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Which Emperor Should I Buy?

#1 User is offline   cooltouch 

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Posted 19 January 2019 - 03:55 PM

Recently, I've become somewhat captivated by the new Joe Pass Emperor II Pro after watching some demonstrations. I've also got a good price quote for one from an online retailer. But now I'm wondering. For example, are these new humbuckers in the Pro really that remarkable? And are the other "new" features found in the Pro that significant where I should consider it above its antecedents?

From what I understand, of the basic Emperor models, there's been the original Emperor, then the Emperor II, then the Joe Pass Emperor II -- and somewhere in the mix there's the Joe Pass Signature Emperor II -- and finally the Joe Pass Emperor II Pro. What I would like to know, before I spend several hundred of my hard-earned dollars, is is the Pro the way to go or are some of the older models just as good?

Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to play on any Emperor model. Here in the Houston area, there are seven Guitar Centers, a Sam Ash, and a few big local stores. So I went online and browsed through the inventories of the local stores, and of all of them, only one -- one of the GCs -- had a big-bodied Epiphone in stock right now -- a used ES175 Premium. But they're asking more for that used guitar than I can get a new Joe Pass for. Which has me wondering why the ES-175 is priced higher than the Joe Pass Emperor II Pro. Odd, it seems to me. Still, I'm thinking about scooting on down to their store just so I can play it -- see what it feels like. But can I even assume that the Emperor II Pro will play similarly? And if I were willing to go with a used Emperor II (but not an Emperor, apparently) or Emperor II Joe Pass, I could save a lot over the price of the JPEII Pro I got in that quote. Hence my questions as to just how big of a difference there really is.

I'm basically a cheap bastid. I'm often inclined to buy used instead of new, just so somebody else cake the depreciation hit. But if the features of a new model are sufficient to attract my attention, and it if isn't available used in the color scheme I want, then sometimes I'll suck it up and buy new. That's the case here. I can find used JPEII Pros, but they're all sunburst, and I just have never cared for the looks of a traditional sunburst. Cherry burst, yeah, but not black-red-yellow.

So that's where I'm at right now. Trying to decide how best to spend a small wad of cash I have burning a hole in my pocket right now. Any perspective you can offer would be most appreciated.
Best,
Michael

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#2 User is offline   Parabar 

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 12:33 PM

I own a 2001 Samick-made Joe Pass Emperor II, and it is one of my favorite guitars ever. I have played a few others --- both pre-Joe Pass and Joe Pass models --- and the only significant differences were the location of the pickup selector switch.

A few years ago I saw a more recent Chinese made Joe Pass in a local Guitar Center, and was disappointed to see the body had much less of an arched top than any of the ones I was familiar with --- cost-cutting measures, no doubt. Nonetheless, the new ProBucker pickups are very good, and the coil-splitting features on the newer Pro models are very appealing. I haven't tried a Joe Pass Pro, but have tested the newer pickups and switching on a recent Sheraton, and was favorably impressed. That said, I have no plans to replace the pickups in my Joe Pass, as I am able to get all the sounds I want from it by adjusting my amp settings.

I have not been at all impressed with the Epiphone ES-175 model. It's cutaway shape is wrong and unappealing, and the f-holes look cheap. Tonally and ergonomically, all of the Emperor II's I've played (Joe Pass or otherwise) have been better guitars, and I prefer the original Joe Pass/Emperor II design to the second-rate imitation ES-175. I don't understand why they didn't at least get the shape right, as the Epiphone Sorrentos from the 90's have it exactly accurate.

If I were in your shoes, I would try to get my hands on one of the newer Pro models. If I was happy with the sound, action and feel, I'd probably go with it to have the versatility of the coil split. If not, I'd look for an older Samick made one, as they seem to have the most consistent quality and turn up fairly regularly used at decent prices.
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#3 User is offline   kidblast 

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 07:31 AM

by "big bodied" are you referring to the one (floating) pickup / cutaway Emperor Regent?

I have a 2010, I think that was close to the last year of the production of those.

It's a great archtop for not a lot of bucks.

I have a Sheraton II PRO with Probuckers, which over all is a much better guitar than the late 90s Sheraton II I had and sold. Probuckers wont sound as good as a set of classic 57s, but that said, they are pretty good sounding pickups, big improvement to the stock pups my other sherry had.

