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Samick Radio Ten Blues Saraceno

 

Samick Radio Ten Blues Saraceno

Last month's attack, an Art & Lutherie Cedar, was the start of a new direction for the G.A.S. site. I've purged most my vintage collection including the Gibson Family becoming disenchanted with the vintage market. You can find my soapbox on this subject on the "About Me" page. From now on, the Monthly G.A.S. Attack will not be vintage pieces, out of reach of most enthusiasts, players and collectors but instruments that are affordable, playable and will see your hands more than the inside of a case.

So what if you have a limited budget but want another guitar to add to the arsenal? We all know that there is a lot of "bang for the buck" out there anymore. The quality of Chinese made guitars has improved just like in the past with Japan and then Korea. Besides, many of those country's manufacturers opened plants in China and are now moving into Indonesia chasing cheap labor. Bottomline, competition is fierce so quality now comes at a low cost. A good example is my sample guitar from a Chinese manufacturer that I do business with. They build for the "name brands" too.

Spalted maple carved top mahogany body, maple set neck, Wilkinson tuners/ tune-o-matic bridge and 2 humbucker pickups for all of $88. Think entry level PRS made overseas, selling for $500 at Guitar Center. Of course you need to add in shipping but in quantity less than $125. Plays great, intonation dead on and just needed a pickup swap as the stock "factory" pickups were a bit weak. Added a set of zebra Giovannis GCH1 custom humbuckers and now she sings.

So back to my most recent G.A.S. attack. On the prowl for a solidbody, which I avoided during my vintage days, I found myself looking at what would be considered "shredder" guitars. My budget set at $250 I went hunting on eBay. It didn't take long to score this month's G.A.S. attack, a Samick Radio Ten Blues Saraceno made in Korea from 1995-98. I didn't set out to buy a "signature model" but had noticed this particular model always attracted a good amount of bidders. The reviews on Harmony Central were pretty good (http://reviews.harmony-central.com/reviews/Guitar/product/Samick/Blues+saraceno+Radio+Ten/10/1) and the Buy It Now was less than my budget at $229 so I pulled the trigger.

If you don't know the Samick name you should as they probably made a guitar that once passed through your hands. As one of the larger asian manufacturers, they have built many guitars under many brand names for the U.S. market. Their own line however never really took off even after bringing on Greg Bennett, a designer and ex-Gibson employee, and adding his name to the peghead. Actually, I previously owned a Samick Terry Allsup which was a blonde 17" Gibson L5 archtop knockoff in a beautifully grained maple with gold hardware. As a brand they really are worth checking out, especially if you are on a budget.

Now what about Blues Saraceno? Who is this person on the peghead and where is Greg (Bennett)? Perhaps I should be embarassed because I don't know Blues and his body of work. My apologies Blues, should you be a G.A.S. reader! A quick GOOGLE (or should I try BING?) and I found that I should know who Blues is since he toured with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker as Cream after Clapton. He also recorded an album with Poison which I guess was when CC Deville was heavily self medicating. A top session guy in LA with lots of credits to his name including TV, movie, etc. Check out his site www.bluessaraceno.com

Back to the guitar. The seller, a pawn shop, had good feedback so I was pretty confident in the description and photos. Upon arrival, it was pretty filthy and needed a good cleaning but overall in very good shape. It came in a funky satin type gig bag with the tremolo bar in the pocket along with a mouth tuner. Now that was different! Something with a 9V battery perhaps but a modern version of the "wind pipe" tuners from back in the day. With 22 frets, 2 no name humbuckers and a vintage style tremolo, it could describe 1,000's of guitars but this has Blues' name on it. The headstock and offset tuners were a definite attraction. A very interesting feature of the headstock is the modification or "dips" for the tuners. The headstock angle gives a direct pull for the maple neck. A bolt on with 22 frets and black dot markers the neck has that "already worn in" feel to it. Very comfortable and fast with a very low action. It didn't need much tweaking for spot on intonation.

The tremolo is worthless and a hardtail would have been preferred so the bar goes back into the gigbag pocket.The body, finished in a gloss red, with its offset lower bout lets you hit those high notes. The pickups are a bit anemic for my taste and don't do the guitar justice so a set of Entwistle HDN High Definition Neodymium pickups are already planned. Three way selector switch and just a volume control which is great as I prefer to control my tone at the amp. I don't know about you but my tone stays wide open which is why I've replaced many with an active tone circuit (overdrive, eq, expander/booster, etc.).

She feels like an old friend, a guitar I've owned before. A very nice player, she also stands out with a unique body and headstock. I've noted other pickup configurations which include single coils. Lots of "bang for the buck" and with a simple pickup swap, a real tone monster. Not for everyone of course but worth your consideration if you want a rock ready guitar that won't break the bank. Thanks Blues!

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