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JHS Encore EG50

GuitarCheck

Article from International Musician & Recording World, March 1986

Busy Dave Burrluck, back again to bend a string or two on the new JHS. Encore!


Burrluck in 'best guitar ever reviewed' shock

When I heard I'd be reviewing another guitar from JHS's Encore range I wasn't exactly overjoyed it must be said. The last one I looked at was a rather sub-standard Strat copy which left a lot to be desired. Still, if JHS are man enough to risk another bad review, I figured I should be man enough to do it. The Encore guitars are built in Korea and are cheap, very cheap. The £75 price tag at the top of the page is no mistake and I think I'm right in saying that it's the cheapest electric ever reviewed in IM. Low tech? You bet! However if you're reading this and thinking 'what waste of space,' think again. A decent guitar for £75 is impossible isn't it? No. Read on.

Construction



More often than not it is difficult or rather impossible to justify an instrument's high cost in relation to its quality: here however one is left wondering why the price is so low and the instrument is of a comparatively high standard.

Now let's get one thing clear: a Gibson this isn't despite its shape but if the price to quality ratio were applied you'd be buying a top of the line Les Paul for £200!

The body shape needs no introduction — a fair approximation of a TV or Les Paul Special with slimmer and longer offset horns. The thickness of the body at 35mm is definitely on the thin side and consequently we have a light but solid feel to the guitar. No timber spec is provided and although the price would indicate a laminated construction the high quality of the black lacquer finish hides any grain or glue lines. Usually on such a cheap instrument the finish will sink so that even if it is opaque it's possible to tell from the sides of the body whether a solid or laminated timber is used. Here however the finish is perfectly flat, which doesn't help timber identification but does mean that we have a very presentable looking guitar. The edges of the body are nicely rounded and there is a shallow back contour making it extremely comfortable to play.

A problem of course with such a thin body is that the bolt-on neck has a rather small amount of timber under the base of the neck. While this could be a potential weak spot the neck to body join is in fact very solid, held in place with four cross-headed screws via a nicely chromed back plate.

Cheap guitars invariably have a really naff neck both in timber and profile, but this is another anomaly of the Encore — the neck is super. The timber used is a light brown colour — some form of mahogany I imagine — with a reasonable grain which is nicely finished again with a very high quality clear lacquer. Certainly it looks perfectly straight and a truss rod is fitted, adjustable at the head of the neck. Of course how stable the neck is remains to be seen, only time will tell how it stands up to the ravages of temperature and humidity. But the over-riding point in its favour is the neck profile which is beautifully slim with a lovely oval profile. If you compare the dimensions of this guitar with anything else with a similar scale length you'll find it's perfectly acceptable.

I doubt that the fingerboard is rosewood but despite the colouration the grain structure is similar although it has a slightly grey as opposed to brown appearance. Certainly the board is well fretted with 22 2.5mm gauge frets. Each fret is well installed with a typical Fenderish angular shape. The ends of the fret slots have been filled and once again the price belies the quality of the fingerboard. Pearl-like dot markers are used on the face of the instrument fingerboard with the usual small white plastic dots on the edge.

The headstock looks as if it may have been copied from a Hamer with its symmetrical 3-a-side shape. The black painted facing continues the traditional appearance of the guitar with only a single gold painted 'Encore' logo. The good appearance of the instrument lies in its simplicity — there's nothing worse than a cheap guitar crammed with bits of naff chrome and scrappy lettering.

The guitar has obviously been set-up by JHS and very well too with a buzz free standard action and a well cut white plastic nut. To be ultra-critical the nut slots could be deepened a few thou' but bearing in mind the usual setup of guitars in this price range it's fine as it is. All I can hope is that each of these guitars reach the shops with the same state of high set-up and quality strings. Whilst I'm not questioning JHS one bit it does occasionally happen that a guitar is sent to review with far more attention lavished on it than one going to a retail outlet. (Don't worry, I have my spies — if I hear of an Encore that doesn't match this high standard you will hear about it!)

With the common trend for micro-adjustable all sorts on bridges and tailpieces I'm glad to see that this instrument is fitted with the good old one piece bridge/tailpiece of the same design that graced all the early Gibson Juniors, Melody Makers and TVs etc. The chrome 'bar' unit has fixed intonation 'saddles' while the whole unit is curved to match the camber of the fingerboard. The only adjustments on offer here are overall height via the two posts which hold the unit to the body and two small grub screws at the back of these posts which take care of overall intonation. All this means that the height and intonation of each string is quite a compromise but so long as the unit is placed correctly it's certainly adequate for Rock'n'Roll!

