Happenings

Here's what's happening at RedZone Guitar Works:

Amazing AER Amps have arrived

Wow, it's been exciting around here lately! We've got so much new stuff in, I just can't even keep up with it all. I've been having lots of fun playing with all the new toys, but at some point, I gotta get some work done, which means telling all you guys about the new goodies.

RedZone Guitar Works has recently become a dealer for AER amps. AER (Audio Electric Research) is a German company which makes extremely high-end acoustic amplifiers. Though not common in this area, they are quite popular in Nashville (and elsewhere in the world). Come to think of it, they're somewhat popular here, but for whatever reason, there are almost no dealers in this area for AER products. 

I first fell in love with AER amps at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show. It was there that I first heard Steve White performing with his acoustic guitar, playing only through a single AER amp. The sound and tone blew me away. These amps are quite small, but the fidelity and the sheer volume of sound they put out is positively stupefying! These things get really loud - easily loud enough to perform a typical singer songwriter gig, with no additional amplification, and lots of headroom to spare. 

More importantly, AER amps have an incredibly natural or transparent sound. They sound like your guitar, only louder. They also sound great for vocals, and I'm told that in Europe, they are quite popular in the jazz community. 

Depending on the model, they come with dual channels and some basic effects (reverb, flanger, etc.) built-in. The first one we received was an Alpha Plus model, which is a 50 watt combo with a master volume, 8" twin cone speaker, high impedance guitar input on channel 2 (gain, bass, middle, treble, digital reverb, color [mid cut, treble boost]), and a combined XLR/quarter inch high impedance input on channel one (24v phantom power, line/mic pushbutton switch, gain). Using this diminutive amp (weighing only 16.65 lbs!), you can easily do a typical coffee house gig or small party. 

We've only just received a couple of Compact 60/2 models, which, in addition to having an extra 10 watts of power (for a total of 60 watts), also have tone controls on the vocal/multipurpose channel, reverb and flanger on both channels, and a level and pan control to control the effects mix. 

All the AER amps come with an attractive and durable, padded gig bag. These things really are awesome. Come check 'em out if you get a chance.

The Alpha Plus lists for $1129, and typical street (discounted) price is $999. The Compact 60/2 lists for $1299, and street price is $1099. Our pricing is very competitive, and you won't find a better deal. Anywhere. Seriously. Call or come by. Ya gotta hear these things.


Open Mic/Musician's Networking Event

I've always enjoyed going to open mics, blues jams, etc. Where I'm from - back in Columbia, SC - there's a local music store that holds weekly get-togethers for musicians. It's kinda like a free-form open mic/networking thing, where the musicians can either sign up to get on stage, or they can break off into smaller groups and just talk or play with a few friends.

I was thinking that might be a fun thing to do here, as well. What I envision is sort of a casual get-together - an open mic environment, where we can also meet new people, talk about new gear, try out equipment from the store, and just generally have a good time.

What I'm less certain about, however, is whether to take it in more of an electric or acoustic direction, or attempt a good mix of the two. Also, I'm not sure when to hold this event, so that the most people get the most benefit/enjoyment out of it.

This is where you come in. I need your help. I've put together a brief survey (only 5 questions!) in which I'd like to get your input about the event. Please consider taking a couple of minutes to answer these few easy questions for me. It'll really help us to put on the best event we can. Thanks a bunch!

The survey can be found here:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Z3MQWGC

Vintage 1974 Gibson SG III Repair & Opinion Poll

Update: The SG III has been sold. After I repaired the headstock and installed a new set of auto-trim tuners, I strung up the guitar and played it for a bit. I didn't really care for it. The neck was skinny...really, really skinny. I mean really. The pickups were a little bright for me, too.

I decided that I didn't want to invest the time or money to significantly upgrade the guitar, since I wasn't going to keep it for myself. I put it on the floor to sell, and in less than 24 hours, it was gone. The new owner was thrilled to have it, which made me feel good that I was able to resurrect it from the dead.

Original post: Okay, friends...I need your help. I am soliciting opinions as to what direction to take in repairing this vintage 1974 Gibson SG III model. Please send me an email with your opinion. I welcome comments about any phase of the project, but my main question is whether or not to refinish the guitar. More on that at the bottom of the post.

