Epiphone Les Paul Custom from stock to FRX equipped.

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bandit2013

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It has been a long time since I had a Les Paul of sorts. I do have a Carvin CS6 which is decent but lacks the stop tail as it strings through the body. There are some other differences with it too. I bought it used, if I had ordered it from Carvin/Kiesel I would have opted for the 4 controls and the stop tail. I did try an Epiphone a few years ago in a store and thought it felt good, played well, should I buy it? So last year I decided to look into this again. Always wanted the Black and gold Les Paul Custom but did not want to pay the exuberant price for one. Just for kicks, I ordered an Epiphone Les Paul Custom for a fraction of the cost of the real deal. Epiphones are made in China. That was sort of a turn-off. I bought two of them just for kicks, one in Black and the other Koa (not talking about the figured Koa here and like most instruments under a price point will have a thin lamination of the decorative surface).

The one in the center is the Carvin CS6.

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First impressions, nice. Both play quite well so no complaint on the neck, it is the thin profile but standard nut width. Very comfortable on the hand. The CS does have a slightly longer scale (25") vs the Epiphones at 24.75". I really cannot tell the difference. The Black one has a nice tone to it plugged in. I did consider changing pickups but after playing with it for a while, I am not going to make the change. The Koa one has a different character to its tone. Sort of reminds me of the old 1984 LP I had long ago. That one was much heavier as I recall. I bought it when I turned 18, got a great deal on it too, brand new that list $2000 but they sold it to me for $899. It was also number 009 and from what the dealer said they only made 52 that year, not sure that was true or not.

les paul spot front with robin and fender.jpg


Hmm, not quite the same value based on inflation. What I bought for $899 was a decent value. They probably dropped the price on the guitar as it was very heavy. I did not care on the weight. So the Epiphones cost $799 + tax and I got them just after I bought the first Mark VII. Are they of the same quality as the Gibson Spotlight Special? Heck no. That was a guitar I wish I held onto. Perhaps that is why I bought the Carvin CS sometime around 2013. Not quite the same thing but I was longing for a Les Paul but did not want to pay the high dollar amount for one. At the time back in the late 80's as it is now, I am more of a Super Strat person. The Robin guitar next to the LP was my first locking tremolo guitar. I sort of become fond of the Kahler bridge and eventually got a Charvel Model 4. The Gibson did get played once in a while but mostly remained in its case and was well kept in mint condition until I was forced to sell it to finance a divorce 15 years after I bought it. As time moved on, I became more interested in the Floyd Rose bridge to the point I was hooked on it. What inspired me to get the Epiphones in the first place was this:

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Not because it looks interesting as it does, but for the engineering behind it. I wanted one but did not have a suitable candidate to mount it on. I did consider an ES-335 or something a bit smaller. Sort of wanted a semi-hollow guitar but instead of the typical Bigsby bridge, the FRX would be much better. I bought the two Epiphones from different resources. The primary was the Black with gold hardware. The Koa model was an impulse buy. Two guitars for the price of one Charvel MJ San Dimas. Not bad. As I said, I am impressed with how well they play. fit and finish is really good. Not one issue I can complain about. Sure, I have seen the others list their issues, usually with the pickup selector or the knobs. So far no issues yet.

I have to thank @domct203 for getting me on track with the FRX. I held off on getting it as I sort of liked the change of the hard tail and not making use of the Floyd Rose. So I bought another Epi Les Paul Custom in black and gold and opted to install the FRX on the one I have. That turned out quite well. Did not take long to install it. I have to say it took me longer to tune it than a standard FR 1000. It has more to do with the neck angle and the amount of drop on the strings after the nut and the compression from the string lock. Just a hint on the install, I did not use the screws that came with the FRX to mount the string lock. Those were too long and would have made it through the headstock. I had some on hand that I bought for mounting pickguards to a Strat body, they were about half the length, more of a half inch than the inch long screws in the kit.

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The FRX retains the same string spacing as the TOM bridge. That was good to know. No need for stretching out the pickup cavity to fit a Trembucker pickup, not needed here. Unlike the traditional Floyd Rose 1000, 1500 or original, that uses a Fender string spacing so Trembucker bridge pickup would be needed if you wanted to keep the pole pieces in the proper location. The alternative is to use a pickup with 11 poles for each coil, the type with the solid bar magnet, or perhaps a Zexcoil humbucker since that uses angled bar magnets and small coils per each pole piece. So not mods required except for two holes drilled into the head stock to secure the string lock. Could I opt for the locking tuners instead? No, Sperzels, Goto, Graph Tech Ratio, and the like will not keep the stings in tune when using a tremolo bridge that and deep dive or pull up. Sure they are much better than the standard type of tuner. Most cases it is the gear ratio in combination of the string gauge that may require frequent tuning. Tuning stability is mostly due to the strings stretching more so than tension on the tuner peg but that has something to do with it too. Don't need as much as a string wrap with the locking tuners. I have several guitars with that type of tuner with fixed bridge and Floyd Rose but I would not use the FR without a string lock.

