Put together a small board this evening. 5 pedals that I'm already thinking I'm going to swap at least a couple of them out tomorrow. If for no other reason, I wanted to use my Lovepedal Kalamazoo sorta-copy (my Tone City Durple), but it's got a side mounted power port, and I'm having trouble getting it plugged in. So I'm probably going to stick a Rat copy on it. Which isn't even close to the same pedal. But the power jack is on the top and the input/output jacks are on the side where they should be.
That got me to thinking. So here are some musings on pedals. And boards.
So I mentioned in my Best Gear of 2021 post that my new Epiphone 335 was the best gear I had bought last year. I still think that. I still don't see it becoming my main player, but, lately, it's the one that I've grabbed first when I walk into my music room. It's just a fun guitar to play, and it sounds really nice.
It's a gold top. Cream colored binding but all the rest of the plastic is black. Epiphone's Alnico Classic Pro pickups are in it. If I remember correctly, those are Epi's version of Gibson's 57 Classics, with the Pro signifying that they're 4-wire instead of 2-wire. Aesthetically, the one thing I wish they would've done would have been to paint the inside edge of the f-holes black instead of body colored (gold). The Gibson 335 I had for a while had that, and I just always thought it looked better that way. I haven't measured it, but I think it has the same neck that is on my Standard 50s Les Paul. It has that same handful of a feel that I've come to really like instead of the really thin necks that a couple of my older Epiphones have.
Sonically, it's not bad. That's not to say that it's not good. It is. But, remembering back to the Gibson, the Epi pickups sound nice, but they're not as articulate as the ones that were in the Gibson. Granted, that's sitting in the quiet of my practice space. It's not something I think I would notice if I were playing out somewhere. It may also be that I'm not remembering the 57 Classics as they really sounded. After all, it's been over a year since I traded that one off. I'm in no hurry to upgrade the pickups (they really do sound pretty good), but it is something that I will probably end up doing some day. Kind of like my Gretsch, one day I'll come across the right pickups for the right price, and I'll know that it's time to go ahead and upgrade them. Until then, they will definitely serve the purpose.
Playability is just fine. The action out of the box (out of the store?) was right about what I would've tried to dial in, so, after I got it home, all I did was clean up the guitar-store-funk on it and change the strings. After playing it for a while, one thing I do need to do to it is get it back on the bench and smooth some of the frets up in the squeaky-zone. I don't play up there on a real regular basis, but I've been working some stuff that has a bend on the 17th fret, and every time I hit it, I think it scrapes a little bit.
It's turning out to be a great guitar. It didn't just blow me away like the Standard 50s Les Paul did. But, in all fairness, it was that Probucker 1 at the neck of the LP that continues to pull me back to that guitar. I just really like that sound of that pickup in that guitar. So, didn't blow me away, but it did reach out and grab me at the store, make me take it home, and continues to make me leave it out on the stand and grab it at some point most every day.
Bang for the buck, dollar to value ratio, whatever you want to call it, Epiphone continues to step up their game. This new 335 just further convinces me of that.
I don't remember what politician said that line in the title back in the 90s (I think). Heck, I might've just made it up for all I know, but I'm pretty sure that some politician somewhere pontificating about the economy rattled it off back 25 or so years ago. And that brings me to today's subject: our local guitar shops.
To start, we have more than our share of Guitar Centers in my area. There's one not 10 minutes from the casa (if I catch all the lights right). That's the one I usually go to because it's closest, but, within about 30 - 45 minutes (depending on traffic), there are 2 others. Then there are 4 local shops that shall remain nameless. Granted, I haven't been to any of the local places since the pandemic shut everything down, so I'm assuming there still there.
I've gotten to where I buy most everything online. It's convenient. Find the gear I want, place the order, have it delivered within 2 - 3 days depending on where I get it. Earlier this year, I had a less than optimum experience on an order, but I blame part of it on me. I ordered a name brand guitar from a store overseas, and it came in with issues. The store made an attempt to make it right, but, since I was in the US and their warranty was not, it was a pain to try to get them to cover the work. They ended up crediting me back the cost of the repair, but the guitar is still not what I would call publicly playable. Because of that, it has become my beater/travel guitar because I don't care if it gets stolen or not. Outside of that, the only other problems I have had ordering online were pedals that were DOA. Contact the company back, drop it off at the UPS store, and the replacement arrived a few days later. It's just too easy.
First, there are the local shops. Honestly, if they did make it through the pandemic, I probably won't be back to them soon.
The first one wasn't too far from the house. I liked it because it was close. And if I paid cash, the guy would usually give me a pretty good discount. Bought several things from them, and had tried to make them my go-to store. Then I had a couple of guitars I needed to get setup. The first one was an anniversary edition Epiphone. Not at all your typical Epi. USA made pups, CTS pots and switches, and a premium price tag. Comparing it to any other Epiphone, it felt and played better. Carried that one in to him, and when I went to pick it up after he was done with it, he spent 10 minutes talking about how he used to sell Epiphones, but "they turned to crap" and he quit selling them. Next was just a stock Gretsch Electromatic. Same thing. When I went to pick it up, he carried on for 10 minutes about how all Made in Korea Gretsch guitars were the worst thing ever. Then I saw that he had a stack of Fender Frontline catalogs (remember those?) sitting on his workbench, so I asked if I could have one. So he proceeded to lecture me on why he would not give me one since I didn't need to know all the specifics of what Fender sold. Then he told me he sold Fenders, but kept all his stock in the backroom so nobody would play them that wasn't serious about buying one. You know what? I'm not giving you money so that you can lecture me and call all the gear that I bring in crap. I haven't been in his store in probably 7 years. I saw that he moved. Further away. Then I moved. Further away. Good riddance I say.
