2018 Blackmachine B6 Review + Resonance test

Discussion in 'Standard Guitars' started by Velokki, Jan 20, 2019.

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  1. Velokki

    Velokki GAS station

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    Many of you probably read or took part in the “The truth about Blackmachines” thread which I started. It’s had over 13,000 hits, which does still signal significant interest towards these guitars. Personally I got so interested during the discussion that I decided I need to own one.

    Now I've had one for a while – albeit a Feline one, so I can’t really provide any opinions on Doug’s mythical handiwork. What I can, however, is to give my 2 cents regarding the design and quality of a 2018 Feline built Blackmachine.

    Well – is this guitar perfect?

    Yes. For some players.

    For what I hear for ex. Misha Mansoor doing and appreciating in a guitar, I find this kind of everlasting resonance and clear tonality to be everything they’d want in an electric guitar of this kind. The Doug-designed Blackbird pickups are really something tasty, and I really do like them. The neck sounds kinda stratty, (e.g. Misha’s tone on some of his solos on Juggernaut). Overall they have a very clear sound, but not to the extent of being surgical tools like the Juggernaut. They are clear, but still have plenty of grit to them. Highs even felt a tiny bit lacking at first, but once I recorded some parts, I realized they’re there, they’re just not icepicky or overpronounced at all (which I’m used to). They also have some proper spank to them, which works extremely well in this guitar. The guitar’s core sound is clear, but warm.

    One guy said that they feel that after playing a Blackmachine, all other guitars feel like they have “latency” to them. I find this description to be quite accurate – I have never played a guitar where you’d get such an immediate, tactile resonant response to the notes played. For the 90s Playstation kids, it’s like the first time you picked up a Dualshock instead of a non-vibrating controller. As much as the Blackmachine’s core design contributes to this, I also I think the barebones natural finish lends itself to boost this effect. I mean, there aren’t layers of paint deadening the tone. It’s feels like it’s made for pure performance.

    I did a quick resonance test, which you can see here:


    Talking about the design, it’s quite a beast. A beast that weighs nothing! It’s laughably light. The iconic headstock is really nice, and the fretwork is peerless. The neck-joint is super-tight. QC and all-around craftsmanship is definitely 10/10. I’m really convinced that Jonathan of Feline Guitars is one of the best luthiers out there at the moment. I had heard from a local friend that his work is flawless, and the facts that he’s worked extensively with Doug and one of his team helps Chris from Carillion, are of course references to note. After playing this guitar, I wouldn’t hesitate to order anything from him.

    Here's a 4K video of the guitar:


    One thing about the design really bothers me. The jack socket placement. It’s in the middle of the body, next to the strap pin (which ironically I forgot to film). Looks great (kinda stealthy), but you can’t really play it in a classical position on your left leg… and I always like to play like that. This is kind of a deal-breaker for me. When standing up, it’s fine of course, but I play the majority of the time in the studio, seated in front of my PC. This is when songwriting and recording takes place. And if I can’t comfortably use the guitar in that scenario, it’s really not the ideal instrument for me.

    Another thing to note about the guitar is tuning stability. I remember a friend (who owns many Doug-built Blackmachines) saying that they go out of tune constantly. This B6 went out of tune every now and then, and the neck seems to be very sensitive. It’s hard as a rock and resonates like a tuning fork, but when you apply some pressure to it, you can almost use it like a whammy bar. Ok, that was really exaggerating, but it’s quite sensitive in a way. One part of me enjoyed it a lot, but I kept wondering if you’d ever hit it really badly, it could just snap. I don’t know, now I’m just rambling.

    I regret to say that I didn’t do a proper photoshoot with it. What I did take, is a 4K video before shipping it away.

    Wait…. ship it away? Why?

    Long story short; the day after I bought the guitar, I got hit with significant unexpected expenses. Technically, I could’ve still kept the guitar, but it just didn’t feel logical, or at least I wasn’t comfortable with keeping such a piece of kit in that kind of situation. So I had to move it forward.

    I would have kept it, if it was the perfect instrument for me. Turns out it isn’t. Only two things keep it from being perfect. I would like more tonal options (piezo, Skervesen WDM or something of the sort) and a different jack placement, so the cable wouldn’t be in the way. I have many other guitars with similar specs that so to say “compete” with this guitar for its place, guitars that fill quite the same needs. Most of them aren’t as nice as this guitar, though, but have other features which I appreciate.

