A few weeks ago, after six months of waiting, my custom-made Tiger tribute finally arrived. From the onset, things were slightly amiss: the unity gain buffer and the on-board effects loop ("OBEL") were not working. Nevertheless, I plugged the guitar into my amp, a Kustom ’36 Coupe (36 watts), and the sound was amazing. The tone was clear and I could get it to wail.
Wanting to get the buffer and the OBEL working, I took it to my friendly neighborhood guitar shop, where they noticed that my luthier's electrician had failed to connect these two components to the proper wiring. They fixed the issue, and played the guitar for me -- it sounded just fine. They also plugged in an effects pedal, using my StewMac 1/4" stereo y-cable. The OBEL worked perfectly.
Unfortunately, upon returning home, I was confronted with an entirely new array of problems. Hopefully someone can offer me some advice.
1) My primary issue is achieving a decent volume output. When my guitar first arrived, although the buffer and the OBEL were non-functional, the pots sounded amazing; I could get the guitar to wail loudly with my amp turned about halfway up. Now, the buffer and the OBEL are functional, but I can barely achieve adequate volume output from the amp. I’ll plug in the guitar, move the 5-way pickup selector to, say, the neck position, turn the neck pickup’s volume and tone knobs to their maximums, then turn the amp’s volume and master volume knobs to their maximums. Yet, even in this configuration, the guitar is only about as loud as my Fender practice amp (15 watts) – roughly a quarter as loud as it originally was, when I played it despite the malfunctioning buffer and OBEL.
2) The second problem I’m experiencing lies in the OBEL itself, which does not appear to be working. With my effects pedals turned on, I adjust the tone knobs on the guitar, but the depth of the effects does not change. At least, not noticeably. However, I may simply be unable to tell due to the aforementioned inadequate volume output.
3) The third problem I’m experiencing also involves the on-board effects loop. My guitar, as with Tiger, contains three micro-switches below the knobs. The third of these switches, at the bridge end of the guitar, turns the OBEL on and off. The point of the OBEL is to be able to increase or decrease the depth of your effects using the tone controls on the guitar. Therefore, it follows that, were the OBEL to be turned off, the tone controls on the guitar must act normally, as would any other tone controls on any other guitar. Yet, on my Tiger, when you flip this switch to the “off” position, the output cuts off altogether; that is to say, you can’t hear anything coming out of the amp.
4) Lastly, the guitar should theoretically be able to be used like a normal guitar – I should be able to plug it directly into the amp, without using a second cord for the OBEL. Unfortunately, I am unable to do so. When I try, the volume output is too low to hear, even with all the possible volume-related settings turned to the maximum.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I know that the cause of these problems is not improper configuration, as I'm sure that I’ve been plugging all the jacks into the right places (OBEL = top jack / tip = send / ring = receive / amp = bottom jack). Personally, I believe that my amp is at the heart of the problem, because the guitar appeared to be working just fine at the local shop. The technician plugged it into a 20 watt amp (16 watts less than mine) and it sounded just fine – much louder than it does on my Kustom. He also plugged in an effects pedal, and the OBEL worked as it should. When the OBEL was on, the tone knobs on the guitar adjusted the depth of the effect he was using. And when he flipped the OBEL micro-switch to the “off” position, the tone knobs resumed their normal functions, but the overall volume did not cut out one bit.
With regards to problem 4: the technician did not try to play the guitar with just a direct-to-amp cord (bypassing the OBEL entirely), so I cannot speak to whether that problem is also unique to my amp. That being said, though, I have a feeling that, if the other three problems are unique to my guitar, this one must be as well.