Jackson Kip Winger Professional

Jackson Kip Winger Professional

Year: 1991

Made In: Japan

Specs: Lacewood neck-though with lacewood wings, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Reflex P & J active pickups

Controls: Volume, blend, tone

This is an interesting one, a Kip Winger signature model. Made in Japan, it’s rare even within the scope of the volume of Kip Winger basses made by Jackson during the short production run.

Based on the neck-through Futura XL model made by Jackson at that time, it has a lacewood neck and body wings where the XL had a maple neck and maple or lacewood body wings. The XL also featured an ebony fretboard whereas here I’m looking at a nice slab of rosewood. It’s a comfortable and compact shape which sits nicely on the body and the neck is tastefully slim front to back with a Precision width nut. It’s similar to my Charvel JP from the same year and sets up just as nicely. The knobs are tastefully recessed into the body and build quality is high throughout.

Information on these basses has proven hard to come by. There were a few different versions during the production run featuring a mix of Jackson and EMG pickups, others came with a Jackson bridge like this one while others had a large Kahler unit. This one deviates even more, however.

I’m speculating and open to correction – actually, if anyone does know, please get in touch – but I think this must be one of a small number of basses intended for the UK market. Why? Well, this one features Reflex pickups, active pickups made in the UK which featured on quite a few Jacksons and Charvels sold at this time. More significantly though, is that it features just three control knobs, where every other Kip Winger model I’ve been able to find has four, apart from a handful like this which all reside in the UK. Again, if anyone has any more information on this, I’d love to hear from you.

As with the Charvel JP, I’m not really sold on the Reflex pickups, though I am quite enamoured by the bass itself. They are very heavy on mids and, while I’m trying to give them some time, I can’t promise I won’t swap them out at some point in the future. The bass is a really nice player, very resonant unplugged, and I’m just not getting that coming out of the amp. I think it deserves pickups which will let the real character of this bass come through.

This bass, as with so many others, languished for sale at a very reasonable price for quite some time before I intervened. It’s clearly a fine looking instrument but it has genuine quality too. Maybe the pointed headstock puts people off these days but I’m of an age where I can recall when such features were desirable. Perhaps the association with Kip put people off but do the young people even know of his bare chested ways? Whatever the cause was, a fine, fine bass was left overlooked. This is a rare gem for sure and, with better pickups, could be a most worthy addition.

Status S3000

Status S3000

Year: 1991

Made In: England

Specs: Mahogany body, carbon graphite neck & fretboard

Electronics: Status Hyperactive J pickups, Status PS1 preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, treble cut & boost

Of all the basses you wouldn’t expect to find an Elvis impersonator selling in the depths of rural Ireland, this one would have to rank somewhere near the top. Complete with the welcome appearance of a trophy wife, it was one of the more surreal experiences I’ve been through to get a bass but, eh, that’s all right.

I’ve no doubt there are better cared for Statii out there but they don’t come up for sale often at all, so I picked this one up knowing some TLC would be required. It looked to have been played extensively, a good sign, and also played as a lefty for a period, not so good. Aside from some scratchy pots and some damage to the body, everything functioned as it should. The neck is straight and true, with a really unique shape. It’s very flat, both the fretboard and the back of the neck. There is no truss rod, but the integrity of the neck is sound and the frets are still in great shape with just the right amount of relief set. The action can be set absurdly low. As expected, you put it tune and it stays there forever.

The Jazz configuration is exaggerated slightly by the bridge pickup being much closer to the bridge than on other basses. It’s a bit too thin on its own but there are a lot of usable tones to be had blending it with the neck pickup. The treble control isn’t the most useful thing I’ve ever encountered, though. Boosting just makes it far too bright for my tastes and cutting it too wooly. I’ll probably use the ample space in the control cavity to install a more sophisticated preamp. I’m also thinking of refinishing it, possibly in a solid colour. I think I have a way to go to really get to what I believe this bass is capable of

Steinberger GR4

Steinberger GR4

Year: 1991

Made In: USA

Specs: Maple body, graphite neck

Electronics: DiMarzio Fred & PAF Pro pickups

Controls: Volume, tone, five-way switch

Steinbergers seldom come up second hand in these parts so, when one did at a price too good to be true, I had to check it out. The poor quality picture hinted at some crude modifications but it was still worth having a look. I couldn’t make out the model, there was nothing I could find with a H-S-H setup and talking to the seller didn’t clear anything up but I decided to have a gander anyway.

