Koll Black Limba MIDI Tornado

Dave Klausner

I wanted a chance to live with this guitar a bit before posting a review. It's really so different from all the other guitars I own that it took a while to get my head around it. I have to say, I like it more every time I play it, which is pretty impressive. At any rate, to start with, here are the specs.

Body and neck - Black Limba
Fingerboard - Brazilian Rosewood
Pickups - Lollar P90s
Additional electronics - Graph Tech Ghost/Hexpander piezo and 13 pin
Scale length - 25"
Tuners - Steinberger gearless
Bridge - Wilkinson trem

Acoustically, this instrument is extraordinarily alive. It's loud, very harmonically complex, and notes ring cleanly and sustain for a long time. It actually came set up a little too low for my tastes. I use .010s, and frankly, when I first got it, they felt a bit like 009s, and at times I had trouble feeling the strings. I tried putting .011s on it, but ended up going back to .010s since I was shredding my fingers on bends. I did jack up the action a bit, which feels better to me (makes it easier to play slide as well). I just like to feel a little more resistance, and the way Saul set it up was too smooth!

I have a lot of amps that I use in the studio, but I have used the same basic rig for close to 25 years, based on a Pearce G1 and a few pedals and rack effects. It's kind of the great equalizer - pretty much any guitar I plug into it sounds more like the rig than the guitar. Not so with the Koll. It instantly had its own personality, and that took a while to come to grips with, as I could no longer get my "stock" sounds out of it - the ones that had been my "voice" for so long. It's hard to describe just how much more harmonic content the Koll puts out, but I was sitting there thinking - wow, it has way more lows...and highs...and mids...

I had to back off on a lot of the EQ and gain staging I had, to start to get close to the stuff I was used to. All that extra harmonic content really helped jazz up my "stock" sounds once I had them dialed in, plus I found new sounds that I can't get at all out of other guitars. I also started finding all sorts of cool new tones, especially playing with both pickups on and messing with the balance between them. Saul also wired in a push/pull switch on the tone knob that puts them out of phase, which opened up even more possibilities.

There was another thread recently, where someone was talking about how different guitars have different dynamics, and the Koll has way more tonal difference between when it's played softly and when it's played loudly than any other axe I own. It's kind of like being used to driving Cadillacs, and sitting behind the wheel of a Porsche. At first, you miss the smooth ride, but you soon begin to appreciate the performance, and how it responds to you. It's not so much that I have to adjust my technique, as it is that it's worth adjusting my technique to get the nuances the instrument can deliver.

I also remembered a lesson I learned from Hank Roberts (jazz cello player - with Bill Frisell, etc.). Hank recorded a few CDs at my old studio, and I just loved the sound of his cello, and we got to talking about it at one point. He bought it a long time ago for $25 from an old lady who had it in her closet (years later, he discovered it was an 18th century French instrument - nice find!). It's rather small bodied, and he was always trying to get this big sound out of it, but couldn't. Finally, he realized he had to let it be what it was, and embraced its sound instead of trying to impose his sonic vision on it. The result was once he explored its real palette, he found his voice in it.

I had a bit of a similar experience with the Koll, where once I let it be what it wanted to be, instead of trying to make it be more like my other guitars, I discovered it had this great personality, and I'm finding a new voice with it. It can get really mean, but can also be sweet. It can be soft and warm, or have a real sting to it. There are round tones, and angular ones. I play a lot of improv stuff, and the idea was for it to be my "go to" performance guitar, where with the tones available from the magnetic pickups, plus the synth pickup and acoustic output, I could get pretty much whatever I needed out of it on the fly. I think it definitely succeeded on that count.

At any rate, this thread is useless without pics, so here you go. They really don't do it justice, though. There is a lot of subtle flame that changes depending on the angle you look at it, and the color is a bit richer than it appears in most of the shots (the side angle one probably comes closest).


Broken Cord

I like the Steinberger straight pulls. I have them on my SG. That is a fine looking piece of wood too. Very nice.


Great design, almost precisely what I would do if I had the money and patience to wait. I am going to add the GHOST to one of my existing guitars, can you comment on the acoustic sounds and in general on its usefulness?

Member 995

Beautiful instrument. Your tonal comments sound like a description of P90 pickups - a bit more of everything.



Silver Supporting Member
That thing is gorgeous.....some really nice lookin' wood. I love what the forearm contour did to that black mineral (?) line in the wood....adds a great characteristic.

Dave Klausner

How 's the tracking:)?
I've really been largely digging into the magnetic pickups, but I did check out the synth tracking. I had to pretty radically reset the sensitivity on my converters, but it seems to work at least as well as the RMC system in my Brian Moore (which I've been happy with). I have both a Roland and an Axon, so it's nice that there is a little switch on the jack to set it for the different systems (there's a low pass filter that makes the Roland track better, but the Axon needs that off to be able to see the transients).

Great design, almost precisely what I would do if I had the money and patience to wait. I am going to add the GHOST to one of my existing guitars, can you comment on the acoustic sounds and in general on its usefulness?
I'm actually having an issue with the acoustic outputs, which Graph Tech is taking care of for me, so I can't comment on how good they are yet. My experience with the Brian Moore is that it's a credible acoustic simulation for a live situation, but a bit "snappier." Some of that may just be lighter strings than I would use on an acoustic, and some is probably just unavoidable with a piezo.


That's some bad ass black Korina... love the color and the black streaks.

Congrats on the Koll! I've only played one (mine :cool:), but it's the most unique guitar I've ever played. It's definitly not a production instrument (not even a really nice one). Unfortunatly for my checkbook and savings... I've actually been shooting some emails back and forth with Saul for a Tornado of my own. (don't tell my wife though...);)


Platinum Supporting Member
The Tornado has the most ergonomic body shape I've ever seen and is the most comfortable guitar I've ever played. Congratulations - that is one beautiful guitar.

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