33 years experience building and repairing guitars, apprenticed under Barry Lippman at East Coast Music Mall; tech for Rudy’s Repair Shop, Pensa Guitars, Toys from the Attic, Rock Island Sound, New York School of Music and Alto Music.
Weapons of choice:
JCM-800 cranked, Angry Charlie, Charvel/Strats
Pratt Institute trained, restoration specialist, Fiam’s beloved in-house music historian & vinyl expert; formerly of Rudy’s Repair Shop and Pensa Guitars.
Weapons of choice:
Vox-AC15 or Vox-AC30, Sparkle Drive, 69 Gibson SG
Just, wow. Proud to have the first of your Fiam Nightengales and happy to report that I’m knocked out.
When I got home I played it acoustically - a bunch - just enjoying the sound and vibe and feel of the thing. I wouldn’t normally refrain from plugging in, but this was always gonna be a get-to-know-you, slow-jam way into it. Firstly, with all of the buttons: the high passes, coil-taps, pickup selections, clean-up Vol. and Tone sweet spots, plus “magic button”, there’s a lot of sonic meat on the bone. I really wanted a handle on the response of the instrument acoustically before systemizing it into an amplifier, especially in light of using a unique tuning, (Fripp’s New Standard Tuning a/k/a NST, low C-G-D-A-E-G). But, after a couple of days of savory enjoyment (and admiring the paint) I did finally plug it in, and…whoa Nellie!
Over an initial three hour session I mostly explored the pickup selector across the two FiamBuckers, with their individual high-pass filters and magic button. There was so much there that I mostly forgot to muck about with the coil-taps (oops, but I was pretty absorbed in the other stuff). The pickups, fully open, were big, bold, and clear. The lows never aped the clarity of full-chord voicings across the spectrum of basses and trebles, which in this tuning are naturally more spread out than normal. The top end was assertive but never shrill or harsh, even when I tried to push it through a late-60s Princeton. There’s nice air up there all around - neck pickup too - and loads of character. When pushing the amp into overdrive (in this case a Fryette, Deliverance D120) both FiamBuckers remained detailed yet distinct. The neck pickup was creamy but not too thick, and when backed off they stayed open sounding with plenty of dynamic range still available.
What I didn’t expect were the chimier tones when backing off the volume to 7-8, esp. on the bridge pup (surprise!) with the high-pass on. I had to check to see if I was in the middle pickup position and was surprised to find I wasn’t! It occurs to me I should try it with my Vox AC15 next and see if I can get into jangly ‘Television’ territory. At another point I had the bridge FiamBucker rolled off slightly (can”t remember if it
was coil-tapped or not) with the Deliverance set to almost-into-power-amp-compression and the guitar’s treble knob near-darked (maybe at 2-3). Set that way I was getting into near strat-quack territory. In fact, there are a lot of fine-grade timbral adjustments at that end of the pot, with the high-pass filters being particularly interactive there. Lot’s to explore. I think between the NST tuning and the Nightengale concept in the pickups and wiring, I’m being offered an experience that I wouldn’t quite get elsewhere.
Oh, and the Magic Button; it’s another spanner-in-the-works. On all three of my Ronins, each magic button has its own vibe, and the Fiam version continues in that spirit. In this case you were right, there was a pretty credible acoustic vibe that was different from the Ronins. But, you know, I almost love the Magic Button more for what it does when the amp is crushing. The way the attack and timbre can be affected and shaped against a more sonically blistered environment is bliss for me. There's nothing like it. It’s a wildcard, a wildcat, and a wilderness for sure.
And that about sums it up. I’ll get into the coil-taps more soon.
Stoked and Stimulated.