One of a series of stripped-down Custom Shop San Dimas guitars built for online retailer The Music Zoo (themusiczoo.com), the SD-2H features a body made from old-growth recycled redwood–which must have spent time in the bottom of a river from the number of small worm holes in it–and a bolt-on neck of beautifully flamed maple. As with other models in the Carbonized Natural Series (which includes versions with recycled ash and pine bodies), the SD-2H‘s woods are subjected to a kiln drying process that uses heat and pressure to drive out excess moisture in order to make the woods lighter and more resonant, and also very resistant to changes in climate. The “cooking” process effectively ages the wood by removing the hemi-cellulose that gives woods their flexibility, and the end result is that the stiffness to weight ratio of the woods is increased by 15 to 25 percent (depending on the species), which enhances the tonal response and also makes the woods easier to cut and machine. The lightness of the SD-2H is instantly captivating, and since the only finish is a thin coating of gunstock oil on the body and neck, the surfaces have a very warm, natural feel. This no-frills guitar has a pair of uncovered Seymour Duncan humbuckers (SH-2N neck, Custom 5 bridge), which are screwed directly into the body. The Volume and Tone knobs, as well as the exterior parts of the 3-way selector, are all made from machined brass.

The workmanship on the SD-2H is stellar. The jumbo frets are crowned and polished to perfection, the neck fits super tightly in the body, and the intonation in all regions of the fretboard is very good. The action is extremely low, and the playing feel is light and quick. I dig the neck’s slim profile, and my only gripe is that the brown position dots on the fretboard can be difficult to see in dim light.

The machined brass NOS trem is an old-school affair that features adjustable saddles and an arm that has to be threaded in carefully to avoid cross threading. It’s not great for bending anyway, so I just left the arm off and enjoyed the solid, sustain enhancing contact with the bridge seated flush to the top with three springs in place. If you’re a serious trem user you’re probably going to want to put a Floyd on this guitar and keep the NOS unit around for a paperweight or something.

The SD-2H sounded great whether dialed for crisp clean tones, warm solo textures, or moderately overdriven sounds when played straight into either a Fender Deluxe Reverb or a Victoria Ivy League combo. When using best distortion pedals (including a Hermida Audio Nu-Valve and Fuzz Face), the SD-2H tended to get a bit wooly sounding when pushing high gain settings, but by slightly backing off the Volume control (or lowering the gain slightly) the clarity instantly returned and sustaining notes sounded stringy and well detailed.

Light, toneful, and fun to play, the SD-2H definitely brings a sly, “parts guitar” attitude to a price category where the norm is flame tops and fine gloss finishes. This guitar radiates coolness, though, and anyone looking for a different take on a twin-humbucker solidbody should give it shot.


Group buys 50% stake in agency in deal based on “mutual recognition”

The indie sector has increased its presence in the mobile music market following a significant deal between Wall Of Sound parent group Pias and Indie Mobile.

In the deal Pias has taken a 50% stake in the Bristol-based mobile marketing and digital distribution agency after making a “significant”, but undisclosed investment in Indie Mobile, which represents more than 400 indie labels. A senior Pias executive is likely to join the Indie Mobile board as a result of the deal.

Both Pias group director of digital and business development Adrian Pope and Indie Mobile managing director Seth Jackson promise the synergies between the two groups will deliver better services to their labels – and the independent sector – while significantly increasing the revenues they are currently earning from the market.

Pope says Pias, which also includes Vital: Pias Digital, Vital Distribution and Pias Recordings within its group, has been performing well in the mobile market, earning revenues of the order of “hundreds of thousands of pounds”. However, with the market for full-track downloads doubling each month and a bigger appetite for indie repertoire, Pope explains that the company had a choice – to either grow organically or link with a suitable partner. He believes Indie Mobile fits the bill because of its focus on indie repertoire.

Mobile is already a significant part of our business. The deal was born out of a mutual recognition that the synergies were such that in combination we can create the definitive, professional mobile solution for independent labels and artists. We could have grown organically and invested in new people or invested in a company which could give us synergies. Indie Mobile understands the indie spirit and gives us new routes to market,” he says.

Pope believes the deal with Indie Mobile will also provide a better range of services it can provide labels, such as digital marketing and SMS campaigns. He adds, “There are several key points from this. The deal brings together all the premium content we represent and Indie Mobile has great content as well. It genuinely means revenues will increase and there will be a better resource for a route to market. There is also the opportunity to swell the labels’ digital marketing offer.”

On his side Jackson, whose company represents more than 200 rightsholders and distributes their mobile content across 23 territories, says a “bunch of money helps everything“. “It gives us more commercial clout and makes it easier to do network deals or get better commercial terms,” he says.

In addition to the resources and roster Pias provides, the Indie Mobile managing director also believes that Pias will be able to provide better accounting and feedback to labels because of the music company’s expertise and experience in royalty accounting.

They (a music company) are always going to do that better than a mobile aggravator,” adds Jackson. “The deal will allow us to do what we already do, just better and on a larger scale. We have always believed that independent music has the potential to be a significant player in the mobile arena.

Jackson and Pope also stress the international nature of the deal as helping to grow the business. Jackson recognises that Pias’s network of international offices, especially throughout Europe, will give it an edge on competitors who are not able to call on people with local knowledge of France or Spain.

Indie Mobile

Represents in excess of 70,000 tracks from more than 400 leading independent labels

Supplies the mobile networks and also offers labels mobile marketing and retail initiatives to support their products and campaigns

Indie Mobile campaigns have won the BT Digital Music Award for Best Use of Mobile twice in the last three years

Pias Group

Has offices in the UK, Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain in addition to partners in every other European country and affiliates based in territories such as Australia

Parent of Vital Distribution, the UK’s largest independent sales and distribution company, representing more than 75 labels, including Beggars Group, XL Recordings, Big Brother, Warp and Defected

Owns Integral, the marketing arm for independent labels, and digital distribution business Vital:Pias Digital, which represents more than 100 labels.

Hits in the near future: sales of Klaxons’ debut album increased almost five-fold in the 24 hours after winning the Mercury award.

CMP Information Ltd.