Fano Omnis MG6 Electric Guitar Review

A full scale, modern take on the Mustang body shape from Fano’s new affordable series.

Credit: Fano Guitars

Big shoutout to Chad from Fano for hooking this review up!

Cost: $849.00 new from Fano or find a dealer on Reverb.com!

Overview & Final Score: 8.9

At Winter NAMM 2020 Fano surprised and impressed many with the announcement of their new affordable line of guitars, the Omnis series. One of the most impressive of the bunch, the re-introduced MG6 is a full scale variant of the Mustang guitar design. This compact offset features an Alder body, Maple neck, and Pau Ferro fingerboard. Unlike most Mustangs, the MG6 is a full 25.5″ scale length electric with 22 medium-jumbo frets. The Early ’60s C-shaped neck also gives the guitar a surprisingly vintage feel despite a clean, somewhat modern look.

Two Fano designed P90’s grace the front of this beautiful guitar, held inside a black pickguard. A tune-o-matic bridge holds a whammy bar for extra tonal versatility. A three way selector switch is paired with a single volume and tone pot as well. Lastly, you get this beautiful, polyurethane finished guitar with a Fano gig bag!

Look at that gorgeous headstock!

Sound: 8.5

I was pretty stoked to pick this Omnis MG6 up, as I’m a huge P90 fan and a huge offset guitar fan. The P90s did not disappoint, providing a mid frequency-rich sound that has that vintage “honk” that I never got from my Gibson Les Paul Special. The neck and bridge are both fairly clear and punchy, despite having the ability to take up a huge amount of tonal space. I think this Omnis MG6 really shined when played without many effects on top. The clean tones and natural overdriven tube amp tones were enough for me, and gave this guitar kind of a vintage feel when playing Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, or even Bob Dylan cuts.

Of course, the P90s sounded great when fuzzed out using my BigMuff pedal. While they aren’t the most versatile, mainly because the spread of the tone knob makes them get muddy really quick, they absolute scratch that fuzzed out, garage rock P90 itch. The middle position had the articulation and percussive sound that make this an underrated funk guitar, almost an out of phase Strat-like tone. The things that the MG6 does do, it does extremely well. But you need to be looking for just P90 tones and not too much else to make this affordable Fano your go-to guitar.

Playability: 9

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the feel of the early ’60s C shaped neck. It really felt more Fender-ish than I was expecting, which is my personal preference. Players looking for a more modern feeling or playing guitar may be slightly disappointed, but that’s where my criticism ends. The fret work was impeccable, the tuning stability was superb, but I did not mess around with the whammy bar so I’m not sure how this could throw it out of tune quicker than normal.

But every other box is checked off by this Fano Omnis! While it isn’t necessarily a “cheap” guitar, it certainly has all that Fano quality, charm, and magic for a far more accessible price. The fretboard and neck are straight, the tuners seem super reliable, I’m very happy with this Omnis MG6!

Finish & Construction: 10

Definitely the highlight of this new Fano guitar. The finish is spotless, well polished, and seems very sturdy and chip resistant. This is an exactly electric guitar to gig or tour with, it just feels solid, sounds great, and isn’t too expensive to worry about needing a mortgage to replace. The fret ends were well filed, the hardware was all tightly and correctly installed. The action was great right out of the box and the strings don’t feel cheap either! Everything here is well built, well wired, and sturdy. It also doesn’t hurt that this white finish is beautiful with the shiny silver P90s and looks great on any wall or guitar rack.

Just swooning over this MG6 brb

Value: 8

While the Omnis series introduces the most affordable Fano guitars ever made, they still certainly aren’t budget instruments by any measure. This MG6 is certainly a great bargain for $850, considering you can get everything you want in a Fano for far less than a new Alt De Facto MG6. At the same time, this MG6 is likely a little too expensive to be an impulse buy for most players. But do I think you get great value for the price? Oh yeah, it’s hard to find a full scale length Mustang. It’s hard to find a cheap Fano. This fulfills both those needs without any disappointments. Is it the best dual P90 guitar out there? Ehh, it’s really good, but you can certainly plenty of good options below $850. So keep that in mind when shopping and if you’re looking for a Fano in 2020, the MG6 may be the guitar for you!

Good for: Indie Rock, Blues, Classic Rock, Funk, Offset Guitar Lovers, Players Who Couldn’t Afford A Fano

Instagram demo is up now with both clean and fuzz tones! Ultimate-Guitar review coming next week, stay tuned!

Did Gibson Actually Get This New Epiphone Line Right?

I usually bash Gibson, but this is a big step in the right direction!

Credit: Epiphone.com

Now I have spent the better part of my journalism career criticizing Gibson here or at Ultimate-Guitar.com. And while their PR disasters don’t need any more bashing, I also was always struck by their misuse or mismanagement of their Epiphone line. In my opinion, one of the reasons Fender has been killing them in the past decade or more has always been Fender’s Mexican line of guitars. You could get quality guitars that were exact replicas of popular new and vintage Fender models, with Fender specs, and the Fender label on the headstock.

