Surprising Instrument (Epi Dot Content)

Discussion in 'Other Cool Guitars' started by Synchro, Jul 12, 2021.

  1. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Cactus Andy, bassist extraordinaire of Clutch Draggin’ and the Lug Nuts, has a handful of guitars that he inherited from his older brother, some years ago. When visiting him today, I chanced to ask about the Epi Dot that I knew he had and he dug it out of the closet. When we opened the case, we were both disappointed that the G string had broken, but I gave it a quick tuning on the remaining five strings and realized that it was virtually unplayable, with copious string buzz, pretty much everywhere. A quick check revealed that the neck was as flat as Kansas. At that point, I began to be concerned about the health of this poor beast, which has been unplayed for nearly ten years, ever since Andy’s brother fell ill. So, I offered to take it home, replace the broken string and see if I could get the neck back to a healthy profile, with a slight bow.

    When I got it home, I took off the truss rod cover and using my bespoke truss rod wrench, proceeded to reduce the tension. It wasn’t as easy as I would have expected, that truss rod was as tight as any I’ve ever seen. At one point, I was actually afraid that I would break the head off the truss rod, but eventually is gave in and I backed it off to the point of zero tension. The guitar literally quaked at that point.

    Expecting little, beyond bad news, I fished an .017” plain steel string from my stock of spares and tightened it up, finally tuning the entire guitar. I still wasn’t expecting much and was mentally preparing myself to give Andy some bad news, but after a minute or so at concert pitch, I gave it a play and was pleasantly surprised that there were no buzzes or rattles. After several minutes of scales and other exercises to get me to every point on the neck, I plugged it into my Winfield Tremor with the reverb and delay of my EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master as the only effects.

    In my formative years, the ES 335 was sort of a red-headed stepchild among Jazz guitarists. Yeah, it could get mellow, but it was seen as a stepping stone to an ES 175 or an L-5, by many players. My first Gibson had been an ES 340 and I always felt that I was an outsider among Jazz players. However, in the years since, I have heard the 335 on any number of Jazz recordings, and came to the opinion that it’s a real Jazz axe. Obviously, it has a place of honor in the world of Blues guitar and has been used successfully by many Rock players over the years. It’s not as common in Country, but is certainly useful in that genre, as well.

    Once I plugged in the Epi Dot, I decided to try some Jazz and it did quite well. Select the neck pickup with the tone rolled off about halfway and you are able to nail the classic Jazz guitar sound of the ‘50s and ‘60s, back when ES 175s were the Jazz guitar, in the eyes of many. At this point, I should mention that this Epi has a set of flat wound strings on the bottom three and the standard .010”, .013” and .017” plain steel strings up top. The balance between the top and bottom three strings was better than average with no discernible difference in timbre, when going from the D to the G string. Another thing that stood out was the solid feel of the guitar. I never felt that the strings were going to jump out of the bridge or that I would get an undesired twang or snap. The action never felt heavy, in fact it felt slinky, but not to the point that the guitar felt too loose.

    Of course, there’s more to music than Jazz, so I tried some Blues and found that sound was good on either pickup, or both. For Blues, I tended to keep the tone control wide open, or possibly backed down to 8, but never as choked down as I would have it for Jazz. The bridge pickup was BB King, there for the taking. It had good texture, but never got grainy. On both pickups, the Blues sound was a mainstream ‘70s sound. Think Elvin Bishop. On the bridge pickup, the Blues sound reminded me of any number of British Blues bands from the ‘60s, perhaps a bit more treble than Freddy King or the like. It’s probably not a sound I would select for Blues, but it was a great Rock sound.

    I tried for a Surf sound, but found that it was more of an Instrumental Rock sound, although hitting the Catalinbread Topanga might have pushed it into Surf territory. It’s not the Twangy sound of a Fender, but is not a dark, “blanket over the amp” sound either. Actually, for an indoor venue, this might be a more audience friendly sound, because the ice-picks and razor-blades sound never appeared. When the audience starts looking like Superman in the presence of Kryptonite, you know that the piercing highs are more than the venue can absorb. For a small, indoor venue, this might be a better compromise for Surf.

