Rivera Venus 5 Amp Head Review – Best Class-A, 2-Channel Guitar Amplifier?

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While we typically focus on pedal reviews at Best Guitar Effects, I wanted to break away from the norm to bring a particular amp to your attention: the Rivera Venus 5 head. Why is this amp important? For starters, this is the main amp I personally use when reviewing and testing pedals. While a pedal may sometimes be played through another amp, this is my personal go-to amp for great tone and coming to a final verdict on any guitar or pedal. It’s also the amp I’ve been using for our review demo YouTube videos as it provides an impeccable clean sound, an ideal foundation for using with effects pedals. I actually discovered this amp by accident while researching the Rivera Silent Sister and RockCrusher Recording (pictured above). But from the moment I heard the Venus 5, I fell in love. After a little more research, I was set on having the Venus 5 above all other amps. It’s now a staple of my Review Gear. I won’t call it perfect as there are a few minor areas of improvement that could be made. But seeing as this head really is a choice piece of gear from one of the best amp makers in the business, I figured it deserves a little more attention in a dedicated review.

The Venus 5 is a 2-channel, Class-A, 35 watt, amplifier head that uses 5 12ax7 preamp tubes and 2 6L6 power amp tubes. Channel 1 does hot-rodded overdriven tones and searing leads. Channel 2 covers clean and overdriven sounds. Sounds simple enough, but there’s a little more to the story of why the Venus 5 is such a special amp. Let’s touch on some history before we dig in.

Paul Rivera, Super Champ

Although Paul Rivera started Rivera R&D in the late 70’s, he’d soon go on to become a Marketing Director for Fender Amplifiers a few years later. There he oversaw the production of and co-designed what some guitarists regard as the last great Fender amps. Perhaps most notably of these Rivera-era gems was the Fender Super Champ, a little 1×10” 18-watt combo amp famous for its clean & dirty recording tones. Paul Rivera would eventually leave Fender and focus on Rivera Amplification, designing high-end boutique amplifiers for discerning musicians. Rivera amps are known for their studio and stage ready performance, being among the most rock-solid and reliable pieces of audio equipment you’ll ever come across. Fortunately, they’re backed by great tone and playability that match their rugged durability. While the big corporate amp makers have continuously sought after ways to cut corners and make a “cheaper” product, Rivera Amplification always strives to make their gear “better” with an unwavering focus on quality in all areas. It’s for these reasons that this family-owned brand is still going strong today, ever victorious in their pursuit of quality, tone, performance, and innovation.

I’m going to run down the features of this amp real quick. Then we’ll heat up the tubes in our Rivera Venus 5 head review to see if it’s the best class-A, 2-channel guitar amplifier around.

Features:

  • Class “A” powered by a pair of 6L6 tubes
  • 5 12ax7 tubes
  • 35 watt Modern Mode
  • 15 watt Vintage Mode
  • High Gain & Low Gain Inputs
  • 2 Channels with foot-switchable Boost on Channel 1
  • Foot-switchable and assignable Reverb
  • 4, 8 , and 16 ohm speaker outputs
  • Vintage look with Split Grill

Visit Rivera Amplification for more info about the Venus 5 amp head.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

See the lowest price on eBay.

And here’s Tim Pierce’s Venus 5 review demo that pretty much sold me on this amp.

Sound & Performance:

When it comes to creating amps that achieve classic Fender style clean tones, few people are as qualified as Paul Rivera to do so. But never a company to settle for what’s already been done before, Rivera Amplification have continuously reinterpreted guitar amplification with each release, including their Venus series. The Venus 5 is an amp that ventures into all the familiar “tweed” and “blackface” territory but has plenty of voices of its own. Yes, this is no mere Fender amp clone in any sense, but it can achieve those sounds and much more. I’m going to work backwards and start with Channel 2 as that’s where most of this amp’s tone magic is found. For now I’ll also be focusing on the Modern wattage setting which allows access to the amp’s full 35 watts.

