Categories
Review

TASCAM 2X2 USB Audio Interface.

Tascam-2x2

First Impressions

Manual in box, no discs, Ableton Live Light 9 code card (requires Ableton account to add serial number to account before activation can go through), Sonar brochure (not used, I’m on Mac). It’s a strudy medium sized desktop unit, doesn’t seem prone to sliding around and has some heft to it. The knobs feel solid with smooth rotation that facilitates fine adjustment. The range of adjustment feels right and seems tuned to musical production. The Line out and Phones knobs are a bit close together for my fingers, but I didn’t find it to bother me once I got used to making tweaks to the level settings as I worked.

I was able to plug the 2X2 in and start using it imediately, requiring no software or drivers on MAC OSX Mavericks to use the 2X2 out of the box. True plug and play. I did get around the installign the settings panel and updating the fromware, which were quick and easy installs that didn’t require a restart. The 2X2 is bus powered, which is conveneint for on the go use with a laptop and also prevents some groun loop issues I’ve encountered with other interfaces when used with amps or other effects hardware. The AC adapter (not included) is required for using the 2X2 with IOS devices, which seems to defat the purpose for a portable recording solution, the required cable (lightening?) or USB adapter is also not included for IOS use, hence that functionality isn’t reviewd here.

Once I installed the settings control panel, there was a way to change this behavior and have the line out directly control the computer sound output.I did install the drive, which went without a hitch. I then downloaded and used the firmware updater to get the unti up to the latest – which corected an issue I found where the phantom power (48+) switch when turned on would cause the unti’s USB light to flash. I thought that might indicate that it needed a power adapter to operate with phantom [power on, but it turned out to be a Firmqware issue and was solved once updated.

Tascam-2x2-2

A little confusion at first over how to monitor. The computer/monitor knbo needing ot be turned toward computer to hear the computer sound, then the line out knob also turned up. I was a little concerned at what this arrangement suggested about gain staging, but that worry was addressed via the software control panel which lets you switch to using the line outs directly as computer line out. Direct wardware monitoring is a handy feature though I’ve not often felt the need for it.

The sound is excellent for a unit in this price range, seeming pretty flat and transparent, with a musical and pleasent overall feeling while mixing.

When compared to the older Tapco Link USB which this unti replaces on my desktop, the sound feels bit squased but more refined and accurate. At 96k I was hearing details in recent recordings I’d missed and making different mix choices as a result. The 2X2 uses NE5532 op-amps which have been used in countless recording consoles and recording gear. My listening tests, though not scientific, confrimed for me that they have a great musical character.

The 2X2 held up to my full range listening tests with a variety of material. Driving monitors through balanced inputs well – though I did want to add subwoofer to get that extra umpf in the mix on bass heavy tracks, not the 2×2’s fault, but I think it did expose this missing link in my monitoring a bit more than the Tapco ever had. Good to keep in mind for mixing. I found myself revisitng my recent mixes able to hear detials I’d been missing.

True to claims noise is noticlbe on the input channels, thohg the transparency of the gain channels made me more aware of background noise that my guitar pickups pick-up. Something that had been masked by my prevois interface and thus making it’s way into my recordings.

The ease of use when compared to the Digi 003 rack, which has been my mainstay high-res input source is dramatic, plug an play, vrs a clunky driver settings panel and AVID’s general reluctance to make thier gear cross-compatible. The Digi still rules for inputs, boasting 18 with the included ADAT optical port, so it will stay in the stable for bigger recording tasks. But for day to day use, The price of the Tascam and even it’s bigger sibling interfaces hands down beats Avid’s upgrade costs to stay in the ProTools universe on a modern OS. I can always boot into an older OS for PT trackng and mixing.

