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Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Epiphony" Less than Paul Jr. POS Rebuild, Local Music Gear Magazine July 2012 ... (Review)

Reviewed By: Jac Harrison
Purchased from: Manufacturer(s)
Street Price:
Epiphone Less than Paul JR. $90.00 USD + Shipping
EMG Active Pickup 81 $109.00 USD + Shipping
Tusq Nut Black $11.00 USD + Shipping
P3 Mod by DC Voltage  $250.00 USD + Shipping

About:
Once a quarter Local Music Gear Magazine has a POS (Piece of Shit) rebuild. This is when we take the most God-awful, poor excuse of an instrument and give it new life. We do this to  show our readers that can not, or will not, spend big bucks on an instrument how to make one that rocks within their budget. 

For this POS rebuild we went with a used 2010 "Epiphony" Less than Paul JR. This guitar has a single bridge pickup setup and is designed after the 1954 Gibson Les Paul Jr. Epiphone has been giving it the tag line of "A Les Paul at a price anyone can afford", I think this is bullshit. It is a guitar that looks like a Les Paul, but is not. The "wood" that is used is a compressed mahogany. This means wood shavings left over from making other guitars was put in a pot with some glue and then poured in a mold that looks like a Les Paul body. Knowing this, I needed to get parts that would work with the design and body density of this guitar.

Installation:
I took my time as I always do and from start to finish it was 3 hours. Please note that you should have a luthier from your local music store work on and setup your guitar for you unless you really know what you are doing. This would be a 3 - 4 hour charge + bench fee to have one pickup and new nut installed with setup . The total investment will be well worth it.
EMG Active 81


Pickup & Electronics:
The stock pickup is a 700T humbucker, and it is a seven out of ten on the Epiphone power chart. The stock pickup sounded like mud in a tin can. I knew I needed something powerful, super clean and extremely hot so I went with the EMG active 81. This pickup was designed utilizing powerful ceramic magnets and close aperture coils, the tone was designed with detailed intensity, incredible amounts of high end cut and fluid sustain. EMG also provides new tone and volume 500k pots and the wiring is top notch. *Active pickups require batteries unless you do a P3 mod.

Read more about the EMG Active 81 at emgpickups.com

Pickup & Electronics Install time - 1hour
Tools and supplies needed - Small Phillips head screw driver, 11 millimeter wrench, volt meter, soldering iron, solder & 3 beers.

 DC Voltage P3 Mod
Active Pickup P3 Mod:
One of the headaches I always had with active pickups is the whole battery thing. I have been at a gig and had to send someone to a 7-11 to get me a 9 volt, so I have been very reluctant to upgrade from passive to active. This guitar really needed that extra power to give it a good sound. Recently at the NY amp show I had a chance meet with the mad scientist Jason Robling from DC Voltage, that is the brains behind the P3 Mod. This mod allows you to use the power from your amp to power your pickups. All I needed to do is replace the 1/4 jack in the guitar with his mod, and I plug into a small converter that plugs into my amp, much like I would with a pedal. There is an optional switch so I could use a 9 volt battery if I wanted to and a mod for the amp if I didn't want to use the converter box. Besides never running out of juice I have a constant 9 volts  so my sound doesn't fade as the battery drains. DC Voltage also makes the battery-less mod for pedals, acoustics, & basses.

Read the Local Music Gear review of the P3 Mod -here-

Read more about the P3 mod at DCVoltage.net

P3 Mod Install time - 15 minutes if not installed while changing pickups.
Tools and supplies needed - Small Philips head screw driver, 11 millimeter wrench, volt meter, soldering iron, solder & 1 beer.

Tusq by Graphtech Guitar Labs
Nut:
One of the most important upgrades you can do is change the points where the stings touch the body. On less expensive guitars the manufactures use a plastic/synthetic bone that kills your sustain and tone. The best fix is a product called Tusq by Graphtech Guitar Labs. I prefer this to animal bone and use it on every guitar I own.

Read the Local Music Gear review of Tusq -here-

Read more about Tusq at graphtech.com

Nut Install time - 45 minutes
Tools and supplies needed - Razor blade, sand paper, glue, gauged nut slotting files, & 2 beers.

Sound
Amp used:
Vox Pathfinder 15r

Cables used:
Intex

Strings:
Kerly Music 50's Nickel Elec Guitar Strings 11-50
 
Setup & Impression:
This guitar, stock, was a complete waste of money. The string height was way too  low, the truss rod had been over tightened, and the fingerboard had a waxy film on it that made the guitar almost unplayable; lets be charitable and just say it needed a complete setup. Before I started with the upgrades I stripped the guitar completely of all hardware and electronics for a good cleaning. Since this guitar is made from a wood composite and NOT wood, I added a layer of conductive shielding paint to the pickup hole and rear panel to insure that the EMG 81 would not squeal or hum. I then used a micro-mesh finishing abrasives kit on the fingerboard to get that waxy film off.

After the complete rebuild and only spending $350 on upgrades; I was able to make this "Epiphony" Less than Paul sound pretty damn close to the guitar it was meant to sound like, a 1954 Gibson Les Paul Jr. By using the the EMG active 81 humbucker pickup in this body, I was able to duplicate the sound of a tightly wound P-90. The biggest problem with a wood composite body is that it absorbs the low-end frequencies and thins out the highs so its important to take that into consideration when selecting a replacement pickup.

Overall this guitar is now enjoyable to play. My fingers flew up and down her fingerboard without any buzz and the intonation is dead on. The guitar has decent sustain and a nice punchy quality. The sound that is now coming out of her is tenfold better than her stock configuration. I did a side-by-side comparison between her and a Gibson melody maker, a Gibson Les Paul Jr., and a Paul Reed Smith SE One Korina. This POS Less than Paul sounded better, played better and had a lower price tag than all three of the guitars. The only guitar that gave it a run for is money was the real Les Paul Jr. with her never ending sustain, but for a difference in price of $500 I would hope it would be a better guitar.

My advice:
If you are looking for a project or just do not want to spend a big bucks on a guitar that you can really use, this is a great alternative. I would have no problem using this guitar at a gig.

Total investment:
Epiphone Less than Paul Jr. $90.00 USD + Shipping
EMG Active Pickup 81 $109.00 USD + Shipping
Tusq Nut Black $11.00 USD + Shipping
P3 Mod by DC Voltage  $250.00 USD + Shipping
3 hours of my life I will never get back

Total without battery-less P3 mod $ 210.00 USD + Shipping

Total with battery-less P3 mod $460.00 USD + Shipping - (As reviewed)
Contact 

EMG Pickups: 
emgpickups.com

Tusq Nut: 
graphtech.com  

Active Pickup P3 Mod:
DCVoltage.net 

Strings:
kerlymusic.com 

Cable:
intexcables.com 
 
Posted 07/2012