My Joe Bonamassa Signature LP. Final analysis

tonemonster58

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I'm usually hanging out in other portions of the forum, mostly the vintage area but I felt compelled to come over here and share some of my thoughts now that I have had my Epi JB Goldtop for over a year.

Just for a little of my background for context, I have been playing for 30+ years 7 of which was as a professional touring player. I have owned and played everything under the sun and currently I am blessed to the point I can afford to own and play anything I choose to. I won't go into all of my equipment but suffice it to say it definitely is a pro rig. I have whittled down my stable of guitars to 15 of which one is my Epi Joe Bonamassa Gold Top. For reference I also have a newer Gibson Les Paul Traditional, a vintage 59 Gibson LP Junior, a vintage Gibson 56 single cut LP Junior TV, a vintage 63 ES 335 and a vintage 61 SG to name a few.

Now about the Epi JB Goldtop. After a full year with this superb guitar I am prepared to say it is hands down a much better guitar than the Gibson Traditional I have (also a good guitar) which is now relegated to back up duty. Now I don't consider myself to be a cork sniffer but I must admit I have always been a bit of a guitar snob. When it comes to vintage equipment I firmly believe that Epiphone is at the very least equal to if not sometimes better than similar Gibson guitars. But until recently I don't think I would have ever put modern Epiphone on the same footing as Gibson. As for me, IMHO I have to say that Epiphone has caught up.

I will say this that I have made some mods to the JB, but to be fair I made the same mods to the Gibson. What I did is to change out the bridge and studs to steel Faber and Callaham, then the tailpiece and studs also once again to steel Faber and Callaham. After this I had the neck Plek'd and put on a pre ban Elephant Ivory nut then voila...tonal nirvana.

Is the Epi LP perfect? No, but then no guitar is. I will say this though, as for a standard style LP (double HB, full size mahogany body w/maple cap) it is the among the best playing and sounding I have ever experienced in my lifetime. What makes it so great? Solid slab body (no weight relief), Long neck tenon, 50's profile neck (baseball bat), high quality fretboard wood, Burstbucker Pickups and stock 50's style wiring harness with high quality PIO caps.

What I do not care for with the Epi is that it is a Signature model. Sure I like Joe B, but not enough sport his name on my guitar. Also the color of the goldtop is OK but it ends there, The color of the original Gibson Goldtops is awesome and hands down better than the Epi. Also I do not care for the acrylic finish on it. Another point in Gibson's favor for the Nitro finishes. but that's it. In every other category the Epi is clearly a winner. Neck feel, Tone, QC, Attention to detail, playability all go to the Epi.

Not counting my vintage Juniors I used to have 4 Les Pauls, 3 Gibsons and the Epi JB. I now have 2 and the Epi is always my first choice to play. Last year I would have never believed that could ever happen but here I am and that's how it played out. The JB is an awesome Guitar regardless of what it has on the headstock, it just has all the intangibles that when combined make it more than just the sum of its parts. Those of you that have one know what I'm talking about. If you are a LP lover if you ever get the chance to get one, don't let it slip away.

Now will this end the Gibson vs. Epiphone debate? Not a chance. There are diehards in each camp that will NEVER change their allegiance and for good reasons. Gibson still can and does make an excellent product then there is the USA thing. But so can Epiphone at a more musician friendly price. Does this make me an Epi guy? Yep. Am I still a Gibson Guy? Yep. Bottom line for me anyway, as for a production line guitar Epiphone and Gibson are in the same league. Next time you are in Guitar Center or some other big store, pick a $800 Gibson LP and any mid level or upper level Epi LP and do a side by side close visual inspection then play them. Then keep the Epi and try it again with a $2400 Gibson. Now just think what can be done with the $1500+ saved if you get the Epi instead. Just sayin...
 

El Kabong

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I agree... the Epi JB is an awesome playing and sounding guitar. The only mod I made to mine was the replacement of the Bursbuckers with SD JB Sigs... these are the pups that come in the higher end Gibson JB sig and they are phenomenal sounding pickups.

