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Transatlantic Tone Toys: Musikmesse 2012

May 11, 2012

Things are always a little foggy after an overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany. So even for a couple of battle-hardened guitar journalists, Musikmesse’s cacophony of about a billion guitars, pedals, and amps—not to mention tubas, pianos, accordions, and banjos—leaves you feeling a little spun around. Once you rub your eyes, catch your breath, and enjoy your first sip of beer from some kind bloke at a booth (yes, the Germans know how to do these trade shows right!), you can start to revel in the overflowing guitar bounty at what is arguably the biggest musical-instrument trade show on the globe.

Musikmesse is a feast of the familiar and unexpected. The big companies usually bring something new to tantalize their European fans and dealers, but often the real treats are from smaller manufacturers with unique perspectives and inspirations—and often they’re outfits that have yet to make it to our shores. Some have become a little more familiar over the last few years—like Berlin’s Nick Page, who builds fascinating fusions of the traditional and forward looking with a cosmopolitan/Deutsch-hippy twist, or Claudio Pagelli, with his functional refinement and design irreverence. Other names—like Denmark’s Ole Koehler and his stunning acoustics, or Tonehenge, with their heirloom-grade-amplifiers-as-modern-furniture— are revelations.

A lot of old friends, including Martin and Gibson, debuted cool evolutions of signature instruments at Musikmesse. We also saw great stuff from somewhat less famous, but still legendary names like Rotosound and Carlsbro—both revisiting their own important contributions to the electric-guitar world. And the classic guitars and amps lined up like candy in the vintage dealers hall are nothing short of drool inducing. It adds up to a rather grand guitar tapestry, to say the least. Springtime in Paris may stoke the desires of poets and lovers, but if you’re a guitar freak, it’s the city on the banks of the Main—not the Seine—that you have to see.



Electric Guitars


Off Guitar Design Soulsista Italian Diva
Designer Martin Off (offguitardesign.com) and luthier Jozsi Lak (jozsi-lak.de) collaborated on this glorious, one-of-a-kind homage to actress and model Sophia Loren. Based on the team’s standard Soulsista models, the Diva features a gold-leaf-covered, solid mahogany body adorned with Martin Off’s stunning, handpainted depiction of the Academy Award winner. Other features include a maple bolton neck with a 22-fret rosewood fretboard, nitrocellulose finish, a David Barfuss P-33 Split-Bucker pickup (barfuss-pickups.de), and a Hipshot bridge outfitted with Joe Barden brass saddles.


Deimel Guitarworks Firestar
Berlin-based Frank Deimel has built custom guitars for Lee Ranaldo, among others, and his Firestar— which unites Jaguar, non-reverse Firebird, and ’60s Japanese styling cues—features an American red alder body, Curtis Novak and Deimel pickups, a Duesenberg tremolo, and a Mastery M1 bridge. deimelguitarworks.de


ESP Custom Shop Fantasia
When it comes to crazy-cool sculpted guitars, ESP never disappoints at Musikmesse. This custom-shop Fantasia model was built for Toshihiko Takamizawa from the Japanese band the Alfee, and though it’s not available outside Japan, if you can scrape together enough to fly there and cover its 2,415,000-yen price tag (approximately $30,000), it’ll get you an insanely intricate winged motif, gold EMGs, and an original Floyd Rose tremolo. espguitars.co.jp


Gibson Les Paul Standard
Gibson’s new Les Paul Standard features PAFstyle Burstbucker Pro Rhythm (neck) and Lead (bridge) pickups with “fat tap” push-pull volumes for single-coil tones with reduced hum. In addition, the neck tone control has a push-pull pot for out-of-phase sounds, while the bridge tone control pulls up for “Pure Bypass” mode—which sends the signal directly to the output jack. Other features include an asymmetrical neck profile that’s thinner on the treble side, and a new finishing process that accentuates the figured maple top. gibson.com


