Yamaha SLG200N Silent Guitar

The SLG200N is effectively an upgrade of Yamaha’s earlier SLG110N ‘Silent’ guitar. But instead of the ‘B Band’ electronics, it comes loaded with Yamaha’s new SRT sound modeling system.

Turning up in what looks like a soft case for a bass clarinet, the SGL200N, like its sister models, has a fixed lower body outline with an added thigh rest and a detachable upper body outline that is set into the body of the instrument by way of two screw-locked lugs. The rosewood and maple outlines make up a body that is approximately the size of a ‘parlour’ guitar and give the instrument a surprisingly solid feel.

The body of the guitar itself resembles a shaped flat formed continuation of the neck with an attached black nylon pick guard. The traditional one piece neck with slotted headstock is bolted onto the body at the 12th fret, while the classical flat rosewood fretboard with its 50mm nut (behind which is a truss rod cover), comes with 19 medium frets. The bridge is a standard classical tie bar and sits secured to the body just above the SRT sound-modeling unit.

Yamaha silent guitarPowered by two AA/LR6 batteries which slot into a compartment to the front of the SRT unit, the main body of the unit comprises the control panel with its on/off button – for which a 1/4 second depression is required, a digital tuner, a volume knob above a pickup/mic blend knob, bass and treble knobs, an auxiliary knob and an effects knob with Reverb1/Reverb 2/Chorus. The top panel is then finished off with a mini jack socket for headphones. Behind the unit is the angled ‘a la Stratocaster’ ¼–inch jack; while to the base of the unit is a DC in socket and an auxiliary socket for MP3/CD use.

The SGL200N is not an electrified classical guitar, but rather an instrument that although taking its lead from the classical model, has a completely individual sonic palette. The sound sampling has been taken from Yamaha’s top of the range acoustic instruments recorded through quality ‘high end’ mics and the results are certainly impressive, with a plethora of sonic colour that can be creatively fused by blending the pickup with the mic and utilising the various effects settings i.e. Reverb 1 – room, Reverb 2 – hall and Chorus. There is however one drawback, you can’t mix either of the two Reverbs with the Chorus. Also, the ‘hall’ setting tends to move too quickly to the ethereal as you dial it in – but I guess that’s more down to personal preferences.

Playing along to a CD while using the headphones was an interesting experience, and there is no doubt that the SGL200N is a good way of practicing without disturbing those who don’t wish to listen. But this guitar is also great for live performance – although we would recommend using an external sound modeling system as opposed to that offered by the on–board SRT unit. The SLG200N also makes the perfect travelling companion. – David Gallant

For more info visit www.uk.yamaha.com

Born of their beginnings in the classical violin field, Hofner have a long tradition of producing some of the very best archtop guitars. Those who remember the heyday of Hofner guitars will no doubt recall the names Committee and President as being the cream of the crop, played by some of the great European jazz guitarists such as Attila Zoller or, yes – Sacha Distel! The New President is a recreation of that iconic instrument with a few contemporary upgrades.

This instrument oozes quality – every edge is perfectly rounded and every surface is super smooth. The standard Hofner headstock is faced with a mother of pearl script and lily motif and sports gold Schaller machine heads with ebony buttons.

Beyond the 44mm bone nut is an ebony fretboard that feels more like marble (although warmer!), set with five traditional Hofner style mother of pearl block position stripes and 22 expertly finished standard frets. This is bound and set onto the shallow ‘C’ super-fast flamed maple neck. The solid wood top table is carved from German spruce (16-inch across the lower bout) with flamed maple sides and a flamed maple back that has been perfectly bookmatched. A brass trapeze tailpiece has been capped with a lyre shaped ebony cover and ebony has also been used for the adjustable, compensated bridge, and the pickguard that comes with set-in black miniature volume and tone knobs. A single Hofner Diamond Gold floating pickup is positioned at the end of the fretboard.

The President can either be played acoustically or with amplification, as it has an impressive resonance that produces a big acoustic sound that is both clean and full of character. Amplified through the house SR Jam 100 Acoustic amp, the Diamond Gold pickup, although not the most powerful, is extremely well balanced over the full range and admirably amplifies those full acoustic characteristics. The tone pot gives just enough colouration and edge to add attack, or mellowness, as required.

The President comes in a ballistic nylon weave, latch shaped, hard shell case with a fitted and cushioned velour interior with accessory pocket.

For more info go to www.bandm.co.uk

If there were a guitar that had become a legend in its own lifetime, it would be the Fender Telecaster, along with its stablemate the Stratocaster. The Telecaster has been the workhorse instrument of a myriad of bands over the past 60 years and jazz/fusion players such as Mike Stern, Robben Ford and Bill Frissell have all used the instrument’s incredible sonic qualities to great effect on numerous recordings.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the original model, Fender decided to re-create a series of iconic instruments from their extensive catalogue that would be all but identical to the original models, and so went about the task of searching out original specimens from which templates were then made. From these templates they restored original tooling dies and re-tooled, where the original tooling wasn’t available, and re-created original production methods to make almost identical instruments to those from their respective model years.

