Noteworthy Guitars Series

This is the third installment in a series of blog posts highlighting some really cool guitars and gear I’ve come across.

PRS’s Custom line is a thing of beauty. The brand itself has been slowly and steadily climbing to a position damn-near the top of the guitar food chain for some time now and the Custom models are likely the biggest driving force behind that.

PRS began its journey in the 70’s when Paul Reed Smith made his first guitar. The company began to take-off in the late 80’s and early 90’s, making waves with their Custom line. These guitars did their best to combine the finest features of the Strat and Les Paul. It seems their best was good enough.

The Custom 22 Semi-Hollow is a guitar that moves a few steps away from the flagship Custom designs, mostly due to its semi-hollow nature. I’ve set my sights on this guitar because it’s a 22-fret, semi-hollow, SE model. Those three things fit right in with what I’m looking for. Here’s why:

First and foremost, the Custom 22 Semi-Hollow has a real comfortable body. It’s like a Strat in that respect, sporting nice contours and double cutaways. It then strays towards a Les Paul, thanks to its curvy, beveled top and dual humbuckers with three-way switching. But then again, it’s like neither of them because it’s semi-hollow and has coil-tapping. So yeah, this analysis is going nowhere…

If you have questions about whether or not wood type makes a major difference in electric guitar sound, that’s fair. But cut a large chunk of wood out of the body and you can be sure it changes the sound—and that’s kind of what I love about this axe.

I prefer the 22-fret model of the Custom series in general as the extra two frets on the Custom 24: a) effect the sound coming from the neck pickup by positioning it closer to the bridge; and b) throw me off a little since I’m not used to it. Since I probably won’t use those extra two frets that much anyhow, I’d opt for a Custom 22 over a Custom 24.

So with that in mind, I tried a few PRS’s. They’re honestly all great. But hearing the semi-hollow sound paired with these sweet humbuckers and their coil-tapped tones really nailed it for me.

As far as SE versus S2, there are some slight variations, but none of them seem like that big a deal and they don’t seem to justify the additional expense. The SE model has a Flame Maple veneer top, while the S2 has a straight-up Maple top. You can see the S2 is more significantly beveled there, but that’s kind of a minor detail in the scheme of things. More importantly, the pickups are the same. Both SE and S2 Series Custom 22 Semi-Hollows have 85/15 “S” humbuckers, and as far as PRS has them listed, they seem to be the same pickup. The bridge is the same, the tuners are the same, and the fretboard is the same, complete with signature birds-in-flight inlays.

The only other major difference I can identify is that one is American made and one is Korean made. So what? I’ve talked to numerous people who’ve played SE models and they seem to be on board that the difference is undetectable, negligible, or at least not commensurate with the price difference. The pickups still sound killer, the tone and playability is great, and it looks damn good, just not as flashy as the finishes you get with more expensive PRS guitars.

You can definitely get a more “done up” guitar if you push into the Core, Private Stock, or Wood Library Series, but again, I question how much of that is just a lot of pretty icing on the cake, when it’s all the same cake batter underneath. There’s nothing wrong with splurging for it if you got it, but for the financially discerning player, I think the SE Custom 22 Semi-Hollow has a significant value that’s noteworthy. And I’m looking forward to taking one home and proving it.

 

Noteworthy Guitars Series

This is the second installment in a series of blog posts highlighting some really cool guitars and gear I’ve come across.

The Fender American Performer Series launches today, just in time for the holiday season. While most Fender models don’t deviate too much from the norm that they’ve established over the last sixty-something years, this series does indeed add some interesting elements to their classic designs.

All of the American Performer Series models have a new pickup—The Yosemite. Having not yet heard it, I’ll spare you the verbose manufacturer’s explanation of what it sounds like. You’ll just have to play and see. The Yosemites are backed by the already established Greasebucket Tone Circuit, an innovation from Fender that lets you lower your treble tone without the addition of bass, so you don’t muddy the waters too much.

The American Performer Series guitars also sport ClassicGear tuners, which are vintage style tuners with an upgraded 18:1 gear ratio. They’re a little smaller and it’s kind of a personal preference whether you’re into that look or not, but they are made to more accurately tune the instrument, so there’s a plus regardless.

Aside from those generalities across the American Performer Series guitars, here’s the real cool stuff that Fender added to some of their most famous models:

American Performer Stratocaster

Fender added a push/pull tone circuit to the classic Strat model. With three single-coil pickups and a five-way selector switch, you’d normally have five voicing options. But now, with the push/pull tone pot, you can engage the neck pickup in positions 1 & 2. This adds a Bridge/Neck combination and a Bridge/Middle/Neck combination, for a total of 7 voicings.

American Performer Stratocaster HSS

The humbucker at the bridge has always given the Strat a beefier tone for the rock players who want to crank it up a bit. But now, the HSS Strat gives you the option to return to single-coil tone at the bridge with their new DoubleTap Humbucker. Not quite coil-tapping, nor exactly coil-splitting, this patent-pending technology from Fender wires one of the coils extra hot, then engages that single-coil by itself when the push/pull tone pot is activated. The new technique from Fender claims to maintain complete volume, which is commonly diminished with other methods of going from humbucker to single-coil. With one overwound coil, both the humbucker and single-coil voicing likely have a real cool sound.

