The VFS-1 – New pick-up for our Schecter-style pickguards

Posted on 12 CommentsPosted in Guitar in general, Guitars

Our loaded metal pickguards are now available with a new pick-up model: the VFS-1. V stands for vintage, F for fat, (and S for Strat).

The VFS-1 with white caps for that Alchemy look

Unlike our Schecter-style pick-up (which is very close to a Schecter F500T), the new pick-up has the “normal” sized magnet pole pieces, like a vintage Strat pick-up, and can be used with a plastic cap (the F500Ts do not allow to put a cap on them). So it looks and sounds similar to the Seymour Duncan SSL1s or APS-1 that Mark Knopfler played in his red Schecter dream machine Strat. But that’s not all, the VFS-1 has also a second outer coil to create  fatter sounds, similar to the DiMarzio FS-1 that Mark Knopfler played in his red Fender of early Dire Straits days.

The VFS-1
The tapped coil for a vintage Strat sound, the full coil for a fat Strat sound

In other words, the new tapped pick-up allows two sounds that can be toggled with the up/off/down mini switches of our pickguards. You will have the same 27 sound combinations from the three mini switches as with the F500T pick-ups. In the up-position of the mini switch the sound will be  much closer to the vintage Strat sound than the thinner but bassier  sound of the F500T.

The new pick-up is also ideal for all who would like to have a DiMarzio FS-1 in the neck position of their Strat for those Single-Handed-Sailor sounds but do not want to lose the normal Strat sound. You can e.g. switch the outer coil on or off with a push-pull poti (available here) so that the overall look of the original Strat is not changed.

The price of this pick-up is the same as of our F500T-style pickups, and the loaded pickguard also costs the same as with the old type (which of course will also remain available). Sound demo clips coming soon. [edit:  here is one which A/B compares the VFS-1 to both a 1955 Strat pickup and to a DiMarzio FS-1, more to come]

See the VFS-1 in our shop.

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The Gibson Chet Atkins CEC – Classical Electric Guitar with Nylon Strings

Posted on 19 CommentsPosted in Guitars, Mark Knopfler gear, Vintage guitars

This week I had a nice guitar here – a Gibson Chet Atkins CEC. The CE stands for classical electric, in other words a solid-body guitar with nylon strings and a piezo pickup, while the last C stands for conventional neck width (2″/5.1 cm  at the nut, a CE model with a neck width of 1.825″ / 4.6 cm was also available).

This guitar model was developed by Chet Atkins who approached Gibson with his prototype. The model appeared in Gibson’s catalogue in 1982, right at the time when Dire Straits recorded the Love over Gold album. This album features two songs – Private Investigations and the title track – on which a classical (=nylon-strung) guitar was used. Note that on the album it was NOT the Gibson Chet Atkins, however, Mark  Knopfler started to play it on stage for the Love over gold tour, right after recording the album. You can hear it e.g. on the Alchemy live album where it was used not only on Private Investigations and Love over Gold but also in the outro of Romeo&Juliet. Knopfler (probably) also used it on many sessions with other artists in the early 80ies,  e.g. with Phil Everly or Paul Brady.

[wppa type=”slide” album=”3″][/wppa]


The body is not all solid mahogany but features sound chambers to reduce weight and to make the sound more acoustic. The top is solid spruce or cedar. The neck is mahogany with a neck joint location at the 12th fret – like a classical guitar. The scale is 25 1/2″, the fingerboard and the bridge are from ebony.

The pickup system consists of six individual piezos that are installed under the bridge. The pickup signal is preamplified in the control cavity (that consequently houses a 9V battery), a volume control and the (active) tone control is located on the rim of the guitar (later models have a bass and treble control). A really useful feature are six trim pots inside the control cavity that allow to adjust the volume for each string individually so that you can equalize volume differences easily.

The guitar here i a CEC with the wider nut, I suspect – it is not easy to see on pictures – that Mark Knopfler had the CE model with the more narrow neck. For me the wide neck is nothing I am used to, nevertheless the guitar is not really difficult to play.


The Gibson Chet Atkins produces a faithful classical guitar sound, and can be played even at high volume without the risk of feedback. Of course a ‘real’ classical guitar might produce the typical sound even better – for this reason Mark Knopfler probably replaced the Gibson with a Ramirez on the On Every Street tour in 1991/2.

One problem of many classical guitars – and also of the example shown here – is intonation. As the bridge does not have individually adjustable saddles like on an elctric guitar, and neither  a ‘compensated’ bridge design with different lenths for the different strings, the guitar never perfectly intonates all notes. If you tune the open strings, the bass note on e.g. the low e string is out of tune at the higher frets, and there is almost nothing you can do against it.

Here is a video I recorded with this guitar (if video jumps make sure slide show above is not running):

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Dire Straits – Portobello Belle – The Point, Dublin, 1991

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Dire Straits/ Mark Knopfler live pictures and videos

Again I found something nice on youtube I personally have never heard before: Portobello Belle from the On Every Street tour in 1991, performed at The Point in Dublin.. I have had one “official” bootleg (= silver pressed CD) called Strait to the Point from a Dublin gig of that tour (August 26 – they played there for 5 nights from August 23 – 27) but the one I have does not include Portobelle Belle (and neither some other rare songs performed there like Fade to Black, Long Highway, or Iron Hand). In fact it seems that Portobelle Belle was performed on that tour in Dublin only (correct me if I’m wrong) – well, it is a”song about a long gone Irish girl …”

This version starts with a sax intro by Chris White and ends with a ‘pedobro solo’ by Paul Franklin  (pedobro = an acoustic pedal steel with a dobro resonator, built by Paul Franklin’s father I think), and it is generally rather different from previous or later version. Mark plays the National Style-O it seems (it is an audience recording so the sound is not perfect) It does not feature much spectacular guitar playing, but a great version anyway. Enjoy!

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