I'm at least a little active on 2 or 3 guitar forums. The older I get the more I think I might officially be the curmudgeon that T told me I was 15 years ago. Sometimes folks on the various forums just irritate the heck out of me and make me think that I should step away and stay off the interwebs for a bit. This was one of those occasions.
We got to talking about capos. One of the other forum participants either doesn't understand how to effectively use a capo or was just ignoring everything that I was saying. I finally gave up, and bowed out of the conversation before I said something that was going to get me a warning from the mods. May the other person wallow in their ignorance (although I know they are far smarter than I and definitely a more skilled player).
There are two primary ways to use a capo. Notice I did not say that there were only 2 ways to use a capo. I said there are two primary ways. These would be the two ways that most people tend to use a capo. You can change the key that you are playing by slapping it on. Or you can change the chord shapes that you want to play by slapping it on. It's on this second point where the individual mentioned and I reached an impasse.
There's the first way. Change the key in which you're playing. This one is pretty simple and straightforward. You're playing in the key of A, but the singer (or you) decide that the key needs to be raised to B, so you slap the capo on the second fret, and you have effectively changed the key of the song to B without having to change the chords that you have learned for the song. I've learned to play the song in one key, but it's the wrong key for the singer? No problem. Bust out the capo, find a place on the fretboard they like, and capo like a champ. Key changed for them and I don't have to learn new chords for the song. Yes, you can quickly and easily change the key to a song with a capo.
The second way can be a little more confusing to folks just learning to play. And, since I know the other forum person is anything but a novice player, I still can't figure out why they couldn't seem to wrap their head around this concept. Change the chord shapes that you're playing.
In my bluegrass days, this was something I used to do a LOT. Back in those days, I played primarily in the keys of G, C, and D. Not that I couldn't play in A or E or some either "weird" chord, but all the little riffs and lines I played were much easier in one of those three primary keys. So we're doing a song in A? Cool! Capo II and I still get to play with the G chord shape. Or maybe the song was still in G, but the other guitar player wanted to play cowboy chords, so I'd capo VII and play with a C-chord shape as the I. But the key we were playing in remained G.
And that's where the person I was interacting with was wrong all day long. They said that by placing the capo on the guitar, you were changing the key that you were playing in. Specifically, we were talking about playing in the key of Bm. They said that, if you did the capo VII thing, you were playing in Em. I tried several times to make the distinction to them. No, you were not playing in Em. You were playing an Em chord shape, but you were still playing in Bm. They disagreed. Vehemently.
They were wrong. And still are. Whether you played a barre chord at II to play Bm or you stuck a capo on II and played an Am shape or put a capo on VII and played an Em shape or even stuck a capo higher on the neck and played a Dm shape, you're still playing in Bm. Yes, your chord shape turns into something else as you move around the neck, but the key remains the same. Chord shape changes. Key remains the same.
The one thing I erased several times and didn't tell them out of concern that it would come across as overly snarky is this. The band is playing in Bm, and you slap a capo on VII. You don't tell the band that you're switching to Em because the key didn't change. Your fingering and chord shapes changed. If you told them to stop playing in Bm and switch to Em, you and the band are going to be playing in different keys.
I still can't figure out how they couldn't wrap their head around that one.
Along a different vein, I only use Shubb capos. I was given my first one back in 1993. That's still the one that is in my pocket whenever I'm playing. No tuning issues. No bending issues. It works every time. I've tried some of the other brands, and always find myself back to the Shubb pretty quickly. They're the best.
This week, I'm going to tell you about the backpack that I use most often these days. It's the Teton Sports Summit 1500. It's one that I saw perusing the interwebs while just looking to see what might be out there. To me, it looked like it would be a good pack. When I initially tried to order one, they were out of stock everywhere and the Teton Sports website was backordering them. I eventually ordered one because I really liked what I was seeing. Then I made the mistake of hitting YouTube for reviews. By and large, folks on the Tube of You don't like this backpack, and they don't like it for (what I think are) stupid reasons. But I digress.