Rivera-Venus-5-Amp-Head-Review-Best-Class-A-2-Channel-Guitar-Amplifier-02Like ye olde amps of yore, the Venus 5’s Channel 2 doesn’t have a separate Gain and Master knob, just a single Gain knob that acts as a Master Volume control. Using it from fully counterclockwise to around 10-11 o’clock gives you a range of beautiful clean tones with plenty of headroom and dimension. There’s also a real presence and punchy feel to the sound when you play firmly or dig into the strings. These remind me of the hallmark characteristics of the Fender Bassman, another 6L6 powered classic. But the Venus 5 has a somewhat more refined and sophisticated sound. While I previously regarded the Bassman as my all-time favorite clean/mild amp, that changed after I played the Venus 5. Yes, the Venus 5’s clean tones are impeccable, but Channel 2 has a few more surprises up its figurative sleeve.

Once you roll the Gain up towards that 10-11 o’clock area, you may notice a little breakup when you really dig in, depending on how high your guitar pickup’s output is. You can do a few things here. Putting an overdrive pedal or clean boost in front of the Venus 5 will help you push the amp into overdrive. Or you can turn Channel 2’s Gain knob just a little higher until you hear the clean/dirty hybrid tone coming out. There’s a whole little area of sweet spots around here. The Venus 5 just has this beautiful breakup that is among the best I’ve heard. It’s really such a blast to play through which is why I just can’t seem to tire of playing through this amp head. If you want to crank the Gain even more, you can even get a full-on crunch sound that’s raunchy and just flat-out rocks. It’ll cover a range of clean sounds, classic rock tones, overdriven blues, and more. I don’t recommend pushing the Gain all the way. You don’t want to lose any clarity. If you need more distortion just put a boost or overdrive up front to find the saturation you need. This channel provides an excellent foundation for your pedals which I’m sure readers of this site will appreciate. The versatility and wide assortment of tones makes the Venus 5’s Channel 2 my personal favorite amp channel I’ve ever heard or played through. And I haven’t even talked about the tone controls yet.

On Channel 2 you’ll see the standard Bass, Middle, and Treble control knobs here. The controls are musical and will generally sound good even when set at extreme values. Finding “wrong” settings may not be what you’re looking for, but the Venus 5’s Channel 2 just always seem to sound good in some sense. But as is usually the case, it’s best to start with the Tone controls at noon and work the knobs based on your needs. Their range of effect is smooth and doesn’t seem to clash with the others although they do work together to form a cohesive “whole” sound. Need to brighten up dark humbuckers? Boost a little Treble. Need to fatten up some single coils? Add a little Bass. Simple and effective.

Channel 2’s Middle knob has an interesting surprise: a Pull Notch switch. Pulling the knob out shifts the mid frequency focus from 550 Hz to 250 Hz. Basically, this takes you from an early British or “tweed” style midrange to a classic “blackface” midrange. This is another big part of the Venus 5’s versatility and really helps you achieve amp tones similar to several of the classic clean and blues amps. The Treble knob also has a Pull Bright switch. While I generally find the range of highs sufficient as is, pulling the knob out adds some extra chime and sparkle, adding a heavenly sheen to your sound. This may prove useful with extra dark humbuckers or if you want a bright, top-end focused sound.

Rivera-Venus-5-Amp-Head-Review-Best-Class-A-2-Channel-Guitar-Amplifier-03Channel 1 is the Venus 5’s hot-rodded high-gain monster. Don’t get too scared if you prefer mild tones. There’s all manner of mild overdrive to be found if you just want to kick it up a little past Channel 2’s clean sound. But it’s this channel that also proves to be the biggest different between the Venus 5 and Venus 3 & 6. The Venus 5’s dirty channel is simply capable of more gain than her Venusian sisters. That, and the Venus 5 uses 6L6 power tubes instead of the 6V6 tubes found in the Venus 3 & 6. It’s also worth noting that the Venus 5’s Channel 1 is adding an additional 12ax7 preamp tube to the mix to provide the hefty gain boost over Channel 2.

