NGD - 2017 Faded T or, The Continuing and Seemingly Neverending Adventures In Guitar Junkie-dom, Episode #8472: The Rewards and Pitfalls of Ordering (Yet Another!) SG Without Strings & Hardware To Be Assembled By Your Humble Narrator Fourth time's the charm, right? I'd had the itch for another SG for a while, particularly a brown one after my last foray... and finally one popped up via Stratosphere. Honestly, I was a little hesitant to buy another guitar without strings on it (but only a little: I am, after all, a unrepentant guitar junkie with a predilection towards the SG); my first from the Stratosphere was a fine guitar -- a 70's Tribute -- but I just never gelled with it. My second, also from Stratosphere, had some issues which I eventually overcame, and I really dig it now. The third I bought used from craigslist, and... well, I'm trying to forget that one all together. At any rate, Stratosphere has a fantastic return policy, so I was fully prepared to string it up and either send it back or take my time and deck it out like I wanted to. I might have preferred a 2018, since the "Worn Bourbon" looks a little lighter than the '17s Worn Brown, at least in pictures... but you know what they say about beggars and choosers. So this one popped up, and the last few I'd seen on Stratosphere's website tend to go quick. I do really like the grain on it. It's a little more interesting (or at least, less uniform) than some I've seen, and the glue lines aren't terribly obvious. What the hell, right? It's only a guitar. So, I bought it and waited. The abbreviated version: UPS delay, expected delivery time pushed back, fantastically packed by Stratosphere, frantically opened by me, and then: the smell! I do love the smell of a brand new Gibson. Already having tuners, pickguard, pickups and most other parts, I ordered a bridge/tailpiece set while I had the digital wallet open. I opted for the locking chrome that (I believe) comes on the HP models. I'll tell ya what I think of them, later... But first! Coming in at an assembled weight of 6.15 lbs, this little number is incredibly resonant unplugged, and a joy to hold. I really love the neck on this one. Wasn't sure how I felt about a maple neck, but I really dig it. Gibson apparently used a glossier finish on the older ones (using my other Faded, an '05, as my reference point), and the neck is thinner too, but it's very smooth, very easy to move around on, and it just feels "right." Again, comparing it to my '05, I imagine the maple contributes to the smoother feeling -- it's not open-grained like mahogany, and since the Faded series don't use grain filler, it feels more like a "fully finished" Standard in the smoothness aspect. Needless to say, I fell in love with this neck almost immediately. It may be a little top heavy, but when I'm standing up and using the strap it fits me like a glove. No neck dive here (a nice suede strap always helps). As most junkies, I spend my weekend nights NOT going out with friends to take in the nightlife, NOT being a contributing member of society, but staying up in the wee hours, alone with my habit. On a serious note, if you've ever re-wired a guitar from scratch or will in the future, I highly recommend doing the harness first. Essentially, take a piece of paper and light rub/mark where the holes are in the guitar. Flip it upside down and use it as a template to poke holes into a small cardboard box. Then you can put the components in place while you wire as much as you can, but with so much more room and maneuverability than if they were inside the guitar. Then you can pop it in the guitar, attach the pickups and the bridge ground, and you're off and running. Went with the "witch hat" style knobs on this one. I wanted it to have a more vintage vibe, which (in my mind, anyway) these knobs give it. As soon as I knew I was keeping this one, I did order pointers and re-pro knobs (with "vol" and "tone" labels on the top; these ones I had laying around... when the others get here I'll see what I like more. These ones are pretty nice!) Here you can see the locking bridge/tailpiece, as well as the John Birch Magnum 4 & Hyperflux 5 pickups. Being a fan of Mr. Iommi, I bought these pickups a while back and was just waiting for a chance to try them out... If you buy a guitar just because you have an extra set of pickups... you may be a junkie. (Of course, that wasn't the only reason I bought the guitar -- I may be guitarded, but I'm not a complete idiot) And here's where my previously tranquil sailing waters started to get choppy. First, these pickups have a ton of polepieces. I'm not sure why (I mean, they look cool!) or what affect they have on the sound, but they're plentiful, and they're tall. And they hit the strings when I play above the 14th fret or so. The neck pickup is as low as it will go, yet the low E is still hitting the poles. I briefly thought about routing out just a tiny bit of wood to allow a better channel for the wire to run (and, hopefully, give me enough room to lower the pickup)... But then I realized by sticking some foam under the pickup (a methodology frequently espoused on these very forums), the pickup's orientation changed, and the poles are free & clear of the strings, no matter what fret I'm playing on. I mean, it's CLOSE... but it worked. But the more I play it, the more I think these pickups aren't for me. They're definitely on the hotter side (~12K and 15K DRC), and while they sound great with distortion (very articulate), the clean tones are a little more juiced up than I'm used to. I'll keep 'em in there a while yet, but I'm already thinking about putting others in the guitar and these ones up on Reverb. After all, I'm a junkie, and I've got a decent stash to choose from: I've got a set of Lace Sensors (Wino's Lifers, which I'm excited to try); I've got a set of 57 Classics (always a good choice); I've got a set of Duncans (Pearly Gates, which might be nice); And a set of 490 R/T (a proven combination in my world, although it brings me dangerously close to mirroring my 2005 in terms of a feature set). Time will tell on that front. And as far as the locking bridge/tailpiece goes... I bought them because I'd used TonePros locking stuff in the past, and I really like them. This set, made by Gibson, was a little cheaper... rookie mistake, opting for the less expensive option instead of the tried and true. The Gibson stuff is substantially less intuitive or user-friendly. The TonePros stuff is great: set the height like normal, lock it down, boom. These ones are pretty tricky to dial in. Once they're in place, it seems like they should stay put just fine, but I kinda wish I'd paid a bit more and went with the TonePros. Live and learn, right? TL;DR Got a new guitar, it's great and I love it. John Birch pickups are nice, but not for me. Gibson's locking bridge/tailpiece is not my favorite.