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Epiphone Swingster Royale (White) Review


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Epiphone Swingster Royale Review


Going Street price: $769 USD


Price paid: $599 (purchased from Sweetwater)


Fit & Finish:


Same body size/dimensions as the Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor. The Swingster Royale (white) comes with a “Pearl White” finish. Tiny flecks of gold flake are visible throughout the body top, sides back and back of the neck.


The back of the headstock carries the “Epiphone Custom Shop – Limited Edition” stamp (this is not decal)


Binding sides are “gold sparkle” while the top binding is 5 ply White/Black which goes around the headstock too.


The one I received has a few minor flaws on both the finish and binding area.


Two small areas on the top where you can see what appears to be grayish smudges under the clear coat.


Also few places on the gold sparkle binding on the treble side of the neck reveal a few areas under the clear coat that appears to be slight discoloration. These are very minor cosmetics and you do have to be “looking” for them to find them.


The Swingster I received was strung with .011 gauge strings with a wound G despite the specs on the web site that list strings as .010 - .046 Swedish Steel. - (at least I can say for sure, that mine did NOT come with .010s)


Action was a bit high for my liking, but it was quite close to the specs that Epiphone lists. With some tweaking I was able to achieve relatively low action (4/64s low E, 3/64s high E @12th fret) with a very minimal amount of fret buzz when picked hard.


Neck relief setting was within acceptable tolerance, (relatively straight with a slight forward bow) with no apparent bumps noticeable low/high frets.


The “Standard” truss rod is not quite as responsive as you may be accustomed to. Will be keeping an eye on this during climate changes.


Fret are well finished/polished with smooth edges (aka: No rough edges to catch your hand as it slides up and down the neck.)


Nut was well dressed with no hanging or binding (plink free) and strings stay seated even with aggressive bends.

Intonation is good when playing open chords in the low registers.


Mine did have an appreciable amount of wood shavings from the build that I had to shake out of the F holes. (Seriously? you guys couldn't do this at the factory??)




Volume and Tone pots are solid, turn smoothly and are responsive and work properly when making adjustments to volume and tone. (there no sudden “drop” in volume and no appreciable loss of tone when backing off the volume of each pickup). Selector switch is solid and feels like it will stand up well (time will tell!)


The pickups are named as “Swingbuckers” which resemble TV Jones pickups. Despite the hollow body design of the Swingster, the Swingbuckers are resistant to feedback when you push them with some volume. Eventually they will start to howl, but in my experiences, it seems you can push them a lot harder than a humbucker equipped Joe Pass or Broadway.


The pickup wiring is standard two humbucker, 2 volume, 2 tone with the exception of the tone controls which set pickup phasing. “In” selects out of phase (series). “Out” selects in phase (parallel). {I hope I got that association right!} The out of phase tone is bright and airy with an appreciable amount of “twang”. The in phase tone is very similar to what you would get out of a Classic 57 set of pickups. There is a noticeable volume boost when going from Out of phase to In phase.


Standard Grover Tuners, operation is smooth albeit with all the expected gear lash that comes with a standard set of tuners.


The Bigsby operates smoothly and responds nicely – great for adding those ambient dreamy sounds with sustained chords (just as you would want!) the Roller saddles seem help to stabilize the tuning. The Swingster comes stock with the “Chet Wire” instead of the standard flat bar. Two set screws remove the arm easily, (allen wrench included)


Intonation screws on the bridge face the rear pickup, but are easily accessed with a small flat head screwdriver.

Intonation took about 10 minutes after a fresh set of strings and the action adjusted.


The bridge plate is pinned to the top, making it possible to remove all strings when doing a cleanup or treating/oiling the Rosewood fingerboard without having to redo intonation (YAY!)




The slim taper neck is real comfy, any Gibson player will feel right at home with it.


Where I can’t get the action “super low” it’s low enough that I was easily able to get around and not feel at all inhibited when playing fast solo lines or chunky rhythm playing. Yet the action is still at a good setting where finger style chord work is easily done without feeling awkward due to the .010 gauge strings and relatively low action.


Because the bridge is pinned, you can get as nasty with this thing as you want. (Ted Nugent would approve!)


It’s not a heavy guitar, but it’s not all that light either, about 8 pounds. It balances well, with no neck dive. Oh ya, and I was able to install Schaller Strap Locks using the stock screws.


Tuning stability is very good, even after some hard playing and no small amount of bigsby action.


Amps used: Fender Mustang III, Marshall JTM60 combo, Fender HR Deville 4X10 and Gibson Goldtone GA30RVS. I was able to get a variety of cool usable tones out of all settings with all these amps.


The Swingbuckers will cross over to the grittier more over driven tones, but where it shines is with the clean to gritty & slightly over driven tones. I wasn’t thrilled with the way these pickups responded to heavy gain settings, but then again – that’s not really the intended use for this sort of guitar now is it?


It does however NAIL rockabilly vibes with the out of phase setting (down right Gretchy!) Pull out the tone pots for full humbucking heaven!


In summary these PUPS are versatile and offer a nice variety of tight airy (almost single coil sounds) to drippy fat humbucking tones with nice clarity and definition. A far cry from the pickups we’ve seen from Epiphone back a few years ago.




The Epiphone Emperor Hardshell Case is the proper case, not included (Gibson part #940-EEMCS) $99 USD.


The case features an arched top with black covering, gold Epiphone logo on the front with 5 chrome latches. The guitar fits snugly in the case. the interior is gray plush lined with an ample storage compartment. The Chet Wire on the bigsby will have to be removed when casing it.


I’ve seen some recent complaints about the quality of the new Epiphone cases but those are sort of lost on this one. For my experience here, seems a fine case for this guitar.




The Swingster is a great axe for the money. It looks killer, it is comfortable to play, covers a lot of sonic territory and it is just a blast.


Had been mulling picking one of these up since they were first put out on the market, But when Sweetwater dropped the price to $599, I had to jump on it.


I am easily able to disregard the few finish flaws I encountered on the one I purchased given all the pluses.


However, I’m going to be looking after that truss rod responsiveness. I would like that to be a bit more responsive than it currently seems to be. That said, the neck is just where it needs to be at the moment, and since it IS winter here still that could have a lot to do with it. This is my only concern at the moment.


But --> yea baby,, [thumbup] giving this one an 8.5! It's one sweet ride to Coolsville!



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  • 9 months later...

hey dakar..


for the money hard to beat...


Lots of cool tones, good action / playability.


after almost a year of owning this, I've got zero regrets.


It's one of my favorite guitars... and I've got a bunch too


best strings for me are D'Addario's 11s with am unwound G.




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  • 4 months later...

hey dakar..


for the money hard to beat...


Lots of cool tones, good action / playability.


after almost a year of owning this, I've got zero regrets.


It's one of my favorite guitars... and I've got a bunch too


best strings for me are D'Addario's 11s with am unwound G.





I was pretty much all set to buy a DOT or Swingster, played around with them but the larger size seemed more strange playing it than I expected. However I did come across the Gibson ES-139 and I really liked the feel and sound of it, and GC had it marked down quite a bit (only one they had) so I pulled the trigger on it. But I still really like the look and sound of the Swingster.

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