The next local place was down not too far from downtown. I went there once, and they had a good stock of budget and name brand stuff. The guy at the counter immediately started directing me away from the stuff that I was looking at towards the very budget gear. Looking at it, it was priced so that I knew he was making a LOT more money on the budget stuff than he was the stuff I wanted to see. I left feeling a bit like he was trying to take advantage of me. Haven't been back. Some day I'll go back just to see if that guy is gone. The store seemed pretty cool, just didn't like that guy. Problem is that it's across town and I have to make an effort to go that way. So, if I'm ever in the area again, I'll stop by, but I'm not going out of my way.
Then there was the local shop that everyone had always told me I absolutely had to visit. So a buddy and I went one Saturday. The place was empty when we walked in except for one employee and one customer that were talking at the counter. They had a good selection and good gear. They even had some cool vintage gear. Prices weren't bad. My buddy and I were pulling guitars off the walls, pointing and talking about some of the stuff in cases, and generally fawning over some of the gear. After about 20 minutes, the other customer person left so it was just us and the employee. There was actually a couple of things that my buddy and I were interested in (he was actually looking for a new acoustic). We were there for probably another 30 minutes. The employee never said hi, bye, or kiss my foot to us, so we eventually left. Spent an hour there, my buddy cash in hand test driving some acoustics, and not even a peep from the store staff. Towards the end, we were quietly laughing over in one of the corners about how the employee never even asked us from across the room if we were looking for anything in particular. We finally left. My buddy spent just over 2 grand on an acoustic later that day at a store where the staff were a little more attentive.
The fourth local shop is a Music Go Round. I have no problem with them. The times I've been there, they've always been courteous, and their prices aren't too bad. The only problems with them are these (and they're not really problems). They sell used, so there have been times I've been in that they didn't have anything I was remotely interested in. Other times I've been and picked up several things. So, if folks aren't selling them good stuff, they don't have good stuff to sell. Second problem is they're on the wrong side of town. And by "wrong" I mean "other" side of town. Like all the way across town. Like that one store, they're far enough away I have to make a point to go there because I'm seldom just in the area.
There was a fifth shop just up the street from where I live now that I really liked. They definitely made their money on lessons. I live in a reasonably sized house, and we have bedrooms bigger than their sales floor. I tried to buy what I could from them. Strings and cables and such. They closed back in 2019. I hated to see them go.
Then there are the 3 local GCs that are sort of close to me. One has a great selection. It's probably the biggest one in this metropolitan area (where there are actually 7 GCs that I can think of off the top of my head). One always has great staff (but the smallest selection). Then there's the one that's the closest to me. I'll go to the great selection and great staff stores if I'm in their area, but don't usually make a special trip to them. The other one is just close. That's it's biggest selling point.
GC and I have a love hate relationship because of that closest store. They've done really well by me, and I've had to argue with staff a couple of times because they weren't being up front about things with me.
For instance, I bought a guitar once from the store. They had to order it in. When I got to the car after ordering it, I realized that it was costing me more than I thought it should, so I asked about it when I went back to pick it up. The guy told me they were charging me $60 for shipping to the store, and there was nothing they could do about the shipping because the guitar was on sale. So I told him to cancel the order, refund my money, and I'd go home and order it from the GC website where it was also on sale, have it shipped to the house, and not not be charged shipping. He said he'd "take a look real quick," then acted all surprised, and said something along the lines of "if I go to this screen I see that I don't have to charge you shipping after all, so I'll knock that off."
On the other side of things, when I did the great gear purge last year, my goal was to get rid of it all in one swoop and not have to sell it all separate on Reverb or somewhere. Before I loaded the FJ up and headed over, I called and talked to the store manager, and he told me their buying strategy. So I could easily put pen to paper and see if they were going to give me enough that I could live with the transaction. Turns out, they gave me nearly twice what I was figuring. Then gave me a good discount on a new guitar on the wall on top of it.
So GC is definitely not bad. They're just not always, how do you say it nicely, on the top of their game. They're close enough I occasionally head up just to see if there's anything I can't live without, but, honestly, I don't spend enough up there to have a real relationship with any of the staff there. That's not to mention that part of that is because they seem to turn staff over enough that as soon as I figure out who somebody is, they're gone and someone else is in their place.
I like local shops. I really do. My problem, however, is that there's the big box that usually has a big selection, but I don't feel any loyalty to them. Then there are the local guys that, by and large, don't seem to offer enough of a difference to make me feel like cultivating a relationship with them either. So it definitely makes buying online easier. From my perspective, most of the local shops will complain about losing sales online, but they're not doing much to try to stem that tide. I can buy anything they sell cheaper online, but they don't seem to want to do anything to encourage me to pay them a little more. They're not going to go out of their way for me since they don't know me, but they don't do anything to get me to come in more than once or twice.
And with that, it's back to Amazon or Sweetwater or American Musical or somewhere to do some window shopping.
My pedal board. Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I said earlier today to some online friends that I prefer to go straight to the amp. I do. Sort of. I usually play at the casa, and to get that nice driven amp sound, I've got to make the neighbors mad. Or use an OD pedal of some sort. I, also, really like the sound of a univibe. I've leaned towards that sound ever since I figured out what it was. So, at the casa where I usually play, I guess I actually like a couple of pedals in front of the amp.