While many of us know that the label on the headstock shouldn’t matter, it still does to a lot of people in the guitar community. And being able to buy a “Fender” guitar for $400-$600 is a very appealing, very marketable product that Fender has long cashed in on. Gibson on the other hand, didn’t even make affordable models of their guitars that had the same headstock shape, let alone logo.

So for a lot of people, shallow as it may be, they simply would rather have a cheap Fender than a cheap Epiphone. And to top that off, they had so many weird inconsistencies between their Gibson and Epiphone lines. Why not just call the Epiphone Dot an Epiphone 335? Why was there no Les Paul Junior option despite the guitar’s huge rise in popularity? No SG with Maestro?

Also, why not make some of these Epiphone creations align more closely with these cheap, beloved Fender guitars? If you can release high quality Epiphone’s closer to $400 and $500, more people will see them as a genuine affordable alternative to a pricey Gibson. I’m ranting, but I just had so many issues with their marketing, design, and pricing. A MIM Strat is an awesome guitar, and can be had dirt cheap now a days, why would any beginner pick a weirdly priced Epiphone LP that was either cheaper and a far worse guitar, or more expensive and marginally better?

ANYWAYS, it seems Gibson finally figured some of this out! First off, they gave each guitar in the “Inspired by Gibson” collection a Kalamazoo headstock that is not only vintage correct, but looks far more elegant and Gibson “open book”-like than the previous design. This gives, in my opinion, each guitar a more Gibson feel and appearance, something you likely want if you’re buying an Epiphone.

Better yet, they introduced many of the models I listed above as missing from previous lines as well as just some awesome looking, new models that have been long time Gibson favorites. The Tobacco burst Les Paul Junior is gorgeous and will definitely be reviewed by GuitarsForIdiots this year. The Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird models provide vintage vibes thanks to their specs and no-frills, classic Gibson finish options. Dots are even called the Dot ES-335 now!

Better yet, they released a ton of amazing looking SG guitars, including this Pelham blue beauty with P90s that is sure to be a top seller.

How pretty is that?

Are these guitars high enough in quality to make me never buy a Gibson again? No shot, but they definitely have got my attention and will be thoroughly reviewed by me. Check out Trogly’s review of this SG in a worn cherry finish for more details on these eye catching guitars.

Remember That $60 Glarry? Let’s Make It More Fun…

It’s not magically a great guitar yet, but it’s certainly more fun to play and look at!

Lipstick in the neck, Fender MIM in the middle, and humbucker in the bridge!

I trashed on that cheap Glarry GST-3 pretty bad when I first reviewed it and the company was definitely not happy with me. When I took it apart for this project, I was even less impressed when I saw how much sawdust was trapped in every crevice…

But, in the sake of DIY mods and practicing my guitar tech skills I decided to see if I could do anything to make it more fun before it finds a new forever home. I didn’t have much money or time, but I thought I’d go with a bit a of a creative pickup combination, as well as a new black pickguard and some neck treatment.

Installing New Pickups & Wiring

What you see above is a lovely nameless lipstick pickup bought cheap on Reverb that will look cool and add some interesting sonic textures. I was hoping to add a bit more chime or jangle than that traditional fat Strat neck pickup tone.

In the middle is a more traditional MIM Strat middle pickup, partially because the white looks so good against the black and the blue, partially because I love Strat middle pickups!

Lastly, the bridge humbucker that originally came with my The Fretwire HH Thinline Tele kit has found a second life in the bridge of this Glarry. HSS Strats have a special place in my heart, as my first and favorite guitar was a MIM Fender HSS Stratocaster that I still hold as my most prized possession.

All the pots, wiring, and controls come from the Squier Affinity Strat I stripped to build that Retro’Tron equipped beauty I wrote about late last year.

Tweaking The Neck

Again, due to time and cost limitations I wasn’t able to slap a new neck on this guitar or even really install nice locking tuners. But I did make a few tweaks that will greatly upgrade this guitar’s performance.

First, the fretboard desperately needed some conditioning, something I did by rubbing some tung oil into the dark wood neck. You can’t condition a Maple neck this way, but darker woods like Rosewood, Pau Ferro, or Ebony should definitely get this treatment on cheaper guitars. I would recommend doing a little comparison shopping here for the best conditioner for your needs!

After that dried, I very gently sanded down the fretboard just to make sure there were no lumps or pockets of tung oil using very high grit sand paper.

Next, the forward bow in the neck was corrected using an Allen Wrench to bring the neck back towards a more flat shape. Then, a took a graphite mechanical pencil and lubricated the nut by rubbing the graphite into each slot. This should help prevent the strings from getting stuck on the poorly cut nut and being pulled out of tune.