    Likewise, for Country; let’s just say that it doesn’t sound like a Tele. Now my Country Gent can do a passable Tele sound, so it’s not just a matter of hollow vs. solid, bodies. With a little amp tweaking, and possibly a bit more reverb, you could get a good Country sound, but no one will confuse it with a Telecaster.

    As a final test, I tried for a Chet Atkins sound and both passed and failed. If you are thinking the RCA era sound of Chet playing a Gretsch, it ain’t gonna happen. If you are thinking the post RCA sound, with Chet on a Gibson, the Dot nails it. Once again, playing with amp settings and you might get closer to the RCA era Chet sound than I did, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this thing to sound just like a Gretsch.

    The fit and finish of this 2002, Peerless-made product of the Korean work ethic is excellent. I wouldn’t place it on par with Terada output, but it is well above average. I have heard the opinion that these Korean Epis were as good, or better, as their MIA Gibson counterparts, and I wouldn’t dispute it.

    The pickups are said to be sourced from Gibson, and they sound excellent. Electrically, the guitar seems excellent, with pots that are smooth and free of extraneous noise. The tone pots were as usable as any I’ve ever seen. They are not the muddy mess that I’ve heard with so many guitars, but instead, they are useful at every setting I tried, including some major treble-cut dialed in.

    The strings are a mystery, and one I hope to solve. They look and feel like they could be Thomastics, but they are not gauged the way Thomastiks are. Looking at the Thomatik website, they don’t even list the sizes I measured. As I measured it with a micrometer, the bottom three were “.051, .042 and .031. Measuring strings with a micrometer can be tricky, so I will probably try again tomorrow, during light of day. Both LaBella and D’Addario sell flats with .052, .042 and .032 gauges on the bottom three. These strings on this axe don’t strike me as looking like Chromes, so I would favor that the might be LaBellas. The feel is round-core, and I’m not sure if LaBellas are round core. If anyone out there has suggestions on other string makers which make what appear to be nickel wound, round-core flatwounds in the gauges i mention above, I’d love to know about it.
     
  2. JeffreyLeePierre

    JeffreyLeePierre Country Gent

    Any clue what year it was built?
     
  3. Ricochet

    Ricochet Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Nov 13, 2009
    Monkey Island
    I always liked the bare bones aesthetics of the Dot, a working man 335 type guitar. Strings could be Pyramid Gold, possibly DR?
     
  4. wildeman

    wildeman I Bleed Orange

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    I have a '01 Samick built Sheraton and can attest to the quality that Korea was turning out back then, its as good as anything, better than most that I've owned. I would imagine yours has the same pickups, '57 Alnico's.
     
    Lister likes this.
  5. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa Cruz
    @Synchro

    I’m disappointed in you:( A great write up, but no photos of the guitar...Us visual learners need that kind of fix:D
     
    MrWookiee and Jelly Roll Horton like this.
  6. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    2002

    They are definitely not Pyramid, because there set uses a .033” D string and this set measures at .031”. It seems like there are a lot of makers with 52, 42, 32 in the bottom three, which is, at least pretty close. However, I’ve measured the strings twice now and came up with .051, .042 and .031. Now, it’s fairly easy to be a off by 1/1000” to the upside, if the micrometer isn’t perpendicular to the object being measured, but it’s virtually impossible for a measurement to be off by 1/1000” to the low side, unless the frame of the micrometer is sprung, which is easy to check, and mine isn’t sprung. So, as illogical as it is, the .051, .042, .031 measurements seem legit, which means that the strings are, to this point in time, an unsolved mystery.

    When I remeasured the strings, I also spent a few minutes playing it, this time through a Winfield Elizabeth with 6L6s, a s no other effects except the built-in reverb and the Bright switch was in the On position, which allows some of the higher frequencies to bypass the volume control and is a significant element of the Blackface Fender sound.

    The guitar’s character came through, loud and clear. The Blackface highlights the high frequencies a bit more and the sound is definitely more in line with what would have been common in the later ‘60s and into the ‘70s. The result, with the Dot is quite typical of that era, with a strong Blues sound.
     
