Cheapo Les Paul addition — what was I thinking?

So, despite saying I was going to hold back on a Les Paul for the time being, I went and did it. I was perusing Craigslist and a PRS Soapbar 2 SE came up for $175, Although I don’t own one, I am a big fan of PRS guitars and getting a solid mahogany, set neck example for less than $200 just seemed too good a chance to pass up. It’s difficult for me to track down the new price for this guitar as it is no longer made, but a similar PRS Single Cut SE is a $600 guitar when new. So $175 seemed an absolute steal for this one. By the way the ‘Soapbar’ name comes from the fact it has a pair of P90-type ‘hot’ single-coil pickups rather than humbuckers. But it’s quite easy to get ‘buckers that fit those slots. P90s have also been used in Les Pauls since the 1950s and punk rockers such as Mick Jones of The Clash actually preferred these examples to the humbucker versions because of their cutting tone.

I exchanged emails with the owner and he agreed I could come and see it, but didn’t specify when or leave a phone number. Then he went quiet. I assume he found another buyer. Would’ve been nice of him to let me know, but he didn’t.

By this time I was of course GASing bad. After a couple of days I began to scour Craigslist again, looking for Les Paul type guitars. I had two criteria; the guitar had to be mahogany with a set neck and less than $200. Ideally with humbuckers, but OK with P90s (like the Soapbar).

This should put me in Epiphone Les Paul Standard territory, but ownership of these budget, Chinese-made Gibson versions seems to indicate a tenuous grasp of reality. Unlike Telecasters there is always quite a few on sale, but the prices sought are usually unrealistic: “No I am not going to pay you $350 for a used guitar I can get for $400 new, even with a ‘deluxe gig bag’ “.

But I found one interesting option; a dude selling a Chinese-made Les Paul copy for $200 including a hard case. Mahogany, set neck. Checked all the boxes.

From the description in the ad it appeared to be a SVK ELPC400. From some sniffing around the web I found out that these guitars seemed to be highly regarded. They’re also no longer made as the manufacturer had been sued by Gibson for copying the Les Paul design too slavishly. When available then they seemed to sell for $350…$400 without a case. Here’s the spec run down which the seller had clearly copied from the importer’s webpage:

SVK Guitars ELP-C400 Single Cutaway Electric Guitar Features:

Set-Neck 50’s Body shape
Solid African Mahogany Body
Maple Top
Canadian Hardrock Maple Neck
1960’S Neck Profile
Bound Indian Rosewood Fingerboard
24.75 Scale
Thin High 190NS Fretwire Exclusive
Pearl Block Inlays
Bound Top and Back
Bound Head
Two Way Truss Rod
Tune-O-Matic III Die-Cast Bridge Tailpiece
Die-Cast Vintage Tuners
EVJ-Alnico 5800 Humbucker Pickups

The above basically equates to a Les Paul Standard, with the exception of the maple neck. Gibson use mahogony on real LPs. I figured that this would be at least as good as an Epi Standard. Possibly better.

I went to play it, thought it was OK and then tried to haggle. The seller was claiming he had paid over $300 new for the guitar plus another $100 for the case. I was GASing and I caved, giving the guy $200 and took it home.

On opening the case at home I felt sick to  my stomach. I’d made a mistake. Because the ad had said ‘set neck’, I hadn’t even noticed that in fact the neck was bolt-on. I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid that I hadn’t noticed. After some research I realized that the guitar was actually the slightly cheaper ELP-C300 like this one but in black. Identical specs to the 400 but with a bolt-on neck.  Man I was pissed. I only blamed the seller slightly (could even have been an honest mistake, copying the wrong specs to his ad) but I was really angry at myself. The only criteria I was really focusing on was that set neck — supposedly essential to true Les Paul tone, but I hadn’t noticed the bolts. Dammit.

I nearly re-listed the guitar on Craigslist immediately. But then I calmed down a bit. It’s a great looking guitar. It’s in good condition. It has a pair of supposedly Alnico humbuckers and perhaps a fair price for what I got would still have been about $150, so I haven’t done too badly. It’s also a nice addition to the arsenal of guitars. It does sound like a Les Paul. It doesn’t feedback like my other humbucker guitar, the Ibanez Artcore hollowbody. I cracked open the can marked Jimmy Page riffs and started to enjoy it. I then put a lead line on a Garageband track I’d been working on and enjoyed it some more.

So now I figure I’ve got a guitar I quite like. I paid more than I should for it, but it’s not going to kill me. I can also use this as a guitar to experiment with doing home setup and modifications without getting too scared I’m going to damage something valuable. I could even swap out the pickups. Put on a Bigsby tremolo. Whatever I feel like.

Also as a bonus, that slot for a ‘real’ Les Paul style, set-neck all-mahogany guitar still remains open in my collection, waiting to be filled at some point down the line…


9 thoughts on “Cheapo Les Paul addition — what was I thinking?

  1. Pingback: Brilliant Definition of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) | axestogrind

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  3. Pingback: Adios El Cheapo | axestogrind

    • Hi Tony, Thanks for commenting!

      The 85 buck guitar (ELJ100) on that webpage isn’t the same. The one I had had covered pickups, two tones and two volumes, binding etc. The ELPS400 looks the same but has the set neck. So if they maybe did an ELPS300?

      But I never bonded with the SVK. I sold it on for pretty much what I paid for it and put the money towards a new guitar from Rondo– an Agile AL3010SE, which I have bonded with.

      Not that the SVK was a bad guitar, I think it was pretty cool, I just never got over the set neck.


  4. It’s too bad you didn’t get a chance to own or play one of the set neck 400 or 500 models. If you had I’m afraid you would never have given it up. I six for real big dollar Gibsons, 2 Les Paul Customs, two ES335s and two SGs, all of which are fine expensive well crafted Gibsons but the six Svk s I have will all go head to head with them any day for fit finish and playability. After getting my first SVK ELP500 and falling head over heals for it I decided to acquire a few more before they slipped off the market forever. A choice I will never regret.

    • Hi Gary. Thanks for commenting! Really interesting to hear your comments about the set neck SVKs. I never had a chance to play them unfortunately. SVK seems like a pretty rare brand, but when I did eventually sell the guitar I had one dude texting me who said he was desperate to have it because SVKs were a well kept secret. However he then went on to give me the run around and so I sold it to another guy, a singer who wanted to something that would look cool on stage and give him something to learn on.

      But I write this just to let you know that you are not alone in your admiration for these guitars!

      Thanks again for stopping by and taking the trouble to comment.

  5. I got two, yes two, ELJ100’s for $80.00! I ordered one at a blow-out price of US$80. delivery included. Unfortunately, it arrived with a loose neck as one, maybe two of the neck screws had stripped from being over-tightened. I immediately contacted Jim, the company owner/president (who couldn’t have been more receptive, responsive and helpful) and explained my disappointment. Without any prodding from me he offered to overnight a replacement guitar, and that he would do the inspection, himself. Two days later, FedEx was at my door with a shiny, new guitar. The box had been opened and resealed, so someone (if not him) did inspect the guitar.

    I was able to very easily fix the first guitar with wood epoxy and now, or at least did have, two SVK guitars. Since they were the same model and sounded alike, I kept the first one and gave the second to my guitar instructor. Yes, my ELJ is the lowest end of the bottom-feeders, but it sounds great, is fun to play and has an awesome paint job. 🙂 🙂
    Jimmy B.

    • Jimmy. Thanks for stopping by! I think if a guitar “sounds great, is fun to play and has an awesome paint job.” then it’s definitely a keeper! Nice to hear you got good service from the importer. Enjoy!

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