Mass Street Music Staff Gear Picks – September 2013!

Here’s a look at what the Mass Street staff has been digging most this September…

Jim BaggettCollings 001
This Collings has the warmth and response of a vintage guitar, but it’s new. It’s also very pretty!

Collings 001 acoustic guitar front shot

This Collings 001’s vintage tone captured Boss Jim’s fancy this month.


John FlynnGrosh ElectraJet Standard
This has all the attitude and none of the fluff – the mini hums are fantastic too.

Grosh Electrajet Standard with Mini Hums, front shot

Flynn’s pick is this Grosh Electrajet Standard – sleek and to the point with fantastic sounding Mini Hum pickups.


Eric MardisMagnatone Twilighter
Perfection. Classic tones abound from this beautiful amplifier. My favorite aspect is the true pitch shifting vibrato. Magnatone has come through the time warp and is here to do battle. The classic amp of yesteryear has been brought into the modern world and has never sounded better. That unrivaled Varistor Vibrato is exactly as it was in the original Magnatone with vastly improved front end and power sections.

Magnatone Twilighter 1x12 Combo

This Magnatone Twilighter 1×12 amp quickly earned everyone’s praise this month, especially Eric M. He loves the true pitch shifting vibrato.


Eric PutnamEastman T486B Thinline
This guitar looks awesome and more importantly it sounds great. When I pick it up, I can’t help but pull out some blues licks. It’s extremely resonant and the Duncan Phat Cat P90s are articulate and just hot enough to make the amp work.

Eastman T486 Thinline Electric Guitar

Eric P can’t help but pull out some monster blues licks every time he picks up this Eastman T486B Thinline. And we can’t blame him.


Alek NelsonEastman E20 SS Slope Shoulder
This is an attention grabber – beautiful burst, extremely responsive, and resonates forever!

Eastman E20SS Slope Shoulder Acoustic Guitar

The beautiful burst and superior resonance of this Eastman E20SS grabbed Alek’s attention this month.


Matt Harmon Repair Shop LuthierWren and Cuff 70’s Your Face
We’ve all gone fuzz crazy here at the store and the 70’s Your Face fuzz is one of my favorites. Mardis and I have been staying late and playing fuzzes back and forth recently and this one, and the Skreddy Lunar Module sounded very similar to our ears. I’ve been very impressed with Wren and Cuff and how they are able to take the perfect vintage sounding fuzz and transition it to a modern designed box and keep it under $200. Very impressive!

Wren and Cuff Your Face Smooth 70s Fuzz Pedal

Matt likes the Wren and Cuff Your Face pedal for its perfect vintage sounding fuzz, modern design, and nice price tag.


Ted KritikosHeavy Electronics Descend Reverse Volume Pedal
The only problem with rocking so hard, which I can’t help but do, is that there are always people scared of how much I rock. This pedal makes my cranked tube amp rock a little less when I click it on. Perfect.

Heavy Electronics Descend Reverse Volume Pedal

Ted likes to rock, but when he needs to pull it back a bit, the Heavy Electronics Descend reverse volume hooks him up real nice.


Casey GreenCollings 290 DCS
This Collings 290 is one of those guitars you can pick up anytime, in most any situation, and know that it’s going to perform. I’ll reach for this one first, especially when trying out amps. If it doesn’t sound “right” with this guitar, I know immediately, it ain’t for me! Did I mention that this guitar is ON SALE? Stop by the store and see — you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Collings 290 DC S Electric Guitar

Casey thinks this Collings 290 is the perfect guitar for just about any occasion – and even more so now, since it’s on sale.


Anne TangemanKala U Bass
I’m continually astounded when I hear a bass in the store and it turns out it’s this little uke ‘bass’. For bass players, it’s a blast and for uke players it’s something really familiar with a twist. It’s so small, yet designed with rubber like strings, a piezo pickup and EQ that make it really versatile. Kind of makes me want to learn bass now. It’s some serious fun.

Kala Rumbler U-Bass Bass Ukulele

Anne’s ready to take up bass after hearing this Kala U Bass in action. It has uke familiarity, but with a low-end twist.


Mass Street Music News – August 2013!

John Flynn with son Isaac

Boss Flynn, pictured here with his son Isaac, at the store a few years back.

Boss Flynn is stepping back from day-to-day duties at Mass Street Music to join the team at Heartland Community Health Care here in Lawrence. He’s still co-owner of Mass Street Music, and will still be involved for sure. You’ll see his mug around the store, just not as frequently, so stop by before October 1 and say hi to John while you can.

