Gear reviews and "guitar player interviews". The Guitar Zombie is the fastest spreading blog about guitars, amps, effects and other stuff.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

PRS Mark Tremonti -A stunning singlecut guitar

In the year of 2001 PRS challenged the much larger Gibson with a Singlecut model, and it was a bit like "David meets Goliath" in a way. Gibson's board sued Paul Reed Smith and a four-year-long feud began, a feud that Gibson eventually lost.

Maybe it wasn't so strange after all. The differences between the two guitars becomes clear when you have them side by side, and if you call them more closely, you realize that it´s actually two different kinds of animals. It´s like comparing apples with pears or Mac OSX with Microsoft Windows, they just taste differently. Gibson's mainstream versions, Standard, Classic, Traditional, etc., are not at all comparable to the PRS singlecuts, you have to step up to the Custom Shops to find the same quality.

PRS Tremonti Signature
The copy I have bought for this article is manufactured in 2013, and purchased at Deluxe Music in Stockholm, one of the stores that have great knowledge regarding PRS. It is dressed in a stunningly beautiful Fire Red Burst, not 10 top but still very nice. The First impression is that it has everything you wish for in a proper rock guitar, just as a Custom Shop Les Paul. What sets them apart is that Tremonti Signature essentially follows the special concept that PRS has built its name through, namely 25 "scale length, 10" radius, high output pickups and a detailed quality that impresses.

Body: Mahogany
Top: Maple
Finish: Fire Red Burst
Neck: Mahogany
Neck Profile: Pattern Thin
Fingerboard: Rosewood bird inlays
Band: 22
Scale Length: 25 "
Tuners: PRS Phase III Locking Tuners
Bridge: PRS Tremolo with Trem-Up Route
Hardware: Nickel
Neck Pickup: Tremonti Bass
Stable Pickup: Tremonti Treble
Switch: Three-way

When you pick it up you immediately get the feeling of "high end quality". Every detail of this guitar is stunnishing. 3500 dollars is lot of money one might think, but at the same time it should be set in light of what you get in both the short and long term. The price is all about the choice of wood, the quality of the hardware, but especially how much care and time they put into getting everything perfectly adapted to each other. A PRS and a Gibson Custom Shop is about investing in the long-term sustainability and reliability.

"The Tone Is In The Details" ...

We have to remember that the globalized world we live in, where low-wage countries produce large amounts of instruments at low cost, making the market flooded by cheap and "pricy and good enough instruments". The price has become a major factor for the buyer nowadays. The quality is, even in the cheaper guitars, much higher now than they were in the 80s. The market competition is cutthroat nowadays. The risk is that it affect manufacturers who makes really fine instruments. Gibson and Fender Custom Shop, PRS, Music Man and other "custom crafts" are instruments in a class by itself. I wish that more people could have access to this type of handcrafted instruments, it is easy to forget this when you see 10 000's of guitars on site after site.

Most of those who embraced the PRS concept testify that they are guitars for touring, and to be played often and a lot. There are of course many other guitars that also makes it and common to them all is that it is carefully crafted pieces.

The PRS success story lies in maintaining a high quality across the line over time regardless of the guitar model, duds are extremely rare and Tremonti Signature is no exception. Everything is "totally flawless".

Some interesting details:
Knobs sit differently than what you're used to, but at the same time a bit smarter in a way. The two upper and therefore closest to the right hand are two volume knobs.
The front volume knob is neck pickup and the rear is bridge pickup. Most would probably say that "they sit wrong", but I choose to see it as a matter of taste and you get used to it very quickly.

The pickups are Tremonti Treble and Bass, two pickups with the characteristics that Mark himself  was looking for, with a shimmering clean tone and rich distortion.

The bridge pickup is a very hot and pushy with an output a bit over 15,4K. It is built upon a large Alnico V magnet.

Despite the very high output, it is relatively quiet and, above all, delivers a great deal of sustain. They are very similar to the PRS other high-gain pickup, the  "PRS \ m / Metal Pickup".

The neck pickup with 7,8K is more vintage dark, so to speak, and delivers a big clean sound. My impression is that it is not so muddy as many other neck pickups.

Common to both these pickups is that they "clean up" very well even at very high gain, and they are very "responsive" and reacts to how you play, a detail worth taking into consideration, I think.

Another very good thing is great "string separation", even at pretty high gain. If you listen to Creed, Alter Bridge and the band Tremonti, you can actually hear that Mark often punctuate with "open chords" even with pretty much gain. It would not be possible as easy with other pickups I think.

Below is a video where you can hear a sample of clean, crunch and high gain. To remember is that gain is aprox at 5 (10) on the amplifier. The recording was made by a Marshall JVM Satriani and The Box of Doom isolation cab.

The bridge, PRS Tremolo with Trem-Up Route, is a is a great tremolo system. In combination with the PRS Phase III Locking Tuners it´s basically as reliable as a Floyd Rose and you can sway up and down without any problems with the tuning. It also stays in tune under heavily aggressive playing, such as dive-bombing and so on.

