NGD Charvel Govan Baked Ash

Discussion in 'Standard Guitars' started by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Feb 28, 2018.

  1. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Enjoyed by 4 out of 5

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    I understand that many of our fine, registered posters here in the Epiphone Talk ® subforum click threads with a text title, only to be faced with the offensive sight of a post with more text - So let’s get photos out of the way:


    [​IMG]


    The recent NGD Kiesel that was sold the next day inspired me to post this thread several days after selling the titular guitar.

    I’ve wanted to try a Charvel Govan since its 2012 teasing, mainly in hope of it being a worthy competitor to my favored superstrat (a Vigier). The opportunity finally presented itself when someone listed a ‘17 Caramalized Ash on Reverb for a “The Cartel Has Begun Mailing Me Toes” price.

    My first impression was that the body (supposedly reduced in scale from the standard 22 fret San Dimas shape in order to remain proportionate to the 24 frets) was quite a bit larger than that of my Vigier. To get a sense of the guitar bodies I’m accustomed to, here’s the Charvel pictured next to a Parker and some purple toy guitar my four year-old daughter got at Toys R Us:

    [​IMG]

    The body has a very delicate finish that feels oiled and smells of ignited pixie stix. The neck finish feels like more of a standard satin. The neck carve is more substantial than what most would associate with a “shredder”, but by no means is it a baseball bat. The first detail to disturb me was the factory action:

    [​IMG]

    That may seem nice and low to some, but it was at a height I associate with 9.5” radius American stratocasters. Apparently this is Guthrie’s preference?

    In fact, the strings are raised to the necessary height for pulling the trem up to the end of its routed range (More than a major 4th) without the notes choking out. Thankfully, the fretwork is immaculate and, in conjunction with the conical radius, you can indeed lower the action until the strings are effectively sitting on the frets, and they’re not liable to choke while bending.

    [​IMG]

    This is where the “failure to integrate” problems begin to present themselves.

    Guthrie, at the end of the day, essentially looked at a 22 fret San Dimas and said “let’s incorporate stuff from my current signature Suhr into this existing design and sell that.” He then spent about two years deciding what he wanted to glow in the dark.

    This resulted in a signature guitar that I describe as being a hodgepodge of features that sabotage one another.

    Firstly, lowering the strings to the action allowed by the radius and fret leveling just lowers them into the non-adjustable bridge pickup that sits twice as tall in the route as the neck and middle pickups do:

    [​IMG]

    The direct-mounted pickups are routed so that the baseplate rests snugly against the wood - Meaning they’re very much non-adjustable from their factory-set height unless the owner is willing to route the cavities deeper to lower them, or shim them with foam to raise them.

    This strictly aesthetic choice undermines the functional choice of the frets and fingerboard radius: The guitar is set up to allow an action lower than what the bridge pickup allows it to be lowered to - The strings just sit against the pole pieces.

    So I raised the action back to where it was (to ensure I had the factory-set distance between the strings and pickups), and shimmed the neck. Thankfully, this workaround was as effective as it was embarrassing.

    Next, we have a component that isn’t immediately disturbing, but that gradually exposes the fatally-compromised system that’s been established:

    The Sperzel locking tuners had multiple string wraps. That detail may elicit a “so what?” reaction from the unacquainted; so I’ll touch on it:

    When you pull strings taut through locking tuners, lock them in place, then clip the excess, it removes the wraps that slacken and return out-of-tune following bending or trem use. Having multiple wraps of strings around locking tuner posts defeats their singular purpose. It came as no surprise when light trem use wrecked havoc on the tuning. I remedied this puzzling setup, and photographed the tuners just before clipping the A (to give you an idea of how much excess had been wrapped around the posts):

    [​IMG]

    I’ll come back to adress the nut. For now, I shift attention to the bridge:

    The original Floyd Rose bridge was essentially a two-point strat trem with locking saddles - Which is exactly the role being portrayed, here. Guthrie doesn’t like locking nuts or fine tuners, but the saddle radius needs to be much flatter on his signature guitar’s bridge than the ten inch reproductions of the original Floyd Rose are fabricated to. And, so, we arrive at one of the contributions toward why these guitars are so expensive: This Floyd knock-off is proprietary, and produced on a tiny scale. All for the sake of the fixed radius. Apparently, a height-adjustable saddle (such as you’d find on the first prototype of this guitar) wasn’t as ecomically viable as the far more expensive alternative they settled on.

