Kiesel Stay or Go?

Marc Morfei

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I’m set with 2 good teles and a good semi-hollow. But I’ve been on a seemingly endless quest to settle on one Gibson-scale solidbody to fill out my self-imposed 4-guitar lineup. I’ve tried a bunch, from low-price to high, and I can’t find one that has the right combination of features. I buy everything used and re-sell, so fortunately it hasn’t cost me too much money, but I need this search to be over and just pick one.

I’ve tried a few modestly-priced options like Epiphone, Yamaha, and lower-end Gibsons. I liked them all OK, but would have had to swap pickups and a done couple other things to be satisfied. Then I found a good deal on a used Gibson LP Classic and that was clearly better than those others, so that has been my choice for a while. But the neck pickup (Burstbucker) is just too muddy for me, and I if I was to keep this I would need to modify some of the electronics (I won’t go into it). So now I have an expensive guitar and I still need to put more money into it?

So that led me to my latest find: A Kiesel CS6, their version of a Les Paul (sorta). Wow, this guitar is great. The overall quality is very impressive. Just perfect in every way. More toward the PRS realm than a Gibson, I’d say. The question is the sound, which is great in its own way, but so much different than any other guitar I have ever tried. It is very, very bright. It’s the opposite of the LP. I had a good conversation with the seller about it, and almost every aspect of the guitar contributes to its brightness (SS frets, fancy caps, etc). But the main thing is he put in Bare Knuckle pickups, a VHII and Nailbomb. Those are pretty high output (7.9, 15.7) especially in the bridge, and tailored more toward high-gain. So now I’m wondering if I swap in more vintage-sounding pickups how much would that tame the brightness and mellow it out? Or I could mod the Les Paul the ways I was thinking. Or just dump both these and go back where I started to a low-cost platform and mod that. (But as they say, it’s hard to go back to the farm after you’ve seen Par-ee.)

Aargh, decisions. There is no way you guys can answer this for me, I know that. Just sharing. Anyone have and insights or advice, have at it. Thanks.
 

schmee

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What wood is the body?
I have not had good luck changing the natural sound of a given instrument by changing to similar pickups. ie: humbucker for humbucker. Minor change maybe, but the main sound of the guitar never changed.
I asked about the wood because I put 7 different pickups in an all maple body once and nothing changed.


"Those are pretty high output (7.9, 15.7) especially in the bridge, and tailored more toward high-gain. So now I’m wondering if I swap in more vintage-sounding pickups how much would that tame the brightness and mellow it out? "

My guess is vintage lower wind will make it brighter yet.
 

chris m.

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Sounds like you like two guitars-- the Kiesel and the LP. But neither sounds quite right. I would pick which ever you like the best for how it feels and how it makes you feel-- the looks, everything-- and then change out the pickups.

But I suspect the LP will be easier to get exactly where you want it in terms of sound. Any of the PAF reissues would do the job--Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, Gibson, or even many of the cheaper ones such as those reviewed by Antigua Tele on TDPRI. You could add push-push or push-pull pots to give you parallel or coil split for even more options.

On the Kiesel it might be as simple as putting in 250k pots instead of 500k pots to dial back the brightness. Would be a very cheap thing to try. It may also be that a slight twist of the tone knob gives you exactly the tone you want, no mods needed.

Another great option on the Kiesel would be to switch out the tone pot(s) for a Stellartone tone knob. It's a Varitone style switch that actually works. As you dial it you get less bright tones, but they're not muddy like a typical tone knob.


 
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Si G X

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Don't have much advice, but I will say those Bare Knuckles are very bright and clear so when they are covered in high gain metal distortion they still remain bright and clear and don't get flubby in the low end.

Considering what you could sell them for I think they are worth changing. Have you tried the Burstbuckers in it?
 

DekeDog

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I own a Carvin SH550 with stock S-22 buckers (no longer available), and I own an LP Std stocked with Burstbucker Pros. First off, the BBs have much more articulation, brightness, and output than, say, '57 Classics (which to my ear are relatively muddy), but are no where near as bright, clear and articulate as the Carvins. I tend to think that Carvin pickups (and probably Kiesel, too) are just that way... the cleanest, brightest, most articulate humbuckers I've ever played. I have no idea how BBs would sound in the Carvin or in a Kiesel and how much the electronics in, and construction of, the Kiesel contribute to the clarity of their pickups. So, to answer your question, I have no idea. But I suspect that BBs in a Kiesel CS6 (which is basically the same as a Carvin CS6) are still gonna sound a lot like BBs in an LP. I could be wrong.

I've toyed with the idea of putting boutique pure PAFs in my Carvin, but I actually like the sound of the stock S-22s. They don't sound anything like anything else, and I find that refreshing.
 
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Marc Morfei

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Thanks everyone for the excellent comments. I might stick a set of Pearly Gates in the Kiesel and see what happens. It's a really nice guitar, it would be good to get it working the way I want.
 

