09 November 2012

Guitars: Prestige Heritage Elite and Standard


Note: this entry was already published during September 2009, in my old Spanish version of this blog. I am revisiting this entry an mixing the information about two Prestige Heritage models: the Elite, that I bought first time, and the Standard, that I actually own. The entry has been updated with additional information derived of experience.

Ah, yes, Les Paul, Les Paul!.
Same thing that happens with Jimi Hendrix and Stratocasters, happens with Les Pauls and Jimmy Page.
If you even saw Led Zeppelin's film called "The song remains the same", the images of that Page's guitar doing anything you can imagine will be still alive in your mind.
Yes, I wanted a Stratocaster (because of Hendrix) but, I wanted a Les Paul, also!.

The main issue with all Gibson' stuff is the price tag. Incredible high. You see their building facilities in some videos, where the most of process is highly mechanized and you wonder why that price!.
Fender' stuff is always more affordable, in my opinion rightly priced but, that's how life goes: do you want a Gibson? pay it!.

Nowadays, I would probably save money for a real Gibson but, when I retook the guitar (2008 - 2009), I knew less than I new when I played my first guitar and, this is close to Zero knowledge. I didn't wanted to break my pocket buying an expensive guitar that could be my second one.

For sure, the best alternative to a real Gibson LP is a Tokai but, the good ones (by example the equivalent to a R9) are reaching high price tags, close to the price of a Gibson Standard and, they don't have the same resell price. Other good clones are in the same price level (or even expensiver if they are Japanese clones of around 80-90's).
Then, we have the little brother of Gibson, Epiphone. I currently thing that Epiphone has increased his quality level since those years. Two Epiphones I bought are really convincing, specially on wood work. But, people was claiming about fret work, cheap hardware and weak electronics those days so, I turned my head in other directions.

What I wanted is to get some LP type of guitar with good wood work and, with the possibility to be upgraded during the time. If wood is ok, you can always enhance the guitar.
Following the rule that says: "cheaper often means expensiver" (because you end buying same thing several times), I went first for the "Chinese way".

Those years, a lot of Ebay activity was happening (no Crisis!) and was really easy to buy, resell and sell again. I bought first a couple of Chinese LP's, really cheap, from a couple of European traders on Ebay.
What can I say!. They could serve as a table for your workshop but, as guitars, had a lot to grow.
Bad woods, bad work, bad settings, weak necks, bad pickups, cheap electronics... you know, everything that makes a guitar to sound and play simply horrible.
I saw a friend of mine buying a couple of Chinese "exact" clones of a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson LP Custom that played and sounded simply bad. They are even putting there the name of brand and models that they are cloning, without shame and with total impunity. Nobody can stop that people?. It's a shame for the real Brands and a trap were many unknowledgable people caught!.

Well, still under the rule "cheaper often means expensiver", I did resold both guitars practically the same month I had them and went an step higher: this time, I wanted to try Korean stuff and stay away of Chinese Stuff.
This time, I did a more careful search and, I wanted a cheap Korean guitar but, having good electronics loaded, to avoid the extra expense of upgrading electronics, what makes the guitar to cost more or less double than when you bought it.

That search leaded me to Prestige Heritage guitars.
As per their page's information. They seem to send Canadian wood to Korea, let the Korean people to do what they do really well (woodwork) and finish the guitar with American hardware and pickups, setting up the guitar finally in Canada.
Prestige Heritage models were loaded with real CTS pots and Seymour Duncan pickups ('59 at neck and JB at bridge) so, I had to try it.

I bought first the Elite model, that sounded absolutely magic. I sold it because it had that kind of gorgeous "Tree of Life" inlay, that I love to see but, that makes me to be lost when walking the neck (just a personal limitation) and, because they hadn't same model with regular inlays, I had to go for an Standard.
This entry will talk simultaneously of both guitars.


Both guitars come in a thin hard case, with good look but, the walls of the case are so thin that cannot protect the guitar enough. The hard case is shaped with the shape of the guitar, as usual for LP like guitars.
Inside, just the warranty (for life!), the thrussrod key and, that's all.

The Elite model has stunning finishes. It's sexy as hell. The body top is made of quilted maple of quality AAAA, absolutely gorgeous. The paint work on the back, neck and headstock shine like a mirror and, the whole frontal shape (body, fretboard and headstock) are surrounded with a mother-of-pearl inlay that makes this guitar incredible sexy.
The fretboard is inlayed with some variant of the "Tree of Life", with mother-of-pearl inlays. This work is way more beautiful that the "Tree of Life" that you can see in a JEM7VWH, that disappointed me a bit.
If you see the two pictures in the header of this blog, this is the guitar I am talking about!.

