to see what kind of multi that included amp emulation and IRs they were selling for $150. But I caught myself and didn't pull the trigger because the next thought was, if I'm going to spend $150 on something just to see what it was, I may as well spend a bit more and get something that I could be assured would be better than what I've got now.
So, come a couple of months from now, I might have a new multi, and I may not. Time will tell. What I do know is that I will hopefully have one of those MXR Duke of Tone pedals before too long. I pre-ordered it the day they announced it. I've got a Prince of Tone, and it's my current fave drive pedal. I'm anxious to get the DoT and try them side by side. They supposedly dropped today I think. So I'm hoping to get my ship notification on Monday morning.
Are any of you using a multi effect for anything? Let me know what you like or don't like about it.
Last week I talked about my two Strats. Well, two of my Strats. The two Strats that I have that I play anyways. I think I have four. Maybe five. The Hwy One, the ADE, the Monterey Strat from 2017, and the Splattercaster. I think that's all of them.
Since I mentioned them last time, I thought I'd talk about the Hwy One and the ADE.
The Highway One is a 2009 according to the serial number. Mrs Snarf bought it for me in really early 2010. I had started working my way through Griff Hamlin's Blues Guitar Unleashed course, and, to motivate myself, I decided that I would buy myself a MIA Strat once I got done with it. Had it already picked out and everything. My wife walked in one day, let me know that she had gotten a pretty good bonus at work, and told me to buy the Strat that I had been looking at. So I ordered it well before I finished the course.
Don't quote me on this, but I think the Hwy One series was built from early 2000s through 2010. In 2010 or 2011, I believe they were replaced by the American Performer series. As I recall, they changed a few things in the series long about 2006. I think they changed the pickups, but the thing I remember most is that they added the Rust Bucket tone control. I don't remember what exactly it does, but I think I remember the ads saying something about cuts the highs without adding more lows.
Mine's a 3 color sunburst with an ebony fretboard. Whatever pickups are in the Hwy One series (I never found out) with the middle being reverse wound, reverse polarity. A 1970s headstock. A modern C-shape neck. That Rust Bucket tone control I mentioned earlier. I've heard over the years that the electronics are all American and I've heard that they were the same electronics as they put into the MIM Strats.
I've always liked the the finish on it. It's a satin finish, and since it's a sunburst, you can really see the wood grain through it. Also, since it's satin, the more you play it, the more the areas of wear shine.
I've never quite figured out the Rust Bucket part of the tone control. It does what a tone control is supposed to do. However, I've always like that the first tone control runs the tone on the neck pickup, and the second tone control runs the bridge pickup. There is no tone control on the middle pickup that seldom gets used.
It has what I would consider a modern Strat sound. The pickups seem a little hotter than regular single coils. At least hotter than the usual stock pickup on a Strat. Playing through the positions, it definitely sounds like a Strat.
The other is a 2013 American Design Experience. That's the equivalent of a current Mod Shop guitar. Before the Mod Shop, where you can order whatever pretty much whatever guitar you want online, Fender had the American Design Experience. It was the predecessor of the Mod Shop. And before they had the online American Design Experience, they had the one where I got my guitar. When I got mine, you actually had to go to the factory out in Corona. It's probably the closest thing I'll ever own to a real Fender Custom Shop.
Now, when you got to Corona, there was the little visitor center that had a gift shop and museum-ish area. Then, off to the side, there was this small room over on the side where you could go and spec out a guitar. They had bodies, necks, pickups, bridges, and all the other hardware around the room and on the walls, and you could pick out what you wanted in a guitar. If it was in the room, then it was an option on your guitar. If it wasn't in the room, then it wasn't something you could pick.
Over in one corner was a rack that had probably 20 Strat bodies and 20 Tele bodies and maybe 10 or 15 bass bodies. I had wanted a surf green one, but they didn't have any in the rack, and the guy reminded me that if it wasn't in the room then it wasn't an option. I ended up picking a body color that I hadn't seen before. It wasn't really that special other than the fact that I had (and still haven't) seen that color anywhere. The one I picked is a satin orange color. I went over and played with the rack of necks and ended up with a fairly standard one-piece maple neck.
Then I went over to the hardware and picked a set of vintage tuners and one of the modern bridges. Got to the pickups, and the guy showed me the list on the wall. There were the standard pickups plus the Noiseless and Custom Shop 50s and a couple of other Custom Shop varieties. The ones that I wanted were the CS 69s, and they weren't on the list. So I mentioned that to the guy, and he said that they had pulled them off the list because they were in short supply at the time. But then he let me know that he'd be sure that my guitar got a set of 69s in it.
