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Thread: Epiphone guitar modding

  1. #1
    Senior Member Slobrain's Avatar
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    Epiphone guitar modding

    Hey Folks,

    I sold off my Gibson SG some years ago but missing it and have been thinking about getting a cheap Epiphone SG or LP to mod. I'm a strat guy and always felt the strat is perfect for me but I always mod my strats to fit my playing as I would say we all probably do.

    The one kind of guitar I really never put any time into is the Epiphone brand. I wanted to ask any and all out there what you guys feel is the best Epiphone SG or LP to mod that you guys feel can compare to or at least get close to the real deal Gibson's?

    The one thing I don't like in any Gibson is fat 50s necks, I have small hands so looking to find something to mod that has the thinner neck is what I'm looking for.

    I did want to point out I've owned a few hi dollar Gibson's in the past and not all Gibson's are created equal. A buddy had owned a real 61 SG Les Paul and that guitar was perfect in its sound and playability. Very few Gibson's I've run across ever felt as good as that 61 SG Les Paul. Its a shame they don't build them like that now...

    Slo

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    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slobrain View Post
    Hey Folks,

    I sold off my Gibson SG some years ago but missing it and have been thinking about getting a cheap Epiphone SG or LP to mod. I'm a strat guy and always felt the strat is perfect for me but I always mod my strats to fit my playing as I would say we all probably do.

    The one kind of guitar I really never put any time into is the Epiphone brand. I wanted to ask any and all out there what you guys feel is the best Epiphone SG or LP to mod that you guys feel can compare to or at least get close to the real deal Gibson's?

    The one thing I don't like in any Gibson is fat 50s necks, I have small hands so looking to find something to mod that has the thinner neck is what I'm looking for.

    I did want to point out I've owned a few hi dollar Gibson's in the past and not all Gibson's are created equal. A buddy had owned a real 61 SG Les Paul and that guitar was perfect in its sound and playability. Very few Gibson's I've run across ever felt as good as that 61 SG Les Paul. Its a shame they don't build them like that now...

    Slo
    I have old (ish) LP Customs at home and such but end up playing my Epiphone LP Tobacco Standard in clubs just about every Saturday night. Like you I have small(ish) hands. I'm not a fan of the modern "C" profile. Just look around. Epiphones are not created the same. You want an older Japanese made one. Pawn shops, CL, and used guitar shops are a good place to look. I got mine for $115 with a pile of other stuff in 1991 and it was fairly old then. You have to play them. I find the small headstock older Japanese made ones are the best. Best mod you are going to do is take it to a luthier and and have the frets crowned, leveled, and polished. Then a full pro set up. Around here it's about $125. After that, a pickup change to your taste may be in order, but not necessarily. Take your time and one will fine you. Honestly too. I've seen used Gibson SGs in the $450 to $500 range that were pretty nice. Don't let a pro headstock repair scare you. Look around.

  3. #3
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    This will be the short version -- the long version got lost due to a browser lockup.

    Basically, it boils down to this -- do you like the thin shredder necks that are so popular today, or do you like a fuller neck profile?

    Just about everything Fender today is made with the skinny "Modern C" profile unless you're willing to spend big money. Same with Gibson, if you want anything thicker than Slim Taper D then you'll be forced to spend more. It's as if both companies are trying to squeeze as many skinny necks as they can out of a billet of wood.

    Today's garden-variety Epiphone are made with a "1960s Slim-Taper D" neck, including the LP and SG models. There are a few other guitars with "C" profile necks, but those guitars are few and they're not all that different. If you take a trip to a GC store you're likely to find that all of the Epi hanging on the wall are Slim-Taper D.

