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Dimi Pana

Improvements for Epiphone ES-175

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Hello all!

 

I have recently acquired a used Epiphone ES-175. I am hoping to use this forum to discuss with all of you and especially the more experienced anything that will improve the playability, versatility, overall value of this instrument.

 

I will start with few of the most obvious (and commonly discussed) upgrades (points #1-#4) and also ask about one mod (#5) that has been puzzling me for a long time:

 

1. I feel as if the amplified sound of this guitar is overall OK but for those with more expectations the sound is lacking when compared with the real thing (Gibson, duh!). So I hear the most logical path is replace them. Now this is a subject covered a lot but in my opinion there is no consensus as to what would be the best drop-in replacement for the original Epi pickups.

 

2. When it comes to wiring and even pickup placement there seem to be a lot of opinions. Is this guitar going to sound best using the standard wiring or there is some margin for experimentation? Also, I have seen some ES-175 (or any dual humbucker guitar anyway) with the PUs inverted by 180 degrees. This way the bridge PU should sound less bright and the neck PU should sound less bassy, am I right about that? Why would anyone do that? This way the sound from each PU gets more "similar" to the other, isn't this the opposite of what most players are after?

 

3. Seems like ALL the electronic components on the Epi ES-175 are -well- on the ...cheap side. Can anyone suggest what is best: Just change PUs, Toggle Switch, Pots and Jack, or go for the entire harness as well. Any retail suggestions where to find these items? Also, do you think it is a good idea to install a (square or oval) reinforcement plate around the jack? I mean yes, it will make this area stronger but still that would require drilling 4 holes on the guitar.

 

4. What is the proper height of the strings over -say- the 12th fret (what whatever fret # the specs call for). I have a feeling that mine is set up on the low side, and sometimes when I strum or play solos/riffs hard, the strings (especially the low E and A) touch the neck PU. Is this normal? I do not think so.

 

5. How about this mod, now: Would it make sense to install a stop-bar instead of the standard trapeze (is this how it's called, "trapeze" ?) string retainer? Is this possible? Is this going to improve/worsen sustain, sound, playability, etc. Is this at all possible or am I just talking nonsense here? (lol)

 

Sorry about all these questions, take your time and "fire" at your leisure/convenience!

 

Thank you all very much!

 

Dimi Pana

 

PS: On #2, the reason I am asking about re-wiring is this: On my Epi, with the toggle switch in the middle position, if any of the two volume pots is between 0 and 2 and a half, I get no sound at all. I mean at this (middle position) in order to get sound from any pickup the other PU has to be at least at setting 3 or more. For some reason (in this mid position) either volume pot acts as a master cut on any setting below say (roughly) 3, regardless of the other volume pot setting. Is this normal?

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Dimi Pana,

 

First things first.

Welcome to the forum.

So we are on the same page, how about a pic of your guitar?

Is this it?

 

Es175.jpg

 

Just to get started, a lot of this is personal taste and has no definitive answer.

Still, you can get a lot of information in Animalfarm's DIY at the top of the Epi Lounge:

http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/51292-the-d0-it-yourself-thread-look-here-for-tech-related-questions/

 

Basic thoughts, still plenty of room for discussion:

Question #

1. How much do you want to spend?

 

2. Don't know.

 

3. CTS pots, Switchcraft switch and jack. PIO or Sprague orange drop caps. Don't know about the plate.

 

4. Adjust the string heights but also adjust the pickup heights:

http://mysite.verizon.net/jazz.guitar/guitarsetup.htm

 

5. Anything is possible. I wouldn't but, that one is your call.

 

PS: Your guitar is probably wired modern "dependent". To have the pickup volumes wired so as to work independently in the center position they would have to be wired (guess what?) "independent". Modern or 50's:

http://www.dominocs.com/AshBassGuitar/WireLibrary-Gibson.html

 

Still plenty of room for questions and discussion,

 

Willy

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I don't have the Epi version of the 175 but I have an old 70's Japanese made Antoria. Although it has always played superbly, with an incredibly low action, I felt much the same about the sound when I got it as you do the Epi.

 

1. You can fit any standard sized humbucker or humbucker sized P90. You can probably even fit mini humbuckers with a suitable adaptor ring. The choice of make and type is entirely down to you. I'm sure you'll get lots of suggestions and recommendations but without being able to actually try them yourself in your guitar it's largely a matter of faith. I fitted 2 identical Seymour Duncan PAF's and I've been very happy with them. I've also fitted Cats Whiskers and Hamer (USA) pickups to other guitars and been happy with them. Others prefer/use something else.