    Another quirk is that the flange of each trem post is wider than the space routed behind the baseplate. The consequence of this is that you have no room to perform the Floyd trick of pulling the trem out of the guitar for setups while the strings remain attached to the tuners - In fact, you couldnt anyway; due to the strings being pulled taut and locked into the tuners as a condition of their operation resulting in not having the slack necessary to lift the bridge off the posts. Apparently, this is why the strings were wound around the posts of the locking tuners.

    To reiterate:

    The tuning stability of the proprietary bridge design chosen for tuning stability was compromised with improper string installation into the tuners chosen for tuning stability, for the sake of ease in adjusting the bridge and non-adjustable pickups. If you want to restore tuning stability, you have to remove the ease of adjustment, necessitating detuning the strings entirely and/or unscrewing the trem posts any time you need to remove the bridge.

    In case it isn’t clear: Such considerations are not present, much less necessary, when dealing with a standard, double-locking trem.

    Basically, a non-Floyd user sabotaged every positive effect and biproduct Floyd users take for granted in order to make a guitar with a Floyd Rose more palatable to someone who doesn’t like Floyds, mainly through the effort of reinstating every downside and cause for frustration that the standard Floyd design eliminates:

    -Strings requiring sufficient headstock angle to exert necessary downward force at the nut
    -Strings binding or breaking at the tuner post
    -Strings binding at the nut
    -The absence of fine-tuners necessitating the frustration of having to tune the strings in increments once the trem is balanced to float
    -The string length behind the nut creating enough slack for the strings to come out of the saddle-slots when depressing the bar and, finally,
    -The combination of all the preceding factors necessitating the old stratocaster trick of compensating for detuning by pulling up on the trem to forcibly reseat the strings to their “zero point.”

    And this is largely accomplished with an expensive, proprietary bridge that is fabricated exclusively for this guitar.

    Drink in the beauty of it, folks: This is a modern sculpture exploring the concept of fixing something until it’s broke.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Enjoyed by 4 out of 5

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    Back to the nut: It’s bone. Fine. It’s a sig guitar, and the guy prefers a bone nut. With a Floyd Rose.

    Long story short, this guitar was a tuning nightmare. Not only does the nut require regular lubrication to function only as well as previously described, but the slots weren’t cut right at the factory.

    The guitar ships with a 10-46 set, and even a 9-42 set was binding in the slots. Quick fix with a file, I know - But at this price? Govan supposedly settled on bone after he toured with a graphite nut and found that the strings that moved the most with trem activity gradually sawed through it - But he also settled on an oil body finish that scrapes off as soon as you forget to clip your penis toenail; so I don’t see why forcing owners of the production model to pit a Floyd Rose against a bone nut needed to be conceded in the name of authenticity.

    I owned the guitar for a little over a month. Much of the time spent with the guitar in that span was spent missing the Floyd Rose fine tuners with every fiber of my being while I calibrated the trem to return to zero with a pull-up. Every session of sitting down with the guitar got off to that sour start. Then, the next day, I’d pick up the guitar and find it out-of-tune.

    Once I got to the point of picking up literally any other guitar over the one I knew would require such intensive foreplay, it was easy to leave the thing in its case.

    Most of the time spent with the guitar was not spent playing, but rather struggling to overcome its shortcomings. Not just tuning stability, but its electronic quirks:

    The guitar has EVH frictionless pots. Meaning that, if you happen to be accustomed to turning guitar knobs possessing more friction than none, the Charvel knobs have a tendency to spin to the end of their travel and rebound back.