I recently picked up this guitar from a Craigslist ad. The ad didn't include photos, so I was initially unaware just how bad its condition was. Once I saw the guitar, I realized that practically no one would be interested in it, so I threw the guy a really low offer which he, of course, declined. I asked him to let me know if, after showing the guitar to other potential buyers, he decided to reconsider my offer. I later received a series of emails from him, and ended up getting the guitar for even less than my original offer.

As you can see from the photos, there's a reason I was able to get the guitar so cheap. This poor thing has done 37 years of hard time, and received some pretty serious abuse along the way. Guitars of this model and vintage can go for $1500 or more, in good (and original, unaltered) condition. There's no way this guitar is ever going to see those prices, even once restored. It's just too far gone. Even aside from the obvious wear, damage, and finish issues, the body has had its bridge pickup cavity routed (poorly) to accomodate a full-size humbucker replacement for the original mini-humbucker, which is now long gone.


Additionally, there are numerous gouges and (what appear to be) screw holes at random spots on the face of the guitar's body. All the sharp points on the body and headstock are worn or dented, and clearly, the finish is in pathetic condition. Ironically, what appears to be the most serious problem - the cracked/broken headstock - is actually the least of our worries, although that is likely what deterred the other buyers.

As you can see, the headstock is broken in an unusual way. Usually, Gibson headstocks will crack or break at the volute, where the neck transitions to the peghead. The sharp angle, combined with the thinness of most Gibson necks at this juncture, renders this a serious 'Achilles' Heel'. In fact, just last week, I repaired a Les Paul Studio model that had this very problem of the headstock having cracked at the volute.

This guitar is damaged in a different way. It must've received a sharp 'blow to the head', as it were, 'cause the headstock split vertically, right down the center line of the 3 treble tuning machines. Obviously, this is another weak point on the guitar, what with having 3 large holes bored through, and 4 small screw holes, all along the same plane. It's much less common to see this kind of break, however, presumably because it's unlikely to receive an impact at just the right angle to cause this kind of damage.

What's most amazing to me, is that the owner was actually playing the guitar in this condition. I never elicited from him the history of the damage...how or when it occurred. All he told me was that he'd had the guitar for years, and that he'd found it in the closet of some apartment he'd once moved into. Apparently, it had been left for dead. Can you believe he taped the headstock together...with electrical tape? WTF?!?

First off, bad choice! Electrical tape stretches. There's no way it could ever hold the headstock together. There are just so many other choices which would've been so much more effective! Secondly, the adhesive from the tape reacted in a bad way with the guitar's finish, creating lines and adhesive smudges where the tape once lay. Though the adhesive can be removed, the lines and smudges have now become part of the finish, which will almost certainly necessitate refinishing the guitar.

At any rate, the woodworking part of this is a relatively easy repair. Upon removing the hardware, I found that the

broken piece was hanging on by just the smallest sliver of wood - thinner than a toothpick. I removed this little splinter, which freed up the two halves so they could be properly rejoined. After cleaning everything up, I was able to glue and clamp the headstock. The pieces matched up perfectly, and the repair will be strong, stable, and barely noticeable, especially if I decide to refinish the guitar.

The next step is a fret job. Though the guitar is playable, and there are no buzzes or dead notes, the frets are extremely worn. The fingerboard is somewhat gouged up from previous fret work, but I don't foresee any issues there that can't be dealt with. The nut has been replaced with one designed for an acoustic guitar. As such, it's too big for the SG, and hangs over each side of the neck by about an eighth of an inch or so. That's an easy fix.

Though it's pretty beat up, I may try to salvage the mini-humbucker, if I can establish its authenticity. Alternatively, I may swap it out with a new, after-market mini-humbucker. The bridge pickup - the Seymour Duncan - is in bad shape, too. Since it's not original, I'll definitely swap that out for something new. The original bridge has been replaced with a Leo Quan Badass, which, though a little beat up, is in decent shape. To replace or not will depend on whether I refinish the guitar.

The tuners are original, and though in decent cosmetic condition, their operation is pretty sloppy. I'll drop in something new and much more functional...Sperzels or something similar. I'll save all the original hardware, in case a future owner considers them to be of some value. Of course, I could possibly sell those items separately, as well. In my opinion, this SG has no value as a collectible. The only mission here is to salvage this guitar as a usable instrument, which may just happen to have a cool vintage vibe, and hopefully will retain some of its hard-won and well-deserved 'mojo'.

