Thirty7fx Fat Guy Little Coat Fuzz Pedal Review

A $100 mini fuzz from a local builder has utterly captured my attention despite only having one knob.

Overview & Cost: $99.00 from Instagram or Reverb.com

Thirty7fx is the creation of fellow New Englander Doug Christ who aspires to make simple but highly useable effects pedals. The Fat Guy Little Coat is the first pedal, of many exciting ones to come, that packs a ton of fuzz tone into a compact, one knob mini pedal. As the labels suggest, this pedal goes from fuzz to fuzzier to fuzziest with ease, giving you a bit of a volume boost but a real increase in sizzle as you turn it clockwise. The pricing for these wonderful fuzz boxes starts at about $99 and increases just a bit if you order a custom finish. In fact, the custom finish options are pretty amazing.

The Fat Guy Little Coat I got came in a wonderful brushed metal finish and encasing that is rock solid, with some nice blue accents and an incredibly bright LED. I’m sure that’s going to make this pedal a treat to use on stage, and I’ve already got it wired into my gigging board. Powered by your standard 9v power supply, the straightforward Fat Guy Little Coat is built to last and tough to break.

Review & Opinion

In a world filled with derivate pedals and clones, there’s just something unique about the Thirty7fx Fat Guy Little Coat. The fuzz tones are amazing, with a crispy yet clear signal that doesn’t lose too many notes while still filling a ton of space. The circuit and general idea of this classic fuzz isn’t groundbreaking, as it draws inspiration from a vintage “colorsound”-style fuzz. But the small, tough as nails enclosure, single knob, and custom colors make it feel special. However, the price is what really puts it over the top. I mean, it’s a $100 boutique fuzz pedal, at a time when boutique, handmade pedals are $200, $300, or more. When it comes to the tones, you won’t be disappointed at all, with a very touch sensitive fuzz effect that responds wonderfully to your guitar’s volume and tone controls. It ends up more flexible than the single knob would have you think, especially when you cycle through pickup options on a Strat or LP-style guitar. As you can hear, it sounds great with all pickup styles too, especially the Tele single coils which fatten up nicely. The stronger my pick attack became, the more I could push the pedal into a warm, natural fuzz that was working with my overdriven tube amp to cut through the mix. At the same time, if you soften up a bit with the tone on your guitar rolled off, you get a wonderfully sustaining blues tone with some punch. Full tone on plus the bridge pickup takes it back to a real hot, buzzsaw like fuzz that is perfect for garage rock madness.

Final Conclusion & Rating: 8.5 out of 10

It’s hard to find any faults in this pedalboard-friendly fuzz. A vintage, smooth fuzz circuit housed in a beautiful brushed metal box that can squeeze into small spaces checks a lot of boxes for me. I think it will check a lot of boxes for you too, with a $100 price tag that makes it very accessible. I’m particularly interested in using it live, with the dark stage making the bright LED super useful and the small size fitting on my smaller pedal train board. Plus, I generally trust simple pedals more than complicated, 5 knob monstrosities, there is just less in there to break or wear down. But really, the high score here is more about the sound of the Fat Guy Little Coat. It’s just wonderful across the board, with the agility to fit in with any guitar pickup or signal chain. It also took a boost pedal really well, which opened up some cool rhythm/lead opportunities without losing any clarity or overdriving the signal too much that it changes the character. This is a highly recommended buy for fuzz lovers and pedal lovers alike, plus it is still way cheaper than your average small brand, high quality pedal even after you get a custom enclosure!

Best of 2020: Ranking All The Guitars We’ve Reviewed $1000 and Under

2020 held so many guitar reviews that we had to split our end of the year roundup into two separate articles! This will show all our rankings for guitars $1000 USD and under, with the following article to rank all guitars over $1000. If you need a reminder, here is how we review guitars, and here is a important note on how to differentiate between the ever crowding guitar market.

Some other reminders:

  • Each review was hands on, which means the guitar arrived at my house, in my hands, plugged into my rig each time
  • I get paid exactly zero dollars to do these reviews, so no financial bias on my end
  • Sometimes I am fortunate enough to get to keep a guitar, but 95% of the time these guitars all go back to their original manufacturers
  • All the guitars reviewed here are new, and currently available
  • And lastly, to go read the individual review just click on the highlighted name of each guitar in the table!

Superlatives

Best Overall: Schecter Ultra III – Buy Here Read Full Review

Best Mod Project Platform: Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic – Buy HereRead Full Review

Most Versatile: Sterling by Music Man St. Vincent – Buy HereRead Full Review

Best Guitar For The Price: Glarry GTL Semi-Hollow – Buy HereRead Full Review

The Top 10:

