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[Review] Three cherry sunburst Love Rocks from 1984/85

 
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hans-j?rgen
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Joined: 21 Feb 2005
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Location: Hamburg, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 11:25 am    Post subject: [Review] Three cherry sunburst Love Rocks from 1984/85 Reply with quote

Here's the first part about that Tokai gathering in my apartment and rehearsal room, containing three cherry sunburst Love Rock LS 60s from 1984 and 1985 with almost the same specs. The second part will be about the brown sunburst LS 120 from 1981 and finding the best set of pickups for it -- if I'll ever find it...

I had already submitted them to the Tokai registry on the main site, you can find their short descriptions using the serial numbers there. This picture shows them in front of my usual amp:


Here's another one with their backs:


And another to show the difference between neon light and flash light photos:



    From left to right:
    * Serial no. 1014419: Love Rock LS 120 from 1981 with Gibson P-94 single coils, two-piece brown sunburst flamed / quilted maple top, one-piece mahogany body, thin '60 neck with fret binding, weight: 4.2kg
    * Serial no. 4020848: Love Rock LS 60 from 1984 with Gibson Shaw PAFs, two-piece cherry sunburst flamed maple top (veneer), two-piece mahogany body, thick neck, weight: 4.1kg
    * Serial no. 4016175: Love Rock LS 60? from 1984 with Tom Holmes PAFs, two-piece cherry sunburst plain top (probably solid), two-piece mahogany body, thick neck, weight: 4.0kg
    * Serial no. 5027319: Love Rock LS 60? from 1985 with Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates in the bridge and '59 in the neck position, two-piece cherry sunburst flamed maple top (veneer), two-piece mahogany body, thick neck, weight: 4.5kg

The question marks behind the model numbers of my friends' guitars (on the right side of the photo) mean that he doesn't remember them when he bought the guitars in the '80s, and the oval stickers with the model number have all been long gone. But from the specifications it's quite sure that these were not higher priced models. Here's a picture of the bridge cavity where you can see the flamed maple veneer of the 1985 model (its bookmatched seam does not exactly line up with the two maple parts underneath):



I bought my LS 60 new or rather NOS in a guitar shop in Hamburg 1985 and the 1981 LS 120 a few weeks later from the first owner who told me that it would be this model. This can be proved by the remaining shadow of the decay on the headstock showing that number (see my homepage for a picture) and also by its specifications. But he lied to me about the pickups that he had swapped, saying that they were original PAFs from a '63 Gibson SG. Now I know he simply swapped pickups with his Gibson Heritage from ~1983 that stood in the same room back then. The LS 120 probably came with two original DiMarzio PAFs which he wanted to have in his Heritage, and its original Gibson Shaw PAFs (1982/83) went into the LS 120 which I later installed in the LS60.



As I was trying to find out if the combination of these guitars and pickups still made sense with my different amps and changed taste over the years, I started this comparison playing all four Love Rocks side by side at home without an amp trying to learn their dry sound first for several days. In my opinion this is essential when deciding such a question, because you cannot completely alter the sound and character of a guitar with another pickup, at least not with these kind of PAFs supposed to transfer the natural sound and only slightly adding nuances to it. But you can try to match this natural sound with the tone of a pickup set, if you know from where you started.

During that phase I also changed the setup of the guitars to my preferred string height and gauge (standard .010 to .046 D'Addario XL strings), neck tension etc., so they would have equal conditions for the test. This also included the same string wrap around the stop tailpiece that you can see on the photo. This method mellows the tone a bit due to the lower string tension on the neck caused by the flatter angle and can be a good match for a brighter sounding guitar if you want that softer 'wooden tone'.

In the meantime both of my Love Rocks have a lightweight aluminium tailpiece with the usual string attachment (i.e. no wrap). The LS 120 was originally equipped with that stop tailpiece, and the LS 60 now has one I still had as a spare part from another guitar. The LS 120 literally came back to life afterwards, because it already has a dark and rich tone which obviously suffered from that wrapped string attachment.

About the same happened to my LS 60 which lost its strong treble tone and traded it for a more silky sound with richer harmonics. Can you imagine how puzzled I was? I admit that this is my contribution to those Voodoo theories, but hey, it sounds marvellous now (yesterday I played the cherry sunburst for several hours first shaking my head in disbelief and then my hips a bit, too), and you can try it yourself rather easily for less money than a new pickup. That was also the time when I decided to better write this review before other strange things might happen...

