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  1. #1
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:40 PM
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    Default Making A Cheapo Guitar Pro

    Hi all. Haven't posted in a while. Thought I'd share some of my recent mods with you. Let me first preface this post by saying that I've owned many great guitars, including PRS, Gibson, Fender, EBMM, EVH, Charvel, and Peavey Wolfs. I'm familiar with good tone and playability. That's why I was somewhat surprised when I found myself favoring a sub $400.00 over my more expensive guitars for tone and playability.

    The guitar I'm referring to is a LTD ST203FR. It's competent out of the box, but I've made some upgrades. I replaced the bridge humbucker with a an EVH Frankenstein humbucker, and the single coils with a couple Fender Tex-Mex's I had laying around. I blocked the trem for dive only, and gave her a good set-up. The results just blew me away. The thing has exactly the tone I've always wanted, and the neck on this guitar is perfection. The only thing really left to do on it is to replace the Floyd Rose Special that came on it with a FU trem. With the trem upgrade, I would consider this guitar a main gig guitar, and would hand it to a pro player without hesitation.

    I was so happy with the results of that guitar, I thought I'd try making a "Poor-Man's EVH Wolfgang". I picked up a used Sterling AX40, and bought a set of EVH Wolfgang pickups. I dropped the Wolf pickups in, and tried her out. It was a vast improvement over the sound of the stock AX40, but was not even close to the incredible tone of the modified LTD. I was expecting something in the ballpark of the LTD, but it seemed somehow weaker than the Frankenstein pickups. It wasn't as rich or full of a tone as I had expected. The other thing that I found a little unsatisfying about the AX40 was that even though it's a more expensive guitar than the LTD, it didn't seem as playable. The neck wasn't as easy to play, and it didn't seem to have as good of a quality construction. So, even though the sound was greatly improved, it still wasn't what I would gig with. Not Pro.

    This brings me to my current project, the Kramer Pacer Classic.
    The goal of this project is to make the best guitar possible, using only cheap aftermarket parts. No "Big Name" parts allowed. For this build, I will use GFS parts exclusivley. I chose the Pacer Classic because it is a good quality skeleton to start the build. The Maple neck plays well, and has a very good feel with no issues. One of the other reasons I chose this guitar was the Mahogany body. I was a bit surprised to learn the body of this guitar was Mahogany, and not Maple or Alder. I thought it would be a good opportunity to experiment with pickups.

    Here is the progress so far:
    Right off the bat, I blocked the trem for dive only, as I do with all my Floyd guitars, using a bridge saddle from an old standard bridge. I don't know if it's my ears playing tricks on me, but it seems like tone improves noticably after I do this. I attribute it to the increased surface area contact under the bridge helping the resonance.

    Second thing was to replace the pickups. I didn't think my typical formula would work, considering the odd combination of a Mahogany body and a Maple neck on a Strat style guitar. With no experience on this combination to guide me, I decided that I was going to go with what I would put in a Les Paul style guitar. After reviewing the options on GFS, I decided to go with the Fat Pat set. Upon removing the stock pickups, I clipped the capacitors off the volume pots that are there for treble bleed. The pots that come in this guitar suck, and will be replaced with Dimarzio pots later.
    The results of the pickup swap are surprisingly good. It's hard to describe the sound, other than to say that it's kind of a cross between the Frankenstein humbucker, and a Gibson 498T. It has great clarity without sounding weak. Not as thick sounding as a Frankenstein, but with just as good of an output. Overall, the tone of the guitar is more than good enough to gig with, and I suspect will only get better with the future upgrades to the pots and the trem.

    Next on the list is to replace the Licensed Floyd Rose II on the guitar with the "Heavy Duty" Schaller style Floyd Rose on Guitarfetish. When I'm replacing the Floyd, I will remove the neck and sand off any paint on the face of the neck pocket. One of the things I've discovered in my research of this guitar is that people have found the inside of the neck pocket was painted where the neck mates with the body. They have reported a dramatic increase in sustain once the paint has been removed. I will also remove any shims in the neck pocket, and try to re-align the neck angle slightly to bring the Floyd a little closer to the body.

    More to come.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  2. #2
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:40 PM
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    Default Update

    So, I finally got the GuitarFetish heavy duty Floyd Rose style tremolo. Out of the box, the quality appeared to be very good. Design-wise, it is almost identical to the EBMM Schaller style trem. Quality wise, the most noticeable difference is the fine tuners. They are a little rough to turn compared to the more expensive Shaller unit, but hey, it's an $81.00 unit.

    So, I removed the FRII unit from the Kramer, and attempted to install the GFS unit. There was a clearance issue on the trem arm retaining hardware on the underside of the base plate. I had to swap out the large diameter hardware on the new unit with the trem arm retaining hardware from the old unit, and it fit like a glove. I like the collar type trem arm anyway, so no big deal.

    The main problem I'm having with this unit is that the brass sustain block is not quite long enough. The trem springs are dragging across edge of the wood in the trem cavity, which causes the trem to hang up when dive-bombing. I will need to remove a little wood to make a clear, unobstructed path for the trem springs in order to get the trem to work.

    However...

    I did get the trem installed, and the difference in tone is noticeable and dramatic. The sustain is worlds better, and the tone of the guitar is more full. After I get the offending wood removed, it should work like a dream.

