Strat Shootout: Fender Vs. Melancon

For some reason, I had this Fender Hot Rod ’57 reissue. Ever have those moments like, ‘How did I get this?’ Usually it’s with pedals I’ve found, not whole guitars. But that’s just how gear is. Actually, it’s really quite wonderful.

But, before selling the Fender, I thought it was a prime opportunity to do an actual definitive, shootout between it and my Melancon strat. Now, as much as it joys me (can joys be a verb?…hehe…take that, high school English teachers…you told me one day I’d remember all the stuff you taught me……just proved you wrong! ;) ) to be able to say that my guitar was handmade by a guy cutting down the swamp ash trees in Louisiana while fighting off crocodiles (which, oddly enough, I think is actually true for once), the point is tone……not how cool your gear is. Wow, that was hard to say. So, if the Fender sounds better than the Melancon, I’m keeping the Fender.

And right here would normally be the insert of some random movie picture that has little, if anything, to do with what I’m talking about. And then I would proceed to make fun of it, because of my superior intellect. See? I know where my brain goes. But today, I have some extremely pressing family matters that are taking me out of state. I made a promise to myself when I started this blog to never go into personal matters, so I’ll just leave it at that. But it needs to be mentioned to account for the brevity of this post.

So, without further ado (what does that even mean?), here’s the shootout.

Guitars:

--Fender Hot Rod ’57 reissue Stratocaster with alder body, maple neck, SCN noiseless pickups in the neck and middle, and DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker in the bridge

–Gerard Melancon Pro Artist S with chambered swamp ash body, maple neck, and Lindy Fralin blues pickups

Chain:

Strats–>

Loop-Master bypass looper–>

Loop-Master bypass looper–>
    (–>Damage Control Timeline delay–>
    (–>Damage Control Timeline delay–>

Divided by 13/Blaha RSA23–>

65 Amps birch cab with Celestion Blue and G12H-30

(Note that for the majority of the shootout, the second Loop-Master is on master bypass, and the signal is not running through the delay pedals.)

Uncontrollable Factors

–The Melancon is ash, and will as such have a brighter sound, and the alder of the Fender will have a darker sound. Also, with the humbucker in the bridge of the Fender and the single coil in the bridge of the Melancon, it’s difficult to pit those two against each other.

Possible Biases

–I love Melancon.

Odd Things

–I seem to talk to myself an exorbitant amount of times in this particular video. And most of it is completely unintelligible. Don’t know if the voices were particularly strong that day, or what.

And the Shootout:

 
The Conclusions

Actually, the Fender sounded quite good, I thought! And the noiseless pickups were very, very quiet. So props to them on that. It was very odd to play a strat without hum. However, I don’t know if it was just me, but there was a sparkle, chime, and a weight to the Melancon’s notes that the Fender just didn’t have. The Fender did have a beefier tone because of the alder, but you could ‘grab’ the notes better with the Melancon. Not exactly sure how to describe it, except to say that when I listened back, the Melancon just had more beauty…simple as that.

But the Fender did sound very good. It surprised me. All except that DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker. Maybe it’s just my rig, but I didn’t care for that thing. Now, the SCN pickups I thought sounded quite decent. 

So I guess this time I don’t have to eat my words. I really do love Melancon. The guitar, of course, not Gerard Melancon, the guy who makes them. Although, if I ever were to meet him, there might be some awkward man-hugs and girl-tears. Both from my end, of course.

Splendid.
Karl.

37 thoughts on “Strat Shootout: Fender Vs. Melancon

  1. you just have to admit it – you are having a serious affair with the melancon…the fender had a chance for a bit – but you are infactuated with the melancon – so despite how good looking and whatever sparkling personality the fender could have, you can only have one true love. i’ve been a bigomist in my day, in fact, still am. Gotta fender hot rod too…but I have duncan’s and an anderson humbucker as well as a fishman bridge to round it out…my wife bought it for me for our 6th anniversary (6 strings for 6 years…ain’t that sweet)…it is my fav…but I got an Anderson hallow cobra a couple of years back (love at first sight)…I play whatever fits my fancy at the moment…so I have to admit my love triangle. i’ve been trying to justify it spiritually…but can’t. I just throw myself on God’s mercy! Although the maple neck on the Fender plays fine…although the look of that flamed maple top on the Anderson…”I’m melting…what a world…” :0)

