Humble 1960s designs are reborn in a high-performance boutique gem.
The latest model from Portland, Oregon, based luthier Saul Koll is an upscale tribute to down-market American guitars of the 1960s. As such, it’s part of an emerging trend among boutique luthiers: re-envisioning the funky budget guitars of the past as immaculately crafted, high-performance instruments.
According to Koll, the Super Cub shares “aesthetic DNA” with the Harmony Bobkat, Epiphone Wilshire, and Gibson Melody Maker. Back in the ’60s, these were considered relatively humble models for beginners. Both Hendrix and Springsteen played Wilshires in their youth, while Billy Gibbons started out on a Melody Maker. Nowadays, though, they’re often embraced for their innate warts-and-all coolness. For example, Annie “St. Vincent” Clark has recorded amazing things using her Bobkat.
The Super Cub’s curiously cubist headstock is an obvious Bobkat reference (though it pays homage to Kay and Custom Kraft designs, too). And while the Cub’s body features Koll’s signature “Glide” shape, that offset, double-cutaway design isn’t worlds removed from the Bobkat’s silhouette. Meanwhile, the Cub’s sides are rounded relative to other Koll models, much like the Bobkat and Wilshire. And like the instruments that inspired it, the Cub has a thin, light body. It’s a svelte 1 1/4" thick. Players who prefer lighter/smaller instruments are likely to be happy here.
Improving the Past
Unlike its ’60s inspirations, the Super Cub is an exceedingly high-performance instrument.
The set neck, with its 22 medium-jumbo frets and relaxed C shape, is a joy to play. The ends of the expertly installed frets are rounded to pearly smoothness. The lower cutaway lets you access the 22nd fret as easily as the first, with no need to stretch out of position. Despite the six-on-one headstock, the neck is set into the body via a clean, comfy joint. The bone nut is a beaut. Unplugged, the guitar’s tone is complex and rich in sustain, thanks in part to the spiffy Schroeder bridge.
The Super Cub’s cosmetics are a delight. Staring into the black-sparkle nitro finish feels like gazing at the stars on a dark night. Lovely single-ply binding complements both the starry black body and the golden-brown mahogany neck. The curvaceous aluminum pickguard evokes mid-century modern coffee tables and swimming pools. It looks magnificent surrounding the custom Curtis Novak silver-foil pickups. Transparent plastic knobs complete the Space Age effect. And while there are position markers on the neck binding, the fretboard is free of ornamentation.
Though other pickup options are available, the pickups in our review guitar are reportedly copies of the foil pickups in some Japanese Guyatone models. These seem to be customized versions of Novak’s Guytone NB model, with silver foil embossed with the Koll logo. I’ve never used original Guyatone foil pickups, so I can’t address the historical accuracy of Novak’s replicas. But I can tell you that these “silver-foils” sound cool and unique, and that they’re largely responsible for the Super Cub’s distinctive voice.
Like other reproduction gold-foils I’ve spent time with recently (Jason Lollar’s version and the Roadhouse models in recent Supro guitars), the Guytones have a bright, almost acoustic-like high end—only more so. Clean tones have crisp, decisive attack with bold, clangy overtones, as heard at the start of the demo clip. It’s a spectacular tone for fingerstyle picking, vintage R&B, and maybe even for jazz.
Those highs never seem shrill—probably because they’re grounded by round, warm lows with rock-solid fundamentals. The unrestrained treble can sound at times like a direct-recorded guitar, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you told me the riff at the clip’s 01:20 mark was a blend of miked amp and DI signal, I’d believe you. With heavy overdrive and fuzz, tones get loose and spattery in a bitchin’ punk rock way. Dig the sheer mass at 00:29.
The Super Cub features a Les Paul-style 3-position selector switch. Each pickup has its own master volume, while the single tone knob affects both pickups. A high-end G&G deluxe hardshell case is included.
I love the Super Cub’s unique voice and modernized retro styling. The guitar is light, comfy, and ridiculously fun to play. Its tones are surprisingly versatile, ranging from authoritative and articulate clean tones to brash, punky chunk. The only stumbling block for me is the price, which seems lofty despite the instrument’s distinctive design and fine hand workmanship. Still, Koll’s Super Cub is one of the most appealing and inspiring guitars I’ve encountered lately.
Watch the Review Demo:
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Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.