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Epihone Advice: Embassy or Thundebird

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The strap button was moved at least six years ago & people still regularly mention neck dive - it was fixed! I'm assuming people are either going from memory or playing older models. 

I love a T-bird but I would point out the Embassy was an Epiphone in it's own right, unlike the T-bird which was originally Gibson. Both current Epiphone models are very decent mid range basses. 

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I ended up getting neither (got a second Bass VI). 

I've had a grand total of one practices with that band since I started the post and whilst I'll probably go for the thunderbird eventually, I think I've got some time before I'll actually need it. 

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If you're still considering these two basses here's my opinion on them:

Embassy Pro:

-Far more comfortable body shape IMO. Easier to reach the lower frets. It's also a LOT lighter than the TB (which unfortunately also means a bit of neck drop).

-Not quite as nice build quality as the TB. It feels like a cheap, quirky vintage bass (but I happen to like cheap, quirky vintage basses!). Generally a bit rougher feel to it than the TB.

-Less sustain than the TB but similar tone (same pickup same wood).

-Slightly chunky neck.

-The fretwork isn't quite as nice as on the TB but it's perfectly adequate.

-VERY IMPORTANT: At least one entire batch of the Embassy Pros had the bridge installed too close to the neck, making it impossible to intonate. Make sure you don't get one of those!!! It's really, really bad, we're talking 1-2cm out of position and the bass will sound awful unless the bridge is moved back a bit (which will require a luthier unless you have the skills to do this yourself). Epiphone was totally aware of this but didn't seem to bother when I asked them about it. They basically just told me to wait until that batch had sold out before buying one. And then they discontinued it. Very poor. If I remember correctly a late 2018 serial number is a red flag, possibly other serial numbers too.

 

Thunderbird Pro:

-Generally higher build quality and slightly better fretwork.

-Much more sustain but the tone is quite similar (same pickups, same wood).

-Very bulky, extremely heavy, very uncomfortable IMO.

-Slimmer neck but also harder to reach the lower frets, especially when sitting.

 

Personally I prefer the Embassy, even though the TB is slightly better quality overall. I like the rougher feel and the quirky charm of the Embassy. My TB is one of my least used basses, simply because I hate the bulky body. Very uncomfortable. Thunderbirds just aren't my thing, even though they look insanely cool!!!

But avoid the faulty Embassy Pros with the bridge mounted too close to the neck!!! They are total junk unless the bridge is moved (which is of course possible but will add extra cost if you need a luthier to do it).

Also be aware that there are several different versions of the TB Vintage Pro. Some have rosewood fretboard, some have pao ferro and some have that compressed/heated/dyed pine stuff they call Blackwood Tek. I'm fine with both rosewood and pao ferro but personally I wouldn't touch a bass with blackwood tek even if I got it for free.

Edited by S.F.Sorrow
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1 hour ago, S.F.Sorrow said:

It feels like a cheap, quirky vintage bass

I already love the look of this bass and you have basically sold it to me in one sentence! 

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@S.F.Sorrow:

That's really interesting... I bought an embassy pro recently, as mentioned in a previous post. Straight out of the box, it doesn't play too bad, intonation needs a little attention but it's not way out. I'm taking it to my trusted luthier tomorrow for a proper set up... Just discovered that it was manufactured at the Qingdao Plant, China on November, 2018

I hope that's not red flag territory!... Reckon I would have noticed if it was really bad though 🤔 it seems pretty playable...

IMG_20200915_100504063~2.jpg

.. although, the bridge saddles are about as far back as they can be.. which is a little alarming!

 

IMG_20200921_084855489.jpg

See what tomorrow brings.....

Edited by bottomfeed
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6 hours ago, bottomfeed said:

@S.F.Sorrow:

That's really interesting... I bought an embassy pro recently, as mentioned in a previous post. Straight out of the box, it doesn't play too bad, intonation needs a little attention but it's not way out. I'm taking it to my trusted luthier tomorrow for a proper set up... Just discovered that it was manufactured at the Qingdao Plant, China on November, 2018

I hope that's not red flag territory!... Reckon I would have noticed if it was really bad though 🤔 it seems pretty playable...

IMG_20200915_100504063~2.jpg

.. although, the bridge saddles are about as far back as they can be.. which is a little alarming!

 

IMG_20200921_084855489.jpg

See what tomorrow brings.....

I'm sorry to say this but it looks like you've got one of the bad ones with the bridge mounted too close to the neck. They all came with the saddles adjusted all the way back like that. It will be impossible to intonate the bass properly unless the bridge is moved back a bit (roughly around 1cm).

With the bridge in it's current location you've probably got decent intonation for G and maybe D but very far off on A and E. The E-string is probably more than a quarter note sharp in the 12th fret (but this will obviously depend on what type of strings you are using).

I could be wrong of course but looking at the pics it looks very much like you've got one of of the bad ones. The production date is a match for the faulty ones too.

On the positive side: This can be fixed. Mine was one of the bad ones. I contacted the dealer (Andertons), explained the problem and got a partial refund to cover the costs for moving/re-installing the bridge (of course Andertons could have done the repair too but I'm not in the UK so it was much easier for me to get it fixed locally). It's not just a matter of drilling a few holes. The bridge is installed with studs so this needs to be done by a pro and the stopbar tailpiece needs to be moved too of course.

If you purchased this bass new from a dealer my advice would be to contact the dealer ASAP and explain that this is a faulty instrument and that Epiphone is 100% aware of this manufacturing flaw but have chosen to ignore it. Epiphone should cover the costs to fix this! But YOU shouldn't have to deal with Epiphone of course, that's the dealer's job. The dealer should either offer you a return+full refund or cover the costs for repairs IMO (provided that you purchased it very recently of course).

This is NOT how these basses are supposed to be. If you google pics of this model you can easily see that the bridge is mounted further back on older batches (look for the distance from the tailpiece to the edge of the body, the tailpiece should be VERY close to the edge, not 1-2cm inside). There are LOTS of these faulty ones out there so probably half the pics you will find are these bad ones. The ones with the correctly installed bridge should be easy to spot though. They have the stopbar/tailpiece 1-2 cm further back, practically in line with the edge of the body.

It's a very cool bass when it's set up correctly but the bridge really needs to be in the correct position or you won't be able to intonate it properly.

Edited by S.F.Sorrow

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@S.F.Sorrow

Really glad we are having this conversation, thanks mate for your helpl...

l've just dropped it with my luthier & explained what I have learnt here. He's going to look it over & give me his opinion... He could do the work if necessary but points out that holes may need to be filled etc so it looks good.

I will phone the dealership, Rainbow music Rock Village, Carlisle ASAP..

I suppose there is no reason to believe that any other stock they have is not from the same duff batch....

How does yours look, since being fixed?

Any chance of a photo?

Thanks again for your help

 

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1 hour ago, bottomfeed said:

@S.F.Sorrow

Really glad we are having this conversation, thanks mate for your helpl...

l've just dropped it with my luthier & explained what I have learnt here. He's going to look it over & give me his opinion... He could do the work if necessary but points out that holes may need to be filled etc so it looks good.

I will phone the dealership, Rainbow music Rock Village, Carlisle ASAP..

I suppose there is no reason to believe that any other stock they have is not from the same duff batch....

How does yours look, since being fixed?

Any chance of a photo?

Thanks again for your help

 

If they have any more in stock it's probably from the same batch but it could be worth checking.

Yeah, the old holes will definitely need to be filled. If I remember correctly the old holes will overlap slightly with the new holes so it's not just for cosmetic reasons. There's no way around it.

Mine looks really great after fixing it. It's impossible to see the old holes unless I get very close and know what to look for. Mine is black though so probably easier to make the filled in holes look good than with a transparent cherry finish. But the old holes are more or less hidden under the bridge when it's in the new correct position so I'm sure it will turn out fine. I personally wouldn't mind a very slight cosmetic flaw as long as the problem with intonation is fixed. It's a really cool bass. I would probably have returned it if I didn't like it so much but I absolutely LOVE it!

It's currently in my studio (and I'm at home) so no pics today I'm afraid. I'll see if I remember tomorrow. But there's not much to see really. Unless I take a really close look under the bridge the bass just looks like a flawless Epiphone Embassy Pro.

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Just a slight correction to my previous posts: I think I may have exaggerated slightly when I said the bridge on the faulty Embassy basses is 1-2cm out of position. I think it's probably more like 1cm or maybe even SLIGHTLY less. But it's more than enough to completely ruin any chances of intonating the bass properly.

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4 hours ago, S.F.Sorrow said:

Just a slight correction to my previous posts: I think I may have exaggerated slightly when I said the bridge on the faulty Embassy basses is 1-2cm out of position. I think it's probably more like 1cm or maybe even SLIGHTLY less. But it's more than enough to completely ruin any chances of intonating the bass properly.

My luthier tells me that from a quick look, he rekons the intonation isn't too far out & some saddles need to come forward anyway.. he suggests  for the E reversing the saddle to give more play.. he thinks it's possible to fix without moving the bridge etc.. but full report on it tomorrow. 

I have spoken to the dealership.. They are on board with whatever needs to happen, whether that mean return for full refund or any other permutation... There is currently no other stock though.

Sorry to the OP for hijacking this thread!

I was going to go to PM but then thought what comes of this all is useful information for any who are interested in the Embassy bass.... To be continued!

 

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12 hours ago, bottomfeed said:

My luthier tells me that from a quick look, he rekons the intonation isn't too far out & some saddles need to come forward anyway.. he suggests  for the E reversing the saddle to give more play.. he thinks it's possible to fix without moving the bridge etc.. but full report on it tomorrow. 

I have spoken to the dealership.. They are on board with whatever needs to happen, whether that mean return for full refund or any other permutation... There is currently no other stock though.

Sorry to the OP for hijacking this thread!

I was going to go to PM but then thought what comes of this all is useful information for any who are interested in the Embassy bass.... To be continued!

 

That's great news!

Reversing the E-string saddle might work I suppose. I would be slightly worried about string breakage when having the break angle of the string over the "sharp" end of the saddle though. Filing it smoother will essentially mean moving the point of contact slightly forward again (as well as lowering the E-string slightly)... But I'm sure your luthier will find the best solution.

Reversing the saddle will definitely give you a little more room for adjustment but if your bass is identical to mine (and I think all the faulty ones were the same) I doubt you're gonna get the E-string 100% intonated without actually moving the bridge. But then again, it might be so close that your choice of strings can be the difference between success and failure here.

I've got Roto Swing Bass 66 steels 45-105 on mine. These strings need the saddles further back than most strings so they actually make the problem worse. Even after moving the bridge back a bit I still need to adjust the E-string saddle ALL the way back with the Roto steels. But these Rotos are pretty extreme. There are other strings that could work better.

If you can get A-D-G  close enough without moving the bridge but the E-string is still a bit off you could perhaps try a set of Thomastik Infeld Superalloy. These strings need the E-string saddle slightly more forward (towards neck) than any other strings I can think of. They actually need the E-saddle to be more or less in line with the A-saddle (at least on every bass I've used them). So if you can get the A-string close enough without moving the bridge the E-string should be fine too...at least in theory. I can't promise that this will work 100% though. I've never actually tried the Superalloys on my Embassy. All I know is that on every OTHER bass I've used them they needed the E-strings saddle surprisingly far forward. So much in fact that it caused problems in the opposite direction on an Ibanez Premium...

The Superalloys are great strings btw. They're probably my favourite "modern" sounding roundwound (bright but in a very smooth way, not ultra-bright/harsh). Very good allrounders.

The problem with this type of bridge is that the room for adjustment is somewhat limited. So the position of the bridge really needs to be spot on. A bass SHOULD be able to use different brands of strings without having to move/re-install the bridge. A bridge that's installed in the wrong position should be covered by warranty IMO, even if it can be somehow sorted out by a creative fix. But whatever works...👍 Good luck!

 

Edited by S.F.Sorrow
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Update on Embassy: 

So with the E & A saddles reversed, the D & G had to go forward anyway.. perfect intonation has been achieved! 

It feels great and very playable... 

My strings of choice for most of my basses are D'Addario EXL170's 

45, 65, 80, 100 & 130 (for the 5's)

So I don't envisage problems for the future. Those Superalloys sound interesting though @S.F.Sorrow

I may give them a go sometime... 

Hopefully the dealership will pay for the work done to make it playable... They seem a decent bunch... Just had the word, yes they will! 

All good 🙂

 

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44 minutes ago, barrycreed said:

Epiphone bolt on t-bird worth a look at all?

I used to have an alpine white bolt-on one. It was a decent bass but my vintage pros are in a different league altogether in terms of playability and tone.

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43 minutes ago, barrycreed said:

Epiphone bolt on t-bird worth a look at all?

It depends what you want.

Once you step outside of the Fender (and it's copyists) market where the parameters of an instrument are clearly defined, i.e. if you buy a P-Bass you know what body shape, neck, construction, pickup arrangement and electrics you are going to get; things are much more fluid. 

All of a sudden there is a lot of variation in design and construction of supposedly similar models to the extent where sometimes it only the general shape of the body that two instruments of the same model have in common. 

So you have to ask yourself what is it that makes a Thunderbird for you? If it's simply the body shape, then the bolt-on neck Epiphone may well be fine. If, like me, you consider the essential features of a Thunderbird to be the construction and the pickups, then you will probably be disappointed.

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@BigRedX That's a good question. What makes a t-bird for me? Probably the shape, and based on previous experience of the Epis where I played gigs as a guitarist with guys who has the Epi, it sounded pretty solid live and recorded. I am not sure what model Epi they had though tbh.

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11 minutes ago, barrycreed said:

@BigRedX That's a good question. What makes a t-bird for me? Probably the shape, and based on previous experience of the Epis where I played gigs as a guitarist with guys who has the Epi, it sounded pretty solid live and recorded. I am not sure what model Epi they had though tbh.

That's the thing. Just looking at Epiphone they have produced a lot of different basses all called Thunderbirds, but most of them being very different instruments to the original 60s Gibson Thunderbird, and many of them have nothing really in common other than they have similar looking bodies. They even made a non-reverse model that in every respect other than the body shape was a J-Bass!

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1 hour ago, BigRedX said:

That's the thing. Just looking at Epiphone they have produced a lot of different basses all called Thunderbirds, but most of them being very different instruments to the original 60s Gibson Thunderbird, and many of them have nothing really in common other than they have similar looking bodies. They even made a non-reverse model that in every respect other than the body shape was a J-Bass!

On looks alone, I don't like the latest t-bird they have out, with the really big headstock.

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