American Performer Telecaster Hum

While the standard Tele in the Series doesn’t have any wild electronic innovations, the Tele Hum also sports the DoubleTap technology cited above in the humbucker neck pickup. So again, you can basically have a Telecaster with a humbucker OR a single-coil at the neck, in the same exact guitar. Makes you wonder why anyone would go for the Tele or Strat without a DoubleTap…

So there you have it—a new Fender line, with much of the same foundation that makes Fender the iconic brand that it is, but with some pretty cool additions that show they’re willing to innovate a little bit more. I’m told that a few Fender models in the past have had coil-tapping and even a push/pull knob that adds the bridge pickup to amount to 7 voicings, however the Double Tap technology is all-new and the neck pickup has not yet been added by a push/pull tone pot.

If you’re a Fender fan that likes a little modern innovation, you’ll want to check out these American Performer Series models.

Noteworthy Guitars Series

This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting some really cool guitars and gear I’ve come across.

Fender Limited Edition Meteora Electric Guitar

Fender has been getting pretty interesting lately. Always known for their quality, they’re stepping into the unknown a bit and pushing their previously solidified boundaries (I’ll have more to talk about in that regard in just a few weeks, but I can’t divulge anything yet). They’ve recently come out with the aptly named Parallel Universe Series of guitars. These guitars look like they might already exist in a slightly bizarre version of our own world. Fender is basically combining features from their most famous guitar designs to make some hybrids that give you an oddly familiar feeling—like when you face swap with your best friend on Snapchat.

meteora-body

The Meteora may be the coolest design in the series. This guitar looks like a Telecaster that got stretched out when Chewy made the jump to light speed. It’s kind of a Jazzmaster body/neck, but the features are clearly Tele. Designer Josh Hurst stated that this guitar evolved from a Jazzmaster neck (Mid ’60s “C” shape – 9.5 inch radius), so some of the specs are similar to that model. But it’s got Tele single-coils and an American Professional Tele Bridge with three compensated Brass saddles, not to mention a Tele pickup selector and volume/tone knobs.

meteora-pickups

Like many Fenders, the Meteora’s body is cut from ash and sports a maple neck and fretboard. The finish is a cool Butterscotch gloss nitrocellulose lacquer that allows you to see down to the wood grains if you squint hard enough. The black pickguard is pretty wild, stretching in a seemingly wavy motion from the upper bout top corner to the lower bout bottom corner. Being a Limited Edition, it doesn’t seem there’s other finishes or the option for a Rosewood fretboard. That’s okay with me – I personally prefer the look and feel of maple, and I’m really digging the way the Black Block Inlays stand out with the lighter wood.

meteora-inlays

I really liked the aesthetic of this guitar, but haven’t yet had a chance to play it. However, the only thing that could rival the satisfaction of getting to play it myself is watching Jim Root from Slipknot try and figure out what it is after Fender blindfolded him and dropped it in his hands. Behold:

As a Fender lover, it’s hard for me to not be enamored with stuff like this. I trust their quality, so when I see innovation, I doubt it’s a gimmick. But regardless of how well it plays or how cool it is, it may not be around for long. We’ll have to see whether it stays in our world or returns to the parallel universe it came from.

The guys over at Divide and Conquer reached out to me a few weeks back about reviewing Unlearned Lessons. They have a pretty solid amount of quality reviews coming out everyday and so I was pretty stoked to be one of them. Plus my music had never been rated numerically before…so yeah, I guess that’s a decent bucket list item to be able to check off?

Well, it’s finally here – I didn’t break any records, but hey, with this grade, I would have passed math class. And insight into my songs is always interesting.

After all the effort that goes into making music, it’s just cool to know people are taking the time to listen. That’s really what matters to me.

If you’re interested, you can check out the review here.

And if you have your own “review” of the EP, or just want to talk music and guitars, hit me up anytime.

Peace,

Chio

My friend Allie (a.k.a. Posemanikin) is a talented designer who created the album cover for Unlearned Lessons. When I saw the image that is now the cover, I knew immediately that was it. I still look at it and think how damn cool it is, and no, it’s not just because it’s mine. She just made something that I found really aesthetically cool and meaningful, and I can’t thank her enough.

In addition to her design talent, she has a blog where she recently posted a Q & A she had for me. It was a lot of fun to answer and got me thinking about things I hadn’t really thought about before.

You can check it out here

Thanks again Allie!

ECLECTIC MUSIC LOVER

Chio EPChio is the artistic name of singer/songwriter Anthony Chiofalo, and this is his debut EP Unlearned Lessons, which dropped in August. The New York City-based artist plays rock music influenced by a whole assortment of alternative, grunge and garage bands, but with a style all his own. He recently had this to say regarding his sound: “People continue to ask specifically what artists my music sounds like. Fair enough, but I’m usually at a loss with that question. I had come up with some answers, but nothing that felt accurate. I also didn’t like to try to fit what I did into some other artist’s slot. That’s missing the whole point of writing original music. I have influences. Tons of them. But I never want to imitate, replicate or steer too close towards someone else’s creations. Otherwise I might as well just play their songs.

Well, to these old…

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I recently did an interview on Rock Talk USA with Aimee. We talked about my first EP, musical inspiration, and a bunch of other stuff, music and non-music related. She’s a really great host, with a really great show. She was cool enough to play three of my songs after the interview.

You can check it out here.

A big thanks to her for having me on.

Don’t miss her show every Tuesday night on Armed Radio, or stream it on her website shortly after at rocktalkusa.com.