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Turning a Cheap Guitar Into a Beast - An Upgrade Story

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with upgrading and modifying guitars, but I recently came across a cheap older Yamaha Pacifica 312 guitar on Craig’s List for $140 that I couldn’t pass up. I used to have a nicer (more expensive) Yamaha Pacifica 1221 that I regret getting rid of to this day. It was probably the nostalgia of that guitar that made this guitar catch my eye. Anyways, I figured that picking this guitar up for a song would enable me to do some serious upgrades as far as the pickups, electronics, bridge, and hardware.

For the bridge, I wanted to get a USA Mann Made solid brass bridge, but that would have blown my budget for the entire project. I ended up getting a Chinese-made Musiclily solid brass bridge. It’s not quite as nice as the USA Mann Made bridge, but it was certainly a huge upgrade from the original bridge, and it surpassed my expectations.

For the pickups, things got pretty convoluted pretty quickly. The original stock Yamaha ceramic magnet bridge pickup was pretty good, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I originally wanted to put a Suhr Thornbucker+ in the bridge position because that’s what I have in my PRS. I did that, but I ended up not liking it at all. This was probably because the Yamaha is a pretty bright guitar to start. From there, I had a Seymour Duncan JB SH-4 lying around the house, so I tried that. I liked the tone of the JB, but it was a bit too hot and compressed for what I wanted in this guitar. I’ve always been a big Joe Satriani fan, so I decided to try a Dimarzio Mo’ Joe, and I ended up loving it!

For the neck pickup, I ended up going with a Dimarzio Satch Track and loved that too. This essentially ended up making this guitar into a quasi Joe Satriani signature series guitar. This was okay with me because I’ve been a big Satriani fan for decades. Mix these pickup choices with a push-pull volume pot to tap the humbuckers into single coils, and I ended up with a pretty special sounding and feeling guitar for less than $550.

Anyways, the entire point for this video and post is to ask you this question. Do you think upgrading cheaper guitars is worth it, or should you just bite the bullet and spend more money on a more expensive guitar?

I have to say that I firmly have one foot in each camp. I have nice and more expensive guitars, but some of the guitars I’ve played most over the years have been cheaper guitars that I’ve customized to my tastes. What do you think?

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