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  1. #1
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    Default Kramer 5150 Replica Advice

    I really want to make a 5150 replica, and I've decided to start it soon. Here's the deal - I want tone like the real one... And no one knows for sure what is in it. So I'd like some suggestions from anyone who has built one and thinks they nailed the sound.

    My starting point, and point of most concern is the body wood and pickup. I'd like to know what combinations in that department have come close to that warm, smooth 5150 sound in you guy's builds. I'm open to any suggestions, but due to the recent 2004 pics of the real deal, I think I want to use swamp ash, since that appears to be what it is made of.

    I've tried the custom custom and I'm not convinced at all that is THE 5150 pickup... I've heard maybe a JB Works better?

    anyway, all insight is appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjstudios View Post
    I've heard maybe a JB Works better?
    A Vintage Kramer video on you tube syas it is a JB.....but it also says the body is poplar. It was from Vintage Kramer and the guy seemed very knowledgeable. FWIW

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    eddie always said it was a duncan 59.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stephenjay21 View Post
    A Vintage Kramer video on you tube syas it is a JB.....but it also says the body is poplar. It was from Vintage Kramer and the guy seemed very knowledgeable. FWIW
    Note the disclaimer that accompanies that video:
    "This video is a study of the finer details of Van Halen's 5150 Kramer guitar. I used my replica as a model for the different attributes. This info is not written in stone and may not be 100% accurate but it should give a good idea as to the features that the 5150 had."

    The pick up was not a JB, it was custom-made piece and re-wound for Ed by Seymour Duncan.
    As for the composition of the body wood, some say it was ash, some swear it was poplar and still others claim it was basswood... so, who knows?
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnybeane View Post
    eddie always said it was a duncan 59.
    Yeah, but he left out the part about it being re-wound.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimi11580 View Post
    Yeah, but he left out the part about it being re-wound.
    Can you prove it was in fact a '59 completely rewound? If so, that could definitely help narrow down my pickup choices by magnet.

    Also, although I think it is swamp ash (due to the grain, it cannot be poplar), I painted a basswood body recently without much prep work, and it had a subtle, but very similar grain pattern under the paint as the real deal did in those 2004 pictures.

    I also have a fairly reliable 'source' from the metroamp forums of a guy who was a roadie for Ed pre-hagar. He claims that he never really knew much about the 5150 guitar since he was being phased out of work soon after it was being used, but he remembered very specifically that it was basswood, and "light as a feather".

    I just wish I knew for sure

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjstudios View Post
    Can you prove it was in fact a '59 completely rewound? If so, that could definitely help narrow down my pickup choices by magnet.

    Also, although I think it is swamp ash (due to the grain, it cannot be poplar), I painted a basswood body recently without much prep work, and it had a subtle, but very similar grain pattern under the paint as the real deal did in those 2004 pictures.

    I also have a fairly reliable 'source' from the metroamp forums of a guy who was a roadie for Ed pre-hagar. He claims that he never really knew much about the 5150 guitar since he was being phased out of work soon after it was being used, but he remembered very specifically that it was basswood, and "light as a feather".

    I just wish I knew for sure
    Only digging through my memory from interviews I read MANY years ago, I recall EVH saying the pickup was a Seymour Duncan '59, and all info available since seems to indicate it was re-wound for Ed by Seymour. This has pretty much been a consistent story dating back to the late-80s.

    Also, I NEVER once heard anything about the 5150 being ash or poplar, but deep in my memory I can recall some mention of alder. More recent and reliable sources indicate it is in fact basswood. Seeing as how the guitar is known to be incredibly light, and knowing that Ed went with basswood on the EBMM guitar immediately after retiring the 5150, I would guess basswood is accurate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AT View Post
    Only digging through my memory from interviews I read MANY years ago, I recall EVH saying the pickup was a Seymour Duncan '59, and all info available since seems to indicate it was re-wound for Ed by Seymour. This has pretty much been a consistent story dating back to the late-80s.

    Also, I NEVER once heard anything about the 5150 being ash or poplar, but deep in my memory I can recall some mention of alder. More recent and reliable sources indicate it is in fact basswood. Seeing as how the guitar is known to be incredibly light, and knowing that Ed went with basswood on the EBMM guitar immediately after retiring the 5150, I would guess basswood is accurate.
    Good to know. I also have read various places that it was a rewound '59. That kinda makes sense to me. The JB doesn't seem to do the trick sound wise, being an exact replica or not, even though many people claim it does.