Mind you the machine heads fitted are barely adequate I'm afraid, they really are cheap chrome jobs with screw-on covers etc. Obviously they work and to be honest once I'd reminded myself of the price I shouldn't really complain. What I will complain about however is the screws used to fix the strap buttons, they are too thin in diameter and the hole drilled to take them is too large, consequently it was easy to pull out the button on the top horn by hand! These things should be checked — you can't expect a youngster to know how to plug and re-drill a screw hole!

Now to my mind the quality of the instrument so far means that a budget of about five pounds or less is allotted to the electrics department. A single humbucker is employed with black open coils and flat non-adjustable pole pieces. The unit is held in place with the the usual type of plastic surround with height adjustment. However while the pickup itself is well aligned with the strings the surround itself is off centre and wouldn't be acceptable on any other guitar. The controls — volume and tone — are back mounted and have grooved black plastic speed knobs. Surprisingly the pots used have a very smooth action not usually associated with such obviously cheap components. Removing the back plate proved to be quite interesting. It shows that the timber used for the body is in fact plywood and that the person who wired up the guitar wouldn't get a job in British Telecom's maintenance dept. However while the circuit is ordinary it does have a small 'treble bleed' capacitor between the in and out lug of the volume pot as on a standard Telecaster circuit which is a nice inclusion.

After a glance at the dodgy looking wiring I guessed it was about a 50-50 chance of the guitar working. I need not have worried as the sounds from this little rascal were surprisingly good. The placement of the humbucker away from the bridge gives quite a unique tone not vastly different in character to position two on a Strat. The pickup has quite a high output with a powerful bright character. It does have a rather middly 'honky' overtone which wasn't so nice but the sound quality is higher than one would expect. The volume control works well with a smooth taper and the treble bleed cap seems to retain the high frequencies when the volume is reduced. The tone control works as well as can be expected providing a treble cut and there were at least three perfectly usable sounds from the guitar. Of course such a cheap pickup as this obviously is has its problems, namely uncontrollable squealing at high levels, and the unit is very microphonic. However at sensible amp levels the sound produced was nothing short of excellent.

General playability was very good too. The action and feel of the neck is slightly Fenderish despite the smaller scale length and while there were a couple of rough topped frets, noticeable when bending, the action was surprisingly buzz free.

Intonation was okay, like I said it's a compromise and the low 'E' octave was out but at least the guitar sustains well and certainly the 'acoustic' sound of the instrument was very good — always a good sign. Tuning stability was hard to evaluate as the strings were obviously new but I wouldn't imagine that this would be the guitar's strongest point — the machines' actions are rather random making fine tuning frustrating.

Conclusions



You don't expect a lot of guitar for £75 but this Encore just proved what can be achieved. For a first time buyer, schools and colleges this is definitely an instrument to be considered — it looks, plays and sounds like an instrument of twice the price if not more and that can't be bad. One is really left wondering how it's possible to produce a guitar at such low prices. Unfortunately it probably means long hours and low, very low wages for the Korean factory workers but I'm not really sure if that line of thought has a place in a Guitarcheck!

For the price this is undoubtedly the best guitar I've ever reviewed, quite a ridiculous statement I'll agree but anything that will hopefully encourage youngsters and schools and colleges to play electric guitar has got to be worth shouting about. Mind you with a set of Gotohs, a better pickup and electrics this would easily suit a serious amateur or even be a good spare for a semi-pro musician on a low budget.

RRP: £79

Specification

Dimensions (mm)
Scale Length 628 (24.72")
Width of Neck at nut 42
Width of Neck at 12th 52
Depth of neck at 1st 20
Depth of neck at 12th 24
String spacing at nut 36
String spacing at bridge 50
String action as supplied at 12th
Treble 1.5
Bass 2.0


Also featuring gear in this article



Previous Article in this issue

Kawai EP705M Electric Piano

Next article in this issue

Roland Alpha Juno-2


Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...

 

International Musician - Mar 1986

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Gear in this article:

Guitar > Encore > EG50


Gear Tags:

Electric Guitar

Review by Dave Burrluck

Previous article in this issue:

> Kawai EP705M Electric Piano

Next article in this issue:

> Roland Alpha Juno-2


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