    I was really looking forward to the Michael Frank Braun-designed pickups. I have a set of his Eric Johnson pickups in one of my toys; and was curious to hear how they compared: The neck humbucker is surprisingly tame, I found the middle single coil unremarkable, and the bridge humbucker had a horrible midrange squawk that I couldn’t dial out. I spent most of the month fighting an uphill battle of turning the mid knob of different amps all the way down just to compensate for the SQUAAAAAWK that shone through every note like the derangement behind Tom Cruise’s eyes. Then I’d plug a different guitar in, and a good sound would just be there, already.

    The “single coil simulation” is serviceable - Just a standard variation on a coil split in which the series connection of each humbucker is shunted to ground through a .1uf capacitor.

    I wanted to like the guitar, but it’s made for Guthrie Govan and no one else. We’ll see if the new owner experiences a similar honeymoon period.

    ...

    I’ll gladly answer questions to do with components, the tremel-no, weight, quality of wood figuring, etc - It’s just that that stuff is really boring.
     
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  3. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire highway to the metalzone

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    that guitar sounds like a nightmare. between the weird proprietary trem and the non-adjustable bridge pickup (and your description of said pickup) I'm already shaking my head. The non-locking tuners and bone nut, which are unbelievably stupid to pair up with any trem, makes it cross into facepalm territory.
     
  4. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Thanks for that, I can now put to rest that little part of me that considers buying one of these every time I see a used one come up for sale (which is quite a lot of times, for some reason....)
     
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  5. TheTrooper

    TheTrooper SS.org Regular

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    Those Sperzels are locking, How could they not be?
    Always wondered about the pickups, if they were adjustable or not (They gave that impression all the time, which isn't a dealbreaker for me, but since You can't adjust the action....)
    Exactly what wasn't right about the action/neck angle?
    Any idea in mm about the action at 12th fret?
    The strings seem to be right on the frets all across the fretboard, I would actually think they need to be raised and/or that the neck angle is wrong/needs adjustment.

    Bone nuts, the nightmare of Floating Trems....Guthrie mentioned the self lubricating ones a lot (about the D string sawing thru the nut) but badly cut bone nuts (like the one You got) are a real pain to deal with.

    That's actually a very detailed review of the Charvel, and I've been waiting for an honest one A LOT.
     
  6. TheTrooper

    TheTrooper SS.org Regular

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    Ditto.

    Same here, Always wanted to try one, but seeing them pop up a little too much just didn't click with me.
    Also I'm broke AF. :agreed:
     
  7. Ben Pinkus

    Ben Pinkus SS.org Regular

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    I have one of his spec'd Suhr Models, and haven't come across any of these issues (except the bridge pickup is abit honky and the split sounds have a small volume drop).

    Sorry to hear about your troubles with this version!
     
  8. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Enjoyed by 4 out of 5

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    The Suhr Govans are different beasts; with few components in common and only a few overlapping specs.

    They’re locking, but the guitar came with the strings wrapped around the posts as if they weren’t locking. It reinforced the overall impression that the guitar was going “DUH!”

    There was nothing “wrong” with the action - It’s just that you can’t lower it without hitting the bridge pickup; so I shimmed the neck to compensate for the silly pickup mounting.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
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  9. Lemonbaby

    Lemonbaby SS.org Regular

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    Happy NGD - you're confirming what I expected when reading through the specs...
     
  10. silverabyss

    silverabyss

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    Your write-ups are so hilarious

    You should probably stick with the Vigier and Parker seems like anything else turns out to be disastrous to you
     
  11. r3tr0sp3ct1v3

    r3tr0sp3ct1v3 Grey

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    Was it I who inspired you? Became your muse of obscene spending?
    You must join me and @Hollowway in our quest to own every guitar.
     
  12. r3tr0sp3ct1v3

    r3tr0sp3ct1v3 Grey

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    Nope read it over. You and I just did the same thing with our Kiesels
     
  13. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Enjoyed by 4 out of 5

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    I just like to try new guitars when the price is right. I’m currently bidding on a Strandberg Classic (the model you can find in the As Seen On TV section of most Walgreens) because the owner seems to want to lose hundreds of dollars on a brand-new guitar as soon as possible. He probably posts here.
     