    As far as the swamp ash / basswood argument, both are light enough, but MANY more people claim that it is actually basswood. I think the reason people are thinking it is swamp as is due to the heavy grain in the 2004 pics, but like I said, a very dry variety of basswood will also get you close to that. I was leaning towards basswood anyway, since I am very familiar with it.

    Now, can anyone make me an 'exact' 5150 pickup replica?

  9. #9
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    Isnt the Duncan Custom Custom suppose to be a Frankie pickup clone?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by AT View Post
    Only digging through my memory from interviews I read MANY years ago, I recall EVH saying the pickup was a Seymour Duncan '59, and all info available since seems to indicate it was re-wound for Ed by Seymour. This has pretty much been a consistent story dating back to the late-80s.

    Also, I NEVER once heard anything about the 5150 being ash or poplar, but deep in my memory I can recall some mention of alder. More recent and reliable sources indicate it is in fact basswood. Seeing as how the guitar is known to be incredibly light, and knowing that Ed went with basswood on the EBMM guitar immediately after retiring the 5150, I would guess basswood is accurate.
    Alder and poplar were the most assumed simply because they are what most American Kramer's were made of. I thought it was ash after those pics Nobozos posted a couple years ago, but I agree that basswood is a possibility, and not at all a bad choice for a replica at any rate. The thing that makes me think basswood is a possibility, is simply the use of it in the EBMM. I have an old Guitar Shop mag where Sterling was discussing the guitar, and mentions his apprehensions of using basswood because of its softness, and propensity to ding easily. He did say that the addition of the maple cap put him more at ease towards the design. I can't recall if EBMM used basswood in other models prior to the EVH when Sterlings father ran the show, but his statement in relation to Ed's model is interesting.

    As far as the pickup, I've played with this for years. I've pulled '59 magnets, and mounted them in 'JB assemblies just for the sake of experimenting. I've also played with Dimarzio coils, unwrapping certain numbers of turns,used vintage magnets, modern ceramic magnets. Complete rewinds. My personal conclusion, is that Ed's pickup in the 5150 is a pretty unique animal. I've studied his live tone so much, especially where he rolls off to cleaner tones, and this does not sound like a JB. JB's are notoriously lifeless when rolled off. There's no brilliance. His sounds a lot more '59 ish with the volume rolled back.
    My guess is this pickup came to be from Ed's early associations with Seymour when they were working on Ed's original pickup for possible marketing at the time. What seems to be the consensus (if in fact is the case with the 5150) is that Ed's Franky pickup has an imbalance in the two coil windings. Steve Blucher from Dimarzio figured that it either had been physically wound incorrectly, or had some damage incurred at some point, possibly during Ed's installing it in the guitar. If Seymour also came across similar readings early on, then he most likely replicated the output with a slight variation in windings.
    He would still get the humbucking effect, but the highs cut through slightly more.
    I think though, that the JB does come close to the majority of Ed's sounds. Andrew, how would you rate the VEH compared to the 5150 tone? Similar?
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    Quote Originally Posted by SLEEPER5150 View Post
    Alder and poplar were the most assumed simply because they are what most American Kramer's were made of. I thought it was ash after those pics Nobozos posted a couple years ago, but I agree that basswood is a possibility, and not at all a bad choice for a replica at any rate. The thing that makes me think basswood is a possibility, is simply the use of it in the EBMM. I have an old Guitar Shop mag where Sterling was discussing the guitar, and mentions his apprehensions of using basswood because of its softness, and propensity to ding easily. He did say that the addition of the maple cap put him more at ease towards the design. I can't recall if EBMM used basswood in other models prior to the EVH when Sterlings father ran the show, but his statement in relation to Ed's model is interesting.