    Ricochet likes this.
  7. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Indeed, ‘57 AlNiCo pickups.
    One may be coming, but keep in mind that a) this is not my guitar, and b) I was working after dark, when photos are not so good.
     
    radd likes this.
  8. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    FYI: When my buddy bought an Epi Johnny A guitar recently, It was stated that these newer Johnny A's have actual Gibson 57 classics in them. I researched the Epi 57's vs Gibson 57's to confirm this. I found the Epi's are not remotely the same pickup as the Gibson. The Epi version are far hotter than Gibson. But ....I'm not sure a 2001 / 2002 Epi would have had either in it....? Were they doing the 57 version back then?
     
  9. wildeman

    wildeman I Bleed Orange

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    Mine has these, its 100% stock Screenshot_2021-07-12-08-58-59-1.png
     
  10. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    What do they measure for resistance? Some of the LP versions evidently measure as high as 13k ohms! But not usually the Dot versions.

    Below is some guys overly anal analysis.... more info than anyone needs. It does show they are not the same as the Gibson's. But in the end you either like them or not! I used some old Epi HB's for a while with ceramic magnets because they sounded raunchy and I liked them! Great for slide work.

    "these humbuckers come stock in many Epiphone guitars, including the Les Paul and and Dot. The poor reviews of these pickups no doubt fuel many aftermarket pickup purchases. I've bought a set off eBay in order to analyze them and determine how they compare to the new Epiphone Probuckers and or the Gibson 57 Classic. I'll post some of those measurements below in order to more easily contrast them.

    Electrical Measurements
    Epiphone 57CH "Bridge"
    - DC Resistance: 8.75K ohms
    - Measured L: 4.972H
    - Calculated C: 101pF (111 - 10)
    - Gauss: 190G screw, 190G slug

    Bridge unloaded: dV: -1.9dB f: 6.66kHz (black)
    Bridge loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: -1.6dB f: 2.50kHz (red)

    Epiphone 57CH Neck
    - DC Resistance: 8.77K ohms
    - Measured L: 4.972H
    - Calculated C: 105pF (115 - 10)
    - Gauss: 260G screw, 250G slug

    Neck unloaded: dV: -2.1dB f: 6.89kHz (green)
    Neck loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: -1.6dB f: 2.50kHz (gray)

    Unlike the Gibson 57 Classic and the PB2, the CH57 uses plastic spacers instead of maple (or Asian mystery wood).

    There are a few other "made in China" characteristics that differ from most domestic PAF knock offs; the hookup wire enters on the same side as the where the coil connections are made, necessitating two spacers instead of one. The screws have smooth, unthreaded ends, and of course the use of brass metals in place of nickel silver.

    Hookup Cable
    Another thing that sets the 57CH apart from a 57 Classic is the insulated hookup wire. I disconnected the hookup wire from the coil to get a measurement, and found that the 57CH has just shy of twice as much capacitance as the vintage style hookup wire at 129pF
    These smaller hookup cables show higher capacitance because the shielding layer is much closer to the inner lead wire. The thicker construction of a guitar cable is a big reason they have lower capacitance.

    In Conclusion
    Based on the evidence, it looks like the most likely reason the 57CH gets bad reviews compared to other PAF knock offs is 1) the brass cover damping the high end response, and 2) the hookup wire of not only the pickup, but probably the Epiphones they come in, adding a large amount of capacitance, further reducing the high end.

    I also believe that the inclusion of a "HOTCH" 14k DC resistance pickup in stock Epiphone Les Pauls also contribute to a poor view of Epiphones, because Gibsons generally do not have such a hot pickup in the bridge, and it's not a bad thing if you play with high gain and like pickups such as a "JB", but if you want a good clean bridge tone, a "HOTCH" bridge pickup is probably heard as detrimental to the overall tone of the guitar."
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
    blueruins likes this.
  11. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I’m not sure and I’m not planning on any exploratory surgery t9 find out, but the sound great!
     
    swivel likes this.
  12. nickurso

    nickurso Gretschified

    Age:
    55
    Dec 24, 2012
    New Orleans la.
    I have a peerless songbird (casino) it’s a great guitar. I just used mine at a corporate gig at the hotel Monteleone. Played and sounded great. Now you are making me want a dot
     
  13. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    I've had 2 or 3? Epi Dots, haven't bonded yet. But I write that off to each instrument being different. I'll know one when I try it! I had an Ibanez (probably) lawsuit 355 in the early 2000's that just "had it". It was labeled a Gibson on the orange sticker and on the headstock! (inlayed) Why I sold that I'll never know... My previous "keeper" 335 was a Gibson I bought in 1970, not sure now what year it actually was... had the tailpiece, not stop bar, but it was magic.
    I seem to strike out a lot with the semi hollows for some reason.
     
