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

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