This post has been edited by kidblast: 21 January 2019 - 07:32 AM

/Ray
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#4 User is offline   cooltouch 

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 05:39 PM

Guys, thanks for your responses. Kidblast, by "big bodied," I was using a more or less generic term to indicate a deep hollow body -- not so much the girth of the guitar.

Parabar, I tend to second your opinion of Samick quality. I have a semihollow Greg Bennett RL-3 made by Samick, and it's a top-notch guitar.

I'll take a look around on the 'net, see what the Samick Joe Pass models are going for before I decide on springing for a new one. I'm thinking that I can probably tweak my amp's settings to get the tones I want, and I suspect I'll rarely use the coil-split feature. If I want single coils, I have two other guitars, either of which I suspect will sound better -- a Les Paul Special with P90s and an American Standard Strat. Still and all, I feel that new one calling to me . . . .
Best,
Michael

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#5 User is offline   cooltouch 

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Posted 25 January 2019 - 09:55 AM

I finally found a local music shop that has an Epiphone Joe Pass Pro. It's one of the vintage natural finsh ones. The one I've selected is just the "regular" natural finish, so it was nice getting to see what the vintage one looks like. They did a good job with it, although just the top has the aged look about it. So I got to play it through a dinky little practice bass amp in a noisy store, sitting on an uncomfortable stool, with the wrong kind of pick. But all these annoyances disappeared as soon as the guitar spoke. This is an amazing guitar. I've gotta own one. I love my Ibanez AG85, but honestly it pales in comparison to the big Epiphone's sound, when that sound needs to sound like jazz.

One thing I found interesting about it was that, unamplified, it didn't sound all that special. I'm one of those people who believe that an electric's unamplified sound is a good indicator of what it's gonna sound like amplified -- even solid bodies. So I was a bit surprised at how plain it sounded unplugged. Then again, the noise level in the store might have masked some of the guitar's nuances. I hope that's the case, else my theory of inherent guitar tones has just taken a substantial hit.

I'm ordering the guitar today. I'll let y'all know what I think of it once it's here and I've had a chance to spend some time getting to know it.
Best,
Michael

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#6 User is offline   kidblast 

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Posted 25 January 2019 - 11:45 AM

I believe that Epiphone really does have the whole archtops on a budget deal all sealed up. always renew my appreciation for my Emperor Regent when ever I sit down with it.

It's been on the "not gonna sell that one" list since it landed here. I've had a bunch of the Epi Archtops over the years (a 2011 broadway, mid 90s joe pass, sheraton II, a 2002 elitist chet atkins.. that one was killer!)

They all punched well above their price range. With the newer / upgraded electronics and hardware, they're just about as no brainer as it gets if you're looking to make the jump to an affordable jazz box.

who wouldn't want an L5, but who can afford one?

Let us know how the story ends.
/Ray
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#7 User is offline   cooltouch 

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Posted 27 January 2019 - 01:26 AM

Well, hopefully this won't be where the story ends, but where it begins. The guitar's supposed to be here on Tuesday. I think that's a best case scenario, though. I won't be surprised if it doesn't get here until Wednesday. No matter, because it's gonna be with me for the rest of my days. I'm finished selling guitars that have gone into my personal collection.

Anyway, once I've had a chance to give it a good workout, I'll post my impressions. I dunno how long I'm gonna be able to put up with the strings that come with the Joe Pass, though. The one I played on had a wound G -- and I'm guessing the high E is a 12 or 13. At least they aren't flat wounds. If I were to keep strings this heavy, I'd have to completely modify my technique. So I'll probably end up sacrificing a bit of tone in favor of some lighter strings. I hear the D'Angelicos are really good. A friend of mine is at the NAMM show and he's already picked up a couple sets of D'Angelicos for me. Looking forward to them.
Best,
Michael

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#8 User is offline   kidblast 

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 07:34 AM

View Postcooltouch, on 27 January 2019 - 01:26 AM, said:

Well, hopefully this won't be where the story ends, but where it begins. The guitar's supposed to be here on Tuesday. I think that's a best case scenario, though. I won't be surprised if it doesn't get here until Wednesday. No matter, because it's gonna be with me for the rest of my days. I'm finished selling guitars that have gone into my personal collection.

