NBD: Epiphone EA-260
I have had GAS for a vintage semi-hollow or hollowbody for some time now. Unfortunately my dream bass (Gibson EB2D) is way out of my price range!
I came across an Epiphone EA-260 online. These were made in the early 70's in Japan, and consequently are not generally highly thought of. That said I came across quite a few comments from people that liked theirs, and when set up right, are actually pretty good for the money.
So I agreed a price of £315 plus a new set of flats for £40, including a set up. The shop selling it was too far for me to go look at it in person.
It turned up today. The good news is that the general condition is very good for a 40 year old hollowbody bass.
Unfortunately the restring and setup is not so good. The shop clearly didn't measure the strings already on the bass to figure out the correct string length to order as the short scale ones provided are way too short. The silk covered sections, start way before the nut. Also the strings start tapering before they reach the nut. They are clearly not right for the bass, yet the idiots in the shop fitted them and shipped it anyway. Amazing.
This model did fairly commonly have a problem where the neck sits too low in the neck pocket to get a low action. A fellow TB member did say adding a shim was easy enough. Obviously whoever did the setup at the shop felt it needed raising, but seems to have done this simply by loosening two of the bolts in order raise the end of the neck in the pocket. Can't see a shim in there.
Also could anyone who owns one of these confirm that the selector switch is supposed to work in the standard way i.e. mid position powers both pickups? On mine the up and mid positions seem to power the neck pickup only (tone changes slightly), and the down position the bridge pickup, which is way louder than the neck. If so I obviously need to get someone to look at the wiring.
I will already need to find someone local to me to fit a new nut, as the current one is cracked (something the seller never mentioned), and fit a correct set of strings - I'm a novice at working on instruments so I'd rather get someone experienced to do the job properly.
I have of course complained to the shop. Haven't heard back yet. I'd like to get the issues sorted rather than return it, as I love the looks, and think it would sound and play pretty well once the issues are sorted. I would also imagine that not too many of these come up for sale these days.
So sadly it's been a pretty disappointing experience. Hopefully I can turn it around into a more positive one, although it may have to wait until the new year now before I can do much with it.
Well, I'm glad to hear (and see) that you finally got the EA-260; and, of course, sorry to hear that all is not well with it. I've had mine out again, looking and measuring; so, here goes:
1. Yes, the switch is supposed to work in the normal way; up(neck)-middle(both)-down(bridge). On the 3 of mine, they're kind of limp (after 40+ years), but they all work. Since you are hearing both pickups, the problem could simply be dirty contacts, or one leg of the switch is bent too far out. Or, a previous owner 'modified' it to suit himself. The selector switch is fiddly and annoying to replace on a hollowbody, but not really hard. Do the tone/volume controls work OK, or are they scratchy sounding? It might be that all the electronics could simply do with a good cleaning.
2. I have to say those strings were confusing. The ones on my EA have silk wraps, but it starts well up past the nut. Unfortunately, I have no idea what kind they are, and neither does the guy I got it from. Just some kind of flats, is all he can remember (but he's really a guitar player, so what can you expect?). The more I think about it, though, I wonder if the problem is simply that those strings weren't meant for a hollowbody bass. If they were on, say, a Gibson SG bass, the tailpiece/bridge would be much further forward, which would move the wrap further up the neck, and past the nut. You may have to shop around a bit for wrapped strings that will work, or just settle for unwrapped ones.
I measured my EA from the face of the tailpiece to the center of an upper tuner shaft (97.2 cm), thinking it might use medium scale strings. Due to the extra distance back to the tailpiece, lots of violin basses use them (my Gretsch Broadkaster uses long scale strings for that reason). But, no, mediums are too long. Got some D'Addario short scales this afternoon, and they would fit just fine. I wouldn't like them on my EA, but they would fit.
3. The nut. Well, it is 40 years old, and it is just a piece of plastic; but yes, you'd think thay would've been up front about that. Or just simply replaced it. They're very easily replaced, and there's almost no end to the kind of stuff you can use for a nut. I have bone ones, corian ones, Tusq ones, brass ones, aluminium ones (interesting sound), as well as simple plastic ones. Am thinking about a mammoth ivory one for a Rickenbacker I'm tinkering with. I would recommend bone or brass, personally.
4. The neck. Yes, find a shop near you, with a good luthier, and have that dealt with professionally. There really is no excuse for not doing that simple job the right way. Unfortunately, sometimes the only remedy for having to deal with clowns, is to just not deal with them ever again.
Anyway, I hope that helps; and that you can get everything sorted out soon. Welcome to the world of 'vintage' instruments!:)
Thanks for the helpful reply!
1) Figured the switch would work in this way. I'm surprised at the difference between the pickups. The bridge is way louder, and roars compared to the neck. That said the 'staples' do seem further from the strings on the neck pickup, so I might loosen the four adjustment screws and see if that makes a difference.