After 26 years of fueling passion at Mass Street Music, I have decided to step aside from my current daily role here to work with the Heartland Community Health Center here in Lawrence – a multifaceted medical clinic for the under-served in our community. As many of you know, my passion for guitars and music is only trumped by my passion for my faith and my family. This opportunity will allow me to daily serve those in need. The Mass Street Music staff is the best it has ever been, and as such, I feel I am able to put my attentions towards HCHC. My day to day role at Mass Street Music will not be what it has been, but I remain a committed owner and will continue to serve this wonderful place that is so dear to me in many different ways – you’ll still see me behind the counter from time to time!” – John Flynn.


Join our Team – With Boss Flynn focusing on HCHC, Mass Street Music is currently seeking a qualified Sales Manager. If you are friendly and outgoing, know a nut from a fret, possess exceptional customer service skills, extensive sales experience and the ability to manage people effectively in a dynamic environment, this might be the job for you. Check out the full details and application info here.


1923 Gibson A2 mandolin

This ’23 Gibson A2 is just one of many vintage mandos we just received at the store.

New Gear Just In
– We received a bounty of really sweet vintage mandolins recently – you can check the mandos out here. In the pedal department, new arrivals include Skreddy Pedals – original and super versatile effects which Eric M. brought in. Eric P. has brought in Wren and Cuff effects which are great takes on classic fuzz/Big Muff and distortion effects. He also nabbed us some Heavy Electronics pedals, unique pedals which are handmade in Minneapolis. Taylor Guitars just sent us a few of the super cool new Taylor Fall Limited GS Mini guitars – one with Rosewood back and sides which sounds amazing and one made with quilted Sapele that comes with their great ES-T pickup system already installed. These guitars are perfect for travelers, campers and those just wanting a smaller guitar with a big sound.

This weekend in Lawrence – The 33rd Annual Kansas Fiddling and Picking Championships will be held this Sunday, August 25 and we’ll be there, so stop by the tent and say hi to Jim, John, Mike and the crew. It’s not only a great opportunity to witness some champion pickers and players of all ages, but there are concerts too including Pat Nichols, MAW, Signal Ridge, and more. Check out the site for more info on this, one of our favorite gatherings of the year. That is if you make it there after the great Buskerfest which is happening all weekend too!

KS Fiddling Picking Championships Poster 2013

The Kansas Fiddling & Picking Championships are this Sunday, Aug. 25!

– Who is ready for Winfield, Sept. 18-22? We will be there at this incredible annual music festival with a compact version of the store and a slew of familiar faces including Jim, John, Josh and our Taylor buddy Eric Sakimoto. We’ll also have some brand new shirts (and coozies!) sporting our sharp new logo, so stop by. We’ll see you there!

Leo Posch – A big thank you to all the folks here in Lawrence and beyond who have contributed to the recovery fund for luthier Leo Posch. The Benefit Show on the 9th was a big success and such a great show of the community coming together for a great cause. Thank you to all involved and to everyone who has contributed. Leo is on the mend, with a long way to go, but he is home and is healing. Contributions can still be made to the Leo Posch Medical Fund here. There are also just a few of the great ‘Banjo Bike’ show posters still available, some even signed by a few band members, on nice card stock – contribute to the fund and you might score one!

Leo Posch Benefit show poster by Chris Milspaugh

There are a few ‘Banjo Bike’ posters still available – beautiful work designed by Chris Milspaugh.

Speaking of donations, (nice segue eh?) we’d like to give a plug to Americana Music Academy, our good neighbors and a very cool non-profit music school that teaches folks of all ages. They also give out several music scholarships during the year. We hope you’ll consider becoming a member and supporting this great organization that does so much for our community.

Renovations – The main acoustic room is nearing completion! We have a ways to go, but take a gander at this …

new acoustic room mass street music 2013

The first room on the main floor is now freshly painted, carpeted, & houses most of our acoustic instruments!

We are excited for the new look in the store and have more exciting updates just around the corner!

Westside Folk Tickets – West Side Folk has a great roster of shows for the fall and you can check the whole line up out at – Remember you can pick up tickets at Mass Street Music for these great shows or order through West Side’s website.

Last but not least…the Repair Shop Spot column will return to our newsletter next month! Til then, stop by and try out the Grosh/Fralin Squier Mustang test drive guitar, or check out the Repair Shop Spot Archives here. Remember you can keep up with all of the latest Mass Street Music news on our Facebook and Twitter.



Take 5: Cliff Smith Audio – Amp Repair Service includes Lawrence

Amp burnt up

Amp need a little repair?

Not long after saying goodbye to Tom Wagner, Mass Street Music’s former go-to for pro audio/amp repair, we were fortunate enough to find Cliff Smith Audio from Overland Park to service our customers. While we knew his work was top notch, we came to realize there was much more to Cliff than just amp repair. An electrical engineer by trade (in the medical field, as a matter of fact), a musician by choice, and an audio guru by virtue of both, Cliff is a venerable encyclopedia of vintage amp and electrical knowledge. To him, your audio gear isn’t simply “electronics” – it’s an extension of your tone, and therefore, an extension of yourself.”