OK, so now I knew (or at least thought I knew) how those ladies behaved barefooted, what about their pickups then? I started with my friends' Tom Holmes set in his plain top LS 60 over my Mesa Boogie Mark IIB head and 1x12 cab at home, because I had to give it back the next week. It took me only a few minutes of balancing their overall sound lowering the bridge humbucker on the treble side a bit and checking their general output when switching between them (7.95 and 7.23 kOhm). Then it was clear that those rather bright pickups were the perfect match for that guitar, because it has a loud and strong acoustical midrange with almost nothing else besides it, i.e. no extra sparkle like my cherry sunburst or fundamental bass power like the brown sunburst.



We had already tried this set on his other flamed maple LS 60 before which has a rather neutral sound, i.e. enough of everything (highs, mids and lows). There the Tom Holmes pickups didn't work out like they do now, because they enhance the higher frequencies in these kind of guitars too much. So this Love Rock (with empty cavities in the group shot) got the Seymour Duncans I mentioned earlier (see the picture below). The Pearly Gates at the bridge measures 7.77 kOhm which is less than it's supposed to have, and the '59 at the neck 7.37 kOhm. You can also find pickup specs and sound samples (4 for each pickup) on their web site.



While the Pearly Gates with its overall brighter sound and not too much bass (Alnico II magnets) may or may not be the right choice in this guitar, the '59 at the neck sounded too boomy (Alnico V), so it was rather difficult to find a balance between them. This also convinced me (again) that it's a better idea to use a set of similar pickups in one guitar that will probably match its natural sound as a whole, i.e. with a bit more windings for the bridge version. The Tom Holmes and Shaw PAFs as well as the P-94 single coils could easily provide this.

The last candidate was my cherry sunburst LS 60 which originally came with stock Tokai '57 PAFs that I also used in this comparison. When I bought the LS 120 back in 1985, I swapped its Shaw PAFs (7.27 and 6.82 kOhm with unorientated Alnico V magnets) with the Tokai pickups, because I wanted to combine their great midrange tone with the lightweight cherry sunburst (about 3.5kg) and not with the heavier brown sunburst (~ 4kg with a thin neck). I also love the rich overtones that these pickups provide, i.e. they offer the so-called 'bloom' effect when playing slightly distorted chords or intervals of thirds and sixths adding an extra bonus of harmonic distortion and a general 'wellness factor' to them. And this can be heard very clearly in the cherry sunburst, now even better because of that new stop tailpiece...



So I only installed the Tokai PAFs for a short check of their sound knowing that I would very likely end up with the same set of Shaw PAFs in that guitar. The Tokai pickups can be compared to the Pearly Gates in a way, because they have only a slightly higher impedance (both at ~8.3 kOhm) and probably a similar magnet (Alnico II or III) which results in a lower output than the impedance would suggest. They also sound similar, i.e. not too much bass response combined with a bright tone and attack reminding me of a Telecaster, but with enough 'creamy' substance to it to make it a good humbucker. So probably they are better neck than bridge pickups (like the Pearly Gates), and having two with almost the same impedance in a guitar can be a little bit difficult to balance. As always it's important to know how your individual guitar sounds if you want to try them, so in a bright guitar it will be 'on the edge' probably while a dark sounding Love Rock will fit them more easily.

These might also be the 'famous last words' on this part, because the main lesson I learned during my comparison was that guitars with almost identical specs can vary a lot in their dry sound, even if those specs are commonly regarded as being very important for it like age, neck size, one or two piece body and so on.

I didn't have the time and HDD space to make sound clips during this comparison, but some of our old demo songs on my homepage were recorded with my LS 60 and Mesa Boogie Mark IIB as well as with the Fender Bassman. You can find a list of URLs with short descriptions in this thread.

And you should visit the different sites which provide more infos on the individual pickups, e.g. the DiMarzio and Jim Wagner homepages have samples, too. Reading similar reports on Harmony Central or at the Les Paul Forum as well as the Seymour Duncan Forum and The Gear Page also helps to get started, but you should always do your own tests, because your guitar will sound different than mine, and so will the pickups in your guitar. So don't believe a single word you've just read, please...
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BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"


Last edited by hans-j?rgen on Wed Jan 13, 2016 5:18 am; edited 8 times in total
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's another shot done from a higher position without tripod and a flash, so it's a bit out of focus, but nice in a way:



Concerning the second part of the review about my LS 120 I have to confess that it takes much more time than I thought, because I found out it's better to test the pickups with my band, too, before making any "final" decisions. And I could also lend an old DiMarzio Super Distortion clone from my friend which is interesting, because early Tokai LS 150 models came with that one in the bridge and a DiMarzio PAF in the neck position. So I could reinstall the "original" pickups now on my LS 120, hmm...
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ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"


Last edited by hans-j?rgen on Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:17 am; edited 2 times in total
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hans-j?rgen wrote:
Concerning the second part of the review about my LS 120 I have to confess that it takes much more time than I thought, because I found out it's better to test the pickups with my band, too, before making any "final" decisions.