#1 Schecter Ultra III

#2 Fano Omnis MG6

#3 Epiphone Les Paul Modern

#4 CMG Guitars Mark

#5 Goldfinch Guitars The Painted Lady 2020

#6 Fender Player Series Lead III

#7 Fender Player Series Mustang 90

#8 Howl Guitars Sirena 3

#9 D’Angelico Premier Mini DC

#10 Gretsch G5622T Electromatic

Model Rating Cost Find Your Own
Schecter Ultra III 9.4$699.00Reverb.com
Fano Omnis Series MG68.9$849.00Reverb.com
Epiphone Les Paul Modern8.8$649.00Reverb.com
CMG Guitars Mark8.6$799.00cmgguitars.com
Goldfinch Guitars The Painted Lady 20208.6$399.00Goldfinchgeetars.com
Fender Player Series Lead III8.5$599.99Reverb.com
Fender Player Series Mustang 908.4$599.99Reverb.com
Howl Guitars Sirena 3 8.4 $879.00Reverb.com
D’Angelico Premier Mini DC 8.4$799.99Reverb.com
Gretsch G5622T Electromatic 8.3$799.99Reverb.com
Sterling by Music Man St. Vincent8.0$599.99Reverb.com
Fano Omnis JM68.0$849.00Reverb.com
Kramer The ’848.0$799.00Reverb.com
Guild Starfire I SC7.8$599.00Reverb.com
Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic 7.6$349.99Reverb.com
Squier Classic Vibe Jazzmaster 7.5$399.99Reverb.com
Vintage V65 ICON7.1$349.00Reverb.com
Vintage V120 ICON6.9$329.00Reverb.com
Stadium NY Strat 6.6 $225.99Pelicanbeachmusic.com
Grote GT-150 6.5$149.00Amazon.com
Harley Benton TE-90QM HH 6.3$171.00 Reverb.com
Glarry GTL Semi-Hollow5.4$119.99Glarrymusic.com

As expected, the spread is far more linear than the premium guitars ($1000+) which indicates you get what you pay for in this sub-$1k category. However, you may notice a huge cluster in the $400-800 category, which for about 2 years now seems like the best spot to get value for your money.

Is This The Most Affordable American-Made Tele? CMG Guitars Mark Review

Coming in under $1000 could this be the most affordable, and surprisingly sweet sounding, domestic take on a T-style guitar?

Credit: CMG Guitars

Cost: $799.00 USD from CMGguitars.com or find your own on Reverb.com!

Overview & Final Score: 8.6 out of 10

My first experience with a CMG guitar was pretty inspiring, as I found their Ashlee LP derivative to not only be gorgeous looking (killer construction) but also smooth as hell to play. CMG’s reputation as shockingly affordable USA-made guitars shouldn’t overshadow how great the final products are, regardless of price. The Mark is no different, supplying premium Tele tones with a few CMG tweaks on a vintage Tele owned by the owner’s brother back in the day. Perhaps the easiest tweak to notice is the handy “E bend cut” which makes that lower horn smaller thanks to a deeper cut. This provides some pretty impressive access to the higher frets and is a common feature on CMG guitars.

Moving into the spec sheet you’ll find the body made of Mahogany or Natural Ash (the one I got was Ash), a Maple neck, and Rosewood fretboard. The masked binding around the body is a phenomenal touch, that really lets the natural beauty of the wood shine through. Somewhat surprising, this T-style is actually a 24.75″ scale length beast, so much more Gibson than Fender in that regard. Alongside the impressive Nitrocellulose lacquer, you’ll find Frog Dog pickups, a Wilkinson bridge with brass saddles, Grover 18:1 tuners, and standard Tele controls.

Sound: 8

CMG did a great job giving this “Mark” T-style a familiar yet versatile sonic quality. Just like your standard Fender Telecaster, this guitar can do a little bit of everything. You can jump to country from pop and then back into Jimmy Page-inspired riffs with a just a few clicks of the pickup selector and a gain pedal. The cleans are clear, responsive, and snappy, though they have a bit of a jangly sound that I imagine comes from the lower tension on the strings due to the shorter scale length. However, it doesn’t not sound like a Tele, and this little feature really comes out when plugged into a chimey amp like a Vox, and I loved it! The Frog Dog pickups are smooth in the neck, twangy in the bridge, and surprisingly full in the middle. Conveniently enough, there wasn’t any extraneous buzz or 60 cycle hum, which is always nice. CMG Guitars has put together something that can do a little bit of everything, making it feel and sound like a real workhorse for gigging or studio musicians.

Playability: 9

The most impressive thing about the CMG Mark is the feel and playability. That E Bend Cut makes a huge difference, for me at least, when it comes to playing down the neck. I feel a sense of control over those high frets that I don’t always have on my more traditional T-style guitars. Merge that with the nice fret work and really high quality set up, and you get a wonderfully high score. It’s a player for sure, and something that I would trust on stage night in and night out. Despite the shorter scale length, it didn’t feel foreign at all, in the sense that I still felt like I was playing a Tele. However, I’m sure that shorter scale paired with the E Bend Cut is what made soloing and improvising so comfortable up and down the neck. Tuning stability was pretty impressive too if I’m being honest. I think I tuned it maybe once the whole time I had it? Obviously I let it acclimate to my apartment for a few days before playing so that likely helped, but I’m finding it crazy how much tuning stability varies between guitars. Th CMG Mark was great, a guitar twice the cost sometimes sucks, it’s all a bit odd.

Finish & Construction: 8.5

With a slim price tag, you might be expecting this area to be where costs are cut on a domestic made guitar. But you’d be wrong, it seems the costs are low because the CMG Guitars Mark prioritizes functionality over frills. The guitar I was lent came in a nice “Bubba Blue” color, but the finish is pretty standard, normal, and really makes you focus on the experience of playing the guitar. I’ve seen some impressive finish colors on their site, but what you should focus on is how good this guitar feels to play. CMG is going to get high grades here despite not having the flashiest spec sheet because the end product is better than the sum of its parts. The hardware was well adjusted, the Mark was ready to go out of the nice padded CMG gig bag, and the emphasis is put on making this feel like a tool of the trade, not wall art. To me, that’s the sign of a good luthier/builder, when you craft a guitar that is not meant for the rock stars but is meant for the guy or girl playing in a bar.