The FRX feels a bit different than the standard Floyd Rose bridge. Depends on your perspective. Most of the guitars I have with the Floyd Rose bridge are free floating types since the body is routed for it. I have three FR equipped guitars that had a different concept, dive only and the bridge would rest on the body of the guitar in its normal position. Those tend to have more spring tension if it is set that way, depends on the string gauge you use. It does take a little more effort to dive with the traditional Floyd Rose bridge. Depends on the springs used, string gauge and so on. The FRX just moves or dives/pulls up with ease. The pivot point is still a knife edge on two secured posts fixed to the frame. No fear of wearing into the edge when adjusting for string height as that is managed by two set screws that rest on plastic pads you place on the guitar to prevent damage to the finish. I figured out how to get the intonation set without having to adjust the saddles. It was just a factor of moving the bridge closer or farther from the bridge pickup with the two set screws that anchor to the studs. It was quite easy to set up. Moving the saddles with the traditional method using the key or intonation tool would be difficult, again the frame is sort of in the way.

The FRX has an adjustable thumb wheel so you can make the bridge into a dive only function. However, it is not compatible with the D-tuna that is common with EVH guitars as there is not enough room to make use of it due to the frame of the bridge that houses the main spring.

Since I bought the fitted Epiphone case to go with the Epi LP, I was also concerned if the guitar would fit the case after installing the FRX. No problem for fit if you remove the tremolo arm and place it in the accessory compartment before closing the case. The tremolo arm is secured with two set screws, so an Allen key is needed to secure it and to remove it.

Dom had a cool trick for that with a thumb screw in place of the one set screw. Cool idea. Will have to try it one of these days. Here is a link to his thread.

https://boogieforum.com/threads/ngd-ltd-eclipse-ec256.87617/#post-538403
 
Let me know if the FRX remains stable. I haven’t had the time to redo the setup to see if I can figure out why mine stops a couple of cents flat returning from a dive. I did notice that the tension screw is not centered in the base, it’s off to one side. It’s not rubbing but I think this has something to do with my issue.

Dom

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Let me know if the FRX remains stable. I haven’t had the time to redo the setup to see if I can figure out why mine stops a couple of cents flat returning from a dive. I did notice that the tension screw is not centered in the base, it’s off to one side. It’s not rubbing but I think this has something to do with my issue.

Dom

View attachment 3478

Tony Makenzi did a review on the FRX and discussed a few things that was found. He mounted the bridge on an Epiphone SG guitar and has a flat body much like the Flying V that Doug Doppler has.
Tony takes some time to describe the issue but not sure if it was addressed on how to fix it. Same issue with the spring bolt offset in the hole. Since this is completely linear, any tortional pull on the bridge considering the X,Y, and Z planes could result in forces in the bridge plate structure as well as cause the center spring bolt to shift. It is a threaded both with a sharp coned end that intersects the bridge at the fulcrum point that is held in place from moving too much with a bracket.



I noticed the offset with the main screw as well. I had tuning instability issues. I did find the reason what was up with that, it was the threaded insert on the low E side got pulled out of the guitar body so it was basically only secured by the one on the high E side. I removed the bridge and found the hole was a bit oversized for the insert. It came out very easily. Had a remedy but not a good one for the fix as I used a potting compound epoxy that expands a small amount when it cures. It is basically used for thermal conductivity of electronic components and will stick to the wood and metal. I have seen some other tricks using wood glue and paper. This one was inexpensive so it if was broke, oh well. I gave the repair 24 hours to cure and reinstalled the bridge. I have it set up much the same way and this time the insert remained in the body and did not lift out.

For the compression spring screw, it has something to do with the bridge angle, if it is perpendicular to the strings as well as how low the bridge is set. Since the body is arched, I was able to lower it down a bit more. Setting it up is a bit different than a traditional FR. Getting the bridge flat in respect to the plane of the guitar strings is also important. I have also found I cannot fully pull up on the bridge. Nothing is binding or rubbing. There is a specific amount of pull up travel with this one compared to a routed FR bridge, even that has limits when it bottoms out on in the pocket. I do not mind the limited travel on the pull up. I just want the easy tremolo effect.

