Tag Archives: gibson

I’m an “audiophile”… and no one needs ultra HD displays

I play music for a hobby; I am a musician part time. As of now I have about 270 guitar/piano videos on my Youtube (which you can check on the media page on the side). So yeah, I care about audio alot and audio tone. The irony is that I care about audio more than I care about video. Mainstream consumers are the opposite. They love their 4K super high resolution displays and stuff, but for me, video quality has always been secondary to audio quality.

I remember when HD first came out (720p / 1080p) I couldn’t see much of a difference between that and 480p DVD quality videos. But maybe my eyes are just used to 240p/480p VHS/VCD/DVDs. All my computer resolutions have been 720p (that is, 1366×768) and lower, until this year. That’s right! It took me until 2015 to get a computer with a full HD resolution! so yeah no 4K for me for a while. I also don’t like 4K because I would have to redownload all my movies and tv shows and anime in 4K which takes up a ton of space. I would prefer just a FHD OLED display instead.

Now we have smartphones rocking 4K resolution. Which is absolutely ridiculous because 4K is questionable even on a flat screen TV. At the distance we sit from the TV I doubt many people notice the difference in resolution. Having super high resolution also impacts another big factor in battery life. I like my stuff with good battery life thats why I chose a regular 720p laptop which gets me 20 hours of battery life (thanks to the dual batteries in the Thinkpad X240!) and a regular 720p phone as well, the Sony Xperia Z3C which gets me 2 days of battery life. For my 17 inch gaming laptop I “only” have a full HD resolution. Having Ultra HD 3200×1800 resolution on a laptop will both kill the battery life and alot of windows apps don’t scale well beyond FHD anyways.

Anyways for me audio quality has always been more important, thats why I own tube amps and a record player and 180gram vinyl LPs. I listen to FLACs (lossless) whenever possible (My Sony Xperia Z3C has a built in walkman and support for high res and lossless audio), and have owned countless pairs of headphones and earphones. The irony is the average consumer doesn’t really care about audio that much. They are happy listening to their lossy MP3s, listening on their Mac or PC with a terrible built in DAC, or using cheap quality iPod or Beats headphones.

Let me take a head count here. How many of you have heard of these audio companies: Bose, Sennheiser, Fender, Marshall, IK Multimedia, Apogee, AKG, Beyerdynamic, Shure, Etymotic, Ultimate Ears, JBL, Altec Lansing, Cambridge Audio, Boston Acoustics, Polk Audio, Klipsch, Onkyo, Dynaudio, Denon, Pioneer, Philips, Creative Labs, Monster, Beats, Hifiman, Woo Audio, Linn Audio, Meridian Audio, Apple, Audioquest, Focusrite, M-Audio, SRS Labs, Jays, Dolby, DTS, Audyssey, Wave Audio, Grado Labs, Audeze, THX, Grain Audio, Audioengine, Master & Dynamic, Audio Technica, Skullcandy, Sony, Samsung, LG, Harmon Kardon, Bowers and Wilkins, Bang and Olufsen, Infinity, Sol Republic, Yamaha.

I even know most of the various amp, effects, and guitar pickup makers: Fender, ESP, Gibson, Jackson, Ibanez, Dean Martin, Epiphone, G&L, Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Kramer, Vox, Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Dr Z, Two Rock, Victoria Amps, Tone King, Line 6, Digitech, Orange, Crate, Boss, Behringer, BBE, Korg, Roland, Maxon, Dunlop, MXR, Way Huge, Xotic, Lovepedals, Keeley, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, Lace, Lindy Fralin, Bill Lawrence, TV Jones, Fishman, Electro Harmonix, Visual Sound, Teese, Fulltone, Analog Man, I could go on and on….

That’s a wide range of audio companies, from mainstream to boutique, from headphone makers to DSP and effects makers. But anyways you get my point; I know all these companies because I care alot about audio. I even made an article about the best portable bluetooth speakers, and the Best over ear headphones.