From there, everything went into a box with my name on it that went into the corner of the room with some other boxes that had names on them. Two months later, it arrived on my doorstep. By the time all was said and done, it was a nice balance between a Standard and a Deluxe. The total cost of it was also right dead in between the two. And it was also twice as much as the Hwy One.
I believe that my opinion is being objective when I say that they're both super nice guitars. Out of the box (and even today) the fit and finish on both of them are great. They both play great, but, as I mentioned in the previous post, the Hwy One plays a little better. Not sure what it is about it, but it does. They both sound like a Strat, but those CS 69s in the ADE Strat just sound soooo nice. For the money, they're both great guitars. Bang for the buck, you can't beat the Hwy One. Total cost, the ADE is a super nice guitar as well.
I bought that ES-339 back in April (I think), and it's about all I've played since then. I kept a 335 out hanging on the wall for a bit that I would pick up occasionally. About a month ago, I put the 335 up and pulled out a Telecaster, and it's the guitar that I've picked up about once a week when I wasn't playing the 339. I've been reminded how much I like some single coil pickups.
Now the Telecaster has always had a couple of issues. I bought it a little over a year ago. Back in the great gear purge of 2020, I traded a 50s Road Worn Tele because I never played it. Like never. It was one of the original Road Worns. Or at least one of the first couple of years they were making those (I think). It wasn't a color that I really liked (blonde), but the neck on it was the best strat/tele neck that I had ever touched. It was for that reason I bought it. And pretty quickly realized I wasn't a Tele kind of guy. When I traded it, I think it had sat in the closet pretty much untouched for at least the 3 years we had lived in this house.
Then I started seeing that purple Tele from Anderton's over in the UK, and really liked the look of it. Like really liked the purple look of it. Then I saw that GC was selling a Road Worn version of it. It had been out a year or two, and I could already see that they were becoming more scarce. So, when I saw Musicians Friend put them on sale in the summer of 2021, I pulled the trigger and am pretty sure that I got one of the last new ones. When I ordered it, MF had them on sale, but they were listed on both the MF and GC website. I ordered mine, got the ship notification, and the next day the listing on both sites showed them as no longer available.
So back to the couple of issues. Had I played this one at the local GC (I ordered it from MF, but it came from a GC across the country), I probably would've passed on it. It had hung on the wall long enough that the hanger had burned the neck up by the nut. The neck didn't feel anywhere near as good as the one on the previous Road Worn, and the skunk stripe wasn't sanded real smooth. But the biggest thing is that the fret ends were terrible. I don't think it had a case of fret sprout. I think it was that whoever cut the frets just did a bad job or maybe had a dull set of cutters. But, I figured that everybody needed a Tele, I had traded away one that wasn't bad for one that wasn't as good, but I really like the purple, so I ought to keep it since it doesn't look like I can get another one for the price I paid. So I kept it and figured I'd do something about the frets at some point.
That was the long way around the bush to say that, after playing it a few times this month, I finally pulled out my tools to try and smooth out the fret ends. And, since i had my stuff out and was taking up all the space on the kitchen island, I pulled out a couple of Strats since I haven't one of them out in at least a year.
After I got them out and cleaned them up and changed the strings, I decided that I was going to do something I had never done before. I decided to A/B them for a few minutes. Not that it really matters, but they're both MIA, but one cost twice what the other cost. They're both great guitars! The fit and finish on them both has always been outstanding. Even never having played them back to back like this (I always seemed to have one or the other out, but never both at the same time) I knew that I liked the way one felt and played better than the other. So it was time to check out if I still thought the same thing about them.
One is a Highway One. Mrs Snarf bought it for me at the beginning of 2010. It's the one that I've always preferred the feel of. It just sits in the hands right and the action is pretty much just like I like it. It sounds like a Strat should. It's a bone stock 2009 model. Although I've talked about it for years. I've never changed anything on it but the strings.
The other is a Fender American Design Experience from 2013. It is from before they put that option online. When I got mine you had to go to the factory, and, in that little room off to the side of the gift shop, you would pick out your body, neck, and all the rest of the specs that you wanted that they had available. Unlike what they started doing when they started doing it online, you had your choice of what was in the room at the time. If they didn't have it in the room, you couldn't choose it. The day I spec-ed mine out, there were maybe 20 Strat bodies and maybe 10 necks.
