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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Alvarez MD70 Bone Saddle Installation

Did a drop-in bone saddle project on this Alvarez MD70 last week.

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This is a previous model from 2013 but this guitar is just stunning in terms of value, quality and tone. While the latest MDA70 gets a wider nut width and abalone bindings, the MD70 still carries attractive appointments like flame maple bindings.

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Guitarbear still prefers the older 43mm nut widths over the latest guitars.

Here you can see that the saddle doesn’t have the suitable curve. The thicker strings sit too “straight” and a new saddle with the correct radius is required. While it is easy to simply drop in a saddle, it takes more time and effort to get the best curve for playing comfort.

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There are also too many shims being used. Not sure how much tone is lost here, but it is always good to make a new saddle with the correct measurements.

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A comparison photo where you can see that the original saddle was way too straight at the thicker strings.

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No problems. We got sandpaper from 100 to 2000 grit, as well as the good ol’ jeweler’s file to craft the new saddle.

The wire anchor of the LR Baggs Anthem (previously installed by owner) came off so we need to tape it back. Easy job here.

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Remove the anchor, remove the old tape, and clean up the contact. Then, cut some new double-sided tape to reinstall the anchor. Just use a pair scissors to snip off the excess bits.

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Okay, all neat and tidy now. Nothing loose or rattling anymore.

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Bearclaw Special

Let’s do some TLC for this lovely guitar.

Fretboard wasn’t too dirty in the first place, but all guitars deserve a good massage and moisturising session. Steel wool and Ax Wax are good friends here. Bowie was assistant today.

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Bridge was also nourished with Ax Wax, while nut slots were lubricated with pencil lead.

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We got a good fit on the new saddle. Restrung with Elixirs in owner’s preferred super light gauge 10-47.

Gave the guitar an overall clean and polish and we’re good to go. Miffy was ready to pose.

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It’s a lovely guitar. I asked the owner if he would sell it to me, and I got a flat “NO”.

Nevertheless, my trusted AD30, my No.1, came out to pose with his cousin from the same year (2013).

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Giveaway sign would be the fret markers. High end models have only the 12th marker and not the dots.

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MD70 has solid rosewood body while the humble AD30 has laminate mahogany. Both just beautiful to me. I love Alvarez.

One more shot of the MD70 that mesmerized me. Sexy back.

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Owner was really happy to get back his guitar with the improved playing comfort.

 

 

Installing JJB330 pickup on Taylor Big Baby

Did a JJB330 installation last week on the Big Baby.

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This guitar previously had an LR Baggs Element system in it but the owner wanted something that requires no batteries, so the passive JJB system seems the right choice. Here’s a well-used guitar that has really opened up. Plenty of marks on the top that kinda adds character.

Mounting the end jack.

Since the guitar already had a 12mm hole drilled due to the previous pickup, we can go straight to work without bringing out the drill.

I use a copper wire to enter through the base and exit the soundhole.

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Here I attach the end jack of the JJB 330.

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Pull out through the base again.

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Okay, we got the end jack screwed in nicely.

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Mounting the transducers

Let’s make a jig from the good ol’ cereal box.

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Trace out the saddle line and punch through the bridge pin holes. Mark X on the spots the transducers are mounted. Note that one marking is a bit nearer to the high E to accentuate the thinnest string.

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Use some blu-tak to mount the transducers on the jig. It’s a good idea to clean the shiny contact surfaces with Zippo fluid at this time.

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Do many dry runs to ensure you get a good sensing of how the jig would fit before applying the glue. Once you’re confident, apply gel superglue on the shiny surfaces and stick it in!

When you see this, you know that everything is in the right place. No mirrors needed.

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Hold the jog in place for a few minutes while the glue dries.

Bearclaw Special

It’s time to pamper the guitar. Let’s start with the fretboard and bridge.

Steel wool and Ax Wax to the party.

From this:

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To this:

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Bob was assistant today.

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Pencil lead on nut slots and saddle crown. 

I also took time to tighten some of the tuner buttons. I actually find the Taylor stock tuners quite well-made.

Fresh Elixirs, what else?

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Guitar was ready to go on stage. 🙂

Cookie came out to pose.

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Closing note:

The Big Baby is a fun guitar that can fill the gap between a full-sized dreadnought and a Baby Taylor/Little Martin genre. It’s main strength is the full 25.5″ scale. Some players may find the extremely cramped 22.5″ too uncomfy and the Big Baby fits the bill perfectly here.

In the tone department, don’t expect this to sound as full as a 110e. But hey, it still has decent bass and does have the dreadnought sound to it. I’d say it’s a better strummer than an OM or 000 type.

If you really need the smaller bodyshape, this is actually a good idea.

See some pictures for comparison with a regular dread. Here you see that it is just a bit shorter in terms of overall length.

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The BBT is also shallower. However, the bowl back creates more volume and bass than you’d expect.