The woodwork is perfect. No flaws, everything was done to the perfection.
The joint neck and body is completely different of any standard LP. It has some kind of shape in form of an S that makes really comfortable to reach the last frets (one of the things I don't like of LPs).
The neck is thin, closer to the '60s neck style but, maybe, even thinner.

Paint isn't nitro but, I hate nitro necks, in fact, because it's some kind of brake when walking on the neck.
So, the high gloss finish of this guitar made it easy to walk the fingerboard.
Tuning keys are typical Korean, oil-sealed Die Cast. Not a great thing but, they do their job. The guitar remains in tune more time than my 3 Gibsons (now, I just have one).
The electronics work is perfect, using CTS pots, Swiftcraft jack and switch and, the guitar comes stock with a couple of Seymour Duncan's pickups, a '59 on neck and a JB on bridge.
You really don't need to upgrade the electronics. The guitar is already completed in this area.
The above details are related to the Elite model.
The Standard model is more standard. It lacks the incredible mother-of-pearl inlays that follow the guitar' shape and, even the typical block inlays on frets are made of abalone, instead of mother-of-pearl.
The joint neck-body is the same as in a LP so, worst to reach the lower frets.
Even mounting the same electronics and hardware that the Elite model, woods seem an step down in quality and, this is something that immediately is transferred to the resulting sound.
While the Elite model sounded and played just perfect, the Standard model sounds and plays a bit looser.

I did always regret selling the Elite one. It was lately stolen to the guy I've sold it and, I am wondering if one who has her on his hands would even appreciate that guitar!.

Playing it
In the Elite, the shape of the neck, the inlays of the fretboard (that increase the speed) and the kind of paint used for the neck, make it easier to play than a regular Gibson. Unplugged, its woods resonate round, with complex harmonics and a lot of sustain.The wood is of quality and give a good body to the sound.
The guitar weights exactly 4 KG! (and the case, other 4 KG!).
The sound is simply magical. They choosed a nice pair of classical SD pickups that help to enhance the natural sound of this guitar.
The '59 sounds warm, very vocal, with some kind of wah effect, rich overtones, harmonically rich and complex. Really nice. Can go a bit dirt and undefined under high gain.
The JB cuts the mix in any situation. More modern voiced, cuts as a blade and, very specially, under high distortion.
To get a good EQ in your amp, can be more tricky than usual because both pickups are EQ'd in a very different way so, you should go for a compromised in-between EQ. But, once you achieve it, the guitar starts to sing like a bird (a fat one) and, thanks to the very different nature of both pickups, the guitar is actually very versatile.

My only limitation with that guitar was the fretboard inlay. I am lost when I play any guitar having such a "Tree of Life" inlay, it already happened to me with 4 guitars (that I resold because of the same thing!).
But I am missing her tone everyday, and I always regret selling her!.

If you don't have such a silly issue with that kind of inlays and you are still doubting if Elite or Standard: DON'T DOUBT IT: ELITE ALL THE WAY DOWN!.

Fretwork is also good. Frets are well polished and sanded, nothing that stops your fingers.
The set up was really good, as comes stock.

Overall, even that both guitars are very similar respect of hardware and electronics, the Elite is clearly a plus and, not just esthetically talking but, related to woods quality also. The magical sound that the Elite was delivering isn't the same as the Standard delivers (a bit looser) and, overall, the Standard feels weaker in every sense but, still a good guitar (that's why is still in my arsenal, after 3 years).
The Standard remains for less time in tune than the Elite.

Even that it was unnecessary to upgrade the pickups, I did it. I wanted to explore different coils combinations and found that this guitar is a good platform to do it.
I've swapped the original pickups with a couple of Bareknuckle's: The Mule on neck and, Riff Raff on bridge. A set that is quite similar to the original one but that has a better definition and easier EQ.
I also swapped the original caps with a couple of 0.047 PIO caps (Sprage Vitamin-Q).
The guitar (Standard) is currently wired according to my "LP Exchanger mod #2", that is some kind of enhanced JP wiring mod.

The Videos

I did just a video with the Elite and, it lacks video quality (recorded with a cheap webcam) and the unprocessed sound is a bit weak but, I think from frame to frame, and thru the dark image, you can imagine how the guitar looks and sounds. This video was done for a Seymour Duncan's contest and, I won a Twin Tube pedal with it!. LOL.

The Standard is appearing in more videos. In this one, I am improvising an "on-steroids" free improvisation over Led Zeppelin's "Since I am loving you", that allows you to hear the Standard in a real application.

This two are probably the closer to a "demo" of the different sound of this guitar with the "LP Exchange mod #2" wiring mod and the two Bareknucle's:

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