2) Having searched for D'Addario string lengths, and measured from the nut to the tailpiece, it seems that a medium scale set should fit. The shop just seems to have thought that being a short-scale bass you need short-scale strings, but of course that isn't always the case. The distance between the nut and tailpiece is about 33.5" which puts it in the medium scale string range according to the guide I found. There is fret buzz when playing the open E string, but I suspect that is because the string is sitting a bit lower in the nut due to it having tapered down before the nut. If it were still the full thickness string at the nut it would probably be OK.
3) Thanks for the advice on the nut material. Think I'll go for bone.
4) The shop did reply to my email regarding the issues, and assure me there is a shim in there. It's hard to tell. Perhaps I'm being too suspicious of that given the other issues. If I'm taking it somewhere to get the nut sorted and get the electronics looked at, I may as well ask them to check that out too.
The shop didn't really comment on why they shipped it with strings that were blatantly wrong for the bass, but have said they will send me a new set in the new year if I let them know which scale to get. As above, mediums look to be the right ones. Yet you found them too long for your EA? That's a bit confusing, as these short scale ones (ECB81S) are clearly too short! Any reason why you wouldn't choose D'Addario strings? I haven't used flat wounds before and obviously not sure what type works best with this bass, so just asked the shop for a decent set of flats rather than specify a particular brand/type. Must say I really like the feel of them, even if it isn't possible to form an opinion of how they sound. My thinking is that I'll just get the shop to send me the medium scale version of the same strings, and look at other brands further down the road if I feel like it.
The guy at the shop also said they didn't notice a problem with the nut, and would have replaced it if they had. I could be charitable here and assume they are being truthful, and it happened during shipping. I noticed it pretty much immediately. There is no way you could do a restring and miss it!
The hard case that came with it wasn't in great condition (the shop didn't claim otherwise), but happily my Jack Casady case fits it pretty well.
I know a guitarist who has taken his guitars to places locally for work, so I'll ask him for recommendations. Once I get the new strings I'll contact them in advance to explain what I want looked at (these hollows aren't the easiest to work with so probably a good idea to warn them what type of bass it is in advance!). I'll get them to fit a new nut, look at the electronics, check the job on the neck, and do the restring.
Thanks again for the reply.
Glad to hear you have things well in hand. It's always disappointing when something you really want arrives with problems; unfortunately, that's a chance you take with something as old as these EAs are. Fortunately, it doesn't sound like there's anything wrong that can't be put right fairly easily.
I imagine you could use medium scale strings if you wanted; even long scale strings might work. The trick is being able to get the string onto the tuner shaft, which is why that end of the string is tapered. The long scale strings on my Broadkaster have all of that cut off, but they still work with the Gretsch's tuners. There's no guarantee that will be the case with every tuner, though.
The medium scale strings I was experimenting with are Rotosound RS 88Ms. They're black nylon coated, with the tuner ends gold anodized. They would work, but I would have to lose a lot of the taper on the lower tuners; almost all of it, in fact. That's too much to cut off, if I don't have to.
Why wouldn't I choose D'Addario strings? 2 reasons, both personal. First, they don't feel good to me, and they make my fingers itch after a while-like I'm allergic to the alloy D'Addario uses. Second, I can never get exactly the sound I want with them. The ones I bought yesterday were the only short scale strings the store had (the only ones anybody had, in fact); EXL170S'. They're light gauge (45-100), and the package describes them as "super-bright". Exactly the strings you don't want on a hollowbody bass, unless you have a Longhorn Danelectro. D'Addarios are perfectly fine strings, and lots of people think they're the cat's ass; they just don't work for me.
If you want to raise the neck pickup a little, the middle screws on the pickup surrounds will raise or lower it (the pickups are sitting on springs around those screws). Pickup height can make a huge difference in the output; single coils seem especially prone to this. You can get them too close to the strings, though; that sounds bad, too. There's a sweet spot in there somewhere; you just have to tinker around 'till you find it. Have fun!:)
The shop have ordered me a set of these:
D'Addario Medium Scale Flats
It's a medium scale version of the existing strings. They are described as warm and mellow.
According to D'Addario's own guide, they should fit the EA-260 fine (mediums fit 32" - 34" bass measured from nut to the ball, and the EA-260 is about 33.5"). I know for a fact their short scale strings are too short!
The guide I found says short scales fit up to 32", and on mine the silk wraps (and the taper) start about 1.5" before the nut, which the guide suggests would be the case. Mediums should therefore have the wraps and taper start about 0.5" past the nut (on the headstock side!), which would be spot on for this bass.
The ones you mentioned are rounds, and yes they are described as bright, which I wouldn't want.
I'd like to try out some tape wounds at some point in the future, although I'm more likely to get some for my Casady, which still has the standard rounds on it.
I'll have a go at raising the neck pickup at some point. I see which two screws you refer to. What do the 4 screws on the cover do exactly? You appear to just be able to pull out the cover as far as the strings even with those 4 screws tightened (same with the bridge pickup. Never really fiddled with pickups before.
Thanks again for your advice. It's great to be able to speak to someone who has one of these, and therefore stands a chance of knowing what I'm talking about!
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