Value: 9

It blows my mind that you can get a USA-made Tele for about $800. And you’re not sacrificing really anything to get it, sure maybe it won’t have the finish options or fancy wiring of a Fender Pro II Tele, but it will sound great, play great, and support small builders without breaking the bank. The CMG Mark is ready to be someone’s workhorse on tour or when jumping between studio sessions. And if you’re like me (and most of us during the pandemic), it’s a real joy to just sit down and play into a little amp around the house. I think the target audience here is hard working musicians who want to support a local builder, but can’t always afford to. At the same time, they can’t rely on just any guitar, and the superior performance and reliability of this CMG Mark T-style fills that niche perfectly for me.

Good for: Classic Rock, Country, Blues, Pop, Gigging Musicians, Versatile Session Players, Songwriters, Tele Fans

Squier Classic Vibe Jazzmaster Review

Will my first experience with plugging a spec-correct Jazzmaster into my rig inspire me to embrace the instrument or go back to my Strat?

Credit: Fender

Cost: $399.99, find your own from Fender.com, Amazon.com, or on Reverb.com!

Overview & Final Score: 7.5 out of 10

When I set out to do my Jazzmaster face-off I really had next to no experience with any Jazzmaster-style guitars. Fast forward to a few months later and I cannot put this Squier Classic Vibe JM down! This vintage spec’d and affordable Jazzmaster has a Poplar body with a gloss polyurethane finish in the classic Sunburst variety. The neck is made of Maple, with a classic C shape and Indian Laurel fretboard. 21 frets grace the neck with narrow tall frets that are pretty smooth playing up and down the neck. Classic vintage-style tuning pegs hold the strings through a bone nut as they run down to the classic (and somewhat flawed) offset floating tremolo and Jazzmaster bridge. True to its name, this is designed to replicate the famed ’60s Jazzmasters through and through.

Moving over to the electronics it gets pretty fun for someone new to the Jazzmaster like myself. Two Fender-designed Alnico Jazzmaster pickups have pretty standard 3-way switching and master volume and tone. And then the JM rhythm circuit kicks in. There are two thumbwheels for the neck volume and tone when in the rhythm position, which is the up switch. In my opinion, this circuit seems to add some meat to the neck pickup sound, giving it more volume and body to really cut through the mix.

Sound: 7

While I’ve never played a vintage or premium Fender Jazzmaster to compare this to, I think the guitar sounds well above average on its own. It’s a steal for the $400 price tag, providing real versatility and something different that not many other guitars can do. The rhythm circuit was the big winner for me here and I love that you can get this classic Fender sound in an affordable guitar, especially because most Jazzmaster clones don’t even feature anything like it. Clarity was one of the prevailing themes of this guitar, no matter how many effects I threw at it, it just stays crystal clear. Which made me realize two things: 1) no wonder shoegaze/indie rock players use this guitar under a bevy of effects and 2) this guitar is great for recording in a studio or home studio setting. The standard pickup settings, without the rhythm circuit are a bit on the low output end of the spectrum, and they certainly lack a certain richness that I prefer in Fender single coils (Tele, Strat). However, I can see how these unique qualities aren’t necessarily a bad thing if you are looking to use this in specific instances. As someone who switches guitars frequently (different tunings is the main reason) it is a bit annoying to see a steep drop off in volume and body, but maybe I just need a compressor! Overall, it is a clean and clear sounding guitar that seems like it represents all that classic Jazzmaster goodness well, and the rhythm circuit is a real winner!

Playability: 7

The narrow tall frets are an interesting feeling off the bat and not something I’m usually too familiar or comfortable with. Fret ends and polishing actually were very impressive and this guitar is well set up out of the box. But I guess this is another one of those things where you have to be expecting/looking for the feel of this guitar compared to just picking up a Tele or Strat and playing. The tuning stability is generally strong, even when you work the floating tremolo a little bit, which makes this a strong candidate for a gigging guitar. What really won me over though was how nicely the neck feels. It’s smooth, well finished, and gives the feel/illusion of being a much more expensive guitar. These Classic Vibes really live up to their reputation as a premium affordable guitar in terms of fit and feel. The nut seems well cut and the tuners don’t seem too cheap or anything, so I assume any tuning issues that occasionally pop up have to do with the bridge and trem system not being Fender’s greatest accomplishment. Nothing a Mastery can’t fix!

Finish & Construction: 8

I can’t say enough about the build quality and look of this Classic Vibe Jazzmaster from Squier. Simply put, it feels, plays, and looks like something far superior to most $400 on the market. It barely was beat out by the phenomenal (but $800) Fano Omnis JM6 that I reviewed in my Jazzmaster roundup. That guitar is really something, so that is saying a lot in my opinion. The finish came without any signs of issues, cracking, damage, etc…and the hardware is well installed, aligned, and feels pretty rugged. This Jazzmaster is definitely capable of taking a beating and I’m pumped to see what kind of mods it may have in its future.

Value: 8

I really like the guitar you get for the money here and this is clear example of why Squier guitars are the highest selling brand in the world. It’s a phenomenal guitar that feels and plays up there with guitars twice the price. You do lose a bit on the electronics side, as these pickups are crystal clear but not as bell-like and rich as some higher grade JM pickups might be. And of course, I’m sure the wiring inside could use a boost from nicer pots, though this will certainly get the job done. Overall, it gets such high ratings because it brings everything about the Jazzmaster down to a nice price. It’s authentic and uncompromising in the design, something that most JM copies from other brands cannot say. Bonus points for being a phenomenal mod platform are also awarded here and this thing feels like it is a Mastery bridge and Curtis Novak pickups away from being one of my go-to instruments. Classic Vibe guitars should not be underestimated and might just be one of the best values on the market for the working class musician. I’m more than pleased to say this Squier Classic Vibe Jazzmaster will be staying on my guitar rack for the foreseeable future and I cannot wait to figure out more ways to use it!

