Category Archives: Reviews

Ditto…..and about my love of loopers

I’ve been a long time fan of phrase loopers. Not only are they a great practice tool, they can add an entirely new dimension to a jam session with friends or a live band setting. Most importantly, they are fun. My first looper was an original Boomerang. This was a monster-size device that was designed to be completely controlled with the feet. I still consider it to be a great looper. After the Boomerang, I’ve tried different versions of Digitech Jammans and Boss RC loopers. While fun and capable, I never quite bonded with either the Digitech and Boss loopers even though they were clearly technically superior to the Boomerang. Finally, I purchased a Boomerang 3. I was in heaven. The Boomerang 3 is clearly the easiest and most powerful looper on the market; however, it is limited by not having the ability to store loops, play prerecorded samples or drum patters. As I’ve never found the need to store loops, I’ve never considered this to be a negative.

Recently, TC Electronic released their entry into the looper market, the Ditto. This one knob, one button, tiny pedal is the smallest, simplest looper on the market. Because of its small size, it can be easily fit on any pedal board. Best of all, the Ditto is completely transparent sounding. Even though I had the Boomerang 3, I felt compelled to try the Ditto. After living with it for three weeks, I highly recommend the Ditto for any guitarist that wants to dabble in looping. With only a single foot switch and a volume knob, any player should be able to come up to speed in no time. My intention was to attach the Ditto to my Pedaltrain Mini as an always available looper.

After the three weeks, I’ve decided to return the Ditto. There’s nothing wrong with the Ditto, it’s just that the Boomerang 3 has features that I considered essential. With the Ditto, you can create a single loop and you can overdub on top of that loop almost infinitely (or until the loop is just a sonic smear). With the Boomerang’s three independent loops, you can easily add, delete, and layer loops. The Boomerang has the unique ability to record a single measure rhythm and then automatically multiply/expand the single measure as you add layers. Also. the Boomerang has an adjustable decay so that your earlier loops fade away are you add new layers of loops. Other than the fact that both the Ditto and Boomerang both allow you to create loops, they are hardly comparable. The Ditto is analogous to a one shot Derringer and the Boomerang is like a revolver.

While any looper is a fun and useful tool, unless you’re willing to shell out the coin for a Boomerang 3, the Ditto is probably a great best bet and value for most players.


Cool Axe Alert – Epiphone Limited Edition Swingster Royale

On the way home from a little guitar jam visit at a work friend’s place I stopped at Guitar Center.  I didn’t have long before closing so I looked for something I hadn’t played before.  Low and behold the “Epiphone Limited Edition Swingster Royale”.  A very cool axe with a too long name.  The finish was in a dark gray/black sparkle and silver sparkle bindings.  It’s a mixture of elegant and tacky all in one!  Regardless, the finish was perfectly applied – no ripples, orange peel, or buff throughs anywhere.  The inner edges of the “F” holes even got the silver sparkle details.  I’ll have to admit it – Epiphone is getting better at finishes. The guitar was fitted with a Bigsby and roller bridge and had the cylindrical handle for another touch of class. The pickups were Epiphone’s take on something between a Dearmond and Filtertron ….growly like a Dearmond with a little Filtertron twang.  Each pickup had push/pull series/parallel switch.  I really couldn’t tell which I liked better…both were cool but different.  They were a touch dark but worked well enough – nothing that a little amp EQ didn’t compensate for.  As usual, Guitar Center put the guitar out without bothering to stretch the strings. At first, I thought there might be tuning issues but once I started to work the strings in, everything settled down and the Bigsby stayed true with no tuner slippage either.  Frets were typical of a guitar in this price range – very playable but hardly bling PRS.  The neck felt comfortable with enough shoulder to fill the hand well.  Probably the best way to describe this guitar is Epiphone’s take on a Gretsch Electromatic 5120…with my nod going to the Epi for the slick paint job and added touches like the roller bridge, handle, and pickup switching.

Through the Marshall DSL15’s clean channel with a gobs of reverb, this guitar sounded very retro Gretchey-twangy-Setzery (lots of “eys” eh?).  I wanted to plug it into a reverb-equiped Fender but time ran out.  In the mid $700, this is a great stage guitar for anyone that wants to Rock This Town.  It begs for dirt and reverb.  A blast to play.

http://www.amazon.com/Epiphone-Limited-Edition-Swingster-Electric/dp/B007L56OIE

Here’s a couple of shots including a close up of the sparkle finish and binding.

