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: Sun 16 Jan 2022 02:41 AM 
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Power Chorder

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Recently took delivery of an '83 Aria Pro II PE-60. I bought it from a seller on Reverb.com for around $900. (see pic links)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/59hhk4xkykewc ... 1.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/zae3101696a65 ... 2.jpg?dl=0

Although I own a few Japanese electrics ('78 Yamaha SG-800, '86 Yamaha SBG-2100, 2013 ESP "LTD Elite" Eclipse), and have owned others in the past (FGN, Vox, Seventy-Seven, Sadowsky), this is the first* I've owned that was built by the Matsumoku factory.

Overall, I'm happy. Here are my impressions:

The guitar arrived very well set up, with a small amount of relief and the 12th-fret action at 1.5mm amd 2.5mm for the high and low E strings, respectively (which I've heard was the norm for Matsumoku guitars).

However, I actually prefer my action quite a bit lower than that; my Yamahas and ESP are set up with the action at half that height (yeah, some think I'm crazy....but since I play with a light touch I'm able to avoid fret buzz). My first attempt to lower the action on the Aria even a tiny bit resulted in pinging/choking on the high E string in certain positions. But after a few righthand turns of the truss rod, I was able to get the action almost as low as that of my other guitars.

The neck is one of my favorite parts of this guitar; the slimmer profile fits my hand better than the more club-like profile of my Yamahas. That, plus the slightly lighter weight and ergonomic heel and belly carve, make it more comfortable to play, particularly while standing. I'll admit that my SBG-2100's ebony fretboard, lower action, and buttery-smooth frets feel more luxurious......but then again, the SBG cost twice as much as the Aria. (Having said that, if I were to play live, I would probably take the Aria with me rather than the SBG because of its lighter weight, more comfortable body, and slimmer neck).

I love the Aria's subtle cherry burst and the carve-outs for the knobs/switches. It's truly a beautiful-looking instrument - but not so boutique-like that I would be scared to take it on a gig. It's "player's grade" as they say.

On the not-so-great side: I don't love the ceramic MMK-45 pickups, which I'm told are similar to the DiMarzio Super Distortion. The tone is hard and strident, and they seem almost microphonic, picking up every little movement of my hands. I see how this would be great for metal players, but for me, I would prefer a warmer, more organic sound (I'm open to aftermarket pickup suggestions :-)).

Finally - one more thing to nitpick about: although the frets' playing surfaces are perfectly smooth, the bottom of the fret ends are very sharp! This shocked me at first, because Matsumoku was known for attention to detail back then. On closer inspection, however, it appears that the frets themselves aren't rough - rather, the fretboard binding may have separated a bit from the fret ends, or the wood has shrunk ever-so-slightly, causing some "sprout". At any rate, I'm sure I can find a tech here in NYC who can file and smooth down the fret ends. Anyone else experience this?

*To be clear, it's the first Matsumoku that I've purchased for myself. In high school I was gifted by my parents with a Washburn SB-8 (T-Bird Deluxe). At the time I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have (I was hoping to get the much slicker neck-through Falcon, but we couldn't afford it). But the SB-8 proved to be a solid workhorse, lasting me 10 years without any trouble. (Again, kudos to the Japanese builders and their 3-piece necks!)


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PostPosted: Wed 19 Jan 2022 08:39 AM 
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Virtuoso
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Looks neat, but I'm speechless that they sell for 900 USD these days.

I've been told that the neck is shaped after a 1960 Gibson profile. It's not only Matsumoku, there are quite a number of Fujigen guitars with a similar neck profile. If you like this profile, you will like a lot of Japanese guitars from the first half of the 80s. :)

As said in my other post, I like the Seymour Duncan SH-1 bridge/neck in my PE-60. If you want a bit more power from the bridge pickup try an SH-14 bridge and SH-1 neck.


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PostPosted: Wed 19 Jan 2022 10:42 AM 
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Power Chorder

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Does the 900 USD price tag surprise you because it's so high....or so low?

This is about what one would pay for a decent used Gibson LP Studio......and IMO the APII is better than an LP Studio.

Are the rough fret ends (or fret sprout) common on these models? I will need to take it to a tech around here so they can determine if it's sprout or rough ends.


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PostPosted: Wed 19 Jan 2022 04:43 PM 
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Virtuoso
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Beautiful guitar!
$900 seems high. I have a PE-R60 that I got in '06 for $540 and it was high then.
I'll agree, I'd rather have it than a LP Studio. I don't care for Gibson necks in general.
Rough fret ends are not common for any Mat guitar. I have / have had numerous Matsumoku guitars without encountering this. Being a bound neck, I have a few questions:
Are you feeling the tang or top of the fret?
If tang, is it visible through the binding?
If top of fret, could it have been re-fretted?
It doesn't have nibs, correct? (binding that makes up the end of the fret)
Could you post some pics of the issue?

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PostPosted: Wed 19 Jan 2022 07:46 PM 
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Power Chorder

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Thanks Jorg - here are some pictures of the fret ends:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/2erb1ocyu013d ... 7.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/h475q2xq45nkz ... 7.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/513dr11ggxn9s ... 9.jpg?dl=0


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PostPosted: Thu 20 Jan 2022 10:57 AM 
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Virtuoso
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Wow, been studying those pics and a few things come to mind.
That fret looks very full and beefy. Are they all consistent?
It also looks like it may be backing out or not seated fully? Again, are they all consistent?
Could it have been re-fretted? I don't see tooling marks on it except maybe in pic 2?
Pic 3 looks like you could slide a piece of paper under it. Is it that high or just an illusion?

To me, it kinda looks like it may have been re-fretted at some time and possibly the frets were not curved enough, or the slots were not cleaned out, or the frets were not seated fully.

There are several schools of thought on fret work. In this situation, if all of them are raised off the fretboard, I'd be inclined to believe someone just didn't seat them fully. And, if they weren't seated fully, they probably weren't dressed fully. You can get a hand caul or I use one in my drill press but you have to have something or someone to hold the guitar.
Some people glue and some people don't. I've done both depending on the job but, being an old board, I think I'd be inclined to glue.
After all that, a good dress on the ends should do the trick.

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PostPosted: Thu 20 Jan 2022 02:11 PM 
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Power Chorder

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Thanks for your input, Jorg. The fret surfaces look consistent (although I don't have any tools for doign a precise check), and I don't get any fret buzz/choking, even with low action, as long as I don't play with too heavy a touch. I am taking it in to a local tech to have them reseat/repair the frets.


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PostPosted: Thu 20 Jan 2022 04:54 PM 
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Virtuoso
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Awesome, I think a little TLC is all it really needs.

You know, if you ever need a second opinion, you can always send it to me. . . :devil2:


:rofl:

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Mar 2022 08:25 PM 
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Power Chorder

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The APII PE-60 is back from the shop after a full setup and fret job, and I'm happy to report that it plays like butter now! It just might be my favorite guitar in my collection now.


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PostPosted: Thu 03 Mar 2022 09:36 AM 
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Virtuoso
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Awesome!! :rockwoot:
I figured a little TLC would go a long way.

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