The distortion of Channel 1 generally has a more saturated tone. It’s spongy and thick with an almost fuzz-like character at higher Gain settings. The extra 12ax7 saturation brings in more harmonic complexity for a very energetic, blooming overdrive sound. It’s certainly useful and provides a lot of extra distortion range which is great if you want to go from a clean or crunch sound on Channel 2 to a ripping high-gain lead on Channel 1. I like this channel better with the Gain on lower settings as it retains a tighter sound. The looseness of Channel 1 on higher Gain settings may be ideal for some, but for distorted rhythm work or even heavier types of playing, I generally find myself simply sticking an overdrive or distortion in front of Channel 2 to retain maximum definition. (While we’re talking about Rivera here, it’s worth noting that their Metal Shaman is brutal in front of Channel 2.)

Channel 1 has the similar 3-knob tone control set of Channel 2 but without the extra tonal Pull options. While it’s pretty simple, and yes, there’s a Pull out (and foot-switchable!) Boost on the Master, I still wish there was a little more flexibility from Channel 1. The old Rivera TBR units from the 80’s had cool 6-position Frequency knobs that let you dial in the focus frequency of your mid-range. While it would have been nice if they’d have brought back that innovative function, you’ll still find a solid plethora of grit and dirt from Channel 1’s tone set. And there are a couple other ways to affect your overall sound…

Rivera-Venus-5-Amp-Head-Review-Best-Class-A-2-Channel-Guitar-Amplifier-04The Presence and Focus knobs provide some final little touches to your sound. The Presence is incorporated at the power amp section of the Venus 5 and gives you a way to add a final polish to your high-end. This can be set with a general emphasis on how you like the amp to respond, whether your guitar is a little too bright or dark, and in conjunction with the voicing of your amp cabinet’s speakers. The Focus knob specifically affects how the Venus 5 plays with your speakers, blending from “loose” to “tight”. This can be handy if you’re like me and want to tighten up the sound of Channel 1 while achieving maximum punchiness/tightness with Channel 2. Or you can “loosen” a closed-back cab to sound more open. It’s effects are subtle to my ears but still a helpful feature nonetheless.

If you dig vintage spring reverb you’ll be pleased to know that the Venus 5 contains an authentic Hammond 6 Spring Long Pan Reverb. This is a standout feature if you love the classic spring reverb sounds found in classic amps. It can be assigned to either one or both channels and provides up to a 50% blend with your dry signal. There’s a tube stage after the reverb that I suspect is part of why this reverb seems to play so nicely with your guitar. Very cool. If you’ve somehow found this review while looking for your next amp head, this may be important to you. If you’re a site regular and probably have a pedal-focused perspective, the built-in reverb may be less vital to you. But in that case the Effects Loop probably is…

The Venus 5’s Effects Loop gives you a Send & Return between the pre-amp and power amp sections complete with dedicated Send & Return Level controls. This provides ultimate flexibility for patching in delay pedals and reverb pedals while letting you compensate for any variation in signal level. For a few of our review demos (Eventide TimeFactor, Empress Effects Vintage Modified Superdelay, Strymon El Capistan, etc.), I recorded using the Venus 5’s Effects Loop. It’s very clean and arguably the best way to utilize delay/reverb effects according to many guitarists.

A few more things to note, while the amp may not be quite as loud as, say, your average 50 watt combo, the Venus 5 still puts out enough volume to be heard in the mix when playing up to medium sized venues. It’s also in the nature of Class A amps to be louder than Class A/B amps of the same wattage, so you just might be quite surprised by its output if you do ever have the chance to hear it side-by-side with another 35-50 watt Class A/B amp. These days more and more guitarists are relying on miking and monitoring rather than high-wattage amps, so the wattage and loudness arguments are all but over for many. If you want to use the amp at lower volumes, the Venus 5’s Vintage mode essentially cuts the output to 15 watts. It does seem to add slightly to the vintage vibe of the sound while, according to Rivera, “enhancing the even order harmonics”. It’ll also still pack enough power at 15 watts to handle smaller gigs and make it ideal for low-level miking/recording.

Venus 5 vs Venus 3 or 6?