But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy picking up pedals and playing with them. It does mean, however, that I have a whole lot of pedals in the closet that I played with a couple of days and then toss them on the shelf knowing that they're there if I ever decide to use them.
Anyways, I had put a a real board together a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday was looking down at it yesterday and realized that, I have a heck of a lot of pedals in the closet that I either never got dialed in real well or that I found a single sound that I liked and never played with beyond that. So I decided to do something. I pulled that board apart, put all those same ol' same ol' pedals back in the closet, and pull out some of the ones that I hardly use and see if I could come to like them better. So here's the chain in order. We'll see how long it stays out like this.
Boss Tuner: It's the tuner I always use, and I only have 1 tuner, so it's on whatever board I'm using.
Fulltone Dejavibe: Did I mention that I like univibes? I bought this one back in the spring, and it has been out ever since. It may've been the only pedal on the the floor, but I haven't put it up since I bought it. At the moment, it's my favorite univibe.
Amazon Basics Compressor: Bought this one a year ago. Used it for a few minutes and put it in the closet. I've never been a huge compression user, but have figured out that there seem to be 2 types of compressors. I'm not sure how to describe either sound, but I know them when I hear them. One I really like. One I really don't. This is the second type. I pulled it out just to try to see if I could find a sound I like in it. If I can't, it's probably going to go to my Reverb shop.
Boss Blues Driver: Not really going to say anything about this pedal. I know I like it. It's got some great sounds in it. I just don't use it that often because I have other OD pedals that I like better. I put this one on mostly because I hardly use it. But I know it's got some nice tones in it, so at least I'll have a pedal on the board that I know I like if I get frustrated with the others.
Boss DynaDrive: I bought this one a good while back because it seemed to be the pedal du jour for the youtube channels and everyone was talking about how good it was. So I was curious enough to pick one up. I was very underwhelmed! To my ear, it was just kind of an average OD. Nothing stood out about it. By my own admission, I really didn't give this one a fair shake. I only played around with it for maybe an afternoon; it was that underwhelming. When I did my big gear purge last fall, I'm not really sure why I kept it, but I did. It's just sat in the closet since then. If I can't find some nice tones in it this time around, it's another that will probably end up on my Reverb.
EHX Hot Wax. This one I liked when I got it. After I got it a few months ago, I dialed in a sound that I liked on both sides, but tossed it into the closet after about a week. Wasn't because it was a bad pedal. It was more just because it wasn't one of my usual pedals. It has some nice sounds in it, just not the ones I would typically use.
EHX B9 Organ: This is another one that I know I like. I just don't pull it out often because it is a very niche pedal. I think it's a LOT of fun though.
Boss Tremolo: I picked this one up a week ago. This one is out, not because I never use it, but more because I want to get it dialed in. Behind a univibe sound, a tremolo is probably my fave no OD pedal. If my amp had a tremolo, I'd probably have it on all the time.
Danelectro reverb: I bought this one several years ago. It has an actual spring in it (that's why it's so big). It's a one trick pony, spring reverb. It's fun to play around with, but not a reverb I would really use on the regular or if I was playing out. It even has that kick pad on it so you can kick it and make the internal spring rattle. This one does ok, but it's another that I don't think I ever really got dialed in, and, because it only has one sound in it, I've never really looked at it as a really useful pedal. Seriously, one sound. You know how even an OD pedal has different levels of gain that make it sound different depending on how it's set? This one is the exact same sound just in varying volume levels.
Boss looper: This one is always on the floor too. I don't count it because all it does is repeat what I put into it. It doesn't really change the tone at all. It's a great practice tool as well as one that that's just a lot of fun to riff into and then play over.
I'm guessing this iteration doesn't last more than a couple of weeks. If for no other reason, I've been on a Rat kick lately, and been buying those type pedals when I see them for a good price. I didn't put one on this board because I know I like that sound, I just need to dial those pedals in.
I must confess. I have a thing for bags. I like them. They're extremely useful. They can be stylish. And you can personalize them and make them fun. I have a bunch of them. Notice I didn't say too many. I'm always out for a good bag. I have an armoire full of them. I've got quite the array of bags. I've got canvas bags. I've got leather bags. I've got bags for work. I've got bags for play. If I need a bag, I'm sure I have one to fill the bill. My wife says she doesn't understand why I think bags are cool. She has like 2 purses. I have at least 10 backpacks. And that's not counting the messenger backs, laptop bags, and others still.
Like I said, I have lots of bags, including all those backpacks that I claim as mine. I have also bought my wife another 3 or 4 backpacks because I think she needs them, because bags are cool. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'm going to talk about a couple of my favorite backpacks. For today, I'm going to just scratch the surface on those two and one other.
First backpack to talk about is my Saddleback Square Pocket backpack, aka The Tank. No, seriously, the company calls this backpack The Tank. It's certainly built like one. If I had to have one backpack and no other, this would be a serious contender. It's HUGE! It's built to last. You could probably fit a small car and a week's worth of luggage into this backpack. The pic below doesn't do justice to how big this pack is.
Mine is in carbon black. That just means it's a kind of a flat back color and not shiny like the one in the pic. The only downside to this pack is that it's so big and heavy. I think I weighed it once at just over 7 pounds empty. I once used it hiking through a national park in SE Utah. My back was soaking wet by the end of the trail, and my shoulders were especially sore. I decided that night that I needed a lighter backpack for the next day.
Two things I like about this bag. The leather on it is thiiiiick. Seriously, I could drag this thing behind the FJ and it'd just be scratched up. It would still be totally usable. Second is that it has no less than 8 D-rings on it. I love clipping and attaching things to my backpacks, and those D-rings come in especially useful. I don't think I could wear this bag out if I tried. Despite its weight, this is one of my favorite bags. And, at over $500, it was definitely the most expensive (but totally worth it imho).