We took a look at the birthday baby – the ’52 Telecaster. Not only has the original styling and design been copied faithfully with the original deep U-neck profile and the traditional bridge with three brass saddles, but like all the models from this reissue series, the ’52 is coated with the traditional thin nitrocellulose lacquer finish. A number of models from the series, including the ’52, are loaded with the original circuitry alongside the modern layout, so that the player can switch over and re-create the true period sound. But be warned, you’ll have to remove the pick guard, find the accessory pack and follow the enclosed instructions very carefully. Strangely, all the instruments arrive from the factory setup with the modern circuitry, as early purchasers had complained that they couldn’t get that ‘proper’ Tele sound! Odd, because if I bought a Vintage reissue ’52, I’d be looking to get that sweet, unique ’52 sound straight out of the box and not have to fiddle with the electrics to get there.

Although the main body of the guitar is period perfect, there have however been a few sensible upgrades. The original pickups have been refined with a new voicing, an updated sculpted headstock volute has been fashioned for easier first-position playing and the original body dyes have been reformulated.

Handling one of these beauties is like having your hands on the Ark of the Covenant. The lightweight ash body, the finishing on the maple neck and fretboard, the all new upgraded voicing of the pickups wound to period-correct specs gives an extra tantalising edge over and above the complexity of sound that the Telecaster is known for – presumably a combination of the period-correct winding and the modern circuitry. The bridge pickup is typically spikey and raw, but seems to have more guts and depth, while the neck pickup delivers one of the softest, sweetest and rounded sounds that you’re ever likely to hear coming out of a solid-body guitar.

Coming in the traditional flat, rectangular, Fender ‘tweed’ period case – the ’52 looks as good as it plays. But at a whisker under £2,000, it’s not exactly cheap. Problem is, once you’ve picked it up, you won’t be able to put it down. For more see www.fender.com

I wouldn’t normally review a 12-string, although one of my all time guitar-playing heroes Leo Kottke played some wonderful jazz infused pieces on one such instrument. But this VE8000 is special. Very special. Twelve strings have always presented guitarists with a challenge and in the majority of cases have been all but unplayable above the seventh fret. Vintage clearly had this in mind when they commissioned master luthier and 12 string specialist Paul Brett to come up with an instrument that would not only have some real sonic character, but one that would be playable up to the 12th fret – and beyond. Brett clearly relished the challenge and modelled the VE8000 on an old 1920s Weymann that he had in his private collection.

With a parlour-sized body, the VE8000 has a solid spruce top table with rosewood back and sides. The 12 frets to the body, fully adjustable shallow ‘C’ super smooth mahogany neck, is joined to the headstock between the Tusq nut and the first machine head, so maximising the instrument’s sonic response. The rosewood fingerboard carries 18 cleanly finished frets with a ‘double wing’ motif at the 12th and dot positions at the third, fifth, seventh and ninth frets. Brett’s original instrument carried a separate tailpiece and fixed bridge splitting the strings into two sets of six, but he chose to bring the VE8000 up to date with a fixed bridge in the standard position retaining all 12 strings. To enhance the sonic response of the instrument, Brett also decided to polish the solid spruce top rather than applying a lacquer.

The result is remarkable. Our test sample simply shimmered with width, depth and character. The action for a 12-string was unbelievable and there were no ‘dead’ spots. This beauty responded with a warm, rich tone and a timbral quality straight out of the 1920s drawer. As if all this wasn’t enough, for those who are determined to plug-in, the VE8000 is fitted with Fishman’s latest Acoustic Matrix VT soundhole preamp with tone and volume controls and a Fishman MAT ‘under saddle’ pickup. The package is completed by Vintage’s own moulded hard cell Zero-Gravity case, and all at a price (around £400) you would not believe.

For more info go to www.jhs.co.uk

Burny as a brand have been around for a while, but we recently came across this particular model that set office tongues wagging. We thought you should know. Stylistically the RFA 75 sits somewhere between the Gibson ES 165
“Herb Ellis” and the Ibanez “Joe Pass” model of the late-1970s and early-80s. Chinese built, with a maple laminate body with parallel bracing, a maple neck and spliced in maple headstock and Grover style Keystone tuners, the RFA 75 is a short scale instrument with 20 jumbo frets on a rosewood fingerboard with split parallelogram abalone inlays. The set neck has a very comfortable medium ‘C’ profile and the generous florentine cutaway allows easy access to the full register. A single humbucking FVH 2002 pickup is sited at the double octave position with the adjustable poles sitting directly under the strings, while standard “top hat” tone and volume controls are placed beneath the bridge on the top table. The bridge is an adjustable tune-o-matic style unit on a rosewood base, which is set in front of a trapeze style tailpiece, while a solidly supported 3 ply pick guard comes at the perfect playing height.

The neck is smooth and fast and that generic single humbucking pickup is surprisingly powerful and extraordinarily toneful – not much has changed from early Japanese made models. And although the RFA comes with a standard 43mm nut, it has a generous string spacing of 55mm at the bridge, which will suit those players who follow the traditional fingerpicking method. Bright tone is what you might expect from a maple body, but there is a wonderful warmth and airiness to the timbre of this particular acoustic chamber. Sustain is a full four seconds and a full set of harmonics could be found on the 5th, 7th, 12th and 18th frets – sweet! With a retail price of just over the £700 mark, it’s a steal.

For more go to www.sutherlandtrading.com 

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