Yamaha DW-5S bone saddle & JJB 330 pickup installation

Worked on this old Yamaha a couple of months back.

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Owner wanted to put in a bone saddle and install the JJB 330 passive pickup for his vintage piece. The DW-5S is a 90’s model which was made in Taiwan. It has a pretty standard solid spruce top with laminate rosewood body.

Let’s work on the pickup installation first.

Preparing the hole for end-jack

We gotta drill a 12mm hole for the generic end-jack. Remember to use tape to prevent chips and cracks.

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These days I drill a smaller pilot hole first, then work upwards from  3-6-10 and finally 12mm. It’s faster and safer this way than using a step bit.

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Some sanding to do especially on the inside because there could be splinters. I use a small file for this purpose.

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Okay, we got the end-jack nicely done. The dust and all can be cleaned up later.

Mounting the transducers

It’s time to get some cardboard to make a jig.

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I marked out the spots along the saddle line where the transducers will be with X. This gives a very clear idea of where the correct placements should be – between E/A, between D/G, and between B/e (but slightly closer to e).

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Reverse the anchoring bridge pins and use some blu-tak to stick on the transducers. Now we have a really useful jig for mounting them. Do many dry runs to ensure you get a good sensing of where to place your hand. You’ll mess things up if you miss or drop those anchoring bridge pins. Finally, apply gel superglue on the shiny sides of the transducers and stick them in.

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It’s all good when you see this. This means everything is nicely in place. I still prefer to hold the entire assembly in position for a minute or so as the glue dries.

Fitting a new bone saddle

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The guitar came with a badly fitted saddle. It was too short and could moved along the slot. No worries, Guitarbear can adjust a bone saddle to fit properly. It’s important to mark out the string positions in order to get a good fret radius.

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OK, we have a nice smooth bone saddle installed. Fresh Elixirs installed as well.

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Time to pamper the guitar with some TLC. Fretboard and bridge to get some lemon oil and Ax Wax. Edward was assistant today.

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Gave the guitar a good clean and polish after the soundcheck. IMG_7464

Some parts of the finish have become cloudy but that’s the way it is with some older guitars if you didn’t do due maintenance.

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Scotty was happy to pose with the old guy. 🙂

 

 

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Installing JJB 330 on Taylor 714ce

Did an installation on this older Taylor guitar last month.

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This 714ce has various features that are very different from current guitars. It has dot inlays and the ancient ES System that uses AA batteries.

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The ES System has failed and owner wanted to have a passive pickup which doesn’t require any batteries. Of course the JJB 330 is a good choice. There are some opinions on such passive pickups but I reckon they sound very natural and great when paired with a DI/EQ.

Removing the ES System

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The first hurdle would be deciding what to to do with the existing ES System. There is no way the current end block can be used to install the new end-jack, and drilling a separate hole would be nothing short of a disaster cosmetically.

So, we had to purchase a set of ES Plug. This thing costs US$35 but the shipping was about US$46 (ouch!!). Full marks to the guys from Stratosphere Part who shipped this to SG in record three days.

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We”ll see why these two pieces of wood are so important later. Now, we need to remove the ES System.

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After unscrewing the end-jack and removing the battery cover, gently pull the plastic frame which is attached via double tape. Yes, this thing was fixed at the factory using double tape.

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The four screws holding the end block are now visible so we gotta remove those.

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The entire end block will slide out nicely after the screws are removed. Bear in mind that the RJ19-looking connector can be disconnected, so DO NOT cut anything here.

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WHOAA!!! We got a huge gaping hole in the guitar now.

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So that’s where the Plug comes in. You need to replace the end block and also provide the screw holes and a 12mm hole for the new end-jack which could be of any pickup you like.

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Lousy photo showing the body sensor mounted under the guitar top. Simply pull and wiggle gently for it to come off. They come off fairly easily.

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Next, we gotta remove these knobs which are also linked to the preamp unit. Pop off the rubber knobs (just pull them off).