I won’t say that I’m necessarily rigid on my preferences for 6V6 or 6L6 tubes or even preamp voicings. It’s all about the cohesive whole and the myriad factors that define the final sound of an amp. There is the difference in power tubes to consider as well as Channel 1’s potential higher gain sounds. The Venus 6 & 3 have a little less available gain on tap. For me the Venus 5 just sounds amazing for clean sounds and lower/mid-gain overdrive tones. Add in a boost, overdrive, or ripping high-gain distortion guitar pedals (like the Rivera Metal Shaman), and you can get just about any sound you’re looking for. The Venus 5’s Channel 2 is the ultimate clean foundation channel for pedals.

It’s important to consider the cabinet you play it through as well. Rivera sells extension cabs with several choices of speaker to suit your preference for either Celestion 70th Anniversary G12H-30’s, G12T-75’s, or Vintage 30’s. But I’m a little biased here as I’ve been forgoing cabinets altogether in favor of “direct” tones. I’ve been a fan of mixing cabinets and speakers from different brands ever since this time long ago when I was blown away after someone unplugged an Orange head from its branded cab and showed me the sound from a home-made cab with Jensen speakers. But I find myself sticking with Rivera when using the Venus 5. It’s all about the RockCrusher Recording, a transparent power attenuator with 11-band analog EQ for emulating the characteristics of famous speakers. See our Rivera RockCrusher Recording review and our YouTube review demo videos for both products to hear this combo for yourself. And like I said, this rig is what you’re hearing in all our newer pedal review videos.

While I’d still like to see a few minor refinements to the Venus 5’s Channel 1 (more Mid-Freq flexibility & tighter, more focused higher gain distortion), it’s Channel 2 that makes this amp absolutely indispensable to me. That channel alone would make the Venus 5 my “desert island” guitar amplifier. You really must try it for yourself. All the videos and reviews can’t compare to the sound and feel of plugging in and playing it yourself.

Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The Rivera Venus 5 amp head’s Channel 2 is one of the most impressive and versatile clean/overdrive channels I’ve ever heard. There’s also plenty of higher gain versatility thanks to Channel 1. The included Spring Reverb is also a real treat for the vintage tone lovers. There’s even a handy lower wattage Vintage mode for bedroom/practice/home-recording levels. Our readers will appreciate that Channel 2 provides one of the best foundations for use with pedals you’ll ever hear. The Effects Loop with Send & Return level knobs also add essential versatility for use with reverb and delay pedals. It’s not really about whether it’s the best Class-A or 2-Channel amp. The Venus 5 is one of the best guitar amps I’ve come across.

That concludes our Rivera Venus 5 amp head review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Gabriel’s Best Guitar Effects Review Gear

Many people have asked about what guitar gear I use, so here’s a page showcasing my primary gear for reviewing guitar pedals for Best Guitar Effects. Let’s jump right in. here’s the gear…

Guitar Amplifiers:

I generally keep it light with only a few choice amps (and guitars), and I’m a big fan of Rivera Amplification particularly for their stellar clean tones and recording solutions as you’ll see below…

Rivera Venus Recording

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The Rivera Venus Recording has quickly become my new favorite piece of gear. I loved the Venus 5 & RockRec combo, so this amp was a no-brainer choice for my needs. It’s the new amp I’m running for all demos, Instagram videos, and general playing and recording for other purposes. Basically, it nails similar clean tones to the Venus 5 with the full speaker emulation section of the RockCrusher Recording. The crunch channel is even more versatile than the Venus 5 as the VRec has additional mid-sculpting options thanks to its 6-position Voicing knob. Most importantly, the Venus Recording has 2 effects loops, one that’s foot-switchable between the pre and power amps with Send & Return level controls and one after everything before the Recording Output. This provides lots of options for effects placement. I’ll also typically always run a Keeley GC-2 Limiting Amplifier in effects loop 2 as a transparent brick wall limiter to prevent audio clipping while recording.

Here’s a demo I made showing some of the diverse possibilities of the Venus Recording.