The first thing I did was Launch Logic ProX and dig into a project I’ve been working on, making some review examples for Peavey’s Revolver amp sim plug-in. I wanted to put the 2X2 to at least half of the real test – how does it handle direct guitar signals? I’m glad to say it worked really well. I was able to quikly set the input level on the 2X2 by watching the green signal light as I strummed hard on the guitar, and then back it off a bit when the light went red. A set and forget operation. The 2X2 has a good modern chipset, so latency is really low. I was using it at 32 samples, where I’d often had to use 64 or 128 with older gear. This translates into a more natural playing and recording expereince.
I found that I didn’t really feel the need to turn the input/computer dial on the 2X2 toward input at all, though it still might come in handy.
I was recording tacks on the fly through direct input with the amp sim running and enjoying the process, able to forget the settings and try and focus on the performance more. So for guitar and presimably Bass, the Tascam 2×2 get’s a thumb-up.

When comparing specs I noticed that headphone level for the 2X2 is roughly half of that of it’s bigger sibling the 4X4. But that turned out to be a non issue in my tests. The headphone output was able to easily drive even my ATK 240m headphones which have a high impedance to full range volume and more. Presumably the higher rating of the 4X4 facilitates driving two headphone outputs over the 2×2’s one.

Tascam-2x2-3

The inclusion of MIDI in and out sealed the deal for me when shopping for a low cost 24bit/96Khz cabaple interface since in my little studio I still have keyboards and controlers from before USB was the standard. I hope to be able to use my Line6 pedal board as a footwitch controller once I figure out how to do that, and also to hook up my older Alesis keyboard.

Overall I’m realy impressed with the TASCAM 2X2, the sound quality raises the bar for my home studio, and the ease of use has gotten me focused on performance and mixing vrs trying to find the right combo of input settings and configurations. The 2×2 has great gear appeal, looks nice on my deask, and has immediately been incorporated into my audio prodcution workflow. It also serves as a excellent high res audio output box for games and regular music listening, the driver (on Mac for this review) plays well with everything and I was able to have Ableton and Logic both up and running along with iTunes and listen to all three at once, a really versitile interface. If you’re shopping for an audio interface that’s affordable and has class leading features the TASCAM 2X2 should be on list.

What’s Included: The 2X2 interface itself, printed manual, Ableton Lite (Mac & PC) and Sonar LE (PC) software download links and registration/serial numbers.

Things I’d like to see: A mute button (software seletable for line out, Phones or both).
Individual phantom power switches for each channel.
Detented input gain pots.
A real wish list item – include the AC adapter with the 2×2. Hard to justify at this price point, but hey just a wish.

Categories
Review Technology

TASCAM TC-S1 Solar Tuner Quick Review

TASCAM Tuner

Here’s a YouTube video review, TASCAM TC-S1 Solar Tuner. A great, lightweight yet sturdy, and compact tuner that charges an internal battery by solar power. Small enough to fit anywhere. Features 4 tuning modes: Animated Strobe, Meter, Needle, and a Fine Tuning mode as well as calibration from A437-A445. A fast internal processor coupled with a responsive onboard mic or 1/4″ phono jack for input. A mini USB connection for charging and an included silicone sleeve for protection.

Check out the video for operating instructions and a demo if the features.

Categories
Review

Fender Standard Telecaster

The Fender Standard telecaster is a key guitar designs that has inspired generations of guitarists to pick up thine axe and play! Designed by Leo Fender, introduced in 1949 as the single pick-up Broadcaster and later the dual single coil pick-up Telecaster or “Tele”, as it is often called, was put into full production in 1950. Favored by country pickers and indie rockers alike, even ‘The Boss’ Bruce Springsteen plays a Telecaster – incidentally his is one of the very first off the production line.

Our review model is from around 2002 and was made in Mexico. This one has that classic mix of an Alder body, a one piece Maple neck, vintage style frets, a modern bridge assembly, sealed Fender tuners and standard controls and pick-ups. The color is Agave blue, which was used on Made in Mexico instruments by Fender for several years. It’s a light shade of blue with just a hint of metal flake. As you can see from the pictures below the Fender logo is the outlined and filled type found on MIM instruments from this period.*

*As opposed to Squire instruments of this period which had solid logos, earlier American made Fender logos and the current import standard line logos.

The serial number tells us a bit about the age of this instrument, as well as dates stamped on the neck heel, under the pick guard and in the neck pocket. These dates represent when individual components where manufactured or inspected and usually range a few weeks or months.

