New Les Paul Setup

Inspector 22The factory setup on my new Epiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus definitely needs some work.  Fortunately, it’s not quite as bad as my Riviera’s original factory setup.  Thank you inspector #22 in the USA 🙂

For these measurements, I’m using a capo set of feeler gauges like this set from Grizzly.

Factory Setup Here’s what it looked like, right out of the box:

  • the open action at the 17th fret was .101” on the high E and .083” on the low E.
  • the nut seems to be cut just about right. With a capo on the 3rd fret and measuring at the 1st fret, it’s about .002” on the high E and .006” on the low E.   Or measured open at the first fret, it’s .015” on the high E and .028” on the low E
  • the truss rod was was .011” at the 7th fret, with capo on 1st and finger on 22nd.
  • the intonation was completely whacked.
  • The pickup heights were carelessly set. The neck pickup was angled to be too high close to the strings on the low side and too low on the high side, resulting in a boomy unbalanced sound.
  • The pickup pole pieces were haphazardly adjusted.

So how does Gibson set up its Les Pauls at the factory?  In a post to the Gibson Talk forums, Davomite, the final inspector at Gibson Memphis posted the following factory setup notes (I added the purple decimal inch values in parentheses):

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Tune-o-matic vs Roller

Back in 2009, I described my frustration with the Tune-o-matic bridge on my Epiphone Riviera P93.  The retainer wire that holds the saddle screws in place is just a terrible design.   A good choice to address this issue is the Nashville style tune-o-matic which has individual saddle retainer clips, while also increasing saddle-adjustment range for intonation.  Another good possibility is a roller bridge, like the Wilkinson B33.   I figured the roller may pair well with the Bigsby, possibly improving the Bigsby vibrato’s general tuning instability.

In this video, I show how to swap in the Wilkinson bridge, and then do a series of comparisons to see if there’s any difference in the overall tone, sustain, and tuning stability with the two bridges. 

I recorded many many takes of the strum-tests comparing tone and sustain, and my results were always pretty inconsistent. Despite my best efforts, it’s impossible to produce the exact same string excitation for each strum. So, I think the variances in sustain and tone are largely insignificant- though it does appear that, across all my tests, the roller may have slightly longer sustain times. I imagine that if I replace the Epiphone bridge posts with the beefier Wilkinson posts there may be a greater sustain improvement, but I’ll leave that for another day.

The tuner I use during the tuning stability section is the excellent Planet Waves Tru-Strobe (PW-CT-11) tuner.