Anyway, once I've had a chance to give it a good workout, I'll post my impressions. I dunno how long I'm gonna be able to put up with the strings that come with the Joe Pass, though. The one I played on had a wound G -- and I'm guessing the high E is a 12 or 13. At least they aren't flat wounds. If I were to keep strings this heavy, I'd have to completely modify my technique. So I'll probably end up sacrificing a bit of tone in favor of some lighter strings. I hear the D'Angelicos are really good. A friend of mine is at the NAMM show and he's already picked up a couple sets of D'Angelicos for me. Looking forward to them.



String wise.. most likely they are 11s w/a Wound G. I think the wound G is better for intonation with the floating bridge setup, but I think you can get as close as you need with a plain steel G. the wound G is a bit of an adjustment for bending, but if the plan is a lot of fingers style chord work, the wound G IMHO, works out nicely.

FWIW I use flatwound 11s on my regent, I find it's a nice change from my other electrics. You just do things a little differently.. well I do,, not sure about everyone else..
/Ray
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#9 User is offline   crust 

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Posted 28 January 2019 - 08:09 PM

I will interject a little. I have only tried a Joe Pass model at the guitar store.It was OK. I traded my 1999 Regent for an Ibanez. I have 2 Swingster's I love them, a lot... a real lot.

this was nice
Posted Image

this is nicer, sorry Epiphone
Posted Image


great, very great. So, an Emperor Swingster is my reply to that
Posted Image
Posted Image

Posted Image

Broadway is kind of like a 2 pup Regent a little bit
Posted Image

and, I like that thing a lot too, a very a lot, actually. Oh yes I do Posted Image I mean, look at them Posted ImagePosted Image, thank you Epiphone, for those things there, Posted Image

This post has been edited by crust: 28 January 2019 - 08:23 PM

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#10 User is offline   cooltouch 

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Posted 06 February 2019 - 12:24 PM

Attached File  joe_pass_pro_1.jpg (156.75K)
Number of downloads: 4 Here's a quick pic of my Joe Pass Pro. Purty, huh? Oh, just in case you're wondering, that guitar in the background with that gorgeous quilted maple top is my Greg Bennett RL-3 model, built by Samick.

Wow, crust, that's a very nice Epiphone collection you have there. Hey, I like Ibanez too. In fact, I've traditionally preferred the Ibanez hollow and semi-hollow bodies over Epiphones. I used to own an Ibanez 2455NT, made in 1977, supposedly an L4 knockoff but not really, and I loved it but in a moment of weakness I sold it some 10 years ago. After about 5 years with no archtop, I found an Ibanez AG85 and fell in love with it. It has the second-tier ACH pickups with the ceramic magnets, so I found a first-tier Super 58 neck pickup that came out of a AKJV95 and installed it into the neck position of my AG85. The sound was transformational. It went from being a very nice sounding instrument to one of very special, unique qualities. So, anyway, yeah, I like Ibanez.

But that Joe Pass just got under my skin and I felt I had to have one. It arrived last Thursday. The strings that came with it, according to my dial calipers, measured 10 14 23w 32 40 48. So, about regular to medium light gauge, except for the wound G. I replaced those strings with a set of D'Addarios measuring 10 14 18 28 38 49. Actually, the set came with an 11 E, so I just substituted a single 10 to get me where I wanted to be. They ended up sounding about the same, so I don't feel I gave up anything, soundwise. As for the guitar itself, fit and finish are top notch. Not a blemish to be found anywhere. Those new "Pro" pickups provide a very full, deep sound on the neck setting, and a nice growl with good punch on the bridge setting. The push-pull pots provide for some interesting tonal variations, but I'll probably never use this feature. Further, this guitar will live its life with the pickup selector set primarily to the neck pickup. The description of the guitar says it has a slim profile "C" shaped neck. I was expecting a 60s Slim profile but that's not what it has. It's more like one found on 50s Les Pauls -- or that 1955 Epiphone LP Custom with the P90s. Almost identical neck shape. At first, I felt a bit put off by this, but then I just decided to play the guitar and I quickly realized that this neck profile is very comfortable, so I have no reason to miss the 60s Slim taper.

I bought the guitar from Sweetwater. One of the things they do that other online retailers don't, is they put every guitar they sell through a 55-point inspection process, which includes setting the action and intonation (not much intonation to be done with the JP's rosewood bridge, though). So the guitar arrived, ready to play.