    I own an Epi with the Slim-Taper C profile, and I don't play it. Every time that I'm in a store I check out the Epi just to see if something other than a Slim-Taper D might be hanging on the wall. no luck. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another Epi if they made something that didn't have the skinny neck profile, but for me it just won't work. If you like the Slim-Taper D then you'll have a lot to choose from. If you don't like it then a new Epi might not work for you.
    "Stand back, I'm holding a calculator." - chinrest

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    This has been extremely well received.
    https://youtu.be/tZkTkOCjamE

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    IMHO, one of the best values that Epi makes is their G-400 Pro SG. $$$ is right, are thin, fast & feel a mile long. Stable, solid, well built. Worth a look & test drive to see if it's where you want to go.

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    I got a cheap ephiphone les Paul special II last year. Neck is great and love the tone. Could use some better tuning keys however. I like the brand a lot! Ordered the les Paul SL three months ago... Still no sight of it. Sigh...
    - dave

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    The recently-issued Les Paul SL has been well-received, and is dirt cheap. Looks like a modder's dream.

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    Yeah, ordered my SL and got two backorder notices, ordered from another company and got 4 more notices.. So far! They now claim the wood import red tape, I don't buy it since 1000's of guitars arrive on time each day from China! Ordered tourqoise, can't wait to get it and mod!

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    I watched an SL "gutshot" Youtube today, and there appears to be plenty of room for adding things, given the channeling rout in the body, and the size of the pickguard to cover it. One possibility is the installation of a dummy coil to reduce hum. A second is the installation of a series/parallel switch for when both pickups are on. There also appears to be sufficient room for installation of an oboard preamp and battery.

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    Wow, great ideas, Mark! And I have a spare p90 I may try as well. Wouldn't you know it? Talking about it improved my luck, shipped today!
    - dave

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    Steel core pickups, like most ceramic powered SC's and P90's are more efficient than AlNiCo pole pickups, so the hum may not be too bad unless you use a lot of gain. Adding a dummy-coil can be tricky. It may not make much difference unless it produces the equivalent hum of each pickup, and will either darken or brighten and weaken the tone depending how it's hooked up.

    If you really need hum canceling, there are excellent noiseless SC pickups that will do the job much better with no tonal or output loss. The Wilde NF series are ~$50 each and come in several flavors. The powerful fat sounding L298 set might be best for that guitar. Close enough to a typical P90 sound depending on the guitar cable capacitance, but noiseless. The low-noise Microcoil Tele set might be cool if you want more high-end detail and a less-aggressive midrange with big warm lows.

    Wilde sells something called a Q-Filter which can be wired to a tone control for an upper-mid resonance sweep with a mid-dip that makes the guitar very versatile, particularly with a L298 set. A "blend" knob in series with the neck pickup and a 1~1.5nF cap wired on either output lug will do a similar thing with some more versatility in some respects. I'd try that b4 the Q-filter. You can then put a phase reverse switch on the neck pickup for brighter blended tones with a variable upper-mid "sweetening" notch.

    You could also wire a ~1nF cap from the bridge L298SL pickup toggle switch lug to the tone knob for a variable, and very useful, 1.5~2kHz boost, Try ~1.5pF on the neck L298SN for the same effect. Just wire the caps to the tone knob input and wire the center lug to the outer lug and to ground. You don't really need the high value cap that comes with the guitar unless you want really dark sounds. You can still get sweet jazzy tones with the knob at 4~5.

    I've done all this. It's really nice. I'd use a fairly low ~200pF C guitar cable. All the cap values I recommended are specifically for the L298 set. Changing those or the cable C will alter the results. You can of course install a preamp with a 100~200pF cap over its input and then use virtually any guitar cable without altering the guitar sound.
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    The Jerry Donahue Telecaster used a 5-way switch to achieve a wider array of 2-pickup configurations. Several variations on that are shown here: Jerry Donahue Telecaster Wiring - Red Herring Tone Bones

    I recall from an old Guitar Player review when the JD Tele first came out that one of the N+B positions inserted a cap in series with the neck pickup and achieved a very persuasive Strat "cluck" sound. None of the wiring diagrams shown at the link above seem to aim for or achieve that, although there is something to be said for the options they do provide.

