mercredi 11 septembre 2013

Bill Lawrence L500-XL

Some kind of monster

Never a pickup has been so controversial, subject to love, hate and dispute.
Aside the controversy that arose by 2k between the two Bill Lawrence brand former co-owners, which is indeed the pickup succes result, let´s get focused on the L500-XL and its unique sounding.

My 1995 Cort Sterling with total pickup upgrade :
DiMarzio Virtual PAF neck DP196
Fender Tex Mex bridge
Bill Lawrence USA L500XL
My Washburn Culprit bought in 2007, came with
the Bill Lawrence USA L500 XL. Note the reverse
position with the hot coil on neck side to get more
string amplitude then power. Neck pickup is
Seymour Duncan 59' for a full Dime setup.
Twin blades humbucker

First this pickup has a singular design making it identifiable at first view, it´s a humbucker but having  one blade per bobin instead of six classical round poles.
The blade design has been made famous since then with single coil format humbuckers as the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails.


Sharp sound

The L500-XL sound follows two characteristics :
 - Very high output
-  Medium high shifted sound
It gives a brutal sounding, the clean sound is almost a caricature of very high output stratocaster, but when feeding a hi-gain pre-amp, it bumps out unrevealed harmonics, givind a specific and agressive sounding.
Although it´s brutal, it´s also very clear, articulate and accurate because the high power acts on a norrow frequencies range, those the ear is sensitive to, then making a violently audible sound.
The most famous guitarist who endorsed this pickup is Dimebag Darell, who wrote the bigest stories of the L500 : Cowboy from hell with Pantera.

The guitar that made it famous
Dimebag Darell's "Dime from hell" w/ Bill Lawrence USA L-500XL

Nowadays three different flavours of the pickup are available :

-  Bill Lawrence USA L-500XL : The original
This is the pickup issued by the original Bill Lawrence factory, Dimebag bought at StewMac and used in his Dime from hell. It is identifible with its twin thin and flat blades, a design that appeared in 1984, before the blades were thicker and slightly curved.
It has the dramatic characteristics it´s famous for. It won't fit everybody's taste but i's unique. My image for this is lemon juice syndrom, either you hate or love it, but in the second case any other choice seems dull sweety.
In the 90's it became the OEM pickup for signature models from Jackson and Washburn for Dave Mustaine, Dimebag Darell or Nuno Bettencourt this later using the 500L version with lower output.
Deprecated as "fake" by its designer Willi Stich who left Bill Lawrence company in 1984, a campaign widely supported by devot worshippers in forums, this pickup is the one that built the whole history and is the premium choice.

- Wilde L-500 : The consensual 
Willi Stich, the original designer of the pickup went back to affairs in 1996 with the boom of the internet. After the dispute that ended in 2007 with a court trial giving the whole brand rights to Bill Lawrence USA , he finally branded his products as Wilde and produces his version of the pickup where he introduced changes making the beast a more consensual pickup.
This pickup includes further modification gathered by its conceptor from his OBL, Gibson and Fender experience. On second hand market there are variation of its characteristics depending on the creator mood of the moment.
It combines the high output with a wider frequency response, making it more versatile, but missing the radical sound of the original. Nuno Bettencourt is reknown to use this one.
It's also known as B&B for Bill&Becky from the first name of Stich (renamed Lawrence) couple .

- Seymour Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker : The ultimate

When Dimebag endorsed Seymour Duncan, he could rely on the huge experience of the company. His wish for a model signature gave a fantastic result. Dime had indeed several different pickups on his guitar from the stock BL USA to specific prototypes made by Willi Stich. This later argues for a reverse engineering assuming the Dimebucker is just a copy of the former.
But Seymour Duncan went through a specific research process giving  Dime different prototypes and adjusting up to get the one that became the Dimebucker.
The Dimebucker is in the end very close to the original USA, slightly punchier and thicker, to sumarize a L500-XXL !

Wich one sounds the best ?
Up to your choice here is the test everybody was waiting (not my work).

A German made OBL
This German brand is Willi Stich creation in 1986 after he left his american company two years before. It stands for Original Bill Lawrence. I suppose the production was done by Hahn in Germany as this trademark submision from 1987 supports. The production ran till 1989.

A Gibson's made OBL after they bought the name to their
contractor Willi Stich

Later in 1991 W.L Stich  sold the OBL name to Gibson as he was contracting for them. Gibson produced then OBL pickups for Epiphone midrange guitars, users quoted them as valuable hot pups.

Those OBL has also been subject to Willi Stich disparagement after he sold the brand and make to Gibson.
OBL trademark ended in 2008.

An Epiphone NightHawk with OBL Pups. Gorgeous.
I'll make a post on the Bill Lawrence history later on. Reason is I discovered a fabulous pickup regarding the different Duncan or Dimarzio I already got and this marvel was deprecated in many forums against any logic.
The OBL case gives a clue on deprecation capacities of some of the protagonists.

