GAS and Buyer’s Remorse
by Joseph Avery-North
G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is something many musicians have even if it’s undiagnosed. Actually, I don’t think the medical and mental health fields even recognise it although it’s very real. Quite simply, it’s that overwhelming, almost all consuming desire to acquire gear, lots of it, whether it’s needed or not.
Buyer’s remorse is something that most people, musicians or not, are familiar with and when you combine the two… Well, it can be most unpleasant and there are very few treament options available. Typically, the options are abstinence (voluntary or enforced), intervention (usually organised by a spouse/significant other) or acquiring more gear – chasing the dragon as it were.
I’ve experienced it. Hell, I live with it and I genrally consider myself to be rational and pragmatic in most other aspects of my life. Even now, every time I see a Rickenbacker I start wanting one again. Regarding that particular brand, I’m fortunate because I’ve had prior experiences to draw from and I’ve been able to fight the urge so far. With other brands, I’m not as strong.
Last spring I had my heart set on Gretsch’s G6119T-62 Vintage Select Tennessee Rose but then they announced the G6134T-LTD Penguin which I simply had to have since um… purple and grey are two of my favourite colours. I absolutely love my Penguin. The only problem is that I still don’t have the Tennesse Rose… yet!
But not every desire, impulse or urge meets with such satisfaction when it comes to GAS. That’s where the buyer’s remorse comes in.
For years I wanted an Epiphone Casino. In fact, when I picked up my much loved Epiphone Sheraton II over twenty years ago a Casino is what I was actually shopping for. I went with the Sheraton because the only Casinos I could find in any local stores all had a Bigsby. While a Gretsch, in my opinion, looks naked without a Bigsby I’m not a fan of them on other guitars and the Casino was using a tension bar Bigsby, something I’m not fond of on any guitar.
For Christmas 2019 my wife got me a Casino for a Christmas/birthday gift. Well, as it’s our money so she didn’t really get it for me so much as allow me to order it without confining me to the couch. I was happy, excited and then… it arrived.
Let’s be blunt – Gibson, and by extension Epiphone, don’t have the best reputation for quality control and one of the things they’re known for are poorly cut nuts on their guitars. $500 or $5000, it doesn’t matter. It’s a piss poor job nine times out of ten. Now, while I may have penned a piece last year about Epiphones being decent quality, fully giggable guitars… I regret buying my Casino. So much so that it may very well be the last Epiphone I ever purchase.
The finish on mine has some poor work around the f-holes and the nut on mine was very poorly cut. The slots were too high and so, regardless of whether it was tuned and the intonation perfect, any open chord you played was out of tune with itself. Setting up a guitar to your own personal preferences as far as action and relief is expected. But you shouldn’t have to immediately purchase parts and take a brand new instrument to a tech/luthier to get a playable instrument. I had to. I purchased a Graph Tech Tusq XL and took the guitar in to my local luthier.
I can do basic setups. Adjusting action, intonation and relief is easy but I have no experience with cutting and filing nuts, fret work, etc, and it was was month before I got it back. That’s not directly Epiphone’s fault, but indirectly it most assuredly is. And when I picked it up the luthier informed me that not only was the nut poorly cut but the bridge saddles weren’t properly filed either. Thanks, Gibson. Thanks Epiphone. Nice QC.
And then there were the pickups. My old Sheraton II is stock with the exception of the nut. The original nut was actually perfect, I just wanted something different. With this Casino, the pickups were dark and muddy. Casinos are supposed to bright and chimey. The only good sound I could get from the guitar was on the bridge pickup with some overdrive.
Having wanted a Casino for years and wanting a hollow body with P-90s in my tonal arsenal, I did some research. I found Kent Armstrong makes pickups specifically for the Epiphone Casino that are highly regarded. They’re also “drop in” replacements that don’t require any additional modifications to the guitar so I ordered a set of their Vintage Series Casino pickups.
When they arrived I took them to a different tech, got the guitar back within days this time and… I was almost happy. The pickups are great, a vast improvement over the stock pickups but by now, between the new nut and labour and the new pickups and labour, I’ve spent almost half the price of the guitar just to get it to a state where it’s playable and sounds good.
No two guitars are identical, even if they’re the same make and model but “running the racks”, as I’ve mentioned in a previous article, is a thing of the past with most brick and mortar retailers. You place your order, wait and hope what arrives wasn’t made on a Monday or a Friday.
If I had to do it over again, quite simply I wouldn’t have bought it. I’d have ordered another one or just moved on. I certainly wouldn’t have put the money into it that I have. Sure, a Vintage Sunburst Casino looks damned fine but it’s the guitar I reach for the least. On a subconscious level my bitterness at what I had to do to get it to being a decent instrument tarnished the excitement I initially felt.
Another turn off was how completely dismissive Epiphone was when I first reached out to them, before even buying the new nut and new pickups. I place a high priority on customer service, partly because I expect value for my money and partly because I spent years working as a customer service manager for my day job but regardless, I wasn’t impressed. Still, I now find myself eyeing the Epiphone Riviera… stupid GAS.