The Guitar Gallery Forums - The Guitar Legacy of Matsumoku

Q&A, discussion, and information for the labels covered by The Guitar Gallery (Specifically and exclusively guitars made by Matsumoku up to 1987)
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Oct 2006 11:12 AM 
Just put a bunch of pics in Member's Treasures--a '72 Epiphone EA 250 I bought new in spring of that year. If I can be of help to anyone with a 250 or it's apparent Aria cousin, the 5102T, or if you're thinkin' of snagging one, plz let me know. Thought about posting a review, but HC pretty much runs the gamut, so just a few highlights maybe...

Fast, clean, low action, ultra comfy neck--very true. Everybody that picks it up raves about the feel.

Gretsch-y sound? Not IMHO, but terrific in its own right. Got a lot of hours on a '67 Chet Atkins Country Gent. The Epi is a touch edgier, with a bit more (tight) low end and enunciation in the pick detail, but drop-dead gorgeous in an amp with enough tonal range to showcase the 250's voice. A hint of BB King, but nowhere near as prevalent as my Epi Sheraton II--so IMHO more versatile than the Sheri, a Dot, or a 335. It'll never be a Strat or an LP, but amped right you can play a very nice riff on that stuff anyway. (However, I prefer to use my Strat and LP by a long shot for solidbody voicings. Let the 250 be itself.)

Durable? Check the pix. Mine got played daily for the first ten years, still regularly even today. It wasn't cased when it was a daily player, just sat out. Also got several miles on the road with it. Never cold or heat-shocked, always covered my belt buckle. The frets are quite worn but still play fast and smooth like every Matsu neck I've ever seen. That said, by now you're almost sure to be looking at pots, jacks, and switches. Not the quietest controls even when new. And watch that heelblock, see below!

Noisy pups. Yes and no. Verrry pretty sound, and quite manageable actually, if you TLC 'em a bit. So stay away from speakers. Set them a bit low and use a clean boost to hit the amp--besides, lower pups pick up more of that nice body tone. Best of all--low stage volume. I use my CyberTwin DI'd to a board anymore, and let the PA do the work. The CT then runs as a low volume monitor, or even silent if we're using IEM. But plugged into a Soldano--look out! BTW, I ran it into a '69 Univox 1221 rig for ten years with zero trouble, but I tend not to let my stages get out of hand anyway.

Wobbly necks. Yup. It's a thin, narrow, clean, lightning fast neck, just like you've heard. That small size has a cost. You gotta stay ahead of the truss rod. Even then, these tend to bend and warp as they age. Nothing a good setup can't overcome, but maybe not as precise an instrument as you might like, so caveat emptor. It has never been a problem I couldn't deal with, but some other ones I've seen were fatal.

Easy to pull 'em out of tune. Also true. It forces you to learn not to pull on the neck when you play. Your other guitars will thank you for this as well. BTW, never saw the need to shim mine, it plays great out of the box. You will tune 'em a bit more often than some other guitars, though, they can be touchy.

Deck cracks between the heel and the neck pup. Yikes! Usually accompanied by loose binding at the heel. It's often due to the heel block coming unglued at the sides--luthier time. Sometimes not, but watch this one.

Hideous Bigsbybomination trem system. I agree, putrid. Almost everybody takes the handle off and the spring out and runs 'em hard-tail. Some came equipped with a lyre-style hardtail anyway. Good feature, that.

Overall, not a bad chameleon for playing covers if you amp it right, and wonderful signature tone exclusive to the 250. Probably run a bit less distortion and more compression than a solidbody--keeps the harmonics in the notes sorted out, I gather. Works great for me. But if you want dead-on LP or Strat, this may not be for you. Takes a little TLC to get the most out of 'em, true enough. I just never minded doing it.

But best of all, they're wonderful players.

As always, YMMV.

--Ray

Oh yeah, would I buy another one? Hm. Maybe for nostalgia. But vintage aside, that Epi Sheraton II is ten times the guitar for the money. IMHO anyway. :-)


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PostPosted: Tue 24 Oct 2006 12:00 PM 
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Virtuoso
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Joined: Sat 22 May 2004 03:17 AM
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great review- i love hearing about all the playability details. It also helps to hear about maintainanance issues to watch for.

One practical symptom you didn't mention of some guitars with lightweight necks is vulnerability to being knocked out of tune- or even setup- when transporting to a gig. I don't see this happening with Matsumoku guitars much at all, but considering how vlunerable some Korean guitars are to this, it's worth mentioning that a lightweight neck doesn't have to mean intonation problems. My guess is when our high-quality Uncle Matt necks flex they do bounce back to shape more readily.

I also agree that a lighter weight neck like that does train you not to lean or hang on the neck, which is a good thing. You can also use it to good effect musically- I learned a tele solo that included a slow gentle trem probably originally done with a bigsby, and got in the habit of doing it by holding the body and pushing the headstock forward to bend a chord down 1/8 step or so- it made me realize what guitars would let me do that, and how readily they'd come back.


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PostPosted: Tue 24 Oct 2006 12:47 PM 
Hey XP.

Thanks for the kudos, always brightens up the day a bit. Sounds like you've played these or maybe even have one?

The note on transport and tuning--good point, I'm so used to it I hadn't thought to mention it, but it's a biggie.

If either transport or a heavy left hand pull the neck out of tune, it goes right back in. Setup-wise I've found these 250s pretty stable, and I've always had good luck trucking it around. (Always in the heated/AC'd part of the car, though.) But the string mechanisms are another story.

For beginners, the nut isn't the slipperiest I've ever seen, even with graphite in the slots. (Not real tone-y either. Great candidate for a Graphtec if you're not in it for the nostalgia.)

Adding to the stew, the tune-a-matic style bridge doesn't let the strings slide at all. (the saddles are basically pointy notches) Since there's a fair amount of string between the bridge and the tailpiece, I suspect there's also lots of potential for stretching out of shape on both sides. In any event , they do.

Further, I think the theory behind the full-floating bridge (it literally just sits on the deck, no screws or glue) is to allow mobility for the strings, esp when the trem is used. Great, if the strings all go someplace together, but they almost never do, Murphy's Law. So if one changes tension relative to the others, that sticky bridge holds it in place relative to the other strings. No matter where the floating bridge moves to compensate, something's gonna be out of tune.

The moral? Plan on re-tuning whenever you change climates or transport the guitar. Ditto if the neck gets bumped real good. (Dino-ditto if you use that trem! Ack!) That's the bad news. The good news is that the neck itself is very stable, structurally, and it's just the strings that get stuck out of place, so the condition isn't luthier-serious or even setup-serious. However, once you've played a 250 a while you get very good at re-tuning on the fly, often with a stretch on the string till you get a hand free. A little fiddly maybe, but only till you get used to it, and that didn't take long. Another reason this guitar will train your ear.

Thanks again for bringing this up, XP, it was a crucial point from day one.
Funny, it got so ingrained when I was learning to play on this Epi that even today I habitually do these things with every guitar I own, and frankly I'd entirely forgotten about it. However, it would indeed be kind of a frightening detail to discover for a new owner...

--Ray


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