The SUPER Pawn Shop Find 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer Review!

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The Epiphone Explorer 1999 Korina Natural Finish Review!

I’ve been looking for an older Epiphone Korina Explorer (natural finish, as opposed to ebony) for quite some time. I wanted the old generic tulip/keystone tuners, the “sandwich” body, the excellent medium-output “Epiphone” engraved gold-cover humbuckers, and a simple rosewood fingerboard. I found one the other day on one of the main Internet used guitar sites at a price that was very attractive. It looked like it had hardly been played! There were no chunks worn out of the first 7 frets from barre-chord hard strumming – as a matter of fact, they looked unplayed, still tall and rounded on the top.

Body shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Body shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sandwich wood is three-piece with one particularly nice-sized piece in the upper half of the body. The coloring and dyes used are very consistent and have that lovely “Old Gibson” golden yellow tint.

I wanted this guitar to do some experimenting with sound, with pulling the tuners, wiring, and pickups carefully out and preserving them for the future. (When I originally bought this guitar, I built it with this in mind: modding it with a very specific set of electronics, solder, tone cap, and some truly wonderful USA-made humbuckers… I’ve since changed my mind and have left it completely alone other than strap locks and 19:1 tuners. Read the “Sound” section below.)

Epiphone has re-released its Korina Explorer! It looks great and is a real bargain compared to the early Korean used ones.

When I saw this 1999 model, I jumped on it VERY quickly because it was un-damaged, mostly un-played, and un-modified. I am truly pleased to have this example in my library.

Pickups back detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer.

Pickups back detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer.

Quick Opinion:
The 1999 Korean-made Epiphone Korina Explorer is a great guitar. Its features and sound are fantastic, and it’s always a sure bet when you’d like to put on an Explorer at a low cost.

I’ve always found the Sandwich Epiphone Korina guitars (Firebird Studio, Explorer, SG, and Les Paul) to be a little funny to behold at first, as the front and back veneers always look so nice, with BRIGHT golden sides of much less dense and pretty Korina wood in the middle. Once you get past the visual edge between the veneer and the center wood, they’re really great instruments. The SG is the one that has the most striking veneer demarkation, as the veneer is only on the front-most part of the horns, with the cutaway being the sandwiched wood. C’est la vie.

Overall? The Epiphone Korina Explorer is a great bargain, a good-looking guitar, and a joy to play. The fretboards are especially nice and thick… The older, non-stickered but embossed pickups are really sweet – especially if you are looking for that Tar-Back sound (more on this in the “Sound” section of this review.”

If you buy your Epiphone Korina Explorer through this link, I get a small amount of funding to help me run and maintain this FREE to the public guitar review site!

Features:
Feature-wise, my Epiphone Korina Explorer is set up with pretty much a modern interpretation of the original Korina 1958 Explorer.
Gold hardware and pickup covers
Korina gold/yellow/amber body coating (nitrocellulose lacquer on the original, poly on the 1999 Epiphone)
White pickguard with pickup selector switch near the upper-treble-side horn/bout
Tulip/keystone tuning keys above the hockey-stick headstock
MOP Logo
Three controls, Bridge Volume-Neck Volume-Tone
Jack on the bottom of the lower bout edge
Slender control cavity cover on the back of the body
Glued-in set neck with the traditional Gibson bump on the base of the neck
Rosewood fretboard with dot inlays.

Pickups front detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer.

Pickups front detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer.

Here are the actual specs for my individual 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer (yours actually could vary, as parts sometimes get switched mid-year):
* Korina “Sandwich” body (Korina veneer on top and back, three pieces of Korina sandwiched in the middle.)
* Maple neck stained to look the same color tone as the body – a bright gold/yellow that’s very distinctive hearkening to the original ’58 Explorer
* Scarf joint set neck
* Old-school gold keystone non-branded tuners (good tuning radius, but not very reliable when down-tuning, even with lubricant in the nut)
* Great old Epiphone humbucker pickups – with the “Epiphone” engraved base plate, these are getting hard to find.
* Well-balanced rosewood thick fingerboard – buffed to a nice shine… even though the fretboard is not painted, it almost looks shiny enough to have been lacquered
* Traditional B/W/B three-ply pickguard
* Old-style Epiphone Korean electronics and soldering techniques
* Black plastic square jack plate
* Two volume control potentiometers and one master tone potentiometer all are inch-sized Asian pots
* Traditional black speed knobs with numbers
* A mechanical Switchcraft-style three-way toggle pickup selector, N-NB-B – very nice! Sturdy and largely make-then-break
* Nicely inlaid MOP Epiphone logo on the face of the headstock
* Dot inlays on the fingerboard from fret 3 on up as traditionally done (hard to tell if these are pearloid or MOP)
* Black plastic pickup rings
* Old-school Epiphone gold large-knob strap buttons, one on the top of the bass-side upper bout, one on the traditional back-face of the lower bout
* 24.75” Scale length
* Plastic molded nut (sturdy and of run-of-the-mill quality)
* 22 Medium-jumbo frets (these are actually a little different than the current 2016 Epiphone Korina Explorer, in a pleasant way. But not huge…
* Gold-plated Zamak pot-metal stop bar
* Gold-plated Tune-o-Matic bridge with adjustable saddles
* From my best guess with my limited tools, it appears to be about a 12″ radius fingerboard

