Saturday, June 18, 2016

Don Young - Founder and Owner of National Resophonic Instrument Passes Away at Age 63

From and the National Resophonic website

Don Young - May 8, 1953 - June 15, 2016
“The world lost a kind and generous man last night with the passing of National’s co-founder, Don Young. As a musician and resonator guitar aficionado, Don enjoyed sharing his knowledge of resonator history with friends and co-workers.  He will be greatly missed by all those lucky enough to have known him.  His trademark engineer’s cap symbolized his love of trains. Don Young is survived by his wife and three daughters."

Don Young with Engineer cap

The company National Resophonic was formed in 1989 by Young and McGregor Gaines, in a Californian garage.

Don Young and McGregor Gaines
These men measured old resonator instruments of all makes and designs, and produced reproductions under the “National” brand name and trade mark, as was originally used by the National String Instrument Corporation for the first resonator instruments.

National Resophonic Style O
In 1990 a factory was purchased in San Luis Obispo, California and is still located at this site.

Since its inception, National Reso-Phonic Guitars is a manufacturer of resonator guitars and other resonator instruments including mandolins, ukuleles and 12 string guitars.

Their current production is over 1,000 instruments per year, representing more than 50 different models.

In addition to manufacturing new instruments, they offer a repair service capable of restoring almost any vintage National guitar to original condition.

In 2008, Young and Eric Smith, an employee of the company since 1991, purchased McGregor Gaines’ interest in the company.

Young reportedly sold his interest in 2014 and retired.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Vox Starstream Now and Then

2016 Vox Starstream Type-1
Vox Musical Instruments are famous for their amplifiers. Back during the Jennings/Thomas period the company attempted to put together a line up of guitars. These were made in Italy by the EKO and Crucianelli companies, but were overshadowed by their wonderful amplifiers. Some of these guitars from that period were very interesting and futuristic and still quite collectible.

2012 Vox Apache Travel Guitar
Vox tried unsuccessfully to resurrect their guitars a few years ago. But now the Vox Company has come up with a new instrument with an old name. The Vox Starstream.

2016 Vox
The Vox Starstream Type-1is a unique modeling guitar that incorporates a new system called AREOS-D. This highly developed DSP processor that powers the on-board electronics to produce classic electric and acoustic guitar sounds from the guitars magnetic and piezo pickups. This includes traditional volume, tone and pickup selectors and a control module to alter the instruments 27 different sounds, including electric and acoustic guitar six, twelve string and banjo sounds as well as synth and sitar sounds. The DSP was developed by the same designer that worked for Line 6.

Vox Starstream Type 1
The guitars shape is very unique since it has an electric guitar shape that is housed within a very unique frame. Vox states “the shape of the body and frame are based on advanced ergonomic design practices that conform the instrument to your body in a way no wooden guitar can.”

The guitars body is sculpted from mango wood, while the neck is made of maple. The neck is topped with a 22 fret rosewood fretboard. The six-in-a-line headstock included sealed die cast machine heads.This guitar is topped with twin Vox XLM humbucking pickups and six piezo in the bridge saddle.

The bridge and saddle are a vibrato unit. Below them are the tone, volume and pickup switch.

Behind the bridge/saddle assembly is the control module that provides access to the tone shaping parameters which include Drive and Reverb. The control module is powered by four Alkaline AA batteries or four Rechargeable Ni-MH AA batteries. The control module has 3 banks of nine sounds which include two user banks to store your favorite sounds.

Although the Starstream Type 1 was set to sell in the spring of 2016 starting at $699 USD, I have not found this guitar for sale in the USA at this time. In Britain the suggested retail is £790. Anderton's has it for sale for £590. 

'68 Vox V269
In 1968, the guitar fad was declining, but the Vox company, JMI,  and it's USA counterpart were still producing their incredible amplifiers and guitars. Among these was the six string Vox V269 Starstream and the twelve string Vox V270 Starstream XII.  Both were amazing instruments that were loaded with all the bells and whistles a guitarist of that era would need.

These guitars had the Vox teardrop body with one unique F-hole on the upper bout. The bodies were hollow inside. The V269 six string model had binding around the top and bottom of the guitars body, while the V270 was unbound.

'68 Vox V270

Both instruments had bound maple necks with rosewood fretboards and block inlays. The logo VOX was embossed in gold letters on the black headstock veneer along with vine design.

Both guitars came with what are described as twin Fero-sonic pickups. The truly unique factor that set these guitars apart were the built-in effects.

Vox V270 - E-tuner
A slider switch on the upper side of the guitar turned on a transistorized oscillating circuit called an E-tuner. This seems simplistic today, but in the mid 1960’s there were no digital tuners. All that was available was an expensive strobe tuner, a pitch pipe or a tuning fork.

The guitars had a single potentiometer that functioned as a volume control for both pickups and two potentiometers that served as individual tone controls.

Controls for V269 & V270
A chrome plate on the lower bout housed the controls for the instruments effects, which included Treble/Bass booster control, which included a slider switch and a volume control.

The next control was a distortion module that had a similar set up; an on/off slider switch and a knob to control intensity. And finally there was a repeater switch and a control for the speed of the repeats. This control was a holdover from the days that the company sold organs. Perhaps the best way to describe this effect is to consider the banjo sound in the Hollie’s song, Stop, Stop, Stop All the Dancing.

