Monday, November 30, 2009

Indie #3 - 'Shape' Extreme Plus

As a mate said on Facebook, 'how bling is that guitar!'.

The Extreme Plus is at time of writing Indies top end 'Shape' model.

  • Mahogany body hand carved with a 'vine' pattern.
  • Five piece set mahogany neck
  • Ebony fretboard with 'vine' inlays
  • Strung though body with tune-o-matic bridge
  • Black hardware with matching black Grover machine heads
  • Indie 'Extreme' pickups with coil tap and active pre-amp
  • Satin black finish
That's right somebody in Korea has had to hand carve that design on the top of the body, it's not painted or CNCed. You can see tiny chisel marks in it if you look carefully. It's probably not to everyone's taste and even I think it's a bit ostentatious

When I bought my first Indie they had one of these on their stand. I lusted after this and the other 'Extreme' models badly but there was no way I was going to pay RRP for one.

This came up on eBay and with a bit of enthusiastic bidding it was mine. I'm a bit paranoid about buying delicate things like this and having them sent through the post so we did a road trip to Leicester to collect it.

It was owned by a guy who lived as a Warden in one of the University halls which in a bit of small world syndrome I'd stayed in a few months earlier at a convention.

So on to the sound. It is a veritable force of nature. It's sheerly monstrous with the active circuit switched on, it can be dark as the endless depths of space. With the active circuit off it's just hefty, very hefty. The coil tap isn't actually that inspiring but does add a little more choice.

Like my other Indies it plays nicely, about as good as a Korean guitar is going to and the open pore satin finish on the neck is so much nicer than the gloss finishes I was previously used to.

So, it was time to order yet another hard case.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Indie #2 - 'Shape' custom natural

Having bought and loved my first Indie this was a straightforward eBay sniping accident. My first of the Indie 'shape' series with their conventional single cutaway. The double cutaway my first Indie came as is far less common in their range.

The spec. is fairly interesting.

  • Mahogany body with maple cap
  • Mahogany set neck with maple fretboard
  • Satin chrome hardware including Grover machine heads
  • Twin Indie custom humbuckers with matching satin chrome covers
You don't see many things with a maple fretboard on a mahogany neck and this makes for quite an unusual looking guitar. There is a very strong contrast between the dark mahogany back and maple top/fretboard.

The single cutaway Indie 'Shape' is similar to the set neck, carved top, twin humbucker 'Special Edition' Telecasters that Fender put out. Although by fitting a tune-o-matic bridge and tail this essentially a Les Paul in a Telecaster-esque shape but because it's fairly thin is much lighter.

Being a slightly older Indie this has a 4/2 headstock arrangement, while my first has 3/3. I slightly prefer the 4/2 layout as I reckon they fit with Indies asymmetric headstock shape better. When I see a 3/3 layout of machine heads I always think the headstock should be symmetrical.

Sound wise it was my first fixed bridge twin humbucker guitar in a long time so I was impressed with the sustain and depth. I did have an old Columbus Les Paul as my first guitar but that was so long ago I'd forgotten almost everything about it.

Having picked this up I found that hard cases made to exactly fit 'Shape' Indies were affordable and bought a couple.

The Nanovalves first outing

Today I took the Nanovalve round Ruperts house for our regular Sunday practice session.

This was the first time I was really able to actually crank it up and play it for a bit. This has dispelled my initial disappointment. You can get some really quite nice overdriven sounds out of it although it is pretty tinny and there's definitely a rattle from it on full chat.

Wound up though it is still far too loud not to annoy the neighbours and I ended up playing most of the time with it at a low volume and using my old Boss MZ-2 to give me the distortion I wanted.

When I got back I had the back cover off and connected it up to a nasty 1x12 cabinet I built for my Smokeydock project.

The difference was astounding, all the rattle disappeared, it was no longer tinny and got even louder.

So much though an amp modding habit isn't something I want to develop I think I'm going to start messing around with it. The objectives are.

  • Tame the volume
  • Get rid of the rattle
My mate Jaygee has suggested that an L pad would be a good way to deal with the volume on a low power amp like this and it makes sense. Modding the circuit for a master volume is a whole load more aggro and  involves learning how to safely mod valve amps which I can't be arsed with.

The rattle could be harder to pin down. I think some of it is one of the valve protector cages rattling as it's poorly formed and a bit loose. Although it could be anything in the cabinet rattling to be honest as trying to bend the cage back into shape didn't really help. I wouldn't be surprised if the speaker is very buzzy.

So I can try another speaker and/or take it to bits and try to find the rattles. Alternatively it might be an amusing conceit to build a new cabinet for it. Either as a 1x12 combo or a tiny little head.