Also removed the one screw on the side that makes contact with the spring plate or center point plate on the opposite side of the tremolo arm. I will get that in one of these days but found it works better without it. At least if that was in the right location it would place tension on the spring plate at the tuned center point. I have not figured out the setup on it yet.

This is still new to me too, figuring it out is part of the fun. Probably should read the manual or watch the FR videos on the installation methods. Tony had some good pointers though as did you with the thumb screw for the tremolo arm.
 
I’ve watched the Floyd Rose video multiple times, it’s disappointingly just a step by step. I’ve also seen the Tony Makenzie video, great in depth review but nothing detailed about the bridge not returning to zero.

I’ve been researching this for a while and there is not much in the sense of technical info out there. Yes I agree, this is different than your standard FR.

I have the bridge and base in the same plane as the strings, I went out of my way to make sure of that, I know that this is a very important part of setting up a standard FR so I took that same approach.

I’ve reached out to FR via email and their website contact page last week, I have no response yet.

If I get the chance to dive into it this weekend I’m going to swap in the black bridge and see if anything changes.

Dom
 
I also used smaller screws for the locking nut, #4 x 1/2” stainless steel.

I added a shim under the locking nut to correct the break angle of the strings over the guitar’s nut. I bought a piece of 0.016” thick stainless, traced the nut on it and used a cutoff wheel in my dremel to rough it out. Finished it up with files and various dremel bits, it’s hardly noticeable. My string break angle is much better now that the nut is shimmed up to meet the strings instead of pulling them down so hard on the nut. Very little fine tuning is needed when I lock the nut. I checked under the strings before I locked them down and was able to pass a .003” shim through with no resistance.

You can see the shim under the locking nut in this picture. While it’s not the best angle, you can see that the strings take a natural path from nut to tuners.

Dom

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I did not shim the nut. It is not difficult to drop the tuners down lock the strings and correct with the tuners as some of the strings will be sharp. I had gotten used to that with some guitars that did not have a string tree to keep the strings against the bottom of the FR nut.

The optional nut from FR for neck angles less than 17° just moves the string lock farther away from the guitar nut, I would say it is about 1/4 inch? I believe the neck angle on the Epiphone is 14° so I probably should have opted for the alternate string lock. Oh well, holes are drilled and not drilling any more. This and the original string lock have a more trapezoidal shaped string clamping block. Does it matter which direction they go on?

Alt FRX nut.JPG
 
Swapped bridges today, so far so good, we’ll find out for sure tomorrow at practice.

The chrome was flaking off at the knife edges, and the edge looks worn or distorted on the treble side. I already wore through the black coating on the posts. I tried to grab a picture but it’s hard to see:

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The tension screw is in the exact same position, set far right in the cavity. When I put the chrome bridge on the chrome base the tension screw is in the same position, off to the far right. Odd. Is yours centered?

I used the chrome saddles, I really didn’t want to have all black. It will do if it stays stable. Threw in some titanium string clamping blocks for good measure.

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Still nothing from Floyd Rose support.

Dom
 
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No, mine is offset. When I removed the bridge, it went to the center. Was wondering what was up with that. yeah, it was the insert at the low E string side that pulled out of the body. Bridge was sort secure buy the one closer to the controls and the set screw on that side was making contact. The one on the other side was not. So far the repair is holding up. I have not tuned up the guitar yet to see if there is any change to the FRX. Not sure I am set up for that yet. I will find out more when I get it setup again. Not as much pull up travel as the typical FR bridge even with the tension arm in the center of the hole. The string lock screws were not hitting the shaft at all. I think it is more related to the studs on the front where the knife edges meet. If they were adjustable in height, that would probably improve things. Still new to me. It works. Then again I had my reasons to get another Epi of the same model. Sometimes you want the hard tail and sometimes you don't. I still have the Koa one too, but it sounds a bit different.

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The guitar was a lot more stable, much better, but it’s still just a tad flat when returning to zero, just enough to make my Peterson Strobe Tuner just start to rotate CCW. A slight tug and the strobe stops dead.

At least now it’s not really noticeable live, not like with the other bridge, I could actually hear how flat it was (we practice with headphones/in ears so it really stood out) which is what made me start checking. That was not the case this Sunday so I’ll keep the guitar in rotation for now. I’m just using it for two songs right now.

I do find this a bit disappointing. My Schecter Hellraiser returns to tune every time.