 

2. I reversed both pickups on the 175 as you mention. I did this after reading an article stating that Wes Montgomery did it on his L5 and I thought I'd try it as it was only a 5 minute job. If there was a difference in tone I couldn't hear it. I never bothered changing them back though. With regard to wiring there are dozens of wiring diagrams available on the web. Look in the DIY thread in the lounge for some links. With four conductor wiring and some push pull pots you can get many additional tones. It depends on what you're trying to achieve.

 

3.The cost of swapping out the wiring harness, pots, switch and jack is small in comparison to the cost of the pickups so there's no reason not to do it (unlesss you're very short of cash). Switchcraft and CTS seem to be of good quality and very popular components but there's a whole industry around which caps are the best to use. Taking out and replacing the whole electrics package on a 175 is very easy. Just remember to tie some cotton or dental floss around the jack socket, pots and switch shafts to make it easier to pull them back into place when done.

 

4. As long as your strings aren't buzzing against the fretboard then your problem is that your front pickup is adjusted too high. I have my front pickup set 1/4 inch below the fingerboard. It's a matter of balancing the pickups how you want them and it's largely a matter of choice how high or low you set it. Too high may lead to some sustain loss due to magnetic pull (so I hear) and wolf tones. Too low and you'll lose volume and tone, but apart from that there is no right or wrong. Your ears should tell you when it's right for you. It's a 5 minute job with a small screwdriver to adjust the pickups.

 

5. I would say that, without considerable modification, it isn't possible to install a stop bar on a 175 because it's completely hollow. I may be wrong but I've never seen it done or heard of it being done and I certainly wouldn't risk it.

 

Hope that helps. Here's a pic of my 175. 35 years old and still going strong.

ES175_small.jpg

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Please, please do not attempt to install a stop bar on any hollow-bodied guitar! As has been pointed out, there is ony a thin top with perhaps a soundpost at the bridge, so there is not enough wood to hold it --- the string tension would rip it right out of the guitar's top. Putting a solid block under the top to hold a stop bar defeats the whole purpose of a hollow bodied guitar in the first place!

 

Stop bars are great for transferring string vibration and adding sustain to solidbodies or semi-hollows, but NOT for hollow bodied guitars.

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Thank you all for the replies, my apologies for the (very) late response, I had a scary health problem, an ordeal that started only a few days after my original post. I am glad to say though that I am back and thank God, healthy and strong. I haven't been playing my ES-175 much but I 've slowly re-started to do that. I will leave it at stock for now and will post back later. To me it sounds that this is a decent (for the money) guitar obviously a good guitarist will make it sound better than ...me! A good amp is also something that should be considered in the equation. Again, thanks to all of you, 'till later!

 

PS: I do not have a picture of my Epi but it looks exactly like the one in the website:

 

post-36721-007548000 1369680856_thumb.jpg

 

The only change I made is put grover deluxe tombstone tuning keys which btw feel much better than the original stock tuners from here --> http://www.guitarpartsresource.com/tuners_groverdlx.htm , it's the best price online I could find and they work great!

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The best thing you can do to improve the tone of a mid-price import is to upgrade PU's I believe that these were made before Epi started their PU upgrade campaign. One of the best PAF's made today are Seymour Duncan Seth's. Seymour worked with Seth Lover, the guy who invented humbuckers at Gibson, and showed Seymour all the secrets.

 

PU's with A5 magnets can be bassy/boomy in hollowbodies. Some of the ones with A2 magents have a very rounded high end, and/or a loose low end. Seth's don't have any of these issues. Unpotted, with unbalanced coils like the originals, for open, airy, 3-D tones.

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1. Gibson Classic '57s or these.

 

2. Mojotone ES wiring harness, follow instructions

.

 

3. See no. 2 above.

 

4. These, then do a full set up following instructions

with these
, or from here: http://www.philadelp...thiertools.com/

 

5. Keep the trapeze, it's part of the ES-175 sound & mystique.

 

Unless you need a fret leveling, it should play and sound like a real 175.

PS, on the Epi 175 I had, the strings, wiring harness and a good setup was 90% of the tone.