Strings Are Going On & A Demo Is Coming

This guitar is getting stringed up and I’ll be recording a short demo of the new pickups and tones shortly! This guitar has been to work on and I just love the look of the black, white, and chrome on top of the blue body. One the demo is up, this guitar will be up for sale as I just have way too many guitars in my possession right now. Don’t worry, it’ll be super cheap! Hit me up if you’re interested in adding it your collection, or, if you want to build your own hit all the links in this article to shop where I do for parts!

Grote GT-150 Tele Set-in Electric Guitar Review

A cheap Telecaster clone with some surprisingly nice features from the finish to the locking tuners.

Credit: Amazon

Cost: $149.00 from Amazon.com!

Overview & Final Score: 6.5

Grote has quietly built up a bit of a following in the Amazon marketplace thanks to their constant release of dirt cheap guitars that don’t just follow the basic Strat/Tele formula. Along with Firefly brand guitars, Grote has quickly become a company worth reviewing and trying. For the ridiculously low price of $149, meet the Grote Tele Set-in Guitar with locking tuners. No it’s not the most original model name, but you make some cuts to keep it below $150 right??

Sometime getting the full specs on these guitars from Amazon is a bit dicey but here is what I found. The Grote Tele has a Maple neck with a Rosewood fingerboard. This 25.5″ scale length guitar also features 22 frets, dot inlays, and binding along the body and neck of the guitar. The guitar also boasts two open coil humbuckers as well as a hard tail bridge for a simple, power chord ready set up. One of the most impressive features has to be the inclusion of locking tuners, though they don’t specify who the manufacturer is. Either way, it’s an impressive list of features for a guitar so affordable, even if the stunning black top is a Maple veneer as opposed to a cap.

Sound: 6.5

The sounds produced by these no-name pickups actually kind of surprised me! The tones are full, powerful, and perfect for punk and garage rock. Generally, I stuck to the in-between and bridge humbucker tones, as the neck was far too muddy to play chords or anything other than fat sounding blues licks. On the other hand, I found all three pickup positions to have below average note to note clarity. Chords just kind of sound like one big amorphous blob of music, but, it does sound like a pretty powerful blob to be fair!

I definitely don’t think you’ll find the clarity for jazz progressions or the clean tones for pop, funk, or hip hop within Grote’s GT-150. What it does do good is heavily distorted, power chord-driven rock. It’s not the best HH Tele out there, but it certainly wouldn’t feel or sound out of place for a beginner. Especially one who is learning to rip through Ramones, Green Day, or Blink 182 covers at their local open mic night. For a comparison, I would say the humbucker tones are just a bit below an Epiphone Les Paul 100 but pretty dang close.

Playability: 6

This is where the Grote GT-150 most disappointed me, though not everything on the neck was awful. The locking tuners are certainly nothing compared to Sperzels or Grovers, but they did keep the guitar in tune for a while after I gave it a beating. The guitar came horribly out of tune, and the machine heads were so overtightened it took me a long time to get it tuned up. But once it was in tune and locked into place, it wasn’t that bad! The GT-150 took hardcore bends, huge downstrokes, and over-exaggerated finger picking better than pretty much any other $150 guitar probably could.

The nut is for sure going to need to be lubricated or replaced, as it seems poorly cut and likely catching the strings and pulling them out of tune after some time, even with the locking tuners. The neck itself was fairly comfortable, with more of a LP shape to it than that of a Telecaster. But as you’ll read below, the rest of the neck left a lot to be desired….

Finish & Construction: 6

As I just said above, their were a lot of signs of poor construction on the neck that affected the playability and appearance in my eyes. The poorly cut nut was already addressed, but the fretboard was littered with scratches which you can some of in the pick below. That’s not the wood grain, it’s legit scratches, some pretty deep. Pair that with really poorly cut fret ends that were pretty sharp, not necessarily enough to cut you, but enough to be really annoying. On the other hand, the finish came out really nice, with the veneer giving off this shadowy black-grey color that certainly looks better than most beginner-level guitars. With a proper set up and new pickups, this guitar does look pretty enough to warrant being a fun partscaster or DIY mod project!

Value: 7.5

While Grote’s GT-150 Tele Set-in neck no doubt has some flaws, it’s a fine guitar for $150. Plus, shipping is either going to be really affordable or free from Amazon where these are sold, so you aren’t spending much more than $150 when all is said and done. The GT-150 is really not too offensive of a beginner guitar either, with the glossy, well done neck finish making it feel smoother than most almost-raw wood cheap guitar necks. It’s got two hot humbuckers, simple controls, and good looks, if you can handle a few annoyances, this is really quite an affordable and reliable guitar for new players! While I wouldn’t say I’m in love with it, I’m actually pleasantly surprised at high I wanted to rate it when all was said and done.