The next backpack to talk about is my Outdoor Products backpack. I have no idea the model. They don't make this one anymore, and I've long since forgotten the name. I was on the hunt for camping gear a while back at the local Walmart, saw it, and went back the next day to buy it. It's been a trooper. Well made. Very economical at I think $30 when I got it. I've got probably 150 miles on this one. 3 liter water bladder capacity. Multiple pockets. Rain cover (that I've had to use a couple of times). This is one of the ones that I'll talk about more later.
Full disclosure. After I had it about 6 months, one of the zippers failed. I looked at it closely and realized it looked like it might be a manufacturer defect. I contacted the company, and they quickly got me fixed up with no hassle. They already weren't making it anymore, so they gave me credit towards another pack. I added some to that credit and bought my wife a pack for some stuff she was doing. Great customer service! I liked the pack so well that I ended up figuring out how to fix it on my own, and I've continued to use it.
You'll see that I swapped out the zipper pulls to add some color and added some grimlocks on it. I'm always adding stuff to my packs to personalize them and make them what I want. This has been a great pack.
Last pack to talk about today is my current daypack. It's the Teton Sports 1500 backpack, and, for me, it's about the perfect pack. When I was researching it before I bought it, a lot of folks were complaining about various aspects of it. I thought then, and think now, that those folks were just complaining. It's a great bag. Still pretty economical at $60. I've got almost 100 miles on this one so far.
Like the previous pack, it can handle a 3 liter water bladder. It's got pockets everywhere...5 zippered pockets. One on the front. One on each side. And two in the lid. Two mesh pockets on the side. The big main compartment. Straps everywhere. Loops for trekking poles. A rain cover. In my humble opinion. this is the best daypack made. In fact, I like it so well that they make an almost identical pack that's 45 liters. I got it for short backpacking and camping trips.
Since I got this pack, I've picked up several Teton Sports items, and have been impressed with all of them. From packs to tents to cots, it all looks good. I've got packs and a tent. So far, they all work as advertised, and they're economical. Not quite as inexpensive as the Outdoor Products packs, but definitely less than what you're going to get someplace like REI. I've been told that Teton makes "budget" gear. My experience has been that their gear is just as good as the REI stuff I have, it just doesn't cost as much. So, if "budget" means good-quality-low-cost I'll take it every day over good-quality-high-cost. Teton makes good stuff. And this bag is no exception.
I've got a couple of others that I really like...like the one that attaches to a gig bag...but I use these three probably more than any of the others right now. In later posts, I'll take the two day packs, and talk about them in a little more detail. So what's your favorite backpack? These are three of mine.
I bought my Epiphone 339 back when they first released them in 2011. I missed that first run that delivered in the fall of 2011, so the one that I got was made in that second run. That means that I had to wait 4 or 5 months to get mine. I ordered it in November, and got it the end of March or first of April. One change that they made between the first run and the second that I didn't see them announce anywhere was that the original 339s shipped with their Probucker pickups and the second run shipped with their Alnico Classic Pro pickups. I had actually been looking forward to getting to try the Probuckers out, but the Alnico Classics sound good to my ear, so whatever.
Never gave it a whole lot of thought after that. Like I said, I wasn't unhappy with the pickups it came with. I had always heard that the Alnico Classics were Epi's version of Gibson's 57 Classics and the Probuckers were Epi's version of Gibson's Burstbuckers. I had put a pair of Burstbuckers in an old Les Paul I had, and I really liked them. Never really bonded with the guitar, but I thought the pickups sounded good. I had a Gibson 335 for a while that had 57 Classics and I really liked them too.
In my head, I always said I preferred the 57 Classics. I'm not really sure why. Honestly, I think I liked them better because that's what it seemed that most Gibsons I liked were getting when I started paying attention to that brand, and they were advertising them as being "like PAFs." In the last few years, I've realized that they now seem to be putting Burstbuckers, 490s, MHS, and another pickup or two in guitars as much as they are the 57s. When I saw that, I realized that several of those are also said to be "like PAFs." Now, I must confess, I'm not really sure what a PAF sounds like, but being a good gear hound and sometimes cork-sniffer, I know that PAFs are the sound that everyone thinks they should have. So, if it sounds like a PAF, that's the next best thing to actually having a PAF, right?
Now I'm just confused. All these PAF-like sounding pickups, and they all seem to sound a little different to my ear. What's the real PAF sound? No clue. At that point, I realized I had been sniffing a cork or two, and figured, I wasn't unhappy with the way that 339 played or sounded. As well, from a similarity standpoint, I had the real 57 Classics in that 335, and, to my ear, they didn't really sound all that different from those Alnico Classics. If I really sat and listened to them, I thought Epi version may not have been quite as clear and articulate on the low end, and they may not have been quite as harmonically rich when driven, but they sounded good. Just playing at church on Sunday or at the local blues jam, and nobody was going to hear a difference in the two. So there was no reason to change the Epi pickups.
Then last fall, I picked up that Epi LP Standard 50s (or whatever it's called). I immediately bonded with that guitar. Loved the neck! Loved the sound! And did I mention the neck? I had been playing that 339 predominately for nearly 18 months when I got that LP, and the 339 suddenly found itself relegated to hanging on the wall. One of the things I really liked about that LP were the pickups in it. They seemed super clear and articulate, and sounded good clean or driven. Maybe it was the guitars. Maybe it was the pickups. Maybe it was a bit of both. Either way, it had the Probuckers in it, so I was once again questioning what the 339 would sound like with Probuckers instead of the Alnico Classics.