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These collars must be unscrewed and NOT pulled out. They are screwed in, so if you try to yank them out with pliers, good luck. Upon unscrewing the collars, the entire preamp assembly can be removed from the inside. Here we need to disconnect some cables as well.

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At this point, Guitarbear reckons those three little holes make a nice soundport. But owner thinks it’s better to just use the plug to fill them up. There are also two loose cables coming from the neck pickup sensor that needed to be anchored.

A look at all the ES components are were removed.

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Absolutely no cutting of wires in such projects. You either remove cleanly or you tape them down. No butchering allowed in Guitarbear’s work ethics.

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I used thick foam double tape for mounting the plugs.

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This is how it looks with the holes plugged.

Installing JJB 330 pickup. 

We start with installing the end-jack. There is no drilling required as the plug already has those holes drilled out nicely.

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Insert the sensors from the end. (Staged photo here, I’m very much right-handed)

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Screw in the end plate.

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Mounting the sensors

Use some old cardboard to prepare the mounting jig.

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Mark the spots where the sensors will be. After many dry runs, use gel superglue to mount them.

A detailed post on this can be read here:

https://guitarbear.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/installing-jjb-330-on-ayers-07-cx/

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Once the anchors are in place, we know for sure the sensors are also in place.

Bearclaw Special

Gave the guitar a good clean and polish. This is a player’s guitar so there’s quite a bit of “mojo” to clean up.

Scotty helped with oiling the fretboard.

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Restrung with fresh Elixirs and guitar was good to go. It weighs much lighter now that the ES components are removed.

Edward and Clover posed for this.

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A look at the rosewood back.

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Owner was happy to do away with all the hassles of the previous pickup.

Setup for Yamaha LS-TA

Did a setup for this new model over the weekend.

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The TransAcoustic series was released late last year and they have getting rave reviews online. So now you can play with some reverb and chorus added without having to hook up pedals, effects or amps.

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The build is fantastic on this guitar which is essentially an LS-16 ARE with the actuator installed. Also, the TA series get a clear pickguard instead of the tortoise variant. Another feature on the LS-TA is the vintage tinted Engelmann top.

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Guitar was sent for a bone saddle installation elsewhere and owner still prefers a slightly lower action. Sometimes player’s preference still matters so the aim here was to go from about 7/64 to about 5/64 inch. Easy job.

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I must say that the bone saddle is very well-crafted. It’s nicely shaped with the correct radius and finished to a high gloss. Good job by the previous guitar guy! Now let’s shave a lil off the bottom.

Bearclaw Special

TLC for all guitars from Guitarbear.

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Let’s start with the nut slots. Pencil lead will do the job. No need for fancy stuffs here.

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Fretboard and bridge were moisturised to a nice sheen. Can you see which part just got pampered? Koala fell asleep while checking the guitar.

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So Miffy was ready to pose after her shower. She says this one sounds good!

Closing thoughts

The LS-TA sounds wonderful even without the the effects. In my opinion, the L series are really great guitars for the money. The 5-piece neck just looks beautiful and usually belong to guitars at higher price brackets.

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The room reverb is pleasing and sounds natural, but it may sound quite harsh if you go beyond 3 o’clock on the dial. Same for the chorus dial that is best left under 12 o’clock.

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Another thing to consider is the weight of the guitar. The LS-TA is significantly heavier than a stock LS16. No prizes for guessing that this is due the actuator for the effects. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

 

 

 

 

 

Yamaha AC5R in-depth review

Been very busy so this took so long.

I collected the AC5R last month with really high hopes about it because it’s supposedly handcrafted in Japan.

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Build Quality

If you look at the guitar it probably doesn’t stand out from the China made A1 and A3 models. And you are right. Apart from the Gotoh made open gear tuners, this guitar shares almost identical specs are the A3 series that are made in China.

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I inspected closely and found it to be really well-made. Joints are clean and tidy as expected at this price range. The A5 series retail are $2099 here in SG so I’m definitely expecting much better workmanship than say the FG series.  The neck is still visibly made from multi-pieces of wood and I guess this is the norm in order to prevent wastage and cut down on man-hours.

