Upgrading a Samick Greg Bennett AV3 Les Paul copy

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by kiwi blue, Jun 19, 2021.

  1. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    I promised a forum member I’d post about this project, so here we go …

    I helped a lefty friend replace the neck pickup in his Greg Bennett AV3 and the guitar stayed with me for a week or two, so I played it of course. I liked how it felt and played, and the shorter Gibson scale was a nice change after years playing mostly Teles and Strats. I quite liked the new neck pickup but the stock bridge pickup was on the dull side and overwound for my tastes.

    A couple of months later he bought a Strat and offered the AV3 to me at a price that was hard to resist, and … well resistance is futile ;-)

    The guitar is nicely made, with good “bones”. I felt it could be made to sound better. The work I’ve done on Fender types has taught me how pickups and bridges can shape the sound, but I knew very little about humbuckers and tuneomatic bridges. This seemed like a good project to learn about these things.

    It’s not finished yet, but here’s where it’s up to ...


    Pickups

    I started by removing the plated brass covers from the pickups. This opened up the high end and even the stock bridge pickup was quite useable.

    Then I tried a few pickups and settled on a cheap as chips Donlis humbucker in the neck. (NZ$30.) It’s the uncovered DH22 alnico 2 and measured 7.3k. Great humbucker. Clear but plenty of body and really nice with overdrive. I had an A5 pickup with about the same DCR in there before and liked it, but the A2 is much nicer.

    The bridge position isn’t settled yet. It will probably get the matching Donlis A2 8.3k. I also have nickel silver covers to put on both pickups once I know which ones I’ll use.


    Bridge and tailpiece

    The stock hardware is decent quality zinc alloy stuff. No different to the vast majority of LP type guitars and actually pretty good considering the guitar retails for less than a Squier Affinity. But me being me, I wanted to know if it could be improved.

    This was the big learning curve. Took me quite a while to get my head around the various options for Gibson style bridges. Metric and imperial, different bridge anchoring, different metals, etc.

    I started with an aluminium tailpiece and metric steel studs from Amplified Parts. Less than US$30 all up. I also ordered a metric ABM type bridge with brass saddles from Faber Germany, along with steel studs and 8mm steel anchors.

    The tailpiece arrived first so I tried that out. The new TP weighs 34g, and the old one is 77g. That’s quite a difference. Big audible difference too. There was much more clarity in the bass strings, more sparkle, and overall just a real lively feel when playing. Success!

    Then the Faber stuff arrived a few days later, so I spent yesterday installing that. It looks and feels like solid, quality stuff. Installation was pretty straightforward. Replacing the alloy anchors for the bridge and tailpiece was relatively easy, but you do need an 8mm bolt on hand to use as a tool. (Basically you screw the bolt down until it comes up against the wood beneath the anchor, then the anchor gently eases out as you continue to turn the bolt.)

    Once it was all together and adjusted, I was disappointed. It didn’t ring out at all well. Then I remembered the saddles only had small starter slots cut in them. Duh-oh! I needed to deepen them using nut files and get the strings seated properly. Once that was done I was very happy. I still had the clarity and sparkle gained from the aluminium TP, but with a little more body and punch.

    Overall, both the TP and the bridge made a difference, but the TP was the big one for me.

    Next on the list:

    • Adjust intonation on the new bridge (it comes roughly set, but for right handed use of course)
    • Replace pots with left-handed 500k pots (reverse taper). I do this on all my guitars so the taper works better for lefty use.
    • Rewire with 50s wiring
    • Replace bridge pickup.

    Did somebody say pics? This is the guitar as of this morning. The pickguard looks white in the pic but it’s actually a nice cream colour. I’m not so fond of the gaudy tiger stripes and crimson burst, but I’m getting used to it.

    body.jpeg bridge & tp 2.jpeg
     
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  2. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    Oh year, trivia titbit ... underneath the stock bridge you could see where the word EPIPHONE has been half rubbed off. All from the same factory in Indonesia.
     
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  3. Boblets

    Boblets Friend of Leo's

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    Hey Bro, that looks like a nice upgrade.

    I have a lefty Samick SAN 450, a 335 clone in which I installed a pair of Mick Brierley humbuckers. http://www.brierleyguitarpickups.com.au

    I've tried replacing pots with lefty reverse taper CTS one but never have much success in getting and degree of tone change, just on/off.
     
  4. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    Thanks Boblets. I've only heard good things about Brierly pups. How do you find them?