How is it then to play then?
One important thing with good guitars is that they are not prohibitive, they presents themselves without being noticed. Tremonti Signature is very well balanced and not particularly heavy, it makes it comfortable over your shoulder without weighing one way or the other.

The neck is "Pattern Thin" which means that it belongs to the thinner necks in PRS line-up. This makes it well suited for solo playing without losing the stability i chordsplaying.

The fretboard, made of Rosewood, creates a bit warmer and softer touch than ebony. Normally, guitars for hard rock genre is made of ebony because ebony produce a bit harder character, but I think Rosewood in this context still is the the right choice.

The inlays are beautifully crafted "Bird Inlays"

The final verdict
The big question was whether the PRS Tremonti really compete with a Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop?

The answer is in a way yes, and in a way no. If you look at it from a strictly instrumental perspective, it's a completely different guitar. Both have their unique characteristics, but aesthetically yes. They should definitely attract guitarists who identify themselves as  "Singlecut Players".

I would however say that the similarity stops there, I see really no reason to compare the two in general.  PRS Tremonti is a rock monster, just as good Les Paul, but offers the unique PRS craftsmanship and unique feeling that can not meet at a Gibson. It does not mean that it is better, but they are different and a matter of taste.

It may sound a little strange, but despite the price tag, just over 3500 dollars, this is a very affordable guitar, regardless if you are a picky Weekend Warrior or a touring musician  and seeks something that stays in tune most of the time. One should of course see these guitars as an investment for the future to give joy for 30-50 years, but it is of course a lot of money for most people.

But what the heck "Buy Quality, Cry Once".

Buy here !

Zombies 5 (5)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Premier Guitar in USA have filed a complaint to YouTube against The Guitar Zombie for violating their Trademark

The Guitar Zombie received an email today from Youtube legal department,  in which they announce that the renowned guitar magazine Premiere Guitar has filed a complaint against me. It was a "Trademark Complaint", and the reason is that I use the term "Rig Rundown" in my videos. It seems that they're clearly disturbed by my behaviour. A blogger from Sweden....just saying ...

Because of that YouTube just blocked my videos for guitar players who live in the US. No other countries. The Guitar Zombie respect laws and regulations i general, and I will of course change the "Trademark" describing my "movies with artists and their gear". The new name will be:

"The Guitar Zombie Gear Walkthrough"

There is of course great humor in the situation when a global guitar magazine, Premiere Guitar, react that strongly on what a small blogger in Sweden is up to. But on the other hand, it's a symptomatic of how the "Big Corporation" relate to "whatever individuals they dislike", namely by threatening them to go to court.

- The whole thing feels a bit "Game of Throne-ish", if you ask me.

If I was in their shoes I had approached the individual in question and said "congratulations, how about do something for us." It would have been a bit nicer, and it had definitely strengthened their precious brand.

The upside of this is that my new name on the videos are so much cooler than the 90-ish "Rig Rundown". Thank ypou Premier Guitar.

0 Zombies (5)

Friday, June 5, 2015

PRS flagship Custom 24 with Floyd Rose and \m/ pickups

The PRS flagship Custom 24 dressed up to meet heavy metal players, is that even possible?  Yes it is possible, if you are open minded and focusing on tone. Why haven't PRS had a metal guitar in their prior history? Well they did have an early model that was launched with the name "Metal" and it was produced from 1985. It was a heavy metal version of the PRS Custom, but with 25.5 "scale length and loaded with PRS Standard Bass pickups in the neck and Treble in the stable. It was in fact among the 20 guitars launched at NAMM 1985.

The model "Metal" went into the grave 1987. Since then PRS has had a reputation for not being very "hard rockish", and if it is due to the missed positioning in 1985-1987?  I do not know.

The big question is whether PRS is a brand for metal today? The answer depends largely on what it is that you mean by metall? If you mean hard rock and classic heavy metal I should definitely say so. If you mean "down tuned Black Metal", yes it could be a guitar for those players as well. For 95 percent it´s all about tone...

Perhaps we find the most telling argument among the artists who actually play PRS guitars. Players like Mark Tremonti Alter Bridge and Tremonti, Joey Belladonna Anthrax, John Kempainen Black Dahlia Murder, Alex Lifeson Rush, Brad Delson Linking Park, Dave Navarro Jane's Addition, Orianthi former Alice Cooper Band, Dave Weiner Steve Vai Band Chris Robertson Black Stone Cherry, Lizzy Hale Halestorm, Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, Phil Campbell Motörhead, Neal Schon Journey, Pat Travers Pat Travers Band. I've probably forgotten many, but there is no doubt that the harder genre embraced the PRS and many above are recognized as very skilled guitarists.

In Sweden, however, PRS has not managed to recruit that many known players. Fredrik Åkesson and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth are very found of PRS though, and they use them all the time. Both their own signature models and various custom models. Fredrik and Mikael are also amazingly proficient at their instruments.

PRS Custom 24 "Floyd" Buy here
While strolling around down town a few months ago I discovered an interesting PRS guitar at Deluxe Music, a local guitar shop in Stockholm. A boutique with great knowledge of ​​PRS guitars. I saw this odd bird Custom 24 "Floyd" hanging on the wall with its profound seductive looks. I couldn't  resist picking it up and I almost immediately decided to buy the piece.

