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  1. #1

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    I've been watching and reading about these cheap guitars for a number of months now. And I read the thread here earlier about the Grote full hollow body guitar and it seemed pretty positive. I've been wanting a 335-type guitar for some time, and after some research I thought the Grote would be something to try. In the end, I went with the Grote, as I could get it using my Amazon Prime, allowing me to return it at no cost with no questions asked. If I lived in Europe, I would've gone with one of the Harley Benton's instead.

    This is my second Grote. The first one had a bad (is there any other type?) crack in the neck joint and I returned it immediately. The replacement I received on Friday, and I've had the whole weekend now to play and form a quick opinion.

    My quick opinion is: it's a good guitar for $185. I think the price went up again, however, and I'm not sure I would recommend this guitar if it goes past $200. I think at that price, you'll find a used Epiphone/Ibanez at around $50-$100 more which is what this Grote will probably end up costing you (I'll explain that later).

    So, first off. I unpacked the guitar and gave it a quick inspection. After finding the crack in the other one, I was a little apprehensive. But, not only was the neck fine, but I honestly can't find any problems with the finish. A lot people seem to mention finish issues, but I don't see any blemishes at all. I know a lot of people will go over a guitar with a fine tooth comb, so maybe if you are one of those people you'll find a problem. I'm not one and I think looks good. One thing I think worth mentioning is the f-holes have binding. I know a lot of cheap guitars will simply paint these to look like binding, but the Grote has actual binding there.

    I tuned it up and checked the setup, and there were a couple high frets, but they were very minor and only affected the high E and B strings. After playing a little and deciding it seemed I might actually keep it, I removed the strings to put on the ones I wanted and do a real setup and intonation. I also fixed the frets with some *very* minor filing and then touch up. The intonation was WAY off, so that really needed to be done(it obviously wasn't even attempted at the factory). But after leveling the frets and bringing down the bridge and setting the neck, I was able to get it to play very nicely. I have it set at 4/64" on the high E and 5/64" on the low, and it plays great with no buzz.

    After three days of playing it, I'll post what I find bad about this guitar:
    1. Tuners are obviously garbage. They are "notchy" when turned, and don't hold tune very well so far. Definitely need replaced with better quality ones.
    2. Inlays are poorly done. Most seem to be off-center and there is some obvious "squeeze out" around the inlays where it looks like they weren't routed properly.
    3. So far, my finger tips are black after playing! I've read in a couple places makers will dye the fretboard to make it look darker, and this is the case here I think. I'm hoping this will go away and/or the dye will cure. It was admittedly much better today when I played for a couple hours.
    4. Either the ToM-style bridge is rattling (as they are known to do) or the strings behind it are vibrating. It's bad enough to be annoying, but I think it might be more vibration behind, as I ran a rag thru the strings and it almost completely went away. I noticed there doesn't seem to be a lot of downward pressure behind the bridge so that seems like the cause.

    And that's really all I can say bad at this point. So the good?
    1. It really does play/feels good. The neck feels a little chunkier than the Ibanez I have. I put a caliper on the neck, and they both measure the exact same at the nut/12th fret, both width and thickness. My Ibanez has a 12" radius, so I'm guessing the Grote would be a little larger, because it does feel like I have more room on the fret board.
    2. I don't find the pickups to be that bad. I haven't balanced them yet, but I have no issues with them so far.
    3. $185

    My overall verdict is I like the guitar. As I mentioned, it does need some $$$ put into it with tuners and a setup (If you can't do that yourself) and I also understand many will feel the need to replace the pickups as well. So take that into consideration when deciding to buy. But I feel it's a good value for it's price. It's certainly better than any cheap guitar I had way back when I began. (Although I also would've never, ever, never wanted a guitar like this back then either).

    I honestly would've loved to be able to get a Harley Benson from the EU as it does seem they are slightly better for around the same price (before shipping). But it's a bit of a gamble, I think, to have the guitar shipped. Because even as it's only $30 shipping last I looked, if it arrives with issues, it'll cost much more than that to return it (I asked, and they said I would have to pay shipping to return).

    Pictures!

    Grote 335-style. Sub 0 semi-hollow review.-img_20200216_161447960-jpgGrote 335-style. Sub 0 semi-hollow review.-img_20200216_161533974-jpgGrote 335-style. Sub 0 semi-hollow review.-img_20200216_161428586-jpgGrote 335-style. Sub 0 semi-hollow review.-img_20200216_161407760-jpg

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  3. #2

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    Thanks for the review!

  4. #3

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    Nice review. It's good to get a serviceable instrument at a favorable price point. congratulations, and play it in good health!

  5. #4

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    as per cons- try lowering the tailpiece into the body so that the angle between it and bridge is increased...you'll get a slightly tauter tension feel but might lose some of those overtones!

    try wiping down fretboard with naphtha or high 90% + iso alcohol...just a tiny bit on rag...to remove excess stain

    looks pretty nice for 200$ mark


    other brands i'd look into at similar price point are oscar schmidts and gfs

    cheers
    Last edited by neatomic; 02-17-2020 at 07:17 PM.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    as per cons- try lowering the tailpiece into the body so that the angle between it and bridge is increased...you'll get a slightly tauter tension feel but might lose some of those overtones!

    try wiping down fretboard with naphtha or high 90% + iso alcohol...just a tiny bit on rag...to remove excess stain
    I thought already about the tailpiece, but it looks like it's down as far as it can go. I thought maybe about running the strings "backwards" around the tailpiece so they come out underneath it, but not sure how well that would work.

    I'll definitely try the naptha trick. I have some lighter fluid around here somewhere I think. Would oderless mineral spirits work instead?