"Hurl your calumnies boldly, something is sure to stick." (Sir Francis Bacon - De Augmentis Scientiarum - 1623).

lundi 2 septembre 2013

News of the world (Queen) - 1977

J'ai tous les albums de Queen, difficile d'en choisir un, pourtant le plus tout c'est celui-là, pour les chansons d'abord.
Les tubes : avec We are the champions et We will rock you ce sont les deux plus connus du groupe Anglais.
Les perles meconnues : spread your wings est la plus belle des chansons de Queen, It´s late est puissante, complexe avec plusieurs partie, mais peut etre trop classique pour renverser comme Bohemian Rhapsody. A elles deux elle justifieraient un album à coté de compositions plus banales.
Les stylées : Queen a toujours eu des compos collant fort a des styles de facon quasi caricaturale comme Seaside Rendez vous ou bring back that Leroy Brown sur A Night at the opera. Ici ce sont Melacholy Blues, Sleeping on the sidewalk et Who needs you qui le font mais sans caricature et avec classe et talent, c'est du Queen.
All dead est magnifique, simple, le texte touche , le piano est leger, un grand moment de l'album.
Les dures : sheer heart attack, fight from the inside, getdown make love apportent la touche energique avec une atmosphere etrange pour la derniere.
La pochette est la plus originale de toutes celles du groupe, tirée d'une oeuvre du graphiste de science-fiction frank Kelly Freas.
Le nom est un clin d'oeil au tabloid Anglais qui revela les scandales du pays, et succede
J'ai decouvert Queen par l'album Jazz qui reste mon album de reference pour l'oeuvre du groupe, et mis a part le poster, j'avoue que News of the world est meilleur sur le reste des points.

dimanche 1 septembre 2013

Stadium Arcadium (Red Hot Chili Peppers) - 2006

Stadium Arcadium ce n'est pas un mais deux albums. Le groupe a une discographie impressionante mais ils arrivent à faire toujours mieux, c'est assez exceptionnel cette montée de niveau permanente dans le monde du rock, surtout apres deux décennies. Il ya eu la mort du premier guitariste Hilel Slovak, le depart et le retour du second guitariste John Frusciante dont c'est le dernier avec le groupe.

On pourra toujours critiquer le virage pop depuis Californication, mais des chansons comme Turn it again ou Especialy in Michigan sont fortes, le niveau de l'abum est élevé et il y a deux galettes Mars la rouge et Venus la bleue.

Cort Sterling S3000

My first guitar.

When I started to play guitar for good, taking some lessons back in 99, I had no idea of the different guitar brand existing, so my criteria was the look along with the price.

Internet auctions were also starting and I discovered there some models, a cheap second hand guitars would be my choice.

I like a lot the stratocaster shape, i got a store catalog coming along with a tab magazine where several brands fit my taste : jackson PS, ibanez RG, yamaha Pacifica and those Cort S series having this twisted body and long sharp horns I loved that much.

My other wish was the Floyd Rose. It looks that good, it makes the guitar agressive whatever it does, I even didn´t know what or why, but it was a must. A friend first lent me a Charvette with a Floyd, I didn´t like indeed, but the machine gun impression it gave went over it.

Auctions made the thing well, after I tried a Cort S2550 in a store I found the same but with a Floyd Rose and HSH pickups instead of HSS, It was my Cort Sterling, almost half price the equivalent. model in store.

As a cheap first guitar I tried several changes, mainly pickups and cabling, pots for push-pull, and the   tuners machine head that broke for excellent Schaller.

It´s a very good guitar indeed, very light, good sounding, the neck shape is just perfect : thin, wide, mild radius (I think 14"), thin very hard frets (almost no mark after 15 years !!!).

A very good Lo-Pro Floyd Rose

The Floyd Rose is a Lo-Pro, for Low Profile, the fine tuners activates specific levers, not the nut screw blocking the strings as the standard Floyd does. It results in a flatter bridge giving a smooth shape to the guitar.
Having both types of Floyd, the Low-Pro is also more precise in the fine tuning because of the specific lever having a flat profile to the tuning screw, while the standard has a cylindric profile as it´s a screw itself, the tuning screw splips on the round surface giving a variable action as you turn.

Some kind of mahogany

The body make has been a mystery for long. My first post in Harmony Central stated It would be alder with no more clue.
It´s for sure lightwood, much lighter than my heavy ash Fender Lead II, it´s pale and smooth as I've routed the sides of the central pickup routing to fit a Seymour Duncan Hot Rail. Then It made me think of basswood.
I finally solved this question thanks to an ad sold on eBay about sterling series, this is made of Kalantas.
Calantas is a Toona timber, aka Philippines Mahogany, a cheaper alternative to true sweetenia Mahogany. Note that Philippines mahogany reference is used also for shorea timber, a teak like wood used for garden furniture.
Thus the mystery is not totally cleared yet.

Pickups and wiring

The original wiring features a 5 way switch, intermediate positions 2 & 4 split the humbucker coils. The tone pot has a push pull that split the coils of the humbuckers used alone.
I added a second push pull to explore more pickup combinations, it´s just a research use, no real application when playing, I've finally found my wiring diagram requiring a superswitch though.