MIK rant

Noodling Guitars

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Over the weekend, a sales rep msg'd me and asked if I was interested in a Gibby Anaconda Burst. I was really tempted and decided to take out my old green Epi to play while deciding. What really attracted me to the current anaconda burst was the black plastics, so I decided I might as well try that swap on my Epi first and see if I like it.

So ended up changing this, to this:

20220620_084444.jpg

I swapped out the JB for a Mighty Mite Motherbucker to try. Redid the wiring to 50s wiring. Neck is still SD Sentient (which I really like). I completely forgot how this thing sounded. The Motherbucker is.... interesting. It's so overwound (21k!) and on clean there's almost no 3k+ range overtones - so absolutely no icepicky sounds, no shimmer. The mid boost is so strong that on clean it's like a huge thud / feels almost like a beaver just came up to me and whacked me with its tail. But on overdrive, it cuts like crazy - it drives the front end extremely hard to the point it causes the front end to clip. I'll see if I can put together a short comparison against the JB tonight. While functionally it's meant to do the same thing as a JB as a very hot and mid boosted pickup, JB cuts at a higher register than the Motherbucker. On clean it does throw me off though because the Sentient is a VERY clean pickup in the neck - no boomy mids and very clear - still neck like, but with additional sparkle; switch over the Motherbucker and all of these mids come out and makes the sound so fat and driven that it sounds more like I switched to a neck pickup (but it's not muddy). Very odd stuff.

*** BEGIN RANT ***

So another thing that kinda bothered me was this whole mystique around MIK Epis. Nothing wrong with them of course - and as I said before, this is one of my all time favorite guitars (but that has more to do with the sentimental value rather than the objective quality). It's got thinner binding, slightly "incorrect" shape, weird routing pattern/control layout (so those looking to use PCB/solderless harnesses - this is a no go), originally came with lower quality hardware and electronics (as compared to current Epis). I opted for the roller bridge not for tone, not for looks, but out of functionality because (1) where the bridge was originally put it would not intonate correctly and (2) the old bridge had collapsed anyway. Btw, for those that are modding - make sure you take measurements before you buy anything - some of the older MIKs need different parts because most places that sell aftermarket for Epis assume made in china current production specs.

If you look closely - and this goes for my other MIKs as well, there's more paint runs and splotches of paint here and there where you could tell they fixed under the clearcoat.
Inlay work - the pic speaks for itself - after 25 years, you could see some of the filler having bled into the inlay - the Mother of Toilet Seat that they used was also a different color (its greyish/ silvery - and also more transparent so that you can even see thru to where the adhesive is getting old). I'm not saying there's anything bad about the guitar - all I'm saying is that as compared to other Epis, I don't particularly see why MIK is better.

20220620_091514.jpg 20220620_091522.jpg

I think the only major difference would be that the MIKs didn't apply an additional veneer on the back - but IMHO that's not indicative of quality. You can also see a MIK vs MIC one side by side in the Goldtop thread here.
 

3bolt79

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Yeah, I hear you. I wouldn’t put up yesterdays MIK up against ttoday’s Inspired By line.
 
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soulman969

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Having had zero experience with anything other than original '60s MIK (K as in Kalamazoo) or current MIC production I have no personal reference point for Korean built models. But all of the MIC models I have owned (5) have been outstanding guitars in all respects and incredible values based on their price point new or used.

IMHO and in my personal experience Epiphone and G&L Tributes are among the best built imports available. They often compare so favorably with US versions of the same models built by Gibson in Nashville or G&L in Fullerton that it's nearly impossible to justify the cost differences between them based solely on build quality and playability.

I will never pay the typical going price for a new Gibson vs buying a comparable Epiphone instead. The value just isn't there for me.
 

EPIS_MIK

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Nice looking guitar! Green is my favorite color. I've got a 1997 Emerald Special Edition from the Unsung factory. No burst, just rich green over a nice flame. Weighs a ton! Spectacular tone.

Here's my biased take, pardon the scrambled thoughts---
There's an art to cutting costs in instrument production based on the technology/resources available and the level of skill among the workers. To me, things like splotchy paint and cheap inlays are kind of kitschy and cool on an old instrument. The stock pickups and wiring and tuners are just bad, however, haha. But the key is where they didn't cut costs.