Having said that, the mahogany binding is really nice all around. Here’s a look at it with the new preamp controls that have a smaller footprint.

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One thing I’d like to point out, the bracing definitely needs more attention. Here you can see some rough edges/splinters on the bracing under the label.

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It’s not a problem if the guitar was a budget model, but if you place this model as the top-end handcrafted guitar from Japan, I’d expect better attention to details. Sure it doesn’t affect tone or playability, but us guitar freaks are like that.

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The rosette looks neat here with mahogany plus rosewood. I ran my fingers around the inside of the soundhole and I think it’s quite decent – generally smooth, so thumbs-up.

In all, the AC5R is very well-made with beautiful bindings. Finish is also very good. The top has a vintage tint to it and the back of the neck has a nice satin sheen. While the Gotoh tuners are supposedly an upgrade, I actually dislike them. Tuning doesn’t seem any better than the usual closed back ones found on lesser Yamaha models and there is just too much freeplay on the shafts when the strings were off.

Setup & Playability

Stock action was already decent. It came in at about 7/64 inch at 12 fret capo on 1st. Relief was minimal. Many players wouldn’t mind such action but Guitarbear can’t play for nuts so sandpaper was needed to bring the action to slightly under 3/32 inch with a tad more relief for heavy strumming. Yes, I know the AC shape isn’t a strummer, but I can only strum those four chords. 🙂

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Shaved off the base to get a lower action. Just a note here, this one uses a 76mm saddle. Very unusual as most other Yamahas I have worked with use 75mm.

The guitar seems less forgiving and requires more finesse to avoid making mistakes. Perhaps it needs more time to run-in. We shall see.

Tone

I have to say this part may be quite inaccurate due to my playing ability. Nevertheless, I will present my own observations.

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The stock strings had to go because Elixir 80/20 made the guitar sounded too “metallic”, if that’s an appropriate word to use. I slapped on my favourite Elixir PB 12-53 and could immediately hear improvements (to me). Sound was less shrill and had more piano-like clarity on each note.

I would ideally prefer a taller saddle on my guitar but the thickness of the bridge meant that this was the best I could do. Still, there is no tone or volume loss at all. The guitar remains very responsive, but like I mentioned before, it requires more accuracy than my own guitars that have been seasoned with sweat and grime. 🙂

By now, the guitar lost its pickguard. I can’t stand pickguards on them.

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Here’s a look at the chocolaty rosewood grains.

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Rainbow and Brownie were happy to pose.

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Closing notes:

The AC5R is rather lightly built and I would say that it’s definitely more suited to fingerstyle. It’s still a decent strummer, but the dreadnought shape is probably what I should get for my style of heavy handed strumming (especially after 2 beers). 🙂

It is interesting to note that the AC shape is under 15 inch and smaller than an OM. However, it has more depth at 120mm. That’s actually slightly deeper than Yamaha’s dreadnought shape. The AC is very comfortable to play, and would fit into the “cough guitar” category unless you’re a very small person.

The SRT2 electronics got a test run from me and I think it is probably the loudest pickup I’ve heard. The mic selection is a cool feature here and it was very easy to blend in a usable sound.

The new SRT2 electronics also get a much neater battery compartment this time. Again, it is similar to the Taylor ES whereby you install the batteries from the base of the guitar.

Does it justify its price? It is about $600-$700 more than the A3 series so I guess that money goes into the labour cost and bragging rights.

Will the guitar continue to open up and sound better with time? That’s a question that no one can answer.

 

 

Money well spent

For those who own a few more guitars than they should (and that includes me), it is no joke to restring your guitars. The money you’d spend could well be enough to get a nice decent guitar.

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So some people have been saying Elixirs cost too much or sound too bright. But I reckon they actually help you to save money. Just think about it, a set of Elixirs costs $20 street price and they easily last more than 3 months. A pack of basic guitar strings cost around $8 but they’d only last for  a week before tarnishing or rusting.

Quite a no-brainer decision right?

Go to Bernard Godfrey Guitars or G77+ for the best street prices.