Also, once again, full disclosure. Most of the pics of this pack are ripped from the Teton Sports website. You'll know the one that I took.
I had started thinking about getting another day pack mostly because I realized that with what I usually carried, if I pulled my sweatshirt or jacket off and put it in, there was no room for anything else. So, if I was doing a long hike and carrying, say, a lunch, I didn't really have room for my jacket. If I stuffed my jacket in, the pack had no room for anything extra. So I started keeping an eye out for a pack that was a little bigger.
Enter the Teton Sports Summit 1500. It's a 25L pack. It holds a 3L water bag. It has 5 zippered pockets, including a couple that are in the lid. It's more narrow than a lot of daypacks I've seen, but it's taller. It also has a rain cover stashed in the bottom. So what are the features?
It has one big main compartment. No interior pockets or dividers except the sleeve on the back wall for the water bladder. It has a double draw-string closure that then clips closed. So, whatever you put in that compartment is going to be pretty well secured. It's not going to accidentally fall out.
On the face of the pack is a zipper that runs up almost the entire height of the pack. Inside that zipper is a shallow pocket that runs the width of the bag. I have found it perfect for trail maps, those brochure-sized ID cards, and the little notebook that I carry when I hike.
On the sides are the usual 2 mesh pockets that fit water bottles pretty well, and there are also 2 zipper pockets at the top that zip about half way down the pack. I've never tried to stuff these full, but have found that one is the perfect size for a bandana or small towel or gloves or things like that. The one on the other side is where I put my snacks.
There are 2 zipper pockets in the lid, one is on the inside of the lid, and the other is on the outside. The one on the inside seems like a good spot for all those little misc. items that I occasionally want, but (1) don't need often enough to put in an outside pocket or (2) don't want to have to dig around in the bottom of the main pocket to find. The one on the outside is where I stash my little trail first aid kit as well as wallet, keys, and stuff like that.
On the bottom it has trekking pole loops and on the top it has straps to strap something down. The loops are where my trekking poles live when I'm not using them. The straps work really well for my butt pad. As with the other pack, I have added a couple of grimlocks (plastic D-rings) and some shock cord.
The pack has those 2 cinch straps on each side, 2 cinch straps on the front for that tall zipper pocket, 2 more for the lid, and the 2 straps on top to cinch something down onto the top of the pack. In total, that's 8 straps on the pack. In fact, there was one vid that I watched after I bought the pack but before I had it in hand. The reviewer in question was complaining about "too many straps. You can't do anything on the pack without having to move straps around."
You can see in the pic above all the straps. Yes, there are lot. However, I don't think it's too many, and I don't think they get in the way all the time. Most of them have an elastic band on them to tuck the unused portion of the strap back onto itself to keep it tamed. I tuck the excess of the lid straps into the side mesh pockets, and the excess for the tie-down straps on top I have tied into a loop that keeps them up by the lid. I really like the fact that I can cinch the pack down as much as I can.
The pack has comfortable straps...once you get used to them. The first time I wore the pack, my shoulders were super tired. I couldn't figure out why. The next time I went hiking with it, I did just the opposite of what I thought I should do, and I loosened the shoulder straps up. That seemed to fix it. It's been super comfortable ever since.
The hip belt rides a little higher than I like, but it's tall enough that it does still carry some weight. Not that the pack is big enough to really need to carry weight, but it's nice that it does. On a pack as small as this one, I would expect that the hip belt is primarily to secure the pack to your back a little better. I've also added a couple of hip belt bags and hang my bear spray off the hip belt. And, yes, I know that there are no bears in my part of the country, but I carry it for hogs. The hogs down here are prolific and ill-tempered.
The back has that upside down T thing going on to help with ventilation on your back. The H2O port comes out on the right side (when you wear it) just under the lid. The sternum strap clip doubles as an emergency whistle if that is something you like your pack to have. The back does have an internal frame of some sort and is non-adjustable, but the straps adjust enough that, for a small pack, it all seems to work together to be comfortable.