Alternative Back face shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Alternative Back face shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

If you buy your Epiphone Korina Explorer through this link, I get a small amount of funding to help me run and maintain this FREE to the public guitar review site!

Neck Scarf Joint detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer.

Neck Scarf Joint detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer.

Playability
I love Gibson Explorers, Gibson Firebirds, and Gibson RD guitars. I like they way they feel, I like the full neck access, I like the way they look, and I like the way they sit on my leg when I’m seated and recording into the wee hours of the morning. Know that my review is written from that perspective.

I did end up replacing my original 1999 tulip/keystone gold tuners with more accurate and much finer Hipshot Locking Gold Inline tuners with the control plate on the back – this didn’t mod the original guitar at all, and the down-tune slippage of the original tuners is no longer an issue. I saved, of course, all the original parts :-).

The neck is a nice shape. It’s something between the bigger neck of a Firebird and the thicker neck of the original old-school Gibson Explorers. It’s not particularly flat anywhere, and the shape feels as though someone at the Korean Epiphone factory actually took the time to shape the neck blank for this particular neck. It’s easy, unobtrusive, and fits big hands and small. (Margaret is my neck tester for smaller-hand opinions, my hands are quite large in size, but slender in countenance.)

Epiphone has re-released its Korina Explorer! Take a look at zZounds’ Love it and play it guarantee!

It sits easily when you play sitting down, and the entire neck is a breeze to play thanks to the basic design of Explorers in general. It feels pretty balanced in this case, partly because the body is lighter than the mahogany that’s used in my traditional Gibson Explorers. For the Explorer geeks out there, it’s about the same balance and feel as my Ash 2003 Gibson Explorer Pro.

Neck-body set neck joint detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Neck-body set neck joint detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

When standing and on-strap, it’s fairly light as Z-shaped guitars go. Not as heavy as a Les Paul, not nearly as light as an SG or a Fender Tele. It’s comfortable enough for a set or for an entire gig. Nice!

The hard, close-grained rosewood fretboard has a neutral feel to it. The radius feels just about right, not quite as flat as a Fender Tele or Strat feels. It seems like a great piece of wood. It’s been on a neck hook for most of its 18 years of life (as of this writing), and the rosewood has held up fabulously. None of the frets are popped or sharpened, none of the feel of the neck is that cheap dry feel many older Asian-made guitars have. To its tribute, the rosewood was lovingly cured and prepared before it became a guitar fingerboard, and you can tell it. I gave it a light, quick coat of high-grade lemon oil and it actually didn’t look much different, but it felt a little more comfy on bends.

Beauty Back face shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Beauty Back face shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Sound
Sound is an absolute tour-de-force on this guitar. Take any two-humbucker stoptail guitar on the market under $500 with no mods and play it after playing this old Epiphone Explorer, and you’ll mostly go back to the Explorer every time, given the choice. Bear in mind that these pickups aren’t the “Super Crunch” super-duper-high-output kind. That’s the domain of some active pickups and even the newer Super Ceramic Gibson pickups. These pickups are about TONE. Gobs and loads and bucketfuls of medium-output tone. If you want more crunch, add an overdrive and/or a distortion pedal. If you want clean, articulate sound, go with these older Epiphone-embossed covered humbuckers.

Headstock front detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Headstock front detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

On clean, no hot tubes, no pedals, the sound is simple and full-bodied. The bass-mid-treble balance is fairly equal, with just a tad off the top on the treble. Once you put it through a good vacuum-tube preamp with something like 12AX7s, turn them up just enough to put some more volume and width in the sound: now you get major juicy sound that’s a benefit to old-rock and jazz leads. Push the tubes a bit so that when you dig in to the strings it growls a little and you’ve got classic rock.

