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New Koll: The Lefty MIDI Tornado!

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Orren, May 18, 2006.

  1. Orren

    Orren Member

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    I have officially joined the ranks of Koll Guitar owners!

    I'm sure many of you know how difficult it is to find the left-handed guitars. Saul Koll and I spent quite a while spec'ing out exactly what I wanted, and the best way to make it happen for a price I could afford.

    We used as our basis for tweaking Koll's Tornado" model. Saul Koll was an absolute pleasure to work with--communicative, informative, friendly. He never made me feel like an idiot for not understanding something, or for some of my outlandish requests. And he was a willing conspirator with the unusual electronics that I wanted in this guitar, and the restriction that it be entirely passive--I'm not a fan of batteries.

    I present to you my new Koll Guitar, which I've dubbed the "Lefty MIDI Tornado!" I love the fact that the Tornado shape hints at my favorite vintage guitars Les Paul Junior, Fender Jaguar, etc. But the tuners, extra switches, piezo wires, and 13-pin output add a more modern, industrial edge to it, in my opinion. :)

    [​IMG]

    Ok, here are some stats:
    * Mahogany body
    * Mahogany neck
    * Metallic silverburst finish
    * Thin neck, 24.75" scale
    * LSR locking tuners
    * Self-lubricating nut
    * Gretsch style "neo classical" fingernail side-inlay
    * Set neck

    The electronics in this guitar are not particularly common.

    [​IMG]
    
    * One 3-way pickup selector switch
    * Two TV Jones PowerTron pickups (in humbucker-sized housing)
    * Wilkinson Tremolo
    * Graph Tech GHOST piezo/Hexpander system
    * Three Volume knobs: neck pickup, bridge pickup, and synth volume
    * One 3-position rotary knob for 13-pin output: selects between synth only, synth + guitar, guitar only
    * Two 3-position tone mini-switches

    The 3-position tone mini-switches are really a dream. I'm not a fan of tone knobs in general, since I only really set them full open, closed, or in the middle, and I have a sense that the very presence of a tone knob affects the signal. I like the Gretsch tone switches better, but you only get a master tone switch, and unfortunately, they often tend to be "mud switches" more than anything else. In the Lefty MIDI Tornado, I have a separate tone switch for each pickup, and Saul and Tom Jones (TV Jones himself) worked on getting unique and good sounding capacitor settings for each pickup.

    For both pickups, the middle position is wide open (tone control is out of the circuit). In the neck pickup, the two positions basically act as a treble cut at around 1240Hz and 2400Hz respectively. In the bridge pickup, the two positions act as a treble cut at around 1160Hz and 1440Hz. Between the 3-way pickup selector and the two 3-way tone knobs, coupled with the humbucker-like but still FilterTron spanky PowerTron pickups, this guitar has a lot of tonal colors!

    The Ghost 13-pin system also works very well; it is faster than the Roland magnetic Hex system I've had in guitars previously, and powered by the 13-pin cable. The trade-off in keeping the system from using battery power is that I didn't get the AcoustiPhonic preamp for using piezo guitar sounds, but I don't use them, so no loss.

    I got this guitar while The Gear Page was down, so I've had it for about 3-weeks now. And I'm still in love. :) I highly recommend Saul Koll's workmanship, as well as customer service. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him to anyone looking for a custom instrument.

    Thanks for looking!

    Orren

    PS--a few more pics up at http://homepage.mac.com/orrenm/PhotoAlbum10.html
     
  2. webb

    webb Member

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    WOW! Beautiful guitar.
     
  3. gassyndrome

    gassyndrome Member

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    Kinda reminds me of how a LP Silverburst would look if George Jetson played. The combo of that finish and those pickups is really tasty! :AOK
     
  4. Crazyquilt

    Crazyquilt Guitar Dad Silver Supporting Member

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    Very, very cool.

    Saul never fails to impress. And I really like the various doodads you have going on there. MIDI guitar is one of those things that I'm always both fascinated by, and wary of, just because it's such a whole new world.
     
  5. iainmc

    iainmc Member

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    while i wouln't order a guitar with those specs (well for one, i am a left playing righty...), i get it & its awesome!

    welcome to the kollub!

    /i
     
  6. Frater B

    Frater B Member

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    Nice work Saul!
    Congrats on the new Koll! I'm sure it plays as nice as it looks!
    I really like that silverburst! :AOK
     
  7. garyrogue

    garyrogue Gold Supporting Member

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  8. hemlock

    hemlock Guest

    Wow! That siverburst is great. I'm really pumped about ordering mine soon. Have you had a guitar with the Wilkinson trem before?
     
  9. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    Very nice. What kind of devices (product name) can you plug the midi into?
     