Good for: Punk Rock, Garage Rock, Beginners, DIY Modders

Probably not going to be posting a UG review of this one soon, I’m absolutely swamped with reviews and other demos at the moment, but you’ll definitely be seeing more of this guitar!

Eastman SB59 Electric Guitar Review

We’re not playing authentic anymore…

Credit: Eastman Guitars

Cost: $1915.00, find one on Reverb.com!

Thanks to Alex from Eastman Guitars for making this review possible!

Overview & Final Score: 8.9

As someone who has never been a fan of traditional Gibson Les Pauls, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this Eastman SB59. This guitar is a vintage LP through and through and even felt surprisingly familiar the minute I picked it up. The Eastman SB59 is, as the name implies, a ’59 Les Paul remake with a vintage Nitrocellulose finish. A 1-piece Mahogany body is matched to a Flame Maple Top and 1-piece Mahogany neck as well. That’s matched to an Ebony fingerboard that holds gorgeous Pearl Crown inlays and Ivoroid binding around the body and neck.

When it comes to the engine that drives this beast, you’ve got two Seymour Duncan Classic 59 humbuckers that don’t disappoint. CTS 500K pots are matched to the stereotypical LP set up with a 3-way switch and two volume and two tone controls. When it comes to the tuners, Gotoh SD90 are responsible for keeping this 24.75″ scale length guitar in tune.

Fits right into my rig!

Sound: 9.5

Eastman’s SB59 is closer to a vintage Gibson Les Paul in tone than a lot of the real Gibson’s I’ve played. The Seymour Duncan humbuckers are creamy, rich, and really PAF-like. I used to hear players like Joe Bonamassa say that they could get a huge variety of tones from just their volume and tone controls and never believed it. However, this SB59’s controls are incredibly sensitive and I was able to get a huge variety of sounds out of it. Everything from Led Zeppelin to Cream to The Clash in terms of rock tones and even plenty of crystal clean and clear tones for pop, jazz, and fusion.

The best sounds by far are the neck pickup with the volume and tone cranked. It’s bluesy, smooth, and sounds like the ’60s and ’70s to my ears. Usually LP clean sounds don’t do it for me, as I feel the miss the percussive and punchy sounds of a Fender guitars, but this guitar was different. The SB59 doesn’t have any of those percussive tones I love, but the clean sounds are incredibly rich, almost chimey, thanks to these Seymour Duncan’s and the guitar’s huge natural sustain. I have to stop asking companies to review guitars that are awesome, because it’s hard to find bad things to say about this SB59.

Playability: 9

The feel of the neck is just phenomenal, slim as you approach the nut and getting just a bit bigger as you move to higher frets. It’s a far cry from the baseball bat necks that some people prefer on LP’s that I dislike. Now, it’s not a super slim, fast neck that will appease shredders, but it feels far more comfortable for any player’s hands than some of those old Gibson’s. The tuning stability was overall pretty good, it did not go out of tune until you really started bending the strings. Leaving it in the case overnight or out on my guitar rack didn’t have the strings slipping at all. Like a lot of Gibson’s though, the break angle of the string into the nut isn’t as bend/heavy pick attack friendly as some other classic guitar brands.

Finish & Construction: 10

The SB59 is wonderfully build, from a structural perspective, it’s flawless. The vintage Nitro finish is gorgeous, feels amazing, and arrived with no dings, dents, scratches, or smudges. All the hardware was adjusted wonderfully and the action was perfect out of the box. Anytime a guitar shows up from UPS feeling that nice out of the box and barely out of tune is a testament to the craftsmanship. This is a beautiful archtop with QA/QC that clearly has a step up on Gibson (even though they are improving). I see a lot of the appeal with this guitar, it’s essentially a Gibson copy with a few tweaks (slimmer neck, Seymour Duncans) and more trustworthy build quality.

Value: 7

Okay, time for a few critical statements. I love the SB59, it’s incredible sounding and beautifully built. BUT, for closer to $2000, I don’t see why most LP lovers wouldn’t go for a top end Gibson. As you move closer to that $2000 price point, you start to move away from some of the cheaper production model Gibson’s that have all those build quality issues in the first place. So while the guitar is phenomenal, I feel that as a buyer, you need to want an Eastman instead of a Gibson to buy this, as opposed to wanting the best LP you can find. For the $2000 price tag though, you are getting a hell of a guitar and it does not disappoint at all. It’s not overpriced based on quality and I cannot recommend trying one of these out enough. The SB59 is an excellent guitar, even if I’m unsure of the market share they are trying to attract.

Good for: Blues, Classic Rock, Les Paul Lovers

Ultimate-Guitar.com review on the way and some quick clips of this paired with the JHS PG-14 Distortion should be up today!

Sadly I have to return this gorgeous LP

Schecter Ultra-III Electric Guitar Review

Click here for more details on this beauty!

