Category Archives: Guitar gear review

Roland GA-112 Chassis replacement


I purchased a Roland GA-112 amp on eBay and it arrived with the chassis cracked on the right side. So I called Roland for a replacement side and they shipped me a new chassis, as its glued together into one piece! So after forgiving the cheat on eBay who sold me the cracked chassis while posting pictures of a pristine amp, I also forgave Roland for a poor design of the chassis – and not thinking of design for serviceability. WP_20160221_18_20_34_Pro

Above is the cracked right side of the chassis. If it had been designed as a replaceable part, it would be a matter of removing a few screws and taking it off, putting on the new one.

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I started by taking a picture of the back of the GA-112 amp as I use two of these in my studio for left/right channels coming from my Roland VG-99 guitar synth. Basically, the outputs from there use the amps as just power amped cabinets, bypassing the front input which drives the amp circuit.

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Above is the back removed from the amp chassis. Eight things have to be unwired to detach the entire board assembly completely. The plug on the left with the black and white wires, the nut holding the earthing wire, the three plugs on the upper right, starting from the two with red wires and the one immediately next to it (but not the last one on the right corner), as well as the small plug underneath the board on the upper right, which is seen between the second and third plugs, as well as one small plug with black and white wires in the middle of the lower board on the left. Also, remove the screw holding the cylindrical ceramic part around the power cable to the left.

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After removing the screws for the front grill, remove the front orange cosmetic panel unscrewed using a matching allen key. Then remove the three retaining screws that hold the front amp circuit board in place.

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Keep the amp upright and unscrew the eight speaker screws, reach in from the back of the amp and while holding the metal rim of the speaker firmly from the front, push the coil center gently with hand. The speaker will dislodge and drop out. Do not let it fall as it will land on the power amp at the bottom of the chassis!

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Unclip the three leads from the back of the speaker. Note that blue one goes on top not the black one, when you reassemble.

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Above on the right is the set of all disassembled screws and one flanged nut kept in batches – do not mix them or your reassembly time will be longer! Once the speaker, front and back panels are out, flip the amp over and unscrew the four screws to remove the power amp from the bottom of the chassis.

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Make sure to untwist and retwist the black cable tie on the upper left of above photo after reattaching the plugs when rewiring the board after placing it into the new chassis.

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Check out the USB port present on the mid-left! This is on the rear panel, and since its too far back from the rear panel, there is no hole in it to allow connecting to it from outside. I bet this allows USB recording at 44.1KHz/24-bit  or reprogramming of the amp COSM models. The manual does not mention it!

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Make sure to keep cables clear of the boards by using the twist ties stapled on the inside of the chassis on both sides of the interior. This will prevent hum by keeping all cables close together and also prevent cables being subjected to conductive heating from the components on the board.

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Power amp remounted on bottom of chassis. Four screws have to secure it from underneath. This is the high voltage components, and it is crucial to keep cables tied off using twisties onto the side of the chassis.

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Reconnect the speaker using its wires as shown above: blue goes in the middle.

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Reconnect the white plug and earthing wire with the nut.

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Reconnect the power amp plugs back and tie off cables to chassis using stapled twisties inside.

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Insert and screw front and back panels and mount the speaker, screw it back into chassis.

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Secure cables using twisties to inside of chassis

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Steinberger Synapse Transcale Review 2


Steinberger Synapse Transcale back Playability review…

The transcale has a piezo pickup and a bridge that pivots left-right/front-back/up-down via the three screws on top and locks via a single screw on the side. This allows extremely acurate intonation and action setting using a tri-axis rotation to get it just right.

The double ball transcale strings I got were not well made so I switched to single ball D’Addario flat wound chrome 10’s. The high E and B strings slip from the head screws, so I took an old ball from another string and wound it on the high E and it works like a charm! The B string still slips but I torqued it’s screw in a bit more and it’s held for two weeks.

Now about the sound: this guitar is made for any tone you wish to extract from it! The flatwound chromes give it a silky smooth feel, and I adjusted the action simply by pivoting the bridge in about ten minutes to perfection. I cannot believe how bar chords become a dream to play. The tone on this guitar is extremely clean and wide in frequency spectrum due to the mix of piezo and EMG active humbucking coupled with the baritone timbres that the neck does a superb job of not damping. The guitar has extremely good sustain and I get clean jazz tones that rival Lee Ritenour’s Gibson L5 CES.

The neck is similar to the Gibson 50’s profile found on it’s first edition Robot LP, which I have as well. So it’s a bit beefier toward the joint but if the action is adjusted right, it’s very comfortable to play.

