ToneQuest Report: March 2024 – Vol. 25, No. 5


Guitar maestro Justin Stabler reflects on his diverse journey from Jersey to Red Rocks, sharing experiences as a tech for Trey Anastasio. Collaborating with James Finnerty, they craft acclaimed Rewind humbuckers. The ToneQuest Report also explores noteworthy gear, including the Retrovibe Mk.3, Rio Grande Pickups, and unique reverb creations.

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What's Inside This Issue:

JUSTIN STABLER – All it took was a decade or more of life rambling from Jersey to Chile to Red Rocks, a pandemic where three-hundred guitars were stacked behind you at Joe Glaser’s waiting for your hands to set them straight, and a strong steady heart that is all in. Never mind the absurd talent you need to be at such A-game levels with some of the finest musicians on earth. Justin Stabler knows that life and is a guitar tech of the most serious caliber, a musician who has gigged some legendary places, a father, guitar builder, cherished amigo of ours, and a tone freak of the highest order. We catch up with Justin to discuss specific moments of his career leading up to his year-round gig with Trey Anastasio, Phish and daily life on the road with guitars, gear, amps— where everything matters, and no stone left unturned for perfect tone.

JAMES FINNERTY REWIND ELECTRIC – THE MOJAVE DESERT FINDINGS – Justin Stabler worked on a set of pickups with James Finnerty of ReWind Electrics and says, “Thanks to James doing his thing, we can get an EL34 amp to sound chimey and clean with his pickups and Trey Anastasio loves them.” Working at a recording studio and with vintage Gibson guitar collector, Mike Rock, and luthier Walt Johns in a repair capacity, James was exposed to all these amazing guitars and garnered an appreciation of just how awesome, rare, and special the gear was. A pair of Russian transformer winding machines, some wire, some pickups, cut the coils off, and tried rewinds, magnet swaps, and it was all an accident that he started making pickups—“Within this one tiny product, this first electrical piece of a sound chain, lies the path to everything. Even today, with a thousand some PAFs having been in my hands, each one is special.” We believe you will agree.

REWIND PICKUP REVIEWS – James Finnerty burned the candles at both ends because he couldn’t fathom anything else with his life. This level of obsessive dedication is the only way any modern builder can hope to land on the vintage playing field. We’ve never had it this good. Game on. Join us for humbuckers, pizza, Plexis and Shiner beers for a good ol’ fashion throwdown with the ReWind humbuckers.

1957 Set with Custom Alnico 3 Magnets: Neck 6.86 Bridge 7.04
1959 PAF-1 A-4 Magnet Set: Neck 8.39 Bridge 8.82
1959 PAF-1 A-5 Magnet Set: Neck 8.42 Bridge 8.6
Crème Brûlée Set: Neck 8.47 Bridge 8.82
VHII: Bridge 8.82

BOOK REVIEW – THE GIBSON P.A.F. HUMBUCKING PICKUP FROM MYTH TO REALITY – Books are good for the soul. Especially when they are about humbuckers. It’s been a while since anyone has penned something that brings new wisdom and information to the table, but Mario Milan and James Finnerty got it right, with one hundred seventy-two pages of tastefully done musings. The candid interviews of some of the stalwart modern builders like our ToneQuest Editorial Board guru Jason Lollar and others are well worth the price of admission. If you care at all about humbuckers, it is highly recommended. If you care deeply, it is an essential read.

JAM RETROVIBE MK.3 – That one note, you know the one Hendrix held during “Machine Gun” at the Fillmore East, New Year’s Day, 1970 that makes the hair on your neck stand up…chasing that sound is a blast and you can get there with a good amp Univibe and Fuzz. The current version of the Retrovibe Mk.3 is beautifully built and on the small side as Univibes go, which is a huge bonus for managing pedalboard real estate. Perhaps the JAM secret is in the four photocell pairs or it’s the psychedelic sixties flower child paint job. Find out why you can’t go wrong with Jannis and team’s take on this classic. Butterflies, Zebras, Moonbeams, and Fairytales all day.

HARDTAIL STRAT EVOLUTIONS & REVOLUTIONS – RIO MUY GRANDE & DIRTY HARRY – Hardtail Strats are a unique ride. They are round-bodied top loader Telecasters if you look closely at the physics of them. Thanks to missing the mass of a tremolo block, they are often bright and clear, resonant and spanky. Think Robert Cray, or Jimmie Vaughan with The Fabulous Thunderbirds. We put this hardtail sunburst together over a year ago and have enjoyed it, but always knew it was missing the whollop of our other Strats. Our tech, Clancey Compton reminded us that Rio Grande Pickups were just up the street and they had just been bought by a new owner. We gave him a shout and he was game to send us a couple sets per our order, the Muy Grande single coils and the Dirty Harry P90 set. We got the biggest grin on our face. They made our day. Too cool.

PENNEBAKER’S ROAD CASE – THE JUPITER 12LC SPEAKER FITS THE GIG – It’s great to be back in the pages of The ToneQuest Report to tell you about my tour adventures with the Jupiter 12LC, a 12-inch, 50-watt, Ceramic magnet guitar speaker from Jupiter Condenser. If you read last April’s ToneQuest Report 2023, then you saw Riverhorse’s review of the Jupiter 12LA, their 50-watt AlNiCo 12-inch speaker. Well, I read that review and was so impressed by the back story conversation with Chris Young and Jupiter Condenser it sent me down the capacitor rabbit hole since their main line of business has been manufacturing high end cable and capacitors for the Hi-Fi market, as well as vintage inspired capacitors for use in guitar amps. I ordered a Jupiter 12LA and the 12LA-P and money well spent. A few months later, I mentioned I got these speakers and was about to embark on a twenty-eight day tour with AJ Croce. Riverhorse asked me if I would be interested in taking a Ceramic Jupiter on tour and writing about it. Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Jupiter speakers all the way. But then there’s the 12LC-P… I want one of those too.

AIRPORT RUNWAY REVERB & THE CHROME BIGSBY – Certified wild man and savant Larry Progreba, via Mr. Valco, shipped us a homegrown reverb unit the likes of which has never been seen in the world. Pure folk art, as always, since Progreba is known for building wicked resonator guitars out of vintage Cadillac hubcaps for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Ry Cooder, Keb Mo, Jackson Browne, us and many legendary others in the know. As for the reverb, only three were ever made, and one lives in Jamaica. Box number two held an absurdly rare 1951 Bigsby Volume/Tone pedal. This was going to be amusing for what a roll we have been on. We love all things homegrown and have even just finished another parts guitar build project. We made a visit to our main man Dean Herman at Allparts north of Houston where he let us cherry pick a massive boat neck with a chocolate rosewood board, which we promptly bundled up and shipped to Cody at Gleason Finish & Aging. Add in a three-pound seven-ounce Strat body and a decal, plus a vintage harness, tuners, and Ron Ellis 64 pickups and our sunburst Strat is alive and kicking. Our hands on this rosewood neck and the amps lit up, in these moments, everything is right with the world. Quest forth…