As musical styles shift and change from hard rock and heavy hum-bucker fueled tones to twangier single coil tones, the Telecaster finds a frequent resurgence in popularity. Make no mistake, the stock single standard Tele style pick-ups can bring the heat, but the end result is a bit less meaty than the Gibson Les Paul’s dual hum-bucker tone.

At the same time the Tele stands on its own when compared to the three single-coil equipped Fender Stratocaster. The Stratocaster has a little more tonal variation due to its three pickups being controlled with a five-way switch compared to a standard Tele three way switch. A lot of the telecaster’s charm is in its simplicity and the variety of tones that a good player can irk out of what is considered by many to be a bullet-proof guitar.

Our model lives up to Tele expectations. The Mexico manufactured Standard Telecaster does vary a bit from the American model, and some of the traditional Tele design ideals. When compared to more expensive American made Telecasters you’ll find that visually the quality of the wood may be better cosmetically and beyond that the selection of the wood for it’s tonal characteristics varies widely – what you get is still that tried and true recipe for success.

Fender Standar Telecaster Review Continues…

Categories
HowTo Review

Apple Garageband Virtual Guitar

Jamming on Apple’s Garageband App for iPad

Take a few minutes to check out the virtual guitar instrument in Garageband on the iPad. Lots of fun with guitar-like bending and playing techniques. It’s like GuitarHero on steroids! The recording and editing functions aren’t the same as the desktop app, but worthy of having fun and sketching out ideas on the road or on the couch. If you ever wanted a guitar set-up perfectly for tapping ala Eddie VanHalen – this app is for you!

Categories
Review

SP Sound Percussion Double Bass Drum Pedal Set-Up And Review

Just in for review and trying my hand at playing double bass patterns on the drums. A great deal from Musician’s Friend as one of their “Stupid Deals Of The Day”. Watch as I unpack it, set the pedal up, and then give a quick playing example.

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Review

Ibanez SZ320 Sunburst Carve Top Review

The Ibanez SZ320. New twists on a classic recipe reveals a modder’s paradise out of a toneful sleeper.

The SZ320 has been discontinued, but don’t let that stop you. As of this writing, there are still a lot of them around as closeouts and on the used market. It’s safe to say the SZ line didn’t live up to Ibanez’s expectations unlike the RG and S models. I shied away from them myself for awhile. I think the initial price point and the gaudy appearance of some of the higher end models was a turn-off for me. Finding one, then another of the baseline models in Black and Brown Sunburst with the low key cosmetics of the 320 series, plus closeout pricing pulled me in for a closer look.

The first SZ320 I found was a black model on clearance. Which upon arrival was in perfect shape. Aside from one misaligned seam on the taped faux binding, it was immaculate. A decent player out of the box, with a wide fast neck.

The black finish is shinier than you’d think from Ibanez’s official photos, which made it appear almost matte. The natural binding looks OK, but I’m not entirely sold on it’s necessity. The effect is diminished a bit when viewed on edge a 6 piece top is revealed by the seams. The Brown Sunburst model featured in this review appears to be book matched. Here’s where the sleeper factor really comes in. This guitar really has all the classic appeal of the Les Paul recipe, with some obvious PRS influence thrown in.

Mahogany body and neck, 25″ scale length, wide fat neck, double-cut body with a carved maple top and a belly cut. It’s really got a lot going for it on paper. So where does it stand in person?

Having two SZ320s side by side to compare is kind of a luxury for a reviewer. They both play about the same out of the box. There are some high frets, but overall the fret work was adequate. The frets are high and slightly narrow, a more vintage spec wire than we are used to seeing in Ibanez’s typically spec’d with Jumbo wire. But it’s a nice departure, the SZ’s neck can burn when set-up to your preferences, facilitating fast licks and comfortable chord work if anything I think these have a sort of jazzy feel to them.

The pick-ups are kind of middle of the road. They aren’t really hot, nor are they particularly funky. The rhythm and lead pickups use different magnet types. The lead is ceramic, and the rhythm an Alnico model – designed in conjunction with Seymour Duncan®. They are well designed and, I think, make a good matched pairing in this instrument. I have a feeling that the slightly lower output will make these good recording pickups – a situation where many players tend to go over the top with gain. With distortion these pick-ups felt like they needed a push to really sing, but clean they felt right at home and I found myself exploring jazzy riffs and even some finger style playing that electrics can have a hard time inspiring.

