Arbiter Les Paul Junior Copy
This is quite a reasonable copy of the original, the major differences being the machine heads (which are economy Schallers and a distinct improvement), and the pick-up, the tone and construction of which bear more resemblance to later American production.
The body is very well finished in a black, brown, and yellow sunburst which is reasonably free of spray splatter at the colour boundaries, although the yellow centre could be a little more opaque.
The guitar is fitted (and is likely to be used) with a plain third string, but is compensated for a wound string; however this correctly copies the bridge used at one time on the S.G.-shaped Les Paul. There is another type of reproduction bridge used on the Arbiter "Melody Maker" copy which gives better tuning on a plain third string, but worse tuning on the second string. Both are correct reproductions, and both always had problems, but this sort of bridge — tailpiece in one piece design seems to sound different than the later two-part system as seen on most Les Pauls and copies now. One possible answer is the Badass bridge advertised on page 14 of the August issue, but I have not tried one yet.
All the body construction is solidly put together and well finished, and the neck is bound at the edges with what appears to be black fibre. The frets are not consistent with the generally high standard of the rest of the instrument and certain buzzings were apparent. This could be cured by a fret-filing job and it must be said that there are very few American makers who do not occasionally produce a guitar with similar troubles. The neck was slim, comfortable, and well finished, and I am pleased to see that the dots are pearl and not plastic. It is also nice to see a rosewood fingerboard which has not been dyed to look like ebony: full marks for honesty.
The standard of internal wiring was at least as good as most originals, but I am going to keep complaining about inadequate screening until someone does something about it. One must realise that the level of mains and radio-frequency interference is very high on many theatre stages, and this and other copies have to withstand conditions far worse than those the originals ever faced. The most recent "solid" I have seen which was adequately screened was a Thunderbird bass, and that was made a long time ago.
My general conclusions about this guitar are that if something can be done about the frets, it is a pleasant and reliable instrument to play, a reasonably good copy, and good value for money.
Retail Price £99
Review by Stephen Delft
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