Christmas is coming - there's deals to be had...
If you're on a budget, one-day only deals like this one for a Behringer guitar starter pack from e-buyer.com in the UK look too good to pass by.
For just £68.99 you get a Behringer Vintager guitar, a Behringer AC108 Vintager 15 watt amp, gig bag, strap, guitar lead, 3 picks, instruction books and chord chart. Oh, and free delivery in the UK.
These are available at this price now, as I type this, and for the next 10 hours.
"So, is it any good?", you may well ask.
I bought one of these last week in a similar promotion. The guitar is so-so, to be honest. More or less what I'd expect from a budget guitar. It's the typical Strat-layout although the makers have tried to go with their own body shape. It looks OK, vaguely PRS-ish in shape.
The guitar is solid enough, although it's quite certainly not made from any quality timber. However, I don't think it's mega-cheap and nasty plywood either. I'd guess it was a low-grade basswood or similar. The neck is maple with a maple fingerboard and feels as if it's not been finished too well. In fact, up near the headstock end of the neck it feels quite uneven in its cross section like a wonky V. However, like the body, it's perfectly solid and - more importantly - straight. The action is quite acceptable. (People will insist on calling cheap guitars like this "junk", but they are fantastic when compared to the budget guitars of yesteryear!)
The pickups aren't so hot, as you may expect on a guitar of this price, but the guitar is perfectly playable although it does require a good setting up first. On my example, the strings hadn't even been wound on properly. I was tuning it up having had just taken it out of the box and the high E string boinnnged right off. As I was winding the machine head, the tension felt all wrong - I thought the string was going to break. Let's face it, it was probably put on by some poor kid in a Chinese sweatshop.
Speaking of the machine heads, they are not great. Obviously cheapies, but what else would we seriously expect? They do the job for now.
Another thing that bugs me about budget guitars which are obviously aimed at beginners is why oh why do they always insist on copying the Strat styling complete with "vintage style tremolo"? A tremolo is the very last thing you want on a guitar for beginners, especially if the guitar has not been set-up in the first place. All it is going to do is to confuse the beginner guitarist and - most likely - send the guitar out of tune.
What I'd like to see on starter guitars would be a simple hardtail bridge, perhaps with the intonation pre-set as on some of the wrap-around bridges you see on student model Gibsons and the like. It is the logical thing to do.
However, I'm sticking the guitar on eBay and am going to get a few quid back on my initial investment of £68.99. And if no-one buys it, it's going down one of the local charity shops and they can make some money from it. I simply have no need of a cheap Behringer guitar. The reason I bought this package was for the amplifier.
The Behringer AC108 Vintager 15 watt amp, according to the blurb, has "a hand-selected vacuum tube, vintage-tuned 8" guitar speaker, 2-band EQ plus mid-shift, dedicated headphone output and CD input".
Blimey! It's a real tube amp for peanuts!
I had to buy it, just to check it out. Forget the guitar, that's going on eBay.
Just read through some of the reviews on Harmony Central - folks are rating this little cheapie quite highly. Several of the reviewers have recommended swapping out the vacuum tube for something of better quality and even doing the same for the speaker, but to my ears straight out of the box this amp sounds streets ahead of any practice amp I've tried before. It doesn't have the smoothest distortion in the world when turning up the gain, but it certainly beats the horrible fizz from transistor practice amps. Plugging my Fernandes Sustainer guitar into this baby, it just sings. I don't think I've ever been able to drive any other small amp with a sustainer before, they just can't manage the level of gain to allow the sustainer unit to function properly.
So, my advice is, snap one of these packages up whilst they are nice and cheap. Keep the amp, sell the guitar or give it as a Christmas present to someone who might appreciate it (you might want to give them your old practice amp too!).
Apologies to those outside the UK, but the above still applies as there are deals to be found on these packages.
G L Wilson
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