It had a couple of pickups installed called  \m/ , or "Metal" and I thought it was outrageously humorous and clever of PRS stealing that symbol. I played the guitar and could quite quickly conclude that those who claim that the PRS isn't  "hard rock" should reconstruct their opinion, especially when it comes to this model. This one screams heavy sounds, and the Floyd Rose is extra ordinary in quality.

The guitar is close to what one might call the ultimate modern PRS. A Floyd Rose on a Custom PRS is as unthinkable in the community as putting it on an Acoustic Martin guitar. It´s a really bold decision as their own tremolo systems are brilliant. When I interviewed the guitarist Mark Tremonti a month ago he said: "Oh, I didn't see that comming."

When I played the guitar the Floyd felt like the most natural thing in the world and the system is perfectly adjusted and i seamlessly melts into the guitar. It is a Floyd Rose Original manufactured i Germany. On the SE model, the Korean version of the Custom 24 "Floyd", there is a similar Floyd Rose but it´s manufactured in Korea.

Custom 24 Floyd is basically a plain PRS Custom 24, besides the Floyd Rose, but the neck is maple and the fretboard is made out of ebony. I think that these differences compared to a regular Custom 24 could appeal to both "shredders" and "heavy rockers" quiet well.

This is actually not the first time PRS putting a Floyd Rose i their instruments. In 2010 they launched an SE model called Torero, also loaded with EMG 81/85. The SE Torero is still in production.

I think it's a bit unfortunate that the pickups carry the name "metal", because it make us think they can't be used in other musical genres than heavy metal. The truth is that they are very allround, a bit like the PRS pickups in general but with an "added value" of extra high output.

In the bridge we find the  \m/ Treble (model number ACC 3408). It responds incredibly well in "high gain" and the string separation is very clear. It´s based on a Ceramic Alnico magnet with an impressing output of 15,7k.

In the neck position we find  \m/ Bass (model number ACC 3409) with an output of 8,5k.  It provides significantly more bass in the character, which always fits the neck position. It´s excellent  in combination with \m/ Treble and you get just what you need for playing in tougher contexts.

The body is a little thinner than a regular Custom 24 and it´s made of mahogany with a maple top. The finish is Blood Orange, and it´s insanely beautiful.

Normally I don't like colors at all and when people ask me why I always wear black clothes I answer "until there is something darker to wear".

The neck is maple, they call it the "Rock Maple" and it is pretty much the same as "Curly Maple," an unusually fine grained maple. It gives the guitar a special appearance and plays beautifully.

Custom 24 "Floyd" comes with the neck profile "Pattern Thin" while ordinary Custom 24 has the option "Pattern Thin" or "Pattern Regular". "Panther Thin" is almost the same as the old term "Wide Thin". The "Panther Thin" is a good choice and it´s very much like the Ibanez Wizzard Neck, not hat wide though.

The fingerboard is also a bit unusual for the PRS Custom 24, they normally comes with Rosewood, but here they have chosen Ebony, which is a harder and feels a bit more while playing.
Ebony is also a bit more resonant, great for "taping" and the tone gets a little more distinctive.

Tuning Machines are Phase III with the beautiful "open back" and they work flawless, even if you don't lock the nut.

Final judgment on PRS Custom 24 "Floyd"
This guitar is one of the more modern PRS guitars you can find on the market and it´s absolutely perfect in all it´s details. Balanced, smooth and incredible easy to play, with a tone to kill for. It comes in a premium hard case with all the accessories you need. Price? A bit above 3400 dollars which may scare you off, but as a friend of mine told me some years ago: "Buy Quality, Cry Once". For players who really needs an extremely well sounding instrument to trust in a touring environment, this is well invested money.
Buy here

If you can't afford the US model, also called "Core", check out the SE version made in Korea. The SE model is also a killer guitar, in middle range price segment, and costs around 900 dollars.
Buy here

5 Zombies (5)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Paul Reed Smith - The man who challenged Fender and Gibson

I have been interested in Paul Reed Smith for quiet some time now, and I think that the story about him and his work is amazing and worth spreading. It´s a story of an obsessive guitar luthier who started out with two empty hands, a great deal of curiosity and dedication, and created a global brand around his stunning guitars. I would argue that Paul Reed Smith is for the guitar industry what Steve Jobs was for Apple and the computer industry. Both crazy entrepreneurs with the same unbroken faith in themselves and unstoppable in their ways to accomplish their visions.

There are many stories about Paul Reed Smith and how he created a series of guitars with such a high quality that many people nowadays even say that they are "actually too good". It have not been really clear to me what people mean by that though. Too good?

High quality instruments often go hand in hand with high production costs and in turn high price towards the customer. An American-made PRS is considered a guitar in the high price and quality range. Since early 2000s there is a series of cheaper PRS though, they so called SE models. They are manufactured in Korea, but still very well built for a guitar i that price segment.

One explanation of the high quality is that basically all employees are guitarists themselves. That means PRS has employees who understands what makes a good instrument good. Employees can also build their own "custom instruments," so called "Employee Guitars".