Tuning is stable enough with the stock tuners, which follow a grover pattern. I was tempted to mod them out and put on something more stylish, but I’ve held off. The nut was well cut, in the fat and deep Gibson vein, though I have tweaked the string height at the nut for a slightly more relaxed chording feel. With two SZ320s around I can say that there are some slight variances across the line – as you would expect with most production line guitars. The Brown sunburst model is a bit lighter, which makes it seem to favor being played clean. While the heavier black model feels a little more rock and roll to me. Tiny differences, truly. But it may be worth it to hand pick one if you’re buying.

In the end I have done only a few minor mods to them. The black one I am trying out a Epiphone® Elitist® Bridge pick-up in. The Elitist pick-ups are made by Gibson in the USA for the import Elitist line. I have to report that as Impressed as I have been by the Elitist pups in my Elitist’s, I’m not as thrilled with this one in the SZ320 as I thought I would be. I’m no sure if it’s the slightly different position of the pick-up on the 25″ scale guitar versus a 24.75″ scale, or just this particular guitar’s resonance not “gelling” with what the Elitist pups have been good at in my experience – which is capturing a nice Gibnson-esque distorted tone that is deep and rich. Think Led Zeppelin style tone. So in the end, I think I’ll be putting the stock bridge pick-up back in. The trade off in grit for tone is a fair one to make in this case. Sometimes they do get it right at the factory.

Ibanez SZ320 review Continues…>

Categories
News Review Technology

Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder

The Zoom H4n represents the next generation of portable digital recorders. 96khz/24bit recording in the palm of your hand, with available multi-channel and multi-track recording capabilities. Guitar players will enjoy the host of instrument friendly features including a metronome, tuner, and effects with programmable presets.

Zoom H4n Main Features at a glance

  • USB file transfer.
  • Built in stereo microphones.
  • Guitar/Bass friendly with FX, tuner, and metronome.
  • MP3 Recording.
  • 4 track, stereo, and 4 channel recording.
  • 24bit/96khz .wav recording.

Zoom H4n Unboxing

The Unboxing

The H4n comes with a plastic case, Ac adapter, USB cable, Mic Stand Adapter, 1 GB Sd memory card. Manual and foam windscreen. Also with the H4n is the recording application Cubase LE 4 bundled on disc to get you started recording and editing.

The ZOOM H4n Package Bundle

The first thing you will notice holding the H4n in hand is that it is feels sturdily built though slightly top heavy. The display is large and easily read with a orange back light and various red LEDs to indicate input, mic, track and recording functions.

The H4n has some heft to it, primarily due to the mic housing which is metal. The buttons have a tactile feel to them. The job dial/button is operated by rotating and pressing to select menu options. The power switch is slid down to initiate the boot-up and shut down. Sliding the power button up put the device in locked mode – great for preventing accidental recordings or setting changes. The rest of the buttons work as indicated. You can download the manual form the manufacturer to see all the functions.

Zoom H4n Mic Clip Adapter

The Mic Clip Adapter has a metal thread that fits the tripod mounting screw slot on the back of the unit. When screwed in it feels a little flimsy, extra care should be taken not to bump the adapter when in use as it would be very easy to crack the plastic H4n case. Also be sure not to try and use the Mic Stand adapter with the thinner pencil mic style mic stand clips – use only the larger Sure style mic clips. The smaller mic holders can let the stand adapter pop-out abruptly, potentially damaging the H4n if it should take a spill. This becomes and even greater concern if you attach external mics, headphones, and the power adapter to the unit while on a mic stand.

H4n Review continued…>

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Review

Epiphone Elitist Les Paul Standard Plain Top

A real Les Paul, Made in Japan.

The Elitist line was manufactured by Epiphone in Japan, which include Casino, Sheraton, Rivera, 335, Brydland, Broadway, Country Deluxe, and a range of Les Paul models, are high quality counterpoints to Gibson’s American made instruments. “Made in Japan” is synonymous with high quality in the guitar world. Epiphone and may other high quality intruments are made in Korea, China, Indonesia and Japan. The Elitist line is now out of production or discontinued.

