Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Epiphone Pro-1 Plus Acoustic


My newest guitar (I must stop buying them now, I have too many - said nobody ever) is an Epiphone Pro-1 Plus, in 'Blueburst', or 'Trans Blue' - I'm not quite sure. It's blue anyway. You can get them in dark red, black, and two kinds of wood finish. I started off liking the red, then went to natural and ended up with blue, partly because it matched my Ibanez, see elsewhere. I expect they all sounds the same!

There are three levels, the Pro which is around £100 has no white binding and not such a good spruce top. Then the Pro as here £150, then the Pro Ultra which has electrics and a cutaway body, £200.

They all have a mahogany body, an okoume neck and a rosewood fingerboard. I guess I'll never know if the extra 50 quid was worth it for the better spruce top, but it looks a nice thing, and the binding sets off the blue nicely.

The tuners are said to be high quality and have a good turn ratio (or whatever that is called) and work well, though possibly not as good as all that, just okay.

It's supposed to be easy to play, with a good aspect neck and jumbo frets, and thin strings, though in truth I haven't really noticed it being that easy - maybe that's just me!

I got it for a good price, and also by chance really there was an offer on that month to get a free accessory pack with the guitar, which duly arrived a month later from Epiphone. It comprised a strap, strings, tuner, polishes, plectrums and so on, worth £40 - so I am happy with what I paid.


It is loud. I'm comparing it to my Ovation, and it is a lot louder than that. And the tone is good, not as harsh as the Ovation, sounds great.

The blue finish was blemish free, but I have noticed it picks up dust really easily, and scratches too, despite my care with it. Ironically my major complaint about the guitar is to do with scratches... the scratch plate. This was billed as being impervious to scratching, which it appears to be, the only trouble is to achieve that they have made it of a plastic without a shiny finish, more matt - and that (for me) generates a scratchy noise when playing from the nail of my little finger. I am having to adopt a new technique to avoid this, which I'd rather not. If I could return to a 'shiny scratch-plate that gets scratched' some how I would...

I'm also not convinced by the light gauge strings as supplied, they feel wrong somehow. I use them on my electrics, but here there's something a bit loose about them. I'll try heavier gauges next time.

Truth be told - I bought this because I was bit bored with my Ovation... but though this Epiphone is nice, it isn't as good as the Ovation. The Ovation is class. So no disrespect to the Epi. I just haven't bonded with it yet I guess.

Ignoring that, I'd give it thumbs up - I'm happy with it and build quality and sound is great.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ibanez GIO GRG121DX

Here is my new Ibanez GIO GRG121DX, in Starlight Blue Sunburst.

It's a lovely thing. I got it reasonably cheaply on eBay, advertised as being brand new, an unwanted gift - and it turned out that was true, immaculate condition and it came with a great gig bag too.

 As far as I know it has a mahogany body and a maple neck, 24 fret rosewood fingerboard and IBZ-6 Humbucking pickups.

I'm not well versed with technicalities to be honest, all I know is that the action is great, and it sounds really good through my Fender Mustang 1 v2 amp.

You can't get simpler controls... well actually I guess you can, but one volume, one tone and a selector work nicely, and the tuners are precise, if a little too stiff.

Okay, I really wanted a red one, but the blue has grown on me, it's a lovely finish.

It's nicely weighted too, unlike for example my Epiphone SG which is very neck heavy.

All I need to do now is learn how to play it!

Two Years On - KIA pro_cee'd SE 1.6 CRDi



A second year has passed, and the KIA is still going strong. Cut to the chase, I still like it, it's not been any bother (almost) and it still looks as good as new, inside and out.

And we still haven't come with a name for it other then the KIA. It has now covered a modest 12,500 odd miles, pretty low I guess. It's done school runs (but not any more, now it's Uni runs) and toured around Dumfries and Galloway on holiday. Over all that distance it has returned 54mpg.

Looking back over my previous article, little has changed in truth. In a nutshell, the car itself is perfectly fine, the software in the car is a bit dubious. Looking back you will see I criticised the sat-nav, the air-con, the stop-start and key-less entry system. None of them work all that well, but you get used to it - I mean they all work, it's just not that easy to get them to work somehow.

If I was to be even more picky, during a recent visit to Pentraeth Automotive I was given a Picanto as a courtesy car. Not in the same league as the cee'd but I have to say the dash instruments were way better. The cee'd has a red display which isn't the clearest, the Picanto was white on black, much easier to read.

Ah, yes, why was I at the garage? Well, I pointed out when the car was being serviced a few weeks ago that the alloy wheels appeared to be suffering from corrosion, a bit early on a two year old car I thought. To everyone involved's credit, I was duly offered a complete new set! I was amazed. Thank you KIA.

Unfortunately (in a way) while swapping the wheels the mechanics spotted a bulge on one of my tyres, which required replacing, damn these pot-holes in all our roads, don't get me started.

Returning to the car then, the only other gripe I have is that the Traffic Announcement system on the radio has been a bit flaky. I asked them to sort it at the service and to be honest I've not been off Anglesey since, so I'm not sure if they've fixed it or not. A nuisance but not fatal.