    It’s an absolute beast of a tool for what it’s made for. I think that everyone who appreciates custom builds and boutique guitars should get to play these sometime, and after packing and shipping it away, I do miss it. I understand the hype now, because there really is a kind of magic to how fluid and effortless these guitars are to play, and how they respond to your playing. I guess when many areas in a guitar (sound, resonance, build quality, comfort, looks) are exceptional and are tied seamlessly together, that’s when it starts to have “magic” or “mojo”. Of course in the case of Blackmachines, it has gone too far thanks to the internet, but it’s not for nothing that these instruments have garnered so much fame for.

    Also; one thing. I can’t fathom it being any better for what it is. There’s seems to be a cult-like mystique around these guitars, especially those assembled by Doug - but they're still the same design (now talking only about B6s). I mean, have you ever played a perfectly executed PRS Custom 24? A flawless Ibanez Prestige? An exceptionally well-built Martin D-15?
    Once you’ve played a really fine specimen of a certain type of guitar, that just oozes mojo and inspiration, you wouldn't care if there’s a “better” one, if even possible.

    This is just my opinion, but I don’t think it’s really possible to make a guitar of this exact design much better than this guitar was made. At least for me, it was 10/10, for what it was. To me personally, it also makes people who try to flip older silver-plated B6s for 5-10K€ look like opportunistic clowns :D
    Granted, a brand new one doesn't have microscopic pieces of Doug's skin under the oil coating... but it's NEW... and for half the price! :D In my opinion, if you want to experience Blackmachine, a new Feline B6 is your ticket.
     
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  2. possumkiller

    possumkiller SS.org Regular

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    So another glowing review for a black machine sold straight after being bought...
     
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  3. Velokki

    Velokki GAS station

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    Haha. I understand the irony. But it truly was a stellar instrument. If the specs and features are up your lane, I'd say go for one.

    I think what makes people sell these, is that they expect an overhyped instrument of this caliber to magically fill all their needs. And then they realize it's just a guitar with two humbuckers. For me, it would've gathered dust - the jack location was just stupid, which prevented me from enjoying it, even though it sounded amazing.

    Take it for what it's worth! :)
     
  4. Velokki

    Velokki GAS station

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    P.S. I do recommend people to check the resonance test - I think it gives a pretty good view on how these sound, compared to many other guitar designs!
     
  5. Wolfhorsky

    Wolfhorsky Regular idiot

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    On that vid it sounds like my Skervesen Chiroptera ;-)
    Anyway, if You like this type of a guitar, with lots of custom options, for 1/2 price - go to Skervesen :))
     
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  6. Velokki

    Velokki GAS station

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    Got two Skervies - a Raptor 7FF and 4AP. They're absolutely great guitars, and would recommend to anyone. But neither one's resonance could touch what that B6 had. The resonance was like no other guitar I've ever tried. You probably got a real gem with that Chiro ;)
     
  7. Wolfhorsky

    Wolfhorsky Regular idiot

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    That Chiro was kinda normal or even slitty dull at first, but after a year or so and after my mods it became super resonant. My Skerv Lupus is even better but less snappy because it is neck-through-body. Anyway, my experience and knowledge is that super dried and super lightweight thin swamp ash body plus super stiff maple neck is the way to go. Some of the guys at Skervesen are my friends as I am long lasting customer. They have very similar observations to mine.
    Also Pao ferro rosewood necks sound thinner than maple ones - at least that is my experience.
    The main problem with custom guitars is option paralysis. We often choose what looks nice over what sounds nice.
    And BKPs are much overrated imho. They sound shrill, metallic and dry. No fat, no meat with strange upper mids spike. IMHO the most frequent orders are with BKPs which ruin these guitars imho.
     
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  8. guitar4tw

    guitar4tw SS.org Regular

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    The resonance test was interesting. It also shows how different woods, finishes (clear coat, natural etc.), neck designs and what not, will affect the timbre of the guitar. Especially the LTD was quite a bit darker sounding than the B6, with more boomy low-mids. An identical set of pickups would react very differently to these two guitars.

    I never understood the controversy in the tone wood debate. Everyone knows that different wood configurations make a huge difference in acoustic guitars (just listen to an all mahogany versus spruce demo, for instance). This difference is carried over in the electric guitar realm as well, just a lot less pronounced. But still there.
     