Here’s the audio gear I currently use:

Guitar equipment:
Swart Atomic Jr (Tube Amp)
Fender 60s Strat relic w/ handwound Alnico III/V single coil pickups
Martin OMJM acoustic guitar
Boho Moonshine guitar
Boss Looper
Digitech Trio
Lovepedals Dover drive
RambleFX Plexi Drive
Xotic compressor
Xotic booster
Maxon TBO9
Seymour Duncan 805
Keeley magnetic echo
Keeley Oxblood
BBE Wah

Audio recording equipment:
Shure MV88 iphone mic
Shure MV51 computer mic
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface
IK Multimedia iRig 2
MXL 770 Condenser Mic
Shure SM58 Dynamic mic
Behringer XENYX502 Mixer

Listening equipment:
Philips Fidelio X2 open back headphones/monitors
Sennheiser Momentum closed back headphones
Master & Dynamic ME03 Earphones
Bose Quietcomfort 25 Noise-cancelling headphones
Creative Soundblaster E5 USB DAC/Amp
Creative Soundblaster Roar 2 bluetooth speaker
Audio Technica LP60 Turntable
Creative T4W Speakers (for connecting to anything including record players)
Klipsch R10B Soundbar

Not a bad setup. Unlike some people, I don’t have particular brand devotion to anything. Some people like to have all their equipment the same brand, but I actually embrace diversity of brands. I like experiencing difference. My TV is Panasonic. My phone is Sony and Apple. My tablet is Apple and Nvidia. My computer is Asus and Lenovo. My keyboard is Aorus. My mouse is Logitech. My microphones are Shure. My speakers are Creative and Klipsch. My headphones are Sennheiser, Philips, and Bose. My camera is Nikon and Canon. So yeah I am not a ‘fanboy’ of anything although you could say the closest I come to that is Sony. I have a Sony phone, Sony camera, Sony UMPC, Sony PS4 and Sony PS Vita. But even then.. I like to diversify.

Guitar pickup makers / manufacturers

I’m a huge guitar geek, since I first started playing guitar at 15 so.. its natural for me to care about “guitar tone”, or the sound that the guitar makes. Most guitarists are very picky about their tone, and what kind of sound they can get out of their guitar. For me, I like very beautiful, smooth sounds, so I’ve always searched for the best tone. Of course the thing that affects tone the most is the amplifier. A tube amplifier especially makes a huge difference. Followed by guitar pedals, then the type of guitar itself, then guitar pickups.

Of course, for guitar pickups, a lot of people believe that handwound guitar pickups, just like hand-wired guitar amps/pedals, produce better sound. And I’ve done a lot of research in my 10 years of guitar playing so I’ve gathered the guitar pickup makers in one place here so that its easy to find :). I personally use a set of Rumpelstiltskin pickups in my Fender Stratocaster:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iK2OngQy1jI
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUVP17Y30ws

Big / medium sized pickup makers
DiMarzio
Fender
Seymour Duncan
EMG Pickups
Lace Music
Fralin Pickups
Bare Knuckle Pickups
TV Jones pickups
Harmonic Design pickups
Gemini pickups
Tonerider pickups

Small or independent pickup winders
Smits Pickups
SD Pickups
Lollar pickups
Joe Barden pickups
OC Duff pickups
Kinman pickups
Amalfitano Pickups
Skatterbrane Pickups
Klein Pickups
Porter Pickups
Leosounds
Harrison pickups
BG Pups
Bill Lawrence pickups
Throbak pickups
High order pickups
JWP Pickups
Voodoo Pickups
Bullock Guitar Pickups
Reilander pickups
Arnsparger Pickups
Curtis Novak pickups
SK guitar pickups
J S Moore guitar pickups
Rumpelstiltskin pickups
Rock monkey pickups
Cats whisker pickups
Wolfetone pickups
Shed pickups
Don Mare pickups
JC Vintage pickups
Electric City Pickups

Tips on improving guitar tone, equipment

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

Alright, a break from politics for a while. Since I’m one of the rare Asians that can play guitar better than piano, some ask me for improving their tone on guitar.
Well, there’s several key guidelines to follow.