What was required for changing the bridge, TP and studs to steel Faber and Callahams? Any drilling involved? :hmm:
 

shupe13

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I hope to snag a Bonamassa Epi one day!

Congrats!
 

JohnnyN

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I had the GAS for a Gibson. But it's cooled off quite a bit since I got my 1998 MIK Epi, even if that's not on par with the JB sig. Actually I'm on the verge of becoming an Epi-holic :D
I would prefer nitro too, but the bright side poly is, that I don't have to worry if my cheap guitar hangers will damage the lacquer ;)
 

Unsung Heroes

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Now will this end the Gibson vs. Epiphone debate? Not a chance.

I never bother to read, let alone partake, in such stuff - utterly futile nonsense either way - but I do like to read some balanced, nicely thought out, considered views and yours is certainly that sir
thumbsup1.gif


Could you elaborate on why / how you feel the bridge & tail-piece mods made a significant difference..?
 

paruwi

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I'm usually hanging out in other portions of the forum, mostly the vintage area but I felt compelled to come over here and share some of my thoughts now that I have had my Epi JB Goldtop for over a year.
..............

Now will this end the Gibson vs. Epiphone debate? Not a chance. There are diehards in each camp that will NEVER change their allegiance and for good reasons. Gibson still can and does make an excellent product then there is the USA thing. But so can Epiphone at a more musician friendly price. Does this make me an Epi guy? Yep. Am I still a Gibson Guy? Yep. Bottom line for me anyway, as for a production line guitar Epiphone and Gibson are in the same league. Next time you are in Guitar Center or some other big store, pick a $800 Gibson LP and any mid level or upper level Epi LP and do a side by side close visual inspection then play them. Then keep the Epi and try it again with a $2400 Gibson. Now just think what can be done with the $1500+ saved if you get the Epi instead. Just sayin...

Welcome to €piphone-Territory



Some of us knew it for a while......:wave:
 

tonemonster58

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I never bother to read, let alone partake, in such stuff - utterly futile nonsense either way - but I do like to read some balanced, nicely thought out, considered views and yours is certainly that sir
thumbsup1.gif


Could you elaborate on why / how you feel the bridge & tail-piece mods made a significant difference..?

Sure I'd be glad to, also for the benefit of a previous posters similar question. First off let me say that no mods, amp or combination of pedals can give you what is not in the basic guitar to start with. You have to have decent wood assembled with skill by experienced craftsman as a base to build from or all is for naught as you might as well be polishing as turd. As for if any drilling or other invasive procedures were required to make a Faber/Callaham upgrade the answer is absolutely not. It is completely reversible and easily accomplished.

For Epiphone Guitars I use the Faber Steel E-sert for the bridge stud replacement (comes with tools for old bushing removal) and the Steel locking tailpiece studs (bushing removal not required). I replace the bridge with a Callaham locking billet steel ABR Bridge and use the Callaham billet steel tailpiece. As for why? it is simple acoustical science. It is a proven fact that steel is the best metal conductor of vibration period. Not brass or aluminum and certainly not zinc. So when starting with decent wood if you replace all the stock zinc parts from either your Epi or for that matter Gibson you will get the maximum amount of sustain and harmonics that your instrument is capable of.

I do this mod to every guitar I own (even vintage) that has a TOM Bridge and Tailpiece. I even replaced the studs for my wrap bridges on my vintage Juniors. Each and every one of the guitars sound and play the best they can with this simple and IMHO required mod.
 

Nilitara

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Mines staying stock...There's nothing IMO that could improve what I already think is a great guitar. I'm happy that they came with nickel hardware as stock, mines starting to age up nicely, and as long as they the job I can't see the point in changing them.

The Burstbuckers deliver great tone, I particularly like my bridge on full, with the tone rolled right back, my neck vol I set to 4 with tone at 3. My tutor who has 35 plus years playing really rates the JB and always grabs it off me for a quick noodle. I can see in years to come this guitar still getting the praise it does now and maybe be considered as one of the best in its time.

Nige
 

El Kabong

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As for if any drilling or other invasive procedures were required to make a Faber/Callaham upgrade the answer is absolutely not. It is completely reversible and easily accomplished.

