Donnerstag, 29. Oktober 2020

Headless 7-string from Aliexpress

Since before I finally decided to risk it and buy this thing I was desperate for some detail information. Hence here's what I would have liked to know before. First of all, this is it:

 
I bought a Fender HN148638 guitar stand for it, it has individually adjustable arms and fits perfectly.

Now let's get to the details.  

Shipping and costs

The instrument took very long to get here, almost two months. I don't blame the seller, on its way it was stuck at Beijing airport for several weeks, and when I asked the seller I got a prompt reply, it seems like flights were suspended for a while, probably due to Corona virus. OK. Bad luck. 

The instrument including gig bag cost 650 US-$, which was about 555 Euro when I ordered it. On top came 112 Euro German customs, so overall the instrument cost 667 Euro.
 

What I got

The instrument in its gig bag arrived in a polystyrol box which seemed well secure enough. It is a solid body and hence quite heavy.

The quality I'd call still OK, no terrible flaws, but a few smaller ones:
 

As we can see in the picture in two locations the nicely grained top layer is damaged in two locations, this is purely cosmetic, but still...

Almost absurd: the box for the tremolo's springs on the back was made so wide that two of the cover's screws had nowhere to go. So they just glued some small pieces of wood in - and set one of the screws excactly between both sides right into the glue layer, so that the piece went off right away. Looks like here somebody had his first go at building in a tremolo bridge. Not a big deal and easy to repair, but nevertheless...

The instrument was not very well adjusted. The neck needed some correction, and the action was set far too low. No sharp fret ends, but some dead frets. This got better after some time - the wood "settled", some truss rod adjusting and bridge fine tuning resulted in a quite playable instrument without needing to correct any individual frets.

Once set up properly the neck is nice. The fret board is flat, almost like on a classical guitar, and it's pretty wide which will take some getting used to, in particular with small hands like mine. The neck is asymmetric from the back. I'm pretty sure I'll love this, though now it's of course still too early. The same applies to the fanned frets.

It took me some while to find out how to adjust the action: The height is configured from the top using two very small socket screws. However, achtung!, first the each saddle needs to be loosened using another socket screw facing the pickup (hardly visible in the picture). This construction avoids losing any of those small parts when changing strings, but it makes adjustments a pain. 

The tremolo arm is supposed to be held in position by another socket screw, but this isn't a very smart construction, because it is metal on metal. The arm never stays in position, hence replaced it by a Schaller part for Floyd Rose trems. It fits like a glove and works much better. With a 009 set of D'Addario strings I need all 3 springs in the back to hold the bridge in a low position (which is what I prefer).

As expected the pickups are not world class, but for me they sound OK. I had hoped they'd be splittable, but, no, only a simple three way switch, no push-push or push-pull toggles, everything stock simple - but, interestingly, the middle position combines the two pickups out of phase which is kind of nice (I've never seen the point in combining a bridge and neck humbucker, hence this turns out to be a really nice addon).

While not using the trem the instrument stays in tune just fine. Otherwise I'd call the tuning stability still OK, sometimes I need to touch the tremolo arm just another time in order to fix things.

The headless tuners work OK, I'll get along with them.

Regrets?

None (yet). I hae now set up the instrument to be well playable. The sound is OK for me. I struggle a bit with its weight (it may well be OK for others, but I tend to suffer from some back problems from time to time). I am not quite sure yet whether a guitar with a tremolo system is for me (I actually bought this instrument in order to find out). So if this instrument pops up at Ebay at some moment you'll now why :)

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