Italia Modena Sitar
The Modena Sitar was among the most psychedelically cool electrics at Musikmesse. It has two lipstick-tube pickups and a Gotoh buzz bridge for the six string section, while the 13 sympathetic strings have a single lipstick tube pickup. i-musicnetwork.com



Electric Guitars


Off Guitar Design Soulsista Italian Diva
Designer Martin Off (offguitardesign.com) and luthier Jozsi Lak (jozsi-lak.de) collaborated on this glorious, one-of-a-kind homage to actress and model Sophia Loren. Based on the team’s standard Soulsista models, the Diva features a gold-leaf-covered, solid mahogany body adorned with Martin Off’s stunning, handpainted depiction of the Academy Award winner. Other features include a maple bolton neck with a 22-fret rosewood fretboard, nitrocellulose finish, a David Barfuss P-33 Split-Bucker pickup (barfuss-pickups.de), and a Hipshot bridge outfitted with Joe Barden brass saddles.


Deimel Guitarworks Firestar
Berlin-based Frank Deimel has built custom guitars for Lee Ranaldo, among others, and his Firestar— which unites Jaguar, non-reverse Firebird, and ’60s Japanese styling cues—features an American red alder body, Curtis Novak and Deimel pickups, a Duesenberg tremolo, and a Mastery M1 bridge. deimelguitarworks.de


ESP Custom Shop Fantasia
When it comes to crazy-cool sculpted guitars, ESP never disappoints at Musikmesse. This custom-shop Fantasia model was built for Toshihiko Takamizawa from the Japanese band the Alfee, and though it’s not available outside Japan, if you can scrape together enough to fly there and cover its 2,415,000-yen price tag (approximately $30,000), it’ll get you an insanely intricate winged motif, gold EMGs, and an original Floyd Rose tremolo. espguitars.co.jp


Gibson Les Paul Standard
Gibson’s new Les Paul Standard features PAFstyle Burstbucker Pro Rhythm (neck) and Lead (bridge) pickups with “fat tap” push-pull volumes for single-coil tones with reduced hum. In addition, the neck tone control has a push-pull pot for out-of-phase sounds, while the bridge tone control pulls up for “Pure Bypass” mode—which sends the signal directly to the output jack. Other features include an asymmetrical neck profile that’s thinner on the treble side, and a new finishing process that accentuates the figured maple top. gibson.com


Italia Modena Sitar
The Modena Sitar was among the most psychedelically cool electrics at Musikmesse. It has two lipstick-tube pickups and a Gotoh buzz bridge for the six string section, while the 13 sympathetic strings have a single lipstick tube pickup. i-musicnetwork.com



Amps


Carlsbro 50 Top Evolution
The 50 Top Evolution was designed with the considerable design help of Be Bop Deluxe axe legend Bill Nelson, and it features an EL34 power section, two channels with a footswitchable boost, a shared 3-band EQ, and dual master volumes. The closed-back cab is loaded with Celestion 75-watt speakers. carlsbro.com


Tonehenge Amplification Monolith
The sexy, furniture-grade Monolith comes in totally customizable cabinets constructed by master woodworkers, and uses a pair of EL34s or 6L6s to pump 50 watts through two channels for Fender- and Marshall-like tones. Other features include two 12" Celestion drivers separated by a vented chamber, Mercury Magnetics transformers, digital reverb, and built-in wheels. tonehenge.de


Hiwatt Tube Series and Dave Grohl OD100
Hiwatt had a lot of cool new stuff in Frankfurt, including the new Chinese-made Tube series heads and combos (left), which are powered by EL84s. (In addition, the new 18-volt Tube series pedals—the Tremolo, Phaser, Distortion, and Overdrive—use a 12AX7 tube and retail for $230.) At right, the new UK-built, custom-order OD100—which was designed for the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl—is driven by EL34s, features two entirely handwired channels, and is completely free of PC boards. hiwatt.co.uk


