Submitted March 18, 2021 by Jefferson L in Rio Grande Valley, TX
"Unique Take on a Guitar with More Versatility Than It Gets Credit For"
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It's been long years since I had an Explorer, mostly playing acoustics and Teles for a long time. I wanted humbuckers and a flatter fretboard than what Fender typically supplies, so I tried just about every Gibson and Epiphone model I could get my hands on. There were some contenders: LPs, 335s/Sheratons, even SGs which I never really cared for but was pleasantly surprised. None really felt comfortable to hold or play, all other factors being equal. Nostalgia called me back to the Explorer. It's big, drips with character and attitude, and is so easy to play sitting down or standing. If Gibson had a korina-bodied reissue model, I would have gone with that. The Olive Drab Green stood out to me, not positively at first, but I kept coming back to it. At this price, I could afford to upgrade everything from pickups to tuners for less than the price of a Gibson model. So, I pulled the trigger with zZounds because of their payment plan and great customer service.That being said, I had a few QC issues with the first one zZounds sent. It was shipped only in the box Epiphone packages them in, which got squished and shorted out the selector switch, and the neck was VERY bendy, like rubber spaghetti. zZounds was very cool about everything and I got a replacement in short order. It came with a box around the Epiphonr box, everything worked, and the neck was much more stable. It had some minor fret sprout in the upper frets, but that was the only issue.The guitar itself plays great, and the ProBucker pickups really push my amps. The bridge pickup is especially nice, but I plan on replacing them down the line with something with more clarity and definition like I've grown accustomed to from playing twangy Telecasters for so long. The ProBuckers are NOT muddy, dull cheap pickups like you would expect from an affordable sister company. The neck is probably the least articulate, even for a neck pickup, but it can still put out some great tones when pedals and amps are dialed in. Suitable for rhythm parts. Middle position is probably my go to, with the neck rolled back to 6-7, the bridge at 8-9, and tone at full tilt. The bridge pickup is excellent at driving leads and solos with the tone at 7-8 or at maximum. My first non-maple or ebony fretboard, I was well pleased with the Indian laurel. A bit of lemon oil conditioning was needed to bring it from Sahara dry to non-gritty playability. A couple of frets need some polishing to bring back in line, but nothing makes it unplayable. Just a little TLC and refinement, like any new guitar, and you're ready to rock and roll. So to speak. About versatility, the Explorer is a dark horse. Decades of hard rock and metal guitarists using them gives them a stigma, but they can play anything from blues and jazz to rock to metal if you fiddle with the knobs and get your pedals and amps dialed in correctly. My tastes are eclectic, and I wouldn't have bought or kept this guitar if I couldn't get the sounds I wanted out of it. Things I would like to see: push-pull coil splitting, a quieter selector switch, regular pickup soldering instead of quick connects, and a better-cared-for/out-of-the-box fretboard. Honestly, it was dry enough to be used for kindling.What I really liked: playability, fit of parts, very decent ProBucker pickups, Tusq nut, and the color. The Olive Drab Green gives a military/Cold War vibe that I love, and the poly finish is going to be able to handle years of my clumsiness and abuse and still look good. Say what you will about poly finishes, but they will survive the nuclear apocalypse.
This guitar and others in the Epiphone line at this price point to $100 more are excellent value for money. If you need a set up and want to replace something, you still come out well under the price of the Gibson equivalent.
The Wow Factor
It's different. It has character. It's sexy in It's own way. Just like me, haha ;)
Music educator, multi-instumentalist, playing guitar for 25+ years
Blues, classic rock, alternative, punk, emo, "indie", hard rock
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