What Are the Best Mini Humbucker Guitar Pickups?

What Are The Best Mini Humbucker Guitar Pickups?If you are thinking of switching to Mini-Humbuckers, or upgrading to them, here is a rundown of the best ones out there.

Mini Humbucker pickups offer you the best of both worlds; they are humbucking (i.e. no 60-cycle hum), they are capable of great chime and clarity when you play clean, and when you use a lot of drive, they sound fantiastic. They will never sound quite the same as a full-sized humbucker, but they have a fullness and grit all their own. You really have to experiment with Mini Humbucker pickups and find the ones that are best for you, but it is worth the effort.
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What Are the Best Telecaster Neck Pickups?

Telecaster Neck PickupIf you are looking to upgrade your Telecaster neck pickup, you are in luck. Many great sounding models are out there, and they offer not only a high-quality tone but they do so at a pretty reasonable price.

Nowadays, between digital modeling and overall great engineering, you can make virtually any guitar sound like just about any other guitar. Except, you cannot make any guitar really sound like a Telecaster. You can try, but it will never really quite smell right.

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Music Man RD 50 Head

Music Man RD 50 HeadI’ve been ranting and raving for years — to anyone who will listen — that Music Man amps are some of the greatest. Unfortunately, you are in for more of the same.

This rant is about the much-overlooked RD-50 Head. I must admit that, for a long time, I didn’t even know this thing existed. If you can believe it, I actually found one in a pawn shop on 7th Ave and 23rd Street in New York City. These kinds of things don’t happen quite so much anymore, as Guitar Center and Sam Ash have pretty much put everyone else out of business.

But in this case, there I was in this pawn shop, surrounded by cameras and cheap jewelry, when I saw this little mini head, with that familiar Music Man logo on it. I scratched my head: “…this ain’t an HD-130… what the hell is this little thing… I didn’t know that Music Man even made a head this small…”
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Fender Cyber Twin SE

Fender Cyber Twin SEOk, so they pretty much invented the analog guitar amplifier. They perfected it and pretty much any guitarist would agree that few are better. So, why they heck would anyone use a Fender digital modeling amplifier? …’cause it’s a great amp, that’s why.

I’ll admit that I really resisted this stuff, I really really did. In principal, it just goes against everything I believe in. But then again, when the “Frying Pan” guitar was first put out by Rickenbacker, I’m sure it was met with the same disdain. Same for the Solid body electric, the Flying-V, The Explorer, the Parker Fly, etc… So, I decided to lighten up and just enjoy the amplifier and there is a lot to enjoy.
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What Is The Difference Between EL84, EL34, and 6L6 Power Tubes?

What Is The Difference Between EL84 / EL34 and 6L6 Power Tubes?When you start to push an amplifier, the characteristics of these tubes become more apparent.

Power tubes can have a dramatic effect on your amplifier’s sound. At low volumes, the difference between one tube and another can be difficult to decipher; it’s almost not worth talking about. Once you start to push a little air, however, your amplifier will show off what it can do and the power tubes will display their individual characteristics more. Keep in mind, that by using pedals, you can make one amp sound pretty much like any other one, so this discussion is focused on how a few of the most popular power tubes differ from each other when using the amp, and not the pedals, to get your sound. The tubes that readers ask about most often are the EL84, EL34 and 6L6. So, here is a rundown of how these tubes differ in sound.

EL84

The EL84 tube has a snarly sound (bright with midrange punch), and is usually found in smaller wattage amplifiers. They break up faster than any of the three power tubes mentioned here and have the least amount of headroom. EL84s can be brighter than the EL34 and have a bit less low-end. In America, these tubes are known as 6BQ5. They were first produced for radios, helping to eliminate the need for a driver tube and as an inexpensive alternative to the larger audio tubes of the time. You can hear these tubes in the Fender Bassbreaker, Fender Blues Jr., Peavey Classic 30 and many other popular amplifiers.

EL34

The EL34 is found in the most well-known UK heads, such as Marshall, HiWatt, and Sound City. These power tubes also have a snarly sound but it’s a little warmer-sounding than the EL84 tubes. The EL34 is larger and it puts out two to three times the watts as the EL84s. More watts equal more Volume, more Headroom, and a better Frequency response, even at low volumes. Bass needs power, and the higher wattage of the EL34 is what leads to the warmer tone as the tube is better able to handle the full frequency spectrum. The increased headroom can lead to a more open and less compressed sound than that of the EL84s. This tube is most associated with the “British Sound,” an expression often used with regard to amplifiers. EL34 tubes were quite popular in stereo amps years ago and you can hear them today by listening to those such as the Marshall Origin20C, the EVH 5150IIIS, and Mesa/Boogie Lone Star Special.

