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Old 03-04-2023, 06:07 PM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Default NGD Update: IRIS DF with sinker mahogany, video demo with K&K Double Helix combo

I'm nearly two months into owning and playing my IRIS DF with sinker mahogany back and sides and I'm really digging it! I LOVE the look of my DF. Their satin burst top finish, edgeburst on the back and neck combined with the aged body binding gives the guitar a retro/vintage vibe that looks fantastic. Even the tiger stripe pickguard which I normally hate really works on these burst guitars.

I have done several modifications including installing a front strap button, swapping out the tuners and just today I installed a K&K Double Helix combo pickup system. Details on that below. I'm very excited to take it to an open mic and see how it performs. If you missed the original NGD post and want to read that (warning - it's looonnnggg!) you can view that here:

NGD: IRIS DF with Sinker Mahogany

When we last left the original post for this guitar I had made the decision to either trade or sell it off after owning it for barely more than a week. Why? Two main reasons. 1.) The scale length appeared to be aggravating my dodgy left shoulder. 2.) The wide string spacing was a bit of an issue compared to my two gigging guitars. But I continued to play the guitar almost daily.

I also performed with it several times and I gradually overcame my concerns. First, the shoulder got better. I suffer with an issue where my repaired shoulder builds up calcium a few times a year and it then becomes VERY painful. But then it gets better for several months. So it was not the guitar's scale that was bothering me but rather the shoulder issue flared up shortly after buying the guitar. Bad timing.

Then there was the string spacing issue. The more I played it the more I came to like the wider spacing. This guitar is going to primarily be my 'fun' guitar that I take to open mics and things like that. We tend to play a lot of ballads and cool eclectic songs of a mellower nature and that extra string spacing became like a dear old friend once I acclimated to it.

But there were still a few things that needed to happen. First, those terrible Golden Age tuners needed to go. I decided to go with the Schaller GrandTunes which are a recommended replacement by IRIS. I bought a set off Reverb that are in their 'Ruthenium' finish which is a dark, smoke grey chrome and they look fantastic. They are a marked improvement over the Golden Age tuners.

Then I installed a K&K Double Helix Combo system which uses the Pure Mini combined with the Double Helix Solo magnetic soundhole pickup into the K&K Dual Channel Pro ST preamp which splits the signals allowing separate EQ and gain control (internally) and volume control (externally). This system is currently favored by the likes of Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings and for good reason.

Here is a demo video that I recorded playing the guitar strumming and fingerstyle acoustically and then amplified using the K&K DH/PM combo in the varying modes. Note that I just recorded with my mobile phone so the audio is only so good. I played through my Bose S1 Pro, everything set flat, ToneMatch off. Listen with good headphones or speakers for best results.



Thanks for taking the time if you made it this far.
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Old 03-04-2023, 06:23 PM
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SalFromChatham SalFromChatham is offline
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Beautiful guitar… enjoyed your video. Thanks for taking the time!
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Old 03-04-2023, 08:48 PM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is offline
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Sounds and looks great! Congrats.
Best,
Jayne
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Old 03-04-2023, 09:20 PM
jdinco jdinco is offline
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Nice post Scott, could you tell me more about the tuner install? Did you do it yourself? Obviously I see it took some drilling, were you able to use any of the existing holes, or did you fill. Any info is appreciated.
Thanks !
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Old 03-05-2023, 12:48 AM
ZeroFretWear ZeroFretWear is offline
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Great video! And good on you for:
(1) sticking with the guitar after having post-honeymoon reservations; that shows character, seriously;
and
(2) installing your own strap button and pickup. Seems like any competent adult could accomplish these basic tasks, yet I see people all the time paying young techs chunks of money to do these simple tasks for them.

Again, great job on all fronts!
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Old 03-05-2023, 05:48 AM
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UncleJesse UncleJesse is offline
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Sounds really nice! I don't get why Iris seem married to those golden age tuners. There have been so many complaints about them. Luckily my two Iris (#2, #73) were made before the change and have Grovers. My DF likes being tuned down as well. I'm a fan of leaving it tuned E to E in 432hz which is somewhere between E standard and Eb.
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Old 03-05-2023, 07:26 AM
sinistral sinistral is offline
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The guitar sounds great and that was a very informative demo of the pickup systems. Thanks for that!

Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleJesse View Post
Sounds really nice! I don't get why Iris seem married to those golden age tuners. There have been so many complaints about them. Luckily my two Iris (#2, #73) were made before the change and have Grovers. My DF likes being tuned down as well. I'm a fan of leaving it tuned E to E in 432hz which is somewhere between E standard and Eb.
Regarding the Golden Age tuners, Adam Buchwald has noted in more than one interview that the tuners are just one way that to keep costs down, which allows them to hit the low base prices for their instruments. When Iris got started, it was mostly a “made-to-measure” operation, where customers could specify various upgrades, including tuners (I have two Iris guitars bought used, an AB with GA tuners and a CH with Waverly tuners (original to the guitar), so people have upgraded when initially ordering). Iris’ business model has evolved to mostly a dealer model, where dealers spec the guitars they want in their respective shops. So the question lies as much with the dealers—why aren’t dealers upgrading the tuners when they order their guitars?
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Old 03-05-2023, 08:14 AM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdinco View Post
Nice post Scott, could you tell me more about the tuner install? Did you do it yourself? Obviously I see it took some drilling, were you able to use any of the existing holes, or did you fill. Any info is appreciated.
Thanks !
Thanks. The tuner install was pretty straightforward for the most part. I was able to use some of the existing holes but I also did need to drill some new holes and fill some old ones. I just used a little Gorilla glue and toothpicks to fill the old holes which worked great. Fortunately, the new tuners did cover up any 'extra' unused holes. I'll post some photos in a bit with more details. I will say that the initial install ran into issues where some of the new tuners were still fairly hard to turn. So I ended up redoing the process several times. In the end the low string tuners still turn a bit hard but not as bad as the Golden Age tuners. Part of the issue with the Golden Age tuners is the very small tuner button which then makes the turning even more difficult because you don't have the real estate to grab and turn that you do with the Butterbean tuner buttons that are on the Schaller GrandTunes.