  2. OK, I’m not coming back here again – Breakfast Club movie poster?!?!?!? hehe Good review – nice guitars.

  3. nice guitars indeed! i like the how the fender sounds on the neck, really warm, imho.

    btw, those lights from your timelines are real eye-catcher!

    and yes you did look at the camera :)

  4. Pingback: Strat Shootout: Fender Vs. Melancon « Guitar for Worship | guitarwave.com

  5. I think you played cooler stuff when you were playing the Melancon and with Fender… Well, bleh… haha jk. I think the Melancon had more bubble and warmth sound with crisp. Fender did as well but slightly muddy. I like them both!

    Karl: (while changing guitars)…. grumble grumble pedal shootout… grumble grumble changing guitars….

  6. I wonder how the Fender would sound with different pickups. I have really grown fond of the Dimarzio Area’s…vintage sound with no noise. I demo’d them against the SCN and they were so much warmer.

  7. Wow, the Melancon sounded much better than the Fender (more dull). I had similar findings with an alder Grosh with Fralins vs a 94 Am Strat (poplar with ash veneer?). Is that a little from Explosions in the Sky at 7:35?

  8. I’m curious as to what cable you are using. That for a moment that you were water-cooling the guitars with a garden hose!

    Oh right, sorry… focus. Melancon for sure with this setup. I’d love to hear them both with a Dimarzio Area 58/61 configuration.

  9. Cool post,
    agree on your conclusion, the fender has some nice warm tones, but the bucker sucks clean. this is a wiring problem, they are wired to a 250k vol and often a 250k tone pot. that leaves none of the treble.

    love the melancon bridg and bridge/middle. strat tone at it’s best. is the bridg pup wired to any tone pot? just wondered, cause it’s not as harsh as many strat bridgpups.

    a distortion shoutout would be interesting

    cheers
    ben

  10. Both guitars sound good Karl. You’re a great player, and I would love to hear you play in a worship setting… Any videos of that?

    With that being said, your video is pretty one dimensional. Not bad by any stretch, you make good clips. What I mean is, the darker sounding strat may sit in a mix better in a worship setting than the Melancon. It’s hard to be objective when the sample you use to compare the two is only playing solo. Maybe you could record a clip with you playing them both with the band?

    You don’t always want the guitar to be clear and defined. Sometimes mellow is what the mood calls for.

    I know my next guitar will be in one of two directions. Either a Gretsch or Les Paul. We’ll see where the cards land. If I had to choose today, I’d buy the Gretsch. They are great rhythm machines and my playing and singing style really blends well with that guitar.

    I guess what I’m saying is, keep them both! If there’s too much overlap between them, it may not make sense. But if they’re different enough to serve two purposes, then it may add another tool to your worship tool box. Always a good thing!

    Nate

  11. I think as long as the guitar isn’t holding you back ( poor setup, old strings, just plain cheap ) it comes down to playing skill and a sense of what the band situation calls for.

    I remember talking about how a pro golfer could destroy me with a garage sale set of clubs no matter how much I spent on mine. On the other hand, a medium-quality guitar might sound better with some delay or other effect that an expensive one with no effect.

    Speaking of strats, mine is a 1974 Fender with the gold lace sensor pickups. On some forums those pickups get a lot of ridicule, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t really my greatest limitation. I finally found a jam-group where we play old blues/rock etc — nice change-of-pace from what is called for at church. The guy hosting the jam in his shop lives right down the street from me: http://www.johnhowguitars.com/

    How do you tell if an older strat’s frets are worn?

    Randy http://coolmusings.wordpress.com/

  12. Pingback: Fender Guitars | Fender Guitar Amplifiers

  13. Hey everyone, thanks for the comments. I just got back from pressing family matters out of state, and now I’ve got some kind of flu. So, I promise I’ll respond to all the comments, just not right now. ;)

    Cheers,
    Karl

  14. Robin–ooh, sweet! Ya, I think these Hot Rod’s could definitely do with a pickup change like yours. And that’s the one thing I wish the Melancon had…a maple fretboard. Is yours maple, or just the neck? I’ve always loved maple fretboards, but not for the sound…I just think they look way cooler! ;)

    Joel–thanks for the kind words. And I’m with you on the Melancon. Different wood flavorings aside, the Melancon has a presence and a sparkle to it that I could not find in the Fender.

