PHOTOS: Contours vs. colors.
PHOTOS: 2012 S2 prototype guitar belonging to Gabe Lopez.
S2 design remains one of my best designs. Compact, ergonomic. Incredibly precise tuning. Industrial.
To appreciate this instrument, we need to look back five years, to 2012. Newly returned from NAMM, where Tosin's Blur won Premier Guitar's Editor's Choice Award. Patents on the component designs were still pending. My marriage to Tricia was ending. My relationship with Laura was beginning. The failure of my business partnership with Bart Townsend. Dad battled cancer. Over those next few years I would relocate my life and shop six times, two of those moves 1,600 miles.
A lot of learning, a lot of loving.
In October, 2012, I completed what was to be the prototype for the first production run of headless guitars, based on my innovations. Named S2. Laura was my muse, her body helping to discover necessary contours for the guitar's body. It was a good fit.
January, a few brief months later, found me in upstate New York at Animals As Leaders camp. There I first met Gabe Lopez, and was absolutely mesmerized by his playing. The S2 prototype was such a great match for him — once in a lifetime — that Laura and I decided to gift the guitar. The instrument has been in Gabe's possession ever since.
Although...I have tried to talk him out of it.
The guitar was/is a true prototype. Meaning all energy channeled into function, not fit and finish. Raw, rough, hewn. Nothing I ever do is casual, however when exploring new ideas it is not cost effective to create perfect. Often it means using whatever spare components are available at the moment.
PHOTOS: New DiMarzio pickups: V.2.0 the "metal" version. One of the earliest tuning systems, still in patent pending status at that time.
PHOTOS: The PCSPCS™ tuner is so incredibly smooth and precise. Whenever one passes through the shop, I am delighted by the mechanism.
Gabe is approaching graduation from his one year Tosin Abasi scholarship to Atlanta Institute of Music & Media (AIMM). As he prepares to start his professional career in October, I was finally able to distract him with USM-8 Dark Matter long enough that I could give his beloved S2 prototype guitar an overhaul.
What can we learn?
The instrument is utterly, ruthlessly, durable. I seriously can't imagine how it could be worn out in a human lifetime. Five years of daily use indicated minimal evidence of wear on bearing surfaces within the tuner. I fully disassembled the tuner, polished all bearing surfaces, re-lubricated the mechanicals. Super smooth now. Added a 6th purple cam to the tuner so it looks less accidental.
The Intonation Cantilever™ bridges were in perfect condition, the only evidence of corrosion on the stainless steel set screws which lock the String Height Adjust Screws in position. I replaced them. I also replaced the SHAS with latest versions, which are precision machined. I can hear a difference in sustain and tonal clarity vs. the original 2012 versions.
The stainless steel frets were in good condition, but I decided to refret the neck using my current techniques. The action is appreciably lower and faster. String bends are like ice skating. Such a joy to play! I developed relationships with five different aluminum finish companies, of varying expertise, and let's just say I am grateful for the gorgeous and durable finishes my instruments currently ship with. The Element™ neck itself is perfect...practically indestructible.
Keeping the spirit of the original character, I tweaked the finish appropriate to a fifty year old relic that has traveled to Texas, California, Georgia, New Jersey, and back. But I did add some color to make the tuner pop. I think the chiaroscuro contrasts emphasize the form of the design.
Most importantly was the upgrade to the electronics. Stock DiMarzio pickups are replaced by my custom OEM V.2.0 versions designed by Steve Blucher. The tonal range expands the capabilities of this guitar tenfold. Stellartone ToneStyler is upgraded from an early 5-position version to Don's current 10-position. Emerson volume pot is smooth and utilizes the full taper. I LOVE the 3D controls!
Wow. I pick the guitar up and examine it before playing. The neck has a more "worn" look to it, which I like. I notice the new DiMarzio, imagining in my head what they may sound like. The bridge and tuners sparkle, seemingly in mint condition. I give the guitar a strum across all open strings...it's in perfect tune. I begin playing and notice how easy it is to play on. I don't remember it feeling this way...this easy. It's almost like I'm cheating!
Listening to the guitar acoustically for about 30 minutes. Bright and loud. Really clear chords and fastest single note playing I've done in a while. Still blown away at how easy this is. I spin my volume knob and it's smooth as butter. My pickup selector feels SO solid. I turn the ToneStyler and it doesn't stop at 5 like it once did. AH. My guitar has evolved! And I haven't even plugged it in yet...
So happy with the way S2 is sounding and operating. The clarity in overdriven/distorted tones has increased dramatically. An aggressive and tight low end when palm muting with overdrive.
Cleans are chimey and responsive. I can hear every nuance. There is much more detail to the notes and chords I play. The tuning system is insanely more accurate. It's crazy playing all of the songs I wrote on this guitar some years back. Effortless.
Used it on a couple of gigs over the weekend. Gorgeous tones when going direct. I just send straight to FOH with the Axe Fx and the tone is UNREAL!!!
It's so good to have her back. I graduate next month (September 23rd) and can finally begin the recording process. I truly feel ready now. (Gabe Lopez)
I would like to take a moment to thank a few special people who made this guitar possible: Bart Townsend, Bill Goldy, Laura Masi. Thank you for always believing.
PHOTO: Ergonomics ahead of its time. One of the most comfortable guitars you will ever play.