    When you were wiring up lefty pots, did you flip the wiring mirrorwise or did you just follow the standard diagram for right handers?

    If the diagram shows a wire to the left terminal of the pot, you need to wire it to the right terminal, and vice versa. That way there should be a nice gradual taper as you turn down the pot. That on/off effect sounds like you may have wired them right handed.
     
  5. naveed211

    naveed211 Friend of Leo's

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    Those Greg Bennett guitars are quite nice for the price.

    My friend had an Avion (AV7 I think? the LP Custom looking one) years ago when we were in a band. Always really liked playing it, though I do recall the pickups being super bland and flat sounding. Very Epiphone-ish so that makes total sense.

    Enjoy it.
     
  6. Boblets

    Boblets Friend of Leo's

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    kiwi blue, the Brierley pickups are really good, very clear, robust sound. My Samick sounds just like a Gibson, I'm sure :rolleyes:

    I've tried to follow left handed wiring diagrams, with mixed success. It might be that I never play very loud so may not be able to detect much graduation in tone.
     
  7. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah the pickups are a weak point, just like a lot of Epiphones. Just removing the brass covers helps open them up. And I'm impressed by this Donlis pickup. It's as good as anything else and dirt cheap.
     
  8. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Blue, a couple of quick comments. Nice looking guitar and kind of rare to find a true lefty. I built a lefty 335 for a friend because he couldn't find exactly what he wanted. You say you aren't too familiar with gibson style bridges and setups - here are some thoughts.

    It is common to have the ToM slightly angled. The high E stud is usually put about 1/16 inch past the uncompensated scale length, the low E stud can be 1/8 to 3/16 past the scale. That should give you sufficient travel to compensate for normal string gauges. Here is a picture of the 335, you can see the tilt to the bridge

    IMG_2837.JPG

    Electronics are just the RH version mirrored, held in the playing position the upper knobs are the neck, lower are bridge and switch works that way - up is neck, down in bridge. I do the modern wiring variation where one volume control doesn't kill both pups - I play a lot in the middle position.

    One of the things that I discussed with my friend what which way the pots turn (and whether I should try to source log taper pots with the taper going the other way). He insisted that CW was always louder/brighter, standard pots were fine.

    I'll let you choose pups - I've used a variety and this guitar has some vintage PAF style that sound pretty good for classic rock and blues. I built a similar guitar (right handed) for a jazz friend and put a set of SD Benedettos in it - I liked those so much I put them in my jazz guitar.

    One of the most frustrating things about building a bass-ackwards guitar is that I couldn't really test it before passing it to my friend. Oh well, he makes it sound good.

    Edit to add, I've been using strictly Gotoh modern style bridges on any of my ToM builds - they work fine and have the options I want. I know a purest will have nothing but an ABR-1, I just don't like the idea of 6-32 machine stud screwed into a piece of wood.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2021
  9. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    I have some guitars with righty pots wired right handed, ie, CW to turn them up. Others have reverse taper pots wired the other way, ie, CCW to turn them up. Either one is fine by me, so long as it has the useable taper. Although if you're into volume swells with the pinky on a Tele it's a little easier with CCW on a lefty guitar.

    What I don't like is normal log pots wired left handed (which is what the vast majority of manufacturers do). You basically have all the changes happening in a very small part of the pot's travel, which makes it harder to fine tune the setting and/or work the controls while playing.

    What are your thoughts on the bridge mounting system in Asian made guitars like this, where the bridge posts screw into 8mm anchor bushings like those on a ToM tailpiece, instead of directly into the wood?
     
  10. KennyWTelejazz

    KennyWTelejazz Tele-Meister

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    I have a Samick Avion 3 . I have had this guitar for around 12 years . Someday I may change the pick ups . For now I think it sounds OK

    Kenny
     
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  11. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    There are three different styles of ToM bridges - the ABR1 which has the 6-32 machine stud screwed directly into the wood, the so called Nashville with the M5x.8 and the "modern"with M8x1.25 threaded studs. I know that the ABR1 have a big following because thats what the vintage lesters had, people even convert new guitars to that that design. I just think its a bad idea to have the small threads that were intended to be threaded into metal instead installed in wood. I've worked on old guitars with ABR1's, if thats what they had I leave them alone.

    The guitars I build all get the modern large bushings pressed into the proper sized hole. I have no strong reason other than the work just fine.

    ps - if I was doing a guitar with a wrap around bridge (LP jr or something) I would want very good studs to resist the rotational torque at the bridge. With a stop bar or a trapeze tailpiece its not as important
     
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