Good for: Alternative Rock, Atmospheric Playing, Garage Rock, Players Looking For Crystal Clear Clean Tones, Jazzmaster Enthusiasts, DIY Modders

Best of 2020: Ranking All The Guitars We’ve Reviewed Over $1000

2020 held so many guitar reviews that we had to split our end of the year roundup into two separate articles! This will show all our rankings for guitars over $1000, with the previous article ranking all guitars under $1000. If you need a reminder, here is how we review guitars, and here is a important note on how to differentiate between the ever crowding guitar market.

Some other reminders:

  • Each review was hands on, which means the guitar arrived at my house, in my hands, plugged into my rig each time
  • I get paid exactly zero dollars to do these reviews, so no financial bias on my end
  • Sometimes I am fortunate enough to get to keep a guitar, but 95% of the time these guitars all go back to their original manufacturers
  • All the guitars reviewed here are new, and currently available
  • And lastly, to go read the individual review just click on the highlighted name of each guitar in the table!

Superlatives

Best Overall: PRS Silver Sky – Buy Here Read Full Review

Best Value: Fender Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster – Buy HereRead Full Review

Best Boutique Build: Morifone Quarzo – Buy HereRead Full Review

Most Versatile: Ernie Ball Sabre – Buy HereRead Full Review

Top 10:

#1 PRS Silver Sky

#2 Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty Ball Family Reserve

#3 Fender Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster

#4 Ernie Ball Sabre

#5 Morifone Quarzo

#6 Knaggs Keya J Relic

#7 Reverend Rick Vito Signature Soulshaker

#8 Fender American Professional II Telecaster

#9 Yamaha SA-2200

#10 Stanford Crossroads Thinline 30

Full List

Model Rating (out of 10) CostFind Your Own
PRS Silver Sky 9.8$2299.00Reverb.com
Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty Ball Family Reserve9.8$5299.00Reverb.com
Fender Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster9.4$1099.99Reverb.com
Ernie Ball Sabre 9.4$3199.00Reverb.com
Morifone Quarzo 9.3$3999.00Morifone.com
Knaggs Keya J Relic 9.1$3200.00Reverb.com
Reverend Rick Vito Signature Soulshaker9.1$1599.00Reverb.com
Fender American Professional II Telecaster 9.1$1499.99Reverb.com
Yamaha SA-22009.1$1999.99Reverb.com
Stanford Crossroads Thinline 309.0$1099.99Stanford-guitars.com
Eastman SB598.9$1915.00Reverb.com
PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo 8.9$1549.00Reverb.com
Gibson Les Paul Studio 20208.6$1499.00Reverb.com
Knaggs Kenai J H2 Semi Gloss 8.6$2800.00Reverb.com
RWM Guitars Semi-Hollow Double Cut 8.6$1500.00rwmguitars.com
Harmony Rebel8.6$1299.00Reverb.com
Harmony Jupiter 8.6$1299.00Reverb.com
Harmony Juno8.4$1199.00Reverb.com
RWM Guitars Semi-Hollow T-Style8.4$1500.00rwmguitars.com

While I don’t generally believe that higher price means higher quality, it is always interesting to look at the spread of scores in relation to price. Likely, this is an artifact from higher quality control associated with higher costs of guitars, especially with boutique builds. The lower side of the rankings are also skewed by the fact that all 3 Harmony guitars were phenomenal but priced the same, ranked the same, and generally played/felt the same.

The Casino I Always Wanted: Stanford Crossroad Thinline 30 Review

While the last double cut hollowbody I reviewed won me over big time, this up and coming brand has offered something that fits me like a glove!

Credit: Stanford Guitars

Cost: $1099.00 from Stanford-guitars.com or Thomannmusic.com

Overview & Final Score: 9.0 out of 10

A relatively new guitar company, Stanford is under the iMusic Network family of brands, alongside the amazing Maybach guitar company. Stanford’s main goal, as far as I can tell, is to bring high level guitar quality and design down to a much more affordable price, something they thoroughly accomplished with their Crossroad Thinline 30. This fully hollow take on the vintage Epiphone Casino design features a Maple top, back, and sides as well as a Maple neck. That Maple neck holds an Ebony fingerboard, dot inlays, and holds Kluson Supreme tuners on the simple but classy headstock. A trapeze style tail piece is paired with a tune-o-matic style bridge and there are dedicated volume and tone pots for each of the two P90 pickups.

Sound: 9

The P90s chosen by Stanford here are just superb, with all the mid-range boost you want and expect. It really cuts through mixes, all while retaining surprising clarity and body. I pin that on the fully hollow body, which in my opinion adds some extra muscle to chords and open strings. In the bridge position, it was awesome to dial in some classic P90 tones for the punk and garage rock that I love. The Clash, The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it all poured out of this guitar when distortion and drive were introduced. Surprisingly, I haven’t had many feedback issues either despite the hollowbody, though I’m sure if I really cranked my amp to big gig levels it would make an appearance. The neck pickup proved to be smooth and buttery, perfect for lead lines, both bluesy and atmospheric. In fact, this Stanford Crossroad Thinline 30 was perfect for a lot of the diverse alternative music I’ve gotten into recently. With influences from rock, jazz, pop, and shoegaze, this guitar handled Young The Giant, Coldplay, The Police, and more. It’s always rewarding to recreate some of my favorite tones with guitars I have for review, but very few, if any, could cover as many sounds as this Stanford did through my rig. When it came to the volume and tone controls it was great to see fairly sensitive pots, which let me shape the sounds with more detail than most affordable guitars I’ve played.

