Saturday, January 28, 2017

Adrian Goes To The Guitar Expo. This Can't End Well.

So I decided to head the Orlando Guitar Expo.  I was more interested in finding parts rather than guitars.  I have plenty of guitars, but I can always use parts, books, and the oddball item to keep me occupied.

I walked through the entire expo hall, and didn't buy a thing (on the first walkthrough.)  What I did do is look at a lot of guitars.  It was mostly the Gibson and Fender show.  None of them really interested me since I was looking for some off the wall items.

While I knew I couldn't afford any of the Gibson Guitars, a question I had about them popped into my head.  I had read about how the different 50's Les Paul's have extremely different shaped necks.  I was able to hold the neck of a 1954, 1958, and a 1960 Les Paul. 

I could really see/feel the difference.  Especially the neck of the 1960 model.  This particular 1960 Les Paul neck I held was dang near the shape of what the modern South Korean Les Paul's are.  That was a comfy guitar. 

The early models have what I would call a "cello neck."  You see, I play cello, and they have a pretty good size neck on them.  That's what the 1954 model felt like.  It was pretty dang thick.  But I will say this, after all these years those guitars still had straight necks due to the sheer thickness of the neck.

I was able to talk to a luthier who had a small one table booth in the corner.  This is the exact kind of non typical guitar I was looking for.  I will say he was very nice and let me play all of his models.  His company is called, Fool Audio Research.  Here's his website:

I had a fun time talking to him and his wife.  We had a lot in common.  But don't all of us guitar players have more than a little something in common?

I finally got a chance to strum an old Gibson L-50 archtop.  I had high hopes, but unfortunately once instruments get so old they stop getting better with age, and they start declining.  This one sounded very tinny.  So I'll keep playing some acoustic archtops until I find one that has the sound I'm looking for.  And let's be honest, I didn't have the $3,600 they were asking for the guitar.

I looked at a lot of parts, but I had to remember, since they were dealers they were asking dealer prices.  I never found anything that I could part with cash for.  In past shows they had a lot of books, but with the invention of the internet no one was really carrying books anymore. 

So I went outside to eat and clear my head.  They didn't have the A/C or fan on inside so it was getting stuffy in the building.  Everyone was complaining about it.  So it was good to get fresh air. 

After getting some lunch I talked to a dealer about an old Kustom Tuck and Roll amp.  It was in great shape.  It was a solid state amp 4X10 combo amp.  I asked if he was interested in trades or cash with a trade, and he said no.  He was clearing out all his gear, and didn't want anymore.  So he walked away from me.  I never had a dealer do that before. 

So I went back over to a guy named Jesse from Music Go Round (Dayton, Ohio.)  I saw some guitar straps I hadn't seen the first time.  So I asked about them.  It turns out they were vintage straps that cost $100 a piece.  So I asked if he had anything a little less pricey.  He did have some.  So I ended up buying three of them for $30.  Here's a picture of them.

Jesse was really pushing this Carvin VTX-100.  He described it as a Fender Blackface Twin Reverb meets a 5150.  I'm not sure about that, but I did offer to trade my Dean Hardtail for it.  I went out and got my Dean so I could run it though the amp.  That way he could see it worked, and I could see the amp worked.

This is from the Carvin Museum website:

It kind of surprised me that it was that crunchy even at low settings.  (Looking back, I should have been worried.)  However, I had never played a Carvin before.  Also, it sounded pretty awesome.  The reverb was having trouble working, but I suspected it was the footswitch. 

The one thing that surprised me was that the speakers were huge.  They were something I had never heard of before.  Magna Lab speakers.  And the weird part was that they had giant square magnets.  I will say, the sound that came out of the speakers was that super creamy and smooth distortion that we all crave. 

So we agreed to a trade.  We also agreed as part of the deal I could buy two very old Dimarzio Super Distortion pickups for a discounted price of $20 total. 

Here's the pictures.

As you can see, the pickups were in bad shape.  But I thought they might be good for an oddball project.

Then came the tough part.  To get the amp to the car.  Here's the problem.  This amp is heavier than my Sunn Alpha 212-R.  So I would carry it 100 yards, rest, carry it another 100 yard, rest, and repeat a bunch of times. 

I did make it to the car eventually.  Let's fast forward to when I got home.  I plugged my guitar into the amp, and all I hear is a buzzing noise.  I unplugged the footswitch, same noise.  I unplugged my guitar just to make sure it wasn't my guitar or cable, and I still heard the same buzzing.  I turned the sound down all the way with nothing plugged into it, and still .... buzzing. 

So I wasn't a happy camper at all.  I looked at the back of the amp.  I saw that the 12AX7 tube they had in there should actually be a 12AT7.  Although the power tubes were old Sylvania's that were made in the USA.  So that was a surprise.  I hate to think what those things are worth depending upon condition.  As old as they are I suppose they might have very little life left in them.  But this all leads to one thing.

I am going to have to have Diversified Audio look at it.  That's right.  Off to the repair shop.  The one tube definitely needs replaced.  I suspect one of the tube sockets needs re-soldered.  I have a feeling that the reverb isn't working due to the cord.  Namely where the jack of the cord meets the reverb pan. 

As old as this amp is I'm sure there are a bunch of capacitors and resistors that need replaced.  In fact, it may need a whole new solder job.  So you can see where all this is going.  You start adding all of these up, and I'm worried that I may be looking at a $400 bill.  So this trade isn't looking so good now right? 

So I went out in the workshop to test the pickups.  The first one was pretty rusted and corroded.  However, it read the correct range for a Dimarzio Super Distortion.  I put my test leads on the other pickup, and only one of the coils worked.  The funny thing, it read 5.5 K ohms so I don't know exactly what pickup it might be.  It's too weak for a Super Distortion.  Since it's so old I'll have to go through Dimarzio's old pickup directory. 

So here's the damage.

$30 for three straps.  That's fair.
$20 for two pickups in bad shape.  Both were supposed to work, so I'm not too happy.
One Dean Hardtail with Dean hardshell case for a Carvin VTX-100.  I was happy.  Then I wasn't.  So we'll see what the future holds.  If it needs a minimal amount of work, then I might be okay.  If the bill climbs to $400 then I won't be happy at all.  Stay tuned for another blog.

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