Once delivered, Blair converted the Vipers with a sequence of steps. First, the nylon strings are installed: individual Sperzel nylon string tuning gears replace the octave tuners, and the octave string nut slots are widened to spec. Then the set of strings are fitted, tuned and the action adjusted.
The remaining work is mainly in the bridge, and fitting various electronics into the body. Dual Shadow brand 'hex' peizo pickups are fitted abreast into the pickup slot, and custom Delrin slotted saddles are precisely positioned on top of the elements. The twin groups of six pickup leads each(one for the steel, one for nylons) are routed to Fishman 6-channel buffer/mixers for balancing the relative string volumes, Fishman active preamps for volume and tone control(again, one for the steel signal, one for the nylon), and to an XLR output jack.
Through one standard XLR mic cord, both steel- and nylon-string signals are then routed to dedicated amplifier systems within the main GuitarCross rig for an indescribable sound!
The only glaring difference between these two beautiful specimens is the scale/neck length: one is a standard 25 1/2" scale, the other a rare 28" 'Longneck' scale with a proportionally-lengthened neck and adjusted bridge position. Consequently, the shorter-scale ASIA is used for higher tunings, while the Longneck is used for custom lowered tunings, as will be heard in the upcoming s2n studio track 'Winterhude.'
and how they're played...
ASIA is played very much like a regular 12-string acoustic guitar: two strings are fretted just as one would be, by the fingers of the fretting hand. Each pair on the ASIA guitar has a steel string above a nylon string, and these pairs are widened slightly at the bridge to easier accentuate one or other of the string types.
When strumming the strings with a wide sweep, the strings are vibrated evenly, creating a rich, full tone with glassy highs from the steel and deep lows from the nylons. When the strum is slowed, the natural 'arpeggiation' between the steel and nylon can be heard, a very unique effect when a wide stereo field is created by the separation of the steel and nylons' speaker systems. Overall, the strings are never perfectly timed--as they would be using digital effects or modeling to attempt to achieve the same sound--this slight random imperfection is what truly creates the impression that two distinct guitars are being played by two players.
Additionally, when fingerpicking the pairs--naturally picking upward on the nylons and downward on the steels--one can emphasize either string type. This allows the articulation of notes--alone or within chords--which are played on different string types. Again, the impression is of two players naturally and dynamically interacting.
the Live set-up
Within Blair's GX live rig, two dedicated amplifier signal chains are reserved for the two formats of the ASIA. These chains utilize amplifiers that are used for other instruments--such as clean guitar and synth. sounds--for ultimate efficiency.
Both sides of the ASIA are first routed into a multi-control footswitch which allows the choice of either format, both together, or both off. This is particularly effective to create the stereo dynamics of layering the steel and nylon sounds.
Other than EQ, no effects are used on either format--they are played completely dry.
From there, the nylon strings find their way into the Mesa-Boogie M-Pulse 600 Bass amplifier and the Mesa 6x10" full-range bass cabinet. This rig is fitting for the warmth, fullness, and attack of the nylons. The steel strings, meanwhile, are routed through a small Behringer mixer and to a JBL 15" powered Eon enclosure which likewise suits the brighter, thinner tone of these strings to a T. All volumes are preset, so the duo can switch directly from a GX-driven electric song to an ASIA-driven acoustic song and back without delay and for maximum sonic impact. When recording, the two formats are connected directly to DI boxes and recorded direct to the mixing board.