  14. ruger9

    ruger9 Country Gent

    Nov 1, 2008
    NJ
    I had a Peerless-made Epi Broadway. It was a fine guitar. But I continue to hear nothing but RAVES about all the new Epis coming out of china. 20-30 years ago, a quality guitar from China would have been a joke. But things have changed very much for the better. I'll be picking up an Epi 339 soon, and again- I have read nothing but raves. Even about the pickups in recent years, as the "Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro" pickups are actually the same specs as the Gibson Classic 57s. I'd have no problem swapping pickups to get well-made guitar where I want it sonically, but it sounds like, from everything I have been reading, that is not even necessary anymore with the Epis.

    NOTE: these are not the same Epi pickups fro 5 years ago; Epi only started using the "Classic Alnico Pro" pickups in the "PRO" model guitars I think, in the last 2-3 years. Probably right around the same time the Epi Johnny A came out. I don't think the "PRO" guitars are made anymore, I don't see any for sale... the current models are simply "335", or whatever... no coils taps like the PRO guitars had, but they DO have the same Alnico Classic Pro pickups.
     
  15. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    It’s been a few days since I, effectively, disengaged the truss rod on this guitar. I’ve played it daily since, all the while keeping an eye open for changes in the neck. As of tonight, it had about as much relief as I felt was needed, so I gave the truss rod about 1/6 of a turn, which was just enough to engage it, but not enough to straighten the neck appreciably.

    Another session tonight, with just refer/delay and plugged into the Typhoon amp. Cranked all the way up on the pickup volumes answered it drives the amp into sort of an airy overdrive. Backed off a bit, it cleans up significantly. I’m still surprised at how good this guitar sounds for Jazz. On the neck pickup, and with the tone control rolled slightly down, it might as well be an ES-175 or ES-350.
     
    ruger9 likes this.
  16. wildeman

    wildeman I Bleed Orange

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    The good news is that it's a cheap date, if you decide to get you one. My Sheraton is the top line version and was still just a bit under $500.00, pretty crazy..
     
    Ricochet likes this.
  17. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I don’t need another guitar, but this one is for sale and I have to confess that I’m sorely tempted.
     
    Winnie Thomas likes this.
  18. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    65
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    Hey Ruger, the ES-339 guitars are really nice instruments. I have a 339 with P90s and another with Humbuckers. However, both have had their pickups changed. The Epi Pro pickups are a leap ahead of the only ones but are still not up to the sonic levels of more expensive instruments.

    As well, the fretwork is pretty good but not exceptional but hey, these are inexpensive guitars and as we all know, you get what you pay for to a great degree. I paid under $500 new for each guitar so it isn't unreasonable to put a little extra into them.

    They have had the same treatment as my wonderful Epi ES-335. It started life with a really nice neck profile and just the right weight. $250 later it had a fantastic PLEK job and another $200 brought a pair of DiMarzio PAFs. To date, I haven't found another ES-335 - Gibson or otherwise - that can hold a candle to it. It is purely a beast.

    @Synchro, (almost) congrats on your Epi Dot. They are really good guitars for the money and a few bucks later, they can punch way above their weight. Buy that puppy, mod it and enjoy!
     
    ruger9 likes this.
  19. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    This is definitely better guitar than my old ES 340, and that came straight out of Kalamazoo. As to whether I will end up owning it or not, that is yet to be determined. I love it, but I already have 12 guitars.
     
  20. Mark W

    Mark W Country Gent

    Age:
    69
    Jun 6, 2008
    Central Florida
    I had an Epi Jorma Kaukonen Riviera Deluxe that had 57 Classics in it. Never did any measurements but it sounded great. I had a Gibson Es335 with 57 Classics at the same time and I preferred the Epi. Part of that was the neck was a little beefier than the Gibby. Totally anecdotal I know.

    Most of the Korean 335 (style) Epis that I have played had very shallow neck profiles which contributed to hand cramps after a very short playing time. But if you like a shallow neck then that would be a big plus for you.
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.