Cost: $699.00 from Reverb.com, click here to buy yours!

Check out my UG Shot featuring an overview and my thoughts on the Ultra III!

Thank you to Adam from Schecter.com for making this review possible, I have been obsessed with trying out this guitar for months!

Overview & Final Score: 9.4

There is quite a bit to break down when it comes to the Schecter Ultra-III thanks to its three pickup design. Three Duncan Designed FG-101 pickups grace the front, giving it a truly unique triple mini Filter’Tron look. You also get a simple tone and volume control knob but that’s where simplicity ends. So below the neck pickup you’ll notice three slider controls. These each move to three positions, allowing you to turn the pickup on-pickup off-coil split engaged. That allows for a crazy amount of tonal variations, in fact if my math is right it’s 3x3x3 options meaning 27 in total?? (someone check that please).

The offset body kind of reminds me of a larger Telecaster, and is made of Mahogany with a 3 piece Mahogany neck set into the body. A Rosewood fretboard holds 22 jumbo frets with block inlays. Grover tuners, ivory 1-play binding, a Bigsby paired to a roller bridge, and a stunning vintage blue finish round out the premium features on the Ultra-III.

Sound: 9.5

There aren’t enough words for me to describe the different tonal combinations you can get from all those switches. The Ultra-III is truly one of the most tonally impressive and diverse guitars I’ve ever played. It will take you awhile to get the switching and combinations down to where you can quickly flick them around on stage with no second guessing. BUT, everyone of them sounds so good.

These Duncan Designed pickups are bright, chimey, and get a really nasty snarl when fuzz is layered on top. The coil split is a really nice touch and is well done, adding more of a percussive, snappy response to each position that feels ideal for rhythm playing that I would normally reach for a Strat to get.

The most impressive tone was just the three pickups straight on, all at once. The guitar howled, barked, and responded to each pick stroke beautifully when plugged into my Vox AC15 Top Boost. The body feels so heavy and you can hear that weight in the tone thanks to the natural sustain and huge, bass heavy output. One of the best ways to judge an electric guitar’s tone is to play unplugged. If the unplugged sound is still loud, rich, and sustaining, it definitely will sound good plugged in. The Schecter Ultra-III did not disappoint and this may be one of my favorite guitars to ever review, better than the Chapman, better than the Jetstar, I love this thing.

Playability: 9

The Ultra-III is ultra comfortable, thanks to the beefy neck (that they call thin) and jumbo frets. They claim the neck is a thin C on their website, but it feels bulky in the best possible way to me. In a lot of ways, it’s almost like a round Tele neck meets a vintage Gibson baseball bat. The full size 25.5″ scale length makes it more Fender-friendly though than the looks may indicate. I love the feel of jumbo frets as well so that’s always a huge plus.

The tuning stability has been awesome so far, that roller bridge really makes a difference with the Bigsby. I can go far further with this Bigsby than I can with the one on my Les Paul and still keep excellent tuning. The back of the neck feels silky smooth and glossy, which always wins me over. It really feels like this guitar was made to my specs so I’m probably extremely biased, sorry!

Finish & Construction: 10

I could write a thousand words about the design, construction, and look of this guitar. Or, you could just stare at this gorgeous guitar. The finish is spotless on the Ultra-III I was sent and every piece of hardware is properly and securely fit to the body. Even the top carve around the face of the guitar is beautiful and well done. This Ultra-III feels and looks like some custom shop monster that would cost well over $1000. I can see why they originally retailed for closer to that, but the recent price drop should have you running to get one. Nothing else to complain about here, the Ultra-III is perfectly built in my opinion.

Value: 9

Had this guitar stayed at its original $1000 price tag I may have to knock this down to the 7-8 range. Now coming in closer to $700, I think the Ultra-III is hard to pass up. While the looks and tones may seem outlandish to some, this guitar is loaded with premium, brand-name features from the Grover tuners to the Bigsby trem arm. The sheer volume of tonal possibilities, killer looks, and smooth neck make this guitar so much fun to play. I’m really a huge fan of the Ultra-III, plain and simple. All that gushing aside, you may notice that it still doesn’t get the highest rated score out of all the guitars I’ve reviewed. Truth be told, I think the better value of the cheaper Jetstar and the more market-friendly dual toaster top pickups give it a slight edge in overall scoring. However, I’m placing this Ultra-III right next to it on my guitar rack so we can check back in a few months about which one I end up picking up more.

Good For: Garage Rock, Classic Rock, Rockabilly, Country, Players Who Want To Stick Out, Filter’Tron Fans

Demo clips for the Ultra-III, Painted Lady, and PG-14 will all probably have to wait until early next week as I’m swamped with articles, mod projects, and a Bigsby installation video right now! But you can expect the Ultimate-Guitar.com review up any day now! I suppose it’s a good problem that I’m so busy with these reviews…

Goldfinch Guitars Painted Lady Electric Guitar Review

Hit the link HERE for more of these stunning short scales!