So, finally, I come to the question with which I need your help. Should I refinish the guitar, or should I leave its original finish, regardless of how beat up? Certainly, there are those who put a premium on relic'd guitars (though I personally don't care for them). This would be a rather extreme example, and, in truth, it's not really relic'd, since this wear occurred honestly and organically, rather than at the hands of a belt sander and chemical agents. Not to mention, relicing is designed to make a guitar look as though it's been played a lot, whereas this guitar's wear looks to be mostly the result of having been carelessly tossed about a lot, although it's clearly been played extensively, too. Refinishing the guitar would even further reduce any last remnant of 'collectibility', but would certainly make the guitar more attractive to a wider audience. Incidentally, if I do refinish the SG, it will likely be in a brown stain, either satin or gloss, I haven't yet decided. I could possibly recreate the Fireburst finish, but that would take a bit more work, and finishes are not my favorite thing to do. Refinished or not, the guitar will always have a few dings and pit marks, unless I fill everything and finish it in a solid color, which is an option, I guess. I prefer stain or a translucent Fireburst, but I'm open to other possibilities. 


So whaddya think? Refinish or not? Let me know!

Peerless Guitars

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we are now an Authorized Dealer for the Peerless family of fine guitars. I'll do a more in-depth posting later, with photos/videos, and more comprehensive reviews.


Peerless began manufacturing in 1970, and over the last 40 years, they have built more than 3 million guitars. Most of that has been OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) production for other big-name companies like Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, St. Louis Music, Epiphone and others. While they still do some OEM production, they have dramatically scaled back that side of the operation, in order to focus on building enhanced quality and greater name recognition for their in-house brand, Peerless. They built a new, more modern factory, and began to further hone their already high quality instruments. 

Most of the Peerless guitar models are geared toward Jazz and/or Blues players, though the guitars are versatile enough for most any style of music. They specialize in hollowbodies, and Peerless archtops can hold their own with the best instruments on the market. Peerless also makes a range of acoustic models, as well.

If you type Peerless Guitar into any search engine, you'll find dozens or even hundreds of rave reviews of these remarkable guitars. They are almost universally loved and respected as instruments of superior quality and playability. We stock a full range of Peerless guitars. RedZone Guitar Works is one of only two Authorized Dealers in the entire United States, and the only one on the west coast. The other dealer, Guitars N Jazz, is in the NY/New Jersey area.

Peerless guitars have proven quite popular for us, as a result of both local and internet sales. Most people buy these instruments sight unseen, and we've not had a single return or complaint. The Peerless stuff really is that good. Of course, you're always welcome to come check them out in person at our Guitar Boutique in Pasadena, CA.

Check back soon for more in-depth information and reviews...

Voyage-Air Guitar Video

I'm pretty excited about the Voyage-Air line of guitars we've just started carrying in the store. In case you're not familiar with them, Voyage-Air Guitars began production with a line of acoustic guitars that have a folding hinge in the middle of the neck. This unique (and very heavy-duty) hinge allows the neck to fold over onto the guitar's body, effectively reducing the length of the guitar by approximately half. You don't have to remove or even loosen the strings to fold the guitar. You simply unscrew the strap button at the base of the neck, and that frees the neck to fold forward, relieving tension on the strings. A 'captured' nut - one which the strings thread through, rather than pass over the top of - keeps the strings from detaching or getting tangled at the tuners. Once you fold the neck, you tuck the stings into the soundhole. To reassemble the guitar, you simply unfold it at the hinge. Apply slight back-pressure at the hinge, and screw in the strap button (fingers only - it resembles a thumbscrew). Amazingly, the guitar usually retains its tuning, generally requiring only a slight tweak to fine tune the treble strings!

Last year, Cathy and I were planning a trip to the 5 'Stans - Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The trip was to last a little more than 3 weeks, and I didn't want to be without a guitar that long, so I was in the market for a travel guitar. I had seen the Traveler Speedster, but had never played one. I was familiar with the Chiquita Travel Guitar, designed by Dan Erlewine (and later, in fact, I did buy one, but ended up giving it to my young nephew). I also researched several others, including the Ministar line. I decided to go to Guitar Center to play a Speedster. I really liked the feel of the Speedster, but was frustrated that it had only a single bridge pickup, with not enough room to install a neck pickup. After some discussion of my needs, the GC salesperson ushered me into the acoustic room, and showed me the Voyage-Air VAOM-06. I was immediately fascinated and impressed by the guitar. I bought both it and the Speedster, thinking maybe I could carry the Speedster in my large suitcase, and the Voyage-Air in its way-cool backpack case - included in the guitar's price.