From a management perspective, it is an interesting approach because it means that the employees contribute to the company innovation with their own ideas. These guitars are also extremely   attractive in the seconhand market.

PRS guitars are well known for their "consistency", there are in fact no mistakes in the production. All guitars I have tested is flawless. Their is always a risk when the demand exceeds supply or when you're trying to cut costs, because greedy people eventually become stupid. A generic problem in all industries.

Both Fender and Gibson suffered from this phenomenon at the time when Paul Reed Smith started his work. The early PRS, until 1985, were all completely handmade. Down below you can see the first PRS Custom that Paul built by hand in 1984, only 28 years old. He had no training whatsoever in guitar building, which is worth noting as those guitars are considered the best built guitars in the world ever.

Paul Reed Smith made his first guitar during college in Maryland. A funny thing is that  he use to talk himself in to the backstage area when well known artists were playing in town. Ted Nugent guitarist Derek St. Holmes once tried his guitar  # 2 and played it live and later bought it for the stunning amount of $200.

Even Carlos Santana got a visit and that meeting resulted in a collaboration that continues to this day. Paul Reed Smith was working extremely hard on his "impossible project" to compete with the big companies, he once told a reporter that he had not bought new clothes in years and that he sometimes couldn't afford proper food.

But his stubbornness and his passion for his guitars finally gave him commercial results and he started the company in 1984 and the plan was to build a series of prototypes and launch them at NAMM 1985.

Paul traveled to New York and gave Sam Ash Stores an offer and got an immediate order of 30 instruments. The following months orders were worth over 300,000 dollars, which was a lot of money at the time. With the order book in their hands the company raised another 500,000 dollars to build a factory.

The exhibition NAMM was imminent, and because they didn't had the plant ready they had to build the guitars for NAMM exhibition by hand, these guitars are nowadays called: "THE NAMM 20 guitars". These guitars were the very first guitars that PRS company unveiled, and they did it at the same time the guitar industry was facing big changes and the leading big companies faced problems with both quality and revenues.

Paul Reed Smith's own words:
"NAMM was a place to “show our goods” for the first time, show dealers, get visited by guitar companies, and visit other guitar companies. It’s a musical industry trade show in the best sense of the word. That first year I visited Kramer, Jackson, Steinberger, and I got visited by Gibson. Jackson, Kramer, and Steinberger were supportive of what I was doing. That year Fender didn’t attend the show, and at that time Kramer was the bolt on company." Because Fender wasn’t there and Gibson wasn’t doing well, the window of opportunity was open for PRS." (

In 1985 PRS began to automate some operations at its factory on Virginia Avenue in Annapolis. They kept their factory there until 1995 when the they moved to Stevensville in Maryland. After 1995, the high quality guitars continued in that same direction, but there is no question about that the first instruments made entirely by hand is legendary and very nice.

Still today, a large part of the production is "made by hand", except for certain non-critical operations such as sawing and milling which is done by CNC machines. But all detailed work is done by people, and that is of course what makes the instruments so extremely good compared to more or less "fully automatic manufactured" cheap n nasty instruments with weak quality control.

It doesn't  matter what guitar model you try in the US series, different models may fit different playing styles and tastes and flavor of course, but they all feel very classy.

The original construction, still continuing, was based up on a  25'' scale length, which simplified can be seen as neck length. The scale length positioned PRS midway between Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul. That makes it a little longer than Les Paul fans are used to, which is 24.74 "and a little shorter than the Stratocaster, with its 25.5".

25.5" scales provide a stronger bell-like type of basic sound,  and 24.75" scale guitars gives a little warmer tone, much like you think of a Stratocaster vs Les Paul. A shorter scale length also gives the guitar less string tension and therefore becomes somewhat easier to play. We are talking about details here though, most people doesn't notice this at all. There are many things that makes a Les Paul and a Strat sound differently but this is one of the reasons.

If we look at the area of ​​the radius the PRS also put themselves in between Fender and Gibson, and most PRS guitars have 10". Most newer Fenders has  9.5", the vintage has 7.25" and Gibson are generally 12".

The first PRS guitars had 24 frets, but the company later started manufacturing guitars with 22 frets to challenge the Gibson camp.  PRS guitars are well known for its wide tone range, and you can get them to sound like both a Strat or a Les Paul by combining different pickups with the 5-way switch.

One interesting thing with Paul Reed Smith's approach to the "tone chase" is that he was thinking backwards. Most manufacturers make the guitar first and then try to find the best pickups for that particular guitar model, but Paul begins with the pickup and build guitar to enhance the character that is in the pickup. Paul has rarely been using other manufacturers' pickups. It is said that he has a large drawer with over 500 hand wired prototype pickups for all pups he has been developing over the years.

10 years ago he listed 21 things you need to consider when building a great sounding guitar. The secret list was PRS "Holy Bible" and he called it "21 Rules Of Tone".

That list formed the basis for some changes they have made the past 10 years and probably also for future changes. The list was actually a result of long discussions he had with his father and it is exclusively about the physical laws that govern the guitar construction, by definition, such as the choice of tailpiece, tuners, nut material, neck joint, wood, etc.