Amplisonic V8 Roadster
Finnish amp company Amplisonic’s new cathode-biased V8 Roadster features innovative functions such as 30-, 15-, 10-, or 5-watt operation, the ability to use EL34 and/or 6V6 tubes, an FET boost circuit, and a series/parallel effects loop. The cab can house either two 12" and two 10" speakers—which you can mix—or four 12" speakers. amplisonic.fi


Palmer Fab 5
The Fab 5 features a single 6V6 driving a 10" speaker, and the gloriously nasty and retro tones are controlled by simple volume, tone, and boost knobs—and the latter function is footswitchable. palmer-germany.com


Egnater Detroit 5
Bruce Egnater’s latest is switchable between 5, 2 1/2, and 1/2 watts, and features overdrive and clean channels. The overdrive channel features a unique Torque knob that increases presence and density past noon, but acts as a mid boost below 12 o’clock. egnater.com


Laney TI100 Tony Iommi Signature Head and Cabs
The Black Sabbath legend’s new amp of choice features 100 watts of 6L6 power driving lead and rhythm channels, each with its own set of boost, drive, 3-band EQ, enhance, and presence controls. laney.co.uk



Amps


Carlsbro 50 Top Evolution
The 50 Top Evolution was designed with the considerable design help of Be Bop Deluxe axe legend Bill Nelson, and it features an EL34 power section, two channels with a footswitchable boost, a shared 3-band EQ, and dual master volumes. The closed-back cab is loaded with Celestion 75-watt speakers. carlsbro.com


Tonehenge Amplification Monolith
The sexy, furniture-grade Monolith comes in totally customizable cabinets constructed by master woodworkers, and uses a pair of EL34s or 6L6s to pump 50 watts through two channels for Fender- and Marshall-like tones. Other features include two 12" Celestion drivers separated by a vented chamber, Mercury Magnetics transformers, digital reverb, and built-in wheels. tonehenge.de


Hiwatt Tube Series and Dave Grohl OD100
Hiwatt had a lot of cool new stuff in Frankfurt, including the new Chinese-made Tube series heads and combos (left), which are powered by EL84s. (In addition, the new 18-volt Tube series pedals—the Tremolo, Phaser, Distortion, and Overdrive—use a 12AX7 tube and retail for $230.) At right, the new UK-built, custom-order OD100—which was designed for the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl—is driven by EL34s, features two entirely handwired channels, and is completely free of PC boards. hiwatt.co.uk


Amplisonic V8 Roadster
Finnish amp company Amplisonic’s new cathode-biased V8 Roadster features innovative functions such as 30-, 15-, 10-, or 5-watt operation, the ability to use EL34 and/or 6V6 tubes, an FET boost circuit, and a series/parallel effects loop. The cab can house either two 12" and two 10" speakers—which you can mix—or four 12" speakers. amplisonic.fi


Palmer Fab 5
The Fab 5 features a single 6V6 driving a 10" speaker, and the gloriously nasty and retro tones are controlled by simple volume, tone, and boost knobs—and the latter function is footswitchable. palmer-germany.com


Egnater Detroit 5
Bruce Egnater’s latest is switchable between 5, 2 1/2, and 1/2 watts, and features overdrive and clean channels. The overdrive channel features a unique Torque knob that increases presence and density past noon, but acts as a mid boost below 12 o’clock. egnater.com


Laney TI100 Tony Iommi Signature Head and Cabs
The Black Sabbath legend’s new amp of choice features 100 watts of 6L6 power driving lead and rhythm channels, each with its own set of boost, drive, 3-band EQ, enhance, and presence controls. laney.co.uk



Acoustic Gear


Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy
Martin’s new eco-minded 00-DB Jeff Tweedy 14-fret deep body is built entirely of Forest Stewardship Council-certified mahogany, with a fretboard and bridge made from a pressurized composite of paper, resin, and pigment. martinguitar.com


Ole Kehlet Great 6
Denmark’s Kehlet Guitars were among the most aurally and visually impressive acoustics at Musikmesse. The Great 6 Cocobolo Prestige features a solid Sitka spruce top, cocobolo back and sides, Brazilian mahogany neck, ebony fretboard and bridge, a slotted headstock with a Japanese mother-of-pearl overlay, and incredible inlay work. kehletguitars.com