Push the tubes hard with this guitar and you get strong well-balanced leads and high-definition rhythm chords and rhythm arpeggios. Nicely done! Similarly, if you throw a bunch of pedals at it (say, chorus, reverb, overdrive, and a little fuzz) you get a swishy sizzler that is still articulated in the EQ range. This is more reminiscent of the mid-late 70s Tar Back pickups than the current super-duper Super Ceramic 500t/496R combo of recent Explorers. If you like versatility, the stock pickups are perfect. If you want super-sizzle and crunchfests, find a pair of Gibson USA 500t/496R uncovered pickups and you’ll have your face grinning in no time.

I am not truly sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the new 2017 Epiphone Korina Explorer doesn’t last too long. The last couple of times they were available, they were not around for really long periods of time.

Headstock back detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Headstock back detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

I think the only thing that caused me trouble about the sound is that the neck and nut were cut slightly too short… I could never get the intonation to be Jim-satisfactory. The plain strings all have a variance of about 8 cents sharp, even with the saddles pushed all the way to the rear of the bridge. Unfortunately, since these are metric/Asian-spec tails and bridges, studs and posts, the clever Schaller fine-tuning tail piece and the awesome Hipshot Tone-a-Matic bridge don’t fit this guitar. The only way to fix the guitar to its optimum intonation is to cut a nut (I like bone or fossilized bone) specifically for the specs of this individual guitar. I’ll probably do that in the near future. For now, I think, I’ll just practice with it tuned slightly flat on the plain strings and do a little on-the-fly intonation on most notes.

Quality, Fit and Finish
With the exception of how Sandwich Epiphone bodies look when you first see them, the fit and finish is top notch. There is a hard gleam to the finish on all Korina and maple surfaces, the fretboard was laid in with a great deal of care, and the neck joint is fairly close to how its American-made cousins are put together.

Control cavity detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Control cavity detail of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Comparing this individual to the modern, Chinese-made 1958 Explorer Epiphone reissue, the quality of the Korean guitar is awesome. The new ones are also nicely done, so you would have to play individuals to decide which one suits you and is put together in a way that pleases you. I’m an old guy, so I love the old pickups more than the hotter new ones, and I like the feel of the Korean neck vs the Chinese neck.

I love this guitar in its new version, too. Although the new ones are made in China, it appears the fit and finish is pretty outstanding for the money! Snag one of these before they also go into the history books along with the 1999 Korina Epiphone Explorer.

Wishes and Wants
This has been out of production for quite some time, so I don’t want to really talk about what I would do different. That said, it would have been nice to not have a hollow plastic nut. The brand new series of 1958 Reissue Epiphone Korina Explorers (2016 year) is about as nice, but the pickups could be improved a bit… and I prefer the white pick guard (a personal thing, yes).

Beauty Front face shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

Beauty Front face shot of my 1999 Epiphone Korina Explorer

The SUPERBIRD! Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” First Review!

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The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa “Treasure” Firebird First Impressions Review!
Buy one if you can find one! You’ll be GLAD you did!

Update (9.8.2017): it looks like the new ones are all gone from the market now… You can look at other awesome Firebirds here at zZounds.com!

The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Body Front

The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Body Front

I am a big “z-shape” guitar player. I love my Strats, Teles, LPs, SGs, and Vs, but my heart has a special BRIGHT AND LOUD place for Explorers and Firebirds! (Well, and offset Fenders, too, folks 🙂 ) It’s no surprise to those who know me that I’m constantly looking for a different sound, a different feel, a different tonal diversity. The first place I look is with Explorers and Firebirds. This past 7 years, Firebirds tend to not get sold after a while, unlike so many of my other much-loved-but-sacrificed-to-recording-pursuit guitars. In other words, when I get my hands on a great Firebird, I KEEP it for a long time. I still have quite a few very different Firebirds.

If this review seems to be a great gush of wonder over this guitar, you’re reading it right. Only a few guitars or basses have made me this happy in the decades I’ve been making music. So, take a deep breath and read on. there’s SO much to say that I might have to write a second review down the road after I’ve had “Joe’s Treasure” for a good while.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Headstock Back

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Headstock Back

Quick Opinion:
My Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is a keeper. It is extremely well made, it is super sonorous, and is a real pleasure with which to play or record or jam.

I’ve written a LOT of reviews. I have played and/or recorded with literally thousands of instruments over the past 4 1/2 decades (used to be a Band Director \m/ !) Once in a while I come across a guitar that makes me wish I could stand on a stage somewhere and show it to the world with great enthusiasm – even though I’m not currently an endorsed artist or an instrument-brand affiliate or dealer. I just get pumped when I find something awesome!