    In any event, I mention this to indicate that one is not severely constrained in ways to combine pickups when there are only two single-coil pickups.

  13. #13
    rjb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    I recall from an old Guitar Player review when the JD Tele first came out that one of the N+B positions inserted a cap in series with the neck pickup and achieved a very persuasive Strat "cluck" sound. None of the wiring diagrams shown at the link above seem to aim for or achieve that...
    Yes they do; they're just not labelled "cluck". The "cluck" or "quack" positions are labelled "Neck & Bridge in Parallel Half Out of Phase".

    "Half Out of Phase" is a term coined by Bill Lawrence, which has nothing to do with being 90 degrees vs 180 degrees out of phase. You insert a cap in series with the neck pickup to lower its bass content, then flip the polarity of the cap/pickup combination. Since the magnitude of the neck pickup's bass frequencies has been reduced, fewer of the bridge pickup's bass frequencies get cancelled. So you get the comb filtering from the partial cancellation of the higher frequencies that are "not quite 180 degrees out of phase" (due to different sensing positions along the string), but not the thinness from the nearly full cancellation of the lower frequencies. Hence, "Half Out of Phase".

    Gosh, I sure didn't say that very well. But I hope the idea is clear enough.

    I've tried the scheme, and can get a passable "Sultans of Swing" tone (considering my skill limitations).

    -rb

    PS - The position with the .0033uF cap across the neck pickup is for "half cocked wah" tone. I have similar, but across the bridge pup in my Tele. Its a common mod for 1 pickup Esquires.
    Last edited by rjb; 12-06-2017 at 02:25 AM. Reason: grammar & alliteration.
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    Absolutely guys. I just added a blend knob, changed the cap value for a different notch freq, and added a phase switch to choose HOoP. We'd have to figure a cap value for a proper quack sound with whatever pickups he chooses. Knowing the pickup inductance's, and if they have significant internal capacitance (preferably not) is important. The notch freq created by the two pickups is different for each string, so the HOoP is not quite the same thing, but the standard Bill Lawrence (whose Wilde pickup line I recommended for the guitar) HOoP 5~10nF cap value can work great with the L298 pickup set, which should produce a 1~1.5kHz notch. The 3.2H L298SN neck pickup is ~2x the inductance of a classic Tele neck pickup, so the cap value would have to be ~1/2 of 3.3nF -- roughly what I recommended for the tone knob mid-boost. I strongly suspect the full P90-like low end and midrange of the higher than classic Tele inductance L298's would be a good match for that type of guitar -- Mahog necks absorb more mids than Maple, and the light Poplar body may absorb a tad more bass than a heavier Mahog. The "hot" stock pickups may be great -- just with a lot more high end roll off than the A8 L298's.

  15. #15
    rjb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluoroscope 5000 View Post
    We'd have to figure a cap value for a proper quack sound with whatever pickups he chooses. Knowing the pickup inductance's, and if they have significant internal capacitance (preferably not) is important....
    I just tack on temporary leads, dangle them outside the guitar, and try different caps to pick a value by ear- although I usually do have a ballpark value to work around. For more complex arrangements, I've been known to tape a small solderless breadboard to the guitar face.

    -rb
    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is deemed mad.

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    You absolutely said it clearly enough. Thanks. And that corresponds precisely to what I had been led to believe from the original GP review. I just wasn't seeing it in the wiring diagrams I linked to. At least not in any obvious way.

    I may just try that trick onone of my guitars.

    I'm getting a 2-pickup Samick guitar ready for resale, and did a distantly-related trick with the Fender-style pickup selector switch. I engaged a 1500pf (could have been 2200pf, I forget) cap to ground when ONLY the neck PU was selected, and lifted that connection when either both neck and bridge, or bridge, was selected. The Tone control still works as usual in all pickup positions, but with the neck-only it adds to the treble cut already imposed by the cap.

