Will Ray's Bottom Feeder: 1999 Yamaha AEX-502
Although made in the late ’90s, the AEX-502 has a vintage look, with its Les Paul-like contours, single cutaway, two pickups, and top-mounted toggle switch.

A different set of pickups can bring a potentially great guitar to life.

Years ago, when I was first flirting with P-90 equipped guitars, I ran across this beauty on eBay. It was a Yamaha AEX-502 semi-hollowbody with two P-90 pickups. I’ve never owned many Yamahas, but this one really spoke to me with its cool orange color, rounded cutaway, gold hardware, and two F-holes. A real looker, the guitar reminded me of the old ’50s Guild Bluesbirds I’d run across at guitar shows. I bookmarked the auction and kept an eye on it while I did some research.

Sometimes it’s easier to simply swap out original pickups for some that you trust. It’s a good idea to keep some extra pickups at home for just such an occasion.

Bottom Feeder Tip #1163: It’s always important to do careful research before buying a new or used guitar. You need to know a guitar’s worth before bidding on it, and it’s smart to read other players’ reviews. I go to Sweetwater and similar sites to hear what real players on the front lines have to say. When I researched it, I learned these were made in the late 1990s. I also uncovered that a lot of blues guys would buy these and replace the weak, thin sounding P-90s with Gibsons and then have a very respectable blues monster for just a fraction of the price of a Gibson Les Paul. I was intrigued. Up until this point I’d never heard a pair of P-90s I couldn’t live with, so I decided to go for it. I ended up winning the auction by sniping at the last minute for $242 plus $20 shipping.

These Seymour Duncan Antiquity Dog Ear P-90 pickups replaced the originals, which sounded bright and thin.

When it arrived, the guitar looked gorgeous and played well. However, when I plugged it into an amp I was a bit underwhelmed. The stock pickups were a little too bright and weenie sounding for my tastes. But then I remembered I’d acquired a pair of Seymour Duncan P-90 Antiquities a while back that I was saving for just the right guitar. This was that guitar. I swapped out the pickups and was treated to some great blues tones.

This back shot reveals a sturdy four-bolt neck junction and easy-access panels for reaching the pickup selector
and tone and volume pots.

Bottom Feeder Tip #285: Sometimes it’s easier to simply swap out original pickups for some that you trust. It’s a good idea to keep some extra pickups at home for just such an occasion, but always keep the original ones in the guitar case in the event that you sell the guitar later and need to put them back in. I never seem to go wrong with Seymours. Listen to my sound sample and you can hear their midrange growl and high-end sweetness.

So is it still a keeper? Yeah, for now. I really dig the way it plays and sounds. The resale value isn’t much more than what I paid for mine 16 years ago. If I ever go to sell, I’ll probably swap out the Seymours and put the originals back in.

Equipped with noise reduction and noise gate modes, the Integrated Gate has a signal monitoring function that constantly monitors the input signal.

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Luthier Maegen Wells recalls the moment she fell in love with the archtop and how it changed her world.

The archtop guitar is one of the greatest loves of my life, and over time it’s become clear that our tale is perhaps an unlikely one. I showed up late to the archtop party, and it took a while to realize our pairing was atypical. I had no idea that I had fallen head-over-heels in love with everything about what’s commonly perceived as a “jazz guitar.” No clue whatsoever. And, to be honest, I kind of miss those days. But one can only hear the question, “Why do you want to build jazz guitars if you don’t play jazz?” so many times before starting to wonder what the hell everyone’s talking about.

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A modern take on Fullerton shapes and a blend of Fender and Gibson attributes strikes a sweet middle ground.

A stylish alternative to classic Fender profiles that delivers sonic versatility. Great playability.

Split-coil sounds are a little on the thin side. Be sure to place it on the stand carefully!


Fender Player Plus Meteora HH


After many decades of sticking with flagship body shapes, Fender spent the last several years getting more playful via their Parallel Universe collection. The Meteora, however, is one of the more significant departures from those vintage profiles. The offset, more-angular profile was created by Fender designer Josh Hurst and first saw light of day as part of the Parallel Universe Collection in 2018. Since then, it has headed in both upscale and affordable directions within the Fender lineup—reaching the heights of master-built Custom Shop quality in the hands of Ron Thorn, and now in this much more egalitarian guise as the Player Plus Meteora HH.

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