There are a couple of things that I immediately changed on the pack. You can see in the pic just above that it comes with ice axe (I think is what that is) straps. I guess that makes the trekking pole loops to officially be axe loops. I've never actually even seen an ice axe, so I thought it fitting to pull those straps off and put shock cord straps on in place of them. That's how I secure my trekking poles now.
I, also, didn't like that there were no hip belt pockets. I'm still trying to find the perfect attaching pockets, and have been through several, but am still on that quest. I got some from Alps Mountaineering that I used for a while. They weren't bad, but I wanted to put a small pair of binocs in one, so I am currently using a set I bought off of Amazon. The ones I got I think are sold primarily to the survivalist crowd and probably usually attach to their bug-out bags, but they're working pretty well at the moment.
Other than those 2 things, for me, this is about the perfect day pack. It holds what I need, and it offers plenty of room to stow a jacket while still leaving a little room to carry something else if I want (like lunch or a book to sit and read along the trail). I love this little pack. It's built extremely well. It has plenty of room for short and long hikes. And in the world of backpacks, at $60, it's pretty dang economical. In my opinion, not only could you not go wrong with this bag, but it's the best one out there right now.
I like this pack enough that Teton makes an almost identical pack (the Summit 2800) that is 45L and gray instead of orange, and I got it for camping. It's pretty much the same, only bigger. It, also, on the bottom has an extra pocket for a sleeping bag. That sleeping bag pocket opens up to the main pack using a drawstring closure. So you can make the main pocket one big open pocket or one not quite so big pocket with the sleeping bag compartment underneath it. Also, the sleeping bag compartment is accessible from the outside. Other than those things, honestly, it's just a bigger version of the orange one.
Teton Sports seems to make a lot of good products that are quality without having to pay the premium associated with some of the high end brands. In addition to these two packs, my wife uses their Scout 3400 pack when we go camping or backpacking. I've also got one of their pop-up tents and their sleeping bag liners. Everything I've gotten from them seems to be good quality and built to last. In addition, I've talked to their customer service reps on several occasions, and they've all been super helpful and friendly. I'm, honestly, surprised that I don't see more reviews on Teton Sports and more people using their products. If you need quality equipment on a budget, be sure to give them a look. In my opinion, bang for the buck, you'd be hard pressed to find anything better.
This week I'm going to tell you about that Outdoor Products backpack. Over the course of the week since I typed up that last post, I actually found the name of the backpack. It's the Outdoor Products Trail Break pack. it has an 18L capacity, and came with a 3L water bag. It looks like Walmart still sells the black one online for $35, or you can get the green one on eBay for around $20. It hasn't been listed on the Outdoor Products website for probably a year, and I've been told by their customer service that they're not making it anymore.
Also, full disclosure. The professional looking pics I have below I stole off the Walmart website. I'll start it off with this one.
The back of the pack has the compartment dedicated to the water bag, and I'll get to that in a bit. The pack has 1 big main pocket in front of that one that I've always described as a school backpack pocket. You can zip it open from either side (2 zippers for this pocket). You zip it open, and it's just a big, open space. No dividers or internal pockets in it.
There's a secondary main pocket that only has one zipper to it. So it zips to and from one side. It's not as big and open as the main pocket, but it has 3 smaller pockets on the back wall. The smaller pockets are 2 different sizes, and one of them has a velcro clasp over it. I'm guessing that was intended to be a phone pocket or something...velcro it in so it doesn't accidentally fall out.
It has a much smaller zipper pocket on the face of the pack. That one is about the size of a phone, but since there's no protection in it, I always used it to throw a snack bar or small bag of trail mix. This pocket is, honestly, not really big enough for much else.
It has the pretty big mesh pocket on the face of the pack that you can clip closed. I always found that one handy for keeping a trail map or the little notebook that I carry when I hike. I'd also typically stuff my wallet and truck keys in this mesh pocket when I'd leave the ride.