Playability: 9

Once I picked up this Stanford the first thing I noticed how was how nice the neck finish was. It was super smooth, with a thin satin-like feel, but I was really struck by how thin the neck felt. I have grown to prefer thinner necks recently, as I feel I get a little more control over the fretboard. This Crossroad Thinline 30 also had really solid tuning stability, even if the G string went out of tune more frequently than the others. But on any Gibson-influenced guitar that is to be expected and I was overall impressed with how much of a beating the guitar could take from bends, and harsh downstrokes. When you pair that with the lightweight hollow body, this Stanford is a joy to play standing up and perfect for the stage in my opinion. Fretwork was similarly excellent, which is basically a great way to describe this guitar’s playability: excellent.

Finish & Construction: 9

Nothing to complete about here either as this late entry into our yearly guitar rankings is putting up a stiff fight. This Stanford just feels and looks like it should cost double the price tag. There is virtually nothing to improve, though I would have gone with a normal stop bar tailpiece so that I could have added my own Bigsby to it! The hardware and pickups are well installed and there are no signs of sloppy finish work, tooling marks, or any poorly cut binding. From top to bottom the Crossroad Thinline 30 is just a joy to play and look out. I don’t have as much experience with hollow body guitars as I do with semi-hollow, ES-335 types, so I was delighted by how lightweight and airy this guitar feels. It has a lovely acoustic tone and the Antique Vintage Sunburst finish should win over any Gibson/Epiphone purist.

Value: 9

Straight 9s here and it is well deserved even if it seems like lazy scoring. Everything on this guitar feels just a notch below perfect to me. When you add up the excellent tuning stability, the smooth feel, great tones, etc…it’s just a phenomenal end product that is about half the price of most competing models. This Stanford Crossroads Thinline 30 perfectly quenches my thirst for a Gibson-style hollowbody electric, something I’ve wanted ever since I saw U2’s Rattle and Hum documentary. This guitar really does fit me like a glove but I honestly think a lot of players will feel similarly. Stanford has put together a versatile guitar that does the original Epiphone Casino design justice, all while falling in between the two current Epiphone versions in price. While it may be closer in price to the overseas Casino vs the American-made Casino, it is surely much closer in quality to what we can expect from the new premium Epiphone. This Stanford Crossroads Thinline 30 is quickly becoming my go-to guitar, good luck getting it back from me Stanford!

Check out the Stanford in my recent fuzz pedal demo too!

Good for: Classic Rock, Pop, Beatles Sounds, U2 Sounds, Blues, Versatile Players, Gibson Fans Who Can’t Afford One, Gibson Fans Who Can Afford One But Now Don’t Need To

Vintage Icon Series V65 Guitar Review

Will this UK-designed take on the Jazzmaster beat out the Fano and Squier versions I have hanging around?

Cost: $349.00 from Vintageguitarsus.com or Reverb.com

Overview & Final Score: 7.1 out of 10

The second of two Vintage guitars I was lent for review, this one will be taking part in my Affordable Jazzmaster face-off for Ultimate-Guitar. In a stunning Gloss Black finish, this V65 from their Icon Series has a Maple body, Mahogany neck, and Lignum Rosa fretboard. A traditional 10″ radius alongside 22 Medium Jumbo frets gives the neck a familiar feel. So too does the soft-C profile and smooth gloss finish. A Graphtech NuBone nut provides a smooth, friction free contact point for each of the strings, greatly helping the tremolo system maintain use-ability. Moving on to the hardware, their vintage offset tremolo looks and feels right at home for a Jazzmaster-style guitar. Wilkinson’s WJ44 tuning machines look the part as well, and offer solid stability. While there isn’t the typical Jazzmaster wiring schematic you may no and love, you do get master volume, tone, and a 3-way selector to shape the tone of your dual soapbar pickups.

Sound: 6

True to Jazzmaster form, these pickups seem fairly low output but definitely sweet sounding. Unlike a typical JM-style guitar, there is no rhythm circuit to add some depth or beef it up. Despite the quiet soapbars, these P90 pickups are fairly snappy and are great for chords, rhythm work, and atmospheric/ambient guitar playing. They took gain far better than I anticipated, which seemed to breathe some life into this Vintage V65. Even better, the pickups did retain some clarity with a heavy does of Pro Co Rat distortion layered on top. However, the clean sounds really do sound a bit on the thin side when compared to similar style guitars. They aren’t nearly as muddy as the Wilkinson P90 in their V120 I recently reviewed (and really liked) but they also don’t have any balls…To me, this Vintage V65 guitar only thrived when my amp was cranked and my pedal board was adding tons of texture. Overall, it grades out slightly above average in the tone department, because I really loved the distorted tones I got out of it, as seen in the sound demo below. But to be fair, most people turn to a Jazzmaster for clean sounds, which left me wanting a bit more here.

