Other Guitars

The virtues of Epiphone


This photo more clearly shows Smith’s apparent Tremotone modification. He apparently unscrewed the string anchor bar from the vibrato bar/axle, and welded it to the flat metal part at the top of the unit. This mod is obviously somewhat questionable in terms of altering an original part on a very valuable guitar, but it would be even more effective (in terms of increasing the break angle and shortening the string length) than simply re-routing the strings to bypass the vibrato bar.


For reference, this photo shows the parts I referred to above.

Any thoughts on this are welcomed, although I don’t plan to modify my Sheraton like this!


Proteus - that Emperor you linked to is probably a nice guitar but I agree - not worth that much. The prices on some old Matsumoku stuff is getting silly. Some of the 80s Sheratons are going for 335 money. The 80s Sheratons - as long as they are Matsumoku (they could be Korean) are great, but part of the reason they were so good is that (a) Gibsons in that era weren't necessarily great, and (b) they were a helluva lot cheaper back then. As in around 1/4 the price of the Gibson but way better than 1/4 the quality.

That Emperor doesn't even have a wooden base to the bridge. It's fixed like a 330 bridge. So the geometry is all wrong for a big archtop. At least the Elitist Broadway is built correctly for a Gibson style archtop. The Elitist series of Epiphones is/was excellent but suffered for being too close in price to used Gibsons. And despite being well-built guitars they aren't as good as a Gibson. I had an early Elitist Sheraton with the historically correct mini-HBs and it played beautifully but never had the resonance of a decent Gibson.

– JimmyR

The Emperor in Proteus' link is an Emperor Thinline --- hence the fixed bridge. It also had a centerblock, so is actually a semi-hollow, rather than a true hollow body. Matsumoku also made a full-depth, fully hollow version (with wooden bridge base). I've played a few, and they were excellent. They were not built in large numbers, though, so like the Epiphone Elitists, the prices have gone nuts. I paid about $1,700 for a like-new Elitist Broadway in 2011 without a case. Now they're hovering around $2,500 when they show up at all, so $1,800 for an 80's Emperor is probably the going rate. A used Gibson L-5 in decent shape is likely to be in the $5k to $6k range --- or more --- so the Matsumoku Emperors and Elitist Broadways are still the best alternative. The other options would be Heritage (I've never had my hands on one to evaluate), Peerless, or Eastman, but they aren't quite as close to the original design.

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