SPG mixes traditional looks with cutting edge electronics.
Tucked in the tranquility of Hanson, MA, resides the SPG Guitars custom shop. They’ve quickly earned a reputation for developing balanced instruments combining vintage-based design with modern electronic upgrades. This month, we had the chance to test out SPG’s Vintage TL chambered model.
First impressions tend to be lasting impressions, so I usually trust my initial instincts. A first glance at the SPG Vintage TL reveals a heavy custom shop vibe. This guitar features a Tele-styled body sporting an impressive, highly figured Maine Birdseye top and Birdseye slab neck with a violin style finish. The neck has a 9” radius, and comes complete with walnut markers. The string-thru body features a 3/8” bookmatched top over an aged Maine poplar chambered body stained to a see-thru butterscotch nitrocellulose lacquer finish. A Birdseye top is not something you see every day, as this hard maple tends to be used more in necks; however this top is rich in figuring and creates somewhat of a unique one-off vibe. The pearloid pickguard is a real aesthetic plus, working well with the guitar’s top.
Electronically, the TL is packed with features, including a Glendale vintage compensated bridge, Amalfitano custom wound vintage Tele TM pickups, an RS Guitarworks super volume pot, a ToneStyler tone control and a standard 3-way switch (more about all of this later). Wilkinson Vintage Klusonstyle tuners are a nice touch, and add to the vibe of the guitar. The neck features vintage nickel-style fret wire and is topped off with a real bone nut. The TL is an aesthetically pleasing instrument that screams custom shop, all while exuding a vintage spirit.
After all the looking, it was time to get in the game. For testing purposes I used a ‘80s Marshall JCM 800 2205 50-watt half-stack, as well as a POD direct into a Mackie 1604 mixer. I plugged into the JCM 800 first, because I have always felt that Tele’s higher gain tones are sorely underrated. Using the JCM 800’s overdrive channel, I set the Gain to six, Mids and Treble on five, Bass on eight and Volume on about three – what would classify as a solid crunch setting. With the TL set in the bridge position, the tone is an aural bomb; incredibly tight and focused. The low-end was very precise with ample woof factor. The mids and highs seemed warmer than typical for Tele-styled guitars. As I added gain, the TL really started to roar. Low-end and mids cut through without sacrificing the high-end sparkle that Teles are known for. I did fight some feedback at higher gain settings, however most Teles get a little sassy under the same conditions.
In the neck position the tone was bluesy, ballsy, and noticably tighter than I was expecting. Switching to the clean channel of the JCM 800 to explore more traditional Tele tones, I found the TL just as capable of providing clean Tele sparkle as it was delivering the dirt. The traditional “twang thang” was there, but with a little less bite and a little more growl. Overall, both the clean and higher gain tones seemed unrestricted, open and airy.
The TL’s playability was excellent. The figured Birdseye maple neck was fast and spanky, just as expected. The string height was extremely comfortable and the action was set just how I like it: not too high, and not too low. I tend to have a heavy touch so extremely low action can be problematic – even so, the TL feels very comfortable. Along with the great setup out of the box, this guitar’s intonation was spot on.
The TL’s electronic upgrades are definitely worth exploring in more detail. First off, the TL is loaded with Amalfitano handwound pickups – the “TP” set is specifically designed for Teles and offers hotter output, as well as more warmth in the bridge position. These pickups tend to reduce, if not eliminate, much of the ear-piercing treble inherent with most Tele bridge pickups.
The TL also features an RS Guitarworks Super Volume Pot, as well as a ToneStyler tone control by Stellartone. Both components are designed to further expand the frequency response found in traditional electronics. The RS Super Pot is built to CTS tolerance ratios and ups the standard 250K target resistance to 280K, imparting not only extended frequency response but also providing a boost in gain. Additionally, the Super Pot provides an extremely consistent audio volume taper from 10 to 1, which I find to be a very welcome improvement from traditional volume pots.
The Stellartone ToneStyler provides much of the same flexibility for the tone control. The 14-position rotary tone control allows not one but 14 selectable roll-off points, making it possible to adjust the frequency of the roll-off point. You determine how much midrange and treble frequencies to retain and where to back it off. This control is a powerful tool for retaining tonal clarity by reducing pickup loading while boosting output.
Marriage? The Final Mojo
At the end of the day tone is really as personal as individual playing styles. I personally found the SPG TL a highly enjoyable date, possibly even marriage material. By combining superior Birdseye maple and exotic woods with cutting edge electronics, this guitar is a great crossover, retaining a traditional look and vintage feel with electronics that provide more contemporary tones. I found the playability of the TL above average, with solid intonation, smooth action, and nicely dressed frets. With a retail price of $1895 – complete with a vintage tweed case – this is a reasonably priced instrument, especially when considering the custom shop quality it exudes. Overall, the TL is a keeper; you might even consider walking down the aisle with this catch!
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.