And still no reply from Floyd Rose after a second email. Time to pick up the phone I guess.

Dom
 
I was having tuning stability issues as well. Bummer. The fix was to use the thumbscrew to set a stop position and add more spring tension. It is now a dive only setup but still works well that way. It is so easy to get soft tremolo effect compared to say an EVH guitar that stops against the body as that takes more effort to dive with. I blame it on the D-tuna thing. String gauge may play a role in the stability of things. I run 10's in the standard form (not the top-heavy sets as I have those as well). With the EVH I had to increase the spring tension as well as add the third spring otherwise it was not tunable. It only had two springs (this is for both the EVH Wolfgang and bumblebee guitars). All of my Carvin/Kiesel guitars and Charvel guitars with the Floyd Rose bridge work great. No issues with tuning stability at all. I normally stretch the strings before locking them in. Tuned up two steps and let to sit for a day before tuning to standard pitch and locking the strings in.

As for the duplicate Epiphone, I need to dress the frets as they have some sharps on the bottom edge. I had the same issue with the second MJ Charvel but that is easy to remedy with a file or sanding block.
 
I tried the trem block, yes it keeps it returning to tune but I enjoy that up/down vibrato you get with a full floater. I was only repeatedly dive bombing to test the trem, I use it more for whole step bends and vibrato, but yea a good dive bomb at the end of a phrase feels great.

Live this is not really an issue, and once a new set of strings settle it stays in tune.

We’ll see how it goes, I can repair the screw holes on the headstock decent enough if I decide to pull the FRX.

Too bad this didn’t work out better. My wife will kill me when I buy that Epi Alex Lifeson Axcess LP 🤣🤣🤣

Dom
 
You could do a search on reverb for a used Carvin/Kiesel CS6 with a floyd rose. Not much different than the LP but a 25.5" scale. I have one that has the fixed bridge. Bought it used on Ebay. Decent guitar. Keep searching and they pop up every now and then for a decent price. When new they basically run $2k + depending on the options chosen. Flamed or quilted maple tops and the finish is where they get you on the builder. I do not believe Kiesel makes any guitars with the FR bridge except for the Jason Becker model. Now it is a custom -50 option that makes it non-returnable. Makes no sense. Before the started going headless, Kiesel had the FR bridge options available on just about every guitar, not all, but the popular ones. 2016 was the last time I ordered a custom guitar from Kiesel. Most of the other Carvin guitars I have were adopted from Ebay. I only bought three direct from Carvin, now Kiesel.

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Come to think of it, check your neck, it may need a truss rod adjustment.
The CT624C in the image above has the most stable neck of any instrument I own. It is graphite or carbon fiber reinforced. That guitar never goes out of tune no matter how much abuse I give it. Also more stable due to temperature and humidity swings due to environmental changes.

I think that was why I gravitated to the Charvel guitars. They are the affordable super strats that make use of the graphite rods in the necks. Thinner profile though but still quite stable. I have no issues with those instruments on tuning stability either. Matters not if it is a Floyd Rose or GOTO bridge.

As for the Epiphone, I will have to check to see if the neck is bowed and if it shifts when using the tremolo. Unless it is a design defect on the FRX, it should have some stability as the concept is much the same, two knife edges on fixed studs. At least you can adjust the string height without fear of damaging the knife edges while under tension.

Too bad the Epi Alex Lifeson Axcess is red or I would have bought one. Wanted a solid body axe without the body cored out for the springs. Was hoping this would be the option moving forward as I wanted to use one of these bridges on a semi-hollow as it is better looking than the Bigsby bridge. Wonder if there is a forum on the subject matter involving the FRX bridge. Perhaps there is something we are missing. I already fixed one issue, the insert pulled out of the guitar so that got glued back in so it does not pop out again. So far it has not moved. Getting the full float going would be ideal. However, this bridge is so easy to use I can do the simple tremolo effect even though I have it set to dive only. Will have to find the center point screw and see if that helps. I took it out for now.
 