Claudio Pagelli Archtop
Claudio Pagelli brought this 24 3/4"- scale custom acoustic (inspired by a 1906 Gibson) down from his workshop in the Alps. It features an arched spruce top and figured-maple back and sides that are of the same vintage—and from the same supplier—as the wood used in the Gibson that inspired it. pagelli.com


Ruppert Musical Instruments Acouswitch IQ DI
With extensive tone-shaping capabilities for “unplugged” players of all sorts—including A/B outs, a parametric EQ, clean boost, footswitchable effects loop, and an XLR out with pre/post button—the Acouswitch is similar to its cousin the Basswitch in that its knobs are easy to adjust on the fly but are protected from accidental setting changes by the raised edge below them. rmi.lu


Fishman Loudbox Performer
The feature-packed new Loudbox Performer pumps 180 watts through 8", 5", and 1" drivers, and features two identical channels with the ability to add up to two of the eight available effects to either. It also features anti-feedback controls, 24-volt power, DI outs, and more. fishman.com



Acoustic Gear


Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy
Martin’s new eco-minded 00-DB Jeff Tweedy 14-fret deep body is built entirely of Forest Stewardship Council-certified mahogany, with a fretboard and bridge made from a pressurized composite of paper, resin, and pigment. martinguitar.com


Ole Kehlet Great 6
Denmark’s Kehlet Guitars were among the most aurally and visually impressive acoustics at Musikmesse. The Great 6 Cocobolo Prestige features a solid Sitka spruce top, cocobolo back and sides, Brazilian mahogany neck, ebony fretboard and bridge, a slotted headstock with a Japanese mother-of-pearl overlay, and incredible inlay work. kehletguitars.com


Claudio Pagelli Archtop
Claudio Pagelli brought this 24 3/4"- scale custom acoustic (inspired by a 1906 Gibson) down from his workshop in the Alps. It features an arched spruce top and figured-maple back and sides that are of the same vintage—and from the same supplier—as the wood used in the Gibson that inspired it. pagelli.com


Ruppert Musical Instruments Acouswitch IQ DI
With extensive tone-shaping capabilities for “unplugged” players of all sorts—including A/B outs, a parametric EQ, clean boost, footswitchable effects loop, and an XLR out with pre/post button—the Acouswitch is similar to its cousin the Basswitch in that its knobs are easy to adjust on the fly but are protected from accidental setting changes by the raised edge below them. rmi.lu


Fishman Loudbox Performer
The feature-packed new Loudbox Performer pumps 180 watts through 8", 5", and 1" drivers, and features two identical channels with the ability to add up to two of the eight available effects to either. It also features anti-feedback controls, 24-volt power, DI outs, and more. fishman.com



Acoustic Gear


Sandberg California TSBS, California marloweDK, and Electra VS4
German bass specialist Sandberg brought the new California TSBS Torsten Scholz signature (left), California marloweDK signature (middle), and Electra VS4 to Frankfurt. The latter features a basswood body and woodwork that’s done overseas, while setup is done at the factory in Germany. The Electra also features Sandberg’s trademark 6-bolt neck and a defeatable active circuit. sandberg-guitars.de


Duesenberg Guitars D-Bass Fretless
The new D-Bass Fretless features an alder body, maple neck, ebony fingerboard, a brass bridge with steel saddles, and a split-coil humbucker controlled by volume, blend, and tone knobs. duesenberg.de


Wahlbrink Hades
The new Hades 4-string features an alder body, a figured maple neck, Häussel Soapbar pickups (with volume, blend, and stacked bass and treble knobs), and a salmon leather-covered pickguard. custom-instruments.com