Our review guitar is a Les Paul Standard in a Honey-burst finish with a solid ‘plus’ top of book-matched flame Maple. The ‘Plus’ top designation signifies higher quality cosmetically than the plain top standard models. This particualr instrument was built in 2004 in Japan and was purchased as a special deal – Probably due to it’s ‘Plus’ top being not the most figuered. This guitar might fit the bill for those seeking traditional tones in a sturdy, high quality instrument built to vintage specs.

Figuring is the grain pattern of the wood. The more appealing the grain pattern of the Maple top, the more expensive the intrument.

Elitist Les Paul Standard Features At a glance.

  • Gibson manufactured pick-ups and USA electronic components.
  • Durable Polyurethane finish
  • Long neck tenon
  • Grover tuning machines
  • African Mahogany back (book-matched on early models according to literature)
  • Solid Book-Matched Maple top (not a veneer)
  • Vintage style hardware (American Standard Spacing & Size)
  • Matching Deluxe hard-shell case – included with original purchase.

Elitist LP Standard Review Continued…>

Categories
Review

Agile 3000M Single Cut Electric Guitar

The Agile brand name has become synonymous with high quality imported guitars. For the price they are hard to beat.

Agile branded guitars are the import guitar to look at, particularly for Gibson inspired designs. Agile guitars peaked in popularity due to exposure and praise from message board users. In the gorilla marketing world, Agile is the 800lb silverback. Since that peak in 2006 new brands have emerged as contenders, as well as familiar brands making the changes required to compete in this new phase of imported guitar sales.

In Depth Review

The model we have in for review is an off the rack (or out of the box) 2004 Agile AL-3000M in Honey Sunburst. A transitional instrument, it has an older headstock design and a rounded lower horn. Newer Agile guitars have a more attractive redesigned headstock

The AL-3000M has a nice set of features, offering a blend of vintage styling and custom options not found in other brands at this price point.

Agile AL-3000M features at a glance

  • 3/4″ carved Maple top (solid, multi-piece)
  • Mahogany back (solid, multi-piece)
  • Mahogany neck
  • Ebony Fingerboard
  • Jumbo frets
  • Abalone Inlays (laminated)
  • Flame Maple veneer on the face
  • Slightly thinner neck width
  • Grover Tuners
  • Bone Nut
  • Vintage style pick-ups
  • Polyurethane finish.

First Impressions

Straight out of the shipping packaging this instrument is adequately set-up. The fret work is comparable to any other import we’ve played including Epiphones and Ibanez.The neck is readily adjustable via the truss rod and the supplied hex wrench. This guitar has a hex bolt at the headstock for truss rod adjustment

The 3000m features a real flame maple veneer over a solid (multi piece) Maple top. The back and neck are Mahogany.

The neck on this guitar has a fairly flat profile, and like most of the Agile line has a slightly slimmer width at the nut 1.67″/42mm compared to vintage instruments. Comfortable for younger or smaller hands. The frets are jumbo, so bending is a breeze and fretting chords are easy.

The bridge is a Tune-O-Matic style with individually adjustable saddle inserts. The stop tall is a standard design. The hardware for this guitar is Gotoh brand. The finish is blemish free, aside from a few tiny specs under the clear coat. The Honey Sunburst is more of an Amber Sunburst to our eyes. The pick-guard and truss-rod cover are both cream plastic with a pearloid top layer. The back and neck are tinted a reddish brown.

We were just a little disappointed to find that the maple top is in three pieces, clearly visible since this model has a natural maple edge binding. We’ve seen other imports with up to seven pieces making up a maple top, so this isn’t a big deal, though it’s not ideal. The neck has black binding on the fret board with white side position markers. The abalone inlays are colorful and seem to be cleanly installed without excessive filler.

We reworked the nut for a perfect custom feel and look, with optimal slot depth and a rounded and polished surface.