My background is primarily in bass, especially fretless. I have some very nice basses, both hollow and solid. I used a pro compression unit for years, but I never use compression anymore. I want every note to ring out perfectly, naturally. I want healthy, loud, flawless, unique resonance in every instrument, ideally in every note. This allows for the ultimate in artistic expression.

I have a 1993 MIK (Samick) Accu Bass that I got for 180 bucks. It's as good as any bass I've ever played. Unbelievable resonance. Astounding clarity and sparkle. Even the stock pickup is fantastic on that bass, somehow.

Got a 2000 MIK (Unsung) Viola bass. All stock. 400 bucks because it was near-mint and extra gorgeous. Absolute tone monster. Ready for the stage or studio. Again, an overwhelming resonance with the notes taking off with a life of their own.

You can only get consistency at a high level when the bones of the instrument are solid. How well the woods were aged and selected (to avoid settling issues), how well the woods were put together, etc. In Korea, they were not cutting costs in this area. You are still going to find warped wood here and there, just as with handmade instruments, but the production methods were solid.

In guitar, I always run clean, never distorted. No compression. Again, I want every note to sing perfectly, naturally. I have a large fleet of MIK Epiphone guitars that sing.

I've lived in Qingdao. I've heard horror stories about early Epiphone production in China, and I've also heard that they have been able to turn that around. One of my favorite basses is a cheap little Chinese acoustic bass that blows expensive acoustics out of the water, so I'm not completely biased against China. Although I do have a long and complicated relationship with China because of my job.

I was playing some new Epiphones in a Guitar Center the other day. One was a brand new Les Paul model for 650, MIC. It sounded like a piece of toast. Another MIC Epiphone was a hollow body that sounded nice, but not anywhere close to the same league as my old Sheratons and Joe Pass Emperors.

For a full comparison I'd need to take in a bunch of new Chinese Epiphones, restring them, set them up as I like them, and then A/B them with the MIKs. I'm sure a bunch of the Chinese ones would be great. It would be interesting if we found that there aren't any substantial differences overall, haha.
 

Des

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My 2006 MIK Korina V:
20220509_182204.jpg
20220509_182406.jpg

Maple neck, zero woodgrain in the body?? Ugly orange stain to hide the wood differences. Poor hardware and it buzzed terribly despite me fixing the unsoldered ground wire that was just pressed under the V string guide. Played great!


My 2016 MIC Korina Explorer:

20220601_165715.jpg
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Korina neck, full beautiful body Grain, way better hardware, no buzzing at all. Natural finish with no stain. Plays even better.
Its night and day difference. Ive got nothing against MIK, but with these Epiphones its not even close. Dont believe the hype.
 

3bolt79

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I have 2 “Inspired by” SG’s, a Modern and a Custom. They are so much better than the Epiphones I bought 10 years ago, all of which I returned. They were cheaply made garbage IMHO. They put the tuning machines on them crooked, each one. And they didn’t sound that good to my ears.

They have really upped their game post bankruptcy. I did have to do a level and crown with the two Epi SG’s in my collection that I bought last year. My wife got me an EPI 335 last Christmas, and it is flawless. It sounds really good too.

I think that the new Epi line is the most bang for the buck that they’ve ever put out. And the prices are quite reasonable.

My wife also got me a Gibson SG Standard for my birthday back in April. The thing came with no flaws. And the fret job was really nice. I didn’t have to do anything to it, other than to adjust the truss rod a little. There is no question that it was better quality all the way around. But, did it justify paying 4 times the price for the Gibson versus the Epi? I can’t really answer as I am on the fence about this.

I have a small core of my collection that are higher end guitars. Usually I buy the low to mid priced guitars. They all offer something different. I don’t have any guitars that I feel were overpriced when I bought them new.

I have some old vintage ones as well. I have an 84 and 85 Ibanez Roadstar II which are deluxe models that I bought for cheap. They are projects. That is where my guitar money has been going this year.
 

Noodling Guitars

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Nice looking guitar! Green is my favorite color. I've got a 1997 Emerald Special Edition from the Unsung factory. No burst, just rich green over a nice flame. Weighs a ton! Spectacular tone.

Here's my biased take, pardon the scrambled thoughts---
There's an art to cutting costs in instrument production based on the technology/resources available and the level of skill among the workers. To me, things like splotchy paint and cheap inlays are kind of kitschy and cool on an old instrument. The stock pickups and wiring and tuners are just bad, however, haha. But the key is where they didn't cut costs.