The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is just such a guitar. Let’s look at why I am so happy with mine that I might actually buy a second one such as the Polymist version. Let’s look at features, quality, sound and more…

JIm Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Heastock Front

JIm Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Headstock Front

As I said a bit before. If you want a simple and awesome Firebird I, you currently have to buy a vintage one or a multi-thousand-dollar Gibson Custom Shop Firebird I. I’d love one, but honestly it is pretty far out of my budget. Now? I’ve got a GREAT Firebird I guitar at a very small price!

Features:
Here’s the quick-and-dirty feature list (with notes from me about my particular EJBTFI).
* Neck Joint: Thru-Neck (not the faux neck through that were actually glued in on the old Epi Firebird VII guitars)
* Neck Material: Mahogany/Walnut; 9-piece laminated (I counted. Yep!)
* Body Wing Material: Mahogany (both my Treasure Firebird I’s wings are one piece of mahogany, no glue hogs)
* Body Shape: Reverse Firebird
* Neck Shape: 1960’s Rounded-C (this is a delightful neck! If you like Firebird necks, this is a little plumper, but easier to grip for bends! It’s delicious for those that love a gentle round shape on the back of the neck. Mine has no flat areas or flat spots.)
* Truss Rod: Adjustable; Dual-Action (You adjust it behind the truss rod cover.)
* Truss Rod Cover: 1-layer; Black; Epiphone logo in Gold
* Scale Length: 24.75″
* Fingerboard Material: Rosewood with Dot Inlays (My rosewood fingerboard is shiny and nicely polished or buffed. It feels heavenly like a nice Rickenbacker fingerboard, without the lacquer… NICE)
* Nut: Ivory PVC (yes, plastic)
* Headstock: Original Firebird beveled (This looks great – black and brown, on the sunburst. The Polymist is all one color except the truss rod cover.)
* Bridge Pickup: Epiphone ProBucker FB720 (WOWWOWWOWWOWWOW More on this later in the review.)
* Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone (two knobs, no switch of any kind)
* Knobs: Gold Top Hats with metal inserts and pointers (I generally like speed knobs, but these are easy to turn)
* Fingerboard Radius: 14″ (nice and curvy for those who run up and down the neck a lot)
* Pickguard (3-Layer); White/Black/White with Vintage Firebird logo (my logo feels painted on. My Gibson Firebirds tend to be hot-stamped with the Firebird Logo.)
* Frets: 22 medium-jumbo (Just right. easy to bend, easy to fret, NICELY polished on my Joe Treasure.)
* Bridge/Tailpiece: Adjustable Wrap-around Lightning Bar (Mine needed adjustment, but is better than my Gibson M2’s wrap-around… These let you adjust the whole bar back and forth at each end… Makes intonating easier.)
* Nut Width: 1-11/16″
* Hardware: Nickel (I like chrome too and gold, but my heart belongs to old-fashioned wear-showing nickel.)
* Output Jack: Epiphone Heavy-Duty 1/4″
* Machine Heads: Kluson Reissue Firebird/Banjo Tuners; 12:1 ratio (14.6:1 wind rate) (YES! This was a HUGE thing for me. I really LIKE Steinbergers, but LOVE the new renditions of the Kluson brand Banjo Tuners! I bought a couple of sets and back-graded a couple of my Steinberger-tuner Firebirds to have the big Klusons! Just like the Firebirds I got to play in the 70s.)
* Strap Buttons: These are big buttons to hold on to a strap very nicely. The upper strap button is on the back of the neck/body area instead of on the upper bout as some Epiphone Firebirds have had.)
* Includes: Hand-Signed Certificate of Authenticity, Custom Deluxe Gig bag with JB artwork (I LOVE the Joe Bonamassa gig bag Firebird logo!

JIm Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" FB720 Pickup Back

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” FB720 Pickup Back

I want to store my Treasure Firebird I with other guitars in hard cases, so I went ahead and bought an Epiphone case for it. (Opens a new window.))

I have the traditional brown sunburst finish on my Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird. As of this writing, all the major retailers are out of Treasure Firebirds… look at the other Firebirds currently available!

So the features are awesome compared to many $799 (Street) guitars. That said, I see LOTS of $799 guitars that not only don’t have gig bags, but they don’t have NICE gig bags and hand-signed certificates in them!

