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|08-30-2010, 03:43 PM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Broomfield, CO
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
NGD - Emperion Norax 7
So, my new 7 string from Emperion finally arrived late last week and I've spent the weekend getting it setup and testing it out. I apologize for the lack of traditional unboxing pics, but my good camera's battery died the day I received the guitar, so right now all I have is a shitty iPhone pic (more detailed pics to come along with a recorded comparison with my Gibson 6 string).
Here's my 3-day review of the guitar. I've gotta say overall that I dig it, but I list the pros and cons below.
Intonation - Right out of the box the intonation on this guitar was dead-on for BEADGBE tuning. Even though the tuners are non-locking (which I generally prefer), the tuning was stable over a few hours before I switched out the strings for a heavier gauge. One additional nice feature was that the saddles were nearly centered on the bridge, which left me room to pull them back for my intended GCFEbBbGC tuning using gauges .064, .052, .042, .030, .017, .013, .010. Seems like a lot of guys on this forum like to play with bridge cables on their guitars, but for this one I'm starting light on the low-G to hopefully get chords to "mesh" decently. I might go heavier if it's too floppy. Tuning stability on the G is currently not so great, which might be a result of the light string. I'll be switching out the tuners to Schallers pretty soon, so we'll see how that helps things.
Setup - The initial action on the guitar was too low for my taste, and led to significant buzzing on all the strings. The neck was quite straight out of the box, and bridge was set low on the treble side. After some truss rod (loosening) and bridge adjustments I have a largely buzz-free setup and have found one buzzy fret (13th fret on Bb string). If you order one of these, expect to either set it up yourself or pay to have it done by a pro. I guess this isn't so uncommon for internationally-shipped guitars.
The fretwork seems good overall. I see no pitting on any of the frets and they look and feel nicely-crowned. My one gripe about them is that the filing on the edges is a bit rough to the eye. You can see the file marks on the sides, but I haven't been cut on any of them yet, so at least they're sufficiently smoothed-over for playing.
Hardware - The bridge doesn't seem like a Gotoh, so I'm not sure if that spec is correct. It feels solid, but a couple of the saddles look beat up, and none of my other Gotoh bridges have shown this kind of wear. I was almost able to intonate the bass strings to the GCF tuning, but the saddle screws were rather sticky and didn't allow me to pull them all the way back. I've still got about 0.05"-0.10" of space to go back, so I'll probably either change the saddles or the entire bridge to get the rest of the travel.
I had the Emperion guys install EMG pickups before shipment (81-7 bridge and 707 neck). The pickups arrived correctly installed and wired, and the volume and tone knobs are the correct 25k values, so no complaints there (I know other people have received incorrect pickups, so I'm thankful about this). I had to add some foam underneath the pickups to get them to my preferred height (just beneath the depressed strings), but they had initially installed ~0.5"-thick blocks.
As I mentioned, the tuners are of the non-locking variety and give fairly stable tuning stability for the top 6 strings (C-C). Due mainly to paranoia, I'll be switching these to Schaller mini-locking tuners soon. I have these on my Warmoth 6-string V and that thing NEVER goes out.
Tone - I've only played this through my Line 6 Guitarport software so far, but the sound of the top 6 strings with the EMGs (81-7 (b) and 707(n)) is identical to that of my Gibson Gothic V w/ 81(b), 85(n) in the same C standard tuning (will post clips soon). I dare say the Emperion has more treble sustain than both my Gibson and Warmoth Vs. One complaint is that, when I'm tuned exactly to C on the 6th string, the Emperion has a strange resonance through the neck and body. I've muted the strings behind the nut and bridge and just can't pinpoint where it's happening (maybe the truss rod??). Thankfully, even when recording completely clean I can't hear any of that resonance on a recorded track when compared to my 6-string guitars, so I'm not too worried.
Playability - The neck on this guitar feels quite comfortable to my hands. I've played a lot of Schecter 7s, and this neck seems thinner than those (of course, it's not nearly as thin as the Wizard 7). The closest neck comparison I can make is to the LTD Stephen Carpenter 7.
Some people have complained about upper fret access due to the wider body shape at the heel, and I agree that reaching the 23rd and 24th frets is a chore. I have no trouble at all hitting 22 and below, so I get by just fine. However, if you like to do sweeps or anything intricate above fret 21 or 22, you're in trouble with this design.
The neck has a compound radius from 10"-16", but feels flatter than 16" near the heel. I'm not sure if it's just me getting used to the 7 or if it truly is super-flat. I like this, but some people may prefer a more rounded profile.
Cosmetics - This is truly where the guitar shows its $400 price tag. As seen in the pic, I got the white w/ black bevels. The white paint job seems fine with no 'orange peel' or other bad attributes. However, the black bevels leave a lot to be desired. You can see that the black paint doesn't extend all the way up the bevel, but instead just terminates about 3-4" from the neck. I'll probably fix this myself with some 1/8" pinstriping tape and glossy black paint, but it's a bit annoying. Also, the black bevels show some 'bleed' on the back due to poor masking of the body during painting. Thankfully, the front doesn't have this, but I might've gotten lucky.
The pickup routes for the EMGs have some leftover gaps from the original pickup route 'wings'. I've seen this on other guitars that originally housed passives, so maybe it's unavoidable, but the original routes for this could've also just been too wide.
The nut is cut slightly too short, so it's not flush with either side of the fingerboard. I place this under cosmetic issues because it seems perfectly centered, just not cut to the correct length.
The binding has the worst cosmetic flaws. From the side, it almost looks like there's masking tape or something similar covering the binding from the 3rd fret to the 24th. I fear it may be difficult to make out some of the side fret markers on a dark stage if I can't sand this away.
Conclusion - So, all that said, I'm pretty happy with the purchase. Given that it plays and sounds great, has a killer V shape, and looks a bit custom for only $400 ($600 w/ EMGs), I'm satisfied. I think after some locking tuners and possibly a new bridge this will be a great live/studio guitar. I'll also do a fret level when I get a chance, just to get things perfect. For a lot of people, the cosmetic flaws will understandably be deal-breakers. Since you won't see most of these more than 2 ft. from the stage, I don't care so much.
If you have experience setting up guitars and performing minor modifications, I think this 7 is a pretty good deal. Reading posts on this forum, the quality seems to vary a lot, so be ready to do some tweaks. My final complaint is that it took a month to actually receive this thing, so a lot of the excitement wore off by then. If these guys can get the cosmetic issues under control and actually get the factory to cut their proposed guitar designs, I think they'll have a future.