OE20 Review

manufacturer: Oscar Schmidt date: 08/05/2014 category: Electric Guitars
Oscar Schmidt: OE20
In fact, this guitar plays as well, and sounds as good, as a lower-end Gibson.
 Features: 5
 Sound: 5
 Action, Fit & Finish: 4
 Reliability & Durability: 4
 Overall Impression: 4
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
 Users rating:
review (1) pictures (5) user comments vote for this gear:
overall: 4.4
OE20 Reviewed by: markleehunter, on august 05, 2014
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Price paid: $ 140

Purchased from: Starving Musician Berkeley

Features: It's a LP clone. Two Belcat (Chinese, like the rest) HBs, 22 frets, set maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and plastic (but nice) inlays, 3X3 tuners, TOM bridge, 2V 2T. Gold sparkle finish, cream plastic trim (scratchboard, pup covers). The body is mahogany, nice, why I bought it. All the other features except the finish (very pretty, with binding on upper body and neck) are not really good or even adequate. That includes the plastic trim (bleached-out cream pickguard, dull gold knobs, same cream pickup rings). I bought this to mod, more below. I'm giving it a 5 for the platform. It gets little credit for the rest. // 5

Sound: I'm a slide player, and I use slide in every genre. I have a box full of nice parts, including two really terrific Railhammer HBs, that I wanted to put in something. I saw this guitar, played it, thought, this'll do. Took it home and dropped in the pups. Kept the wiring harness, it's fine, though it uses mini instead of standard sized pots. With the Railhammers this thing sounds incredible. They are very subtle pups and also very powerful. The 2V 2T setup works very well in controlling the nuances of their sound. The stock pups were powerful but very muddy. In any group, their sound would get lost. // 5

Action, Fit & Finish: The guitar has one dead fret, the 15th (G note) on the low E string. Not good. I thought it was the back bow in the neck that made the issue. I loosened tension on the truss rod; it fixed the back bow (plus one point) but not the fret. I set the guitar up for slide, I'll live with it. The other frets are nicely done, no sharp ends. I can't say what the neck radius is, but it's very comfortable to play, even with the medium high action I use for slide. The bridge is set a little too far back. I could barely intonate with the saddles moved to the end of their forward range. I changed out the bridge, too; the stock bridge buzzed a little. The tuners wouldn't not hold tune even after tightening. I changed them out for Grovers that work fine. The pickup selector is flimsy and not a standard format. I will use it till it breaks. The input jack stopped working. I took it out and saw the flimsiest jack I ever had on an axe. I changed it. 

I also changed the plastic trim and control knobs from cream/gold to black. The originals provided no contrast or character to the gold sparkle. The black looks much sharper. This is a change they could do at the factory. It would cost nothing but reviewing the specs. // 4

Reliability & Durability: I used this in rehearsal, and that's when and why I decided to change the tuners. I don't think anything that came stock on the guitar would last besides the platform... well, OK, the strap pegs seem solid, though they're small, and yes, the finish seems OK though I haven't dinged it yet. Stock, I would not dare play a show with this axe. I'd be worried about the jack going dead, and listening to the tuners unwind. With the mods, it's a perfectly useable axe. For me that means I could get through a night without without crying or screaming. My rating is based on stock. // 4

Overall Impression: I play blues, R&B, soul, a little jazz, mainly in open tunings and with a slide, solo and in various groups. I've been playing almost 50 years. I own some wonderful guitars, usually lesser-known brands - Reverend, a Samick JTR Linda, a Vox SDC. I mod them all to my taste. I knew what I was getting with this OE20: a beautifully finished body and neck that I would strip down and remake. I have less bread in it, even with all the parts, than I would have spent for an Epiphone LP Studio. It's now of equal quality for the components, and far superior to the Epi for sound. In fact, it plays as well, and sounds as good, as a lower-end Gibson (yup, I have one of those). I would not recommend the guitar stock even to a beginner. It doesn't sound good enough or hold tune well enough. An Epiphone Les Paul Special II, which is not as nice a platform for finish or materials, is nonetheless more reliable. But the OE is cheap enough ($170 new before tax, 140 used with tax) so that if you have the parts - at a minimum, good pickups, tuners and input jack - and can do basic soldering, you end up with a really sweet little guitar. (I would not have bought the parts just to fix up the guitar. Put another way, the guitar gave me a way to use up about $200 of materials I had lying around in a useful way). Otherwise, save the bread and get something you can use live out of the box. I am rating based on the stock guitar. If I were rating it after the mods, I would double the score. // 4

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