 

 

Rivera RockCrusher Recording
Power Attenuator, Load Box, and Speaker Emulator

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And here’s the second most important piece of review gear in the arsenal: the Rivera RockCrusher Recording. Regardless of which other amp I’m using, it’ll always be connected to the “RockRec”. The RockRec is still one of the most indispensable tools in my musical arsenal, especially for recording and is the best product I’ve encountered for getting a consistent sound from a tube amp head, especially when recording at low volume levels.

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Here’s a video of me demonstrating the transparency of the RockRec’s
attenuation and showing some examples of using the 11-band analog EQ.

I originally needed a way to record a tube amp head with consistent results and discovered the RockCrusher Recording while researching the Rivera SilentSister Isolated Cabinet which is one of the best iso cabs available since it doesn’t have that air-sucking problem suffered by lesser iso cabs. But with an iso cab you still get one sound from the single speaker, maybe 2 sounds if you mount more than 1 mic inside the unit. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Rivera also made the RockCrusher Recording, a solution providing an even more convenient way to record an amp head and with way more tonal options available.

The load box and power attenuating features are great for enabling full-on cranked tube tones, but the real boon of the RockCrusher Recording is its all-analog “speaker emulating” EQ section. This allows you to shape the EQ curve for an infinite amount of possible voicings. This is very useful for emulating the sounds of classic speakers or sculpting an EQ setting that just sounds right to your ears or that is perfectly matched to the amp head you’re using.

Best-Guitar-Effects-Review-Gear-03-Rivera-RockCrusher-RecordingThe latest Best Guitar Effects review videos I’ve done feature the Rivera RockCrusher Recording (as will all those to come). It’s just so far ahead of its class in terms of what it does and how well it does it.

The RockCrusher Recording has been making its way into many pro studios, and home studios will also benefit from the unit’s silent and low volume recording abilities. Even Slash has been recording with the “RockRec” on his latest album. You’ll definitely be hearing the RockCrusher Recording on a lot of albums and songs in the coming years as it will continue to be a go-to recording tool that professional and home studio producers alike will use to record guitars with amp heads.

While we typically focus on reviews of effects pedals, this piece of gear is so important to Best Guitar Effects that I wrote an in-depth review for it.

Read the full Rivera RockCrusher Review

 

When it comes to guitar amps, there are so many factors to consider that I could write an ongoing series about choosing a guitar amplifier that would probably continue indefinitely. As far as big name amp companies go, Fender, Marshall, Vox, and many others have long-standing reputations and many available amps with distinguishing factors. I’ve often regarded the 1959 Fender Bassman as my all-time favorite amp. I was also fond of a Peavey Classic 50 4×10 half stack, a workhorse live amp that was once gifted to me. And for years my main performance amp of choice was a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier. But I recently decided to get my hands on a modern amp that would give me the best clean foundation for building my sound in conjunction with the effects pedals I use and review on the site. The amp I chose was the Rivera Venus 5 head. Now that I’m mainly using the Venus Recording, the Venus 5 is my backup amp or the amp I’ll use for stereo demos (See the Strymon DIG, Eventide H9 Max, & Strymon Deco for examples).

 

Rivera Venus 5 Amplifier Head

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The Rivera Venus 5 is a Class “A” head powered by 6L6 tubes which are known for their high headroom and top-end sparkle. I decided first and foremost that I needed an amp for Best Guitar Effects that would provide a pristine clean sound for demoing and reviewing pedals, and the Venus 5 fit the bill perfectly.

 

Just watch this video and listen. I love the Venus 5 head.
It has a versatile and overall great sounding clean channel.