Firstly, tone is subjective. What kind of tone do you want? Hendrix? Metallica? Slash? Those all have very different tones. Personally though, my tone tends to go somewhere in between Jimi Hendrix and John Mayer with a bit of Eric Clapton on the side. Though I do play blues, it’s not the overwound, in your face, Stevie Ray Vaughan type. For this reason, I tend to play clean alot. Here is an overview of what equipment I use and what tips I can give people:

1) Amplifier: Your amplifier is probably what constitutes most of your tone. I recommend a good tube amp, because tubes sound more natural and organic than solid state, plus they can be driven louder. However, tube amps are pretty expensive. That’s why I suggest starting out with a solid state amp and then progressing to a tube amp. Good tube amps for clean tone include Fender Twin Reverb, as well as Fender Vibroverb, Fender Bassman, or any other Fender amplifier. Vox are also a good choice for that British sound. If you are looking for a more boutique amp, try Victoria Amp. I personally use a Traynor YCV20.

2) Speakers and Tubes: This kind of goes along with the amp thing. Speakers and tubes affect the amp, which affects your tone. Popular tubes include JJ Tubes, Electro Harmonix and Groove Tubes. 6L6 power tubes tend be a better fit for clean tones than EL84 or EL34s. For speakers, try Celestion, Jensen, Tone Tubby and Eminence. I personally use a 12″ Celestion Alnico Blue for my small amp.

3) Strings and Cables: Yes, the type of strings and cables you use for your guitar affects your tone. Use a good quality set of both. For strings, there’s Ernie Ball, D’addario, and Dean Markley. I personally use Elixir Strings because of their longevity and smoothness. For cables, there’s a bunch: Pro Co, Monster cable, Planet Waves, but personally I just use Fender cables.

4) Guitar: yes, obviously the guitar affects the tone. I prefer and have always used Fender Stratocasters for their versatility and gorgeous clean tone compared to any other type of guitar, but for clean tone, good calls can also be made for Fender telecasters, Epiphone Casinos, Gibson ES-335, Gretsch Country Gentlemens, etc. I usually prefer nitrocellulose finished guitars as opposed to polyurethane finished because the nitro lacquer is a thinner layer of paint, which gives the guitar more room to resonate, and therefore more tone. However, most new guitars these days will be poly finished, and the only way to get nitro finished would be to get a vintage guitar or a vintage reissue. I personally have a 1960s reissue American Stratocaster in sunburst with nitro paint and it plays wonderfully.

5) Pickups: Yes, guitar pickups affect tone. There is evidence that handwound pickups sound better than machine wound pickups because of their uneven wind and dispersed frequencies. Therefore, try to get handwound pickups, even if they are expensive. The big three pickup makers include Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan and of course, Fender. More modern pickups are Lace and EMG. However if you want handwound pickups, try Lindy Fralin, Lollar, Bareknuckle, Rio grande, and a whole bunch more of small pickups businesses.
Generally, Alnico magnets sound better than ceramic (Alnico II, III and V are most used for single coils). Either formvar or enamel wire is used for vintage pickups, and make sure they are staggered for your neck (ie. vintage radius 7.25″ should have vintage stagger and modern necks should have flat stagger pickups).
I personally use a set of custom wound Rumpel pickups, and they have been amazing.

6) Pedals: What I’m going to say is… try not to use too many pedals. Too many interferes with tone purity. If you are going to use alot of pedals, make sure they are true bypass so that they don’t color your tone when they are bypassed, and use an equalizer or compressor to smooth out your dynamics. A side note that analog effects tend to be warmer sounding than digital effects, but that’s just personal preference for me. It’s almost like a vinyl record vs a CD player. They sound similar, but the analog sound is created more naturally. You have many different effects makers today. Digitech, Boss, Dunlop, and most large gear manufacturers such as Ibanez, Vox, Marshall, Fender, and even Seymour Duncan. I personally use BBE and Tonerider (who also makes a great set of pickups), because they are cheaper, and are good quality. But if you really want the best tone, there are boutique effects makers such as Keeley, Fulltone, Teese if you really want to spend more money to get the best.

7) You: Most importantly, tone is in your fingers, so you can’t really improve this one with money. You’ll have to practice and get better, make sure notes have vibrato, smoother licks have legato, and quicker licks have alternate picking and staccato, and so forth. You can visit Ultimate guitar if you want tabs or tutorials.

And that’s it! I’ve been working on my tone for a while now, and I think it’s getting better and better. I will continue to post more videos as soon as I get some more songs recorded. I’m also thinking about getting a good microphone, studio monitors and mixer so I can do a professional video recording, but that will have to wait until my financial situation clears up.