This has happened in the meantime in another review with MP3 samples for different pickups, also for my cherry sunburst LS60 with the Shaw PAFs. See this posting and/or thread:

http://www.tokaiforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=21725#21725

Furthermore you can find some older recordings of my band done with that guitar and pickups using the 1962 Fender Bassman head (Normal channel, Volume 10, Treble & Bass 0, Presence somewhere at 5) and half of the 1972 Marshall cab (2x Celestion G12H30 blackbacks with 55Hz cone) here:

http://www.tokaiforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=3667
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BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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VicDelmonte
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, I've been searching around, and this seems like the most authoritative source I'm going to find on these guitars. I am a relative new-comer to electric instruments, but I have an opportunity to get an LS60 for a song. (Not literally, )

I wanted to know if it is an instrument that is likely to be newbie-friendly. Or at least, friendly so someone who is just starting off with non-acoustics?

Vic
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JVsearch
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

VicDelmonte wrote:
Hey, I've been searching around, and this seems like the most authoritative source I'm going to find on these guitars. I am a relative new-comer to electric instruments, but I have an opportunity to get an LS60 for a song. (Not literally, )

I wanted to know if it is an instrument that is likely to be newbie-friendly. Or at least, friendly so someone who is just starting off with non-acoustics?


Of course! Being a Les Paul it will be one of the more easy to play electric guitars available, PROVIDED it is not damaged and is set up properly. If you are buying an old used guitar it could be in any condition, so you should audition it, or just risk it.

As long as there's nothing too bad (worn out frets or twisted neck) then it wont cost much to get an electric guitar sorted out. One of the common failures on the old Les Pauls is that the bridge can lose its curve (flatten out over time from the string tension pressure) and therefore the bridge doesn't follow the same curvature of the neck and the middle strings will be too close to the frets. This causes buzzing or a stupidly high action (distance of strings away from frets) to compensate for the collapsed bridge. However, it's an easy fix - just put a new bridge on it! You could do it yourself because it just lifts off when the strings are removed.

BTW, this probably isn't the right place to post your questions - I suggest either "General Discussion" or the forum relevant to the LS-60 which is either "Tokai Guitars" or "Vintage (Older than 1985)" depending on the age of the guitar you are considering buying.
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andrewz
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great guitar. I think expansive their are.
astigmatismастигматизм75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s
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75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s75s


Last edited by andrewz on Thu Nov 12, 2015 10:27 am; edited 1 time in total
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, long time no see. I wondered if I should start a new picture thread somewhere (as I could not find one with users actually playing their Tokais) or just add some live pics with my 1984 LS60 here. So here are three recent ones from the Bluezz Bastardzz gig at the Harley-Davidson Custom Mountain Festival in Andorra 2010 proving that I still use it.







There are more pictures from that gig in a photo album on our Myspace profile. You can see that I use it all the time, except for the sound check (in another album) where one string broke, and I had to use my Ibanez Musician MC300 instead.
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INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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felixcatus
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice pics.


hans-j?rgen wrote:
Hi, long time no see. I wondered if I should start a new picture thread somewhere (as I could not find one with users actually playing their Tokais)


There?s a thread, but it?s old and doesn?t have much posts.
http://www.tokaiforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=39387&highlight=

If you start a new picture thread, you can count me in.
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Barks67
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi hans-j?rgen,

very interesting read and nice guitars!

I have an interesting specimen from 1985, but am not sure if it is a LS50 or 60....or whatever!

Your plain top LS60 - from the photos - looks remarkably similar to mine, so would greatly appreciate your opinion.

http://s650.photobucket.com/albums/uu222/katbarks/2%20Tokai%20Guitars/

It is a one piece back, solid two piece plain (slightly figured) maple top and has 18 degree headstock angle. Cherry Sunburst

It is open book headstock with bell TRC - though there is confusion if this is original or or not as the guitar dates from 1985 and was purchased by me new in 1990 at a cheap price as the shop in the UK had been trying to shift it for years.
I never replaced the TRC - though most assure me it is not typical for this era - but why would the shop change it.

