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More Gibson ES-3x9 questions

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
I recently purchased two ES-3x9s in two different colors (Vintage Sunburst and Pelham Blue). I decided to sell the VS and keep the PB based solely on color. Shallow yes I know. I made that decision before thoroughly playing the PB. I decided to sell the VS before I received it so when it came I pretty much took pictures of it, made sure it worked and packed it up.

It sold last night and I had this nagging desire to make sure it sounded the same as the one I kept, so you can probably see where this is going... unboxed it, strummed it unplugged and was FLOORED at how much louder and resonant it was compared to the one I decided to keep. I've been playing the PB for a week and trying to figure out why it sounds so dead when played clean.

So here are my questions: the VS is a 2011, while the PB is 2010. Did Gibson start shipping these with the vintage no wire bridges last year? I ask because the PB has a chrome ABR-1 WITH a wire, while the VS has a gold ABR-1 WITHOUT a wire (and no holes for one). I saw no evidence that the gold bridge is aftermarket: the posts are gold and they don't look like they've ever been touched (the guitar doesn't seem to have ever been played honestly. I made a bad decision about which one to keep).

Second, is there a recommended action for these kind of guitars? The action on the PB is lower than on the VS. It's very low. I hear a little bit of rattle when unplugged. I don't think it's fret buzz though, it might be that wire on the bridge, not sure. Would a higher action on the PB give me more volume and resonance? Both guitars are strung with 10s, I don't know the brands though. The strings feel the same on both guitars.

I am planning to do the "MapleFlame Mod" where you replace the studs with slightly longer ones made of stainless steel. I'm also going to replace the tailpiece with a lightweight aluminum one. What I really want is to have the PB guitar sound like the VB one that I stupidly sold. Can a new setup alone get me there, or is the no-wire vintage bridge possibly a factor as well?

Gibson doesn't make a no-wire vintage bridge in chrome, which is perhaps why the PB doesn't have one. If I'm going to replace the bridge I'd probably have to get one with a nickel finish and deal with it. Before I do I'm hoping someone can give me an informed opinion on whether there's any hope for this pretty but dull sounding guitar. Thanks!

(I obscured the model number because I don't want to damage resale value if I decide to unload this thing lol. Hope that's ok.)
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
Another thing: the VS one had noticeably more sustain. If anyone has an idea why I'm all ears. Thanks!
 

Geosh

Member
Messages
2,395
...Before I do I'm hoping someone can give me an informed opinion on whether there's any hope for this pretty but dull sounding guitar. Thanks!

(I obscured the model number because I don't want to damage resale value if I decide to unload this thing lol. Hope that's ok.)
#1) I won't be buying this off you, especially after this fantastic review. And please don't go listing it as "Pelham Blue Gibson ES-339 **TONE MONSTER!!!" if you do decide post it in the emporioum.

#2) Setup could have a lot to do with the sound. Pickup height and action all play into the sound and with Gibson's exceptional consistancy from one guitar to another :sarcasm odds are that plays a part in what you are hearing. I would first get rid of that buzz and get it setup properly. (If the action is too low, that could be what is killing your sustain too.) Then play with pickup heights to see if you can find a sweet spot that works better for you. I would do that before changing out the bridge/tailpiece/studs. That way you can at least have a good baseline for any other changes you decide to make. It might even fix it for you.
 

Faded

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,166
(I obscured the model number because I don't want to damage resale value if I decide to unload this thing lol. Hope that's ok.)

They'll probably just look up your threads and see that you're trying to offload a dud. Obscuring the model number isnt going to help much.
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
Funny thing is apparently this thing was pleked after it was bought by the first owner...

Thanks for the info Geosh. There's been a lot of hand-wringing going on the last 12 hours lol. I'm sitting at work trying to learn about how to setup one of these guitars, but I think I'll just drop it off tonight and hope a professional can get it playing better.

The action is ridiculously low. The VS one had what I'd say is a regular, comfortable action.

Duly noted about the listing. I was thinking more like, "Pelham Blue God of Tone!!!"
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
They'll probably just look up your threads and see that you're trying to offload a dud. Obscuring the model number isnt going to help much.
No actually it's more for the Google spiders lol. I'd just eBay it :)

But honestly I'm going to do my best to get it fixed. It's a gorgeous guitar. Hopefully it's just set up atrociously.
 

cherrick

Member
Messages
2,584
I think if you invest a bit in the Pelham you can get it to where you want it.

I would suggest that you consider the Callaham ABR-1 along with the Mapleflame Mod. And perhaps a Pigtail tailpiece.

Once you've done that raise the action a tad. Very low action is death to tone. I play 0.011's because I can get much better tone with a slightly raised action.

Is the nut bone? Or some of the NOS nylon? That might be an option.

What kind of strings are you playing? A switch in vendor and type might help.
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
I think if you invest a bit in the Pelham you can get it to where you want it.

I would suggest that you consider the Callaham ABR-1 along with the Mapleflame Mod. And perhaps a Pigtail tailpiece.