Now I want the axcess, just watched the description from the man himself. Seems that many complain about the high E string being too close to the edge of the fretboard. Based on the view of the instrument, one could probably order a narrow nut from FR. Neck has a 12 inch radius so no issue with the FR bridge as is (as long as the shims are not installed under the saddles)
For a compound neck radius of 12 to 16 inch, that will require a different bridge radius. Trick for that is to replace the string saddles with the Graph Tech versions for the 7 string bridge as that will give you a 20 inch radius, better for a strat with longer scale. They fit but you need to reuse the string locking screws from the original parts. That is what I did with a guitar I built from part I got from Warmoth. Swap the FR for the GOTO 1996T and swap Goto bridge saddles for the 7 string versions as that will provide a 17 inch bridge radius. Takes the hump out of the center strings so they will be closer to the fretboard. The standard 6 string saddles on the GOTO 1996T is close to 14 inches. I may swap out the FR on one of my Carvin Bolts with the bridge I bought as it has a 14 inch neck radius. The Carvin CTS624C I ordered specifically with the 12 inch radius neck. Standard was 14 inch. Hard to say if you find one used, did the buyer understand that the FR bridge is 12 inch? At least there is a means to correct that with the bridge. Hard to replace a set neck unless you want to shape the frets down with a sanding block. No thanks.
 
Agreed, I already own 4 red guitars 😂

There are zero CS6’s with a FR on eBay, and one breathtaking specimen on Reverb for about $2K with shipping. As tempted as I am to buy that guitar, it defeats the purpose of having a cheap mass produced guitar for seedy gigs. It really is pretty though…

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Neck relief is stable at about 0.004”, but who knows what it’s doing when I dump the string tension, sound theory but I really think it’s the tremolo.

At practice yesterday it was really not that noticeable, even in the in-ears. If I didn’t look at my tuner (Peterson stomp) it probably would have gone unnoticed or dismissed as being the bass player LOL. I was jamming on my Nomad after dinner last night and honestly didn’t notice it at all, but I was alone so no other point of reference. I’ll throw on some backing tracks when I go jam again.

I’m optimistic that the tremolo will settle in, if not I’ll just block the trem for dive only.

I ended up leaving the centering screw out so as not to add more variables. I might put it back in, the trem is much better after the bridge swap, it might be enough now to help it return. Thanks for bringing it up.

I did find a post about that tension screw being off center, it was so bad that it was actually rubbing and the OP got a replacement that corrected it. Not much else out there.

I think this is where our problem lies, if the screw is not perpendicular to the pivot point it may be enough resistance at the contact point on the bridge to do this, well that’s my theory anyway. I did generously lube that contact point and the knife edges with nut sauce when I swapped the bridges.

Dom.
 
The LTD is a 14” radius neck, I had to shim the FRX saddles to match, and it matches quite well. I really like the 14” radius, it compliments the neck shape.

Yes the video with Alex is what had me looking at Epi’s in the first place. It really is a nice guitar for the money.

Dom
 
Agreed, I already own 4 red guitars 😂

There are zero CS6’s with a FR on eBay, and one breathtaking specimen on Reverb for about $2K with shipping. As tempted as I am to buy that guitar, it defeats the purpose of having a cheap mass produced guitar for seedy gigs. It really is pretty though…

View attachment 3607

Neck relief is stable at about 0.004”, but who knows what it’s doing when I dump the string tension, sound theory but I really think it’s the tremolo.

At practice yesterday it was really not that noticeable, even in the in-ears. If I didn’t look at my tuner (Peterson stomp) it probably would have gone unnoticed or dismissed as being the bass player LOL. I was jamming on my Nomad after dinner last night and honestly didn’t notice it at all, but I was alone so no other point of reference. I’ll throw on some backing tracks when I go jam again.

I’m optimistic that the tremolo will settle in, if not I’ll just block the trem for dive only.

I ended up leaving the centering screw out so as not to add more variables. I might put it back in, the trem is much better after the bridge swap, it might be enough now to help it return. Thanks for bringing it up.

I did find a post about that tension screw being off center, it was so bad that it was actually rubbing and the OP got a replacement that corrected it. Not much else out there.

I think this is where our problem lies, if the screw is not perpendicular to the pivot point it may be enough resistance at the contact point on the bridge to do this, well that’s my theory anyway. I did generously lube that contact point and the knife edges with nut sauce when I swapped the bridges.

Dom.
I shared that axe with someone who is looking for a guitar with FR bridge. Since it is an LP like instrument, he is much like you, prefers to have an LP. For me, I can use any guitar as long as the neck has a decent width to it. Schecter's tend to run on the narrow side as doe some LTD's but depends on the model of the guitar. The EVH wolfgang is also a bit narrow but the thickness of the neck profile makes up for it. At least the Epiphone maintains a good width at the nut. They are decent. There is always the Kramer Assault version if you do not mind having a reverse hockey stick headstock on a LP body. I believe Kramer was one of the acquired brands by Gibson. Hard to say there is any Gibson heritage in that instrument though.
 

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