Huge thanks to Phil & Goldfinch Guitars for sending me what has now become one of my go-to guitars!

Cost: $399.00 from Goldfinch-guitars.com!

Check out my UG Shot demo and walkthrough of this awesome offset!

Overview & Final Score: 8.6

The Goldfinch Guitars Painted Lady quickly got my eye when I saw an earlier version in a 60 Cycle Hum YouTube video. After reaching out the company, I quickly struck up conversation with one of the owners and creators, who very quickly displayed an incredible passion for creating unique, fun guitars that any player could afford. Shortly after, he unveiled the The Painted Lady 2020 and sent me my very own gorgeous Redburst model.

This Painted Lady is crafted from a lightweight Paulownia body and features a set Maple neck. The Maple neck and fretboard are adorned with black block inlays that scream vintage Fender and did not disappoint in real life. It’s a super straightforward guitar, one volume control tied to one humbucker, all in a white pickguard. The stop-bar tailpiece has really got my attention, as I’m already imagining putting a Bigsby or other tremolo arm on this guitar.

Just gorgeous

Sound: 7.5

Let’s be honest, this isn’t a guitar meant for shoe gazers or sonic maestros. It’s a one humbucker, one volume pot, guitar that plays and sounds great, at the cost of versatility. Part of what makes it so affordable is no doubt the simple construction, but who cares, this no-name humbuckers sound straight up good!

The Painted Lady has a surprisingly mid-heavy tone in my opinion, which makes it a joy to play through a cranked tube amp. It pushes the tubes just enough to get some crunchy, crackly overdriven tones all while retaining really good clarity. The note to note definition is shocking for the price and pickup choice. In fact, the Painted Lady shined with chorus and delay and tremolo. Cage The Elephant, SWMRS, REM, and many other punk/alternative sounds poured out of this guitar.

No, it’s not gonna sound as good as a Gibson or Fender or ESP, but it’s just fun! It sounds good, it’s got a crystal clear, crunchy tone, and it feels at home behind walls of effects and a cranked tube amp.

Playability: 9

The quality of the neck, tuning stability, and feel surprised me. I was always super drawn to this guitar, but that was because of the design and look. Now I’m super drawn to pick it up because it just feels so good. The shorter 24.75″ scale length isn’t something I’m used to as a Fender Strat/Tele guy, but the neck is super stable and has held tune for the past several days really well. The tuners and bridge are cheap, overseas hardware, but they seem to be really well made and I see no reason to replace them. Overall, I’m super impressed with the tuning stability and neck feel, I would expect this quality on a Fender Jaguar worth twice the money!

Finish & Construction: 8

This guitar has looks, sounds, and feel that most guitars in this price range don’t have. The redburst finish is gorgeous, and kind of changes in shade depending on the light bouncing off of it. As I said before, all the hardware and electronics seem really well put together, regardless of if they are brand name or not.

Another thing really working in the Painted Lady’s favor is that she is designed to be easily modified. You can pretty much just flip the strings and nut and boom you have a lefty electric guitar. Plus, I believe that most of the body under the pickguard is routed out, meaning you could put in any electronics or pickups you wanted. I’m already thinking about adding a Bigsby and Filter’Tron to this short scale monster. Any guitar that’s easy to mod without sacrificing build quality gets high marks from me!

Value: 10

The highest mark for the Painted Lady has to be the price. It’s affordable enough for beginners to enjoy the short scale and gloss maple neck. It’s also affordable enough for most experienced players to buy it spontaneously and modify to their liking. Overall, it’s a smooth feeling and full sounding guitar that will make you stick out of a crowd. Usually, that sets you back a few hundred more dollars, even without any quality improvements. I’ve been playing this all around my house, it’s so easy to just pickup and strum and so comfortable with the small frame and neck. This is quickly becoming one of my go-to guitars on my rack when I’m home, and I will be doing some real sick mods to this for the website in the future. Stay tuned!

Good For: Alternative & Indie Rock, Playing Around The House, DIY Modders, Players With Small Hands

Demo clips and Ultimate-Guitar.com review coming soon!

JHS PG 14 Paul Gilbert Signature Distortion Pedal Review

NOT a bad looking pedal

Cost: $199.00 from Reverb.com, click here to get your own!

How it Works & Final Score: 9.2

Not only the is JHS’s PG-14 a great looking pedal, but it’s also incredibly diverse and versatile. The PG-14 is designed around a FET based distortion engine. This engine used to provide a classic, pushed tube amp tone through any rig. The volume, mid, and tone controls are pretty standard, but after that it gets really interesting!