Just below this mesh pocket is a zippered pocket that holds the included rain cover. I'm not a huge fan of rain covers. Sometimes they work with very dry results. Sometimes you wonder if it kept any water out at all. I used this one a couple of times in mist and drizzle, and it seemed to work well enough.
Then there are the 2 mesh pockets on the side that I imagine most folks use for water bottles. There's a cinch strap on either side of the pack just above the mesh pockets. There are no pole loops on this one, so I always carried my trekking poles in these pockets, and secured them using the cinch straps.
There are two "daisy-chains" on it just above the mesh pocket on the face. I put daisy-chains in quotes because on a pack this small, they're more like double loops. I have a couple of grimlocks (plastic D-rings) on those. That makes it handy for clipping something on the pack if needed. I strung a loop of shock cord between the two, and used one of them to clip my butt pad to the pack. I'd stuff it under the shock cord to keep it from flopping around while I was walking.
Rounding out the pack are the hip belts. There's a pocket on each of those, but they're small and tight enough that my wallet wouldn't fit, and my keys were a bit too big. I'd usually carry a small bag of trail mix in one of those.
Overall it's a great pack! At 18L, it's not so small that you're only carrying water, but it's not so big that you're carrying more than you would need. In addition to my usual load, I could stuff a sweatshirt or jacket into the main pocket, but that would fill it up. It's a relatively comfortable pack even though it's not adjustable. The only thing that bugs me occasionally (and it's more a preference and not a comfort thing) is that the hip belts are a bit high. They ride above my hips, so they help secure the pack to my body, but they're not carrying any weight at all. Then again, on a pack this small, there's not a lot of weight to be carried.
Now the water bag pocket, they used an interesting concept for it. After using the pack as much as I have, I'm still not sure whether I like it, but I know I prefer the more traditional approach better. Take a look at the two pics below, and then I'll describe it for you.
If you look on that back ridge of the pack in the pic on the left, you'll see a long zipper that appears to continue on down the right shoulder strap. If you look at the pic on the right, you'll see that zipper does, indeed, continue about half-way down the length of that shoulder strap. Rather than have the usual H2O port on the back of the pack somewhere, that zippered pocket is it. Open it up, and it's a very thin pocket where you hang the bladder. Then you run the tube the length of the zipper to where it exits on the shoulder strap.
It's an interesting way to solve that problem. It's, also, where my bag had an issue. I used it for a long time, and always had the bladder in it. Then one day I decided that I was going to use it without the bladder, and realized that they had not actually sewn in one side of the end of the zipper. So long as the water tube was run through the shoulder strap, the zipper would stop a couple of inches short of the end. When I pulled the bladder out and zipped that up, the zipper just came off the end, and, despite my best efforts, the zipper would not go back on.
The Outdoor Products warranty and customer service were both stellar even though the pack already had a lot of miles on it. I let them know I had an issue, they asked for pics, and they quickly covered it. The backpack wasn't being made at that point, so they gave me credit on their website. I already had my eye on the pack that I'll talk about next week, so I gave the credit to my wife to get one that she needed. Later on, I ended up doing some surgery on the bag to get the zipper back in place, and then sewed everything up so that it works again. Not long after I bought the bag, I replaced all the gray zipper pulls with bright yellow ones, so I used bright yellow thread on it when fixed the zipper.
I really like this daypack. I've used it enough that it's well broken in. I've personalized it by adding those grimlocks, changing the zipper pulls, and now it has the yellow stitching where I fixed it. It's relatively comfortable, and it holds enough to get you by for a day, but not so much that it's really going to get heavy. The back on it has that upside down T pattern that helps with ventilation. I've got no complaints about this pack. In fact, at the $35 that it is currently listed on the Walmart website, I don't know that you could get a better bang for your buck day pack.