The Ebony fingerboard isn’t as smooth as we’d like it to be having a definite graininess that is difficult to address once the frets are installed. The fingerboard radius is 12°, a comfortable middle ground between flat shred and rounded chording profiles. The strap buttons are fairly large and can probably hold a strap almost as well as strap locks. The nut is bone, and is shaped in a traditional slanted top style. The nut slot depth was a little high from the factory making open chords a little uncomfortable to play and making the action seem stiff overall. (see note, above)

This particular model shipped with Wilkenson, vintage style Alnico magnet pick-ups with metal braided single conductor shielding. At the time this review is being written the Agile guitars are available with stock and Seymour Duncan branded pick-ups, as well as pick-ups similar to the one tested. They have a pleasant clean sound with leads and chording standing out nicely. Distorted, they tend to have mid range overtones. We found ourselves turning down the mids, and turning up the treble a bit on our test amp. The bass comes across clean but a bit muffled even under distortion. You could compare these stock pups to a Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB set with a little less sparkle. Good for clean sounds, jazzy licks, on into classic rock tones, but falling shy of modern crunch or deep metal tones. Definitely a Mod worthy guitar. In fact, we had a Jazz/JB set in this instrument for awhile and found it still lacked something, so back to stock it goes as we keep it in mind for that perfect pick-up combo to compliment this guitar’s tone. Played unplugged the tone is a little thin, probably due to the heaviness of the guitar overall. This guitar isn’t very loud acoustically.

The electronic components are of decent quality. In the years since this guitar came to the studio the three-way switch has occasionally developed intermittence, which we will eventually need to fix. The pots have worked fine, and haven’t developed any scratchiness or noise. Being standard import quality the feel isn’t the same as you would get from CTS or similar components.

Before we pass verdict on the Agile AL-3000M, let’s consider some of the reasons this particular guitar, and others like it from other brands, tend to sound – how to say it, worth their price?

  • Wood: Yes it does affect the tone of electric guitars, the weight and density of the wood, including the fingerboard affects the tone of the instrument, however subtly.
  • Finish: The thicker poly finishes found on just about every import instrument tend to act like a plastic shell which effects tone. It’s not always a bad thing, but it’s there.
  • Quality of the components: The metal parts, the material they are made out of, their weight, all these factors effect the sound. For good or bad.

We’re not out to knock the Agile AL-3000M, far from it. These guitars are great all around instruments worthy of professional use and affordable ebough to be first guitars, back-up guitars, gig, and practice instruments. They are definitely worth a look, compared to other guitars in the same price range.

Check out our youtube review-jam of the Agile 3000M

The Agile AL-3000M can stand on it’s own, delivering a tasty version of a traditional look and sound for a reasonable price – while also offering many stand out custom features. When compared to similarly priced Epiphones the competition gets stiff, the differences are cosmetic as much as anything. Compared to the premium Epis’ such as the discontinued Elitist line, the gap widens due the higher quality over all of the Epiphones.

Follow up – After the Honeymoon

We’ve had this guitar around for awhile and we’ve done a few mods to customize it to our liking.

At one point we swapped the pick-ups from the stock ones to a set of Seymour Duncan (jazz/jb), while the tone improved a little, we decided that much of the ‘character’ of this guitar was inherent in the build (a thicker dark mid-rangy tone), so the stock pups went back in, and we’ll live with it.

Please note that individual guitars vary quite a bit, and our particular reviewed instrument may not reflect the exact tone of another from the same line. Our hands on reviews are mean to reflect our general impression with one particular instrument, in comparison to others we have had access to.

The thick poly finish can hinder tone a little. One of our standard mods for imports is to thin the poly a bit by re-sanding, and then using rubbing compounds to bring up a fresh deep gloss. This can really improve the look and feel of factory poly finishes. Thinning the finish generally improve the tone of the guitar by slightly altering the resonant frequencies that are dampened as the instrument is played.

The stock nut had the vintage style long deep slot that you can find on Gibsons, which in our opinion is one of the main reasons for tuning issues. The nut was re-profiled, the nut slots adjusted and then polished.

The fret work from the factory was adequate but not ideal. We did a level, dress and polish to even things out and improve playability. We took this fret dress as an opportunity to sand down the fret board a little to get rid of some of the unsightly grain the stock ebony fingerboard had. Sanded smooth, and treated with a fingerboard finishing oil, it looks better than ever.

