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Thread: Sterling AX40

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    Top Of The World handyman's Avatar
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    Default Sterling AX40

    Anyone own one of these? How are the pickups in them...just as good as the original or do you have to replace them with say a Tone Zone and Air Norton?

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    Quote Originally Posted by handyman View Post
    Anyone own one of these? How are the pickups in them...just as good as the original or do you have to replace them with say a Tone Zone and Air Norton?
    I don't know how good the pickups are -- only played one briefly once. Try them and see if you like them. They probably won't be horrible by any means.

    But mainly, if you want the same tone as a real Axis, the Tone Zone and Air Norton combo is NOT the best option and does not sound like the Axis pickups (despite the fact that most people on the internet draw that connection.) Even Dimarzio is now suggesting that their new AT1 is closer to the Axis pickup than the Tone Zone. http://www.dimarzio.com/faq#55/60/7842

    Take it from a guy who has owned 6 tone zones and played many more (I've sold 2 of them, and modded a 3rd) -- they do NOT sound like the Axis bridge pickup in a lot of ways, and the fact that the AX40 does not have a real maple cap does not help things either (the solid maple cap helps add the sparkle that the Axis guitars are known for, and I'd say the Tone Zone is already a darker sounding pickup than the axis one to begin with.)

    FWIW, I initially had a Tone Zone/Air Norton combo in my main recording guitar. It's a custom guitar, but has roughly the specs of an Axis (maple cap, light basswood body, maple neck, floyd rose, etc.) I've had the guitar over 2 years now since I built it, and I've played it literally over a thousand hours -- much of that time was recording with it. I got rid of the tone zone within a year of it being built... just didn't ever sound right. Not smooth, clear, and articulate sounding (like you'd expect from an Axis) at all. About 4 months later, I pulled out the Air Norton too and sold it.... again, it just never sounded right.

    Sure, the Tone Zone has it's place -- I've still got one in 3 guitars, and I like its tone in those -- but don't get fooled by the hype that it's the same as the legendary Axis bridge pickup.

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    10.04.16 @ 10:31 AM
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    For the closest possible tone to the axis dimarzio's get a AT-1 and un-air it for the bridge spot and a liquifire for the neck spot.
    The TZ is no where near the axis bridge pup sound wise. the AT-1 is just about the same pup except it is aired and has the virtual vintage design to it. If you un-air the AT-1 you wont notice a difference to the axis bridge pu.
    Last edited by Charvelstrat_81; 12.16.11 at 01:11 PM.

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    Top Of The World handyman's Avatar
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    What does "aired" vs "unaired" mean? And not just the pickups...but playing wise, are these guitars pretty good?

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    Default Sterling by MusicMan Ax40

    Just ordered one last week.

    It has arrived in the mail, so I am going down to pick it up right now.

    I'll post a review and hopefully some video to show you guys what's up.



    Thought it might be helpful for some of you guys out there looking for a new guitar, or even something cheap to make a project out of.
    I definitely see it being a candidate for those of you that want a painted up MusicMan, but don't want to to do that to such a nice, expensive guitar.

    Pic's and video coming later.

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    I'm digging it.

    I am impressed with the quality.

    The comparisons between the Peavey Wolfgang Special and the standard are accurate in my opinion. Not the EXP. The build and quality of this guitar is far beyond the EXP.

    The pickups sound slightly saturated at high gain, but after playing for a little bit I stopped noticing it.

    The top is pretty nice. I'm not sure whether it is a veneer or an actual maple top. I'll have to look at the specs.

    Edit: It's a veneer top. I am impressed by the looks of it, though.
    For 500 bucks, this guitar is very much worth every cent.

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    I found an AX20 (no longer made) used online at xmas and picked it up. The differences between ax20 and ax40 is the ax20 has a stop tail bridge, 5 way selector/humbuckers and coils, and locking tuners on the head stock while the ax40 has the floyd, a 3 way switch, and zebra humbuckers.

    I paid $200 for the guitar because it has a "Rockstar" energy drink logo on it. I've mostly played through the bridge humbucker as I find it really screams and gets me the heavier evh tones when playing through my POD. I'd have bought the AX40 if the price was the same as I don't use the coils but I do like the option of having added versatility in the ax20. The guitar feels very well put together, and doesn't feel like a cheap attempt at the axis.

