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What upgrades do you do by "default" when you get your chibson?

posted Jun 05, 2014 22:40:43 by funstuie
So what's the default changes/upgrades you do when you get your chibson?

Bridge, Nut, Pickups, tuners?

For me I have changed the bridge, pickups and on 2 guitars the nut.

but some of the latest guitar I received the only parts I think I need to replace is the pickups.
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8 replies
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MichaelWamback said Jun 06, 2014 00:23:24
Nuts for sure - most of the time.

Bridges are crap, although functional. They should be changed.

Some tuners are actually fine, and the tuning issues are being caused by the nut. You really need to get the guitar and make sure the nut isn't binding before you can check them. I wouldn't consider them an "automatic upgrade".

Same applies to pickups and electronics. Some are crap, but some are fine. You really need to evaluate. Having said that, I'm a big believer in quality pots. You don't want the pot to crap out on you when you need it the most. It's not that CTS or Bourns are necessarily going to sound different, but you can sleep at night knowing you will get a lifetime of reliable use from them. So for me, even though a rewire isn't technically an automatic upgrade by necessity, it is for me in practice.

Tailpieces are normally fine.

And honestly, the "Gibson Style" switches most of them use these days are actually decent. They are really just a smaller version of the Switchcraft switches - although Switchcraft are undeniably a more heavy duty switch. But I've had Epiphones that I've used every day for years that still have those switches - that have never had a problem.
The two most important things to remember in life: "The only time it's acceptable to work with amateurs is if you are making porn." "If you want to work with clowns, join a circus."
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MustangJessie said Jun 06, 2014 07:14:02
Strings, Pickups, pots, caps, bridge, tailpiece & studs, fret level & polish, fretboard oil. Nuts have all worked fine after a bit of tlc, as have the tuners.
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Rob said Jun 06, 2014 15:26:28
Nut, strings, pup, pots, Floyd Rose. I do switches, bridge work and tuning keys. I guess it depends on how good certain items function when you get the item in your hands, but that's the fun of it!
"Be the person your dog thinks you are!"
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stanton.kramer said Jun 23, 2014 02:03:23
What you need? Depends.

Nut? Probably. Most nuts are cut badly, so you might as well put a good one in there. If you don't know EXACTLY how to do it, IMO it is best to pay a professional. This will be the most critical upgrade you'll make to the guitar as everything else hinges on it.

Pickups? Probably. Some of them are decent, but none are wonderful. Another area where skipping some other upgrades can increase your budget for pickups, which will contribute to your sound almost more than anything else. I have Porter Smooth/Classic pickups. They cost me $200, but are worth every penny. They aren't well known, but have a clean, glassy tone.

Pots and switch? Depends. The pots I got in my Chibson measured around 460k consistently. Though I rewired my Chibson entirely, the Chinese post ended up in an Epiphone, replacing the mini-pots that were in the Epi. The Chinese pots won't last, but if they work well, it's not critical. The Chinese switch got put in the Epi too. Though I replaced it with a Switchcraft in the Chibson, the Chinese switch was really quite good...and ended up in the Epi as well.

Tuners? Maybe. Maybe not. I still have the original tuners in my Chibson. And though not *quite* as smooth as real Grovers, they are more than adequate and hold tune quite well. As Michael said, tuning is mostly about the nut. Use a locking technique on your strings and most likely the tuners will be fine.

Bridge? Maybe. I have a Wilkinson roller bridge, but on a whim I put back the Chinese TOM bridge and there wasn't much difference in sustain and no difference in sound. I reverted to the roller bridge as I just don't want that Epiphone telltale giveaway. If you are breaking strings, definitely change it out. If not, it is not at the top of the list.

Strings? Obviously.

When I got my Chibson I had a professional do a fret level, crown and setup. It was a little expensive, but I have zero problems and it plays like butter... As well or better than a genuine Gibson. But again, I did everything. In hindsight, there are things I *could* have skipped, but am happy I did them because I have a GREAT guitar... that I can never sell. So I might as well enjoy it ;)

Good luck.

[Last edited Jun 23, 2014 16:11:59]
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angev2 said Jul 21, 2014 11:56:42
Just picking up on this. How do you test various components?
For instance the nut? is it a matter of binding too often or cut too low?
Pots? noisy or not tracking correctly?
bridge , saddles, frets etc..
I know next to nothing about these. I can do basic setups myself but thats about where it ends.
"This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry." - Marty DiBergi
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MichaelWamback said Jul 21, 2014 16:22:15
Plastic nuts just don't have the same sound as bone or tusq, and they do have a tendency to bind the strings. (The sound part only applies to opens strings, once you fret a string the nut is no longer a part of the equation.) And if the nut is cut really low (strings buried) I find it just kills a bit of sustain.

In terms of nut height, press the strings at the 3rd fret (or use a capo) and then check the height of the strings at the 1st fret. There should be just a very small gap, about the thickness of a piece of paper, between the bottom of the strings and the top of the 1st fret. If the gap is too large, the nut is cut too high - which will make the guitar tiresome to play - and you solve that by filing the slots a bit deeper. If there is no gap (the strings are resting firmly on the 1st fret) then the nut is cut too low and needs to be replaced.

Pots are not going to change the overall tone of the pickups if they are the same value - but many different manufacturers use different types of taper. The biggest difference is audio taper vs. linear taper.

Linear taper is basically a straight line - so that 10 = 100%, 7 = 70%, 4 = 40% and so forth. Audio taper means that the taper is a curve so there is a bigger drop from 10 to 9 than there is from 5 to 4.