Anyway, for now I've ordered an L pad and mounting plate which I'll stick in the existing cabinet. At lower volumes I imagine these problems will go away.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Indie #1 - 'Shape' custom double-cut semi-hollow

When I was young and fitted into tight jeans I used to play the guitar a lot. Just like so many young men who get into heavy metal in their teens and feel the sudden urge to learn how to play an instrument like their heroes.

I was never any good but I did learn to play a bunch of Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath and so on adequately in a stumbling self-taught manner. I even roadied for a 'squat rock' band for a few years but that's another tale.

Come my mid twenties, like the majority I also had given up on it. A job, house, girlfriend and the fact I was never really any good meant I just lost enthusiasm. I still had all my gear but it sat mouldering in the house unloved. Obviously it knew as all my guitars developed faults while sat. Really.
  • Washburn EC29 - the active electronics got flaky like there was a loose connection
  • Ibanez RS530 - the neck pickup stopped working and the frets had always been badly worn
  • Aria MAB40 - stopped making any noise altogether
  • All my pedals and leads were buzzy nightmares
This made sure any lingering desire to play was squashed.

Come autumn 2008 my guitars were just something else taking up space in my house until a friend from University called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to go to a guitar show at the weekend.

Ordinarily I'd have said no, but I had nothing else to do and it would make a change.

Rupert had enlisted me to make sure he had a proper look round the show rather than just walking round aimlessly for an hour then coming home, which he'd undoubtedly have done if he'd gone alone. Birmingham is a long way to go just to spend an hour.

Once there my enthusiasm came straight back and after a bit of a chat with him decided that I was going to have a go at playing again. So I started to look round the show for things I might like that would mean I could do this without having to wade through the mire of old malfunctioning gear.

Various stands had guitars for sale but few appealed and many were pricey. I ended up spending quite some time circling the Indie Guitars stand because something about their own line stood out from all the conventional copies. Given the sort of money I wanted to spend I was definitely in the copy end of the market.

Indie also had some 'orphan' guitars which there were really quite good deals on.

In the end I came away with this.

This is an Indie 'Shape' Custom double-cut semi-hollow. Quite a mouthful and a bit of an oddity.

  • Mahogany (very) semi-hollow body
  • 5 piece set mahogany neck
  • Twin P90s
  • Combined tailpiece/bridge
  • Carved top
  • Satin quilt black finish
So it's effectively a semi-hollow double-cutaway take on the '56 Les Paul Goldtop. This was deliberately a massive contrast to my old EC29 which is a ridiculous shredder dinosaur. After all, why buy another superstrat.

I also came away with a Behringer V-Amp which is a cheap Pod-alike so I could practice without disturbing the neighbours.

This was the beginning of my slippery slide into a year of guitar collecting mania, but I'm still very fond of this, my first Indie. So much so I'd have another if it came up cheaply in the rather fetching blue/white they do it in.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Peavey Nanovalve

So, there was me thinking that these little 5W class A valve amps might be cool and most importantly quiet enough to actually run flat out and get cool valve tone.

Except I'm tight, far too tight to buy some piece of boutique loveliness and wanted to spend maybe £75 at most in case it's just the usual story of rampant GAS that turns into disappointment. I'd looked at the Epiphone Valve Junior and noticed Thomann do the same thing branded as a 'Harley Benton' for roughly £65 and thought about ordering one. Only by the time I'd thought about it more seriously the pound has gone down the toilet against the Euro and you've got to add shipping on. So I abandoned the idea.

Then while dropping my old RS530 off with Tim Marten for a fret polish I noticed Music Ground selling the Peavey Nanovalve for about £85. Get home, look on eBay and kerching £65 delivered.

Getting it out of the box it's a solidly built little practice amp with the simplest possible selection of controls. There is, amazingly an instruction manual but it's mostly safety warnings.

The verdict? Er, I'm now thinking that one of these little 1W class A valve amps might be cool and most importantly quiet enough to run flat out and get cool valve tone...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Last night I put some Seymour Duncan Blackouts in my old Jackson Randy Rhoads Ex Pro. Ooh crikey it's a bit different now.

I don't know if it's better but it's certainly more capable of doing the ridiculous squealy shred thing without requiring anywhere near as much amp gain.

The bridge is fitted with a 'Blackouts Metal' and the neck a standard one. Although it's actually a bridge pickup as that's what turned up on eBay but it sounds fine. There's just space in the control cavity for the battery and it's snug enough that I don't feel the need to route the body for a proper battery box.

Oh and they look cool. Very cool. Much cooler than having rusty pole pieces. The photo doesn't really show up how scruffy this guitar is, I'm now tempted to give it another coat of rattlecan satin black just to tidy it up a bit. Oh and to buy some more Blackouts although I should really fit the EMGs I've got sitting in a box so I can do a comparison between the two.

Ah 'tis a guitar my lord, fashioned from pure black.