For Epiphone Guitars I use the Faber Steel E-sert for the bridge stud replacement (comes with tools for old bushing removal) and the Steel locking tailpiece studs (bushing removal not required). I replace the bridge with a Callaham locking billet steel ABR Bridge and use the Callaham billet steel tailpiece.

Awesome! Thanks!! :thumb:
 

Unsung Heroes

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Sure I'd be glad to

Thanks! Some great follow up info too
thumbsup1.gif


This is an interesting point:

It is a proven fact that steel is the best metal conductor of vibration period. Not brass or aluminum and certainly not zinc

I've lost count of how many people have said how 'great' upgrading to an Aluminium tailpiece is... I've still yet to read detail of 'how' it's better, other than people saying, "It's better"
thinking1.gif
 

tonemonster58

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Mines staying stock...There's nothing IMO that could improve what I already think is a great guitar. I'm happy that they came with nickel hardware as stock, mines starting to age up nicely, and as long as they the job I can't see the point in changing them.

The Burstbuckers deliver great tone, I particularly like my bridge on full, with the tone rolled right back, my neck vol I set to 4 with tone at 3. My tutor who has 35 plus years playing really rates the JB and always grabs it off me for a quick noodle. I can see in years to come this guitar still getting the praise it does now and maybe be considered as one of the best in its time.

Nige

Well said. 1+ on those Burstbuckers and I wholeheartedly agree, time will be a very kind judge to this model. Absolutely nothing wrong with keeping this model bone stock because it's just sick as is! You're right about the Nickel hardware.

I hope no one mistook my meaning about the upgrades. Just like a 59 Burst or any quality guitar, these mods are most certainly NOT needed with this guitar. That said the mod WILL absolutely increase sustain and enhance harmonic overtones and it is just my preference to have it that way as it fits in with the tactile feel/playability of my entire stable of guitars keeping everything predictable and familiar. Does this make it better? That is subjective. Only if you like the qualities I described then yes, but as you can obviously see not everyone is in that camp. YMMV
 

Curmudgeon

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I've lost count of how many people have said how 'great' upgrading to an Aluminium tailpiece is... I've still yet to read detail of 'how' it's better, other than people saying, "It's better"
thinking1.gif

Let me start by saying I have no experience with the JB model--never touched one, never even seen one in the flesh. So I can't possibly issue a blanket endorsement of aluminium tailpieces for all guitars. But for my '56GT, which has a solid "mahogany" body with no maple cap, the switch to aluminium (notice my "global" spelling!) was eye-popping. It added a huge amount of brightness, articulation, and sustain that had been missing. I haven't switched TP's on my Elite and Elitist, simply because I haven't felt (or heard) the need. In fact, my '07 Elitist Plus is simply the finest-sounding guitar I've ever played, and I can't see any point in altering something I think is already damn near perfect. But for those guitars missing some clarity and sustain, I still say an aluminium TP is a cheap enough experiment.
 
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But for my '56GT, which has a solid "mahogany" body with no maple cap, the switch to aluminium (notice my "global" spelling!) was eye-popping. It added a huge amount of brightness, articulation, and sustain that had been missing.

Interesting. I have an all 'hog traditional. Got a link to this part?
 

Kong

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Nice review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am interested in checking out the Pelham Blue Bonamassa when it becomes available. Recently there was a JB Goldtop not too far from me for $425, starting to wish I jumped on that one.
 

shupe13

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A bridge and tailpiece replacement is the only mod I've never tried. I guess its because I didn't know what type (material) or brand to get. Tonemonster58 has peaked my interest so I may try it soon. My PTP and faded G-400 are both keepers and being so, are worth the mod.

Faber/Callaham sound like a good place to start.

I do like the sound of a brass block in a Strat trem. Seems warm.
 

Skit

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...it is simple acoustical science. It is a proven fact that steel is the best metal conductor of vibration period.
I would like to see those facts. Not saying it is or it isn't but since you stated it as a "proven fact" I for one would like to see the proof.
 

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