The “Mid Freq” control acts as a preamp in front of that FET distortion engine. This gives you additional (and incredible) opportunities to sculpt your tone to your exact specifications, be that Paul Gilbert’s tone or not. Then, as you move into that FET engine portion of the circuit, you have your drive and push controls. The gain is fairly straightforward, adjusting the saturation of your distortion tone. The push knob is something special, where it emulates that pushed response of vintage tubes. This can help shape your distortion tone from crackle to hiss to stadium-sized stack tones. Playing with this knob with the gain low shows just accurately it emulates that beloved tube amp breakup.

Was that enough tone shaping controls for you? I hope so…

The PG-14 matches up pretty nice with this Schecter Ultra III huh??

Sound: 9.5

This is one of the best sounding distortion pedals out there, plain and simple. The only thing that could possibly be a criticism is that when playing I want to constantly tweak my tones between songs, which is hard with 6 tone controls. In the studio though, this pedal will absolutely shine.

The tube breakup emulation in the PG-14 feels so authentic. The touch response and sensitivity is there, with light pick strokes creating the quietest, compact distortion tones that quickly fade away. Start hitting harder and you get gushes of sustain and thick overdrive and distortion. It literally allows you to play so so much more dynamically without touching the volume knob on your guitar at all. It’s crazy.

The other big thing that the JHS PG-14 claims is that it can recreate these tones and overdriven sounds in any rig, high out put or low output. This was one of the most rewarding parts of the pedal. Whether it went into a small, solid state Orange Crush 20 or my louder, tube powered Vox combo amp, it sounded rich and responsive. It’s a phenomenal pedal full of stage worthy sounds.

Durability: 10

So it’s always hard to judge a pedals durability when you’re only playing it for a week or even a month, but JHS pedals have a sterling reputation and my full confidence. Some of my past reviews have been recently edited to reflect pedals that suddenly stopped working and weren’t as advertised, but the JHS line is not one of them. The JHS PG-14 is far more compact than equally versatile and complex distortions and is well built to stick on anyone’s pedal board in my humble opinion.

Value: 8

The only downside to JHS pedals is that you have to pay for all this quality. Not that that’s really a criticism anyway. The deal here is that the PG-14 sounds so dang good and is really worth all the hype, it just can’t really fit in everyone’s budget. Much like their amazing Muffuletta fuzz, the sound will not let you down, but you have to want and need this thing to shell out $200 for it. If budgeting is an issue, there are plenty of more suitable distortion/overdrive pedals in the under $100 range, which is the only limiting factor here. Otherwise, the PG-14 is still a great value in that it comes in less than a lot of high end, boutique pedals and blows pretty much every other distortion out of the water!

Demo clips and Ultimate-Guitar.com review up soon!

Morifone Quarzo Electric Guitar Review

Credit: Morifone Guitars

Cost: $3,999.00 new from Morifone.com

Huge thanks to Ren, the creator of the Quarzo for lending me this top notch instrument for review!

Overview & Final Score: 9.3

The Morifone Quarzo is one beast of a guitar and has quite a bit to unpack. Handmade in Canada from the finest tone woods, Morifone Guitars is a relatively new company that’s bringing sweeping change to a classic design. The Quarzo is a bit like an offset Les Paul with huge technological updates. The Quarzo comes with a Mahogany body and neck, and can have your choice of a figured or plain Maple top. The long tenon body-neck joint provides a ton of neck stability, as well as increased sustain.

Better yet, this guitar features a new, patent headstock design that looks like upward wings, called the “Aileron”. The reasoning is simple, because the tuning pegs are never in contact with a flat surface, the tuning stability is far improved. This design also boosts playability, as well as natural sustain.

The high quality features don’t end before reaching the electronics too. A traditional 3-way selector switch lets you control the pickups, which you get to choose from the Lollar product catalog. This one came with two vintage-voiced Lollar humbuckers that gave the guitar a real Les Paul flavor. Two dedicated volume CTS pots are matched with just one CTS tone pot, but you do get a coil split function accessible by pushing in the tone pot, much like Fender’s S1 switch.

If all that wasn’t enough, there is also stunning binding, Schaller tuners, a Bell-Brass tune-o-matic bridge, and a Graphtech TUSQ nut. I’m probably missing more amazing features, but everything on this guitar is designed to top of the line!

Look how gorgeous this thing is??

Sound: 10

It’s hard to find much at fault here, as Lollar pickups are some of the best, if not the best, options on the market. Morifone is just another in a long line of truly phenomenal luthiers I know using Lollar’s only. To me, the neck pickup sounds like a clone of a ’59 Les Paul, it’s buttery, creamy, all the adjectives you hear Joe Bonamassa use.

The note to note clarity is superb, even with layers of drive and distortion on top. Especially nice was the coil split sounds, which made the guitar feel far more versatile than I expected. They don’t have the chime or bright highs associated with single coils, but they were far more percussive than the humbuckers, making them great for rhythm tones.