Nick Page Guitars Gott
Nick Page’s guitars are always a feast for the eyes—combining texture and color in striking ways. The Gott bass marries Rickenbacker touches with paisley Fender and Zemaitis touches, has a swamp-ash body topped with paisley fabric, an ETS bridge, and super-cool pickup covers that are flush with the pole pieces. nickpageguitars.com



Acoustic Gear


Sandberg California TSBS, California marloweDK, and Electra VS4
German bass specialist Sandberg brought the new California TSBS Torsten Scholz signature (left), California marloweDK signature (middle), and Electra VS4 to Frankfurt. The latter features a basswood body and woodwork that’s done overseas, while setup is done at the factory in Germany. The Electra also features Sandberg’s trademark 6-bolt neck and a defeatable active circuit. sandberg-guitars.de


Duesenberg Guitars D-Bass Fretless
The new D-Bass Fretless features an alder body, maple neck, ebony fingerboard, a brass bridge with steel saddles, and a split-coil humbucker controlled by volume, blend, and tone knobs. duesenberg.de


Wahlbrink Hades
The new Hades 4-string features an alder body, a figured maple neck, Häussel Soapbar pickups (with volume, blend, and stacked bass and treble knobs), and a salmon leather-covered pickguard. custom-instruments.com


Nick Page Guitars Gott
Nick Page’s guitars are always a feast for the eyes—combining texture and color in striking ways. The Gott bass marries Rickenbacker touches with paisley Fender and Zemaitis touches, has a swamp-ash body topped with paisley fabric, an ETS bridge, and super-cool pickup covers that are flush with the pole pieces. nickpageguitars.com



Effects

Bogner Überschall and Ecstasy Pedals
Reinhold Bogner announced his company’s first foray into stompboxes with three pedals that are designed to provide the core characteristics of his most famous amps. The Überschall serves up mondo heaviness, while the two Ecstasy models serve up hotter (red model) and crunchier/bluesier (blue) tones, respectively. bogneramplification.com

Mad Professor Electric Blue Chorus
Mad Professor founder Harri Koski says he wanted to build a chorus “for people who don’t like chorus.” To that end, the Electric Blue features standard rate and depth controls, as well as a blend knob for changing the wet/dry mix. mpamp.com

Rotosound RFB1 1960s Fuzz Reissue
The venerated bass-string manufacturer debuted its take on the Sola Sound Tone Bender from the late ’60s. It’s similar to the one Jimmy Page played during Led Zeppelin’s legendary 1969 performance on the French TV program Tous En Scene, and it’ll be available in July. rotosound.com

Roger Mayer Metalloid
Stompbox legend Roger Mayer unleashed the new Metalloid and TC series at Musikmesse. The former has separate drive and EQ knobs for high and low frequencies, while the TC series puts all his classic designs—including the revered Octavia—into smaller, more convenient housings. roger-mayer.co.uk



Effects

Bogner Überschall and Ecstasy Pedals
Reinhold Bogner announced his company’s first foray into stompboxes with three pedals that are designed to provide the core characteristics of his most famous amps. The Überschall serves up mondo heaviness, while the two Ecstasy models serve up hotter (red model) and crunchier/bluesier (blue) tones, respectively. bogneramplification.com

Mad Professor Electric Blue Chorus
Mad Professor founder Harri Koski says he wanted to build a chorus “for people who don’t like chorus.” To that end, the Electric Blue features standard rate and depth controls, as well as a blend knob for changing the wet/dry mix. mpamp.com

Rotosound RFB1 1960s Fuzz Reissue
The venerated bass-string manufacturer debuted its take on the Sola Sound Tone Bender from the late ’60s. It’s similar to the one Jimmy Page played during Led Zeppelin’s legendary 1969 performance on the French TV program Tous En Scene, and it’ll be available in July. rotosound.com

Roger Mayer Metalloid
Stompbox legend Roger Mayer unleashed the new Metalloid and TC series at Musikmesse. The former has separate drive and EQ knobs for high and low frequencies, while the TC series puts all his classic designs—including the revered Octavia—into smaller, more convenient housings. roger-mayer.co.uk