Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

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Oldbones
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Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby Oldbones » Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:30 am

For anyone who does not wish to read my entire review, which, I’ll grant you, is long and detailed, I’ll begin with a summary of key facts and figures. I’ll base this on a slightly modified version of the usual structure of reviews to be found on the UltimateGuitar.com website. I’ll then follow that with a more subjective description of my impressions of the guitar. For those who want to hear the guitar and see close-up pictures of it (and a few arty-farty ones as well), I’ve uploaded a doodlin’, noodlin’ and pootlin’ acoustic-only demo at --- http://youtu.be/C1GjMzKOGOQ

Guitar make and model --- JHS Vintage VE8000PB-12

Features
Solid spruce top. Rosewood back, sides (laminated), fingerboard and bridge. Decorative purfling using maple wood. Graphtec nut and compensated saddle. Scale length 649mm (25.55”). 18 frets with neck joining body at 12th fret. Fishman Acoustic Matrix VT preamp with volume and tone controls accessed inside soundhole, but no tuner. Weight just over 4 1/4 lbs . Vintage Zero-Gravity Case. Overall carrying weight with guitar in case 8 1/2 lbs.

Dimensions and design
Parlour size and shape with a slotted headstock which has a 14° rake-back. This is apparently like the 1920’s Weymann 12 string which inspired Paul Brett when helping to design the VE8000. Tuners are of the open-gearing type and are gold plated. The guitar was designed ‘from scratch’ as a 12 string rather than as a modified 6 string. A key element and ‘selling point’ of the design is a strengthened bridge. An inspection inside using a mirror revealed two small bolts which pass through the bridge and attach both it and the under-bridge pickup to the guitar. Two wood-matched ‘caps’ hide the tops of the bolts on the bridge itself. If ever the bridge lifted, the whole soundboard would have to go! As accurately as I could with a standard ruler, I compared string spacings to my Crafter dreadnought and found them to be virtually identical: E to e at the nut is 4.1cm and 5.9cm at the saddle (maybe 4.05 on the Brett?). The nut-to-saddle measurements along the ‘G’ string were: Crafter 64.7cm Brett 64.6cm. Neck width at the 5th fret:: Crafter 5.3cm Brett 5.2cm.As for action – I couldn’t see clearly enough when using a ruler, so I ad-libbed: at the 12th fret, I could slide a 50p piece between the top of the fret and the bass E and its pair, but a £1 coin wouldn’t fit and was pushing the thinner string to one side.

Sound and playability
I’ll go into more detail later on when I describe my own subjective impressions, but suffice to say that there is no loss of volume if you want it and overall the sound is well balanced from what could be called mid-bass to treble. There is a good ‘jangle’ but obviously, neither this nor the bass would match a full-size, booming, jingling-jangling dreadnought or jumbo 12er. However, there is also great subtlety of tone if you want that and very pleasing ‘harp-like’ overtones when you play quietly . The fact that the neck joins the body at the 12th fret really does mean that the action is low and the neck truly is playable down its full length. I was surprised by just how light a touch was needed when fretting notes or chords. (I’ll return to that point in my more subjective comments). As my measurements showed, there is virtually no difference in scale length or string spacing between my dreadnought 12er and the Brett so the huge difference in playability has to be largely because of the decision to opt for 18 frets and and a 12th fret body-join on the Brett as opposed to the traditional 20 frets and 14th fret body-join of the Crafter. That difference in playability truly is astonishing.

Action and finish
Straight-from-the-box, the action was amazing AND the guitar was perfectly in tune (one tone down from standard = DGCFAD). I tried my Shubb 12 string capo at the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th (!!) frets and could detect no detuning at all by ear. Nor were there any buzzes or rattles unless I hammered the strings. Amazing! The finish of the guitar is apparently thin satin polyester which gives a non-glossy look which may be prone to being easily marked. The sides and back have a similar satin sheen. Frets are well-dressed without any protruding edges along either side of the neck. I have not detected the slightest fault in the construction of the guitar. Everything is spot-on and tickettyboo. There is evidence of real craftsmanship here and pound-for-pound I’d have expected a guitar of this quality to cost more than twice what I paid for it. Forget all the oft-heard tosh about guitars built in China always being inferior – there is real skill, craftsmanship, pride and care here.