The Epi pickups weren't half bad, but the Classic 57s are stock in the Gibson versions

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The Epi pickups weren't half bad, but the Classic 57s are stock in the Gibson versions

 

Seth's have far better tone and clarity than '57's. Gibson puts '57's in all kinds of models, so don't assume that because a guitar comes stock with them, that a lot of thought went into the PU selection.

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Seth's have far better tone and clarity than '57's. Gibson puts '57's in all kinds of models, so don't assume that because a guitar comes stock with them, that a lot of thought went into the PU selection.

Maybe so, but the OP's question was how to make it sound like a Gibson, not something else.

 

Anyway why would someone put any upgrades into a cheap Epi? As you've stated previously it would be "a bad idea" to put $500 into a set neck guitar.

 

Putting $500 into a set neck Epi is a bad idea; it's crazy on an entry level one.

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Please, please do not attempt to install a stop bar on any hollow-bodied guitar! As has been pointed out, there is ony a thin top with perhaps a soundpost at the bridge, so there is not enough wood to hold it --- the string tension would rip it right out of the guitar's top. Putting a solid block under the top to hold a stop bar defeats the whole purpose of a hollow bodied guitar in the first place!

 

Stop bars are great for transferring string vibration and adding sustain to solidbodies or semi-hollows, but NOT for hollow bodied guitars.

 

Absolutely.

 

That's one modification too far!

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Maybe so, but the OP's question was how to make it sound like a Gibson, not something else.

 

Anyway why would someone put any upgrades into a cheap Epi? As you've stated previously it would be "a bad idea" to put $500 into a set neck guitar.

 

 

 

'Cheap' Epi or mid-price Epi? There's a difference. The biggest thing you can do to improve the tone of a mid-price import is upgrade the PU's, and since you can get used high-quality PU's online for half price (sometimes less) it's a worthwhile investment. But you need to limit the rest of your upgrades to keep from going overboard. Buying a used set-neck Epi for $250 and putting in a set of used Seymour Duncans will give you a great sounding guitar that's less of a cash outlay then that guitar would have been when it was new. I've done it many times. It's when you replace the tuners, hardware, electronics and add things like Bigsby's, that you need to think about what you're doing. They have much less impact on tone.

 

'57's are overrated, and as expensive as some of the much-better boutique PU's. Gibson's used a variety of PU's over the years, so there is no one 'Gibson sound.' The closest thing to Gibson's original PAF's (the Holy Grail of PU's!) would be Duncan's Seth Lovers, more so than any PU Gibson makes these days.

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'Cheap' Epi or mid-price Epi? There's a difference. The biggest thing you can do to improve the tone of a mid-price import is upgrade the PU's, and since you can get used high-quality PU's online for half price (sometimes less) it's a worthwhile investment. But you need to limit the rest of your upgrades to keep from going overboard. Buying a used set-neck Epi for $250 and putting in a set of used Seymour Duncans will give you a great sounding guitar that's less of a cash outlay then that guitar would have been when it was new. I've done it many times. It's when you replace the tuners, hardware, electronics and add things like Bigsby's, that you need to think about what you're doing. They have much less impact on tone.

My mistake, when you stated "Putting $500 into a set neck Epi is a bad idea" I did not understand that there were specific exceptions and qualifications to this recommendation.

 

'57's are overrated, and as expensive as some of the much-better boutique PU's. Gibson's used a variety of PU's over the years, so there is no one 'Gibson sound.' The closest thing to Gibson's original PAF's (the Holy Grail of PU's!) would be Duncan's Seth Lovers, more so than any PU Gibson makes these days.

Maybe so, maybe so. Do you have either 57s or SD SLs in any guitars? Can we see some pics and hear some comparative samples?

 

BTW, you seem like a real expert on this subject, how many and what kinds of guitars do you own? Do you perform your own modifications or use a tech?

 

Have you ever had a complete wiring harness upgrade with a pro setup and left the stock pickups in to verify that these other variables had only a minor impact on tone?

 

Just curious.

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My mistake, when you stated "Putting $500 into a set neck Epi is a bad idea" I did not understand that there were specific exceptions and qualifications to this recommendation.

 

 

Maybe so, maybe so. Do you have either 57s or SD SLs in any guitars? Can we see some pics and hear some comparative samples?

 

BTW, you seem like a real expert on this subject, how many and what kinds of guitars do you own? Do you perform your own modifications or use a tech?