Jakedog

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I haven’t had a Kiesel yet, but I have had several Carvins. One of them, a Bolt Plus HH that I custom ordered, was a very bright guitar. Factory pickups- too bright. SD ‘59 set? WAY too bright. Switching to 250k pots? This will make no sense to most of you, but it turned into bright mud. Just weird sounding. Rolling off the tone knob just made it sound like garbage.

I finally settled on a DiMarzio set, Air Norton in the neck and Tone Zone bridge. It was a slight improvement, but way too much output at that point, and still really bright. I finally sold it. Which made me sad because the build quality and playability were far superior to anything else in its price range.

The point I’m eventually getting to, is that some guitars are just too bright.
 

Marc Morfei

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I haven’t had a Kiesel yet, but I have had several Carvins. One of them, a Bolt Plus HH that I custom ordered, was a very bright guitar. Factory pickups- too bright. SD ‘59 set? WAY too bright. Switching to 250k pots? This will make no sense to most of you, but it turned into bright mud. Just weird sounding. Rolling off the tone knob just made it sound like garbage.

I finally settled on a DiMarzio set, Air Norton in the neck and Tone Zone bridge. It was a slight improvement, but way too much output at that point, and still really bright. I finally sold it. Which made me sad because the build quality and playability were far superior to anything else in its price range.

The point I’m eventually getting to, is that some guitars are just too bright.
Thanks. Yeah, that’s what I will have to decide. The current pickups in the Kiesel are a Bare Knuckle set for high gain. But I have no idea how much that is contributing to the sound, which is not only bright but kind of metallic. I’m looking for something more vintage. Actually the Air Norton seems like a really good option for the neck. Maybe I’ll try that.

As in your case, the guitar otherwise is fantastic. It feels and plays and looks like a work of art. And for a very fair price. I want to try to make it work.
 

Marc Morfei

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Have you tried turning down the tone knob?

What amp are you using?
Well yeah, but it does not do the trick. Takes the harshness out. But oddly the brightness is still there until it sounds underwater. I could probably work with the bridge pickup. But the neck pickup is way too brittle.
 

chris m.

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Well yeah, but it does not do the trick. Takes the harshness out. But oddly the brightness is still there until it sounds underwater. I could probably work with the bridge pickup. But the neck pickup is way too brittle.
I think the Stellartone varitone pot would do the trick, seriously. It's exactly what it's designed to do. Shifts the resonance peak lower, which is different from what a typical tone knob does.
 

Marc Morfei

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I think the Stellartone varitone pot would do the trick, seriously. It's exactly what it's designed to do. Shifts the resonance peak lower, which is different from what a typical tone knob does.
Thanks, I had never heard of that. I’ll check it out.
 

teletimetx

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Just wanted to see some pictures. These are from a CME listing, already gone.

F2DB84B9-AFC8-4747-A442-05724B4584D3.jpeg
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A87E76C3-1EEE-4CCA-BC51-923DD663AD6D.jpeg
 

ucnick

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I have a Carvin CS6 from around 2012 or so, ordered it directly from them (I have 4 Carvins - two Bolts, a CT6, and the CS6), love it, not too heavy, and love the tones.

I like Carvin pups, I've actually put them in a few guitars over the years, a goldtop 2005 Les Paul Standard (the stock pups were BB, I think, kind of brittle, which I did not care for) and an 90s SG Standard, among others, they seem to really work well with mahogany short-scale bodies for some reason.
 

Chud

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I've owned a few Carvin guitars over the years - a 90's SC90 with M22 buckers and all the tap trimmings, and an AC375 custom to my specs - both were phenomenal guitars. I haven't owned a Kiesel yet, but it's the same family members from the guitar side of the house so i can't imagine the quality would be any different. I'd hope not anyway since their pricing has definitely increased in recent years.

I used to live in San Diego and would go wander through their showroom warehouse every now and then and drool.
 

Marc Morfei

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I haven’t had a Kiesel yet, but I have had several Carvins. One of them, a Bolt Plus HH that I custom ordered, was a very bright guitar. Factory pickups- too bright. SD ‘59 set? WAY too bright. Switching to 250k pots? This will make no sense to most of you, but it turned into bright mud. Just weird sounding. Rolling off the tone knob just made it sound like garbage.

I finally settled on a DiMarzio set, Air Norton in the neck and Tone Zone bridge. It was a slight improvement, but way too much output at that point, and still really bright. I finally sold it. Which made me sad because the build quality and playability were far superior to anything else in its price range.

The point I’m eventually getting to, is that some guitars are just too bright.
Yeah, I have reached the same conclusion with my Kiesel. I removed the treble bleed and changed the caps, and those things made a marginal difference. But after continuing the play it, and compare to my other guitars, I've decided there is something in the character of the guitar that is just too bright for me. I don't feel like it will be worth it to spend the time and money on pickup swaps. As you said, this is sad, because the quality is fantastic. It feels and plays so great. Another person will love love love this. But it just wasn't me. Oh well.

Anyone wants a Kiesel, let me know. It is fantastic. Just.... very bright.
 
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