I spent a few days with the guitar and its stock strings and enjoyed it. I slid my fingers around on that wound G instead of trying to bend it, and that worked ok. But I missed not being able to bend it, so on the D'Addarios went. It plays just as nicely with the D'Addarios. I really like the very full sound of this guitar. It rivals my AG85 with its Super 58 pickup -- which is saying a LOT! So I'm happy. I may not have an extensive collection of hollow bodies -- to me, two very nice sounding ones is plenty! But I'm content with what I have. It's all I need, and then some.

So if any of you are on the fence about buying a JP Pro, I can just say that I highly recommend it. It is a quintessential jazz instrument, yet it can get down and punch out the rock and blues if that's what you need. Great sound, great looks, and -- most importantly -- a great player.

This post has been edited by cooltouch: 07 February 2019 - 11:31 AM

Best,
Michael

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#11 User is offline   crust 

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 06:27 PM

View Postcooltouch, on 06 February 2019 - 12:24 PM, said:

Attachment joe_pass_pro_1.jpg Here's a quick pic of my Joe Pass Pro. Purty, huh? Oh, just in case you're wondering, that guitar in the background with that gorgeous quilted maple top is my Greg Bennett RL-3 model, built by Samick.

Wow, crust, that's a very nice Epiphone collection you have there. Hey, I like Ibanez too. In fact, I've traditionally preferred the Ibanez hollow and semi-hollow bodies over Epiphones. I used to own an Ibanez 2455NT, made in 1977, supposedly an L4 knockoff but not really, and I loved it but in a moment of weakness I sold it some 10 years ago. After about 5 years with no archtop, I found an Ibanez AG85 and fell in love with it. It has the second-tier ACH pickups with the ceramic magnets, so I found a first-tier Super 58 neck pickup that came out of a AKJV95 and installed it into the neck position of my AG85. The sound was transformational. It went from being a very nice sounding instrument to one of very special, unique qualities. So, anyway, yeah, I like Ibanez.

But that Joe Pass just got under my skin and I felt I had to have one. It arrived last Thursday. The strings that came with it, according to my dial calipers, measured 10 14 23w 32 40 48. So, about regular to medium light gauge, except for the wound G. I replaced those strings with a set of D'Addarios measuring 10 14 18 28 38 49. Actually, the set came with an 11 E, so I just substituted a single 10 to get me where I wanted to be. They ended up sounding about the same, so I don't feel I gave up anything, soundwise. As for the guitar itself, fit and finish are top notch. Not a blemish to be found anywhere. Those new "Pro" pickups provide a very full, deep sound on the neck setting, and a nice growl with good punch on the bridge setting. The push-pull pots provide for some interesting tonal variations, but I'll probably never use this feature. Further, this guitar will live its life with the pickup selector set primarily to the neck pickup. The description of the guitar says it has a slim profile "C" shaped neck. I was expecting a 60s Slim profile but that's not what it has. It's more like one found on 50s Les Pauls -- or that 1955 Epiphone LP Custom with the P90s. Almost identical neck shape. At first, I felt a bit put off by this, but then I just decided to play the guitar and I quickly realized that this neck profile is very comfortable, so I have no reason to miss the 60s Slim taper.

I bought the guitar from Sweetwater. One of the things they do that other online retailers don't, is they put every guitar they sell through a 55-point inspection process, which includes setting the action and intonation (not much intonation to be done with the JP's rosewood bridge, though). So the guitar arrived, ready to play.

I spent a few days with the guitar and its stock strings and enjoyed it. I slid my fingers around on that wound G instead of trying to bend it, and that worked ok. But I missed not being able to bend it, so on the D'Addarios went. It plays just as nicely with the D'Addarios. I really like the very full sound of this guitar. It rivals my AG85 with its Super 58 pickup -- which is saying a LOT! So I'm happy. I may not have an extensive collection of hollow bodies -- to me, two very nice sounding ones is plenty! But I'm content with what I have. It's all I need, and then some.

So if any of you are on the fence about buying a JP Pro, I can just say that I highly recommend it. It is a quintessential jazz instrument, yet it can get down and punch out the rock and blues if that's what you need. Great sound, great looks, and -- most importantly -- a great player.

I may obtain a Joe Pass Emperor, some day maybe. Stranger things than that have happened to me, indeed they have. But ya, I would 1 of them things, ya I wouldPosted Image

This post has been edited by crust: 09 February 2019 - 06:29 PM

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