At the last minute, due to weight issues, I decided to leave the Speedster at home. I took the Voyage-Air along, and played it every day of the trip. On this particular trip we had 5 or 6 flights, and about 18 days of driving in a minibus from town to town and country to country, necessitating packing our luggage every day, loading it into the bus, driving for hours, then unloading each night. The guitar withstood the rigors of this trip with nary a hitch. I played for several of the locals, including at a college French language class full of young ladies we'd met while looking for a restaurant (they thought I was an American rock star!). No one ever guessed it was a folding guitar, until they saw me fold and pack it away.

Voyage-Air has recently begun manufacturing an electric model. The Bel-Aire model bears a faint resemblence to a Les Paul. It has a TV-style yellow cream finish, a 24.75" scale length, and two P90 style pickups. I had an opportunity to play one at the NAMM show, and was pleased to note that the guitar plays really well, and sounds great! Voyage-Air has redesigned the hinge for the electric series, so that instead of unscrewing the strap button, you simply flip a small lever to fold the guitar in half. The electric guitars come with a case only slightly larger than a briefcase or computer bag. As a matter of fact, both the electric and acoustic cases include a slot for your laptop - a feature which I take full advantage of whenever I travel. I recently took a trip to Ireland, and decided to take the Speedster electric, rather than the Voyage-Air acoustic. Man, did I ever miss my acoustic! I hardly played the Speedster at all, in sharp contrast to my experiences with the acoustic. There's something about having to fiddle with cords, headphone amps, electrical outlets and adapters for international voltages, etc. that just acts as a psychological barrier to playing. Not to mention, there's a lot more stuff to pack for an electric to be useful. I love being able to just pick up the acoustic and start playing.

The Voyage-Air electrics are currently on backorder, and we hope to be receiving them soon. We now have several of the acoustic models in stock, so stop by and check 'em out for yourself! In the meantime, take a look at the video review by Premier Guitar Magazine of the Voyage-Air acoustic. 

NAMM Show Wrap Up

The NAMM Show was 4 days of banging, clanging, honking, singing, plucking and freaking, pandemonious nirvana. Sheer, unadulterated, kid-with-a-new-toy excitement. There is so much stuff to see, so many instruments to play, new hardware, new software, new manufacturers, and new ideas, that you simply cannot comprehend it all. Four days is not nearly enough time to see and do everything. Despite my best planning and scheduling, I wasn't able to attend a single educational session or forum. That's my biggest disappointment, 'cause there were some that purported to be really interesting and informative.

Why didn't I make it to any sessions? I was too freakin' busy checking out the new gear and negotiating contracts, that's why! I'm happy to report that we have lots of new gear coming. We've added Luna Guitars, SIT strings, D'Addario strings and Planet Waves products, Peerless Guitars, ESP/LTD Guitars, Onori Straps, Stoneworks Picks, and Voyage-Air Guitars, just to name a few. I'm also looking very hard at Wechter Guitars, so if any of you have any interest or opinions on those, please let me know. Other companies I'm talking to and considering adding, are BreedLove Guitars (and their subsidiaries, Bedell and Two Old Hippies), Taylor Guitars, Ibanez Guitars, and I'm sure I'm leaving out a bunch more. The new products should begin arriving in the next couple of weeks, so stop by and check 'em out! 

Goin' to NAMM!

Well, I'm off to the NAMM Show tomorrow! In case you're not familiar with this extravaganza, the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show is an annual event at which new music gear is introduced. All of the major manufacturers - and many of the smaller ones, as well - have exhibit booths at NAMM. There are non-stop product demos, hands-on trials, and celebrity appearances too numerous to count. There are also break-out sessions and educational events galore. It's an exciting event, to say the least.

The NAMM Show lasts for 4 days, and it's pure madness and mayhem, in all the best ways. Unfortunately, the event is not open to the public. You must be a manufacturer, retailer, recording artist, or have a product endorsement deal, in order to be allowed in. Passes are extremely limited, and tightly controlled through the use of barcodes, scanners, and ID checks.

I'll be taking as many photos as time allows, and I'll post the best of them here. 