So I started looking for a set of them. You could get them direct from Epiphone, but they were (1) $150 a set, and (2) out of stock. So Reverb was my option since I don't like eBay. Someone from Thailand was selling them starting at $50 a set with a wiring harness. That's a good deal, right? Seemed super sketch to me, so I passed on them. I'd see others showing up here and there, but they were running about $50 a piece (or more). I found a pair that someone pulled out of a new Epiphone where they were asking $70 for the pair. I messaged them for pics of the back of the pickups, and, when he sent them, it turned out they were actually the Alnico Classics like I already had. I let him know what he actually had, and that I'd pass since they weren't the ones I wanted. His ad hasn't changed. So be careful if you come across that ad; they're not actually Probuckers.
The next afternoon, I noticed someone had posted a set of Probuckers for a super price. Looking at the ad, the pics all looked right, so I was convinced they were real. According to the ad, the seller had just pulled them out of a new Epi LP Modern that they had gotten. Pics looked right, and the story sounded legit. Looked at the price again, and three other folks had already made offers on them and someone had them in their cart. So, since the price was really good without asking for a deal, I pulled the trigger. I will say that they are the Probucker 2 and 3 pickups where my LP has the Probucker 1 and 2.
Finally got them swapped out, and the Alnico Classics are now sitting beside me on the desk. What's the verdict on the 339 now that it has the Probuckers in it? I like them better! I think they have a clearer low end. I'm not sure the difference in the Probucker 1 in the LP neck and the Probucker 2 that is in the LP bridge and the 339 neck, but I still like the Probucker 1 best of all. To my ear it really sounds good. Either way, again, to my ear, the Probuckers have a clearer low end and are just a bit more articulate than the Alnico Classics. They also seem to be a little bit smoother and not quite as harsh when driven. When turned up, they also don't sound as hot to me. The Probucker 1 is easily my favorite, but the 2 and 3 I also like better than the Classics. Granted, in a blindfolded side by side, the only one I think I could pick out of the mix would be the 1. That is, if I could pick it out of a crowd. But trying to be objective sitting in my quiet little music room, I believe that I hear a difference in the two types of pickups.
So, I have to say that I think the Probuckers are great pickups. They're half the price of the Gibson Burstbuckers, and, to my ear, they're not that different. Granted, I haven't A/Bed them at this point, but from what I remember of that pair I had, they're pretty close. Given the chance, if I had another Epi with those quick connect ends, if it didn't have the Probuckers in it, I'd see about finding another pair. I'm not sure that all the hype around the Probuckers isn't at least a little marketing, but, I think, they're well worth the money. Like I already said, they're not the Gibson (or Duncan or Lollars), but they're close enough that nobody but us gear hounds are going to hear the difference. Bang for your buck, especially if you get them used, I don't know that you're going to get anything better.
So I've spent the last two posts showing some of my gig bags and hybrid cases. If it's not pretty obvious or you missed me say it in one of those posts, I'd much rather use either of them than a traditional case if I feel like I have the option. When I was younger and much more of a snob in how I thought guitars should be treated and used, I would have laughed at anyone suggesting to use a gig bag because nothing beats a case, and a case should always be used. In the ensuing years, here's what I have learned.
Gig bags. No, they don't offer as much protection as a case. However, they're lighter, generally less expensive (maybe not some of the premium gig bags), and, if all I need to do is get the guitar from point A to point B, they tend to be more convenient. I still don't think I would get a low tier gig bag, but a medium tier (like that Gator Transit series) offers pretty good protection, lots of storage, and even has some add-on options that make it easy to carry extra gear if you need to. The premium tier gig bags offer a good bit more protection with those same options that you don't get with a case.
Hybrid Cases. These are still not going to offer as much protection as a good case, but they're going to give more than a gig bag. Remember, they're often just a case without the wood or molded plastic on the outside. From a weight perspective, they're not going to be that much more than a good gig bag, but they're going to be bulkier and more rigid. If you're traveling and want to carry a guitar, a gig bag will often take up slightly more space than the guitar, and you can squeeze it into whatever space is available. I can attest to being able to do that. Just shove that gig bag between the side of the car and the suitcases, and it'll fit. However, this one takes up enough space that you can't really just squeeze the guitar into your stuff. You'll have to budget space for one of these just like you would a suitcase or duffle bag. But it's a step up in protection and, with most having pockets on the outside, still gives some options that you don't have with a case.
Regular Cases. These are going to be the best protection, but they are also the heaviest of the three. They're also the most rigid when it comes to what you can do with them. No outside pockets, so, if it doesn't fit in the internal storage spot, you're carrying another bag. Bigger, heavier, (in most cases) more awkward, and, if you turn into someone's shin with a case, they're probably going to yelp in pain. However, I know someone that accidentally ran over the headstock of their guitar that was inside a case, and, while the case was crushed, they guitar survived unscathed. That's something that I'd wager isn't going to happen in a gig bag or even a hybrid case.
For me, the answer is pretty simple. Even when I am playing out on a pretty regular basis, I've never been in a position to have to do much more than carry my guitar across town (although "across town" may still be an hour and a half away). Also, I'm seldom in a situation where I'm not the one solely responsible for handling my gear. I pack it in, I pack it out, and no one is touching my gear except for me. Not that I wouldn't appreciate a good roadie sometimes, but the places I play everyone takes care of their own. All that to say, since I'm the only one handling my gear, I know that my guitar is not going to get tossed around places or roughly shoved around and other things like amps aren't going to be put on top of them. Because it's just me, the handling of my gear is going to be pretty controlled. I can get away with the lightweight and versatility of a gig bag. Even playing out, my electrics are all in gig bags.