    As far as the pickup, I've played with this for years. I've pulled '59 magnets, and mounted them in 'JB assemblies just for the sake of experimenting. I've also played with Dimarzio coils, unwrapping certain numbers of turns,used vintage magnets, modern ceramic magnets. Complete rewinds. My personal conclusion, is that Ed's pickup in the 5150 is a pretty unique animal. I've studied his live tone so much, especially where he rolls off to cleaner tones, and this does not sound like a JB. JB's are notoriously lifeless when rolled off. There's no brilliance. His sounds a lot more '59 ish with the volume rolled back.
    My guess is this pickup came to be from Ed's early associations with Seymour when they were working on Ed's original pickup for possible marketing at the time. What seems to be the consensus (if in fact is the case with the 5150) is that Ed's Franky pickup has an imbalance in the two coil windings. Steve Blucher from Dimarzio figured that it either had been physically wound incorrectly, or had some damage incurred at some point, possibly during Ed's installing it in the guitar. If Seymour also came across similar readings early on, then he most likely replicated the output with a slight variation in windings.
    He would still get the humbucking effect, but the highs cut through slightly more.
    I think though, that the JB does come close to the majority of Ed's sounds. Andrew, how would you rate the VEH compared to the 5150 tone? Similar?

    Unfortunately I can't answer that. For as damn picky as I've been about wood types and other guitar details, I've never really been interested in replicating or chasing Ed's different sounds from era to era. I've found that most of what he has used and designed matches my liking. So I'm still just simply at a place where I try something and declare if I like it or not. I love what I get from the Peavey Wolfgang pickups. And the VEH pups (both bridge and neck) accomplish all that I like to hear from humbuckers. I have honestly never tried the SD 78, the SD Custom Custom, or the EVH Frankenstein pup. So my best guess with regard to the comparison of the VEH to the 5150 Kramer is: The VEH has a louder output and is likely a little brighter on top.

    Warmoth usually does 1/8" tops on their guitar bodies. They theorize that a 1/8" slab of wood has only minimal affect at most on the tone wood. The EBMM EVH and Axis models also have a 1/8" maple top. We know Ed basically wanted his 5150 neck radius and contour replicated exactly for the EBMM; perhaps he also wanted the general tone of the guitar to be the same as well. Meaning, he wanted to use basswood just as he did for the 5150 (assuming it was indeed basswood), and by keeping the top relatively thin he wouldn't be altering the fundamental tone of the basswood significantly. I recall reading an interview about the Peavey Wolfgang shortly before its release. Ed had a prototype with him during the interview that was made of poplar, and he was quick to indicate the final version would be basswood, but he was still unsure of the maple top. He said a big piece of maple changed the tone of the guitar a lot, and if he didn't like what he got with it he would just do solid finishes on solid basswood. I always found that interview interesting because it offered evidence that Ed and Peavey were experimenting with wood types a little if one of his earliest Wolfgang prototypes was poplar, not basswood. And he was still apprehensive about a thick maple cap, probably because he hadn't done that yet. In the end, of course, the arch top Wolfgang had a 5/8" maple cap (before carving), and the Wolfgang Special flame top models had a 1/4" maple cap--both significantly thicker than the 1/8" EBMM top.

  12. #12
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    Dunno if this helps, kinda interesting...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Plstrcast View Post
    Isnt the Duncan Custom Custom suppose to be a Frankie pickup clone?
    No. It is not.
    Didn't you ask the same question in this thread? Post #6?
    http://www.vhlinks.com/vbforums/has-...in-t49129.html
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    Normally I don't directly chase Ed's tone either. I mean, he has my favorite tone out of any other guitar player I've ever heard, so the tone I want for myself usually is pretty close to Ed's. But for this guitar, I want to nail it. (I've been watching a lot of LWAN and other boots from the Kramer 5150 era...)

    I have a VEH pickup, and I would agree with Andrew. The feel is there, but it doesn't have that 5150 smoothness and warmth. The custom custom DEFINITELY doesn't have the smoothness (I think it would do really well in a dark mahogany guitar or similar). My friend has the new EVH humbucker in an Alder guitar, so I'll have to try that more thru my setup. Great pickup, but I'm not sure if it has that smoothness/warmth either.

    If the JB is lifeless turned down, then it is definitely not an option in this replica. Maybe I'll try a 59, or a custom wound humbucker.

    Anyone around here make pickups that they think would get me all the output and feel, but retain the smoothness like the 5150? I'm not interested in custom frankie pickups... I know many guys here that make fantastic ones for replicas of that guitar... but that's not the tone I'm after.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rokstar View Post
    Dunno if this helps, kinda interesting...

    See posts #2 and #4 in this thread.
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