  10. Chevelle

    Chevelle Member

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  11. Orren

    Orren Member

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    Yeah. I have a Patrick Eggle Berlin Pro V that has a Wilkinson Trem. I like them. Set up properly, they float a bit, so you can raise the pitch as well as lower it, and you can dive bomb and return to pitch and still keep tune. I think combined with locking tuners they make a really useable and solid combination. And I've not personally felt they "rob sustain" or anything that you hear about other trem bridges.

    That said, I've never tried a Hipshot bridge, which I've heard are excellent. And apparently, now they make their bridge lefty, too!

    Orren
     
  12. Orren

    Orren Member

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    The output on the guitar isn't actually a 5-pin MIDI output, it is a 13-pin "MIDI ready" output. In other words, the 13 pins include information from the six individual strings, which are then sent to a "converter box." The converter box can send the signal to a guitar amplifier through a normal 1/4-inch instrument cable, or to a MIDI device or sound module.

    Here's a picture of it (ignore the white specs around the normal 1/4-inch jack--that's just the flash glaring off the metallic speckles. The jack has the same look as the normal silverburst in person).

    [​IMG]

    Currently, the Guitar-to-MIDI controller I own is the Roland GI-20. I moved from the old Axon AX100 to the Roland GI-20 because I mostly do sequencing, and the Roland GI-20 has a USB port, so no need for any MIDI interface.

    Interestingly, I just was sent the Axon AX100mkII to review, so I'll get to try that out. The Axon AX100mkII has its own GM synthesizer on board, so it can both convert the 13-pin signal to MIDI and play its own synth sounds. (you could get this as an option with the older Axon, but I didn't).

    You can also plug the 13-pin output into actual "guitar synthesizers" from Roland, such as the GR-33, GR-20, and the forthcoming GR-something else. ;)

    Yamaha also makes a converter box, called the G-50. It uses an older version of the Axon technology.

    Roland also makes the VG-88, and some VG-series amps, which take the 13-pin signal and use them for guitar and amplifir DSP modeling, instead of MIDI. The advantage of this is that the VG- units can operate on each string independently, so you can, for example, set up a guitar simulation to be a drop D tuning by just detuning the E string, not the rest. You can think of the VG- series as being a Variax and Vetta in one, if you want.

    RMC pickups also makes a Fanout box, that takes the 13-pin MIDI output and can send it to both a guitar-to-MIDI converter, and split the signal into 6 different analog outputs (as well as summing outputs). So in addition to sending the entire guitar to an amp, you can send each string out for its own processing--and all are active at once. You can run just the E string into high gain amp, for example, for some heavy distortion without the mud of the rest of the strings, and the regular summed output into a Fender set clean.

    I think that about covers it. MIDI guitar is an area of exploration that is never extremely popular, but for those of us who are really into sequencing and not particularly good keyboard players, it's a really great way to input notes. And I have used a previous 13-pin rig live, to play keyboard strings behind screaming guitars, and in one case, to play a synth line instead of a guitar line, and its quite fun. I think it's an interesting comment that the two genres that seem most into MIDI guitar are fusion...and industrial. Both trying to expand the range of the electric guitar, one for the sake of musical performance, the other for the sake of noize and texture (hopefully in a musical context!). And yes, I'm the industrial guy. ;)

    Orren
     
  13. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    Looks great!

    Tone report on the pickups please!
     
  14. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    Looks Splatt approved to me. :)
     
  15. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    What an awesome guitar! :)
     
  16. JingleJungle

    JingleJungle Member

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    Kudos to you and Saul for a great project!!
    I love basically every one of your specs :AOK !!

    JJ
     
  17. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    Wow thanks for the comprehensive response. I didn't know the 13 pin was universal. Enjoy.
     
  18. Antroid

    Antroid Member

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    That's so great! I'd love to try it out. Especially the midi-thing as I've never tried one. Lefties are so hard to find...
     
  19. Orren

    Orren Member

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    TVJones PowerTrons sound to me like something between a "PAF" style humbucker and a classic Gretsch FilterTron. They have more mids than my Gretsch FilterTrons, a hotter output, but more "spank" if that makes sense. What I really like about them is that if you drench them in a über-high gain amp, they'll sound mean and heavy like a PAF, but the attack of the note is a bit more prounced, due to its FilterTron roots. :)

    The 3-way tone switches are really awesome. I can basically get the "woman tone" on the neck with the tone switch set to its more drastic cut, and I get get a nice warm bridge tone also. The second positions on each give me a great "half-way" sound, not muddy, but warmer. What is really interesting to me is that when I have both PowerTrons selected (3-way selecter switch in the middle, both volumes full up) depending on the switch position it sounds like two single coils!

    I really can't complain at all. It's a very versitile guitar, far more than I'd imagined it would be when Saul and I were spec'ing it out. :)

    Orren
     
  20. Orren

    Orren Member

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    Yessir—I have to thank Splatt for turning me on to these fantastic guitars!! :AOK

    Orren
     

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