I completely agree with what you're saying. And yeah, Chinese factories cutting corners... I know exactly what you mean (I haven't lived there for extended periods, but even for factory visits and other work related trips, we got to saw more than we wanted to haha). I think what likely has happened, though, is that in the initial few years when Epiphone migrated its operations over to the Qingdao plant, there were:

(1) too many inconsistencies and flaws;
(2) they continued to charge the same amount for the guitars (esp. when this was also about the time when Samick and WMI was trying to push both their own brands and branched out to other imports (including PRS SE, some of the ESP stuff, Washburn, the Greg Benett line, even smaller projects like rondomusic etc..); and
(3) lots of fake Epiphones

I think those transition years really hurt Epiphone a lot because the quality control clearly had some issues and Korean made guitars were still in the same ballpark price range. As years have gone by, at least for Epiphone, they've clearly upped their game and closed that gap between them and Korean makers. I think if you took a good Korean unit and compared it to a good current "Inspired by" unit, you'd find that they'd both be at least comparable in terms of construction. That's why I don't think either is necessarily "better" - if someone can find a good Korean made guitar, that's great! But then again, no need to pay a premium to buy one. One thing that has definitely changed is that the current production does focus a bit more on being more (albeit slightly) accurate in terms of shape and feel.
 

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small sample sizes and broad generalizations don't usually add up to much.

Gibson, or any other company, can have very specific specs and a tight QC zone and have widgets or guitars made in china or S Korea or Mexico to that spec.

Or that company can be lax on the specs/QC and have sloppy stuff made anywhere.

Personally... early MIK Epiphone's have always impressed me. mid-late 90's... got a little different... later and current MIK guitars are pretty incredible.

kinda the Same with the MIC guitars... early MIC kinda all over the place... current MIC??? pretty impressive.
 

soulman969

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One curiosity I've had for quite some time is based on the knowledge that no matter who built it and where there will always be some bad sounding guitars, okay sounding guitars, and oh my God sounding guitars.

There will always be variables no matter how tight the tolerances are or how skilled the builders are. Some of it's in the wood, some if it's in the pickups and electronics, and some of it's in the build quality period.

Given that only a very small percentage of guitar/bass owners/players can actually hear well enough to discern very the minor tonal difference between bad and okay and fewer still what oh my God should sound like just how finicky are manufactures about tonality vs the overall cosmetic appearance which is what I see critiqued the most.

We often see threads posted from buyers who ask whether or not something should be sent back or exchanged due to a finish flaw or sometimes a build flaw but I've seldom ever seen one where the buyer said I love the way it looks but it sounds like a piece of crap. What should I do? So....how much attention to the details of quality tonality goes into the process of building any guitar or bass?

Anyone care to offer their opinions on that?
 

Noodling Guitars

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One curiosity I've had for quite some time is based on the knowledge that no matter who built it and where there will always be some bad sounding guitars, okay sounding guitars, and oh my God sounding guitars.

There will always be variables no matter how tight the tolerances are or how skilled the builders are. Some of it's in the wood, some if it's in the pickups and electronics, and some of it's in the build quality period.

Given that only a very small percentage of guitar/bass owners/players can actually hear well enough to discern very the minor tonal difference between bad and okay and fewer still what oh my God should sound like just how finicky are manufactures about tonality vs the overall cosmetic appearance which is what I see critiqued the most.

We often see threads posted from buyers who ask whether or not something should be sent back or exchanged due to a finish flaw or sometimes a build flaw but I've seldom ever seen one where the buyer said I love the way it looks but it sounds like a piece of crap. What should I do? So....how much attention to the details of quality tonality goes into the process of building any guitar or bass?

Anyone care to offer their opinions on that?
That's exactly it! If it looks good to the player, it'll probably sound fine - or if not, the player will do whatever it is to make it sound fine (unless there's a critical construction issue). It's an electric guitar - as long as it sounds good plugged in, looks good, then it's doing what it needs to do. The rest of it is all in the player's head - if the player can connect with the instrument (even if it's only visually at first), they'll find a way to feel the resonance. May the resonance be with you.
 

soulman969

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For me it's all in the neck feel. I like bigger better than smaller. If a neck feels good, real good in my hand, then whatever else is on that guitar I can live with or improve to my taste.
Jean I'm much the same as you in this respect. In fact both of the Epi's I just sold had the "D" profile necks I'm not a big fan of. I can play any neck but a neck with more depth and a more rounded profile feels better and in my own mind I play better on that type of neck profile.