    Chris–what?! No Breakfast Club love? It’s a classic! I mean, you got Emilio and the kid from the Vacation movies…how can you go wrong? ;) But honestly, it does make me a girl, but I totally dig that movie.

    Rhoy–the Fender was warmer on the neck, probably due to the alder. But the presence just wasn’t there for me. I should’ve tried two guitars with the same woods, but…beggars can’t be choosers. And for those of you wondering how a beggar can have both those guitars……they can’t. :) The Fender’s already up on e-bay. But good call, Rhoy…nice to hear a vote for the Fender.

    And ya…I absolutely adore the Timelines’ sound, but those lights are a bit epilectic, no? lol

    And I did look awkwardly at the camera, didn’t I? hehe I’m a dork.

    Mark–I kind of feel the same way…the humbucker sound is kind of built for a different style guitar. However, I do have a friend who uses a bucker in the back of his strat because he leads worship and feels the tonal loss is better than awkwardly switching guitars. And I can see his point. Me? I just look at the congregation and say, ‘Deal! There’s gonna be 30 seconds of awkwardness because this next song simply can’t be worshipful unless I change guitars.’ hehe ;)

    Jonathan–lol Seriously! When I watched back the video, I was like, ‘What in the world was I saying? Or thinking?’ haha

    And glad you’re diggin’ the Melancon, too.

    Steven–really? Hmm, I’ll have to give those a shot. Because I will say that it was pretty cool (and weird) to play a strat that wasn’t humming. hehe

    Dan–I totally agree. And I’m not surprised on the Grosh. One of these days, I’ll have to do a Melancon versus Grosh deal. How did the Grosh compare to your Anderson?

    And I don’t listen to a ton of Explosions in the Sky……but that doesn’t mean I still don’t subconsciously rip them off. It seems every time I come up with a melody I really like, someone goes, ‘Oh cool! U2!’ or ‘Awesome! Got a little Coldplay going!’ Yep. hehe

    Jamie–lol That’s a Lava ELC, full gauge. I absolutely love Lava’s. No noticeable tone loss, but no added highs, mids, or lows either. And yes, this means I’m a hopeless gear junkie. hehe

    And another vote for the Melancon. Very cool. And yes…it would have been nice to hear them both with the same pickups. But I didn’t have time. :)

    Ben–interesting stuff on the wiring. That’s good to know! Do you re-wire strats with buckers a different way, personally?

    And ya, the Melancon’s bridge pickup isn’t as biting, which is really nice. This is due partly to the fact that I put a bassplate on the bridge pickup, and partly to the fact that the Divided by 13′s just have a great, balanced eq.

    And do you mean distortion shootout of pedals, or a strat shootout while on a drive channel?

    Oh, by the way, nice blog! I mean, it looks cool…I can’t read it without google. lol But I’ll add you to my blogroll, if that’s cool with you. :)

    Nate–I totally agree…sometimes mellow is what is called for. However, I still tend to prefer a little more definition in my mellowness. I wish I had either an ash Fender to try, or an alder Melancon. Oh, well. Until I get paid to do this…lol

    And that’s a great idea to do some demo’s as they pertain to a worship band setting. :) However, I just took over the media role in my church as well, and I’m right in the middle or re-doing a bunch of stuff, including trying to up the recording quality. Or I suppose I could get a bunch of guys together some night just for the purpose of recording clips for my blog, but……hehe…I don’t think any of them are as tied to this thing as I am. Again…lol……until I get paid for doing this (which is highly unlikely) this is just to do the best I can to give a slight bit of help, insight, and info to others trying to use their gifts to serve the Lord, as I am. :)

    Randy–interesting points, and great to hear that view of things! I’d have to respectfully disagree a bit, though. While some small things like the height of the pickups may only be audible to us gear junkies like you and me, I think the quality of gear matters much more than just a nice setup and new strings.