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Body Back

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Body Back

Let’s look at a few of my favorite features:
* I love the Kluson Banjo Tuners. These look like perfect reissues – and tune and feel JUST like my Gibson Firebird V’s tuners. These were a MAJOR selling point for me, as I like the way the feel, the way they look and the fact that they bring back awesome memories from my childhood when I got to play priceless Firebirds back in the 70s.
* The Neck-through construction. SOUNDS fantastic! It has sustain for days and feels ALIVE in your hands compared to my older glued-in Epiphone Firebird necks or Gibson Firebird Studio necks. It just feels like a zillion (yes, folks, that’s $1,000,000+googleplex of zeroes!) bucks! Honestly. The neck is one of the MAIN features of this guitar. Looks and sound aside.
* The quality is fabulous. I like nitrocellulose lacquer better than poly paint: that said, this finish feels fabulous. It’s nice and smooth and looks like a perfect job was done at the factory.
* The pickup is old-school wired. it has a braided two-conductor wire just like my old Gibson Firebirds. The wiring is super-simple, and there’s not a lot to get in the way of this very special FB720 pickup’s sound.
* The gig bag is really nice: It’s a real plus and I’m keeping mine as long as I own this Firebird.
* I’m impressed with the signed certificate. I can’t tell if it is signed with ink by the two folks on the card, but it looks quite real to me.
* One more feature that really tipped me over the edge: the headstock construction looks JUST LIKE my Gibson Firebird V.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Control Cavity Shot

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Control Cavity Shot

If you buy your gear through this link, I get a small amount of funding to help me run and maintain this FREE to the public guitar review site!

Playability
This is the easiest-to-play Epiphone Firebird I’ve ever owned (I’ve owned LOTS). The neck is a nice balance between a Firebird 60s neck and an Explorer 70s neck. Just enough round, just thick enough, just slippery enough to make me forget about the neck (a VERY good thing). The weight is bit lighter than my neck-through Gibson Firebirds, and is actually a little better balanced than my Firebird V, Firebird 7, and Firebird VII. With the BIG headstock and the Klusons, it does lean towards the neck a bit: with that said, it IS a Firebird!

The way the pickup sits and the controls are located are just fine. I don’t end up picking on top of the pickup so much as I do with my Firebird VII and my Firebird 7. The volume control and tone are just where they are supposed to be, but require a big hand move to do a volume swell or adjustment. Bear in mind, though, that this is not different than old Firebird I guitars. So this isn’t a problem per-SE… I’m just indicating that it feels a bit far. However, since I’ve started using a Morley volume pedal, this isn’t much of a problem any more on my far-control guitars.

The tummy-cut is awesome and feels just like it is supposed to. The body rests nicely on me whether I am standing with a strap or sitting without a strap. The rest of the guitar feels just like a Firebird. If you close your eyes, it would be largely hard to tell it is not one of my Gibsons.

I love the fingerboard radius (14”) and the smooth and shiny genuine rosewood fingerboard. Overall, when I’m fretting or bending strings, the fingerboard feels non-existent (a good thing).

Overall, I’d say that it’s EXTREMELY hard to put down and stop playing. Playability? Superb.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Control Cavity Shot With Body

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Control Cavity Shot With Body

Sound
One of the strong points of the Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is its sound. It sounds SUPERB. If you’d like to get an idea what it sounds like before you buy one, listen to Joe play one here (opens a new window). You can read more factory specs on the Epiphone JB Treasure page, too.

The single-pickup configuration, the simple controls and big potentiometers are awesome. The neck-through sustain and body’s sympathetic vibe are superb. I can’t say enough about this new pickup. I LOVE it! And paired with the body and neck-through, the sound just makes you giddy through a Fender amp, a VOX, a Marshall or even a small solid-state beginner’s amp.

Quality, Fit and Finish
I’ve owned a great many Epiphone guitars and basses over the years since Gibson bought Epi’s company and started making clones of the Gibson USA greats. When I first started recording, the only LPs, SGs, Explorers or Firebirds I could afford were used Epiphones.

That said, of all the Epiphones I have ever owned or played, my sunburst Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is the best-built, best-finished, and best overall Epiphone I have EVER owned or played. Bar none.

The paint finish is smooth and doesn’t have any smudges or spooges anywhere. The wood joints are perfect and the paint on the joints is nicely finished. The edge of the fingerboard is nicely clear-coated with the neck and the fingers don’t detect any line between the two. Like my non-bound Gibson Explorer fingerboards, the feel is completely smooth and easy.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" FB720 Pickup Front

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” FB720 Pickup Front

The soldering is quite well done, and there’s even a little slack in the capacitor’s wiring. If you want a professional to change the capacitor, it can be done very easily without actually damaging much of the potentiometer solder joints, if any. The jack is solid, and has a nice positive feel to it.

The tuners and hardware are nicely applied and are quite straight. The bridge is not adjusted like I would want, and the guitar came from the factory with some mild intonation problems: but these problems were easily resolved with the included allen wrench and a nice Peterson strobe tuner (you can buy one on your phone or desktop, too!). I really haven’t found too many guitars that come from the factory already intonated. I don’t know why this is so common, but there it is. My Firebird I wasn’t an exception. That’s pretty much the only issue I had.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Full Body Front Shot

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Full Body Front Shot

The sunburst paint is remarkably nicely done. On many Asian guitars, sunbursts tend to have a very “spray can hard edge” look to them. In my case, my Firebird I is very nicely faded from black to clear. Nice!