Reliablity and durability
It’s obviously too early to make a valid statement, but my overall feeling is that the VE8000PB-12 has been built to last and – most importantly – built to last as a 12 string.

Overall impression ---I doubt if I need to add much more. If you’ve read this far you’ll be able to infer my opinion.
To summarise, just in case you missed the general gist of my comments - this is a superb instrument whose sound, quality, playability and build go far beyond what might be expected of a small-scale 12 string.
In one word …. stunning.

============================================================================
Personal impressions and subjective experiences ---

Why did I opt for the Brett 12 string instead of the Giltrap 12 string?
For a long time I researched and tried to decide between the Vintage VE2000GG-12 and the VE8000PB-12. I was never able to try either guitar so had to rely on reviews, Youtube demos and comments provided by members of this forum. Even so, it was a very difficult decision and the factors which led me to choose the Brett 12 string were mostly influenced by several subjective considerations:

1) I already have a traditional LAG 200PE parlour guitar and although not massively keen on the body shape or style, I have always found it to be an easy and comfortable instrument to play for long periods of time. I was also not really enamoured of the shape of the VE2000GG-12, so in effect, as regards shape and style, this put the two instruments on a level par for me. (My favourite guitar size and shape has to be the Taylor GS Mini. Without doubt, it’s the best ‘travel-sized’ 6er I’ve owned).
2) I already have a Crafter dreadnought 12 string and Youtube demos suggested to me that the sound of the VE2000GG-12 would be quite similar whereas the VE8000PB-12 was dramatically different. This struck me interesting, intriguing and something of a challenge.
3) Reviews of both guitars suggested they were exceptionally playable, but a few keywords such as ‘addictive’, ‘adaptable’ and ‘distinctively different’ used by reviewers of the Brett 12 string had an emotional appeal. (And for me, music is as much about emotional response as technique. I have plenty of the former but considerably less of the latter).
4) The review that influenced me most was by Lee Hodgson on the iGuitar magazine website. (http://licklibrary.ceros.com/iguitarmag ... 9/page/186) In this review Lee clearly distinguished between fingerstyle and plectrum playing as well as the ‘open’ and mic’d sounds of the guitar. He also played with a less aggressive style which is closer to my own preferences. This allowed me to better judge whether the Brett 12 would suit me best. (If you visit the iguitar website, you need to register to view the electronic magazine – but that is free and there are no obligations nor annoying sales spam).
5) The fact that the neck joined the body at the 12th fret also appealed. I virtually never try to play beyond that point and several reviews pointed out that this feature plus the shorter scale plus the back-raked headstock allowed for a lower action, greater tuning stability when down-tuned and more efficient transfer of energy through the reinforced bridge. Lee Hodgson’s demo also showed that the guitar was capable of almost harp-like subtlety and harmonies.

So what is it like to play and how does it compare to other guitars that I own?
Following an accident some years ago, I am left with an impairment in my left hand which makes chords and barres both difficult and painful. The problem also makes it harder for me to know precisely where my index finger is because of the tip being permanently numb …. until, that is, I play guitar for a few minutes when it feels as if I am being cut with a hot blade. I have therefore and gradually acquired a few favourite guitars which are comfortable for me to play by virtue of having low action; comfortable neck profiles; remaining stable and rattle-free when downtuned to DGCFAD or even C# F# B E G# C#. I have my Crafter MD50-12N tuned that low which makes it comfortable to play up to about the 7th fret. After that, although the action is good, my dodgey finger soon starts burning. The only guitar I can play at standard tuning is an Admira Capricho classical. Of all the guitars I’ve owned or now own, the one that is easiest to play is undoubtedly a PRS SE Semi-Hollow. Fitted with Elixir strings and with a low action it feels like playing with silk. Absolutely gorgeous. The Paul Brett 12er therefore had tough competition but I have no hesitation in saying that it is astonishingly comfortable and easy to play. By comparison, every other 12er I’ve owned, including the Crafter (which is excellent) were just wood and wire … and hot wire at that. The Brett has such a low action and such a uniform neck profile that even I can play comfortably right up to the body. That business of Brett insisting on a 12th fret body-join really does make both sense and a whole world of difference. If pressed, I would have to say that the Brett 12er is as easy and comfortable to play as my Admira classical and is even more comfortable that my Taylor GS Mini which, like the PRS, is a dream of an instrument. On a scale of 0 > 10 on which I’d rank the PRS as a personal ‘10’ and the Taylor as a straight ‘9’, I’d rate the Brett as ‘9.5’. That loss of 0.5 is only because of a small niggle that I comment upon later on.