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New Guitar – Godin Kingpin 2 w/2x P-90s

I’ve been looking for something hollow. I sold a Sheraton 2 recently that I really liked to pay for another purchase. It seemed to be the best bet after auditioning a number of 335 style guitars. But, I was missing those tones.

On a recent trip to Guitar Center, I was trying every hollow/semi-hollow guitar on the rack. I tried $3K Gibsons to $300 Dots…and ran into the Godin Kingpin. (reviewed in a recent post) I’ve never tried one but heard that they were quality guitars. The one I played had a burst which was nicely done and a single P90. The burst color was a little odd but attractive. It sounded so much better than anything else. The fit and finish were impeccable and it sounded amazing through a Princeton and Hot Rod III. Very bluesy and also could work as an acoustic. I thought…”too bad it doesn’t come with two P90s”. After a little research I saw it was available with two P90 or even two humbuckers. Better yet, Amazon was selling them for not much more than the price that GC wanted for the single pickup model…and a couple of hundred less that other dealers.

It arrived yesterday and it’s been impossible to put down. The playability is excellent for this style guitar. What I mean by that is that it’s an archtop and not for crazy soloing or bending. But, it sounds great for blues, jazzy tones and acoustic style strumming. I tried it with some dirt pedals and it can cover heavier tones using the bridge pickup but I suspect it could feed back if I got the volume up too high with that sort of gain. I’ll experiment with string gauges although I suspect it’s going to like heavy ones.

Anyway, great instrument, amazing value, perfect setup, and versatile.

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Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin – Mini Review

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Sometimes, you happen upon something unexpected. After checking out that Albert Lee at Guitar Center, I was noodling with a bunch of semi and full hollow body import guitars (Epiphone Dots, Casinos, Zephyrs, Sheratons, 339s). They were OK. (I once had a fabulous Sheraton but sold it to a friend)

In the middle of the rack was this interesting baby. It’s a Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin. Godin is a Canadian company that’s known to make great guitars but they don’t see a lot of distribution in the states. On a whim, I pulled it down and plugged into a Fender Blues Deluxe. All I can say is WOW. The socks were knocked off and landed in the store’s drum department. The 5th Avenue sounded huge with the single P-90 single coil pickup (my favorite type of pickup). I dialed in a little dirt and notes jumped out. It was articulate and touch sensitive…with an almost biting Gibson 335 tone but with more bottom. With the amp turned off, it had a nice acoustic sound that would be great for around the house playing.

Fit and finish were flawless with fretwork on par with something from Fender’s custom shop. The matt/satin finish was nice enough – subdued. This was clearly a product of fine CNC machine work and hand finish.

Even better news, there’s a two P-90 version available! (and a no-pickup model too)

Here’s a very tasty jazz video featuring the guitar: Some cool jazz with the Godin

and another video with more blues/rock (and some raunch in the middle) Second Video

Music Man Albert Lee – Mini Review

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I made a little visit to Guitar Center after dinner tonight (a dangerous habit). I’ve been looking at these Music Man Albert Lee models for quite some time but have never played one. This one isn’t much of a looker with the plain wood finish. (kinda boring actually) The all-rosewood neck had perfectly finished frets but was too skinny for my taste. It’s too bad, it played great and the 5 different pickup sounds were very versatile. Les Paul, Tele, and Strat tones in one guitar. Fit and finish were flawless. It even had a compensating nut (Buzz Feiten) to improve the intonation. And that all-rosewood neck!! MM needs to offer a more traditional neck contour as an option – they’d sell a lot of them.

While I was there, I picked up a couple of MM John Petrucci models. Again – beautiful finish, very versatile pickup system, great playability but the necks were too small for me.

These guitars are on par with the high-end, boutique brands out there. But, I’d recommend trying one out to see if you like the neck size first.

5 Pedals for $500

I’m adding recommendations to the book. Guitars and Amps I feel pretty confident about. Pedals, not so much. There’s too much subjectivity and variety. So, I figured that I might post these threads on TGP and TDPRI to generate some data. It was kind of a risk as I’m out there now and also could be banned if the moderators didn’t like it. So far, some good response. Feel free to add and bump the threads: