A Review of the EJ200CE, Musician’s Friend and the Gibson/Epiphone ExperienceMay 18, 2008 at 6:22 am | Posted in Musings, Reviews | 5 Comments
Gibson mailed me a EJ200CE two weeks ago. For the uninitiated, the EJ200CE is billed as “the guitar you’ve seen in the hands of everyone from Elvis to Emmylo.” (This isn’t quite true, you actually saw the Gibson J200 in their hands – and in the hands of Clint Black, Motley Crue, The Eagles, Vince Gill and Jimmy Page – the EJ200CE is a cheap copy made by Gibson subsidiary, Epiphone.)
Elvis and his J200
In any event, Gibson kindly included a note explaining how to adjust the truss rod. It’s a good thing too, because this particular EJ200CE had some nasty fret buzz when I played a C. So, after reading Gibson’s note and getting moral support from this web site: Frets.Com and this one: Athens Music Network, I busted out the allen wrench and went to work. My diagnosis? The truss rod nut needed to be tightened (I can’t exactly remember how I reached that conclusion, but I was forging ahead…). I tightened; things got a little better. I tightened more, they got a bit better…15 minutes later…I pulled the wrench one last 1/8th of a turn and BINGO, the guitar sounded GREAT.
I mean that, it sounds really good, and it makes me happy every time I play it, but it was a LONG road getting here – here’s a condensed version of the story…
I ordered my first EJ200CE about 7 months ago from Musician’s Friend – black. It was my first new acoustic guitar in a lot of years, so I was going for a different look. I thought I was getting a good deal at $399.00 (especially considering the fact that the real thing – the J200 – goes for about $3500…) They sent it within a couple of weeks and I was pumped when I pulled it from the box. It looked good, it sounded good…until I plugged it in. The built in pickup didn’t work. I did all the obvious things like change the battery and curse, but it didn’t work no matter how many times I swore at it.
In the meantime, I’d also ordered a hard case for $90. That arrived the next day and, OOOOPS, it was the wrong case. The guitar didn’t fit. Amazingly, when I called for the second day in a row, the operator at Musician’s Friend felt like debating this fact with me, suggesting that I wasn’t putting it in right. I’m not sure when you last put a guitar into a case, but there really is only one way it can go. (Musician’s Friend’s moto? “We’re cheap, and our service shows it!”) I assured the nice saleswoman than I wasn’t attempting to put the body of the guitar into the neck of the case, and she agreed to send me a label to send the case back along with the guitar.
The second shipment arrived some weeks later, and this time, the case was right, the pickup seemed to work, but there was some serious fret buzz. I resolved to take it to a guitar shop to have the set-up adjusted, then the holidays hit, ski season, 10 feet of snow, all that, and before I knew it, it was March before I pulled up to The Guitar Gallery . The good people there informed me (free of charge, I might add…which will inform the eventual moral of this story), that the truss rod was already adjusted as far as it could go…in other words, the buzz was here to stay.
So, I called my good friends at MUSICIAN’S FRIEND and guess what? Somehow, unbeknownst to me, we’d had a falling out. Apparently we weren’t friends anymore (“But will you still sign my yearbook, Musiscan’s Friend…?”) See, at three months, I was well outside their 45 day return (no questions asked) policy.
I may be old fashioned, but I cut my teeth on LL Bean’s Gurantee (God, I love those people…), so this 45 day thing seemed a bit cold, I mean the guitar WAS substandard. But, me and my friends were really on the outs; my arguments fell on deaf ears. So it was goodbye Musicians (not my) Friend…and hello GIBSON!
To cut this short, Gibson/Epiphone agreed to take my reject guitar back. I sent it in and waited, and waited, and waited. About two weeks in I contacted them. A day later, I was informed by a very nice e-mail agent (named Jon Sutherland – maybe even a real person) that they would figure it out soon…blah, blah, blah, so on and so forth…many e-mails later we (Jon and me) figured out that no black guitars were available, but they did have a ‘natural.’
I took it….and waited. Finally, OVER A MONTH LATER, I got the guitar. It’s not ‘natural,’ it’s YELLOW. My wife’s first comment? “That guitar looks like a banana.” So much for being cool like Johnny Cash. On the other hand, I can see myself accompanying Jimmy Buffet with this thing.
My Big New YELLOW EJ200CE
You know the ending – almost. I adjusted the guitar and it does sound great. But, BUT…Gibson broke my case. No joke, when I pulled it out of the box, the hinge was broken off. So, the saga continues. FED EX just picked the broken case up last Thursday. According to tracking data, it’s recently been picked up by a Fed Ex truck in Willington, CT. Eventually, I may get a new one.
The moral of this too long tale? Buy local. Go to your ‘Guitar Gallery” equivalent. You’ll spend $100 or so more, but, I promise you, I have spent much more than that in both time and money. Learn from my mistakes – and fight the online corporate music bastards – they’re not your friends. Do me a favor and read Guitar Gallery’s web page. Notice how hesitant they are to send you a guitar? That’s because they know that picking a guitar is like picking a friend – it’s not something you want to do at a distance. Apparently even a well known company like Gibson lacks in the quality control department these days. Let the guys at the retail store deal with the lemons (or bananas…) Let them send them back so you don’t have to.
Look at the guitar you’re buying, feel it, play it. I bought my last acoustic at a little guitar store in Burlington, VT. It’s a Yamaha FG-420E-C. I played it for two hours before I bought it and I’ve played it for 20 years since. My new banana sounds good, and I’ll use it at shows, but somehow, I know I’ll go back to the old Yamaha because it, and instruments like it, are the only ones who have really earned the title of musician’s friend.