The pick-up covers have shown a tendency to tarnish over time, to the point of developing some pitting and stains that don’t polish out easily. We’ve settled for polishing with a modern guitar polish and just living with them showing their age. We haven’t had this problem with any other guitar, so we have to conclude that it’s an issue with the pickup’s materials.

Conclusion: If you’re looking for that Les Paul recipe at a budget price, and are willing to give an Import a try, the Agile line of guitars are worth a look. Many thousands of satisfied customers can attest to Rondomusic.com’s customer service and the Agile brand being a high quality import, suitable for just about any player looking to add another guitar to stable, or starting out with an affordable alternative.

Agile guitars are imported and sold by: Rondo Music

Modguitar.com is not affiliated with Rondo Music.

Categories
Review

Kramer Focus 1000 Review

The Kramer name is still in production as a brand owned by Gibson. The Kramer name is synonymous with Neptune New Jersey, a certain 80s guitar star, and high quality import guitars. Take a look at this near vintage mid-80s Japanese (built by ESP) solid body electric guitar.

Kramer Focus 1000

Kramer® branded instruments have been spotted in limited production runs on various big music retailer websites, while previusly having been distributed through the musicyo web site. It’s nice to see the brand in production. It’s easy to confuse the current Focus line with the series by the same name released in the 80s. The models of today really don’t compare to the import models of the past. This review features a candy apple red Focus 1000 in good condition. The original Focus series also included the two pick-up 2000, the three pick-up 3000 and the 5000 “Vanguard” three hum-bucker model, as well as bass instruments. Th vintage Kramers featured a comfortable, slim taper neck, jumbo frets and a thin fingerboard. The Focus line was Kramer’s lower priced offering with Berettas and Pacers costing much more.

This prized used find has cool 80s styling complete with matching head stock, comes equipped with an Original Floyd Rose® Locking tremolo – stock. The finish has taken a beating in almost twenty years. We were able to polish out most of the minor blemishes, the rest are “character”. The candy apple red still looks good. The original finish is a tough urethane and tough as nails to remove (something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of refinishing one of these bad boys). The body is most likely made of Poplar, a light resonant wood with a tonal quality somewhere between Swamp Ask and Alder. The fingerboard is pretty chewed up. Whomever owned this guitar played hard!

Kramer Focus 1000

A real 80s work horse featuring one volume control and one slanted bridge pickup. On further inspection, the volume control has an inline resistor to allow some treble signal to pass through as the volume control is turned down. Did Eddie Van Halen use this Mod or inspire it? The stock pick-ups distort readily but aren’t really sweet sounding – even after 20 years of aging. This is one of the key differences between the import Focus line, and the USA Kramers such as the Pacer series from this time period. The Pacer’s often had Seymour Duncan pickups stock. Aside from the pick-ups, you’ll be hard pressed to find any significant differences in quality between the import 80s Focus and the USA made Pacers. The bodies are shaped the same, along with the finish, and other components being high quality. The Focus necks went through a series of changes to the head stock shape over the years. Maple fingerboards seemed to have been reserved for the Pacer line. The Focus models are sleepers, since they share so many of the high quality features as the USA made Kramers. Prices have started to rise for the Focus series as the supply of USA made vintage Kramers dries up. Sadly, many of these closet classics are being parted out to sell the Original Floyd Rose tremolo separately.

Kramer Focus 1000

Like Charvels and Jacksons from the same period these guitars were made for Rock & Roll, and they deliver! The neck profile is comfortable with the fretboard radius being fairly flat and the frets medium jumbo in size. All of our vintage Kramers have rock solid necks, that are a joy to play.

The metal parts of the trem, lock nut, and tuners needed a good polish, but were mostly good as new. The trem arm mounting nut assembly can get sloppy over the years, but aftermarket arms are available. A little modern guitar polish does wonders with the kinds of grime and tarnish that can accumulate on guitar parts.

The fingerboard and frets needed a little TLC, a light fret level and crowning, along with a good scrub got them looking almost new. A good polish overall, everything put back together, and it’s like Mr. Peabody pulled this one out of the ‘way back’ machine.