Best-Guitar-Effects-Review-Gear-05-Rivera-Venus-5-HeadI became a fan of Rivera in the early 2000’s after a friend turned me on to Rivera’s Knucklehead. It was much later when I developed a taste for quality cleaner amp tones that I learned more about Paul Rivera’s distinguished pedigree of amps, his most notable early design being the Class “A/B” 6V6 equipped Fender Super Champ. While my crunchy tone tastes are “heavier” on the distortion spectrum, I found myself drawn to the Venus 5 particularly for its cleaner sounds. Rivera’s other Venus amps, including the Venus 3, Venus 6, and Venus Deux, are 6V6 based like Rivera’s classic Super Champ. The Venus 5 forgoes 6V6’s in favor of 6L6’s akin to the Fender Twin and reissue Bassman amps. While the tubes alone aren’t enough to define an amp’s sound, they still help the Venus 5 lead you towards a ballpark realm of those famous “blackface” and “tweed” tonal qualities. Of course, when paired with the EQ shaping abilities of the aforementioned Rivera RockCrusher Recording, you’d be surprised at how you can coax the Venus 5 (or any amp really) into sounding like another amp entirely.

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The Venus 5’s Clean/Rhythm channel has a clean tone with a hint of grit when pushing the Gain up towards the sweet spot range of 10-2 o’clock (I mention such a wide range because my preference is always changing). It’s very responsive and exceptionally dynamic, and overdrive pedals can be used to push the amp into further breakup when needed. There’s also a series effects loop which I sometimes use when reviewing reverb and delay pedals. The Crunch/Lead channel offers more articulate, yet spongy distortion with some singing sustain. I use this channel less often than the Clean/Rhythm channel, but it is useful for classic Marshall-esque distortion tones that work well when testing pedals with contrasting textures.

This is another product that I will likely write about more on the site since I’ve been spending so much time with it, so expect a full Rivera Venus 5 head review soon. (UPDATE: I did write a review. The link is below!)

Read the full Rivera Venus 5 Review

 

Cables:

When starting the site I happened to have a mountain of old Monster Rock cables. These were decent enough, but I eventually decided that to preserve the integrity of using the best possible equipment and gear money could buy, the marketing-hyped Monster cables had to go. I ended up settling on a particular cable brand: Evidence Audio.

 

Evidence Audio Cables: Screw-In-Solderless, Monorail, Reveal, & Siren

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When it came to cables the first issue to solve was which cables to use for connecting pedals on my pedalboard(s). Evidence Audio’s Screw-In-Solderless, or SIS, end plugs are quite small and allow more pedals to fit closely together. The SIS plugs are used with Evidence Audio’s Monorail instrument cable to create pedalboard patch cables of various lengths. They’re fairly easy to assemble and provide impeccable sound quality thanks to their tight connection and the Monorail’s solid copper core. (For more info read my Evidence Audio SIS Patch Cables review.) All other instrument cables are the Evidence Audio Reveal, a cable that aims to provide a more transparent and pure signal integrity than typical guitar cables. For connecting the Venus 5 head to the RockCrusher Recording I use a single 1 foot Siren speaker cable to ensure optimum signal transfer with the least possible resistance. Evidence Audio cables are designed to interfere with your sound as little as possible without all the flashy marketing hype. In use they simply sound great. If I do end up using different cables, it’ll most likely be if I decide to try the Evidence Audio Lyric HG or Forte instrument cables.

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Guitars:

While there are many schools of thought when it comes to ideal guitars, there are two common camps in terms of pickups and guitar types/body shapes/configurations. I regard these as the single-coil & humbucker camps. (What, no love for P-90’s? I love ’em. They’re just not as common as the other two.) The guitars mostly associated with single-coils are the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster range. Humbuckers are prominent on most Gibson guitars such as the Les Paul, SG, Explorer, and Flying V lines. I typically use one guitar equipped with single-coil pickups and one equipped with humbuckers during my reviews.

 

Fender 2008 American Standard Stratocaster

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Covering the range of single-coil tones is my 2008 Fender American Standard Stratocaster. My first guitar was a cheap Squire Strat, and even though I had switched to playing a Gibson SG primarily for years, I suddenly had the desire in 2009 to pick up a modern Strat again. I walked into one of the big box guitar stores and picked up a Standard Strat and fell in love. That seemed easy enough, but I put off making a buying decision that day. I came back a week later, pulled a Strat off the wall from around the same spot in the same color and plugged in to the same amp as before. Something entirely different happened. Those full, beautiful tones that I heard before were gone! This guitar sounded absolutely dead to me! Then I looked at the headstock and realized I had picked up a Fender “Deluxe” Stratocaster by mistake instead of a “Standard”. The super fancy, noiseless, blah blah blah pickups of the higher end model just weren’t doing it for me. I switched to a Standard and fell in love all over again. There’s something about the no-frills, workhorse American Standard Stratocaster that just nails classic playability, feel, and tone.