Freebies … ?
So is the case ‘free’? Of course not, its cost will have been subsumed into the pricing of the guitar but as cases of this style go, it’s pretty good. The zip is strong but alarmingly stiff. A squirt or two of WD40 solved that (well, to be more accurate, I squirted some WD40 into an empty yogurt pot and then painted it onto the zip to save soaking the material). The interior of the case is lined and designed to fit this guitar very well. There is a good accessories compartment and also a spare top E string. I have a similar case that came with the GS Mini and that is a much better example of the style. Even so, any concerns are little more than inconsequential niggles.
Depending upon who you buy from there may be other freebies – you would have to check on that yourself. (tuners, plectrums, sets of strings, FastFret etc. etc. are possibles).

How does it suit my playing style?
I’m strictly old-style. Put it down to having my love of 12’s fired into life in 1963 when I bought several vinyl LP’s of folk, blues and country instrumentals by Billy Strange, Glen Campbell and Jimmy Reed. This love was fanned again in the 1970’s by such luminaries as Gordon Giltrap and his seminal trilogy of LP’s as well as Paul Brett and his release of ‘Earthbirth’ and ‘Interlife’. Although I appreciate and enjoy more modern 12 string music as played by the likes of Leo Kottke, Ned Allat, Neil Jacobs, John Bacon and many others, including the likes of ‘daddystovepipe’ on Youtube, I retain a deep attachment to those earliest influences. Fretboard fireworks are definitely not something I go for when it comes to acoustic guitar. (I wish Tommy Emmanuel would have the same leanings!!!). Billy Strange is still my constant companion as regards music that I regularly listen to. (He died in 2012 but it was a genuine pleasure to be able to communicate with him for a few years prior to then via his forum).

I’m essentially a plectrum-player of melody-lines plus whatever improvisations occur to me at the time. Any fingerstyle I play is rudimentary and very much associated with my own doodling and noodling. The VE8000PB-12 is often portrayed as an ideal 12er for fingerpickers and even my own pathetic pootlings show that to be true. Even I can catch pairs of strings and that Is saying a lot! I can’t do that anywhere nearly as well with the Crafter. But as I said, I’m predominantly a pickerist. (Not a real word, but I like it and it seems to capture my ad-lib hobbyist style). In my opinion, the Brett 12 is equally well suited to plectrum players. The low action and lightness of touch that is required mean that you can pick quickly and cleanly using both up and down strokes. Strumming can bring forth anything from the lightest of tinklings to a thunderous but still musical roar. On the JHS website Brett comments that “…the sound is like a cannon…” For playing melody lines using either single notes or a mixture of single notes and interspersed chords or triads, the guitar just inspires confidence and the urge to experiment. I can now clearly understand what those reviewers meant when they used such terms as ‘addictive’, ‘adaptable’ and ‘distinctively different’. They were right and I can only but commend both Paul Brett and the folks at Vintage for creating this dream of a guitar.

Any niggles?
Only two –
1) A hardcase would have been nice, as per the VE2000GG-12. The zero-gravity case is pretty good but not as good as the one provided with the GG12. On the other hand, of course, it comes with the guitar so perhaps it’s unfair to moan.
2) I have no complaint about the lack of an onboard tuner, I always rely on Snark tuners anyway for all my guitars, but the internal battery bag for the Fishman is not easy to access unless you loosen or remove strings. It can apparently be repositioned on the endblock of the neck which is accessible just inside the soundhole, but for now I’m not going to try to get at it and will wait until I need to restring the guitar. It’s thus a bit frustrating to not be able to use the electro side of things immediately. In the meantime, if I need amplification, I’ll use my John Pearse transducer which is easily attached and removed as necessary.

A totally subjective summary:
I think you’ll have got the picture by now.

After all that research and agonizing about whether to opt for the Brett 12 or the Giltrap 12, I can only say that I have been stunned, delighted and inspired by the VE8000PB-12. I’m only a hack amateur when it comes to playing guitar (as you can tell from the Youtube upload) and others who have more skill or experience may respond differently, but for me this is as near to the perfect 12 string than I could ever have dreamed of finding.

If only it had existed back in 1963 …….. ahhhhhhh, there’s a dream worth dreaming.