The bridge humbucker was great too, it just didn’t instantly bring back the ’59 Les Paul tones I was told to expect the same way the neck did. The coil split was again lovely though, making it a bit more versatile and modern sounding. The bridge also head great clarity and note definition, but with a ton of bite and output. It quickly pushed my Vox AC15’s tubes pretty hard and sounded great.

Now to be fair, all those features are pretty common on guitars under $4000. But what really sold me was the sustain. The perfect 10/10 rating is highly influenced by this guitar’s ability to just sing. That to me is one of the most inspiring features on a guitar, along with how it sounds unplugged. The Quarzo sounds beautiful when played acoustic, you just get this rich, full sound. When you check those two marks for me, it’s a 10/10.

Playability: 10

I think the “Aileron” headstock really lives up their description. Even with heavier strings on, the Quarzo is just comfortable to play and perfectly intonated. Bends truly were easier than on other Les Paul-style guitars I’ve played, and the neck feels really fast to me. In fact, the creator of the Quarzo told me that the guitar I was sent has the least slim neck of them all, and it still felt super fast! The tuning stability was great, I think I’ve tuned it twice in about 4 days of playing it?

The Quarzo is just well built and I really appreciate this update on the Les Paul design. As many know, Les Pauls, and many other Gibson guitars, can have a ton of tuning issues because of the break angle of the strings over the nut. Poorly cut nuts from Gibson’s questionable QA/QC didn’t help either. So for me to feel like I can get that classic feel and tone, in a genuinely modernized and better engineered package, I’m sold.

Finish & Construction: 9

I was also told that the Quarzo I was sent was probably the roughest of the bunch, so I tried to go easy on it for a few, very minor cosmetic flaws. I have no doubt that the new, customer built ones I probably flawless. Sticking to the positives, the gold top finish is well done, and seems fit to last through countless shows. The neck pickup seemed to be screwed in just a little bit wonky, but I’m gonna leave that up to this prototype getting a lot of abuse. Otherwise, this guitar is well constructed with really high quality parts. The control knobs feature excellent sweep, the long tenon construction really makes it feel almost like one-piece instrument. There’s a lot of good stuff here and I’m starting to sound repetitive.

Value: 8

This is probably the closest I will come to saying anything really negative about this guitar in the review. It’s just pretty damn expensive. Yes, you get a really unique guitar with an awesome patent head stock. But realistically, the 8/10 (which is still freakin good) score comes from the fact that if you put an LP style guitar with half the price tag from Eastman, Gibson, or Rock N Roll relics, I’m not sure I would instinctively go for the Quarzo. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t end up buying it, but when you buy from a smaller, boutique company you have to be comfortable paying for the privilege.

Now if you just got this guitar, you will be 100% happy with it, which is why it still gets such a high score. The sounds, feel, and design are really phenomenal and unique in a lot of ways. I’m always going to be biased towards saving a few bucks, but this is certainly one of the few, not vintage $4000 guitars that’s probably worth the price tag.

Good for: Blues, Classic Rock, Any Les Paul Tones

Stay tuned for some demo clips & separate review for Ultimate-Guitar.com coming this week!

Playing Authentic Just Got Harder Thanks To Eastman Guitars

Credit: Eastman Guitars

One of my favorite parts of running this website is getting to highlight my favorite guitars or companies, especially ones I think you should know about. My love of classic Gibson models, and suspicion of the Gibson company, are two of the more talked about topics on this site. I love so many of their guitars, but can’t get behind how much they charge for QA/QC that’s all over the place. These feelings have made me search far and wide for a way to get all the things I love about these guitars distilled into a better package and I believe Eastman has done that perfectly.

Check out more from Eastmanguitar.com!

Eastman prides itself on top notch attention to detail that is displayed in each and every guitar. Eastman is also unique in that they’ve really capitalized on the overseas market, where they can keep costs down but still produce really fantastic guitars. This aren’t some large scale, factory mill productions. They are carefully designed and built just like a USA Gibson would be, just overseas where we all know companies can save a ton of money.

Started about 25 years ago by Qian Ni after he graduated from Boston University’s school of music, it’s been an impressively successful quarter decade for the brand. Eastman has quickly gained the attention of players and the guitar media horde while simultaneously inspiring many other overseas builders to step up their game. In my opinion, you don’t see the highly successful Shijie or 10S guitars without this precedent being set by Eastman to some degree.

What you end up with is an instrument that may cost more than the lowest Gibson model, but plays more like a Gibson Custom Shop model. Take their new SB55DC/v for example, this is a premium Les Paul Jr guitar that looks decades old thanks to their antique varnish and is basically my dream guitar.

We’re going to be digging into their most well known model, the SB59 shortly so stay tuned for more on that! In the meantime, dig through their website and see the kind of praise these guys have accumulated. It may just make you want one of these instead of a real deal Gibson…