Playability: 6.5

I was very impressed with how smooth the gloss finish was on the Maple neck, which featured some nice wood grain underneath. It supplied a real nice experience up and down the fretboard, especially with the soft-C shaped neck feeling a little thin, which I prefer. Wrapping my thumb around the top was a breeze, which isn’t always the case on some of these JM-influenced guitars. The tuning stability was ultimately solid to above average, but once you start working the tremolo system, you’ll likely have to tune up every few songs. For live playing, it wouldn’t be a huge issue, as long as you are someone who is comfortable tuning up mid show. Overall, the fretwork was solid too, with only a few spots showing signs of any sort of buzz. For the price, I wasn’t expecting perfect playability but if you were to invest in a pro setup for you new V65, I think you’d be surprised how buttery and smooth the neck would feel going forward!

Finish & Construction: 8

Where this Vintage V65 does shine is the fit and finish. I absolutely love the look of the Gloss Black finish, which feels and looks premium even under close inspection. There were barely any signs of quality control issues, aside from dust accumulation (could be from transit) all over the guitar. Likewise, the hardware was really nicely installed and only one of the pickups needed the slightest adjustment to be truly level. So outside of a few truly minor tweaks out of the box, you can expect your V65 Icon Series guitar to be pretty much ready to go. It’s certainly an inspiring guitar to look at, and I found myself picking it up pretty much anytime my eyes caught the reflection off the glossy finish.

Value: 8

At the end of the day, I think this is really solid value for the price tag. It’s only marginally more expensive than the popular Tagima JM copies and is a bit below a Squier Classic Vibe Jazzmaster. I’m fairly confident it also sits somewhere in between them in terms of quality as well. The Tagima may sound a bit sweeter, but this guitar feels and looks a lot more like a high end instrument, which really makes me think this is a few quick modifications away from being a beast of a guitar. Vintage also did a great job making this V65 work as a good introduction to offsets or Jazzmasters for players who may be hesitant to leap into a more expensive take on this design. If you’re looking for your first offset, or want a guitar that has potential to grow with you as a player, this Vintage Icon Series V65 is a great option for around $350!

Good for: Rhythm Guitar Players, Shoegaze, Alternative/Indie Rock, DIY Mods for Offset Guitars, Garage Rock, Introduction to Jazzmasters

The Problem With Limited Release Pedals Is Probably You

Some thoughts on the recent pedal craze that was punctuated by the Chase Bliss/ZVEX Bliss Factory ordeal.

Credit: Reverb.com

I love guitar pedals, in fact I think pretty much anyone who plays guitar or bass probably does. Yes we may argue over how many pedals you need, or which pedal has that vintage tone, but we all love them all the same. So quite frankly, it makes sense that when two rad pedal companies work together on a custom built collaboration, people are going to want that pedal!

But what no one talks about until after the fact is how the want for exciting new pedals, especially limited releases like the Bliss Factory, soon turns to a wave of vitriol online once the pedal has sold out. I actually first started writing this after the Ayahuasca debacle, where the poor owner of Chase Bliss was roasted alive by some so called fans for only making a limited batch of these fuzz pedals. But why do builders only make a limited number of something? Is it corporate greed gone boutique to drive up prices? To drive up demand? To create a sense of elitism? Well usually it is because they either ran out of the components they need to me more. Or it is because the pedal sucks to build and they choose not to do it anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure Joel from Chase Bliss came right out and said “yeah, I don’t really like the Ayahuasca as a pedal” (paraphrasing). Not everything is a global conspiracy these days. You know what turns these limited releases into a huge problem though, it’s probably you, the consumer.

Are These Pedals Under Priced?

This is a question that gets thrown around forums, YouTube comment sections, and the like anytime a pedal is listed at $400 by the manufacturer and then is bought up by re-sellers who will list it for $1000 on Reverb.com the next day. Sure, in some senses the pedal may be under priced. You could make the argument that if someone is willing to pay $1000 for a Chase Bliss/ZVEX Bliss Factory than it is indeed worth $1000.

But what is in it for those two companies if they only charge $400 for it? When it is re-sold online for a grand, they don’t see a cent of that sale. It doesn’t do anything aside from (maybe) give them the marketing boost of saying hey, our pedals are really great. So great in fact, people will pay anything for them. But is that worth missing out on the $600 in sales? Hell no it isn’t. And look at how it backfires so to speak, if that was their goal (it wasn’t)! People are now sending searing emails saying it is the pedal makers’ fault for making a limited release and that they should have known better that this would happen. They priced it at whatever they thought it was worth, and whatever made sense for their businesses, and then we all inflated the price ourselves.

Re-sellers Only Re-sell Because You’re Buying

Let’s be very clear about one thing. People only buy these pedals with the intention of re-selling them for more money, because they know people will pay anything for the pedal. They are fully aware that despite all the flack they may get online, if they list the $400 Bliss Factory, they will get $1000 from someone. And that same person who spent $1000 may even be running to their computer to post on thegearpage.com about how it is such a shame they had to spend $1000 just to get the pedal they so wanted.

It is not the job of the pedal maker to make sure no one exploits the popularity of their product. Limited releases are 9 times out of 10 not a marketing ploy, and result from limited supply of necessary components. If you can only source about a thousand special transistors you need, you can only make about a thousand pedals.

Wow, prices may have gone down from $1000!