 

Have you ever had a complete wiring harness upgrade with a pro setup and left the stock pickups in to verify that these other variables had only a minor impact on tone?

 

Just curious.

 

Being a big Epi fan for years, have about 20 models (various LP's, SG's, 335's, V's, and a Firebird). I'd go broke if I used a tech. I've upgraded PU's in all of them, except for a couple of the recent-production LP's that have the new PU's. I've gotten most of my American-made PU's used online, usually for $30-45. So a used Epi LP Std+ in nice condition for $250, plus a couple used Duncan PU's, and I'm around $350 in total. A modest investment for a great-sounding guitar. Sometimes they come with a hard case too.

 

I do all my own work, from set ups to swapping PU's to push-pulls. Toggles don't need to replaced, it's always a prong that needs to be bent slightly back in place, and you can avoid that by leaving the toggle in the middle position when you're not plugged in. The best book for learning how to do set ups is Dan Erlewine's 'How to make your electric guitar play great' from StewMac. A 'must' for every guitarist. Know your instrument!

 

I replace pots for the values, not for quality (Epi's come with 500K's). I usually put two 250K pots on my bridge PU's for the warmth. I'll leave the stock 500K's in the neck, except for LP's, where I put in one or two 1-meg pots to get a little more high end.

 

There's been many debates over the years on the Duncan Forum over tone differences between regular and expensive pots and caps, and it always comes down to minimal, if any, tone improvement. It's more for reliability. Once in a while I'll replace a scratchy pot.

 

I wire my guitars for independent volume controls, so I can blend the PU's in many increments. Other wirings I use:

 

- for P-90 guitars, I'll add a push-pull to link the PU's in series (instead of parallel). Gives a boost in volume, great for solos.

 

- for HB's I have the 4 push-pull Jimmy Page system in some LP's and 335's. In other guitars, I'll have a push-pull or two for coil cut.

 

- I'm currently going thru my guitars, and any that have a neck HB with 4-lead wires (and that doesn't already have push-pulls) I'm wiring for spin-a-split, which is a variable coil cut. Great option, no additional parts needed. You convert the tone pot into a second volume pot for that PU, but for one coil only; the two wires you normally tape off together go to this 'new' volume pot. Instead of 'all-or-nothing' with a push-pull for coil cut (one coil or two), you can dial how much of the second coil you want. This gives you the great in between tones from unbalanced coils, which were part of the magic of the original PAF's. You simultaneously get a blend of humbucker and single coil. Really opens up a neck HB. There's diagrams online.

 

I've had a couple sets of Gibson '57's and sold them. The high ends are too rounded for me. That makes the neck too dark and the bridge lacking bite. There's better PAF's out there. One '57 set was in an Epi LP Tribute; I wanted to like them, but ended up putting in a BB3 and a Seth. Much better. My experiences with '57's have been with LP's; I've heard they do better in SG's. Maybe so.

 

I have several sets of Seth's, and they set the standard for all other PAF's. '57's can't compare tone-wise. I think the best HB's Gibson's made for a while are (A2) Burstbuckers, unfortunately they don't put them in many models. The challenge with using Alnico 2's is that they are very warm-toned magnets with a lot of mids and a loose low end. They're also loaded with rich texture and vintage dynamics, so if a PU is wound right, it can bring out an A2's best qualities and keep the drawbacks to a minimum. Duncan understands this. An afforable A2 PAF that sounds great is 'Parsons Street', from StewMac: unpotted, unbalanced coils, nickel-silver covers and baseplates, plain enamel wire, & wood spacers. You can get a new pair of them for just over $100 (about 2/3's the cost of one new '57).

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I formerly had an Epiphone ES-175 (I have since traded it). But I found a simple string swap improved the sound. My Epi ES175 came with 10's installed by the factory. I changed to 11's and found I liked the sound better. You may find that going to 12's with a wound 3rd string will give you even better sound so I suggest you try the string gauge change to 12's with a wound 3rd string and see how you like it. You have many choices, but I find D'Addario light jazz strings to be a good choice.

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I don't have the Epi version of the 175 but I have an old 70's Japanese made Antoria. Although it has always played superbly, with an incredibly low action, I felt much the same about the sound when I got it as you do the Epi.

 

ES175_small.jpg

 

Nice looking guitar right there. Love that sunburst.

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