    A good way to look at it, in my humble opinion, is to start taking it to other instruments. Like vocals. Sure, Bono will sound better than me, even if I’m singing into a blue ring SM58, and he’s singing into an Audio Technica. But if you had Bono sing through both, there would be a noticeable difference. Same way with the golf clubs, I would think. Sure, a pro golfer would destroy me with a tennis racket. But he would probably choose the best clubs he could find were he playing against Tiger Woods, instead of me.

    And in this way, I totally agree with your statement that it’s about what the music calls for. And I think the music usually calls for whatever gear can best bring that tone from your hands. Sometimes that’s cheap gear, and sometimes that’s expensive gear. The point is to search out whatever helps your hands and mind make the best music possible, and then go for that gear. And then if that gear is too expensive, keep looking for something else! That’s the fun of being a gear junkie! lol

    But great comment. I love your opinions, and am stoked when cool conversations like this come up. By the way, cool blog! When did you start that? I’m adding you to my blogroll right now, if that’s okay with you! Cheers.

  15. Hey Karl, just started the blog, have no idea what I’m doing but just wanted a place to get certain things off my chest. I probably won’t update too often or keep it tidy like yours.

    I agree about gear in the sense that it shouldn’t hold you back or discourage you. I think many parents get their kid a cheapo acoustic when they’re young and wonder why the child doesn’t take off and get excited despite the fact that you can’t tune it and the strings are an inch off the neck.

    My Carvin AE185 was about $1400 new and that’s by far the most I ever spent on a guitar. Given how much I practice ( probably 2 hours per week ) I don’t think that guitar holds me back.

    This is heresy but I think I’m stepping back a bit from the whole gear thing ( for a day or two anyway ) and trying to focus more on the “why” of what we’re doing.

    Back to gear, so far I’m liking the Tech21 Liverpool pedal. I think I’ll try it on Gary Moore’s Still got the blues for you. Man I’m getting off topic again, but watch a few of that guy’s youtube videos on that song — he’s insane, in a neat way.

  16. Randy–I like it thus far! Been over there a couple times today. Good stuff!

    And that is a pretty expensive guitar! More than I paid for my Melancon…but then I again I can’t remember the last thing I bought new that wasn’t a pack of strings. I enjoy the deal-hunting. :) Great point though, that the amount of practice should at least equal the quality of your gear. Very cool.

    And taking a step away from gear?! I can solve that! The ‘why’ of what we’re doing is ‘tone.’ Plain and simple. ;) hehe But seriously, I have great respect for you for doing this. It’s something we should all do every so often, or maybe even often. :) However, I do plan on reading all about this journey on the blog! And I’ll check out some Gary Moore, too.

    Mark–hehe I know. I seriously have problems with brevity. But glad you’re in agreement! :)

  17. Thanks for the reply.

    I put a Tele together with a railbucker in the bridge and a SC in the neck position. I wired the bucker to a 500k volpot and then to output(no tone) the SC to a 250K vol + tone (I have three pots on the tele and a toggle to do the killswitch trick(huge morello fan)). That way it’s more balanced, really like it.

    Cool idea with the baseplate, so it’s basically a tele bridge now? I like that.

    I meant a shootout with the strats on the dirty channel, just wondering how that would sound

    Wow, It’d be an honour to be added to your blogroll. Thanks for the encouragement, and even though you can’t read the text, I think I’ll post some videos of our band.

    Ben

  18. I can’t compare the Grosh Retro Classic to the Anderson Cobra because they are pretty different. The Anderson is like a refined more modern Gibson without the big and sometimes muddy LP bottom end. Both guitars have great fretwork and perfect necks but in a different way. I usually play the Anderson because I need the humbuckers for the rock songs. The pickups have 4 leads so you get all of the switching options. I use the split neck humbucker + boost for a decent Strat type sound. The Grosh is a great mix of vintage and modern in a Strat type guitar. Nitro finish sunken into the wood, neck feels almost unfinished, vintage style bridge for a more Strat like sound compared to other superstrats, it already had dings from the previous owner who played it as his #1 but the finish has gotten checked and cracked while I’ve had it. It has pointier horns than a Fender, modern neck radius, and jumbo frets. Grosh and Tyler both do the swimming pool route but they still end up making great guitars. It’s hard to judge a brand just by playing one. I’ve played 5 different Grosh guitars and the first one was not so inspiring – thankfully, I got to try a few more later.

