Upgrades: Expectation vs Reality.
So you've got your heart set on that artist signature model guitar you know will take you to the next level, but there's just one problem..... MONEY!
Yes, todays world is now more than ever a risky place to throw down your hard earned on what for many can be construed as a vanity purchase. But wait! There's a budget version! I'll just buy the budget model and upgrade it as I go... That'll be just as good right? Right!? Well maybe not quite...
Dig if you will... Willie Adler's Signature LTD.
I was asked by this bad riffers owner Paul to install Willie Adler Signature Fishmans and do any other works necessary to bring this budget model up to par with its $4000-$5000 ESP cousin.
So after a total electronic overhaul, bone nut, set up and partial refinish how does it really stack up?
Tone wise you're not going to get a noticeable difference between the two as the voiced Signature Fishmans are really the star of the show. They would sound pretty much the same regardless of the guitar unless it was semi hollow or something else radically different from a solid body electric guitar.
So where's the down side?
The real deficit is encountered away from straight sound capture in an area of consideration often overlooked by guitarists, but is just as important to the player. That is "user experience" or as Guitarists dub it "feel".
There is a world of difference between a high level quality controlled, Japanese Luthiered neck-through-body instrument. And a Chinese made, basic QC, bolt on neck guitar.
Now that said, it doesn't mean we can't go to town and make this bird sing. The ESP might be a sleek Corvette but we are going to put a 426 Hemi engine in this LTD Datsun 120y, and take it to the streets!
The main way I have brought a more satisfying feel to this instrument was to address the most glaringly suspect aspect of its design. That being the lack of appropriate finishing on the neck.
This neck must have been sprayed in a dusty environment as the back poly was quite rough, the opposite of the sleek slippery feel favoured by most players.
To combat this issue I micro mesh wet sanded the neck from 1500 grit to 12000 then completed the finish with fine cut compound and montan wax guitar polish to achieve a truly frictionless finish. Making this riffstick feel so fast it's like i rubbed it down with Cheetah blood and KY then shot it out of a US Navy rail gun.
So while still not quite as luxurious as its super expensive counterpart, this riffstick is now an absolute unit of thrashological wonderment.
Always bear in mind that improvements can be made on an instrument, but the foundation you build on is always a constant.