Fender Starcaster + Preamp

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by geoffreak, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. geoffreak macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2008
    #1
    I'm thinking about picking up a Fender Starcaster to try my hand at electric guitar. I have a simple acoustic guitar at the moment, but it just doesn't cut it for me.

    Is this a good choice for a beginner electric guitar? I don't plan on playing any concerts, just more to goof off and try to record some songs with GarageBand.

    Also, as I want to do some recording, I also plan on buying a preamp, but I'm not sure which one I should use. It doesn't matter to me if it is USB or if it connects to the audio jack, so long as it isn't terribly expensive.
    It might be possible to use the included amp as a preamp, but I don't know if there is enough power in it to do a good quality recording.
     
  2. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #2
    Is that guitar technically a Mac peripheral? You might have posted this to the wrong forum. :p

    You'll get the best info from the user feedback posted to Amazon. I see three excellent, in-depth reviews right on that page. It looks like a nice beginner instrument.

    This talk makes me miss the cherry red '77 (US) Stratocaster I used to own back in college... :( God, I wish I still had that axe.
     
  3. geoffreak thread starter macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2008
    #3
    Well, technically the preamp would be a Mac peripheral. I've also heard from a few guitar people here on MR in the past.:rolleyes:
     
  4. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #4
    OK, well, it looks like a nice instrument if you're looking to go new.

    Have you considered buying a used guitar? Back when I was living in the states 15 years ago I'd buy and sell guitars from newspaper ads. Nowadays with Craigslist I imagine it must be easy to find great deals.
     
  5. Gabriel GR macrumors 6502a

    Gabriel GR

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2009
    Location:
    Athens, Greece
    #5
    Get a used Mexican Strat. Similar price, much higher quality.

    As for the preamp. Either Pod XT or the pod mini will connect via usb and offer you a bunch of presets with famous amps to toy around and explore sounds.
     
  6. lord patton macrumors 65816

    lord patton

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago
    #6
    That's good advice.

    Teaching guitar is pretty much what I do. I have 30-35 students a week. I see a lot of these guitars from the package deals, and I think you should stay away.

    Here's what you'll get. A very poor amp, very poor cable, a tuner that doesn't work, and a strap that falls off the guitar.

    Oh, and the guitar? It might be ok, but barely. The neck will warp within the first year, and you'll have to have it "set-up." That will cost you $40. The input jack will come loose—over and over and over. The intonation in the open position will probably be poor (and will get worse higher up the neck), but that doesn't matter—the tuning machines will be so rough that you wouldn't likely get the instrument in tune anyway.

    Seriously, these are my predictions based on having seen dozens of guitars from these strat packs. Actually, the strat packs are better—the "starcaster" is Fender's attempt to lower the price even more.

    Virtually every guitar less than $700-900 will be wholly manufactured in Asia. That's not a bad thing in of itself. This ain't the 1960s and 70s. Plenty of good equipment, even fine musical instruments, come from Asia. The problem is at the price your looking the guitars are *mass* manufactured, and there is no quality control. You can't pay a trained guitar tech to do a factory inspection of an instrument like this. It's simply not in the margins. Some of the $200 starcasters coming off the assembly line will be ok, but most won't, and some will be awful.

    For $200, you're best off spending it *all* on the guitar. Get a used one, particularly if you have a guitarist friend who can look over your shoulder and make sure you're getting a decent instrument. If you can't stomach a used instrument, at least get your friend to come to a store and try out a couple that you're considering. Make sure you play and pick the *specific* guitar you want—and buy *that* one. Again, the quality is so over the place that you have to play the thing, and don't buy anything in a box that you can't inspect.

    You can always buy a $60 amp later when you get the funds (and maybe add a couple cheap ~$20 effect pedals for fun), and just play through your Mac for now with a $20 cable. It won't be awesome, but will be ok, especially if you have speakers capable of pushing some air.

    For some reason I'm always recommending semi-hollow electrics to students, perhaps because they're so versatile, and sound great acoustically. Some of the Ibanez's are a little more pricey than you'd like ($350+), but Epiphone does make this one that's going for $200 at GC:
    linky

    Good luck!
     
  7. geoffreak thread starter macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2008
    #7
    Thanks for the tips, lord patton! I'm glad I asked here. :D

    I'll talk to a few guitar players I know and see if they have any recommendations. Maybe they might have an old guitar they can sell me. Now that I know that guitars can come with so many problems, I would rather buy one that I can be sure works correctly.

    Owning a guitar sounds much more expensive than I first thought though. I know that you are supposed to keep it tuned and replace strings periodically, but just how expensive is it to maintain? I'm a computer guy with tools to fix just about everything, so I could probably do most maintenance myself, but seeing as how I've never owned an electric guitar before, I can't know for certain.

    Regarding my budget, I don't actually have too much money to spend at the moment, but I was thinking that for $200 it wouldn't be a bad investment for an instrument which will provide some entertainment. Now that I know that the cost really isn't that cheap, I'll have to think a bit more into it.