He likes to talk about the fact that guitars, or any other instrument really,  has to deal with "subtraction", ie the material's ability to drain tone from the string characteristics or to maintain and even strengthen it. He often refers to Newton and that every force has it's counterforce. If you put the resource 10 in to something, your mission is to get as close to 9.9 in the output. To get more than you add is physically impossible, and if you do a poor job you might get as little as 7.  This is where the magic starts, every little detail in the guitar matters.

I think this list, "21 Rules of Tone", exemplifies Paul's obsession for tone and his passion for what he does. On YouTube, one can see how he actually gets tears in his eyes for real when he talks about a specific guitar's tone or a particular guitarist with magic fingers. There are very few business leaders today who weeps for the love of their products. The only one I can think of is Steve Jobs, he had that same passionate mindset for his products.

In order to make the upcoming articles on PRS guitars I have been forced to sell many of my own instruments to access guitars both in the SE segment, made in Korea, and in the US made. I will test McCarty, P22, Custom 24, Tremonti Signature, Tremonti SE + Åkesson SE and the amplifier PRS Archon 100.

Stay Zombied

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Korg SDD 3000 Delay Pedal - Review and video clip

In 1982 Korg launched the Korg SDD 3000 rack unit and it became an almost iconic effect, not least because The Edge chose the pedal as his favorite. Now Korg has released a delay pedal based on the same functionality as the original and they have really succeeded in recreating its sound absolutely perfect. Totally flawless.

I remember there was a guy who had a studio in my hometown and this guy had a SDD 3000. We used to sit for hours and play around with clean sound and it was just absolutely amazing. So when this new pedal came in my way I just had to check it out.

A very cool thing about this pedal is the a preamp they have put inside, it puts an extra boost to the tonality. There is also an input attenuater which compensates for single coils lower signal compared to a pushier humbucker pickup.  The preamp can be overruled if you don't like it.

The second uniqueness is of course the SDD delay itself which is very true to the original rack unit. This delay is pretty much what this pedal is about. It may sound a bit geeky and corny but it's actually thoroughly good. I have not heard anything like this in any pedal out there, period. It´s musically warm and beautiful.

The pedal is extremely useful in its simplicity and if you like complex pedals, it also contains basically everything you need without compromising on usability. There are another 7 different delays to, beside the original SDD delay, which is worth the money itself.  It´s warm and not nearly sterile, even though it is digital. I will not go so far as to say it could easily replace everything on the market, there are many other fine delays out there, as the TC Electronics Flashback to mention one.

For those who like buttons and loads of "dialing in" this pedal has a lot to deliver. One can, for example, save favourite sounds in 40 banks x 2 channels, ie 80 presets, probably enough for most people.

Types of Delay
All delays can be set with parameters such as waveform, intensity and feedback.

SDD, the original from 1982. The best feature in this and it works for everything. Since you can save 80 locations, you can modify it as much as you wish.

Analog, a really good "analog" delay that behaves as it should

Tape, that creates that little irregularity as "tape" actually do ...

Modern, an excellent delay, especially for clean big sounds

Cosmic, a weird one I have a hard time finding uses for

Reverse, as it sounds, turn the signal backwards and another more or less a strange effect, if you're  not in to"weird sounds", if you are then its probably unique

Pitch, creates variation in pitch

Panning, an effect that creates the feeling of the sound moving, more effective in stereo

Any downsides?
Yes there is actually one downside. On one hand you have 80 locations to save so your favourite sonds but you have to walk up and down in the 40 banks to find the right one and it's not very user friendly in a live situation. But on the other hand it is a luxury problem, its of course  possible to organize it smart in the banks and reduce this downside. But the extremely beautiful SDD delay itself  weigh this up, no doubt.

Check out this sound sample below.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Box of Doom isolation cab review

The Box of Doom crashed in to the Zombie catacomb a while ago and I was curious above sanity about how well this thing actually isolate, how user-friendly it is and how it perform regarding sound quality. Those were actually my top three reasons for buying it in the first place. I wanted to complete my studio, located in a home environment. 

I unpacked is, mounted a SM57 and plugged in the amp and my computer and the truth is that it blew my mind from the very first seconds. To mice a guitar amp professionally without being disturbed of to high volumes at home and not to disturb the neighbours and my newborn daughter was my main goal.
Photo: The Guitar Zombie
The Box of Doom is built by Sylvester Vogelenzang de Jong, you can read an interview with him here. It´s technology is placed inside a very robust flightcase box. It´s a beautiful and heavy piece of sound art. The lid is massive and gives you a feel of how well built this isolation cab is. Its just screams quality in every little detail.