It was too good to be true, but it was also turned out to be a Newburgh era GR4. Clearly, it had spent many nights going from warm stages to the back of a cold van. I had never seen such finish checking on a guitar from any era. A number of crude modifications had been done, along with a very bad fret level though the neck was fundamentally sound. The original pickups had been replaced by a pair of DiMarzios and an unknown single-coil, all corroded to various degrees. A rough plastic housing hinted at some butchery underneath but, overall, I felt I could do a job here so a deal was done.

After getting it home and popping the lid, the full extent of the modifications became clear. It’s hard to tell whether a blunt chisel or Cro-Magnon forehead was used to gouge out the wood, but it was a bit of a mess regardless. The single coil turned out to be from a Mexican strat. The electronics had been entirely replaced with cheap parts. The bridge was in a poor state. A lot of work needed to be done.

I replaced the pots, scrapped the single-coil and installed a five-way Schaller Megaswitch to offer a multitude of coil-tapped tonal options. I replaced a couple of parts of the bridge and, after a good clean, it set up really well. The DiMarzios scrubbed up nicely and sound great and it’s a great player, gaping hole aside. I still need to do some fretwork and may do a full refret, but that’s a tricky job on graphite fretboards, so I’m in no rush.

Headless guitars take some getting used to, just the visual impact of no headstock at the end of the neck when you’re playing. These old Steinbergers are really quality instruments though. The necks are very playable and you can get a really low action. They’re very responsive and there’s a lovely crunch out of this one. There are so many smart features on this guitar and it’s amazing to think this one is almost approaching vintage status. Ned Steinberger is a clever fella.

I haven’t decided what to do next with this guitar. I’m thinking of taking 1/4″ off the top and replacing it with a figured top. I quite like it as is though. Despite, or maybe, because of the mutilation, I’ve grown quite attached to it. It was in bad, bad shape, but it’s got a good few years of playing left it it yet, even if it will continue to look worse for wear for the time being. I’m going to continue restoring it back to something approaching its former glory, it deserves it.

Charvel Predator

Charvel Predator

Year: 1991

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Jackson J90C & J200R humbucking pickups

Controls: Volume, five-way switch

I do love a Superstrat. Aesthetically, they might be too much for many but there is a change taking place. At the moment, there’s a growing appreciation for metal-orientated guitars from the 80’s and ealy 90’s but the prices are still fantastic, so pick them up while the going is good, I say. They’re worth more than their current value, if that makes sense? This Predator fits that bill. It’s a simple enough design but is capable of so, so much more than you’d think on first glance.

First, the neck. A Charvel neck from this era is something to treasure. They’re fast but if, like me, you find the Ibanez Wizard necks too skinny, these could be just what you’re looking for. They feel substantial but not chubby, they allow for fluid lead work but also work well for a regular player who lives down at the lower frets. It’s the kind of neck you can play for hours and hours without fatigue, really a great design.

The basic specification of these is good too, as is the fit and finish. The neck joint allows for good upper fret access. The bridge is a German made Schaller licenced Floyd type, very high quality. The controls seem basic, just a volume pot and a switch but the switch gives you 1) neck in series, 2) neck and bridge (parallel), 3) both full (series), 4) both full (parallel with filter circuit), 5) bridge (series). There’s a lot of very usable tones in there.

Then you must consider the pickups. The J90C is a very nice medium-high output humbucker which isn’t too far away from a JB, which is not a bad thing at all. The double-blade neck pickup is meaty without being weighed down by too much low end, it’s airy but with substance. Consider also that the legendary Abigail Ybarra was winding pickups for Jackson in this era and, at the moment, if you can find one you can pick one of these up for less than a second-hand Mexican Fender and you’ve got a great guitar at a really great price.

You’d be stupid not to have one of these.