Bending is not a good thing on this guitar because it does not have the lateral stabilization afforded by a nut, as the strings are held down by a capo that can be rolled from baritone scale length to mandolin-esque length. It maintains timbre but if you bend strings, they will slip under the capo and if feels like the guitar gets wonky when you get a string slip under the capo toward another string. So all in all, excellent tone, timbre, hard rock to jazz tonality, but no bending.

This guitar will make an Al Di Meola out of players who are willing to adapt their playing to the constraints of the guitar but will drive players with a set way of playing totally crazy.

I think it has a lesson to teach us – flexibility in a different set of directions than the ones we are used to, on other guitars. But at a price – we have to be willing to adapt to get the reward and benefit of it’s awesome tonal width and timbral range.

I cannot put it down when I start to play it through my Roland Cube 60 or Epi Blues Custom 30 (but not bends…).

I hope there will be a future version that has a built in MIDI capability using the Graphtech MIDI hex pickup system. In the meantime, I am thinking of putting a Roland GK-3 on it near the bridge using the tape mounting method, and send it’s sound via the GR-20 guitar synth to experiment further.

Steinberger Synapse Transcale review 1


Steinberger Transcale RED

Overall

Overall: 10

Quality

Quality: 9

Features

Features: 10

Value

Value: 10

First the -0.5 point deduction on quality due to poor Steinberger strings: I bought a red one last week, came with crappy light baritone Steinberger strings, B & high E strings were twisted so I replaced the whole set with Steinberger Std. Baritone double balls. The 5th string didn’t fit the groove on the head. Too thick to fit so I switched to D’Addario flat wound chrome 11’s with single ball ends, using the screws in the head to secure them. (It takes double balls or regular strings).

Then I intonated the bridge by adjusting the three screws on it after loosening the side screw. The action came out perfect, but the high E & B strings kept slipping as I tuned it. So I ended up making my own double ball on the high E by using the ball from an old discarded string and twisting the string around it at the right length.

The action is so perfect I hardly touch it for perfect bar chords across the length of the neck now!

I put it through an Epiphone Blues Custom 30 amp and tried the various piezo/EMG active pickup settings and switched to neck, both and bridge pickups while changing the treble and bass tone knobs. The sound quality and variation in tone and timbre when rolling the capo from zero to second fret is simply astounding. This guitar a beguilingly innocent looking – but can turn into Hellboy in a second. I can take it from superb jazz tones that remind me of Lee Ritenour’s Gibson L5 ($12000 guitar) on Stolen Moments all the way to AC/DC tone snarling fire on every note in two seconds flat going straight to the amp without any pedals in-between.

I then ran it through my Roland GT-8/RC-50 looper into my headphones. Using the GT-8, I applied about 100 different patches using various amp/speaker pairs to it. The tonal range and width on this guitar is very large coming from the EMG active pickups and the awesome one-piece piezo bridge. Ned Steinberger responded to an email by me that it’s one piece to ensure superb piezo tonality, although he could have done a six piece hex bridge and pickup system (I was looking for MIDI from a hex piezo PUP on this guitar so wrote to him to ask).

Despite the initial string mess I got into due to poor Steinberger string quality, the guitar is utterly astounding – the neck is phenolic – try finding that in anything under $5000 – Parker Nite Fly is probably the closest to this neck, but the graphite U channel by the truss rod that give so this guitar it’s extreme stability is patented so cannot be found anywhere else.

Buy this guitar! You won’t find anything better to play any style you want to! I have a Gibson original robot, an Epiphone Black Beauty, a Yamaha nylon string and three acoustics plus an Ibanez Mikro. The Synapse Transcale Custom is all I keep playing since I received it. Whatta guitar man! Simply astounding sound and balance, playability and tone. There is a slight gouge in the back of the guitar so when it’s snug against your body, it tilts so you can see the entire fretboard clearly without having to lean forward. So you feel totally comfortable, and at 6.5lbs, this thing can be used all night and all day without getting your vertebrae crushed.

The rolling capo is good but you have to watch it when playing open string chords, as the side protrudes and interferes a bit with your index finger but it’s easily avoided once you become aware of it. The capo shines in that I can move it around at will during a song and it yields low, thundering rumbles on baritone scale at zero fret, while going to mandolinesque tones in the next moment by moving it past the 5th fret.

Self installation notes: MIDI upgrade using Roland GK-3 on Epiphone Black Beauty & acoustic-electric upgrade using LR Baggs M1A pickup on Silvertone PD-2 dreadnought


I installed a Roland GK-3 MIDI pickup on my Epiphone Black Beauty last year in October in a matter of two hours. The below notes are as much to help me remember for the next time I do this sort of thing as to help anyone who wants to save megabucks getting a guitar tech to do this for them. Here is how I did it:

0) Very important step: intonate your guitar by adjusting the bridge screws using the same guage strings as you will be putting on the guitar after installing the GK-3 as once it’s installed, intonation screws are not accessible due to the GK-3 hex pickups location.

