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Author Topic: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
joe
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Posts: 224
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Post How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 10, 2012, 11:14
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I've never owned an Epi, vintage or modern, but I keep hearing optimistic reports about how upgradable modern Epis are.

Finally, I've got a test case: A friend who wants to start an all-women Sex Pistols cover band picked up a used, recent-model Epi Paul, and she wants to convert it to a sound- and look-alike for Steve Jones' Gibson, with new pickups, and the all-important girlie pinup stickers.

Anyone gone down the Epiphone upgrade path? Your thoughts?

Oinkus

Posts: 236
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 11, 2012, 05:46
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Yeah I have 2 I am working on now and my best plan is to remove everything from the guitars except for the wood. Use good hardware and wiring and you end up with a decent guitar but not a great one.It also depends on how nice the Epi is to start with , some of them are actually junk and some are fair to middlin'. Pretty much the same boat as a Squire.I would put a babicz bridge some planet waves auto trim tuners and a graph tech Tusq xl nut on that guitar. Of course I would also put stainless steel frets on it and remove the paint from the neck and tung oil it too.Would seriously consider removing the fretboard and putting ebony on it also(but we all know I am insane).

MNMagnus

Posts: 15
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 11, 2012, 09:44
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I have a newer Epi Les Paul, New pickups (SD JB and Jazz), changed the volume control pots to push pulls, and filed the nut a little on the B string. The guitar plays well enough for me, I haven't felt the need to take the upgrades any further.

Double D

Posts: 195
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 11, 2012, 11:31
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Nine out of ten Epi's (of recent vintage) that I've played didn't warrant plugging in: they just didn't feel good and are usually finished so heavily in plastic that they don't sound like anything either. But like all rules, there are exceptions. I remember playing a hollow-body-with-f-holes Epi Les Paul in Champaign, Illinois and being blown away by its acoustic voice and build quality. A lot of guitar for five hundred bucks. I think you have to do the same thing you have to do with modern Fenders: go to every shop and play them all until one speaks to you. Then invest another pile of money and time till it works.

smgear

Posts: 170
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 12, 2012, 02:09
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I suppose if your primary goal is to get a specific LP look, then I'm with DD that you need to sample a lot of Epis to find one that rings and then upgrade hardware to your liking. But there are so many other great LP clones to be had for $500 or less (ESP LTD, Michael Kelly Patriot Custom) that it would behoove you to start with one of those and then selectively upgrade if desired to get a solid performer for $600-800. Comparatively on the Fender side, some of the squiers (like the classic vibe lines) give you really great frames to build from for around $350. I've pretty much written off all current Gibson lines because quite frankly the organization is in shambles - google Gibson employee morale. Even if the odd guitar out is well built, I can't support a company that treats its workers that way. Also, I suspect that a lot of the problems with the US Gov over tone woods were merited. Henry needs to move on.

mwseniff

Posts: 149
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 12, 2012, 08:58
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Quote from Double D on November 11, 2012, 11:31
Nine out of ten Epi's (of recent vintage) that I've played didn't warrant plugging in: they just didn't feel good and are usually finished so heavily in plastic that they don't sound like anything either. But like all rules, there are exceptions. I remember playing a hollow-body-with-f-holes Epi Les Paul in Champaign, Illinois and being blown away by its acoustic voice and build quality. A lot of guitar for five hundred bucks. I think you have to do the same thing you have to do with modern Fenders: go to every shop and play them all until one speaks to you. Then invest another pile of money and time till it works.

That sounds like an Epi Les Paul Signature. I have one (gold top best color ever) that I bought in 2000 AFAIR. These are very cool guitars using the low impedance pickups and switchable impedance transformer. I have always wanted a real Gibson but the few I tried were either ridiculously overpriced or in very bad condition. In any case they are very cool guitars as the impedance switch gives you three different output levels going from an airy lipstick pickup sound to a raging Les Paul response. I had let it hang on the wall in my studio for the last few years but recently brought it upstairs to be one of my living room guitars. It has aged very nicely over the years and it is amazingly fun to play. These guitars are almost completely hollow but have a block of "chromyte wood" under the bridge and tailpiece so the natural feedback is great but it still doesn't howl like other hollows. This the guitar version of the bass played by Jack Casady (of Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Moon Alice).

All the Epi Casinos I've played recently seem very nice. My buddy recently bought a Joe Bonamasa signature Epi Les Paul. He's not a fan of Bonamasa but he just fell in love with it after playing it in a guitar store (he said it was impossible to pass up). This particular model has a long tenon neck joint which makes it respond more like a 50's Paul (all early Pauls had long tenon neck joints). The sustain is fabulous and the response is very musical. The Epi Slash signature, the Epi Les Paul Tribute and the Epi version of the Black Beauty are long tenon as well. I've also played some very nice Epi SGs recently that were for the most part very good guitars. My buddy had an Epi Howard Roberts Fusion that was also quite a nice guitar (looks like an acoustic with a pickup) it was prone to howling for rock but was very nice and warm for jazz. The other Epi that seems interesting is the Wilshire but I haven't had the chance to play a new one.
The thing about Epi's is that they are a budget line for Gibson but they should be compared to similarly priced models from other manufacturers at which point IMHO they are quite a nice deal.

As to changing pickups etc. this will improve many Epis but not all Epis need the change to sound good. The P90s Epi uses are pretty good pickups. Also some Epis had good pickups like the Joe Bonamasa which I think has Burstbuckers stock, some other models used other Gibson pickups. The one thing that I have noticed is that in many models the controls and switches are pretty cheap so replacement of them is a good idea but not all models need a change. I have recently been noticing that many cheap guitar's stock pickups these days are rather nice and useful pickups. When I change pickups I am usually looking for a change in the tone rather than improvement of what I already have in the guitar.

soggybag

Posts: 84
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 12, 2012, 12:24
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I think the playability is in the setup, and the sound is in the pickups. Hardware and wood is secondary. Get some pups you like, take it to the shop and get it setup right and it should play and sound great.

Of course this ignores things like crappy tuners. If the tuners are junk and won't keep the strings in tune, they need to be replaced. If the neck is a shape that doesn't agree with you then you may never feel the guitar is any good.

P.S. I want to see this all girl Sex Pistols band. They should do everything in Spanish: Pistolas Sexuales!

joe
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Posts: 224
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 13, 2012, 15:44
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Check out the results of our Epi experiment here: http://tonefiend.com/pickups/the-great-epiphone-swindle/

Oinkus

Posts: 236
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: November 14, 2012, 04:49
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When I say remove everything that includes screw inserts and pickgaurds. Anything that young chinese children were paid a pittance to install.Wood and not all of that even. Have to take paint off the neck.And yes , I have some serious issues.

maxxjohnso-
n

Posts: 80
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Post Re: How Much Can You Upgrade an Epiphone?
on: March 16, 2018, 10:55
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