I believe the difficulty is mostly due to the design of these style tuners. Because there is a lack of an internal bushing the full length of the shaft (like you get with Gotoh 510's and other tuners) the tension of the low strings really pulls that shaft hard against the bushing. If it's tilted at all then it wants to bind. In fact, the installation instructions for the Schaller's show that the shaft hole be approximately the size of the post (thus giving it support) and then a larger countersunk hole for the bushing. But the IRIS holes are one (larger) size for the bushing so there is no support for the shaft. I wonder if this is part of the issue with the Golden Age tuners? I posted a question in Build and Repair and got a suggestion to shift the tuner position downward to help alleviate this and I did. It worked a little better in that I can now turn them but they they still turn a bit hard.

I ran into this issue with a Bourgeois guitar that had Waverly tuners I had some time back. The low string tuners turned with great difficulty. I thought they were bad and contacted Waverly who shipped out another set. But when I took the old ones off they turned just fine and likewise the new ones when installed turned with great difficulty. I can't remember if that guitar had countersunk bushing holes though. It was some time back. I think that this style tuner works great with slotted headstocks where the string shaft is supported on two sides so there is more even tension across the length of the shaft but on paddle headstocks they are prone to being difficult to turn on the low strings due to that added tension, at least on those paddle headstocks without countersunk bushing holes.

If this guitar becomes the keeper I think it just might be, I might very well jump back into the pool one more time and put on some Gotoh SE510's or if I'm feeling really crazy go ahead and try the Rickard Cyclone tuners.
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Old 03-05-2023, 08:16 AM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Photos of tuner install

Old tuners removed, old bushings still installed:



I used a large phillips screwdriver to tap out the old bushings:



All the old GA parts removed:



A little Gorilla glue on a toothpick, insert and then clip off with wire cutters:



After clipping off:



I was worried about over drilling the depth and then realized I could just 'drill' by hand and easily control the depth!



Halfway done:



Finished product:


Last edited by Methos1979; 03-05-2023 at 08:24 AM.
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Old 03-05-2023, 08:34 AM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroFretWear View Post
Great video! And good on you for:
(1) sticking with the guitar after having post-honeymoon reservations; that shows character, seriously;
Thanks! You're not wrong. I think many people tend to not take enough time to 'get to know' their new guitar. One thing I've found over the last decade of this journey is that can and will eventually acclimate to almost anything. There was a time when I absolutely MUST have had certain features to a guitar like body size, neck shape, string spacing and a host of other features. Now I can get used to anything, it seems. Although I do still prefer a shorter scale! But I should note that the DF is only a 25" scale but on a 14 fret guitar.. I was looking for a 12 fret which is what my two RainSong's are.

Quote:
(2) installing your own strap button and pickup. Seems like any competent adult could accomplish these basic tasks, yet I see people all the time paying young techs chunks of money to do these simple tasks for them.

Again, great job on all fronts!
I've done strap buttons for a long time and even did post a step-by-step tutorial a short while back that I did for this guitar. Here's a link to that for those that stumble onto this and want to see it:

Installing a front strap button in the 'Taylor' position (heel)

I think for many (myself included) it's the act of cutting/drilling/glueing into an expensive guitar that gives many pause. But you're right, it's not rocket science and with the right tools, plenty of research and most importantly - taking your time - most of these tasks can be accomplished by any competent adult. It's also nice in that you learn a lot about your guitar and it feels good when you're done.
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Old 03-05-2023, 09:41 AM
jdinco jdinco is offline
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Thank you for the tuner tutorial ! Did you have to fill ALL of the holes?
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Old 03-05-2023, 09:55 AM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdinco View Post
Thank you for the tuner tutorial ! Did you have to fill ALL of the holes?
No. Since many of the holes were covered by the tuners I did not fill them all. I only filled the ones that were positioned close to where I needed to drill a new hole and therefore needed a solid area to drill.

Last edited by Methos1979; 03-05-2023 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 03-06-2023, 12:52 PM
Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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I took the updated DF out to an open mic last night that is run by a friend and I'm very familiar with his equipment and the overall sound he gets. The K&K Double Helix combo performed well and sounded great. My friend was shocked at how powerful the signal was. And while I couldn't hear it all that well from the playing vantage point, the feedback from other players listening in the audience was that the guitar sounded outstanding, one of the best of the evening. I plan to play it at a few more later in the week but I'm happy with system thus far.
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