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  14. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician SS.org Regular

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    So it sounds/looks like they ended up on a very bad Ernie Ball style system. IE: A floating bridge relying on locking tuners. Only with none of the energy put into ensuring it “does what intended”.

    The non-adjustable bridge pickup baffles me the most (as annoying as everything else admittedly sounds). Just...why? There’s no net benefit to that for a consumer. It’s cool if that’s what Guthrie likes, but IMO the point of a sig is to sell units.

    Sorry man, hopefully you enjoy the next one more.
     
  15. TheTrooper

    TheTrooper SS.org Regular

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    Ah, sorry, read it wrong.

    It sucks about the nut, that's they're catch: If Locking, you can always shim/use any gauge, but you need to screw/unscrew them; when bone/whatever else they're a pain if cut wrong.
    If only they changed the nut with a graphite one, it would be much easier.
    Had a chance to see Govan and The Aristocrats live and that guitar sounded out of this world.

    BTW, any comments on the Tremol-No?
    Had one and hated the living shit out of it.
     
  16. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Enjoyed by 4 out of 5

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    It essentially has two purposes: Facillitating double-stop bends, and not screwing down enough when you want it to. It doesn’t block the trem; so you’re still tuning a floating bridge. And if you have it in a guitar just to have it (but never really use it), then you run the risk of it making a weird noise when you don’t want it to.

    I’m spoiled by Parker and Steinberger trem-stoppers; and knew going in that the tremel-no would underwhelm me. Being as it came with the guitar, I was indifferent.
     
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  17. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Enjoyed by 4 out of 5

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    These thoughts probably belong in the original post:

    1. What Guthrie and Charvel could do to fix the guitar:

    - Deeper routes, pickups mounted on foam.
    - Roller nut. Fender has them just laying around. Use them. Otherwise, use a self-lubricating nut with a zero fret, like Vigier and Strandberg do.
    - Stop pretending the crippled Floyd Rose bridge was a good idea. You don’t have to stop using it, just stop bullshitting people about the fact that you’re trying to get rid of the minimum order amount your OEM insisted on for that hardware revision.
    - Sell the MFB Govan pickup set separate from the guitar. That way, those of us who own the guitar and aren’t in love with the pickups won’t feel like we’re in an “all or nothing” obligation with hardware that can never be replaced; and we end up just selling the whole fucking guitar.
    -Make the guitar in Mexico. You’ll sell more of them at a lower price point, and use up those retarded bridges faster.

    2. My real-life interactions with Guthrie Govan:

    -2012 NAMM.
    Guthrie was my favorite guitarist at the time, and happened to be waiting in line near me. My friend coyly got his attention and said “Excuse me, but my friend here says you’re his favorite player - Would it be cool if I pointed you out to him?”

    He seemed confused at the prospect that a fan standing directly next to him had not only failed to see him, but didn’t overhear this conversation. He shrugged, and my friend said to me, “Hey, it’s your favorite guitar player: Mr. Erotic Cakes, himself.”

    I looked at Guthrie with a quizzical expression, frowned, and stated “What? He’s not my favorite guitar player - Fuck that guy.”

    -2013 NAMM, Vigier private party.
    I convinced several drunks to walk up to Guthrie, one after the other, and ask if they could photograph his pedalboard. He grew very annoyed at this.

    Following the Aristocrats’ blistering set (Which Guthrie played on a Surfreter with flawless intonation), I said that, being a Shawn Lane fan, I could say with certainty that Guthrie was playing much better than Shawn had lately.

    Nice guy.
     
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  18. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    I don't understand how you keep getting allowed to go to NAMM
     
  19. TheTrooper

    TheTrooper SS.org Regular

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    Yep, exactly how I remembered the Tremol- No hahahaha
    Glad It wasn't just me.
     
  20. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire highway to the metalzone

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    lmao, trolling guthrie like that. regardless if you actually did that or are embellishing parts of you meeting him, you got me to laugh.
     

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