    One other "CON" I think I've found: I tried to balance the pickups last nite, and the pole pieces don't seem to screw up and down. I've never seen that, anyone have an idea why or what is going on? It really needs balanced as the G & B strings are very loud and the high E noticeably quieter.

  7. #6

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    yeah most spirits would work (tho the highest alcohol to water ratios work best)...but always gingerly..never soak or overdo it!

    as for pole piece screws..who knows what they've done!! (used bogus screws?..or just have ill fitting connections???) thats too bad you can't adjust..

    why there's something to be said for cheaper guitars from the majors...like fmic squier and gibsons epi..at least they make a pretense of maintaining standards...once you go to the darkside with these unknown asian made amazon/ebay brands you never know what to expect!! haha

    maybe look into some gfs pups as cheaper replacements

    cheers

  8. #7

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    I have to admit here: I don't know what "gfs" means in terms of guitars/pickups.

  9. #8

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    oh sorry...i take things for granted sometimes!! haha

    Welcome to Guitarfetish

    look at their xaviere guitars and humbucker sized pickups!

    cheers

  10. #9

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    Ahhh hell. That place is gonna cost me.....

  11. #10

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    it's cheaper...asian made...but regulated...if you have a problem, you can get it resolved...real people still

    choose wisely..research and read the reviews..and you can walk away with some decent gear for low $$$


    cheers

  12. #11

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    Nice review, thanks! I've read good things about the Grote ES-125T /Epiphone Century knock-off.I have several cheap Asians that deliver tons of fun. One thing I always do: replace the chrome pickup-ring screws for black ones (like Gibson has), because to me nothing says 'cheap asian' more than big chrome pickup-ring screws and it looks so much better when they are black. Ibanez is smart - their cheapos come with black screws. But of course that's just my personal obsession and it does nothing for sound and functionality.... ;-)

  13. #12

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    I must say that is a nicely done burst. Visually it sure is a nice looker.

    I will second the opinion that Epiphone and Squier are good bets for cheaper guitars. Anecdotally I have read that the QC has gotten very good these days, and the pickups are a known--and reasonably decent--quantity.

  14. #13

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    A little more: I changed the strings today. I didn't like the lighter strings I put on initially, so I went back to my standard 11's (roundwound for this guitar). But before I did that, I took the time to clean off the fretboard with some iso-alcohol to remove the dye, and I took out the neck pickup to inspect the poles.

    They are fake screws. They have no threads on them. I was able to raise the high E by tapping on it and that improved it some, but not enough. I guess I will have to replace the pups at some point. Oh well, I've always wanted to try some P90's, so I guess there is that.

    Here's a quick soundclip of the guitar. Neck pickup, just a quick chorus of the melody. In the end, I don't think it sounds too bad. But I can still hear the high E is too thin compared to the rest.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jay
    Nice review, thanks! I've read good things about the Grote ES-125T /Epiphone Century knock-off.I have several cheap Asians that deliver tons of fun. One thing I always do: replace the chrome pickup-ring screws for black ones (like Gibson has), because to me nothing says 'cheap asian' more than big chrome pickup-ring screws and it looks so much better when they are black. Ibanez is smart - their cheapos come with black screws. But of course that's just my personal obsession and it does nothing for sound and functionality.... ;-)
    To quote Billy Crystal (or Fernando Lamas) "When you look mahvelous, you feel mahvelous!" And you play that way then, too!

  16. #15

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    man that is a budget guitar!!..even the polepiece screws are fake!! haha

    make sure the tuning pegs arent plastic!!..under a chrome guise..

    why i said ultimately better off with majors cheapos-epi, squier, g&l tribute etc

    gfs has pups like that too..fake screws....be careful...tho gfs mean 90 is well regarded..p90 style in a humbucker mount...no routing tweaks needed

    cheers

  17. #16

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    Fake screws? Now that's what I call attention to detail! Hardware is readily upgradable. It's the wood that's the thing. Slip in pups of your choice, some decent tuners, and wail!

  18. #17

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    I think it's only fair to update this, as I've returned the guitar. After some time, it just became clear it was going to take more money than I was willing to invest to bring the guitar up to snuff. Tuners + pickups and in the end you are still left with a guitar that most likely still has no added value.

    I still think it's a great first guitar for someone to learn on. But not so much if you've played for some time and know what you need.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahnzo
    I think it's only fair to update this, as I've returned the guitar. After some time, it just became clear it was going to take more money than I was willing to invest to bring the guitar up to snuff. Tuners + pickups and in the end you are still left with a guitar that most likely still has no added value.

    I still think it's a great first guitar for someone to learn on. But not so much if you've played for some time and know what you need.
    Wow! Given it sounded pretty darn good to my ears, I'm surprised you felt it needed more. Tuners (and even pups) can be a given even on more costly gits so I'm surprised it went back.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by GNAPPI
    Wow! Given it sounded pretty darn good to my ears, I'm surprised you felt it needed more. Tuners (and even pups) can be a given even on more costly gits so I'm surprised it went back.
    I've never understood what seems to be the widespread opinion of a lot of guitar players who think you instantly need to replace pups in a guitar. I guess it's a "the grass is always greener" feeling when we see all those aftermarket pup options.

    The tuners in the end were so incredibly bad. I've never seen anything like these tuners....I could turn one a couple times and it would barely bring the string up/down. And then it would work normally.

    But really in the end, after a few weeks with it, I just never really took to the feel. I knew with the Amazon Prime I had a couple days left to return it, so I took that option. I'd be much happier with an Ibanez I think. I have one of the mid-range full hollow bodied Ibanez, and it's such a good guitar if I can get a 335 style and it has that same "feel", I know I'd be much happier.