Once you've done that raise the action a tad. Very low action is death to tone. I play 0.011's because I can get much better tone with a slightly raised action.

Is the nut bone? Or some of the NOS nylon? That might be an option.

What kind of strings are you playing? A switch in vendor and type might help.
I really appreciate the encouragement man. It's heartbreaking to think you've invested a bunch of cash and time and in the end screwed yourself out of both lol. I was pretty sure that people have always thought too low of an action could negatively impact things. My regular guitar (Parker Midi Fly) has a pretty high action compared to this Gibson, although I never felt it was high. I will post back with a follow-up. The guitar is so sweet, and does distorted very well. It's just that the clean tone sounds like a muffled Gibson cliche, even in the middle position. And acoustically it was just crazy how obvious the lack of volume, sustain and resonance was compared to the VS.

I've ordered a Schroeder Tailpiece because it's chrome. All the hardware on the guitar including the tuning heads are chrome. I don't think Pigtail has a chrome one. The Schroeder I believe is lightweight machined aluminum. As for the nut, I'm pretty sure it's the stock one. They're Corian right? I could look into getting a bone one. That'd probably be the last thing to try if all else fails though, correct? The main differences I could see between the two guitars was the set up (action and pickup height) and the bridge.

I'm with you on the Callaham. I don't think it'll look too out of place despite it's nickel plating. At this point I don't really care though, what good is this thing's looks if I don't want to play it?

The shop I bought it from supposedly put new strings on it. They feel new. I'll put my own on when I get it set up. Pretty sure both guitars had 10s on when I did the back to back comparisons. They felt identical, but sounded worlds apart.

I'll take your advice and report back. I'm taking deep breaths and hoping the problem is just a piss-poor setup.
 

Geosh

Member
Messages
2,395
Funny thing is apparently this thing was pleked after it was bought by the first owner...

Thanks for the info Geosh. There's been a lot of hand-wringing going on the last 12 hours lol. I'm sitting at work trying to learn about how to setup one of these guitars, but I think I'll just drop it off tonight and hope a professional can get it playing better.

The action is ridiculously low. The VS one had what I'd say is a regular, comfortable action.

Duly noted about the listing. I was thinking more like, "Pelham Blue God of Tone!!!"
If it was pleked, then your frets are probably good and level. However, the relief on the neck might need a LITTLE tweaking. Once that is set, you can set your bridge height for the action you want.

If you take it to a tech, just be very specific what you want. I have had a few techs do setups for me that "play awesome" in their opinion but aren't how I like them.
 

Bhodie

Member
Messages
605
If it doesn't sound good to you.. back to back.. then sell it. No matter what you do to it, it will NEVER sound (to you) like the one you like, and you will only be spending time and money (real personal experience there). Also, remember different people listen and like different things in tone.. someone may find your PB to be just what they were looking for, and love it.
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
I'm afraid you may be right Bhodie. Still, I'll always wonder if I don't try. Perhaps a catch-22, we'll see. The other one was definitely setup much differently though. I have to try. I'll keep your advice in mind though.
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
Well I went ahead and made some changes: I raised the action a bit, did the MapleFlame Mod (installing 2" stainless screws in place of the 1/2" ones that were barely attached to the wood) and put the new aluminum tailpiece on.

Initial impressions are very favorable. Of course I no longer have the other guitar here to compare against, but now the PB feels louder and has more sustain than it did. So far so good! I'm going to need someone to set it up correctly.
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
If it was pleked... the relief on the neck might need a LITTLE tweaking. Once that is set, you can set your bridge height for the action you want.
Geosh,

After having the strings off for several hours to do my mods (it was my first time and took a while) when I restrung late last night I noticed that there was a lot more relief in the neck than I remembered being there. I'm hoping that when I get home from work tonight the neck will have settled down a bit and I can get a more accurate read of where things stand with regards to adjusting the action.

My first impression was that the nut might be cut too deep because I did raise the bridge higher than it was before yet the action towards the nut was still very low (while the action on the upper frets just got ridiculously high). What you're saying though is that I may need to adjust the neck before I keep tweaking the bridge height, right? In that case I'll probably just take the thing in. I've never adjusted a truss rod and don't think I have the right wrench anyway. But if this is the case then there's little point in me agonizing over the height of my bridge until I get the neck perfected, right?
 

cherrick

Member
Messages
2,584
Not sure about the chrome part. All the originals were nickel plate and aluminum tp, etc. I also like the nickel because it's easier to get a light relic finish on them, but that's probably not your goal here.
 

mrfett

Member
Messages
1,484
Not sure about the chrome part. All the originals were nickel plate and aluminum tp, etc. I also like the nickel because it's easier to get a light relic finish on them, but that's probably not your goal here.
These guitars are the upgraded 339 models. The VS came with gold hardware and the PB came with chrome. The PB looks pretty "blinged out". I wouldn't normally setup a guitar this way but with the fancy inlays and all the binding you can't help but embrace the over-the-top-ness. It's the reason I couldn't let it go :)
 




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