Warwick Streamer Stage 1

Warwick Streamer Stage 1

Year: 1991

Made In: Germany

Specs: Maple body wings, five-piece maple and wenge through-neck, wenge fretboard

Electronics: MEC P & J pickups, MEC 2-band preamp

Controls: Volume with push/pull for active and passive circuit, Pickup blend, Bass cut and boost, Treble cut and boost

I first played a Streamer in around 1992 or 93, back when the price was so out of reach for me that it may as well have been for a trip to the moon. Based on a Ned Steinberger design, an early 90’s model had long been high on my wanted list but they’re not easy to come by. When one became available in Limerick I was in a position to move in. This one had seen a lot of action, but the price was right so the deal was done.

While it was clear it was extensively used, I wasn’t quite prepared for quite how much work would be involved in returning this one to its former glory. An extensive cleaning was required to remove over twenty years worth of crud and, after waxing, it looked stunning.

Structurally, however, a lot more work was required. The frets had been filed in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else, almost like a Ken Smith nut, where what wasn’t directly under a string had been filed almost level with the fretboard. A full refret was done as a result. The aluminium truss rod had stripped too, seemingly a common problem with early 90’s Warwicks. Luckily, it’s easy to remove the truss rod from instruments from this era, and I replaced it with a sturdy iron rod Warwick now offer. The output jack needed to be swapped out too, which was a simple job, and the rest of the electronics were in good shape.

Once all the work was done, the quality of this bass was immediately clear. Warwicks have a tone seemingly unavailable in anything else, a fantastic growl which really cuts through. The arched body makes for a very comfortable instrument to play. There’s a lot to like in a Streamer and I get the same satisfaction playing this one now as I did that one in the shop over twenty years ago.

 

Charvel JP Bass

TECHNIKA SH-A366

Charvel JP Bass

Year: 1991

Made In: Japan

Specs: Poplar body, one-piece maple neck, ebony fretboard

Electronics: Jess Loureiro Classic P & J pickups, Noll TCM-3 preamp

Controls: Volume with push/pull preamp bypass, pickup blend on the first stacked pot. Bass and Treble cut and boost on the second stacked pot. Passive tone, mid cut and boost on the third stacked pot.

TECHNIKA SH-A366

This one was in pretty bad shape when I got it, and it had quite a few owners before I laid my hands on it, but I suspected there was a hidden gem within. It’s a rare enough model, but there are even fewer with the “lawsuit” headstock. I’ve seldom encountered junk among 80’s or 90’s MIJ instruments and this one was priced nicely enough to be worth a gamble. I traded two Boss pedals and a set of tuners for it, which felt like I was robbing the guy, but he seemed happy enough. Originally, these came with a 22 fret rosewood board. However, at some point, someone had the rosewood replaced with an ebony fretless board with an additional overhang. The original Reflex active pickups and preamp were there, but the shaft of the tone pot had been broken. The stock bridge had been replaced with a good Gotoh unit, but it was a big bridge with a thick baseplate and, coupled with the fret removal, meant the action could go nowhere near low enough to make it a decent player. It was also installed slightly off-centre, which was irritating, rather than an inconvenience. It just didn’t all work as a package and I can understand why it changed hands so much, as it was.

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First, I set about addressing the action. I bought a very decent no-name brass bridge which allowed me to get the action down to a reasonable level. I wasn’t entirely enamoured with the sound of the Reflex pickups, so I installed some of Jess Loureiro’s pickups in combination with a Noll TCM-3 preamp I had removed from the Hotwire. It’s a very nice preamp with a huge amount on offer in a traditional three-knob Jazz format. I still wasn’t happy though. The neck is very thin, almost like an Ibanez SR neck, but it’s the width of a Precision at the nut. The ebony fretboard is also thinner, I’d suspect, than the rosewood board it replaced and, to me, it was just too skinny. I didn’t want to give up on it, though, so I had it fretted with 6105 narrow and tall frets.

This proved to be the key transformation, the additional fret height putting enough bulk in hand to make it comfortable over extended periods of playing. It all clicked into place. It’s a wonderful player with enough tonal scope to go from thumpy traditional tones to almost Warwick-like active growl. The Noll preamp, which had been such a let-down before, finally showed what it’s capable of when paired with Jess’ fantastic pickups. The neck is fast but has meat. It’s a bass for all occasions, a one-trick pony it is not, and I’m really delighted with it now.

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366