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    A ~2nF cap value actually gives a typical ~2.5H Fender SC with 250k pots a several dB ~2kHz range boost b4 rolling off the high end. You may notice the warm Steely sound it imparts. Also great on the bridge pos, and why players like Hendrix, SRV and countless others liked their very high capacitance coil cables.

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    Finally saw one of these in the flesh at a local store yesterday. Holy moly, that's light! Strumming acoustically was nice. They may look like a plank but the necks are mounted at an angle. The body would appear to be 1/8" or so thinner than similar-shaped guitars. But nicely resonant.

  19. #19
    ric
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    No attachment Mark. Logged in but still see nothing...?

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    "These" = Epiphone Les Paul SL; the theme of the thread. No image required.

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    ric
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    "These" = Epiphone Les Paul SL; the theme of the thread. No image required.
    Understood.

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    I have a beater Jaggard solid-body, that I put a hard-tail bridge and a pair of home-made pickups onto. The neck is something I wound on a Strat bobbin with #43 wire, and the bridge is #42 on a Jaguar pickup coilform with the steel comb.

    I had installed a phase-reverse switch for the N+B position, but in followup to discussion elsewhere about the Jerry Donahue Tele, I decided to wire up the phase switch as "half-cancelling" by simply inserting a 15nf cap in series with the neck pickup when in the phase-reverse position. Worked like a charm! When both pickups are in phase, I get a standard Tele-like N+B sound. When I flick the phase switch, it sounds like a Strat "cluck" position, without the need for any middle pickup, and without any audible loss of level like you get with full phase-inversion. I'll be damned!

    The bonus is that since the switch controls the neck pickup, when you select only the neck pickup, the phase-reverse setting rolls off some of the bass, so you get a different version of the neck pickup.

    Daddy like!

    This mod might be quite useful for a simpler 2-pickup like the SL.

  23. #23
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    I have a beater Jaggard solid-body, that I put a hard-tail bridge and a pair of home-made pickups onto. The neck is something I wound on a Strat bobbin with #43 wire, and the bridge is #42 on a Jaguar pickup coilform with the steel comb.

    I had installed a phase-reverse switch for the N+B position, but in followup to discussion elsewhere about the Jerry Donahue Tele, I decided to wire up the phase switch as "half-cancelling" by simply inserting a 15nf cap in series with the neck pickup when in the phase-reverse position. Worked like a charm! When both pickups are in phase, I get a standard Tele-like N+B sound. When I flick the phase switch, it sounds like a Strat "cluck" position, without the need for any middle pickup, and without any audible loss of level like you get with full phase-inversion. I'll be damned!

    The bonus is that since the switch controls the neck pickup, when you select only the neck pickup, the phase-reverse setting rolls off some of the bass, so you get a different version of the neck pickup.

    Daddy like!

    This mod might be quite useful for a simpler 2-pickup like the SL.
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  24. #24
    rjb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    I decided to wire up the phase switch as "half-cancelling" by simply inserting a 15nf cap in series with the neck pickup when in the phase-reverse position. Worked like a charm!
    Yup. Been there, done that. Just replace one of the "criss-cross" wires with a cap. Instant "quack", I mean "cluck".

    -rb
    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is deemed mad.

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    Exactly what I did, although I had a little more rewiring to do since I had originally installed the switch to flip the phase of the bridge pickup. So, flipping the phase of the neck required a little more work, undoing the previous wiring.

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    Bill Lawrence recommended 5~10nF for the HOoP Tele wiring you all have tried -- the smaller value producing a sweeter high end, but it's all personal preference. I've gone as low as 2nF on my 1.8H & 2.8H pickup Microcoil Srat set. The "vocal" ~1.7kHz boost just below the ~2.5kHz crossover on the bridge pickup sounds particularly sweet and fat. Those freq points are a little higher when reversed or between the two 1.8H pickups, but it's still very nice. It's actually brighter with that cap value when phase-reversed, whereas the higher values can make it sound darker when reversed -- almost like the pickups are in series, but without the high end loss.

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