    The preamps mentioned by Gabriel GR are just a tad too expensive for what I was hoping for. I thought that I would be able to pick up a simple device for about $30-$40. I can't spend over $100 on what appears to me to be a simple device. From what I can see, I could use a regular amp as a preamp for a lot less than a preamp, so why do I have to pay more in order to lose the speaker?

    Finding a tuner isn't a hard task. I've seen many brands I've used before for around $10-$15. I am also an expert on finding cheap cables, so no worries there.
     
  8. lord patton macrumors 65816

    lord patton

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago
    #8
    Didn't mean to put the brakes on your enthusiasm! Something is telling you to get an electric guitar—you should get one! :D

    The maintenance costs are minimal. The set-up I referred to is best done by a pro, and costs around $40, but doesn't need to be done more than every 3-6 years, provided your instrument is ok to start with. If you're not changing temperature and humidity all the time, and you're not changing to a *way* different gauge of string, you might not ever worry about it. And it ain't rocket science. A couple of youtube videos and an allen wrench will get you through it if you DIY. Same goes for the other things I mentioned. It's mostly wrenches and screws. You can even adjust the intonation yourself if you have a good tuner.

    This is really more specifics than you need to know. Buy something a little better than pure crap and you won't have to worry about this stuff for a long time.

    It's sounds like you're looking for more than a preamp—you want a computer interface. The cheapest way to get your guitar into your Mac is with a simple cable to the audio-in jack, like this:

    monster guitar cab le

    That's the cheapest, and if you're going to go cheap, I say go cheap. You could also get an inexpensive USB interface—but cheap USB-thingys go bad. Cable, not as much (if you take care of them). Anyhoo, these are under $50:

    Alesis
    Berhinger

    I list the latter with reservations. I wouldn't by *anything* from Behringer.

    FWIW, unless I was using a lot of effects, I'd rather play through $50 Fender practice amp than my computer.

    This cheap tuner gets the best reviews:

    Korg tunerc

    They make a chromatic version that is $5 more, which would be useful if you anticipate being in alternate tunings.

    If you buy new, remember: music shops will *always* deal. Just ask them what the best price they can give you is, and watch them discount. It's simple and predictable.

    What kind of music do you like?
     
  9. geoffreak thread starter macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2008
    #9
    I think I'll go with the direct cable because I just want to go cheap. I have heard that depending on the guitar, that the volume can be maxed out which can cause distortion, but I hope I won't get that problem.

    The only reason I would use my guitar with my computer is to record music. I doubt I would use any effects or anything. Also, I have a surround sound system that has a 2.5mm input jack, so I could connect to that directly, or connect through my Mac Mini, which is connected to it via optical. I figure I can use this as a simple amp which is greater in quality than any cheap one I'd be able to afford now and allow me to save up and buy a better amp.

    I'll get a Korg tuner because you recommended it. I have to know though, does it have a microphone built in? I mainly play trombone but I don't have a tuner (being in a marching band, we all tune by ear and off each other), so I figure I could use it for both purposes.

    Can you give me some tips for purchasing at a store such as Guitar Center (they are the largest music retailer in my area)? Buying at a store will definitely make life easier by decreasing the number of steps I have to go through and allow me to haggle the price. I assume they would be able to do the initial "fix" too? Maintenance sounds like something I'll be able to do though.

    Modern rock is the genre I listen to mostly, but I like a wide variety of music.
     
  10. lord patton macrumors 65816

    lord patton

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago
    #10
    Try a few guitars and pay special attention to those that are comfortable and interesting to you.

    Once you have a few candidates, you want to check their intonation and make sure all the frets play properly.

    To check the intonation of a string, play a harmonic at the 12th fret, and then play the string while actually fretting the 12th fret. The two pitches should be identical. If they're noticably different, *do not* buy that guitar.

    You can also sight down the length of the neck and make sure it has minimal bow. Don't worry if you're not an expert at this—you're checking for wild defects, and your intuition will tell you if something is wrong.

    Lastly, play up and down every string, playing every fret. You're listening to make sure the guitar doesn't fret out. That is, you play one fret perfectly, but the string is actually hitting a fret further down the neck, thus producing the wrong pitch or just a bad sound. It's a phenomenon one finds most often in the very low positions or the very high positions.

    Check also, if your technique allows, that the upper three strings can be bent without fretting out. Just bend each string at every fret and make sure the pitch rings throughout the full range of the bend.

    If it passes those test, you're probably square. Just give it a glance over for cracks, paint chips, loose hardware, etc. Of course play it through and amp and check all the knobs and switches.

    Guitar Center most often does *not* have a technician who can fix up the guitar if you find it lacking in one of these areas. You may try a smaller boutique shop that has better customer service. Or maybe you'll get lucky with a good salesman at GC who will look out for you.
     

Share This Page