Updates On Guitars & Gear At Work

Updates On Guitars & Gear At Work: The Babicz Spider Identity (retail $1488), The Breedlove Atlas Solo C350 Rosewood (Retail $899); A 30 year-old Guild F50 (retail today $2099)  Let’s handle the bad news first. When I played the Breedlove Atlas Solo C350 while on a test playing mission with my friend Fred and I loved it. That’s not the bad news. We played it though a Roland Micro Cube, a great little amp and enjoyed the hell out of both. The Breedlove was very playable, sounded great in the store and had a unique soundhole on the up side directing sound upward to the player. A concern I had, after recommending the guitar as a buy, was would the sound being directed up credate a problem with a microphone picking up the guitar sound? Before I could register my theoretical concern, Fred called me with a real concern: he couldn’t contain the feedback once the guitar was being amplified through a larger amp in a large room. Large amplification and large rooms are two things musicians hope for when they perform.Fred’s not only smart, he’s experienced too. He didn’t need my advice because my advice was exactly what he did without advice. He returned the guitar immediately because a good store, and Rithchie’s Music Center in Rockaway is a good store, will accept returns within reasonable amounts of time. This was less than24 hours. Fred wound up buying a Takamine Dreadnought and is as happy as a clam although I have no idea why we use that expression because it doesn’t occur to me that clams are overly upbeat. OK, I do know – the full expression is “happy as a clam at high tidc.” Why are clams happy at high tide? Because clammers can’t get to them. But star fish can. OK, clams probably aren’t happy but Fred is happy.

Feedback on acoustic – electric guitars is a problem and most guitars made today do a good job at managing that and most quality PA systems likewise do a good job at suppressing  feedback. To me, a good lesson is that what works in the music store or looks great online, maynot work for you once you start to use it. Know the store’s return policy. Most online stores give you 45 days to return an unwanted item. It’s your money, don’t be shy.

I’ve owned my Babicz Spider Identity for 5 yeasr and it’s one of a few guitars in my collection that is simply never to be traded or sold. Mine was a prototype and a road warrior that went around with Jeff Babicz and his partner, the lovely and talented Jeff Carano and after meeting these two incredible men, they sold this one to me.

Mine is solid mahogany back, sides and soundboard, mahogany neck and some very unique, and useful design features. The new Spider has an Englemann Spruce top instead of mahogany. Mine has a warm, paino-like sound and I imagine the spruce top brightens the sound.  L.R.Baggs provides the sound and the sound is warm and wonderful.

The neck is smooth, sleek and probably the best acoustic guitar neck I’ve ever played. The neck also has a patented adjustment feature that allows the player to quickly change the string height without disturbing the tuning. Martin Guitars put out a guitar with this feature but discontinued it and Michael Kelly “Visionary” Acoustic uses this system. Many people I’ve spoken to think it’s a gimmick on first inspection, but I’ve used it for years, and it’s no gimmick.

If you play slide guitar, you can insert the allen wrench  and quickly raise the action. The same if you use open chords. If you do more leads you can lower the action. This is a great way to precisely adjust your guitar to your playing and music style.

Another great feature is the most obvious feature when you look at the guitar. It has 6 metal button-like “things” on the soundboard down by the edge of the guitar below the bridge. At first it looks like a strange ornamentation, but it’s not. It’s the “ica” and strings aren’t fed down into the bridge and then pinned, they’re fed through the metal near the edge of the guitar and fed through a stress reducing bridgte. So there’s no upward pulling on the bridge, in fact, the the strings place downward pressure on the bridge. This means less bracing, I believe better sound and durability.

After 5 years, it’s clearly a keeper. You can only buy Babicz Guitars directly from them. If you’d like to learn more about this guitar, go to the “Links for You” tab and scroll down to Jeff Babicz Guitars.  For clarity, Jeff isn’t an affiliate or a sponsor and I won’t make a penny on this, but I think y ou should check it out anyway.

So an update on a 30 year-old guitar? Why not? My Guild F50 with a beautiful spruce top and magnificent flamed maple back and sides. It has always had a magnificent voice and age has onloy sweetened it. The construction is rock solid and it needed its first setup 2 months ago – and the adjustment was very slight. It holds it tuning better than any instrument I’ve ever seen and from top to bottom, it’s a fine instrument that will last a lot longer than I will.

So guitar and bass buying lessons for today:  shop, compare and make your best choice but know if there’s a return policy so  you don’t get stuck with a guitar you don’t want. Even the most careful shopper can make a mistake.

Another lesson is that there are various purchasing stratgies and initiatives and they all have some virtue and I think it’s important to know what your looking to buy. If you’re looking for something with enduring quality for the long haul, save your money and invest some time and energy, play, compare, but and love it for a lifetime. That’s sounds wonderful, and I guess it is, but it’s not for everyone.

Some people are looking for a step up to a more functional guitar that they can use, will decently retain value and will be sold or traded in the future. There are lots of good choices if that’s your mission, be flexible on brand and learn about features.

Some buyers want to buy low price and then put a few improvements and that’s a skill and a passion. You can get a lot of guitar for a little money if you have the skill, patience and buying savvy.

Some acoustic-electric guitars very worthy of a look:

  1. Guild GAD-F40E Grand Auditorium (retail $1149) comes with solid flamed maple back & sides, solid spruce top and solid performance on all levels. I have a great fondness for Guild Guitars and a particular fondness for this one. It’s a great value.
  2. Yamaha CPX1200 Medium Jumbo (retail $1349) has solid rosewood back and sides, solid spruce top, great design and playbility and beautiful electronics.  A problem some people have with Yamaha is perception, not reality. For many of us, our first starter guitar was a Yamaha so many equate Yamaha with “cheap” stuff. My opinion is that Yamaha is the “good stuff” with a low priced line. They compete well in any market in which they sell.
  3. Takamine Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric (retail $1549) has a solid spruce top, solid rosewood back & laminated rosewood sides – a bit of a compromise but it’s a very good laminated side. The electronics are great on this guitar and the playability if very good too.
  4. Martin DCPA4 Dreadnought (retail $1199) is a great performer with solid sitka spruce top and solid sapele back & sides.  Great solid wood guitar.

The next few blogs will deal with update on actually working with amps, PA systems, electric guitars and bass guitars. What’s you opinion? I’d like to hear from you so send me an email at dave@openmindedmic.com or simply reply on this blog. Prof. Dave

 

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