Imagine your typical electric bass. A familiar body shape quickly comes to mind, one probably dating back to the dawn of bassdom. Your mental image of the pickups is
Imagine your typical electric bass. A familiar body shape quickly comes to mind, one probably dating back to the dawn of bassdom. Your mental image of the pickups is predictable, too – coils of wire with plastic covers and round magnets mounted just below the strings. You even know what the knobs should look like.
In other words, you know the bass paradigm, and you know it well.
But here comes Lace Music and their new 5-stringer that breaks the bass paradigm in two big ways: style and function. Style is the easy thing to notice about the Helix 5-string. Sculpted mahogany wings adorn a multi-laminated maple and mahogany neck-thru design – imagine a Guild Pilot reinterpreted for a futuristic sci-fi flick. The neck came well set up, needing just a slight tweak of the truss rod, with fast, low action and a neck profile that fit nicely in my hand.
The headstock echoes the bold curves of a upper horn and lower waist, showcasing the 4-plus-1 array of lightweight tuners. Speaking of lightweight, because of the slim body design and the Alumitone pickups, the Helix checked in at under seven pounds – a drastic drop from the typical nine or ten pound of modern basses. Your shoulder will thank you.
After spending enough time admiring the Helix’s looks, I strapped the bass on and went to plug in. But where did the plug go? There’s no jack on the face of the Helix, and none on the side, either. Flipping the bass over revealed a teardrop-shaped cover over the control cavity and a Strat-style jack at the bottom. It’s a nice feature that keeps the front of bass looking slick and refined.
The Helix’s pickups will likely cause another double take. At first glance, it looks like they have just two polepieces set between the middle pairs of strings, but those are actually the height adjustment screws. The Alumitone pickups use bar magnets embedded in the pickup’s top, not underneath like conventional designs. As Lace Music explains, these pickups are a “current driven method of sonic translation of the notes with zero noise and light weight.”
That’s a heavy dose of science, but what do the Alumitones sound like? Very natural, with a good range of basic sounds – nothing too extreme, due to the instrument’s passive electronics. There are just two Volume controls and a Tone control, consisting of large rubber knobs that resemble the jog wheel on my digital recorder. Because the pickups have low resistance – less than 3 ohms – they interact a bit differently with each other and respond more to small turns of the knob. A friend played the Helix and we compared notes; he thought the bass sounded like a cross between a Precision and a Rick.
The Final Mojo
If you’re looking for a comfy bass that is certain to turn heads, the Helix 5-string is quite the contender. It comes with a fits-like-a-glove gigbag, that – you guessed it – looks like no other (the term “Euro-style” comes to mind). But I’m no clairvoyant; only time will tell if a new bass paradigm has arrived.
you’ve had enough of the status quo, you need a light axe and you’re adventurous
you like basses with a traditional shape, feel and sound – and a bolt-on neck
MSRP $999.99 - Lace Music - lacemusic.com
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Dunable announce new Minotaur model featuring Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners.
The Minotaur's DNA is rooted in their classic Moonflower model, which Dunable discontinued in 2017. However, they have long since wanted to create a fresh take on a carved top guitar design, and various attempts to rework the Moonflower led us to a brand new concept with the Minotuar.
Dunable's goal is to give the player a guitar that plays fast and smooth, sounds amazing, and gives maximum physical ergonomic comfort. The Minotaur's soft and meticulously designed contours, simple and effective control layout, and 25.5" scale length easily meet this criteria and then some.
- 25.5" scale length
- Dual Humbucker
- one volume, one tone, push pull for coil splitting
- Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners
- Grover Tune O Matic bridge with brass Kluson top-mount tailpiece
- jumbo nickel frets
- 12" fretboard radius
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Energy is in everything. Something came over me while playing historical instruments in the Martin Guitar Museum.
When I’m filming gear demo videos, I rarely know what I’m going to play. I just pick up whatever instrument I’m handed and try to feel where it wants to go. Sometimes I get no direction, but sometimes, gear is truly inspiring—like music or emotion falls right out. I find this true particularly with old guitars. You might feel some vibe attached to the instrument that affects what and how you play. I realize this sounds like a hippie/pseudo-spiritual platitude, but we’re living in amazing times. The Nobel Prize was just awarded to a trio of quantum physicists for their experiments with quantum entanglement, what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Mainstream science now sounds like magic, so let’s suspend our disbelief for a minute and consider that there’s more to our world than what’s on the surface.
I recently spent a day filming a factory tour of Martin Guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. After we wrapped, we discovered that Martin has this amazing museum that showcases more than 170 historic instruments. We decided to meet at the museum at 7:45 a.m. the next morning to film a few choice pieces before catching our flight in not-too-near Newark, New Jersey, that afternoon.
These were not ideal conditions for a performance. Neither my brain nor my fingers work well before 10 a.m., plus I hadn’t slept well the night before. Even so, we loaded into the museum, met the curators, set up the shoot, and began rolling by 8 a.m.
The first guitar was an 1834 gut string, perhaps the oldest Martin in existence. It was beautiful but had some tuning issues and did not project very well, so playing it felt more like work than music.
Next was a prewar D-45 worth over $500k. The strings were ancient with that rusty feel, like you’ll need a tetanus shot after playing it. I’m sure it sounded great, but I was tired and thinking more about making our flight than playing guitar. Wonderful instrument but uninspired performance on my end.
Then, I played a 1953 D-18 coined “Grandpa” by Kurt Cobain. I picked up the deeply sacred D-18, and my hands went to an A minor. This sounds like hype, but honestly, I closed my eyes and connected with a deep, beautiful sadness. The feeling was palpable as soon as you picked it up. This guitar pretty much played itself, leading me to a sad version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I don’t know if it was any good, but I know I felt something deeply. That’s why I started playing guitar in the first place. I don’t have to play well to feel moved.
I later talked to the museum director, who told me the D-18 was given to Cobain by his 1991 girlfriend Mary Lou Lord. Cobain played it on tour before and after Nirvana’s Nevermind. It was returned to her after Cobain married. Shortly after that, Mary Lou loaned the guitar to Elliott Smith, who played it until his death.
When I’m sad, I make myself play guitar to feel better, because it usually works. This 70-year-old guitar spent a lot of time literally pressed up against the hearts and chests of two artists who were so tormented by their emotions that they ended their lives. That’s heavy. You can’t explain those feelings that make the hair stand up on your arm, or when you feel like crying for no reason … but hitting that A minor made me feel it.
We had to split for the airport, so Chris Kies and Perry Bean started packing up. As they did, I saw this cute little 1880 Martin 000 that belonged to Joan Baez. In the photo next to it, Joan looks like my mom in the ’60s. I asked the curator if I could play it, and Chris grabbed his phone to do a quick Insta video. I swear there was a happy vibe coming off this tiny guitar. It felt like watching my mom dance—like a warm hug I needed after Cobain’s D-18.
In Chinese culture, there is a superstition that antiques may hold evil spirits, and chi (energy) transfer can bring this negativity into your home. Feng shui is all about objects carrying good or bad chi. Here’s how I see it: All matter is made of atoms. Atoms contain energy. Ergo, everything contains energy, or, more aptly, everything is energy. Ever walk into a room and feel powerful emotion: joy, sadness, fear, tranquility? That’s energy. We all have felt energy coming from people, places, and things. But that’s what I love about old guitars: Their atoms spent the first few hundred years as a tree in the forest connected to nature. Then, they’re turned into an instrument that makes people happy or consoles them when they are sad. That’s the kind of chi I want around me.