Cliff graciously took the time to answer a few questions for us. You might happen to see him in the store on Tuesdays, when he picks up and returns repairs, so be sure to welcome him and say howdy.

Graphic for Cliff Smith Audio Repair

This is not really Cliff, but he is a madman with the tools.

MSM: What do you think plays the biggest part in the tone that comes from your amp? Tubes, transformers, speakers, guitar, the player, something else?

Cliff: Outside of the player and the guitar (not going there!) in order of importance:

Speakers: Your speakers make the most difference, in terms of bang for the buck. In certain situations you can even double your volume level, just by changing types. Experiment till you find the ones for you.

Tubes: Different types of tube do have different sounds. I encourage folks to experiment with what they can. No one can tell you what is the right for you or your amp.

Output Transformer: It seems like the cheap small ones made in China sound about 60% as good as the bigger US made ones.

A good finger-jointed non-particle board cab will sound maybe 15% better than a butt-jointed pressboard cabinet.

Changing/tweaking these components can improve the tone maybe 5-10%. You can modify things farther, but you will be vastly changing the usefulness and versatility of the amp.

Power Transformer:
Least bang for the buck. Usually reserved for those with a blown transformer.

MSM: New production vs. vintage gear: what’s your preference? Any new manufacturers you feel are doing a good job replicating the sought-after tone and build quality of yesteryear?

Cliff: Like everything else in this disposable world, most things that were built years ago were made to last for decades. Nowadays, you must pay a big premium for new production gear to be made that well. There are quite a few manufacturers that are building quality equipment, but it is amazing to me how many of them copy the errors/shortcomings in the classic circuits. There are many improvements that can be made on these circuits that will improve noise levels and reliability without sacrificing the quality of the tone.

MSM: Tubes: NOS vs. new. What’s your take?

Cliff: My take is that reliability is the main issue with tubes. The greatest tubes in the world don’t do you any good if the amp quits working correctly. I stick with new tubes that are under warranty for the vast majority of my repairs unless the customer specs something different. I have had many “NOS” tubes over the years and in my experience they can sound very good, but it seems that a large percentage of them have issues with microphonics, and noise. These aspects are not detected with normal tube testers, but must be weeded out by ear. It can be a crapshoot, especially when buying NOS tubes on the web.

MSM: You have a quote on your website – “Great tone is not a destination, it’s a journey.” What does that quote mean to you?

Cliff: No matter how good your tone may be, it seems that most of us lust for better sound. Getting just the right sound is a process of learning and growing – it can take years, maybe your whole life! Keep experimenting until you find what works for you.

MSM: What’s one of the toughest amp or audio repairs you’ve ever run into? 

Cliff: Whatever amp I have on the bench that I am struggling with at the moment – changes all the time!

Cliff picks up and returns repairs from Mass Street Music every Tuesday. He’s even Fender certified (as well as Ampeg, Crate, Visual Sound and many more).  There is a $45 bench fee, which is applicable to your repair. Those in a time crunch can call Cliff directly at 913-912-7065.



Mass Street Music Staff Gear Picks – August 2013!

August has gone by so quickly, but it hasn’t quashed our gear acquisition syndrome…here’s what the Mass Street Music staff has been into most this month…

John FlynnGrosh RC Standard
This is an amazing instrument in the Limited Ash body and Maple neck. Sound and play-ability could not be better and the looks…well it’s exactly like my coveted Retro Classic serial number #202. At this price it’s a fantastic deal, but note that Grosh is having a price increase which makes this one an even better buy.

Grosh RetroClassicStandard electric guitar

Flynn’s favorite is this Grosh RC Standard which is a twin of his own much-loved RC.

Jim Baggett
Collings O2HG 12 fret
Collings did a spectacular job on this beautiful 0. Wonderful sound, great details – very nice instrument.

Collings 02HG 12 fret acoustic guitar

Jim’s favorite is this Collings 02HG 12 fret which, as you can see here, is pretty spectacular. You should hear it!

Eric Putnam
Ovation Elite 1786
Oft it has been that I lay awake in bed dreaming of the day I would own an Ovation acoustic guitar with the balladeer sound holes and styling. I have had a recurring Richie Sambora fantasy ever since I first started playing. Seriously folks, this guitar plays great and sounds great.

Ovation Elite 1786

Hmmm – methinks Eric M played a trick on Eric P while he was on vacation…still, this guitar is a great deal.

Eric Mardis
– Too much good stuff to pick just one…  this month I’m picking an instrument AND a pedal!