    Speaking of people making comparisons, I used the Grosh last year with a 100 watt Egnater MICA TOL 100 head through a 2-12 at practice (overkill for the actual service) and my friend said: great tone, that sounds like John Mayer! So the Grosh hasn’t made it back to church since!

  19. Ben–sweet! That sounds like an excellent way to run a humbucker in a strat! Ya, the 250k thing on them kind of chokes them out.

    And I’ll try to get a dirty channel one done.

    Google says your blog is in German? Is that right? When you’re over here, your English is perfect, bro! That’s amazing.

    Dan–right on. And yes, I am an idiot, because I know that your Anderson has buckers, but yet still, whenever I hear ‘Anderson’, I think strat; hence, my question. Thanks for your patience with my stupidity. ;) And love that you’ve got the coil-tap in there!

    And wait……are you saying you don’t want to sound John Mayer?! hehe

  20. I just think it’s funny that singles coils + high headroom amp = John Mayer. No such thing as SRV and Hendrix anymore. :)
    He’s a good player and a thoughtful guy.

    Totally unrelated but the audio on your youtube videos is great and I wanted to know what camera you’re using, what you use to edit, settings etc. I saw one video that my wife converted from mini-dv on her Mac but it looked grainier on youtube.

  21. Karl did i see you bending your neck pulling on the head???? shame on you poor truss rod it never hurt anyone !! he he . ive always loved the sound of your guitar ,and i too play a strat but im afraid it was made in mexico . had to sell the 70s strat a long time ago man i miss it along with my v and 2 les pauls ahhhhhhhhh. why did i sell them !!!! im rambling sorry i have to agree the mel. is superior just has alot more warmth than the stocker . if you could talk a freind into helping you next time you could have both guitars at the ready . i must admit it was hard waiting through the change for comparison. and your rig helps alot they both sounded great through that !!! thanks Karl craig

  22. Dan–gotcha! I wish my strat just automatically equaled John Mayer…without any help from my playing. hehe

    And I am using a Canon PowerShot digital camera to record all my videos. I think. It’s an older model from a couple years ago, got it at Target. And the audio on it for some reason sounds better than my MacBook. Very, very odd. No special settings, just the ‘video’ setting. There must be something old school or simplistic about the technology in its audio section that gives it a ‘what you put in, you get out’ quality that I really like. As for editing, I don’t. I just upload them directly from the camera to the computer, and then to youtube. The only ones I’ve ever edited were two of the D13/Holland ones because some of the switching of cabinets just took way too long, so I edited those with iMovie HD.
    :) You can probably get those cameras for under $100 on e-bay now; I have no idea. But it does have really good audio, for some strange reason.

    Craig–hehe Yep. It was only afterwards that I remembered they were strats, and I could have hooked up the trem arms. Oops.

    So you’ve sold a ’70′s strat and two Gibsons? hehe I hear ya, bro. I’ve sold so many things that afterwards I’m like, ‘I can’t even remember why I did that.’

    And ya, I should’ve at least edited this strat one. But I was pressed for time and just threw it up there. I guess I could’ve at least sang some circus music in between or something. It is awkward. hehe My apologies. :)

  23. Thanks Karl.
    I have an old Canon as well. :)
    I got some better results last night compared to some videos that I shot last fall. I still need to try shooting with the mini-dv and editing in the Mac.
    Props to you for making all the videos – it isn’t easy to make something that sounds good and is worth watching.

  24. Thanks bro,
    I’m German indeed, but I’m studiing to become an English teacher, and that was a real nice confirmation. There are not that many good guitarbloggs in German (or they are harder to find), and I really enjoy your blog a lot. Lot’s of relevant + fun information and no updates and excuses for updates.
    Keep it coming
    Ben

  25. Dan–your videos sound great! Are you using the Canon?

    Ben–hehe Honestly, I really do appreciate that. I made a promise to myself when I started this blog to not start (for some reason) believing that people would care about updates on my life on a blog called ‘Guitar for Worship.’ hehe

    And you’re going to be an English teacher? Way cool!

    Fino–I’m not sure who’s selling the Mosferatu. I know I’m not…I stupidly sold mine a few weeks ago, and now am looking for another one! hehe :) Cheers, and great to have you here! If I find a Mos, I’ll let you know!

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