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" 9-ply Neck Detail

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” 9-ply Neck Detail

The 9-ply composition of the neck is extremely well done. The thicknesses of the woods is very consistent and very nicely paired. The look and grain of the mahogany is nice looking, if a little less dense than I’m used to on my Gibson USA guitars – but FAR better than most Asian-built mahogany guitars I’ve owned and/or played.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Neck-Thru Neck Joint

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Neck-Thru Neck Joint

Over all, Id say that the Quality is easily among the best Epiphone guitar I’ve ever had in my hands.

Take a look at all the wonderful Firebirds available on zZounds.com!

Wishes and Wants
Honestly, just a couple.
* Dear Epiphone, PLEASE make a Firebird V variant constructed JUST like this, but with four controls, a stop bar + TOM bridge, and two of these FB720 pickups. PLEASE!
* For all the wonderful components in this great guitar, the cap is a little disappointing.  Please consider an Orange Drop Sprague capacitor: the included film-based capacitor is OK, but ODs aren’t that much more in bulk… this would actually be a good selling feature.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Control Knobs and Pointers

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Control Knobs and Pointers

The Gravity Guitar Pick Review: Set fire to your sound and your technique!

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The Gravity Guitar Picks Experienced Review

I like to change the sound of my music from one recording to another, and particularly from one album to another (I have recorded 15 albums to date now…). This often entails different instruments, different recording gear (or recording techniques), different ambient work, and different accessories.

Yes, accessories… Strings, Picks, Mutes, and more. This review addresses a great find in the accessory world that makes a big difference in the sound of my recordings – while adding better playability for most of my pick-based technique.

GravityAssortmentWithGripsAndNot.jpg

This review is about the wonderful line of picks from the Gravity pick company. These picks are high-end picks at a moderate price, and have lots of options to make most pick-style players happy. And for those who are prone to floccinaucinihilipilification of arcane terms applied to everyday objects, Perfectly Purposeful Pleasingly Playable Popular Plectrums…

Buy some today. You’ll be very glad you did. To know why I think so, read on!

The pick pictures in this review are of picks I’ve used extensively. The Classic, Razer, Edge, Sunrise, and Tripp have all seen play time in local acoustic gigs and in TWO of my most recent albums Halcyon Lullabies and the yet-to-be-released North by Northwest. To hear the direct influence of some of my favorites, listen to Halcyon Lullabies tracks Maggie’s Tone Poem (my red Razer XL), The Wandering Soul (my orange Sunrise), Evenfall three instruments with different edges of my blue Tripp XL, and Herman’s Song – a Father’s wish (a requiem for Maggie’s dad) for my blue Edge.

Why Gravity Picks are Great! (For the short attention span and executive summary types among us)

They are durable, affordable, and really comfortable.
My Biggest Reason(TM)? They sound wonderful. Since I gig with them and record with them, their consistent quality and consistent sound amongst identical picks is really great. Some premium picks are like different woods in the same guitar shape: you have to try lots of them to get the one that sounds the best. With Gravity picks, the sound is comfortably consistent and reliable. I need that when I flip on the mic pre or the DI.

I haven’t met a Gravity pick I don’t like. I’m hoping to buy a Gold and some new Thins soon so I can upgrade my pick arsenal.

Sound

The different edge finishes give you striking combinations of attack and release – even amongst acoustic and electric guitars. I’ve found that the smoother edge sounds nicer on acoustic, particularly with coated strings. The more course edge gives REAL bite and mix-cut-through for electrics, particularly when you’re playing with low gain or low distortion.

GravitySunriseStandard3.0.jpg

The sound of these picks is superb. That’s the 75% of the reason why I love them so much.

I can get really great warm sound with the super-thick smooth-edge picks and get nice bright attacks and releases with the thinner picks with the rougher edges. There’s a lot of variety, so there’s likely to be one with which you will fall in love!

Lots of Varieties, Grips, Thicknesses, Finishes, and Colors

The Gravity guitar pick line comes in a dizzying array of options. I’ve not found a type of pick I play that can’t be ordered as a Gravity pick. Now with the new “Thin” line of Gravity picks, you can now get down to .60mm to at least 6mm. Almost all pick varieties, from the basic Thin pick to the lovely acrylic picks to the gold series all come in a variety of styles and sizes. I won’t enumerate them all here, but I’ll bring up a few of my favorites to give you an idea of what I’ve used and what I like about Gravity picks.