(Think I'll amuse myself later this week - and hopefully interest a few of you - by writing a review of the Taylor GS Mini)
It isn't how fast you can play that counts - it's that you only play as fast as you need to play that is important.
Silence can be as eloquent as sound.

BRC
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby BRC » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:42 pm

Alan 'Oldbones',

Just looked in on the forum and glad to hear you are delighted with the new addition to your guitar family.

I have watched your YouTube posting and have to admit it does sound a fine instrument. Whether it is better than the VE2000GG is going to be entirely subjective. I don't think it would have changed my decision to buy the VE2000GG, with which I am totally delighted. The only way ever to have compared was, as I had intended, to play side by side in the same environment. Maybe, one day, we could do that.

The package you got with the PB certainly is a little touch that gives you a warm feeling that they actually care that you want to buy the instrument; rather than the take it or leave attitude that can sometimes prevail.

I have to admit that the lack of or addition of an inbuilt tuner is not a particular selling point to me as I prefer, like you, to use one of my Snark tuners to make sure all instruments to be used are tuned to the same reference point. Okay, the inbuilt tuner is handy, though not essential.

My 12 stringer - the replacement - is settling in very nicely and used for a rehearsal on Monday gone.

Have fun and enjoy your PB and do keep us informed on your adventures with it.

I shall post a new subject in the 'Anoraks' discussion in a few weeks time and I am going to blame Gordon entirely for that subject matter. 'Blame' is being unduly melodramatic purely to engender interest.

Have a great Easter.

Kind regards

Brad

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Roger USA
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby Roger USA » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:23 pm

Hi Oldbones,

After following your 12 string selection process and deliberations on this forum it's good to know that you are more than pleased with your final selection.

Thanks for posting your review. It was all very interesting, but a little short.......

Enjoy your playing!

All the Best,

Roger

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Oldbones
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby Oldbones » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:55 pm

Roger USA wrote:It was all very interesting, but a little short.......

Maybe I should alter my username to OldMrShortAndSweet ... ?

Brevity is a package that must have got lost in my post ..... hey ho! I just hope that some parts of my ramblings will help anyone who's interested in the PB.

Now I'll sign off.
Or shall I?
Maybe.
Maybe not.
There must be something else I could add.
Hang on - the Garrulous Police are hammering on my door.
Must go ....
It isn't how fast you can play that counts - it's that you only play as fast as you need to play that is important.
Silence can be as eloquent as sound.

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GORDON
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby GORDON » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:19 pm

You have made a wise choice and I shall let my pal Mr Brett know.

Be Well.

G.

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Oldbones
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby Oldbones » Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:24 pm

GORDON wrote:You have made a wise choice and I shall let my pal Mr Brett know..

Thanks Gordon - very generous and magnanimous of you. It was a tough call choosing between the GG and PB twelves and in reality I'd probably have loved both, but the PB has certainly suited my needs to perfection.

When you encounter Paul, please do pass on my congratulations for having collaborated in the design of such a great instrument. My Youtube upload barely does it justice, but it may help someone. Maybe you could even whisper into Paul's ear that it's about time there was a two-on-one-CD re-release of 'Earthbirth' and 'Interlife'?

Thanks again .... and if it's any compensation for having opted for the PB-12, the CD that's not been off my player for several days has been the Visionary/Fear of the dark edition. Really inspirational playing. It never dates.

All the best.
Go in peace.

Alan.
It isn't how fast you can play that counts - it's that you only play as fast as you need to play that is important.
Silence can be as eloquent as sound.

waffels
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby waffels » Sat Apr 19, 2014 10:55 am

Hello Alan,

Thank you for your very instructive review.

I'm a PB-12 owner myself for four months now and I concur with everything you said about the guitar. There are just two things I'd like to add:

–1. The VE8000PB doesn't sound like any other 12 stringer I've played. It doesn't have the 'jingle jangle' that many associate with 12 stringers. Instead it produces a warm, 'surround' :shock: sound when strummed and when picked on the higher strings, it sounds like a mandolin (or rather a mandocello). Just put aside your preconceived idea about 12-stringers, this is a new instrument. A very inspiring instrument indeed, the kind that leads you to push the envelop and find new ways of playing.

–2. I don't like the cheesy 'gold' :roll: plated tuners. IMO they detract from the tasteful, lightly austere looks of the guitar. Any idea for a replacement?

