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MrFingers

NBD: 1999 Epiphone Japan EB-3

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Since a long time I've been latently lusting after a proper EB-3 bass: shortscale, set-neck, 4-way rotary switch. With the emphasis on latently. The prices on Gibsons have exploded the last 2 years, with even playergrade late 1960's EB-0's fetching 4-figure sums, and since I'm a rather picky person, I wanted an EB-3 with the pre 1965 specifications (deep-set heel, wide control spacing), which would further bloat the price. I was aware of the Japanese versions of those (Greco, Burny, Orville, Epiphone), but those seldom if ever appear outside of Japan, and if they do, top-money gets asked for them.

So I let that idea of owning an EB-3 for what it was. Then I started browsing eBay in search for a deal, and there I saw a Japanese Epiphone listed with a very short & poor description, but also at a rather low price (just a smidge more as a regular longscale Epiphone EB-3 would cost in the local store), located in Kyoto. Four people were advertising that bass so I had my suspicions it might have been a scam, as one seller had a low price, and the others were asking nearly double of it, more alike the other offerings of different instruments. So I asked the cheapest seller how that was possible, and he said that it's a central pool of instruments, and each independent seller can ask their own asking price, and the instruments are also sold locally outside of eBay. His ratings were absolutely perfect, with almost everyone saying his packing & protection was superb. It would need to be, because it's an all mahogany instrument with a Gibson-like neck (1 piece mahogany, 17° tilted headstock, big hole for the trussrod), and no case included.

So after pondering on it for some weeks (hoping Epiphone would announce something for Winter-NAMM, which they didn't), I noticed 2 Sundays ago he offered a 5% discount on top of his already low price, so I thought to myself: "you know what, fck it, I'll bite. His ratings are good, I'm paying via Paypal, so I do have decent protection,...". So pressed the BIN-button, paid and then wholeheartedly expected to receive a message stating "yeah, it sold locally, I'm sorry"... But that message never came... instead I received a thank you for the payment, and a promise the item would ship on Thursday via FedEx. Could it be that that bass didn't get sold for more than 2 years, at that low of a price?

On Thursday morning I received an SMS that FedEx received my package, and it was scheduled to arrive next Monday... Then a delay in Memphis, so it would be Tuesday, but on Tuesday no-one is home here, so I had to postpone to Wednesday... And on Wednesday, a white van stopped and delivered me a sturdy cardboard box (all hail FedEx' method of pre-paying customs & duties, so it clears fast). In it was a layer of bubble plastic, a layer of newspapers, another layer of bubble plastic, a gigbag (got that for free), and inside that a shape that reminded me of an instrument, in a layer of bubble plastic & foam... I peeled away the protective layers, and there it was, undamaged. I now also have enough padded plastic foil to last a lifetime.

A quick test on the amplifier learned me the bridge pickup was cutting out, unless I pressed on it, meaning that a wire was shorting somewhere, but the pickup itself wasn't dead. So I opened up the patient for an overall inspection and a bit of cleaning, and saw an exposed wire touching the baseplate of the pickup. Insulated it, and the pickup worked again like it should...

But then I noticed someone had been tampering with the wiring. The bridge pickup is the original GOTOH PAF-bucker with plastic-coated coax cable, but the neck pickup had been changed out for "something with a really old braided cable"... So I removed the cover of the neck pickup, and I was greeted there by something that was distinctly not a GOTOH-version of the sidewinder pickup. It was old, dusty, had a wooden spacer between the coils and measured 30k Ohm... Yep, that is a vintage Gibson mudbucker.

So now I have a proper EB-3, with a really chunky 1960's neck, and the one thing the Japanese versions are considered "inferior" for (the weak neck pickup) already been replaced by a vintage Gibson unit that absolutely blasts.

Ordered a set of shortscale flatwounds, will then further dial in and adjust to my likings. These crisp roundwounds aren't doing it for me.

EOdrX8B.jpg

Also DIYed myself a string cover and wooden tugbar.

jjnFvHS.jpeg

 

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It says "Made in Japan" on the back of the headstock, and Korea never made a proper EB-3 (30.5" scale with 20 frets and wide control spacing)... not to mention the Gibson headstock that is a telltale "Japan Domestic" trait. The Elitists came with a tombstone-one for export.

Edited by MrFingers
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Awesome, a great find there, and what a nice bonus with the proper Gibson pickup!

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That’s quite a result. It needs some clover leaf tuners to complete the look. How’s the neck dive?

Edited by Grahambythesea
Error

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5 hours ago, Grahambythesea said:

How’s the neck dive?

Present but manageable. I have a very smooth & slippery tweed strap, and that makes the head go down. With a more coarse leather strap, it stays where it needs to stay. It's nowhere as bad as the 34" scale versions.

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1 hour ago, Grahambythesea said:

Did you get stung for import duties?

I did have to pay my fair share to the taxman. But it was noticeable less than I expected/feared/calculated. In hindsight I got a tremendous deal on this bass. 

 

There is an agreement between the EU and Japan that import duties are being reduced to 0% for most products, so it's only the VAT of your country of residence (21% in my case) and the brokerage fee for the transporter one has to pay (for Fedex, it's 14.5€ per order, regardless of value). Those taxes scale with the price of the item you buy and the price of the shipping. Since the instrument was pretty cheap, and shipping was also on the lower end of the spectrum, the added costs were also manageable (read: lower than my mental limit I was willing to spend on it).

Edited by MrFingers

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I love my Epi Elite for all the reasons you have stated, I have also fitted an original Gibson mudbucker.
The Babicz bridge helps with better intonation and string height.
 

Elite EB-3.jpg

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52 minutes ago, goingdownslow said:

I love my Epi Elite for all the reasons you have stated.
The Babicz bridge helps with better intonation and string height.

I was first on the prow for an Elitist version, but not one popped up for sale in the EU (I've had lines open as far as Sweden, Italy & Greece). Probably a combination of not that many being sold here in the first place (they were rather expensive IIRC) + people are hanging onto them for dear life because they ARE so good). 

 

Everyone is raving about Hipshot or Babicz-bridges, but the horrendous 3-point self-destructing contraption is doing its job, so I'm sticking with it.

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When I first heard about the Epi Elite EB3 I couldn't find anywhere stocking them. I phoned Rosetti who were the UK Epi importer at the time and they said they only got 4 and were expecting no more as they were discontinued and told me what shops they had gone to but when I called they were all sold. I called some USA shops and Music 123 said they could get one for me. Oddly it is the earlier 'Elite' model, for legal reasons they had to be renamed 'Elitist'. Maybe it was from recalled stock they were not allowed to sell locally.

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On 19/02/2021 at 15:04, Jus Lukin said:

what a nice bonus with the proper Gibson pickup!

iwc4R85.jpeg

 

BEHOLD! The bringer of mud!

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2 hours ago, MrFingers said:

iwc4R85.jpeg

 

BEHOLD! The bringer of mud!

Ooooh, filthy!

I propose a motion that we re-name these from 'The Mudbucker' to 'The Basil Brush'.

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