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  9. spudmunkey

    spudmunkey SS.org Regular

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    The difference is that an acoustic guitars body is producing the tone you're hearing, acting like a microphone and speaker. On an electric guitar, any differences would be from the solid body vibrating in such a way as to dampen the spring's natural vibration in such a way as to impact its tone that in turn gets picked up by the pickups. Apples and oranges.
     
  10. guitar4tw

    guitar4tw SS.org Regular

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    I thought I made it quite clear that I wasn't making an apples to apples argument. But, electric guitars have acoustic resonance as well, and the wood does affect the timbre. Yes, it doesn't amplify and project like an acoustic, so there's much less impact, but there is still enough for it to be very noticeable between guitars.
     
  11. guitar4tw

    guitar4tw SS.org Regular

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    Take an Ibanez Prestige made of swamp ash and one made of mahogany. Both from the same series with the same routing for the pickups, electronics and bridge, the same strings, neck, fretboard and also the same thickness of clearcoat. Given their (almost) completely identical form one would think that the unplugged tone should be just as identical. But somehow they immediately sound different acoustically. And it's not just a difference of loudness/resonance, but timbre. The swamp ash sounds brighter and harder unplugged.

    Even if you call this "the solid body vibrating in such a way as to dampen the spring's natural vibration in such a way as to impact its tone that in turn gets picked up by the pickups", that is still the woods making the difference. And that difference is picked up by the pickups. Whether you want to call this "acoustic properties", or something else, is just semantics.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
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  12. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    Tone wood!

    Glad you sold it before hyping it though. Good jorb
     
  13. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    Yea, when you consider Feline's making the parts in either case, so the Doug difference is in bolting the stuff together and doing a setup. And since the ones Doug assembled are super old now, there's 0% of that setup remaining. Another couple thousand because Doug used a screwdriver on it once please! :)

    But yea, I think you kind of went off the deep end with the review as well. It's an electric guitar. Why make up something called "a resonance test". Bottom line: guitars with layers of plastic on top of them aren't as acoustically loud as those that don't. Absolutely nothing you can methodically point to in the B6 design. You have to think scientifically about these things rather than starting from hyperbole ('all other guitars feel like they have “latency” to them.') and working backwards.
     
  14. MoJoToJo

    MoJoToJo SS.org Regular

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    Yes someone that is not a sheep & does not follow the crowd. Overrated & overpriced.
     
  15. Humbuck

    Humbuck SS.org Regular

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    I have a B6 with BKP's and it sounds absolutely huge. Baa.
     
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  16. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    I feel personally attacked. :(
     
  17. MoJoToJo

    MoJoToJo SS.org Regular

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    proxy.duckduckgo.com.png
     
  18. Ziricote

    Ziricote SS.org Regular

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    Arent you supposed to use an angled cable jack for the placement that bothers you? This always solve that issues. Youre welcome

    Thank you for review of B6. Its nice when people take the time to produce these types of video
     
  19. Velokki

    Velokki GAS station

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    This is what intrigues me. The B6 was a breeze to play, and sounded super nice. I'm not that competent to scientifically point out what made the difference, but I know I've played many naturally finished guitars (even straight-out copies of a BM design) and none sounded like this.

    And the "latency" thing comes from how immediately the resonance seems to travel throughout the guitar. It's immediate. You can really feel it in the neck, in the palm of your hands. Trust me, I'm no person to use superlatives normally, but this guitar was STELLAR. In retrospect, I'm still amazed by some of its properties. Being just "well, it was fine" is not an option, I wanna tell the truth. Where it tried to perform, it truly did and delivered.

    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! Normally people just only hate anything about BMs! :D

    I tried an angled cable. Still bothered me too much. Probably would've been fine for some, but didn't enjoy that feeling against my leg.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
  20. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    I mean, Jonathan's an experienced builder and he's going to build a good guitar. But this latency thing...dude, play a nice telecaster side-by-side. I'm guessing you're riffing on some combination of brightness/tension/bridge properties, but you know, guitar isn't played over a modem, so it's these kinds of nonsensical adjectives that I hate to see quoted over and over. I mean, it's your opinion, but reality suggests there is a better description of what you're experiencing.

    I've owned a B6 and it was a totally fine guitar but nothing to write home about. But then again, it's a $3-4k guitar. I'm judging its worth with respect to many other $3-4k guitars. Will it blow the doors off a $800 LTD? You betcha!
     
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