Chuck Lee Silver Bell Banjo
When Chuck and I were working out the specifics on this banjo, he told me had some “old, beautiful, curly Maple” that he had been saving for “something special.”  I opted to go for it, and boy am I glad I did.  It is gorgeous and the tone is everything you’d want it to be in old time open back.  Truly stunning workmanship and materials.  We are very excited to welcome Chuck Lee banjos to Mass Street with this incredible flagship instrument.

Chuck Lee Silver Bell Custom 12 Banjo

Eric M’s 1st pick is this amazing Chuck Lee Silver Bell banjo he custom ordered from Lee – it’s outstanding in every respect.

Skreddy Lunar Module Mini Deluxe

In my opinion, this is the most musical fuzz pedal I have ever played.  Yes, I am a huge David Gilmour Fan… Yes, it caught my attention when I read that Skreddy was gunning for the “Time” solo when creating this circuit…  However, I was blown away by the range of things this box does well.  Bottom line: this pedal is super versatile.  It nails everything from a low gain growling overdrive to a saturated wall of fuzz with sustain for days.  Addictive.  You should own this.

Skreddy Lunar Module Mini Dlx Fuzz pedal

Eric’s pick #2 is this Skreddy Lunar Module Mini Deluxe Fuzz which Eric calls, “Addictive.”

Ted Kritikos
JHS Bun Runner Pedal
This is hands-down my favorite fuzz pedal in the store right now.  Each side of this pedal sounds great on its own, but with both sides clicked on, I can get that crazy, almost-ready-to-self-destruct tone that I love.  So fuzzy!

JHS Bun Runner Pedal

Ted’s loving the JHS Bun Runner pedal – his favorite fuzz evah.

Alek Nelson
Skreddy Screw Driver Mini Deluxe Pedal
I am pleased to see Skreddy Pedals added to our line up. The Screw Driver Mini is one of my favorites – really versatile and sounds particularly great with humbuckers!

Skreddy Screw Driver Mini Deluxe Pedal

Alek picked the new-to-us Skreddy Screw Driver pedal for its versatile & killer sound with humbuckers.

Mike Horan
Repair ShopYamaha Guitelele
(Mike’s talented & multi-instrument playing daughter Adelaine helped out with Mike’s pick this month, but they both agreed on this one! Thanks Adelaine for the great write-up!) The Guitelele has a wonderful sound quality. Despite its size (baritone uke), it has an amazing resonance to each note. It sounds much bigger and fuller than you would think!

Yamaha GL1 PB Guitelele

Repair Shop manager Mike & his daughter Adelaine  -who can pick a mean uke-  agreed this Yamaha Guitelele was tops for its clear tone and nice volume.

Casey Green
Xotic SL Drive Pedal
The Marshall-in-a-box territory is pretty well trod, but this Xotic SL Drive is a welcome breath of fresh air. For one thing, it’s tiny. If you’re the type that already has 8 or so pedals on your board, this is great, because most likely, you won’t have to boot anything to make room. But what’s most impressive is how the SL sounds. I could see myself using it with a single channel amp, set clean, and relying solely on this pedal as my “drive channel”. Very cool.

Xotic SL Drive Pedal

The new Xotic SL Drive pedal is Casey’s favorite this month (that’s actually his hand in the pic too!), not only because there’s no need to make extra room on your board, but its classic Brit amp tone will knock you out.

Anne Tangeman
Fender Pawn Shop Mustang Special
This is one of my favorites right now – many different tones, plus it’s used and in pristine condition (I’m always in favor of a bargain). The 3-way toggle plus the old school pickup switches are perfect for bopping between clean and twangy surf and the dirtier garage sound I love – super fun guitar and a sweet 24” scale player.

Fender Pawn Shop Mustang Special

The tonal versatility, light weight and nice used price make this Fender Pawn Shop Mustang Special Anne’s top pick o’ the month.



Leo Posch Medical Fund

Friends — our good buddy Leo Posch, luthier extraordinaire, Midday Ramblers member & dear husband of Mass Street Music employee Susan Willits, was in a serious bike accident over the weekend and was Life Flight’d to a Topeka hospital. He has a broken jaw in two places, broken nose, broken cheek bones, tracheotomy and more. He is lucid but is still in Intensive Care. While riding his bicycle, a dog started chasing him and trying to bite him — in the process of attempting to outrun it, it ran in front of him and he went over the handlebars.

Leo showing one of his amazing handcrafted guitars earlier this year at Mass St.

Donate to the Leo Posch Medical Fund here

To help defray medical costs Mass Street Music and the Mandolin Cafe are hosting a Leo Posch Medical Fund. The link above will take you to the PayPal account hosted on Mandolin Cafe with all funds going to Leo and family directly into their PayPal account. With many friends in the community there will be more fundraising plans announced in the immediate future. Thanks for keeping Leo and his family in your thoughts and prayers.