    When the time comes that I decide I can stop playing it all the time I'm going to remove the rockstar logo and refinish the top.
    Last edited by NHVHFan; 01.15.13 at 10:04 AM.

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    The AX-40 is a very well built guitar, but with a couple important construction differences that will cause the tone to be different. These differences are important for understanding which pickups to choose when considering replacing the stock pickups.

    First off, the figured veneer on the top looks very impressive, but is only a paper thin veneer. On the EBMM/EVH or Axis, it is a true maple cap, which will color the tone of the guitar. Secondly, even though the Sterling AX-40 has what I would consider to be an adequate Floyd copy, it's not as good a quality as the stock EBMM Floyd, and will color the tone.

    With these differences in mind, Sterling Guitars set out to change the voicing of their stock pickups to compensate for these differences, and provide a tone similar to the more expensive Axis.

    A lot has been made over the years about the Tone Zone, Air Norton combination. I'm not sure there was ever much to that, and even if there is, it wouldn't work in this guitar to get you a similar sound, since the construction is different.

    I did have an Ax-40, and I changed the pickups in it. When I selected the pickups, this is the logic I used. I have played the new EVH Wolfgang Special, and found that i liked the tone. Construction-wise, the Ax-40 and the Wolf Special are very similar, with the exception of the Floyd. I threw a pair of EVH Wolfgang pickups in there, and got what I would consider to be good results. probably could have achieved better results with an upgraded Gotoh trem.

    Now, let's consider the cost. If you buy a new Ax-40, it's going to set you back about $500. A OFR or Gotoh Floyd will be about $200. Two Wolfgang pickups will run you about $300. So, altogether you are dropping around $1000 to build a guitar that will never be the guitar you are trying to emulate, and you will never get more than $400 for on a trade.

    Recommendation? If you want to achieve the tone of the EBMM Axis, buy one used. For that matter, you could get a new Wolfgang Special for about that much, and you would also get the Stainless Steel frets.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

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    One thing to note about the AX40... Sterling by Music Man just announced last week on the EBMM forum that the 2013 AX40 would have the exact same pickups as the full blown Axis. For those that don't know, those Dimarzios have been exclusive to the EVH/Axis model for 22 years and not available seperately and are very highly sought after.

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    That is good news, but unless they put a maple cap on the body similar to what is on the Axis, the tone will still be slightly different.

    The nice thing is, they are freeing up those pickups. Maybe we'll be seeing them on store shelves for purchase soon.

    It would be nice if they put the same Floyd that is on the Axis on the Ax40.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by handyman View Post
    Anyone own one of these? How are the pickups in them...just as good as the original or do you have to replace them with say a Tone Zone and Air Norton?
    I love my AX40. The neck is great
    Play it as much as my WG

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    Quote Originally Posted by nobozos View Post
    That is good news, but unless they put a maple cap on the body similar to what is on the Axis, the tone will still be slightly different.

    The nice thing is, they are freeing up those pickups. Maybe we'll be seeing them on store shelves for purchase soon.

    It would be nice if they put the same Floyd that is on the Axis on the Ax40.
    Well, I guess if you put a real maple cap on the AX40 and the same floyd... pretty much its an Axis at that point

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    I was thinking that if I had money (HAHAHAHAHAHAH...) I'd get one and throw a Floyd Rose Special on it. I have a Special on my Mean Street Exile and it's actually a pretty decent trem. They're pretty inexpensive, too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Imthe1 View Post
    Well, I guess if you put a real maple cap on the AX40 and the same floyd... pretty much its an Axis at that point
    Not really. For one, the overseas produced Ax40, even with the maple cap and the GOTOH Floyd, would never be worth as much on a trade in. Also, the neck finish and shape is different than the EBMM Axis, as well as the quality of the instrument.

    They could use cheap, unfigured maple for the cap, and put a figured veneer over it like Epiphone does. The Wolfgang Special uses the same Floyd as the High end version, so that has been done.

    I think the Sterling line should make this guitar, with the maple cap, and upgraded hardware. They could call it the "BFR" Ax40, and sell it for about $900.00. That's about half of what the Axis is selling for now. It would fill the void between the $500 standard Ax40, and the Axis.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

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    Neck felt about the same a the axis to me

 

 

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