You can technically use either for volume or tone - but many people prefer one or the other for different reasons. Gibson uses linear taper for volume and audio taper for tone.

Some players like to use audio taper for volume as well - since it tends to crate more satisfying audio swells if you use your pot for that purpose. As you roll the volume from 0 to 10, the swell builds in intensity due to the curved taper. Hope that all makes sense. :)

The pots that normally come with a Chibson will normally work fine, but are not the best quality. It's not so much sound, but how quickly they will wear out and fail (causing the crackle you mention or other issues.) I had one guitar a friend dropped off for me to rewire where the knob would go round and round and nothing would happen - so the shaft had somehow broken free. Pots are relatively inexpensive, at about $7 each - so it's a good idea to use quality. Bourns or CTS are the best - Bourns have a shaft that matches Asian knobs and CTS has a shaft that matches USA spec knobs - but both are excellent quality.

The bridges on these again are going to work, but the quality is suspect. They tend to be flimsy and will often rattle when playing. A solidly built bridge will also give you more sustain.

If budget is an issue - you can upgrade your Chibson in stages.

Stage 1 - nut and frets

This is essential to most Chibsons just to make them play at all. Some of the fretwork is horribly uneven. So step 1 is always to check the frets and level/crown them if necessary. Then to check the nut and replace it with something decent. Once you have done this, you can set up the guitar (adjust the truss and the action height - set bridge intonation) and play it. So this is a basic necessity.

Step 2 - electronics

If the pickups are really bad (microphonic) or just not your thing, then changing the electronics will be an important step to your happiness. This will be the biggest change you make to the sound of your guitar.

Now that you have it playing good and sounding good

Step 3 - hardware

I would start with a bridge upgrade. Gotoh or Tonepros sell excellent quality, large bushing metric bridges that don't cost a fortune and will be a drop on replacement to what you have. Some people have also used bridges by other manufacturers such as GFS or Philadelphia Luthier with good results. And some favor roller bridges such as Wilkinson.

Tuners can also be upgrade for something better. The tuners that come with these will ordinarily hold tune, but can feel rough to turn. A quality set of tuners will feel smooth and may have a better tuning ratio for fine tuning.

(If, for some reason, the tuners are faulty - then of course you can move them to Step 1)

Price wise (for parts)

Step 1 - Nut will be about $12. Fret level is time and labor - free if you do it yourself, otherwise anywhere from about $80 to $150 depending on where you live. Setup you can do yourself.

Step 2 - Pots about $25 for 4, Capacitors (I would recommend an inexpensive but good quality capacitor such as a Russian cap or Orange Drops) about $10 a pair. The switches on these are normally fine these days, but if you really want the best you can install a Switchcraft switch for about $15. Figure about $6 for wire and solder. Reuse the jack, those things last forever. The wildcard is pickups - about $40 for a pair from Dragonfire all the way up to about $250 for a set of brand name pups. But there are some good bargain pups on the market such as GFS, Dragonfire, Entwistle, Wilkinson to name a few. Any of these will be better than what comes in most Chibsons. If you heed to hire someone to do your wiring, labor will probably be about $50 give or take.

Step 3 - Bridge will be anywhere from $25 to about $60 for a good one. Tuners will be about $50 to $70 a set. Your tailpiece should work fine and shouldn't need to be replaced.

With tuners, you need to be aware that the shafts come in different sizes. You should measure before you buy. If the shaft of the tuners you buy are smaller than the hole in the guitar, it can be a real project to use them. If the shafts are a bit bigger, the holes in the headstock can be enlarged with a reamer without too much difficulty.

You should also be aware that the shafts of CTS and Burns may tend to be a bit thicker than what came in your Chibson, meaning the holes will need to be enlarged. If you work on a lot of guitars like I do, then you want a reamer to do the job quickly. If you only do one now and again, just roll up a bit of coarse sandpaper and work it up and down inside the hole - test fitting frequently until the pot slips into place (so you don't need to spend money on an additional tool.)

The two most important things to remember in life: "The only time it's acceptable to work with amateurs is if you are making porn." "If you want to work with clowns, join a circus."
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stanton.kramer said Jul 22, 2014 14:19:50
One more thing that I don't think was mentioned.... Setting pickup height and pole height. Every pickup has its own characteristics. Sometimes pickups need to be higher (especially bridge pickups), sometimes lower and sometimes the pickup itself needs to be lowered with the poles raised. This comes down to individual taste and the amp you use combined with the volume/tone settings.

Also I feel it is important to experiment with different strings. On my Gibson and Chibson I have found the best sound from the Gibson Vintage Reissue 10's pure nickel strings. My Tele likes Ernie Ball hybrid 9-46. My MIM Strat likes the DR Pure Blues pure nickel strings. I've been experimenting with 9's and 10's and 10's seem to be in the lead. I've tried a lot of different strings and have noticed a significant difference in sound with different strings.
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angev2 said Jul 22, 2014 15:16:18
@MichaelWamback

great bit of information and informative write up.I'll keep this handy when I'm next trying to troubleshoot stuff. Even if I dont take on the work myself I'll be better informed when i next speak to my tech.

On my next Chibson PRSless order - Im seriously thinking about buying some quality components and sending it to the seller to incorporate in the build.

Im determined to find a seller that will do this. So my end goal would be to slash open the yellowbox, change strings, do a quick setup and ROCK within 2hrs! \m/
optimistic ? ..maybe
"This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry." - Marty DiBergi
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