What do you get when a piano manufacturer turns to making electric guitars? Perhaps something resembling a serious piece of furniture.
One of my best buddies, Dave D’Amelio, used to have this wonderful repair shop in the garage behind his house. It was a mere 10-minute drive for me, so I used to spend hours over at his place learning about weird old guitars and how to fix them up. He specialized in taking old electrics and turning them into stage players, and his shop walls displayed dozens of guitars that benefitted from his magic touch. One of the guitars I was most interested in was a crazily exaggerated Kimberly guitar that sported an oversized headstock, a large body, and lots of metal (Photo 1).
I later learned it was a Kawai-made guitar called an SD. These guitars came in a few different pickup configurations and the model name simply changed to designate the number of pickups. For instance, the SD3W would have three pickups and the SD4W (Photo 2) would have four pickups. You dig? These early Kawai originals were favored by many Chicago bluesmen, including Hound Dog Taylor. Though the guitars were inexpensive, they were very sturdily built and sounded great, and they had perfect factory action for playing slide. We’ll discover why in a moment.
Kawai entered the electric guitar market around 1963, and the SD guitars began arriving on U.S. shores in late 1964. The SDs had a relatively short production run that lasted until early 1966. Kawai always had a reputation as a maker of fine pianos. When they started making electric guitars, they converted one of their piano factories to this end and applied their manufacturing techniques and expertise to making guitars.
To me, these Kawai guitars always felt like a piece of furniture. When I was a kid, my family had big, heavy, dark Mediterranean-style furniture that kind of hurt when I sat on it. Like, serious furniture! Well, these SD guitars are also pretty darn serious. They feature huge necks and a totally crazy neck joint that is both glued in and bolted on. Some of the earliest SD guitars even had an insanely large tombstone-shaped neck plate that featured five screws.
The wood in these SD guitars is actually quite nice, and I often see some finely grained rosewood fretboards. But aside from the build quality and looks, these guitars can be a pain to set up properly. Typical of the early Japanese electrics, the neck angle is really bad as you move up the fretboard. In the open chord area, it’s all good, but when you get to the 9th fret, the action is often super high. This is very difficult to remedy without removing the neck ... and you remember that neck joint I mentioned earlier? The one that’s bolted and glued, and has finish applied over the whole area? Ah, yes—that one.
The necks are incredibly large—they feel like a smoothed-out piano leg—and feature a very deep V contour. Of course, we have V-shaped necks today, but they’re wimpy in comparison to the early Kawai electrics. The truss-rod cover is stamped “Patent 34-4127,” which is noteworthy because you rarely see a patent number applied to any Japanese guitar from the era. Kawai must have thought they’d really broken new ground with their truss-rod design, but sisters and brothers, let me tell you it was way under-spec’d and barely moves the action on these mammoth necks. I suppose the good thing about the thick neck is that it doesn’t bow easily.
Watch the video demo:
The pickups are the saving grace of these SD guitars. For reasons that are beyond me, they sound awesome. The DC resistance measures very low, in the 2k range, but the pickups sound really crisp and clear—and even aggressive at times, thanks to the series wiring that allows their combined power to shine. It’s like an early form of overdrive, and if you’ve ever heard Hound Dog wail on slide, then you know this sound.
Watch the video demo:
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more!
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.
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 them 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 meticulous contours, simple and effective control layout, and 25.5" scale length are designed to easily meet this criteria.
- 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