Blonde On Blonde
500 Series Mahogany
For our money, Taylor Guitars is producing some of the best American-made acoustic guitars on the market these days, and they’ve raised the bar even further with their new 500 Series All-Mahogany guitars.
Focusing on its ability to produce a more dynamic tone than a standard multi-grade guitar, Taylor’s Andy Powers explains that “compared to a spruce-top mahogany guitar in Taylor’s 500 Series, an all-mahogany steel-string produces a distinctive flavor. It still has the fundamental, strong, direct sound you can expect out of a mahogany guitar with a spruce top, but the mahogany top will make it even more controlled, to where it starts to accentuate its unique sustain a little more.”
Founder Bob Taylor detailed the sonic contrast of mahogany in an interview for Acoustic Guitar back in 2010, describing a hardwood-top guitar like mahogany as “typically lo-fi, great for strumming and blues, but no church bell tones.”
Considering mahogany’s strong dynamics, “it’s a fantastic wood for recording or stage use,” Powers notes. “Because of its unique response, an all-mahogany guitar really flatters its pickups. And since its sonic imprint isn’t a mile wide, it’s a guitar that plays well with others. On a track with other guitar parts, you don’t want interference between players. That’s why some bluegrass players might prefer a mahogany Dreadnought over one with rosewood back and sides. The rosewood one might have too much ring for playing their rhythm parts on fast fiddle tunes.”
Taylor offers a big-body all-mahogany option, the Grand Orchestra 528, that produces a “husky, burly voice that would also respond well to lively strumming,” according to the company. A smaller body Grand Concert 522 is also available. Powers says it offers an “easygoing character that will work well for blues, country, and ragtime picking, and the hardwood top can easily handle the kind of gritty, snappy plucking that adds funky tonal color to roots music.”
Along with the new guitars, Powers and his team at Taylor updated their design approach. They wanted a vintage guitar style with modern tweaks so the user can identify with it as, “This isn’t my dad’s guitar, this is more like my granddad’s guitar,” and still maintain all the refinements of modern guitar-making techniques. “So we brought more of that aesthetic to it,” Powers says.
Other new guitar features include ivoroid binding, an ivoroid rosette, and an ivoroid Century fretboard inlay design that comes from the same family as the 700 Series Heritage Diamonds inlay motif. Taylor’s 500 Series Mahogany MSRP starts in the $2,500 range. Street prices will vary. More info can be found at taylorguitars.com.
SansAmp Blonde Deluxe Pedal
New York-based Tech 21 released a deluxe version of its popular Blonde pedal from the SansAmp Character Series following the unexpected success of their Liverpool Deluxe pedal (previewed in Gear, June 2012), which caused the company to re-think its entire pedal strategy.
This highline Blonde pedal features a hybrid of an all-analog signal path and user-friendly digital recall. Changes can be made on the fly by adjusting the knobs to a preferred setting, then double clicking on a footswitch and the preset in that channel. Players can tailor and program any six sounds, from clean to lead-boosted tones. Character control gives users the ability to travel from the ’50s Fullerton-style tone through the Fender-style Tweed, Blonde, Blackface, and Silverface family of amps. Dual inputs let users have two instruments on-line and ready to go at any moment.
With six program locations, players can create three custom tones for each input or use all six for a single instrument. There are four independent, noise-free footswitch actuators and like the first generation Blonde, it offers Drive, Character, Low, Mid, High, and Level tone options.
The updated Blonde can be used as a pre-amp or stomp box with any guitar amp, power amp and speaker cabinet, or direct into any mixing console. It offers a 1/4-inch instrument level input, as well as 1/4-inch and XLR outputs with variable levels, and an effects loop option. The Blonde Deluxe is phantom power operable, or utilizes an optional 9 Volt DC power supply or 9V battery. Details can be found at tech21nyc.com. MSRP is $309.
VLZ4 Series Mixers
Known for making affordable mixing boards and consoles for over the past 20 years, Mackie‘s new Onyx preamps are the secret weapon for its new VLZ4 Series Mixers by delivering the “ultimate in high-headroom, low-noise analog mixer design,” according to Mackie Product Manager Matt Redmon. The eight new VLZ4 mixers directly replace the previous VLZ3 models that did not feature the cutting-edge preamps.
“Our Onyx preamps have proven they can go toe-to-toe with any boutique preamp out there,” he says, “by delivering this level of performance to the VLZ4 line. From beer spills to drops from moving vehicles, we’ve seen it all. We have literally run them over with a truck and they still passed signal. The rugged design of VLZ4 is unique in the industry and it always amazes us to hear user stories revealing what they are capable of handling.”
Besides its new “innards,” the new mixer offers a low-light friendly, ergonomic work surface that potentially works well in club and studio settings. New knobs and fader caps sit against an aviation-inspired work surface with a black powder-coat finish providing the contrast needed for easy volume and E.Q. control. You can find more details on Mackie’s eight VLZ4 models and watch a video overview of the product at mackie.com/VLZ4.
The new Mackie VLZ4 Series Compact Mixers will be available starting in mid-August with a MSRP of $129.99.
News & Notes
The friendly folks from Elgin’s R&B Productions and Bakes Guitars are back with their 25th Annual Guitar Show on Sunday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., at the Elgin Holiday Inn at 495 Airport Road – just a stone’s throw from Route 31 and I-90. Dealers from all over the Midwest will be buying, selling, and trading new and used guitars, amplifiers, parts, and accessories. Plus, this year they’ve added rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia for sale. Admission is $10. Need more details? Call 847-931-0707 or email email@example.com.
Correction: Last month we mentioned Music Solutions moved to a new location in Bolingbrook. Their new digs are at 490 Woodcreek Drive (Suite D) in Bolingbrook near the I-355 and Route 53 exit. We apologize for the error.