V270 Palm Wah-Wah and switch
The last effect was a palm operated Wah-Wah. This was turned on by a switch on the upper side of the bridge pickup. This effect gave off the crystal clear tone of the famous Vox Clyde McCoy Wah-Wah.

Vox V269 Vibrato

The model V269 came with a Bigsby-style vibrato unit, while the V270 had a simple bar bolted to the body to secure the strings. There was a chrome cover that went over this bar.

A large circular black pad was on the backside of these guitars. This snapped on similar to the pads found on some Gretsch guitars. This pad was actually the access cover to the guitars interior and needed to be removed to change the 9 volt battery that operated the instruments effects.

A friend of mine owned a V270 twelve string and it was a pleasure to play. The strings were set up properly; not too far off the fretboard. The effects worked beautifully. Especially the palm operated wah-wah. Both instruments have not been made since 1970 when the Whirlpool corporation purchased the assets of Vox USA. They are still available through online auction and sellers.

Click on the links under the photos for sources and the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publishing (text only)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Relish Guitars

Aristides model 070
There are some very interesting and innovative guitars coming out of Northern Europe. Last year I wrote about Aristides Guitars that are built in the Netherlands.

Versoul Raya 6

I also did an article on Versoul guitars that are manufactured in Finland.

Relish Guitars
Now I have encountered some exquisite and unique guitars being built in Lucerne, Switzerland with the unusual name of Relish Guitars.

Relish Guitars - Jane and Mary

There are two versions of these unique instruments; Jane and Mary. Both are manufactured with a similar body shape, but out of different materials.

Relish Guitar Founders
Relish Guitars are a venture that was started by partners Pirmin Giger and Silvan Kung who are living their dream of designing and building an exceptional and unusual guitar, by taking a similar approach that artisans took with historical Swiss watchmaking technology.

The Jane Model
Jane’s body (the guitar) is based on a milled aluminum frame which serves several functions. The strings attach directly to this frame which enhances their sustain.

The maple neck is bolted directly to the aluminum frame and center bar. The bridge is also attached to the bar. This further adds to the guitars sustain. So although the guitar body is essentially hollow the way the frame and neck are engineered, it provides the resonating factor of a solid body instrument.

The frame also acts has a stable housing for the components, which allows easy access to the guitars inner-workings including swapping out the pickups and changing the battery.

The pickups are connect to a circuit board by means of gold plated connectors that simply unscrew in the event you want to change pickups. Relish Guitars will add the connectors and cables to any aftermarket pickup you send to them.

Magnetic LED touch switch 
The circuit board operates the unique LED switching system, which is powered by the battery. Instead of the usual Switchcraft style toggle switch, this guitar comes with two LED’s on the front of the body. By merely touching one or both the pickups go off or on.

The guitars interior work is pristine.

The Jane guitar comes with standard and passive volume and tone potentiometers and twin passive Relish Bucker XV pickups, which are designed and made in-house.

Jane's aluminum frame
Sandwiched above and below the frame are two sheets of 7 layer wood veneer, that are available in walnut, ash, or cherry. The front and sides attach directly to the aluminum frame.

Back cover with guitar pick wedged in

The veneer cover on the back is routed out and has a second “door” that has a parallel shape to the body.


This door is held in place by magnets and is easily removed with a guitar pick.

The neck is made of solid maple and the headstock comes with Schaller machine heads.

Woven Bamboo fretboard
The fretboard is constructed of woven dark bamboo. This material is harder than most fretboard woods and is a sustainable product. It is topped with stainless steel fretwire and has 24 frets. There are no fret markers.

Schaller tuners - resin nut

This guitar is slightly over the 25 1/2” for its scale (650mm) and has a 10” radius. The nut is made of resin. The neck has a two-way adjustable truss rod.

A Hipshot adjustable bridge/saddle assembly that allows the strings to attach directly to the guitars frame.

I have to hand it to Relish Guitars for coming up with such a unique body shape. This double cutaway guitar is not a copy of anything else on the market. The Jane model comes in walnut, ash, cherry, blond flamed, white, gray/black and Bordeaux.

Mary is much different from Jane, as Mary comes with a solid alder frame that is milled on a CNC machine.

The top and back are made of milled plywood that attaches to the alder frame by use of bolts that utilize large o-rings to prevent any vibration.

Mary's frame

Unlike the Jane model, the entire back side of the Mary guitar is removable to access the pickup connectors if there is a need to change them out and also to attach the strings to the tone block on the underside of the Hipshot bridge/saddle.

The maple neck is bolted to the alder or ash frame by means of 4 bolts and a metal plate and is hidden away beneath the instruments back veneer.

This guitars neck is topped with a fretboard made of dark woven bamboo  with stainless steel frets. There are no position markers on the fretboard.

The Relish Mary guitar
Mary comes with twin Relish Bucker XV pickups that are made by the company. The pickups are controlled with a 3-way blade switch.  There is a single volume and a single tone potentiomers with chromed and knurled knobs. The headstock has a veneer that matches the colour of the body.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)