Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Gig Guitar

Having a guitar with onboard electronics is very, very, handy when playing out. It's a heck of a lot easier to simply plug in your guitar with a standard guitar cable than it is to mic a guitar. It also gives the performer some options at his fingertips, such as volume, and usually some minor equalizer controls.

My Larrivee OM-03R has an onboard Fishman Prefix Plus unit. This is a pretty nice guitar, all solid wood, rosewood back and sided, Engelman spruce top. This is the guitar I normally use for concerts, and is the guitar used for 14 of the 16 tracks on Space & Freedom.

I bought it years ago, when the US/Canadian exchange rate was somewhat more favorable. MSRP on a new one is $1857, retail is about $1400. Also, the new ones have a rather ugly pick guard which I rather dislike. Thus I really do not like to travel with this guitar. See post below on "United Breaks Guitars" for reasons why.

The Fishman Prefix is a nice unit, and I was thinking about buying one and having it installed in one of my lesser guitars. I have an old Tacoma Roadking that I bought years ago for around $350, that I figured would be a perfect candidate. Only two problems.

1) The Fishman Prefix sells for between $300-350 (ouch).
2) Replacement Roadkings, especially pre-Fender buyout ones, seem to cost somewhere around $1200 these days.

Oh, and since Fender can't seem to manage their way out of a paper sack, they have discontinued the entire Tacoma line. That takes some pretty bad management. When Fender bought Tacoma in 2004, they were the 3rd largest US guitar manufacturer.

Regardless, that really does not meet the criterion for a guitar that is inexpensive enough that I don't mind risking it with the baggage manglers.

So, what are our options?

While perusing E-bay I found some Olympia guitars. Olympia was Tacoma's import line. Basically Fender had liscensed copies of Tacoma's designes made in southeast Asia. Some were made in Indoneasia, some in China, and one or two other countries.

One can buy an OMC11CE6 (basicly a plywood copy of Tacoma's Chief) for $379 on E-bay. These came with either a Fishman Classic or L.R. Baggs electronics package depending on when and where they were made. That's not too bad really if you think about it. True, plywood does not have the rich sound that you get with real wood. On the other hand, it doesn't crack, and you don't have to worry about low humidity damaging your instrument. And in ARIDzona, that is a real concern. Considering that just the electronics unit is a couple hundred bucks, all in all, i figured it was worth considering.

Then I found one for $295. Better. Local, so I'd have to pay sales tax. *bleah*. Of course, if it's local I can always go by the store and dicker.

Guitar was located at The Bass Place in Tempe. They sell bases. Electric Bases, base guitars, stand up bases, and they even had an electric stand up base. (way cool, trust me). The guitar I was interested in was listed on their web site for $195, or $100 less than their e-bay price.

I can't even buy the electronics for that.

Dave, the guy who runs the place, let me have the instrument for $200 out the door.

Olympia OMC11CE6

Yes. It's blue. Very, very, BLUE.

So, though I never thought I would do so, I now own a Chinese made, laminate guitar. Actually sounds fairly decent, and since it has an L.R. Baggs pickup and preamp, it's absolutely perfect for playing gigs or traveling.

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