Ask Chris at Gravity about pick finishing options. You’ll be glad you did!

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To Grip or Not To Grip. That is the Question

Some players love it when they find a pick with a grip option. There are several grip options with Gravity picks, including holes in the picks and engravings on the pick surfaces.
I vacillate between grip holes and no grip holes. It’s a fun feast of feelings that forever fascinates facilitation of my sound experimentations.
There are ellipse grip holes, single round grip hole, and “little round hole group”” grip holes. I like all of them.

Pick Categories

  • The new Thin Picks
  • Acrylic Picks
  • Gold Series Picks
  • Signature Series Picks
  • and Custom Shop Picks

Most (not all, mind you, but most) of these are offered in a handful of great shapes, combined with excellent size choices

Shapes

  • The Classic (The good old Fender 351-style pick shape)
  • The Striker (Great for three nice easy rounded tips)
  • The Sunrise (A top arch combined with pointy grip edges and a pointy end point)
  • The Stealth (A more triangular pick with three rounded sides, two sharp-ish grip points, and a striking tip similar to the Sunrise)
  • The Razer (One of my often-played favorites, with nice rounded grip points and a nice long sharp-ish striking tip)
  • The Tripp (What a Trip! Deceptive in shape: semi-triangular with three distinctly different points)
  • The Classic Pointed (Like a classic, only more pointy :-))
  • The Axis (My mellow-sound FAVORITE: Three nicely rounded points on a triangular pick)
  • And my absolute go-to Gravity pick
    The Edge (Not, U2’s MR. The Edge, mind you, just “Edge”)

GravityEdgeStd3.0.jpg

Sizes

  • The XL ( Great for those arthritis-hand days 🙁 )
  • The Standard (My favorite on three of my different Gravity pick shapes)
  • The Big Mini (A surprisingly nice minor difference to a Standard that feels like a million bucks when I’m playing a Floyd Rose trem-based guitar or a Fender with wide string spacing)
  • And the Mini. I like Mini Coopers (I drive an R59 these days): I like the Gravity Mini, Too.

And there are colors that coincide with thicknesses, too (depending on the style and such)

My personal favorites?

  • Standard
  • Razer
  • Mr. The Edge
  • and Tripp (great for local live acoustic gigs when I need lots of different sounds out of 2 or three guitars)

Currently, my “favorites pick tin” has a Razer with a grip hole, a Tripp without a grip hole, and an Edge with a grip hole. These generally get rotated from my great big giant pick stashes: always a few gravities in the favorites…

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Durability and Ease of Use

Gravity picks have been a real mainstay for me this past year. I still use some of my previous go-to picks (Dragon’s Heart Pure, Dunlops, Claytons, Fenders, and such): still, my wide assortment of Gravity picks has taken over much of my playing. Bear in mind that I am still largely a finger-style player – but great picks make for great sound!

When I play with a pick, I do a hybrid finger-pick style, something close to a claw or chicken-pickin’ approach. I’m comforted with the clear and precise attack of the Gravity pick combined with the sensory input and varieties of sounds I can get in combination of pick and fingers.

Gravity picks last a LONG TIME.

Go to the Gravity Custom Shop page here to design your own combination!.

Price and Quality

The price of all the different echelons of Gravity picks is very reasonable. From the very inexpensive Thin Pick to the moderately-priced but very premium Gold Series – Gravity is a great choice for picks. I think of them as Premium Boutique picks at an everyday price. With so many players entering the Great Pick array, Gravity is in the very sweet spot of Excellent quality and playability at an Excellently low price.

The variety pack at http://gravitypicks.com/products/packaged-deals?variant=1399124483 is an excellent place to start. For about $30 you can get your hands on a bunch (Eight Premium Picks!) of excellent plectrums at a very nice simple price.

Buy some. Play them all. Feel the joy of a great pick that feels great too.

Wishes and Wants

I think it would be a blast for us to be able to upload a graphic to the Gravity site and order a pick with the graphic etched on it. I am aware that there are technical and legal challenges with this approach – it would just be a lot of fun.

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Have fun with Gravity!