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Perhaps the only thing going against the BBT is the $599 retail price here in SG. In today’s market, many full solid guitars (albeit China made) can be had for $699 onwards if one were to look beyond the brand name.

With the introduction of the Academy Series in 2017, one wonders if the Big Baby will be discontinued.

 

 

Walden G570 Refurbish & Setup

Brought home this old guitar for a refurbish and setup.

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Walden Guitars have ceased operation but their guitars have generally garnered good reviews from players. The G570 is Grand Auditorium sized guitar with a solid cedar top and laminated mahogany body.

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It’s got an interesting headstock shape. Quite similar to a Seagull but not so slim. The guitar also feel rather light despite it’s rather wide lower bout. It’s slightly wider than a dreadnought but it’s shallower and curvier.

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We got some work to do because this one did not appear to have any form of maintenance done to it at all. Just look at the dirt and grime on the fingerboard. Yucks.

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There’s also some rusty frets going on. Let’s hope our friends steel wool and Ax Wax can help. Give the entire fretboard some rubbing and we may get some good results.

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Cookie was my assistant for this project. And he’s smiling because the fretboard is shiny again.

From this: Rusty and dry

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To this: Shiny and nourished

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Let’s work on the saddle. It needed some shaving off to get a lower action. Walden used Graphtech Fossalite saddles so I reckoned I’d just keep it. It’s actually quite well-cut.

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Pencil lead on nut slots. Again, this is a Graphtech Fossalite nut and pretty well-cut.

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Restrung with fresh Elixirs PB.  I may get a set of Tusq pins soon.

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I took the time to remove the pickguard. I can’t stand pickguards on acoustic guitars. Here I used a very thin guitar pick (0.4mm) to pry out the edge and slowly peeled off the entire pickguard. No heat needed. Then I used MusicNomad ONE to remove the lil’ bit of glue residue.

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Action set at just a hair under 3/32 inch at 12th fret capo on 1st. Really comfy to play.

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It’s quite nice really. Now I may have to find an all-solid Walden to do a comparison. 🙂

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Closing notes:

The G570 is a nice entry level guitar (solid top laminate body) that offers something different from the usual dreadnought shape. It’s more comfortable to play because it’s shallower. It’s “quieter” (if that’s appropriate to describe the tone) probably due to the cedar top.

The cedar top is also less prone to be overdriven than the more common spruce top. Sure, it lacks some power and volume, but the overall tone of this guitar is still rather bright compared to hardwoods such as mahogany. The GA shape does offer a decent amount of bass.

One thing I did notice is that the tuners and finish on this guitar is by far the best I’ve seen in budget guitars. Upon reading up, Walden did use a nitro satin finish on their guitars and this could be why it feels better made than the more common poly-finished guitars at this price-point.

I wonder if I find an all-solid model (G830 or G810) for a shootout.

 

 

 

Hello Kitty Strat Again (refurbish & setup)

I brought this home last month to try out the original Squier Hello Kitty Strat.

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These guitars came out about 10 years ago and nowadays we see people asking relatively high prices on the used market. It’s common to see people asking for $350-$400 on local classifieds.

For what’s basically an Affinity Series Strat with rear rout and a cute pickguard, Guitarbear must admit that this is plenty of fun and laughter.

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A look at the cute “ransom note” fonts. I love this! It’s worth noting that the string ferrules at the back sit flush with the body. Good stuff. Even my Amercian made Longboard Strat doesn’t have flushed ferrules.

It has a very thin agathis body compared to regular Strat which is typically made of alder or ash. The neck is also a one-piece maple with big headstock. Feels light as a feather and really comfy to play.

I had to give the guitar a good clean up because previous owner had it out for display at home so this was really dusty. I also found some paint cracks possibly due to prolonged exposure to aircon, sun and such.

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Here’s one crack near the neck joint.

Let’s do some fret shine. Tape up the maple board first.

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Use 2000 grit sandpaper and Dr Duck’s Ax Wax. After some careful polishing, we get shiny frets. Koala was there to help. Not sure how she did it since her eyes are perpetually shut. 🙂

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Stock string trees were rubbish. They didn’t even bother to use a shorter bushing for B and e strings. They will go for sure.

Nut required some filing because nut slots were done quite sloppily. Lowered the saddles a lil, and this is good to go.

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Another look at those cute-sy fonts.

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Of course we got in some new roller string trees. These look and work so much better.

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The girls just love such guitars.

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Here she is on the red sofa.

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Closing note: While these are cheap, entry level guitars, they are fun to play. A good setup and possibly better pickup may stretch the limits further. The neck feels good and fretwork is actually decent. The single bridge humbucker will not be gig-worthy but that’s easily remedied with a swap.

The only issue with the Affinity Series would be the super narrow nut (40.5mm). If Squier ever re-issues this model (and they definitely SHOULD), please make a more normal 1-11/16 inch nut.

*Guitar has been sold to John. 🙂 Bubye Black Kitty.