Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gear Review: The Tux

I found this little beast in a pawn shop for $60.00 back in late May.

I wasn't really in the market for a 4th guitar (5th, if we count the bass...6th if we count the old & damaged Classical acoustic...but I won't count the crappy Wal-Mart acoustic that won't stay tuned), but I was bored and looking for something new to play with while I recovered from having the Killer Kidney removed.

Turns out I made a hell of a good choice, getting this thing. Yeah, it's a cheap guitar, part of the FirstAct line of entry-level instruments, something to buy the kid who wants to try being a rock star without putting a bunch of money into it. If the kid quits, you're not out several hundred or thousand bucks.

This one--the Overload BB391--originally shipped as an all-in-one set: guitar, gig bag (basically a nylon 'soft case'), cord, some picks, and a small amp, all for about $125.00.

What I got was just the guitar and the gig bag. I played a bit with it at the store and liked it. Once I got it home and plugged it into my Crate GFX-120 amp, I loved it. I immediately nicknamed it "The Tux" for its clean black & white finish.

This is the first humbucker axe I've played or owned, so I wasn't prepared for how much hotter its output is than either of my other electrics.

The BB391 kind of looks like an early-60s slab-bodied double-cutaway Gibson Melody Maker; it's got a lightweight poplar body and maple neck with rosewood fretboard and 22 frets (which could use some filing along the ends). Access to the upper frets is about average for a bolt-on neck.

Overall finish is neat and clean, with properly-finished edges (I've seen some Samick guitars for three times as much, but with crappy-looking, splintered cut edges around the pickup openings and other fit & finish issues). Since the body's a simple slab with rounded-over edges, there's no arm or rib relief, but I don't even notice the difference.

The only playability issues I had with the axe is that the upper strap peg's position makes the guitar want to hang horizontally. I ended up adding another peg on the lower side of the heel. This limits access to the upper frets a little, but tilting the neck up a little takes care of that.

The other problem was string height; each saddle is individually adjusted with a pair of small Allen-head setscrews. No problem in adjustment (I dropped each at least 0.10"), but the screws should be either dressed with a file to cut the sharp edges or cut down so they can sit flush with the saddle tops. Aside from that, they don't interfere with palm-muting.

There's a lone humbucker in the bridge position and single volume and tone pots. The control knobs are a bit loose, but don't get in the way. The white-on-black numbers are easily read against the guitar's white plastic pickguard. Hardware's all nickel.

Hooked up to my Zoom 505 guitar effects box and the Crate amp, this little beast does a passable impersonation of James Hetfield's crunchy Metallica tone ("...And Justice for All") or Dimebag Darrell's insane harmonics ("Cowboys From Hell").

Zoom: default A1 patch
Amp: Bass & Treble all the way up, mids all the way down.

Keeping the same Zoom and Crate settings and turning the guitar's volume down gets you a good '80s hair-metal sound, like in Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock."

Changing the Zoom and Amp settings around, you quickly learn that it's loud and bright even with its volume almost at "0"--it doesn't like to mellow out.

Cutting the Zoom out altogether and setting the amp's "dirty" channel around a little got me a Texas-fried tone suitable for Billy Gibbons, but the Tux stays loud and bright no matter what.

If you're guitar-hunting, keep an eye open for this one. It's a surprisingly good axe for the price.

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