For my acoustics that I play out, I do step up the game to a hybrid case. Still lightweight, but I've seen more bad things happen to acoustics than I have electrics, and the hybrid makes me think the vast majority of those things will be avoided. A little more bulk to the case means that it's got more padding, but it also means that those around me are going to be a little more aware that I'm carrying a guitar, and, hopefully, steer clear a bit.
Hard cases, for me, are reserved for when I fly with a guitar or am going to be in a situation where I think that extra protection might be needed. Oh, and also for that D-35 I've got that I've had for 30 years and couldn't replace if I wanted to.
That D-35 is also the guitar whose case is busted on the bottom edge because 30 years ago I was walking from work to band practice with it during the middle of winter. I decided to take a shortcut which took me through a little wooded stand where a creek ran through. I had jumped that creek a thousand times, but didn't think about the fact that it had just snowed and snow and ice were all over the ground. The creek only had a thin layer of ice on it. I got to the edge of the creek and jumped. My foot slid on the ice, and I realized mid-flight that I was only going to make it about half-way across the creek. As I went crashing through that thin ice into the freezing cold water, I instinctively held my guitar out so that it wouldn't end up in the water with me. It crashed onto the ice and bits of the roto-molded plastic (or whatever it's made from) went flying everywhere. Luckily the creek was only mid-calf deep, and I quickly jumped out. I realized then that, sometimes a case is the best option. As hard as my guitar hit that ice that day, I'm sure if I'd been using anything but a hard case, I would've had to find a luthier to repair the damage. But then a situation like I found myself that day was the exception and not the rule.
For me, gig bags whenever I can. Cases only when I have to.
I guess I made a mistake tonight. There's a piece of gear that caught my eye about a year ago that I decided to research. I keep telling myself that, if I ever spotted a screamin' deal on this piece of gear I was going to pick it up. I spotted that deal, but decided to do the research on it first. By the time I got back to it, someone else had picked it up. Not pulling the trigger quickly wasn't my mistake. My mistake was in hitting up some internet forums looking for thoughts and reviews on it. There was one person's pontificating that particularly chapped my hide.
Someone had written a short, glowing review of this piece of gear. It's a pedal that's not considered a piece of budget gear, but it uses digital modeling to copy an old analog pedal from way back. Consequently, the used/new price is usually $70/$100 vs the several hundred that the original costs. So most of the comments turned into the usual copy vs original vs cheap vs insanely expensive arguments. Most of that part of the discussion I just skipped, but this one post caught my eye.
I'm not going to copy the post here (although that would probably be easier), but this self-proclaimed authority on the subject spewed their nonsense using what appeared to be a well thought out tome of a post. However, when you take a look at what they were saying, they're nothing more than a corksniffer saying that more expensive is always better.
They said that folks that give good reviews on budget gear or copies of other, more expensive gear fall into one of a several categories. They said that they either are a young, broke player that can't afford anything nicer that really just wants to justify their purchase to avoid having buyer's remorse because they know what they got is really not that good. Or it's someone that doesn't know anything about gear and they're just repeating what they've heard or read somewhere else online. Or, and this was my favorite, they're not a pro player that has demo-ed vintage, boutique, mid-level, budget, etc gear to see which of it is really better. They even had the audacity to condescendingly mention that not everyone can afford vintage or high end gear, but "everybody has to start somewhere."
They went on like this for 8 or 9 paragraphs. Then they continued to argue with other commenters expounding on these opinions. I think that's part of what just really irritated me.
Yes, budget gear is usually not as good as more expensive gear, but saying (or at least implying) that someone is giving a favorable review of a piece of gear solely because they know it sucks and are trying to feel better about it is, as the British would say, total rubbish.
Let's use my Klon and klones as an example. At one point, I had my KTR and like 8 klones and did a shoot out with all of them to see which one I liked best. Honestly, I fully expected to the KTR to come in somewhere in the middle with some of the less expensive klones sounding better. To the corksniffer's credit, yes, the KTR edged out all the rest of the pedals, and, to my ear, it sounded better and did the Klon thing the best, and the cheapest klone I had at the time ended up at the bottom of the heap. All the rest of the pedals were basically a crap shoot with pedals that I wanted to do well (and were more expensive) not ending up as high as I would've like. The #1 pedal (the KTR) was a $300 pedal. The #2 pedal (the Tone Bakery Creme Brulee) was a $100 pedal. Was the KTR worth 200% more than the Tone Bakery? That's a highly subjective thing. I have both, and even I would say that the KTR sounded better but I'd be hard pressed to say it was worth $200 more. I'd also say that, since I'm not a pro player, the other pedals sound close enough (and are easy enough to replace) that I'm probably not going to gig out with the KTR. Heck, my EHX Soul Food came in at the #3 spot, and it was the 3rd cheapest pedal. I'd write a glowing review on that pedal for none of the reasons that poster mentioned. I'd do it for the simple fact that it's a good pedal.