6L6

The 6L6 is the power tube most associated with the term: “California Sound.” These tubes are usually associated with American-made amplifiers more so than British. 6L6 tubes have been a mainstay in Fender amplifiers for more than 70 years and a Fender amp with 6L6 tubes is widely considered to be the “gold standard” by which we judge clean guitar tone. The 6L6 has plenty of headroom and does not break up nearly as quickly as the EL84 or EL34 tubes. 6L6 tubes tend to put out a much brighter tone with more top-end sparkle (e.g the “Fender Chime”), while still allowing plenty of low-end to come through. You can hear these tubes by listening to the Fender Hot Rod Deville III 410, Mesa/Boogie Roadster, Peavey ValveKing 100 and many more.

6V6

Originally designed to be used in less expensive consumer radios, the 6V6 tube is just a scaled-down version of the 6L6. It has the same “California” or “Tweed” kind of tone most often associated with Fender amplifiers, but it uses less power and is a lower priced tube. Consequently, you do get a little less headroom and they break up earlier than 6L6 tubes. It is still very popular in guitar amplifiers and you can hear it by listening to a Fender ’57 Custom Deluxe, Randall RD5H Diavlo, Ibanez TSA15H, and many more.

Summary

Start by listening to your own playing. If you play with distorted tones 75% of the time or more, then you probably want to look at EL34 and EL84 tube amps first. You probably want the natural breakup of the tubes to distort your sound and give you that warm crunch that made you want to play the guitar in the first place. Many people agree that a pedal just doesn’t sound as good as real amp distortion. And EL34 and EL84 tubes just enhance natural amp distortion so nicely and drive the amp so well.

If you use distortion any less than 75% of the time, you might want to consider the 6L6 and 6V6 tube amplifiers. The idea is to get that unbeatably clean tone with infinite headroom, and add pedals to get any sound that you want.

Again, it’s not likely that you would feel the differences between the tubes at low volumes. It’s when you start to push an amplifier that the characteristics of these tubes become more apparent. And keep in mind that as much as power tubes differ, amplifiers differ as well, so the overall voice and behavior of the power tube will vary, depending on how the amplifier is designed. If you want to really get a feel for how these tubes differ in sound, get your hands on something like the Mesa Lone Star, which can use both the EL34 and 6L6 power tubes.

For What Style Of Music Is a Telecaster Best?

What Style Of Music Is a Telecaster Best For?The Fender Telecaster is probably viewed by most as being a somewhat specialized guitar, but it is also surprisingly versatile.

Best known for it’s “twang,” this guitar has been used most often for Country, as it lends itself well to chicken pickin’ and other similar sounds. Some players have a stratocaster pickup installed in the middle position for more tonal options. This is called the “Nashville” setup. Although most associated with Country, the Telecaster also does a bunch of other things quite well. Continue reading “For What Style Of Music Is a Telecaster Best?”

What Are the Most Popular Guitar Chorus Pedals?

What Are the Most Popular Guitar Chorus Pedals?Looking for that lush 3-D sound of a Chorus Pedal? Here are the best high-end, mid-priced and budget models.

One of the most popular guitar effects of all time, chorus is often used to fatten-up the sound and give it more of a “3-D” feel. Some of the most popular guitar tones of all time have involved the smart use of chorus (reference just about any song by the Police; Andy Summers really knew how to use chorus wisely). Even in the budget arena, thick and creamy sounds can be generated when using a chorus pedal in true stereo.  Below is a list of the most popular guitar chorus effects pedals, arranged by price range.
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How to Adjust Your Strat Bridge Angle

How to adjust your Strat bridge angleIf your Strat bridge is leaning too much towards or away from the neck, these simple steps will get you back to the right angle.

A reader recently asked how he could adjust the angle of the tremolo bridge on his Stratocaster. In his case, the bridge was leaning towards the neck. Adjusting this is a very simple process. The main thing to keep in mind is to not tighten the trem claw screws too much (covered in step # 3). Your goal is to have the perfect balance between the tension of the strings and the tension of the tremolo springs.
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How to Troubleshoot Guitar Wiring Problems

How to troubleshoot guitar wiring problemsWhen trying to find that mysterious buzz, logic is your most effective tool.

Sometimes you might find yourself with a ground / buzz problem. This can be a truly frustrating experience and really kill the fun of building your own guitar. But, it really doesn’t have to be such a nightmare. You just need to trace your steps; that’s really it. This is all just logic. The problem is there somewhere; you just have to find it.

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