So, looking at all the twaddle above I've done nothing but moan. So I should put that right - I actually DO like the car rather a lot and its solid build, 100% reliability and its frugality are commendable, long may it continue. And just one more thing to praise, it managed to accommodate three adults and a serious amount of clothing, computer equipment, guitars and general junk while transporting my lad off to Uni, in other words, it's actually bigger than it looks inside!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Epiphone SG and Les Paul Special

Epiphone SG Worn G-400

I started learning to play the guitar about 44 years ago, not that you'd know. Because I'm still not very good at it.

My first guitar was an awful old acoustic thing bought from a school friend. My second was a Shaftesbury copy electric, also from a friend, and also a bit worn out. But to be fair it kept me going for many years as I half-heartedly plugged away at learning.

Then, on a whim, I bought a cheap Fender Stratocaster copy for just over £100. It was okay.

But I got the urge for a 'proper' guitar... but couldn't afford a real Gibson or Fender, so I bought this cherry red work of art.

It is great, I like it so much, it's simple, it sounds great, it's well made - I don't really know how a 'real' SG could be any better...

I paid under £200 for it, an absolute bargain, more details about the guitar are HERE.

Oddly, though, I started looking around recently for another guitar. Basically I'd like a room full of 'em. I spent a lot of time looking at Fender Squier Telecasters.

Epiphone Slash Les Paul Special-II


So - what happened! I was seduced by this beauty. I'm not quite sure how.

Full title is Slash "AFD" Les Paul Special-II Guitar Outfit - AFD standing for "Appetite for Destruction" and outfit, because it comes with some bits and pieces - a really nice gig bag, some Slash plectrums and a Slash strap.

The front of the guitar is 'Appetite Amber', the rear and neck are a lovely cherry red. It's simply gorgeous.

It has simple controls, much like a Tele, and though the neck is bolt-on, unlike the SG, it's very similar in feel, action and quality.

It cost £150 on special offer, delivered.

An extra feature is that the lower pickup contains a tuner which is a joy to use and seems quite accurate, press a button and flashing LEDs show you how far off the string is from tune. Brilliant.

More details are HERE

There's just one problem really - they are very, very similar when playing them... I don't know what I was expecting really... maybe I should have gone for the Tele after all.

Monday, January 9, 2017

One Year On - KIA pro_cee'd SE 1.6 CRDi


I've still not got used to that name, we never call it by its name, it's always just "the KIA". If we had two, I dunno what we'd do.

I'm sat here in my local KIA dealer, waiting for the car to finish its first year service. It'd freezing and the rain is drumming on the windows. I'm hoping their promise of a 90 minute wait turns out to be true!

(It was, under an hour and 15 mins actually, well done Pentraeth Automotive!)
So, a verdict on the first year. I'd better 'fess up' right away, we've not exactly thrashed the car. It's only done about 6,000 miles. School runs in the main, and a couple of trips further afield, but nothing major. One day it will tour the Highlands, but not quite yet. Maybe 2017.

One statistic I can reveal, the fuel consumption, which has been a predictably disappointing but not at all bad 54mpg. Comfortingly, this is what the car itself thinks it's doing too... I can verify this because sadly I have a fetish for recording such things.

Reliability has been 100%, not even a glimmer of a fault. A very, very slightly leaky rear tyre, that's it. It is dripping with electrical gadgetry, all of it works perfectly, and the oily bits have performed without the slightest problem. Well... I say things work perfectly, they do but maybe there are some design 'issues'.

For example, the keyless entry works, but you have to time your moves to perfection to achieve a smooth unlocking. You approach the car, the wing mirrors unfold, you press the door button JUST at the correct moment, you're in. But a second early or late, it takes umbrage and locks again. Now I just use the key fob. Oddly, the rear hatch works much better, approach the car with a shopping trolley in pouring rain and you'll find it's open, terrific.

And the Stop/Start thingy. I just don't like it. I'll roll up to a T junction and be ready for a speedy turn onto the main road, to find the engine is off (I missed this cos I'm listening to Def Leppard). Okay, it starts quickly enough, but it's disconcerting. And the bad thing is, you can't just disable this feature, every trip you have to remember.

Another niggle... probably connected with KIA's desire to keep your battery topped up so it can do the Stop/start... when you're sitting waiting in the car, engine off (which I often do) the radio/media player will go off after 5 minutes or so to save the battery. Bloomin' heck it's only a radio! This is annoying.

And the sat-nav is a bit weird, sends you off on some odd routes, don't trust it. And the air-con, well, the climate control, can go a bit crazy sometimes if left to its own devices, maybe they all do, I'm sure it's trying and its heart is in the right place.

(Actually, reading back over these whinges... it's not the car... it's the software that's to blame for any annoyances. As a programmer, I wish I could get in there and fix these things!)

And the only other thing to moan about would be... road noise. It does seem to make quite a racket on some surfaces. The handling is terrific and the ride is okay, but the roar from the tyres can get a bit tiresome.

These niggles aside, it has been a pleasure to drive this last year. It looks good, is comfortable, goes fast well, goes slow well, isn't too big or too small, MPG is acceptable and the in-car gadgets are pretty good. I like it.