    So, the verdict is:
    -Fine tuners could be machined better
    -Sustain block needs to be 1/4 inch longer
    Otherwise, this unit is a very good upgrade for people that don't want to pay for a FU or Schaller trem unit. It's much better than any Floyd copy that I've ever used, even with the noted issues.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  3. #3
    Little Dreamer
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    12.12.17 @ 10:23 AM
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    Default

    just my 2 cents, why not get a "big block" sustain block of the right size rather than chopping away at the body cavity? much less invasive and would add to sustain and tone...just a thought.

  4. #4
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    07.04.16 @ 08:03 PM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by nobozos View Post
    So, I finally got the GuitarFetish heavy duty Floyd Rose style tremolo. Out of the box, the quality appeared to be very good. Design-wise, it is almost identical to the EBMM Schaller style trem. Quality wise, the most noticeable difference is the fine tuners. They are a little rough to turn compared to the more expensive Shaller unit, but hey, it's an $81.00 unit.

    So, I removed the FRII unit from the Kramer, and attempted to install the GFS unit. There was a clearance issue on the trem arm retaining hardware on the underside of the base plate. I had to swap out the large diameter hardware on the new unit with the trem arm retaining hardware from the old unit, and it fit like a glove. I like the collar type trem arm anyway, so no big deal.

    The main problem I'm having with this unit is that the brass sustain block is not quite long enough. The trem springs are dragging across edge of the wood in the trem cavity, which causes the trem to hang up when dive-bombing. I will need to remove a little wood to make a clear, unobstructed path for the trem springs in order to get the trem to work.

    However...

    I did get the trem installed, and the difference in tone is noticeable and dramatic. The sustain is worlds better, and the tone of the guitar is more full. After I get the offending wood removed, it should work like a dream.

    So, the verdict is:
    -Fine tuners could be machined better
    -Sustain block needs to be 1/4 inch longer
    Otherwise, this unit is a very good upgrade for people that don't want to pay for a FU or Schaller trem unit. It's much better than any Floyd copy that I've ever used, even with the noted issues.
    I've bought several of these. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Peavey-wolfg...item43b54f07de

  5. #5
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:40 PM
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    Default

    I thought about it, but I'm just not sure if the holes of the big block will line up with the aftermarket GFS trem. Besides, I just need to shave a little wood off the corner of the interior of the trem cavity where the springs are hitting. Not a big deal. I haven't decided 100% which way I'm going to go yet. I'm still considering my options.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  6. #6
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:40 PM
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    Default

    Cheapo Kramer project is almost complete. Took out my rotozip last night and routed out two shallow "channels" for the trem springs near the trem block. Now, as well as the trem working, I have the added benefit of the exposed wood in the trem cavity allowing the wood to "breathe". The springs are now unobstructed, and the operation of the trem is smooth and solid. The tone and playability have improved with the new trem.

    All in all, I have to say the tone and playability are vastly improved over stock with the Guitarfetish upgrades. I still plan on using some DiMarzio pots, but I would gig with this guitar with no problems as it sits now.

    So, now let's go "by the numbers" to see if it's all worth it:

    Kramer Pacer Classic guitar is $370.00
    GFS Alnico Fat Pat pickup set is $140.00
    Guitarfetish Heavy Duty Steel trem is $81.00

    So, the total is $591.00 for the setup as it sits. The real question is, can I find a guitar for that amount that will match the tone and playability of my rig? Of course, it's all a matter of personal preference, but if I'm being objective, I would have to say yes. There are alot of really good quality guitars out of the box in that price range. Ibanez, Epiphone, and some of the Fender stuff is really good. Just depends on what you want. I will say that I would rather go this route than pay for a Kramer Pacer Vintage.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  7. #7
    Romeo Delight
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    09.26.13 @ 09:05 PM
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    Default

    That and the fact that you crafted it yourself with parts you chose and set up to your liking. There's nothing like it!! And when you figure into the equation that you have the "tone" that you wanted it's priceless!
    www.JBMGuitars.net
    Home Of The Replicator

  8. #8
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:40 PM
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    I guess one of the things I wanted to see is how much a few simple upgrades can improve a cheap stock guitar. The answer is you can drastically improve it with simple, cheap upgrades as long as you start out with good quality base components.

    With the cheap upgrades I've made, I could hand this guitar to a player doing a blind comparison with guitars in the $1000 range, and feel confident that they would find it just as good, or better.

    Now if you wanted to really go crazy, you could get an FU trem, and some DiMarzios, Duncans, or boutique pickups, really good pots, and you would have a serious ass-kicker that would kick the crap out of guitars 3 times the price.

    It gives a player a great opportunity to get a pro quality guitar a piece at at time. Buy a Kramer Pacer Classic, or an LTD ST203FR for under $400, and start adding parts as you can afford them. By the end of a year, you could have a guitar just as good as a guitar that sells for $1500 or more.

    The only thing is, you need to make absolutely sure that you don't care about gear snobbery, and that you are willing to hang onto that guitar until you die, because you will never get out of it what you put into it if you use name brand components. This is one of the reasons I've done this Kramer on the cheap. Yeah, my tone and quality probably isn't as good as it would have been if I would have went with a Schaller trem and DiMarzio pickups, but it's pretty damn close at a fraction of the price, and I won't get murdered on a trade-in if I decide to get rid of it.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  9. #9
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    10.18.13 @ 05:01 PM
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    how many sets of pickups did you buy ? That price seems awfully high

  10. #10
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    Duh. You're right. Pickup set was $60.

    I don't even know where I came up with that number.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  11. #11
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    10.18.13 @ 05:01 PM
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    yeah, I just bought a set, myself, for my LP

 

 

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