A Quick Review about the new Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 String Electric Guitar

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

Hi folks! REALLY busy right now… Several reviews in progress but not a lot of time to write and post. Sorry for the delays…

Here’s a quick overview of the new Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 String Electric guitar. This isn’t my normal thorough review: it’s something I wrote and posted on the Gibson page for the Les Paul 7… I thought I’d share it with you folks. It’s just a quick opinion… I’ll be more thorough in a later post with pics and opinions…

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I’m sitting here recording with my Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 String for the first time. I have had the guitar for weeks now, tinkering with it, embracing its identity, assimilating it into my musical brain. I went to the official Gibson product page to read the specs again as I actually use this lovely instrument in a professional environment (yet really just having a blast channeling music through this black and cream Beauty as if it were a part of my hands.) Opens a new window…

I have bought and sold a few of the Gibson V and Explorer 7-String guitars (when you can even find one, particularly the Explorer). They are great guitars: I just found the EMGs to be too sanitary (sterile and too perfect) and the necks to be just too wide. I have huge paws, so I don’t have a problem with them – I just found the necks to feel bigger than a Jazz bass neck… I REALLY wanted to love and keep the Explorer in particular but I just couldn’t do it. It felt like it was not a part of me when I played it. I sold both of them within a month of acquiring each one.

I kept hoping for a great Les Paul 7. My wish was granted this year.

This is REAL opinion from someone who’s actively using this guitar, with 4 decades of experience underneath my brains and hands.

You can find out lots of information and pricing for other Gibson Les Paul Classics at my favorite G.A.S. providers, zZounds with a guarantee that you’ll love it! Please visit this page and buy stuff from these great folks. It helps me fund my music projects and this site.

  • Nibs on the binding (yay! I’m missing those nibs on some 2014 and 2015 models. YES, I know why they’re not on recent models: I just happen to love the nibs. It’s a Gibson, after all!)
  • The nut material doesn’t ping as much as Corian. Nice. It’s smoother and feels a little stronger.
  • Seymour JB and Jazz pickups (YES! Passive that can bite or scream rock and smooth jazz and new age! Wheeeee! We’re NOT all metal players! Note: I LIKE metal, I just don’t play it.)
  • Nice carved top that feels like a Standard, Traditional or Classic. Nice! Close your eyes and you think you’ve got a Traditional in your hands.
  • A neck that feels as familiar as most any of my Gibby and Epi Les Pauls, nicer than my Les Baritone (still love my Bari, though)
  • A neck that someone carved with ME in mind: a little flat and slender at the nut and rounder at the heel. Feels great, unobtrusive, melts into my hands every time I play it… It’s a very different neck like a less-rounded Firebird or something: but know that it feels great in hand!
  • 15DB *CLEAN* Boost (does louder clean on clean circuit and goes to downright snotty when overdriven!), plus individual splits based in a Gibby PCB Quick Connect board… NICE. I can solder on a Gibson Quick-connect and hook in some DiMarzios or other Seymours for smoother or harsher sounds if I want to: all without changing or damaging the guitar
  • That wonderful quirky and awesome mis-matched “cream” color between binding, pick guard, and rings (Trust me, all of my Les Pauls have this endearing trait… I happen to find it to be like “home.”)
  • A FANTASTIC piece of rosewood on the ‘board and excellently-balanced and leveled frets. No buzz anywhere, not even when I down-tuned to ADADGAD.
  • When I set the intonation, I only had to tweak three strings, and they were < 4 cents off. NICE! I don’t mind setting intonation. I just felt pretty good when it only took a tweak or three.
  • I love the Grover keystone tuners (would liked to have the locking ones, but I can’t always have everything!)
  • A SUPERB finish job on the lacquer finish. Excellent work Gibson team!

It isn’t any heavier than my Peace or my Epi Custom. It’s lighter than my Trads.

 

Jim and his Les Paul 7 String...

Jim and his Les Paul 7 String…

I have NO gripes about this guitar. It is a recording and jamming machine and I love it! It makes it EASY to jump from a “regular” Les or a Bari Les to this guitar. The necks are very similar. You don’t feel like you’re playing a cricket-bat-neck guitar. NICE.

Folks, we can nit-pick the details. Me? I wouldn’t change anything. The silver labels on the headstock that are better than the decal type but not quite as pretty as the inlay: fine. Silver is cool. I would love nickel covers (yes, I’m one of those guys): but no-one makes nickel-covered 7 passives that I’ve seen – not something Gibson could have chosen: and besides, Seymours!

Dear Seymour Duncan, MJ and all the wonderful folks at SD: Please make me some nickel-covered wax-potted 7-string pickups that are a 59 in the neck and an overwound Pearly Gates in the bridge!

The recordings are superb. I must say, dropping below the 6th string to walk around the melody and harmony with some notes that dip into the bass world is just stupendous. When you get used to it, you’ll love it.

The sound and playability are crisp, clean, and well-defined. You can finger pick, claw hammer, hybrid pick, and single-pick your way to heaven because this guitar puts out through tubes AND solid states like nobody’s business.

Gibson, thank you for this. I’m truly happy. It’s now my number 8 guitar (a big deal, really).