  • AllXs system
    1x L-bracket (220mm)
    1x L-bracket (165mm)
    1x L-adapter (70mm) [including mounting nut/screw]
    3x 3/8'' scew for fixing mic clamp (including rubber)
    1x adapter 3/8'' to 5/8'' 
  • 3x XLR connections
  • 2x XLR-XLR cables (length 500mm)
  • Celestion 12''  G12M 65 Creamback  G12M  65 watt  8 Ohm
  • 669 (H) x 692 (L) x 518 (D) (including wheels)
  • 42 kg (based on BoD including Celestion V30)
  • dB reduction (laeq) 29dB [based on Celestion V30]
Photo: The Guitar Zombie

Isolation and Absorption
Inside the Box of Doom there are 6 different absorbtion and isolation materials with "airchannels" placed like a labyrinth letting the air pass in and out freely. This is actually one of many reasons why this thing sound so honestly and well when used correctly.

Micing possibilities
You can use up to three mices (XLR), placed in different positions to get the most out of your amp in a recording or a live situation. To use it in recording environment is of course the first you think of but many players actually use the Box of Doom live, and I am pretty sure the sound engineers will love this and stop harassing guitar players for playing to loud. They will also get themselves a very clean signal with zero bleed to work with.

Photo: The Guitar Zombie

The mices are mounted in a ALLXs-system which let you posistion your mixes practically wherever you want with extreem precision and you can also leave them inside during transport and just plug the thing in when you get to your new location. This solution is very userfriendly and very stable. There is also an option to buy a Box of Doom with goose-neck, for those who prefer that.

You can of course use whatever mices you want, but I had a SM57 and a Sennheiser e906 at home, which has a very similar behaviour. The best is to use mices with different characters. It´s a matter of taste with lots of opinions so lets leave it right there. Anyway, when I make an EQ analyse in Logic, I note that the guitar EQ lies in between the frequency 200-5000 Hz. A new friend of mine gave me this tip to check the quality of mices ability to deliver a guitar sound. This means that the Box of Doom behaves not only quiet but also acoustically very well. The result is like mixing a normal cab, which is not to say about many of the competitors. The guitar tone, if you have a great one from the beginning, stays great och very honest. You don't need to much at all with the EQ in Logic or at the mixing board. It´s very organic all the way and the amp sounds as it´s suppose to do. I´m a bit surprised by the fact that it is that easy to dial in whatever amp you want with a indisputable result.

EQ and sonic quality
I made an EQ analysis in Logic and noted that the guitar lies stable between the frequencies 200-5000 Hz. A buddy gave me this tip for checking the quality of the equipment to deliver a good guitar sound. This means that Box of Doom is not only quiet but also acoustic schematically good . You do not need to tune very much at all with EQ i post production. It is in general very organic and the amplifier sounds as it is supposed to do. I'm a little surprised that it is so easy to dial in a good sound.

Speakers and the cassette baffle system
Photo: The Guitar Zombie
The speaker is placed from the side and not at the bottom as in many other iso cabs. This means that you don't risk dropping a mice on the speaker during the positioning process and damage the speaker.

The speaker is mounted in a cassette baffle system which means you can easily change speakers in a minute in the studio for instance, or even live of course.

The two holes in the cassette is made to let air goes back and forth inside the box and contribute by itself as muck as the air channels inside to the character of the "sound".

Photo: The Guitar Zombie
The extra speaker box, optional, is as robust built as the main box and you can order it containing one or two speakers and it´s easy to carry.

You can choose different speakers, Celestion Creamback G12H 30 (Classic)Celestion Creamback G12M 65 watt, Celestion V30, Celestion Greenback G12M 25W and a EVM Electro Voice Classic 12L - 200 watt. 

These are all great speakers with individual characters. I ordered a V30 and a Creamback 65 watt speaker and I love them both. The Creamback is my favourite for now though, warm and tight but still a bit vintage.

I have made a short clip of how it sounds here:


The overall impression
This is exactly what you want if you record musical stuff in a pro-studio, at home or if you´re playing live infront of an audience. The price is comparable to a high quality 4x12 cabinet like Mesa and it spare you many hours of trouble trying to mice an amp in any situation. 
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Box of Doom - the king of isolation cabs

A while ago I made a Rig Rundown with Fredrik Åkesson from the band Opeth. I discovered that he was using an isolation cab, a Box of Doom. Just like the guitarists of In Flames, Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin. Fredrik and the crew had just started to test  this cab and they were obviously thrilled about the whole thing. 

The following Opeth US tour inDecember 2014, with In Flames, Fredrik moved on with the Box of Doom and only used his "traditional cabinets" for stage sound and to achieve acoustic feedback in his playing. The iso cab is actually what you hear live nowadays. The same goes for the guitarists in In Flames. Iso Cabs are not a new phenomenon but it´s definitely a big trend that just started. 

The Box of Doom, created by Sylvester Vogelenzang de Jon,  intergrates the mic and the speaker into a well isolated and acoustically neutral environment. The clear benefit is no bleed and interference from guitar, drum and vocal mics. And vise versa. The result is a very clean and dynamic signal in your studio or live mixing equipment. 

Another thing is that the amp can be cranked up a bit more, to get the best out of it, without having a noise issue on stage and where ever you play, you always get the same result. You are no longer reliable on the stage acoustics. Bands like In Flames and Opeth, leave the mics in the Box of Doom and roll them of stage straight into the truck. Next show they roll them on stage, plug in the XLR and amp and they are ready to go.