Buzz Feiten Tuning System

If you haven't experienced the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, you've never played in tune! The standard guitar fretboard is a compromise, arrived at through mathematical calculation. Having the frets evenly spaced as they are, introduces errors into the intervals between notes, resulting in an instrument that is impossible to truly play in tune. Through careful tuning to an open chord, you may be able to have that chord play in tune. But if you get your E major chord to play perfectly in tune, then you switch to an open D, it will sound noticeably dissonant and out of tune.

The Buzz Feiten Tuning System fixes all that. Using a multi-patented combination of altered placement of the nut, and recalculated intonation at the bridge, the Feiten system corrects the guitar's innate inability to play in tune. The first guitar on which I experienced the Feiten system was a McPherson 4.5 acoustic, on which the Feiten system is installed at the factory. I instantly fell in love with the guitar. Of the 30+ guitars in my personal collection, it is the one I play and enjoy the most. Playing a guitar that is truly in tune, from one chord to the next, from one end of the neck to the other, is something that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. I am in the process of adding the Feiten system to many more of my guitars.

The Feiten system can be retrofitted to virtually any guitar. Most electrics can be retrofitted with no modification to the instrument - it is simply a matter of installing the special 'shelf nut', along with the application of Feiten's patented tuning offsets to intonate the bridge, and suddenly, you're in tune! Guitars with locking nuts require a small modification to move the nut a very small, precise distance closer to the bridge, along with applying the tuning offsets prescribed by Feiten. Acoustic guitars can also benefit from the system, but require the aforementioned 'shelf nut', along with minor modification of the bridge saddle placement.

I'm proud to announce that RedZone Guitar Works is a new addition to the Buzz Feiten family. We are now Authorized Level 1 Retrofitters of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System. Give us a call, send us an email, or stop in the store to experience the Buzz Feiten system, or to inquire about installing it on your favorite guitar.


Now Distributing Carparelli Guitars

I'm proud to announce that RedZone Guitar Works is California's first Authorized Dealer for Carparelli Guitars. Carparelli has some incredibly forward-thinking and innovative designs, such as the 2B1 doubleneck, which resembles nothing so much as the conjoined love children of a Telecaster and Les Paul, and the Spirit of 69 - a beautiful, limited edition, zebra wood acoustic endorsed by Artie Kornfeld, the father of Woodstock.

Carparelli also manufacture their own unique versions of more well-known models - the S4 is essentially a souped-up version of a Les Paul. The Tashka Leon is a beautiful rendition of a Gibson ES 330. There are many others. This company has quite possibly the widest range of guitars and basses that we've seen, maybe even exceeding the range that Ibanez manufactured in the pre-lawsuit era of the 1970's, which, as we all know, resulted in some of the highest quality, yet (at the time) underrated instruments ever produced.

We will soon be receiving our first shipment of Carparelli guitars. We will be doing an extensive review and demo of the various models, so check back with us soon. Better yet, stop in our store at 3858 East Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, so you can get some hands-on time with these fabulous guitars!

Peerless Guitars

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we are now an Authorized Dealer for the Peerless family of fine guitars. I'll do a more in-depth posting later, with photos/videos, and more comprehensive reviews.


Peerless began manufacturing in 1970, and over the last 40 years, they have built more than 3 million guitars. Most of that has been OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) production for other big-name companies like Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, St. Louis Music, Epiphone and others. While they still do some OEM production, they have dramatically scaled back that side of the operation, in order to focus on building enhanced quality and greater name recognition for their in-house brand, Peerless. They built a new, more modern factory, and began to further hone their already high quality instruments. 

Most of the Peerless guitar models are geared toward Jazz and/or Blues players, though the guitars are versatile enough for most any style of music. They specialize in hollowbodies, and Peerless archtops can hold their own with the best instruments on the market. Peerless also makes a range of acoustic models, as well.

If you type Peerless Guitar into any search engine, you'll find dozens or even hundreds of rave reviews of these remarkable guitars. They are almost universally loved and respected as instruments of superior quality and playability. We stock a full range of Peerless guitars. RedZone Guitar Works is one of only two Authorized Dealers in the entire United States, and the only one on the west coast. The other dealer, Guitars N Jazz, is in the NY/New Jersey area.

Our Peerless inventory has already begun to dwindle, due to brisk internet sales. Most people buy these instruments sight unseen, and we've not had a single return or complaint. The Peerless stuff really is that good. Of course, you're always welcome to come check them out in person at our Guitar Boutique in Pasadena, CA.

Check back soon for more in-depth information and reviews...


© RedZone Guitar Works 2013