So instead, maybe we as a guitar pedal community need to stop putting these pedals on a pedestal. If you didn’t get a Bliss Factory, so be it, go get an equally as functional and inspiring Fuzz Factory. Don’t immediately go online and look for a re-seller, only to bemoan the practice later. If you stop buying them from re-sellers, then no one will buy them with the intent to try to re-sell them for profit. We need to self regulate here and let limited releases be limited releases where not everyone was meant to have one. And quite honestly, why do we all need more $400 pedals? That’s not a criticism of Chase Bliss or ZVEX, but I’ll take a $400 guitar over a $400 pedal any day, these pedals probably aren’t even going to be the “secret weapon” that changes your tone, gets your band famous, or makes you a better player. It’s just a pedal. A damn cool pedal. But just another pedal in a sea of hundreds of awesome pedals.

It blows my mind that a simple guitar pedal has people running to their computers to lay abuse on some pedal makers. They don’t profit off of this madness, they don’t do it to cause controversy, they just wanted to make a cool pedal idea come to life. Pedals are one part of a much larger guitar rig which is one part of a much larger life lead by an individual. Your time is much better spent voting, enacting change in your community, or just practicing the guitar!

But Matt, You’re Just Jealous

And to anyone saying I’m just writing this because I’m upset that I can’t afford one, you’re half right I guess? Yeah, I can’t afford any of these pedals even before they were hitting reverb for over $700. But I’m happy with my board of $100 Boss and MXR pedals! They do a lot for me and the way I play guitar, and while I may not own any “expensive” pedals, it doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in the them, it just means that right now, I know they aren’t an essential part of my guitar playing life. Pedals are tools, they can be used in all different kinds of ways, by all different kinds of players. I’d love to try an Ayahuasca, Bliss Factory, King of Tone, whatever the craze is. I bet they are awesome pedals! That doesn’t mean we need to turn ZVEX and Chase Bliss’ email inboxes into a war zone….

Musiclily Mini Pedal Reviews: Ultimate Drive, Analog Chorus, and Analog Delay

Let’s dig into 3 mini pedals from the up and coming affordable guitar gear warehouse!

Overview

For a lot of these non-guitar gear reviews we’ll be changing up the review format to make them a little more easily accessible, especially with gear that isn’t particularly expensive. Starting us off in the pedal realm will be these brand new, micro pedals from Musiclily.com.

A color coded system will be used: Green = good purchase, can recommend strongly Yellow = some hesitation but good for some Gray = average, can do better can do worse, Red = avoid

Coming in at an incredibly reasonable $27 (or so, prices seem to be shifting between $23 and $27 USD), these are a great entry level option for beginners or player’s building their first pedal board. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the 3 effects that are very essential to my sound: chorus, delay, and drive. Each pedal is powered by a typical 9 volt power supply and have very simple, straightforward controls. Truth be told, I’m not sure who makes these pedals, as in the OEM status, but they seem to be similar to Kmise pedals from what I can tell.

Ultimate Drive: A “Plexi-style” drive pedal with gain, tone, and level controls alongside a high/low switch. This high/low switch seems to control a the tone, with low switch creating a bass-heavy, chug ready sound. The high option, is much more bright and in your face, like a cranked Plexi.

Find your own here!

Analog Chorus: A simple, two knob chorus pedal that is true bypass, Musiclily’s Analog Chorus features rate and depth controls.

Find your own here!

Analog Delay: 3 knobs that provide a tape echo-inspired delay, with time, mix, and repeat controls to dial in subtle slapback all the way to U2-like repeat layers.

Find your own here!

Review & Opinions

Overall, I’m impressed with the tones from all 3 pedals when you consider the price point. As you’ll hear in the demo video, they certainly provide useable sounds, both home recordings or live gigs. Right off the bat, the Analog Chorus won me over and would be the only one out of this selection that could live on my pedalboard. The controls have great sweep, which let you really dial in a viareity of chorus tones even with only two knobs. It has some Super Chorus flavors, but can also approach Neo Clone sounds as well. This is a strong choice for chorus lovers, beginners, or players building an affordaboard.

The Analog Delay was similar in the sense that there are many useable sounds, that certainly could fit into any player’s rig regardless of experience or budget. However, this pedal lacks two key things that would excite me: a weirdness factor, and a naturally warmth. Now, this is to be expected and shouldn’t prevent you from purchasing one. It’s a $27 delay pedal that works, if you are new to guitar or delay, this is a phenomenal place to start! It doesn’t do any crazy self oscillation stuff, there are no built-in modulations like we see in many popular delays. It’s just a straight forward, nice little analog delay that misses some of that vintage warmth, but will fit nicely on any pedalboard.

Last but not least, well kind of least, I would rank the Ultimate Drive towards the bottom of the ranking. I found the low setting to be fine, but it cuts out a lot of the Marshall-sound that I feel like makes this pedal attractive. At that point, it’s just a lower quality DS-1. But the high setting gives that Plexi tone that is quite fun and useful. If you don’t move the tone off of noon too much, this is a gigable pedal! And for $25+ that is quite an accomplishment and something worth highlighting. Another downside was that I found this drive to be quite noisy when plugged into my amp through several guitars. Nothing that wasn’t useable, but this remains a beginner-only option in my mind, while the Analog Chorus and Delay could possibly get the job done for a wide variety of players.

Final Conclusions and Ratings

Analog Chorus: 7/10 “Great Option, Buy It”

Not a bad chorus, even if tones are limited by the two knob set up. If you need a chorus and don’t expect a ton from your chorus (aka you’re not the guitarist in a “The Cult” cover band) this is perfectly great, affordable option to sit on your pedalboard, for beginners and pros.

