A guitar strap is an essential piece of kit for those who prefer to stand whilst playing their instruments. The choice off the shelf is wide, from faux leather, through ‘reconstituted’ to full hide, padded or unpadded, with prices ranging from £15 to £50. But if you’re looking for something more unique and individual, Randy Straps can make you a bespoke premium leather strap to your very own design. Needless to say, it’s not the cheapest way to hang your axe – prices range from £30 to £500, but it does offer the opportunity of getting the padding where you want it, with the ideal width and length and with a design that is totally unique. Ours was made up as a fully padded, black 3-inch wide quality hide strap with a harlequin design created by the maker, Sarah Rand. Attached to a GS1, it proved the perfect partner, distributing the weight of the guitar evenly and comfortably over the shoulders, while in performance its striking design turned quite a few heads! Randy Straps has come up with some extraordinary designs – the Navajo is adorned with beads and feathers. And each strap gets it’s own certificate and identifying number – it’s almost as if you own a work of art. Actually, with these beautifully crafted straps – you do! For more go to www.randystraps.com

Over recent years Seymour Duncan pickups have become the benchmark for “off the peg” models in both build and signal quality, with the JB model TM becoming the world’s most popular humbucker. The current production line JB and its sister Jazz model are still wound in the same way as they were in the early days, but with modern updates for today’s discerning guitarists, such as four conductor lead wire, sand-cast magnets, polycarbonate bobbins and short legged bottom plates.

However, for one year only, Seymour Duncan are offering a special 35th Anniversary JB & Jazz set that will have all the quality components of the earliest JB and Jazz models, such as vintage single conductor wire, roughcast Alnico V bar magnets, butyrate bobbins and long legged bottom plates – with a laser engraved 35th Anniversary logo! Needless to say, all the traditional sonic qualities of those early pickups are in there including great sustain, smooth distortion, rich harmonics and that extraordinary clarity for which Seymour

Duncan products are rightly famed. So if your looking to capture that classic SD tone or go for that much needed ‘upgrade’, we recommend that you get your skates on, as these two beauties are likely to sell like proverbial ‘hot cakes.’ For more go to www.seymourduncan.com

The Patriot Custom is one of those instruments that captures the imagination even before you pick it up and plug it in. Beautifully finished, with a 5 ply white/black binding, this highly individual guitar comes with a shallow ‘C’ set mahogany neck and a deep carved flame maple cap on a select mahogany body. The flame maple is spectacularly repeated on the crown headstock with a cut Michael Kelly insignia and Grover cased tuners, while a graptech 42mm nut heads a highly polished ebony fretboard with abalone block inlays and 22 medium jumbo frets. The adjustable ‘hardtail’ sits behind a fully adjustable TonePros locking bridge and there are two Rockfield SWC ‘coil tapped’ pickups mounted directly into the body, a recessed three way toggle switch and similarly sunken dual position tone and volume controls.

Slung over the shoulder, it’s immediately apparent that the Patriot is not a lightweight instrument and is in many ways very similar in overall weight and balance to a Les Paul. The 1 3/4 inch deep body with the 1/2 inch carve to the top makes for a full, rich tone, which together with the tightly set neck (like the Les Paul) offers the potential for massive sustain. The shallow C profile neck is superfast and the marble like ebony board plays like a dream – the D’Addario 10s on the 24 3/4 inch scale giving a near perfect string weight to string tension ratio.

Plugged into the house Peavey Studio 12 the specially designed Rockfield SWC coil tapped humbucker pickups were a revelation. Built using over-wound USA Alnico 5 magnets and USA wire, they not only provide a classic full humbucker tone, but by lifting the push-pull pots on the tone and volume controls, you get that edgy single coil vintage PAF sound that opens up a completely different sound palette.

With an RRP just shy of £500, we reckon that this American designed, Korean built guitar not only offers outstanding value for money, but also raises the bar in the sound and playability stakes in the sub-£500 market.

For more go to www.rosetti.co.uk

Developed some four years ago by slide enthusiast and tribotechnology scientist Eric Ebner at the University of Texas in Austin, these plastic coated bars are deservedly finally finding a wider audience. The Tribotone Bar is a development of the Manoloff tone bar of 1937, which professed to reduce the un-musical string noise that the standard steel bars produced. Unfortunately the Manoloff suffered from poor quality construction and a lack of modern plastics technology, so that the surface quickly deteriorated, rendering the bar unplayable after a very short period of time.

Ebner’s research into and use of engineering plastics, has meant that he has been able to develop a steel core bar that would harness the use of high density plastics, making the surface of the bar ultra-hard wearing. He states that the resulting bar benefits from low friction for fast fretting, reduced hiss and grind, offers good note separation and definition and gives an incredible full-bodied tone.

We test drove our medium weight B326 straight out of its neat little plastic case on the upgraded Recording King Lap Steel, putting it through the clean channel of an early Peavey trans-tube Studio 12 – and did it deliver! Apart from being easy to grip and warm to the touch, there was no audible string noise, each note was clean and clear and the tone was to die for. Ebner’s currently working on a bottleneck design – we’ll keep you posted. For more go to www.tribotone.com

We’ve reviewed and tested many a Chinese built guitar and have almost always found that their Achilles heel is in the electrics. The build quality of Asian instruments has been getting better and better over recent years, but their makers have not applied the same rigorous quality control methods to the electrical components.

When we were asked to look at the RG31, it seemed the perfect candidate for that ‘upgrade’. Coming in at the ridiculously low RRP of £140, it has a “one-piece” nut-to-heel Nato (Asian mahogany) squared neck and body which is “strung through”, giving maximum acoustic resonance and sustain and providing the perfect building blocks for a highly playable instrument. As might be expected, the fitted P90 is brittle and lacks any real warmth and depth, suggesting that it is a ceramic rather than an alnico model, while the ‘pots’ on the tone and volume knobs follow style, with very little change between 12 and 6 and then a massive boost between there and midnight!

We changed the cheap ‘pots’ and immediately replaced them with a pair of quality American products from www.allparts.uk.com. Having sorted the controls, we contacted Trevor Wilkinson Designs at www.whamster.com and bought in one of their superb P90 Alnico V neck pickups with enough bark to blow your head off, while at the same time having that renowned smoothness and warmth.

The effect was immediate. The instrument was almost unrecognisable soundwise from its original incarnation. Putting a neck pickup in the bridge position made the sound sweeter and less aggressive and with the new pot fitted to the tone control, we could go from a cool jazz sound to a wailing, shrill Cooder-type blues – and everything in between. And a properly staggered linear style pot for the volume meant that we no longer had to dial in to around seven to get any kind of serious response.

With a total outlay of just over £200, our upgraded RG31 is an instrument that will hold its corner with the best of them. And just in case you were wondering… we couldn’t resist fitting a couple of period 1930s-style bakelite control knobs!

For more go to www.westsidedistribution.com

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