Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gear Review: The Tux, pt. 2

So I've had the FirstAct Overload BB391--or simply "The Tux" because it's fat and black and white like a penguin--for more than a year (see first review here). Plenty of time for the honeymoon phase of Guitar Acquisition Syndrome to fade away and a more analytical frame of mind to set in.

It's still a reasonably comfortable guitar, but the same things that annoyed me about it in May of 2011 are annoying today.

With its very light poplar body and maple neck, the worst issue--balance--probably can't be fixed without adding a lot of weight to the bridge end of the body. With a strap on the stock strap pins, the Tux hangs from its upper horn and wants to stay dead level. The other end of the strap has little effect. You can't shift the guitar around on your shoulder like a Strat or Les Paul to make the neck angle upward, either--all that does is move the whole guitar up.

I tried adding a strap pin to the lower side of the neck heel. While that took care of the balance issue, now the guitar wants to lean out at the top, forcing me to use my forearm to keep it in line. It's not bad enough for me to hate it (yet--but I can see it getting there), but it takes getting used to if I haven't played it in a while.

The other annoyance was much easier to fix. When I first got this guitar, the bridge saddles were set insanely high. Each saddle has a pair of Allen-head screws for setting string height. Turning them out to bring the strings down enough for playability left almost 1/4" of each screw sticking out of the saddle tops. Sharp edges. I popped them out one at a time and cut them down. Problem solved!

All in all, the Overload BB391 isn't a high-end (or even mid-level) instrument, but for sixty bucks you'll get sixty bucks of fun. Based on my sample, it's not a ready-to-play guitar right out of the box, but anyone with a little knowledge of setting one up can get it into playable shape without much effort, assuming they can live with the crappy balance.

Adding (9-11-12): to give experienced players an idea of where the upper strap pin originally sat, it's straight up from the 22nd fret. On a Les Paul Jr., it's above the 16th fret; on the Strat-like Peavey T-15 it's above the 13th (on a 20-fret neck); and on my Lotus Stratocopy it's right around the 12th. The pin I added to the Tux is below the 20th fret, which is still several inches back and down from a good balance point--and there's nowhere else to go, unless I start screwing around with the neck, or add some sort of "outrigger" to the body to extend the pin location forward a few inches. Not really worth all that much effort.

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