There are several differences in the ADE and the Hwy One, but one of the biggest is that it has Custom Shop '69 pickups in it. Those weren't actually on the list to choose from (although other CS pickups were), but when I asked about them, the builder that was in the room that day noted that's what I wanted and said those were in short supply at the time so they took them off the list, but he'd be sure mine got them. With that, he put all the components from around the room that I had picked out into a box, put my name on it, and set on the side of the room with a couple of other boxes with names on them. About 2 months later, the guitar showed up on my doorstep. The cost of it was somewhere between an American Standard and an American Deluxe, and is probably the closest thing I'll ever had to buying a Fender Custom Shop.
That was another bush to take you around, so back to playing them back to back.
Spent about 30 minutes just playing the same riffs and licks and chords through the same amp set the exact same way. I was actually a little surprised at the results.
I didn't expect that I would so quickly be reminded that I really prefer the feel of the Hwy One. It still just feels right to me. Something about it that I'm not sure I can describe. Theoretically, the two guitars should be really similar feeling since I set them up myself and aim for the same thing on every Strat and Tele I have. I follow the same process, and I try to get them all to feel the same way. Maybe it's the cut of the neck or something. I don't really know. But that Hwy One just feels better than the ADE. If I was just going off sound, I would go with the Hwy One every day.
I think the sound of the two was what really surprised me though. There is no question that the Hwy One sounds like a Strat. It very much does. But I think I made the comment when I first started playing the ADE that I finally understood what they meant when they said a good Strat sounds glassy. Those ADE pickups just sound sooooo good to my ear. The Hwy One has its own unique Strat sound, but the ADE sounds like a Strat should sound. The Hwy One plays better than the ADE, but, when I try to be objective, I think the ADE almost runs circles around the Hwy One when it comes to sound.
So, after working on the Tele last night and getting those fret ends down so they don't cut you, I've almost decided to put the Tele back in the closet and leave out one of the Strats instead. The question now is which one. It'll probably be the ADE since it sounds so nice.
There's probably some music that you and your circle of friends will laugh at. If they catch you listening to it, they'll jeer and make fun of you until you concede that the music is bad and shouldn't anybody listen to it. I know we have that music in the circles that I run in.
For me, it generally falls into 2 categories. There's that angsty, man-hating, Lilith Fair sounding music from the 90s that no straight guy listened to. Then there was that late 90s and early 2000's pop led by Britney and Christina and the others that were in their late teens and early 20s at the time. It wasn't that we weren't into girls or anything. Heck, it was just the opposite. But the music that a lot of the women were producing at the time just seemed... Well it wasn't rock and roll, and we just weren't going to listen to it. It wasn't even until the Continuum album that any of us would listen to John Mayer.
And now, 20 or 25 years after that music was coming out, we continue to to make fun of it and anybody that listens to it.
Starting 2 or 3 years ago, I made a playlist on Amazon that includes a bunch of the stuff that we make fun of. And I've discovered that some of it is really good! And, to take it a step further, I've played some of it on the sly to some of my buddies, and it's been kind of fun, when they make a comment about "that's a great song" to give them a wry grin and say "yeah that's your girl Britney Spears" and watch them die just a little bit inside.
And I'm still discovering some of that music. Just a couple of weeks ago, for the first time, I listened to Jagged Little Pill for the first time. I officially apologize for all the ridicule I've sent Alanis Morissette's way over the years. That is a great album! And it's well deserving of all the praise it got back when it came out in the 90s.
Were all those Lilith Fair ladies all the man-hating, angsty, girl-power women that we said they were back in 1999? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that the music that they were making wasn't actually all that bad. To me, the music of Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, and Jewel will never be that of Collective Soul, but they were putting out some good stuff.
Some of the music like Genie in a Bottle will probably always remain on that Guilty Pleasures playlist, but some of it what's on there has slowly been getting added to some other playlists.
The question I've been asking myself the last few years is why I consider that music "guilty pleasure." Is it because of the perceived stigma that a straight guy shouldn't be listening to it? Is it because it's not really that good? Well, since I've been finding out that some of that music is good, it's begun to occur to me that the music that I don't consider good is still fun to listen to (that Pink Britney Aguilera school of music). I guess that means the answer is the first part...that perceived stigma.
Here's your takeaway for today. Go out and find some of that music that you always have said is bad for whatever reason. That reason might be that you actually listened but it didn't grab you. Or it might've been a bias against the music that originally kept you from listening. Pick it up now and listen to it with an open mind. If it's not good or if it's not fun to listen to, then file it back in the drawer to not pick up again. But with fresh ears, you might like it. Or it might make you tap your toe and shake your tailfeather. You never know. You just might find out that it's not as bad as you originally thought.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 5 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.