As I live in Belgium and there's no local Vintage retailer, I bought my PB-12 sight unseen from a UK reseller on the internet. I made my decision based on the YouTube clips and the iGuitar review. To say the least, I never regretted it! :D

Cheers,
Quang from Brussels

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Oldbones
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby Oldbones » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:23 pm

waffels wrote:The VE8000PB doesn't sound like any other 12 stringer .... it produces a warm, 'surround' .... very inspiring instrument indeed, the kind that leads you to push the envelop and find new ways of playing ... I don't like the cheesy 'gold' :roll: plated tuners.

I agree about the sound, although when I play with a fairly thin pick, I can get pretty close to the more usual sound of a big 12. But one of my reasons for choosing the PB was that all uploads and reviews did suggest that it would have a different sort of sound - and that appealed as I already have a 'standard' dreadnought' 12er.

It's the amazing action and playability all along the neck which has really astonished me. The neck is fast as well and, as you say, it's inspiring to just noodle and find all sorts of new things that I normally only play on a 6er. It really does play just as easily as a good 6-string.

I don't mind the gold tuners, although maybe a dulled brass effect would have been better. What I don't like are the toffee coloured and toffee blob-like grips of the tuners. I hope they're locked on tight. They look a wee bit twee and weak to me.

But those are tiny niggles. The guitar itself is pure joy.
It isn't how fast you can play that counts - it's that you only play as fast as you need to play that is important.
Silence can be as eloquent as sound.

waffels
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Joined: Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:09 am

Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby waffels » Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:28 pm

Oldbones wrote:I don't mind the gold tuners, although maybe a dulled brass effect would have been better. What I don't like are the toffee coloured and toffee blob-like grips of the tuners. I hope they're locked on tight. They look a wee bit twee and weak to me.

The most infuriating thing is that cheesy as they are, they do their job fairly well. Makes me wonder whether the replacement tuners would do as well! :roll:

BRC
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Re: Paul Brett VE8000PB signature 12 string - MY REVIEW

Postby BRC » Thu May 01, 2014 10:32 am

:D 'Oldbones' and 'Waffels'


Oldbones
I have stayed away from interacting on the forum for a little while, to avoid overload from me. However as I have just updated my thread on the 'VE2000GG - my experience', I though I should take the opportunity to add comment/make enquiry/seek clarification on your thread so far.

I still haven't had the opportunity to try a Paul Brett VE8000PB so unable to give any opinion on comparison between it and the VE2000GG. Not that it would matter as often with two comparable instruments with little, if any, difference in quality, individual preferences and 'taste & fancy' come in to the choice to be made. As long as you are happy with the instrument you bought is the important factor. I am very pleased with my choice and, fortunately or unfortunately, have been able to compare directly two of the VE2000GGs side-by-side. It would take a lot of persuasion to change my opinion and a lot more money than the cost of the instrument. I hope that is exactly the same for you - differences of choice do not make either of us right or wrong in our choice.

Enjoy the playing and the satisfaction of having a quality instrument.

Waffels
You have me somewhat perplexed with your comments:
1. The VE8000PB doesn't sound like any other 12 stringer I've played. It doesn't have the 'jingle jangle' that many associate with 12 stringers. Instead it produces a warm, 'surround' :shock: sound when strummed and when picked on the higher strings, it sounds like a mandolin (or rather a mandocello). Just put aside your preconceived idea about 12-stringers, this is a new instrument. A very inspiring instrument indeed, the kind that leads you to push the envelop and find new ways of playing.


At the risk of being controversial, I like a 12 string guitar to sound like, well, a 12 string guitar with its 'jingle jangle' fully intact. The VE2000GG achieves that plus a very full sound. The shape, I believe was designed to emphasise the treble whilst achieving a very satisfying mid to bass range.

I don't quite understand your 'surround' comment. Do you mean the touch of the instrument or the sound. If the latter I would be interested in how such an effect can be achieved. I know all (well, most) guitars will give varying vibrations across the body, though the main sound will be heard from the sound hole. Okay resonators are a different matter, but perhaps you could elaborate on this perceived 'surround'.

I have and play mandolin and do like the mandocello sound, which I don't have. So that sounds an interesting feature of the VE8000PB.

As I have said as long as we are pleased with our choice is what really matters, the rest is opinion.

Brad


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