One Tele I bought over ten years ago was a modified Nashville Deluxe body and neck. I loved that neck profile so much I hunted down two more and installed those on two other Teles. Now all three have the same neck all from 2006 Nashville Deluxes. I have not found any other Fender model so far that has that same neck profile although a Baja is similar. As a result all three are my go to players for jams and such.

Pickups and electronics I can replace or have someone replace but the neck has to work for me more than anything else. Cosmetics are somewhat secondary although every guitar and bass I own is in very good condition or better and finish colors for me are pretty much old school ones like I played in the '60s and '70s. Nothing too weird.
 

soulman969

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That's exactly it! If it looks good to the player, it'll probably sound fine - or if not, the player will do whatever it is to make it sound fine (unless there's a critical construction issue). It's an electric guitar - as long as it sounds good plugged in, looks good, then it's doing what it needs to do. The rest of it is all in the player's head - if the player can connect with the instrument (even if it's only visually at first), they'll find a way to feel the resonance. May the resonance be with you.
That resonance issue is a funny one. For some the guitar has to sound "alive" even when unplugged yet I've never been able to draw any parallels between that and the sound when amplified.

One of the most resonant guitars I ever had was a Tele build I did for a good friend. I used a Paulownia body because he wanted it very lightweight. It was light alright but to my ears it lacked "body" tonally and was almost too "airy" and thin sounding but he liked it.

I have never judged any electric guitar by it's acoustic properties when unplugged but lots of players do. We also know that custom shops like Fenders insist on using certain body blanks matched with certain necks so there must be something to that process that I can't hear acoustically.

Looks are nice but for me not the major reason I buy a guitar. But then my tastes run toward old school designs that have been around for decades. I love Teles. They're the most beautifully functional ugly guitar ever made. The rest I own; Strat, Casino, LP as much for variety as anything else. It's the Teles that are almost always my go to guitars.

I suppose that one day it would be nice to sit down with a handful of the same model and evaluate each to see just how much difference there is between them tonally but even that would be done more out of curiosity than anything. If an electric guitar doesn't sound right to me I'd look more to the pickups or setup as the cause than anything but that's me.
 

BGood

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That resonance issue is a funny one. For some the guitar has to sound "alive" even when unplugged yet I've never been able to draw any parallels between that and the sound when amplified.

One of the most resonant guitars I ever had was a Tele build I did for a good friend. I used a Paulownia body because he wanted it very lightweight. It was light alright but to my ears it lacked "body" tonally and was almost too "airy" and thin sounding but he liked it.

I have never judged any electric guitar by it's acoustic properties when unplugged but lots of players do. We also know that custom shops like Fenders insist on using certain body blanks matched with certain necks so there must be something to that process that I can't hear acoustically.

Looks are nice but for me not the major reason I buy a guitar. But then my tastes run toward old school designs that have been around for decades. I love Teles. They're the most beautifully functional ugly guitar ever made. The rest I own; Strat, Casino, LP as much for variety as anything else. It's the Teles that are almost always my go to guitars.

I suppose that one day it would be nice to sit down with a handful of the same model and evaluate each to see just how much difference there is between them tonally but even that would be done more out of curiosity than anything. If an electric guitar doesn't sound right to me I'd look more to the pickups or setup as the cause than anything but that's me.
I'm not a tonewood believer either, but ...

I had these two identical SGs, except for the grain patterns on them. One had a very tight grain, the other with wide strokes. That last one was beautiful and of the two I wanted to keep it. But it sounded dark, pretty dark compared to the tight grain SG. Not a SG tone, more of a LP. Both had the same electronics. In a last resort, I switched all electronics (OK, not the toggle switch) from one to the other, figuring that had to be where the tonal difference layed. Different pickup winders, different pots tolerances, etc. Well, damned me, it didn't make any diifference. It then came to me to see about their particular wood resonnance.

You be the judge:first one, tight grain, clear electric tone. Second one, wide grain, dark electric tone.

