What to upgrade in an Epiphone LP

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by imsamkim, Mar 15, 2006.


  1. imsamkim

    imsamkim Member

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    A friend of mine has an Epiphone LP Standard and is interested in upgrading it, but he doesn't quite know what to upgrade. Nor do I. :jo

    Can anybody give me advice on what the usual/popular upgrades are and the costs that are involved? Also, how will these upgrades affect the guitar/tone/etc?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. einstein

    einstein Member

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    it is what it is, fret leveling and pickups are all you can do.
     
  3. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    You've obviously never heard the difference that rewiring one properly makes :).

    Not just the pickups - all the pots, the switch, the jack and the wiring. The stock stuff is really crap and sucks a lot of tone away even from good pickups - it has a muddy, nasal sound that's quite noticeable when you've heard what the same guitar sounds like with decent wiring.

    And changing the hardware...

    You can upgrade the bridge and tailpiece. You have to change the body inserts as well if you want to fit really good stuff though.

    The machineheads are fine, but you might want to replace the nut with bone.


    If I had to rate the improvements, I'd say pickups 70%; electrics 20%; bridge, tailpiece and nut 10%.

    The only problem is that if you do all that, you could probably have bought a used Les Paul Studio with the money, which regardless of the variable quality of Gibsons is still just a better guitar IMO.
     
  4. JES1680

    JES1680 Silver Supporting Member

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    I had an Epi LP and this is what I did.
    Fret level and polish
    Changed tuners to Grovers (make sure you check the OD of the shafts against the originals. I had to re-drill the headstock and I would NOT reccomend this. You need a drillpress, very sharp bit and alot of faith!)
    Complete re-wire pots, wire, caps, switch, jack.
    Put in SD59 pickups
    This was a really good sounding LP. Better than my LP classic at the time. I had most of the parts laying around so it didn't cost much.
    Eventually after about 6 months, no matter what I did the thing would not stay in tune for even one song. I ended up putting it back to stock and selling it.
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    I wouldn't recommend it either - that's probably why it wouldn't stay in tune. The stock tuners are better.
     
  6. Scumback Speakers

    Scumback Speakers Gold Supporting Member

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    I've got an older Epi LP Birdseye from 95. While the top is stunning, more birdseye on that veneer than you can shake a stick at, the following was changed:

    1) DiMarzios out, Voodoo 59 custom wind with nickel covers in ($290 four years ago)
    2) Stock tuners out (mine were crap, JP, maybe they've improved), Gotoh 18:1 tuners in ($30), got the ones that fit the holes in the headstock. They stay in tune really well.
    3) Pots, caps, toggle switch and jack out, Switchcraft toggle, wiring, jacks, CTS 500K pots IN ($40)
    4) Setup only (my frets and nut are fine), $50.
    5) Original purchase price including shipping ($395)

    Total invested: $815.00

    This guitar will hang with almost any production LP, and Custom Shop LP. It's done it many times, and people who hear it always freak out that it's an Epiphone. Good tone is not an exclusive to Fender and Gibson brand names only.
     
  7. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    I'm not the type of person to attribute tuning problems to tuners, however I had a buddy that had some sort of "special edition" Epi from around 5-7 years ago- those tuners were bad. Like a whole lot of bad in one place.
     
  8. Scumback Speakers

    Scumback Speakers Gold Supporting Member

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    Agreed, my birdseye LP is one of their "special" models, maybe they put the reject tuners on the headstock, and the good top veneer on the bodies?
     
  9. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Are you meaning the vintage-style Kluson lookalikes with pressed steel casings and plastic keystone pegs? I've never had the slightest trouble with those... but like all Kluson-style heads you do have to tune up to the note only. (BTW, these look like Gotohs but aren't - the post diameter is very slightly smaller and Gotohs won't fit through the same bushings.)

    The Korean-made Grover Rotomatic-style ones are notorious for going 'sticky' and causing trouble after a few years though.
     
  10. CitizenCain

    CitizenCain Member

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    I've had good luck, especially with recent Epis, of simply upgrading the wiring and doing a thorough setup. The newer ones come with Grover tuners that work fine, and the Designed by Gibson pickups are alright, especially if you upgrade the pots/caps. I also do the '50s wiring mod, but that's personal preference.

    I've got an Epi faded SG that I did this on, with the addition of some cheap upgrade pickups (GFS Dream 90s). It plays and sounds great, invested less than $60 in the upgrades, $385 new for the guitar.
     
