NGD...Maybe?

Hedon09

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So,

In 2020 during the first months of the pandemic I chose to let go of my last epiphone les paul, a lee malia custom (very debatable decision in hindsight). The 2020 line up from epiphone had me heavily intrigued but I wanted to thin the herd and I was very happy with my hagstrom pat smear and super swede. Still there was the itch but I kept hard and fought it valiantly.
Fast forward to the recent weeks...browsing YouTube I stumbled over the guitaristas channel which long in depth reviews of guitars I really enjoy. Flipside: the urge get's stronger an then the prices on the Slash models start dropping considerably. Now, I do not care for Slash but I care for a 2-piece non veneer body and a goldtop. MUSICSTORE was offering the Victoria model for 599,-€. Considering the included case that's a nobrainer compared to the 50s standard goldtop so I took the plunge.
The guitar arrived last Monday. 4 kg, fit & finish was ok-ish with some inconsistencies, playing & sound was one of the best I've experienced with epiphone...but, it had some grounding issues. In in addition with the mediocre finish job I decided to ask for an exchange and a maybe even lighter guitar though I don't think 4kg is too much for a les paul.
So while I was waiting for the exchange guitar to arrive I was still browsing reverb and vendors, you know the drill. Doing so, I stumbled on a significant price drop for epi les paul classics at gear4music. I'm a sucker for a nice goldtop but a honey burst plain top get's me even more excited. So I took the plunge again and have a honey burst les paul classic on it's way to me. Yesterday the goldtop exchange arrived. 3,86 kg (not bad at all) and a better finish job (not perfect but nothing to justify another exchange). The scarf Neck joint is almost invisible. Sound seems a little more mid heavy but another very good example of an epi LP. Did not change the strings yet. I will wait for the classic to arrive. If I like it better, the Victoria will go, if I don't I have a new goldtop. Will keep this updated. Pics or it didn't happen
 

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Hedon09

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So....we have a winner. It's me :-)

The Classic showed up today. She came all the way from Sweden (397,- € shipping included) and she's a blonde nordic beauty for sure! She has a nice subtle grain on her top that even has some gentle 3-dimensional effect when you turn the guitar in light and change the looking angle. Weight is 3,92kg so she is a little heavier than the goldtop. 3-Piece body, i'm ok with that though more might have been a dealbreaker for me. The veneer on the back is not as beautiful as the non veneer two-part-back of the goldtop and i would propably prefer a non veneer back but oh well... The 3-piece Neck, being a Slim Taper, isn't as slim as i seem to remember from my Tribute+. Not as thick as the goldtop-rounded-C-profile but more on the larger side of slim taper. The shoulders are more pronounced than with the C but the belly is flatter. The fretboard has a nice figuring to it. Feels a bit more open grainy than the rosewood fretboards in my herd but the difference is minor. It was thirsty for sure and I soaked it 3 times with lemon oil, which made the figuring pop even more. Finish-wise the Classic has a slight upper hand in tidyness compared to the Slash Goldtop. Nothing to complain about though not as imaculate as for example a fgn might be. Cavity Routings are definetely tidier than on the Goldtop. Nevertheless I think both guitars are quite comparable in the quality of their craftsmanship. The Alnico-Pro pickups are quite good, in a rough and angry way. Noticably more Treble and bite at the bridge than the Slash Probuckers have, which seem to be more rounded and well behaved. I'm not the greatest fan of the Electronics, meaning especially the three Push-Pull-Pots that feel a bit flimsy and aren't CTS while the only non Push-Pull is a CTS. No-Name Capacitors, epiphone switch and outut jack. I definetely can see myself changing the Electronics (switchcraft toggle with a deep washer and pot-/capacitor-upgrades) and Pickups (some contenders residing in my drawer) in the future but for now they are just fine and it's a good sounding guitar and a very good Les Paul Platform to tweak to my preference. The Action needed some tweaking. The neck needed a little more relief. Nothing dramatic and there is still a minor fret buzz on the A and D string (merely a disturbance). It might need a fret dress at some point in the future but that's nothing i wasn't prepared for.
All in all, given the 200€ Price difference to the goldtop (I seriously don't need another case) and the, at least to my eyes, more pleasing appearance made me decide for the classic in a very short amount of time. The difference is big enough to outfit the guitar with complete faber hardware. Another advantage is that I don't feel the need to change the color of the plastic parts which at some time in the future would have been a must for me with the goldtop.
 

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Hedon09

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Well, 2 Weeks later and i started tinkering around a bit. I replaced the rattle-wire Bridge with a Gotoh-Style Bridge (probably some zink alloy BM003? Whatever that means) I had laying around from one of my hagströms. Both Bridge and Tailpiece have gotten locking studs, so they won't fall of during a string-change. I ordered a GFS all Brass-Bridge and Tailpiece which showed up yestrday. I tried the bridge and took it of immediately again. I can't say why, because there was no visible flaw but the guitar sounded pretty much dead using that bridge. All the sparkle was gone and for instance the b-string was close to dead. What a Let-Down!
Didn't try the Brass-Tailpiece yet (though I had some great experiences with them on my Hagström Fantomen) but i will. I also ordered a Faber Aluminum-Tailpiece so I can have a look what I like best. The Brass one is heavy with 135g which puts me off a little bit already. We'll see.

While I was at it I started tinkering around with the Pickups. I like the airy/open response of the Alnico Classic Pros but I didn't like the more agressive/over the top Lows and Highs i got from the Alnico V. So I changed magnets. I ended up using an Alnico III on the Neck and a IV on the bridge. I tried a II at the bridge but it got a little to midheavy. The IV evened everything out. Balancing is similar to the V but a little less aggressive /more well-behaved overall. The III on the Neck is gorgeous. Very clear, no mud at all and round/bell-like highs.

I'm currently waiting for some CTS Push Pulls to give the Wiring/Switch and Jack an upgrade. I will also install some Thumb-bleeders while upgrading the wiring. Finally there will be some Tulip Locking Tuners from Kluson replacing the Grovers. Nothing wrong with the grovers, I just prefer the commodity of Locking Tuners during a Restring.
 


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