The bridge is replaced (typical sag issue) but the original brass saddles were retained.
The machine heads were replaced when one failed - typically on a gig.

I too have Seymour Duncan Vintage pafs (with 50's wiring) installed and it sounds absolutely stellar!

The issue is that it does not follow the known spec profile fro LS50 according to the registry ie no FEB , but it has an 18 degree headstock and one piece back etc.

Others in the UK with 1985 Love Rocks have chimed in on a recent thread with similar anomalies - including an identical "stepped" Bell TRC on their 1985 Love Rock, which is only a few digits away from mine with respect to serial number.

http://www.tokaiforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=18135

thanks again

Barks
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@felixcatus: Thanks for the link, did not find that one, or else I would have posted there. I'm always for recycling the usable things, you know.

@Barks: I admit that the flamed maple top is not very visible in these pictures (maybe in the last one with greenish background), but it's definitely the second guitar from the left in the first pic of this thread with the Gibson Shaw PAFs. So I searched for another picture from the afternoon where you can see a bit more of the veneer top and me being frustrated, because I wasn't allowed to check the rented Marshall Vintage Modern combo yet:



I don't know if your Tokai is a LS50, LS60 or LS80, but it looks fine to me. Maybe whoever imported it back then to the UK wanted them with a bell TRC, or someone in the shop changed it. And the one-piece back looks good as well, although it's sometimes hard to spot the matches of a two or three-piece body in a photo. So yours seems to be one of a kind, or maybe of a few, but as long it sounds good, you shouldn't worry too much in my opinion.
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INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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Barks67
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Hans,

Thank you so much for your input. Hoped you'd be able to shed some more insight.
Sorry, I should have been clearer, it was your plain top with the Tom Holmes Pickups I was referring to!

I have always been happy with this well used/abused/loved workhorse for the last 22 years - its just interesting, now that I am showing a little more interest into the history of Tokai, that it falls into the rather odd 1985 "huh?" category others have mentioned.
It's almost as if they were clearing out higher end spec bits and bobs, as by rights a LS50 should have a 14 degree headstock and three piece back.

The back is definitely one piece as you can see the continuity of the diagonal grain all the way round the edge - no breaks.
As as you say there may have been a special order for a batch to the UK - as UK had the dimple by this time.

Just for reference, I have also owned a ST50 Strat/Goldie since 1987, but spend most of my time switching between the Love Rock and a 1982 Fender Telecaster vintage reissue - the two types are bed fellows in my mind.

From 1990-94 I played with The Pretty Things and played the Strat/Goldie mostly - with the Love Rock as backup - but Dick Taylor loved it so much he used it more than I did! There is a grainy pic on the photobucket site from somewhere in Holland.
It made sense for me to have a Telecaster eventually as my second guitar as he was on a Humbucker equipped ESP.

The Love Rock gets a lot of use these days for sessions, here is a recent one called Daystripper to give you an idea of its natural cranked up Fender twin character.

http://old.thesixtyone.com/mattbioul/#/s/UHPgRjOdHHW/
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barks67 wrote:
Sorry, I should have been clearer, it was your plain top with the Tom Holmes Pickups I was referring to!

No, the two LS60 on the right side of the first picture belonged to my friend, and he has sold them in the meantime. I still have the LS120 and the LS60 on the left side.

Quote:
It's almost as if they were clearing out higher end spec bits and bobs, as by rights a LS50 should have a 14 degree headstock and three piece back.

Yes, and the grain on the two-piece solid plain top looks to be matched as well which would suggest a LS80, too. I don't remember if those were supposed to have fret-edge binding and nitro lacquer in 1985, and the problem is that there are no translations from the Japanese catalogues of each year which might give more insight. Furthermore these do not cover any export model specifications. Anyhow, the important parts all seem to be of good quality, so it should also sound good.
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INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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Brodon
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, It is nice feeling to read this post and curious to know about your guitars. Put here lead guitars. I want to know about them then I'll buy.
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Peter Mac
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi guys,

This is an informative discussion, just adding a few nuggets

In Australia at least, by 1985 only the LS-50 had a solid plain top.
The LS-60 was the same build as the LS-50 but with flame veneer.
The LS-80 had better woods, fewer pieces and a better flame veneer.
The LS-100 was an LS-80 with Dimazzio's instead of Tokai PAF
LS-150/200 were by Special Order. No LS-120.
Non-US models still had 'open-book' headstocks.
LS-50 & 60 had 14deg pitch, all others had 18deg pitch. To the best of my knowledge and research, no LS-50 ever had 18deg pitch.

Peter Mac
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