1) Unstring the guitar completely while keeping it flat with top up (to prevent bridge stop bar from falling out when unstringed, do not pick up guitar once it is unstringed)

2) Install the GK-3 pickup under the bridge using the LP mount template the GK-3 comes with – it matches the bridge shape amazingly well and does not dampen the bridge noticably. As such, the Epiphone Black Beauty has enormous sustain due to all mahogany non-chambered construction (it’s a heavy guitar for a reason). So installing the GK-3 does not impact it’s sustain even for blues lead playing.

3) Restring the guitar starting with the 6th string and tune up to std. tuning. (EADgbe)

4) Adjust the GK-3 hex pickup gap from each string using the steel gage that comes with the GK-3 kit, and using the side mount screws for the GK-3 onto the mounting plate attached to the bridge. Make sure the distance is accurate for EACH string or pickup sensitivity will not be uniform for uniform string-picking intensity!

4) Attach the 13-pin plug from the GR-20 cord to the GK3 anf attache the 1/4″ short cable to the GK-3 and guitar out jacks.

5) Calibrate the sensitivity on the GR-20 for each string by adjusting the GK-3 flexion screw (verrrry tiny screw in the middle of the hex-pickup row on top) using the verrrry tiny screw drive that comes with the GK-3 kit.

The final installation looks like this:

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See how the intonation screws on the bridge are blocked? Make sure you intonate the guitar BEFORE installing the GK-3 hex pickup using the same gauge strings as you will use after installing GK-3 to be as close to the perfect intonation as possible!

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This thing rips blues notes and plays any MIDI instrument simultaneously now via the GR-20. (See my wiring diagram blog entry on this site to hookup the RC-50, GR-20, GT-8 and play!

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I also installed an active magnetic humbucker pickup by LR Baggs, model M1A on my Silvertone PD-2 Dreadnought on 2/26/2009. Below are some pointers and interesting observations in doing so:

1) Drill a 1/2″ hole on the strap mount at the bottom of the guitar after removing the strap mount. Take the1/4″ connector and make sure it fits loosely into the hole you just drilled. If it is tight, use sand paper to finish the inside of the hole to smooth it out after running the 1/2″ drill at a slight angle and rotating it so there is a dual funnel shape ,making the hole slightly larger than 1/2″.This will allow pulling the connector from the INSIDE of the guitar easily and mounting it later.

2) Blow out any debris from inside the guitar using a hair dryer on cold setting.

3) Take an old E string and send it in through the hole using the non-balled end from the outside and grab it from the 6th string side of the soundhole.

4) Remove the end nut and washer from the thin part of the 1/4″ connector that comes with the M1A pickup.

4) Insert the string tip into the two end pin holes of the 1/4″ jack connector that comes with the M1A pickup. Twist it into a loop. Pull it out after wrapping the ball end of the string on your gloved hand. (If you don’t use a glove, you won’t like how it cuts into your wrist when you pull the connector through the end block of the bottom of the guitar).

5) When the connector is pulled through, it will have the narrow portion of the tip visible, and the washers on the other side will prevent it from coming through. This is the tricky part as you have to put on the outer washer and nut but there is a loop of the string you used to pull it through in the way!

6) Take a small screw driver and put the nut and washer in that order on it then insert the screwdriver tip into into the one of the holes in the connector and push it down into the side of the end block to retain the connector in its position. BUT DO NOT insert the screw driver from the side, insert it from the top and center, and hold it while you untwist the string loop and remove the string.

7) Put down the outer washer onto the tip of the connector as well as the nut and screw it onto the connector tip. Remove the screw driver and use a spanner to tighten the outer nut and also screw on the strapjack button that comes with the M1A pickup. Tighten this as well, using a spanner.

8) Grab the 1/8″ connector cable from within the soundhole of the guitar for the pickup to connect to it and insert it into the side of the pickup while holding the pickup carefully.

9) Loosen the side mounting screws on the pickup to open up a gap between the top and the bottom of the pickup. Insert the pickup sideways gingerly past the 6th string and bring up one of the top edges over the soundhole, then twist the pickup to bring up the opposite side on top of the soundhole. Tighten both side screws and you pickup is mounted! Make sure the pole pieces of each string are aligned so each string passes exactly in the middle of each pole piece of the pickup.

LRBaggs on Silvertone PD-2

10) Hookup a 1/4″ cable to the strapjack you just finished working on into the LR Baggs Para acoustic DI or directly into an amp. The M1A is an active pickup and is humbucker style, so it does not need a preamp unless you need to equalize and cancel further hum by using the notch filters on the Para Acoustic DI. You can hookup directly to an amp as see if the sound is to your satisfaction or play with it now!