Analog Delay: 6/10 “Do Some Research But A Good Option”

In terms of sound it may be a bit lower or closer to average (a 5 out of 10 score) but the value is off the charts for a $27 pedal. Great introduction to delay or a great second option (that you can afford), if you like having two delay pedals on your board for two different speeds.

Ultimate Drive: 4.5/10 “Better For Beginners Or Curious Players, Don’t Rely On”

A fine pedal, certainly in the average range or maybe better when you consider the price. I love the Plexi-like sounds of the high settings but find the low setting to be not worth the time to tweak. If you’re playing through a clean amp, or one with limited settings, this is a nice way to spice up your dirt sound. Otherwise, spend a bit more on a DS-1 or tube screamer clone.

Yamaha SA-2200 Electric Guitar Review

Why did I never know this guitar existed? It’s one of my personal favorites from 2020!

Cost: $1999.99, find your own from Yamaha.com, Reverb.com, or Amazon.com! (some affiliate links)

Overview & Final Score: 9.1/10

Yamaha built a superb ES-335 style guitar without anyone seeming to take notice. Just like with the Revstar I reviewed over a year ago, we need to pay more attention to Yamaha guitars. This SA-2200 is a semi-hollow electric guitar with two powerful Alnico V humbuckers that are each coil split enabled. Thanks to push/pull tone pots for each pickup, a volume pot for each pickup, and a 3-way selector switch, there is a huge variety of tones waiting to be dialed in. Coming in at a very Gibson-esque 24 3/4″ scale length, the SA-2200 sports a Laminated Sycamore body, Soft Maple center block, and Mahogany neck. An Ebony fretboard holds 22 medium jumbo frets, double block inlays, and a real bone nut. Some impressive hardware helps round out the spec sheet with Gotoh SG30 tuners, GE101Z tailpiece, and GE103B bridge. A gloss polyurethane finish gives this guitar some shine and a very scratch resistant finish.

Sound: 9.5

There is no shortage of excellent sounds hidden in this Yamaha SA-2200, especially with the addition of the coil splits. A what really impressed me is just how useable these coil splits are. Even on many fairly pricey guitars, like the Gibson Les Paul Studio from this year, the coil splits are just volume cuts that really thin out the sound. Yamaha has graced the SA-2200 with much brighter, more articulate single coil sounds hidden in both the neck and bridge. A known hater when it comes to neck pickups, I was very happy to find this neck pickup didn’t get too muddy too quickly, with above average sweep in the tone and volume knobs to actually manipulate the tone. The humbucker tones are even a bit sharper, with some real chime, when compared to your typical PAF-type pickup. While they are high output and great for classic rock, blues, and pop music you definitely lose just a little bit of that muscle you get in a more traditional ES-335 style guitar. But you gain so much more, you can tweak this guitar to sound all sorts of wonderful. Especially if you have some versatile pedals and a high quality amplifier. Hopefully you can hear it in the sound clips below from my YouTube channel, because I loved playing this guitar and it was one of the best sounding review units from 2020.

Playability: 9

More praise is due here for the SA-2200, which came almost perfectly set up out of the box. Tuning stability was top notch, and this could anyone’s main gigging instrument without any issues. Action was similarly wonderful, and smooth up and down the neck. It feels a bit thinner than a lot of the baseball bat style necks on this style of guitar, but still thick and round enough to feel familiar in your hands. That’s sort of the theme with this Yamaha SA-2200, it’s just a bit different from what you expect, but it’s all great quirks and tweaks that make it feel like a more modern, vintage semi-hollow. It’s hard not to love playing this guitar when you consider the great fretwork, tuning stability, and the killer looks. It’s a great strummer even when it is unplugged, and it feels built to take a lot of mileage.

Finish & Construction: 9

I’m a huge fan of the burst-style finish on this SA-2200, which featured some superb flaming and wood grain on the back. I can’t say I’ve ever played a guitar that featured a Laminated Sycamore, but it feels, sounds, and looks just as good as more familiar options like Mahogany. The build quality was top of the line here, absolutely living up to the Japanese-origin of these high end Yamaha’s. Hardware was well adjusted, and felt super sturdy and reliable. Likewise, there wasn’t a single spot or mark on the finish to complain about. This guitar is definitely built to last, and feels really well put together. Clearly, quality control shouldn’t be a concern, and the gloss finish feels reliable as hell, even if it won’t naturally relic as nicely as a nitro finish. Everything checks out as top end here, and this guitar will be ranking highly across all boards in the final, year round rating of the guitars we’ve reviewed in 2020.

Value: 9

High marks again, especially when compared to more traditional models of this guitar. Gibson ES-335’s from this year seem to start around $2500 and go up from there, especially for ones that will likely feel as premium as this guitar does. And if we’re being honest, I trust the quality control so much more from Yamaha than Gibson at this point (though Gibson is on the way up for sure). The pure versatility of this guitar also makes it a steal at around $2000, as it can be perfect for both gigging and studio musicians, covering a wide range of sounds and taking a beating in the meantime. Working coil splits, tuning stability, and fun factor are the highlights here, equating to a really inspiring and reliable guitar that is just expensive enough to raise expectations, but not expensive enough to prohibit many from owning their own SA-2200 one day. I’d pick this over a Gibson or Epiphone any day, and honestly, more people should know about this guitar.

Good for: ES-335 Fans, Versatile Guitar Players, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Pop, Players Looking For Gibson Alternatives, Fans Of Bright Humbuckers