There are a few iso cabs on the market today, I have previously written about a consumer product from the states, AxeTrack, which has its advantages, especially the size. Randall has one to, but much larger than AxeTrack, and what I´ve heard it doesn't  isolate enough. It works, but not very well, is a common term from people. 

The Box of Doom, on another hand, is a "high quality isolation cab" built like a tank, which both isolates fantastically well (-29dB) and deliver what you always dreamed of in studio and in a live situation with your PA. 

Sylvester Vogelenzang de Jon
After some research I discovered that Sylvester Vogelenzang de Jong developed his "Doom Baby" from his own needs as a guitarist of the Dutch band Ulysses. Today Box of Doom is a handmade boutique speaker solution made for live environments, pro-studios and home recording situations. 

All this information made me curious, of course, not least because I was looking for advanced technique that delivers a consistent sound reproduction when I test amplifiers, guitars and effects for The Guitar Zombie blog and YouTube. Home studio environments is a difficult world if you want to record with real amps, especially if you're located in a regular apartment. 

I contacted Sylvester and asked him if he was interested in being interviewed about guitar sound and how to use iso cabs in general and particularly the Box of Doom. 

What are the main reasons, out of your perspective, for guitarists to use an iso cab?
In my opinion the best way to get a good guitar sound is by micing a speaker (preferably with multiple microphones) which is driven by a (tube) amplifier. An Isolation cabinet enables you to use the conventional setup (guitar, amp, speaker, mic) without the noise level the normal rig produces.
Most guitar players only think about a isolation cab for (home) recording. But an isolation cabinet is also very useful on stage. Lowering the stage volume makes the life of the front of house engineer much easier, and enables him (or her) to get a better balanced sound in the venue. 

How long has it taken to develop your ideas of a Box of Doom ? When did it all start?
In 2008 I decided to record guitar tracks in my home studio. I tried all kind of modeling and plug-ins, but I wasn't happy with the result. Micing a cabinet was not an option, because I don't have a isolated studio. So I decided to build myself an isolation cabinet. Nothing new there, because hundreds before me had build some sort of isolation cabinet, or stuffed a cabinet in a wardrobe.

What was it made of?
The first concept, which I used for album recordings in 2008, was very simple, made of MDF and I used isolation materials bought at the local hardware store. It had only one microphone, placed on a goose-neck. It already had the extractable baffle, so I was able to change speakers. Further more, it was a DIY project. After we finished the album we did live shows with the band and I took the Iso with me, because we just started using in-ears on stage. 

But it was tourable?
This version wasn't really fit for touring, to say the least, the box didn't even had wheels or grips to carry it on stage and soon got the nickname “box of doom”. So I started developing a new version, which resembles the Box of Doom as we know it now. 

Box of Doom inside
How much did you change the contruction?
I worked on the "box in box construction", searched for a better acoustic absorption materials, and constructed the flightcase. At this moment I didn't had any commercial intentions, I simply needed a better looking and more practical iso, which was much more silent and better sounding compared to the first version. 

And then people became highly interested?
Yes, soon the news spread (sound technicians talked about it) and I was asked to build one for a guitarist working on a solo project and I sold my first BoD to him. I just made up a price to cover the expenses and thought that would be it. But to my surprise, after a few weeks I received a phone call from a very popular Dutch session player (Bert Meulendijk). He asked me to build him two units. One for at his home studio and one for live purposes. Not knowing he would use it on national TV,  The Voice of Holland. The Voice of.. soon went global and until today he is still using it. Shortly after that, my phone rang again, and I got a request from the Wisseloord studio's (known for many world famous productions), asking for three Box of Dooms and a flightcase with alternative speakers. This was the moment I pinched myself and asked myself what the hell? It seemed I made something special, distinctively better than the Iso's available. As from this moment I gradually upgraded the Box of Doom with features making it more user friendly and versatile.

Did you test the other ones on the market?
No, when I build the first one I did not look around what was available, I just made a design that felt logical. After I noticed the Box of Doom was a “hit” I started on a commercial product, just then I checked out the competition. I actually didn't test them myself. In the meantime I had some customers who had done it for me, so I didn't bother anymore.. 

What is unique with the Box of Doom compared to the other ones?
We use high end acoustic absorption and isolation materials, the BoD doesn't sound boxy. The speaker is mounted vertically (no risk of damaging the speaker, when you drop the mic..) and it can be changed in under a minute of your precious time. Easy access, huge lid that opens.. enables you to actually see how you position the mics from above. Three microphone connections if you like. No goose-necks, the AllXs system is solid system for pin point exact accurate positioning and it´s of course tour ready, no need for additional flightcase.

What mices are the best to use for clean and dirty, and why?
Since we have a growing customer base, we have a lot of feedback on user experience. I always try get information on amps, mics etc used by the users. I am always interested in combinations that are less successful, so we have something to focus on. To my surprise, all kind of mics work well in the Box of Doom. Large diaphragm, Condensers, Tube mics, Ribbons you name it and it is used by our customers. 