They closed their nonsense by saying that folks can drive their budget car if they want, but the Ferrari is always going to be the better car. To that assertion, I would have to say that it depends on the Ferrari. A bright red Ferrari is almost always going to win the cool factor, but may not be the better car. Who wouldn't take a 1962 Ferrari 250 if given the opportunity, but it's not always the better car. I drive an FJ Cruiser. It's a very utilitarian ride. But it has aircon, a radio/cd player, power windows, power locks, can pull a trailer, is a capable off-road ride, and, according the literature, will do 0-60 in 7.8 seconds (although I'd believe that when I see it). That Ferrari 250 has none of the amenities, and has a 0-60 time at just over 8 seconds. From a purely objective viewpoint, the modern FJ cruiser is an all around better vehicle than the 60 year old Ferrari. The Ferrari would be a fun ride for an afternoon or two, but give me power windows and an a/c the rest of the time.
I don't think the modern pedals are that different. The pedal I am looking at is a fuzz pedal that digitally copies one of those late 60s/early 70s fuzzes. In the coolness factor, the huge enclosure of the old pedal totally takes it. In tonal qualities, the old pedal probably wins again. In the budget arena, the newer pedal can be had on the used market for 1/10th the price of the originals. From an audience factor, the only ones that are really going to care about the difference in sound are those of us that are "discerning" guitar players; nobody else is going to give a rat's big butt.
In the world of guitar gear reviews, it seems to be truer than ever that half of what you read is just wrong and the the other half you can't believe. I'll be the first to admit that there's bad gear out there. But, if you go into it with an open mind, there's a LOT more good gear than you think. Heck, back during the summer I started looking for a good compressor pedal. I ended up over the course of the last 6 months buying and playing on about 5 pedals...some budget and some not. Which one has ended up on my board? That red Behringer compressor that cost me $25 brand new and shipped to my door. Definitely considered to be a budget pedal. Also, a good reminder to put the cork down and breathe in the fresh air.
And in conclusion, as with all things gear related, your mileage my vary.
So I've got my ES-335, my Sheraton, and my ES-339.
My Gibson ES-335 is a 2016 Studio version. As I recall, it has a few differences from the regular ES-335 model, but, overall, it's still the same guitar. It has the 4-knob arrangement (unlike the Studio version from a couple of years earlier), and it has 57 Classic pups in it. I think the bridge used was a different bridge from the regular version. I also think that the neck is a torrefied neck. I think there were a couple of other minor differences, but those two are the most significant changes in the Studio and regular versions.
The Sheraton is a 1962 50th Anniversary model. It's biggest differences between it and an actual 335 are that it uses Gibson mini-buckers instead of full size ones and it has a Frequensator tailpiece (closer to a trapeze) instead of using a stop piece tailpiece. It has CTS pots and switches, and it has GIbson cloth wiring inside. Those are also differences between it and the regular Sheratons of the time that it was built. For the purpose of comparison, when I bought the Sheraton nearly 10 years ago, it cost approximately 50% more than a regular line Sheraton and half the price of an ES-335 (which is the model I would've gotten).
My Epiphone ES-339 is from the second run that they produced. The first run was during the summer or fall of 2011. I had been looking at and toying with the idea of buying a Gibson ES-339 for a while when they announced that Epi would be producing that model as well. I got my order in late enough that I missed that first run and had to wait on the second. The only difference in the two that I recall is that the first run had Epi's ProBucker pups in it (their equivalent to Gibby's BusrtBuckers) and the second run had the Alnico Pro pups in it (their equivalent to the 57 Classics).
Although, mine have some pretty significant differences in them, the 335 and Sheraton are very similar guitars in theory. However, I believe that the Sheraton was an Epiphone creation and not a Gibson copy originally, but it's a little more ornate than the basic 335; it's closer to an ES-355. I actually like my Sheraton better than my ES-335, and, moving forward, I'm going to talk about them as if they were the same unless specified otherwise. Also, I'm not covering the differences in Gibson vs Epiphone. This is 335 vs 339.
The 335 guitars are bigger bodied. I'm too lazy to look up the actual dimensions, but they're huge guitars. They're big enough that I know at least a couple of folks that won't play them because they're "just too big." They're also pretty heavy. I attribute the weight to the fact that they're so big. Although I've always said that the 339 is the same size as a Les Paul, I've read (and seen when they're side by side) that they're not quite the same size. But they're close. See the pics at the bottom for a comparison. It's not a huge difference, but that little bit makes a pretty big difference in weight and comfort when playing.
If it makes a difference to anyone, the 335 has the jack on the face of the guitar where the 339 has it on the hip like a Les Paul. I don't usually think about where the jack is, but every time I pull out the 335 and plug it in, I'm afraid I'm going to hit the plug and crack the face of the guitar or break the jack. I've never done that and probably never will, but it's always in the back of my mind.
From a parts standpoint, they're not really that different of guitars (and I'm not talking about the the Gibson vs Epi difference, this is the 335 vs 339 difference). They both have the same control setup. Both have 2 vol/2 tone setups with the pup selector down by the knobs. They both have a stop tail bridge. They both have humbuckers for pups. There's the jack location, but, other than that, they're similar.
Tones from both are very nice. They both have that nice semi-hollow sound. The longer I play, the more I really like that airy sound that you get from a semi-hollow like a 335 or 339. The difference is that the 339 can get into those Les Paul-ish kind of darker sounds that a 335 can't do. I imagine that's because the wings of the 339 are smaller so it's as close to a solid body as it is to a semi-hollow. The 335 is the standard for a semi-hollow, in my opinion, the semi by which all others are measured. The 339 does an adequate job in that semi-hollow arena, but it also can get into the LP territory. The 339 is a good balance between the two.
