Shopping for a new Axe

Hey all,

We all have to pay bills at some point or another and my “day gig” had me working 50 hours a week for the last 7 months. I even worked holidays and weekends. You got to do what you got to do but this left me ignoring my musical instruments for a while.
When things get busy in the life of my students, I always try to be understanding. Midterms, final exams, summer vacations, travel for work, it all impacts us at some time. I kept trying to assure the young lady I’m seeing “really, I’m NOT a workaholic, but I have to work late tonight!”
All things pass eventually. Finals pass, followed by semester break. Work settles down (at least for most of us). And for me, I’ve hit a calm spot where our project got done and we’re now just mopping up left over stuff.
And then it hit me.
I want a new guitar. I have a nice Gibson Les Paul Custom (1977), a nice Ibanez (no model name, but it has a Floyd Rose Licensed bridge, circa 1987), a very nice Charvel Flying V (has a Kahler tremolo that won’t stay in tune). But I wanted something really high end this time – something around the $1500 mark.
My requirements: fast neck, locking tremolo system (either Floyd Rose or perhaps the ZR models from Ibanez), 24 frets, hot pickups and versatile sound. I’d like to scream metal on it and then switch the distortion off and play “Fly Me To The Moon” if I wanted.
My hunt begain with the Ibanez S5470. I watched Doug Doppler in a clinic in Dublin, CA. play one and endorse it and play a multitude of sounds on it – including jazz, but mostly metal. Had the ZR2 tremolo system which stays in tune even if you break a string. Price tag: $1400.
Seemed perfect. Only one problem: NO ONE carried this guitar. There were none on the shelf of any music store around, including the one Doppler gave his clinic in. I am leery of ordering a guitar I have never played.
Second issue: I read reviews of this guitar from multiple sites. You have to read reviews critically. Some 11 year old saying it’s great doesn’t hold much water with me. Someone who’s 18 who says “the best guitar ever” doesn’t either. I looked for seasoned musicians who loved the guitar, and discussed some of it’s drawbacks, or those that really didn’t like it and gave credible reasons (“it sucks!!” is NOT helpful!).
The reviews I saw on this guitar were probably 85% positive. But some thought it felt “cheap” and preferred Jacksons or Scheckters.
So I couldn’t try it without buying it and it wasn’t all stellar reviews. Hmmm.
The next I looked at was Jackson. The Soloist SL2H caught my eye. Overwhelming positive reviews on this one by experienced (20+ years) players. Versatile, solid, excellent, if not a bit over priced (Prices started at $1799 for black, and as much as $2299 for Blue Flames paint job).
I called around looking for a model I could try out. Guitar Center in Santa Clara, CA had one. I bopped down there, and asked the guy about it. He took it off the wall, got me a pick, set me up in a room and I sat down and started to play.
Immediately I was disappointed. It had a great done, really, but the action felt “heavy” to me. I could play fast on it, but it took effort. I didn’t think that was right for such a great and expensive guitar. Then I noticed that the Floyd Rose bridge was angled forward, in effect raising the action. I pointed this out to the guy who handed it to me and he said “Oh yeah, that needs to be set up”. Geez, guys – a $1800 guitar you don’t bother to set up properly?
Then I tried an ESP, but it was in a Les Paul shape. I have a Les Paul, a great one, don’t need a knock off, thank you. Besides, the Les Paul shape blocks the upper register, something I wanted on a 24 fret guitar.
Last came a Scheckter Synyster Diamond Custom. Best feeling guitar all day. Then I realized “Synyster” was the name of some guitarist I never heard of. This may seem silly but I didn’t want people to think I was a fan of this guy and bought his signature guitar.
In the end, I bought nothing. I took my Ibanez into the shop yesterday to get it fixed up. And I’m looking at seeing if I can get my Flying V worked and swap out the tremolo system for one that will stay in tune. That’s iffy – I’m going to call Gary Brawer in San Francisco – he has allegedly done work for Joe Satrianni and if anybody can pull that off, he probably can.
I won’t buy a guitar for the sake of buying a guitar. It needs to “speak” to me. If I compromise on what I want, then I will still be left wanting. Part of me thinks to order the S5470 anyway and just return it if I don’t like it. Maybe.
Time will tell 🙂
Next, I need to get into a band!