 

Des

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I have never judged any electric guitar by it's acoustic properties when unplugged but lots of players do. We also know that custom shops like Fenders insist on using certain body blanks matched with certain necks so there must be something to that process that I can't hear acoustically.
For me its not just about its acoustic properties which I find important but how it vibrates in your hands and against your body. A nice resonant tonewood just feels better. I understand how pickups make up the majority of the tone but the pickups are mounted to wood which affects the pick ups by vibrating them as well. I bet its pretty subtle but when I compare my same model guitars built of different woods it feels pretty significant. If its voodoo then its good voodoo.
 

soulman969

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For me its not just about its acoustic properties which I find important but how it vibrates in your hands and against your body. A nice resonant tonewood just feels better. I understand how pickups make up the majority of the tone but the pickups are mounted to wood which affects the pick ups by vibrating them as well. I bet its pretty subtle but when I compare my same model guitars built of different woods it feels pretty significant. If its voodoo then its good voodoo.
I have never had any doubt that other like yourself can properly judge an electric guitar acoustic properties but unless one guitar was completely dead vs another I never have been able to do what you can.

Maybe all of mine are "good wood" or maybe they're all "bad wood" LOL but once I'm plugged in and playing then I'm listening for what I feel I need to hear which is that entire system of parts now amplified via the pickups which are what I've more typcially changed if I'm not happy with stock pickups. But I believe as you do that every piece of a guitar or bass has an impact on it's tonality in some way slight or major.
 
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soulman969

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I'm not a tonewood believer either, but ...

I had these two identical SGs, except for the grain patterns on them. One had a very tight grain, the other with wide strokes. That last one was beautiful and of the two I wanted to keep it. But it sounded dark, pretty dark compared to the tight grain SG. Not a SG tone, more of a LP. Both had the same electronics. In a last resort, I switched all electronics (OK, not the toggle switch) from one to the other, figuring that had to be where the tonal difference layed. Different pickup winders, different pots tolerances, etc. Well, damned me, it didn't make any diifference. It then came to me to see about their particular wood resonnance.

You be the judge:first one, tight grain, clear electric tone. Second one, wide grain, dark electric tone.



Yup, I definitely hear the difference. To my ears it's massive. For me the second guitar would be judged as sounding "dead" as far as the bodies response goes. Once strung up I would suspect that guitar to sound less lively and not as bright.

I'll have to give that a try with some of mine to see how they respond. My problem may be that only two of my Teles have alder bodies. The other is ash. My Strat is also alder but since the body cut is so much different I wouldn't expect a comparison with the Teles to be the same.

I could compare my Gold Top with my Michael Kelly Patriot though since both are mahogany with a maple cap but again the bodies are slightly different so it's not exactly a direct apples to apples comparison.

But one thing I do believe is that other than by weight and grain for those guitars with a transparent finish the body blanks and neck blanks for production guitars are not selected for their tonal properties. They just take them off the pile and process them.
 
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3bolt79

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One curiosity I've had for quite some time is based on the knowledge that no matter who built it and where there will always be some bad sounding guitars, okay sounding guitars, and oh my God sounding guitars.

There will always be variables no matter how tight the tolerances are or how skilled the builders are. Some of it's in the wood, some if it's in the pickups and electronics, and some of it's in the build quality period.

Given that only a very small percentage of guitar/bass owners/players can actually hear well enough to discern very the minor tonal difference between bad and okay and fewer still what oh my God should sound like just how finicky are manufactures about tonality vs the overall cosmetic appearance which is what I see critiqued the most.

We often see threads posted from buyers who ask whether or not something should be sent back or exchanged due to a finish flaw or sometimes a build flaw but I've seldom ever seen one where the buyer said I love the way it looks but it sounds like a piece of crap. What should I do? So....how much attention to the details of quality tonality goes into the process of building any guitar or bass?

Anyone care to offer their opinions on that?
This just happened to me with a G&L. There wasn’t a bad sound. There was no sound . The bridge pickup had no o\utpit w\hatsoever. So I sent it back.
 

3bolt79

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I'm not a tonewood believer either, but ...

I had these two identical SGs, except for the grain patterns on them. One had a very tight grain, the other with wide strokes. That last one was beautiful and of the two I wanted to keep it. But it sounded dark, pretty dark compared to the tight grain SG. Not a SG tone, more of a LP. Both had the same electronics. In a last resort, I switched all electronics (OK, not the toggle switch) from one to the other, figuring that had to be where the tonal difference layed. Different pickup winders, different pots tolerances, etc. Well, damned me, it didn't make any diifference. It then came to me to see about their particular wood resonnance.

You be the judge:first one, tight grain, clear electric tone. Second one, wide grain, dark electric tone.


The first one sounded like a higher note when knocked. The other one was lower in pitch\, but fuller sounding.
 


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