Best-Guitar-Effects-Review-Gear-08-Fender-American-Standard-StratocasterSo I ultimately ended up buying a freshly unboxed American Standard Strat in Olympic White (the color of my first Squire Strat). The only problem was that the neck was rosewood, and I usually prefer maple on my Strat-style guitars. So I bought a new 2008 Fender American Stratocaster neck in maple with 22 jumbo frets and a fatter 70’s style headstock. I also changed the stock alnico bridge pickup to a hum-canceling DiMarzio HS-3. No, I wasn’t purposely trying to go for a Yngwie Malmsteen vibe; this just eliminated bridge position hum and helped the guitar pair better with high gain amps. (I was primarily playing through a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier at the time.)

Other than that everything else is original. I am, however, considering drastically overhauling this guitar with some pretty extreme mods. I’ll update this page when that happens. ;)

 

Gibson 1982 Flying V

w/ Seymour Duncan ’59 & 35th Anniversary JB Model Pickups

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So shortly after I posted about looking for my dream guitar, a Gibson 1981 Flying V in original classic white, I found this 1982 Flying V from a seller online that happened to be here in Los Angeles. I almost passed it by since it wasn’t an ’81, but the guitar was in such good condition that I had to play it. I contacted the seller, had him bring over the guitar for a test drive, and ended up buying it on the spot. While I may still be interested in an ’81 V if it’s in great condition and the price is right, this ’82 Flying V is totally doing it for me. I decided to really make it mine and make a few alterations.

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My favorite humbucking neck pickup is the Seymour Duncan ’59 (SH-1N). I’ve used one of these in my favorite Gibson SG for 10 years and still love it, so it was a staple for me to have a ’59 in this axe as well. While my trusty old Gibson SG has a Dimebucker (SH-13) in the bridge (R.I.P. Dime \m/), I decided to go with a Seymour Duncan Custom Shop 35th Anniversary Commemorative JB Model (SH-4) in the Flying V. This is still a pretty high output pickup that remains very defined and musical for most playing styles.

I replaced the original classic tuners with new Gibson Modern Machine Heads that are manufactured for Gibson by Grover, a company known for their high quality tuning pegs. I like that the tuning keys of these modern tuners look similar to the classic style of the originals while greatly improving the tuning stability of the guitar.

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While I typically change pickups myself, I had a local guitar tech wire them up while changing the positions of all 3 knobs counter-clockwise for more ideal positioning of the bridge and neck pickup volume controls. I also had the tone knob rewired to only affect the neck pickup. This allows me to always keep the bridge tone fully open while being able to switch to a dark neck pickup sound with the tone knob rolled back. When using the neck and middle pickups for clean tones I can adjust the overall sound to taste by altering the response of the neck pickup via the tone knob.

This guitar plays beautifully and is pretty much my ideal in terms of a humbucker equipped Gibson-style guitar with Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece.

 

In Closing:

These are the main pieces of gear I use for reviews although a few other items do come into play. Our early videos used Monster Rock cables for connecting pedals. I just happened to have a ton of them. But I recently switched to Evidence Audio as the large end jacks of the Monster Rock cables made wiring in tight spaces somewhat difficult. I also sometimes use a couple Peavey Classic 50 cabinets, a 4×10 and 1×15, that I really like. They’re great for getting a tight and punchy amplified sound with a massive bottom end, but the RockCrusher Recording sounds so good that I typically prefer to forgo miking cabinets for any reason and find myself running direct into a recording interface. I’ll update this page if I find any other amp, guitar, or relevant gear that becomes a staple for reviewing gear on Best Guitar Effects.

That concludes my Best Guitar Effects review gear. Thanks for reading.