  11. JES1680

    JES1680 Silver Supporting Member

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    The grovers were older ones off an early 80s Explorer and were known to be good (at least on that guitar). I did try tightnening(sp?) them up but eventually just became frustrated with the guitar and moved on. I didn't have much patience back then. I'm much better now.:D
     
  12. ronin32

    ronin32 Member

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    If your changing the bridge and tail with a Tonepros set with a larger diamiter pole, do you still have to change the body inserts? What about putting Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups in? Or would Seymour Duncan '59 w/ a RS wire kit be good?
     
  13. CitizenCain

    CitizenCain Member

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    You can keep the stock inserts with the Tonepros bridge. I did on an Epi Dot and it worked fine. For the pickups, it depends on how much you like the guitar. Personally, I put a set of Seth Lovers in my Dot and it sounded great, but some scoff at putting $200 worth of pickups in a $400 guitar.
     
  14. ronin32

    ronin32 Member

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    Good point, thanks for the info about the Tonepros.
     
  15. Spudboy

    Spudboy Member

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    Well, $200 of pickups in a $400 guitar is not so bad, actually... you're not going to find much better for that price. I wouldn't bother with replacing anything else, actually, unless there is a specific problem. When you start getting into tonal improvements based on wires and pots and such, you're starting to spend way too much cash for almost no real improvement in sound. Lots of guys rant about problems with the switch, but all these kinds of switches are prone to problems, even the best Switchcraft units. This is a design problem; since there is no "wiping" action in this kind of switch, there is no way to remove any corrosion buildup on the contacts without manual intervention. Many people have thrown out perfectly good toggles, when all they needed to do was clean the contacts with some extra fine emery paper!
    Anyway, once you've popped in some decent pickups (the Epiphone ones, particularly the hot model in the bridge, are really third-grade) you are up against the tonal limitations of the inferior species and grades of woods used in the construction. Epiphone likes to slap veneers on their agathis and basswood bodies and call them"maple", "mahogany" or even "korina" (in the case of the Explorer and Flying V's). The key here is to play them unplugged; then you will instantly notice the dead tonal quality compared to a guitar that is made out of true tonewoods. For certain styles of music, naturally, this is probably not an issue, and an Epiphone will sound just fine for the job.
    I would also like to recommend the Elitist series guitars from Epiphone; these are completely different animals and allow you to get true top quality instruments at a substantial savings over their Gibson counterparts. For example, the Elitist '61 SG was (it has been discontinued, unfortunately, since it seems that the market would rather have a bottom of the line SG Special Faded by Gibson instead of a replica '61 that happens to say "Epiphone" on the headstock) just over half the price of the Gibson '61 reissue and it is its equal in every way except that it probably has a better quality finish. Likewise you can pick up a Les Paul Standard flametop that meets or exceeds Gibson standards (no pun intended) and pocket $1000 savings in the bargain. Just my two cents. Okay, maybe three cents.
     
  16. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    I really don't agree. The tonal improvement from changing out the electrics is very significant, second only to the pickups IMO, and less expensive (even if you get an RS kit). As CitizenCain said, it can make a very worthwhile difference even if you don't change the pickups... the stock wiring and pots especially really are that bad. I change the jack and switch more for reliability reasons than tonal - the stock ones do break a lot more often than Switchcrafts, the switch particularly. I've totally lost count of the number of Epiphone switches I've had to replace, almost all because the toggle simply snapped off - the metal is too thin and too weak. Switchcrafts don't do that unless you really hit them hard. I'm not 100% convinced they don't sound better, too.
     
  17. Shakermaker

    Shakermaker Member

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    My Epi LP was my first (and still my only electric). I went down the route of completely upgrading it and am very happy. I have no problem with the stock tuners, so they still remain. Pretty much everything else has been changed though (except for the nut, which I may change to bone next time I need a refret). With a new bridge, new wiring (pots, switchest etc.), pro refret and setup, Duncan Jazz/'59 PUs I think it's a fantastic guitar.

    Mike.
     
  18. CitizenCain

    CitizenCain Member

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    I was surprised at the Epi SG (Vintage 400, the faded model) I got recently. It actually had Alpha pots installed. They measured out very well (all 500k ± 10k) so I shot some cleaner in them and used them. They seem to be working well so far, I like the taper a little better than CTS. The pots in my Dot, a four year older model, were cheap. I replaced those with CTS. The switch in my Dot also failed two weeks after I got the guitar. I could have cleaned it and left it in, but in a semi-hollow I wasn't going to fool around so it got replaced with a Switchcraft.
     
  19. QuickDraw

    QuickDraw Member

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    i'm in the process of upgrading my dot, i've got some highorder pickups being made, i'm going through all of the electronics and upgrading with quality parts. also installing some grover rotomatics. possibly adding a lightweight tail piece. it was my first "real guitar" and it's worth upgrading.
     

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