Björn Gelotte In Flames with Box of Doom
Do you have any customer examples?
Rammstein uses a very large Lawson tube mic. On stage they always had difficulties with environmental influences, risking to damage the mic. Such as wind, dust, rain (festival shows), We made them an over sized Box of Doom, to be able to fit the Lawson mic and they now have a very controlled situation during the live shows. Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin in In Flames uses Se Ribbons (Voodoo) for the clean signals  and Se4400 for the dirty sounds. I myself, use a combination of a Heil PR30 (large diaphragm), PR22 (dynamic) and a Peluso R14 ribbon. These mics combined are a killer combination. I got inspired by Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon). In the end it is all a matter of taste.

And what about the positions inside to get most bottom in the sound if you use two mices? Micing the speaker in the Box of Doom is no different as with micing a conventional speaker. The same basics apply. The center of the speaker is bright and in your face, the more you move to the edge, the more low and less direct your sound gets. A nice trick is to put your mics of axis, having it pointing slightly outwards or inwards, getting more of the spectrum.

Rule number one: make sure you produce the sound you wanna record with your gear

Is there any specific adjustments in post production EQ, i mean in Logic for instance? What to should you consider when mixing?
The most heard comment of technicians is that the signal coming out the BoD doesn't need much work at all. It is very direct and blends perfectly into a mix. I have been at live tests, where I was standing next to the FoH engineer and they told me they hardly had to eq anything to get a good sound. Rule number one: make sure you produce the sound you wanna record with your gear.. don't  try to fix it in the mix.. You can't make a Fender sound like a Marshall, by turning some knobs in Protools.. 

The speakers you ship is good for different types of sound, can you describe the differences?
If you order a Box of Doom, we  install a Celestion Vintage 30 | 8 Ohm as default. This speaker is almost iconic / an industry standard, just like the SM57 microphone. Is it the best speaker available? No, probably not but its the standard and it is a speaker suitable for most players. And for most guitarists a good reference. We deliver many BoD units with other type of Celestions, like G12M-65 Creamback (great combi of a V30 and a Greenback). Last couple of years Celestion has been working hard on some new speakers, that are all sounding great. The benefit of the Box of Doom is that you can quickly change speaker, so you can compare easily. For studio's its perfect. You have one BoD and a collection of pre-mounted speakers and you are ready to record every guitarist, metal, blues, jazz..

Are there any other secrets in there?
Probably the way how the BoD is constructed is pretty radical. You can't see it, it is all under the skin. If you open the lid, you can feel the weight of  it,  just like a safe door. It has to be heavy, to be silent, to absorb the resonances.. The construction of the lid is pretty time consuming, but contributes to the quality.

We use over six types of absorption and isolation materials in the product

When you do quality tests, what is the procedure?
All components we get from our suppliers will be checked, before we use them in production. We use over six types of absorption and isolation materials in the product. Density and thickness of the materials are very critical. After we receive the batch from our supplier, we first test (measure) the materials, to make sure the supplier used to correct specified materials. After we wrap up work on the BoD we always first test the wiring, to make sure the connections are soldered correctly. Then we hook up the BoD to an amp and check if the speaker, response is ok. Although Celestion has a qualitiy check, someone could have dropped the speaker during transport, so we need to be sure it works before it leaves our shop.

The most common customer, who is that? Artist for live playing, studios or home studio?
It used to be 40% pro studio 40% home recording and 20% live.. but since we teamed up with Rammstein, In Flames, Phoenix and many Dutch live acts, we get more interest from touring bands. Recently we added Opeth to the list and there are more to follow.

How has it been received by customers?
Very good. We have customers all over Europe and recently we shipped to the U.S.
We deal directly with the user/customer. Benefit is that we actually know our customers and get valuable feedback. Whenever a band is on tour, I always get in touch to ask for their experiences. If possible I go over to a show and check out the setup myself. Based on the information, users are very satisfied.

As you said many known artists are already using your stuff, are there any new standing on the doorstep?
Yes, at this moment we are testing with some known acts. A very known Dutch guitarist and some international (metal) bands. When the festival season starts, I am on the road testing with bands.

What is your capacity for meeting the demand? How many can you build in lets say a week?
We produce in batches of 12 units. We always try to have at least four units on stock. We finish the units for 90%. Then we leave room for customer specific work, such as 8 pin XLR for tubemic. Or we do a small upgrade to make it ready for bass guitar speaker. We try to have a maximum delivery time of 6 weeks. But most of the time we manage to ship within two weeks.
We also make specials, as we did for Rammstein and In Flames, then of course we have a longer delivery time.

Any new innovative ideas going on in your head?

Yes, I have.. Actually working on a version for a Leslie speaker. It is still in the design fase, hopefully start on the proto soon, currently figuring out what the potential is in the market. Further more we are working on some products that are not specificly isolation cabinet related. I have been visiting many bands and especially visited many guitartechs. I always see the scott dixon guitarcases/vaults and toursupply workbenches. We are working on some designs, interesting for touring bands...

Sounds cool, thanks for letting The Guitar Zombie dig in to your world....
It´s my pleasure....

Vist Box of Doom website:

I will come back soon with a Box of Doom Rundown with sound-clips and much more. 

Stay Zombied

//The Guitar Zombie