Once I understood that what I was hearing was a semi-hollow sound, I've liked the 335 and played one at least as often as I played my Strats. I've always wanted to like a good Les Paul, but have just never bonded with one. Since I started to migrate from primarily playing an acoustic to playing an electric, I have always been drawn to my Strats. However, about a year ago, I pulled my 339 out of the closet, set it up really well, and have been playing it almost exclusively since then. It's just a great guitar that covers a lot of area.
The 335 vs the 339. Both are great guitars that are very similar. If you like the humbucker sound, give them a shot.
And, yes, I've ripped those from the interwebs at some point. Don't remember where so I can't give credit like I should.
Those that know me know that I laugh at those that are often called cork sniffers. Whether online or face to face, I'm civil when I'm talking to them, usually. But there are times that they get on my last nerve.
Now for the uninitiated, let me define what a cork sniffer is. A cork sniffer is one of those that is so fixated on that specific piece of gear that nothing else is deemed worthy. Granted, we've all got that piece of guitar, like one of our guitars, that is absolutely the best thing ever and we wouldn't trade for anything. We've modded the heck out of it, and, despite what others tell us, there is no other guitar in the world that plays as well and sounds as good. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ones that look down their noses at a Squier or MIM Strat because it's not an MIA Strat. They're the ones that will crap all over Epiphone because "it'll never be a Gibson." You get the idea. They look down their nose at a piece of gear and call it inferior based on its location of manufacture, the brand on the label, or some other seemingly important factor. That's a cork sniffer, and, in my humble opinion, there are 2 types.
There are those that are just uneducated. Those are the new players that are basically parroting what they hear others say and have no real basis for their opinion. They're the ones that say Gibson is the only brand to play because that's what they see their hero talk about and play (although their hero may've played a Tokai until they got their endorsement deal). I, generally, will give these folks a pass. Give them some education and experience, and they'll grow out of this stage. They'll eventually realize that, yes, Gibson is the premium guitar, but bang-for-the-buck there are some Epiphones that may be better than a Gibby.
Then there's the other kind, and they're the ones that really bug me. I call them "ignernt." Now, ignernt is a good Texas term. Around here, if somebody gets called ignernt, the speaker is saying that the speakee is smart enough, they just have chosen to act the fool and be stupid. They're ignernt. These are the cork sniffers that I have been known to make fun of sometimes. They're the ones that are so fixated on a brand (or whatever) that they can't see past the end of their nose.
I was reminded tonight that I used to be one of the second kind of cork sniffers. Maybe that's why they bug me so much. And I was reminded of this fact tonight.
Way back when I first started playing, all I knew was acoustic guitars. The first really nice acoustic that I was exposed to was a Martin. In fact, through a series of events, after only playing a couple of years, I was blessed to be given my own Martin (a D-35). Still have that Martin. It currently needs to have the bridge replaced, but is probably still my fave acoustic. It's a workhorse of a guitar. But I digress.
I had a Martin. All the pro players I knew either played Martin, Taylor, or something really high end like an Olson. Consequently, outside of Martin and Taylor, I really didn't know anything about guitars. I had played enough of each of those to know that I knew I liked the traditional Martin sound more than the modern Taylor sound, but they both sounded really nice.
Where I lived, I'd get together and play with a buddy once a week or so (we played in the same band), and we both played Martins. Another acquaintance at work was given a guitar for Christmas one year by his dad, and asked if my buddy and I would take a look at it and tell him what we thought. Bless his heart, that was during my days of sniffing corks.
The day that he brought it over to my house, I remember thinking one thing about the guitar and saying something completely different. In retrospect, I really wish I would have been honest enough with myself to give him an honest review. All I remember at this point was that it was a jumbo bodied Guild of some sort. From what I remember about the inlays on it, if it was chosen from their current lineup (although this was 30 years ago now), it would've probably been the equivalent of the F-55. And that would make sense as, from what I remember he used to say about his parents, they only bought the best.
Anyways, this guitar had a really great sound. However, it didn't sound anything like a Martin or Taylor. It was a very full, rich sound. Very balanced sound. All around, it was just a really great guitar. However, because it wasn't a Martin, I don't think I had anything good to say about the guitar that wasn't a backhanded compliment. "It has a really nice sound for something that's not a Martin." The other guy that was playing it with me was pretty much like me when it came to guitars. So he didn't really have anything positive to say about it either. The guy that had gotten it for Christmas left that evening disappointed that "it'll never sound like a Martin."
I've come a long way since then in both my musical journey and my overall view on life. I still very much like the sound of a Martin, but I also have a Boulder Creek and a Tacoma, and an Epiphone acoustic. For electrics, I've got Squiers, MIM and MIA Fenders, as well as Epiphones and Gibsons. For pedals, I have real live, green Tube Screamers and all kinds of TS clones (including the cheapest, Chinese made ones on Amazon). I've got a closet full of gear spanning the spectrum of price.
Growing up, my parents tried to teach me to always give people the benefit of the doubt; just because they're different than me doesn't mean they're bad. Give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to do otherwise. As the Disney song says, "if you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew." When it comes to gear, be open minded. Just because the headstock doesn't say what you think it should doesn't mean it doesn't have a song in it. Pick it up and play it and see what it says.
And, Joel, if you ever happen upon this to be reading, I really hope you still have that Guild. Had I not been in the middle of my "Martin or nothing" days, I would have told you that it was a dang skippy nice guitar that had a great, warm sound and anybody should be ecstatic to be able to play. I'm sure that guitar was full of music if I'd only taken a moment and listened to it.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. If Coca Cola was alcohol, he'd be a raging alcoholic. He dislikes going to the grocery store. And he still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 2 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.