I must confess. I have a thing for bags. I like them. They're extremely useful. They can be stylish. And you can personalize them and make them fun. I have a bunch of them. Notice I didn't say too many. I'm always out for a good bag. I have an armoire full of them. I've got quite the array of bags. I've got canvas bags. I've got leather bags. I've got bags for work. I've got bags for play. If I need a bag, I'm sure I have one to fill the bill. My wife says she doesn't understand why I think bags are cool. She has like 2 purses. I have at least 10 backpacks. And that's not counting the messenger backs, laptop bags, and others still.
Like I said, I have lots of bags, including all those backpacks that I claim as mine. I have also bought my wife another 3 or 4 backpacks because I think she needs them, because bags are cool. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'm going to talk about a couple of my favorite backpacks. For today, I'm going to just scratch the surface on those two and one other.
First backpack to talk about is my Saddleback Square Pocket backpack, aka The Tank. No, seriously, the company calls this backpack The Tank. It's certainly built like one. If I had to have one backpack and no other, this would be a serious contender. It's HUGE! It's built to last. You could probably fit a small car and a week's worth of luggage into this backpack. The pic below doesn't do justice to how big this pack is.
Mine is in carbon black. That just means it's a kind of a flat back color and not shiny like the one in the pic. The only downside to this pack is that it's so big and heavy. I think I weighed it once at just over 7 pounds empty. I once used it hiking through a national park in SE Utah. My back was soaking wet by the end of the trail, and my shoulders were especially sore. I decided that night that I needed a lighter backpack for the next day.
Two things I like about this bag. The leather on it is thiiiiick. Seriously, I could drag this thing behind the FJ and it'd just be scratched up. It would still be totally usable. Second is that it has no less than 8 D-rings on it. I love clipping and attaching things to my backpacks, and those D-rings come in especially useful. I don't think I could wear this bag out if I tried. Despite its weight, this is one of my favorite bags. And, at over $500, it was definitely the most expensive (but totally worth it imho).
The next backpack to talk about is my Outdoor Products backpack. I have no idea the model. They don't make this one anymore, and I've long since forgotten the name. I was on the hunt for camping gear a while back at the local Walmart, saw it, and went back the next day to buy it. It's been a trooper. Well made. Very economical at I think $30 when I got it. I've got probably 150 miles on this one. 3 liter water bladder capacity. Multiple pockets. Rain cover (that I've had to use a couple of times). This is one of the ones that I'll talk about more later.
Full disclosure. After I had it about 6 months, one of the zippers failed. I looked at it closely and realized it looked like it might be a manufacturer defect. I contacted the company, and they quickly got me fixed up with no hassle. They already weren't making it anymore, so they gave me credit towards another pack. I added some to that credit and bought my wife a pack for some stuff she was doing. Great customer service! I liked the pack so well that I ended up figuring out how to fix it on my own, and I've continued to use it.
You'll see that I swapped out the zipper pulls to add some color and added some grimlocks on it. I'm always adding stuff to my packs to personalize them and make them what I want. This has been a great pack.
Last pack to talk about today is my current daypack. It's the Teton Sports 1500 backpack, and, for me, it's about the perfect pack. When I was researching it before I bought it, a lot of folks were complaining about various aspects of it. I thought then, and think now, that those folks were just complaining. It's a great bag. Still pretty economical at $60. I've got almost 100 miles on this one so far.
Like the previous pack, it can handle a 3 liter water bladder. It's got pockets everywhere...5 zippered pockets. One on the front. One on each side. And two in the lid. Two mesh pockets on the side. The big main compartment. Straps everywhere. Loops for trekking poles. A rain cover. In my humble opinion. this is the best daypack made. In fact, I like it so well that they make an almost identical pack that's 45 liters. I got it for short backpacking and camping trips.
Since I got this pack, I've picked up several Teton Sports items, and have been impressed with all of them. From packs to tents to cots, it all looks good. I've got packs and a tent. So far, they all work as advertised, and they're economical. Not quite as inexpensive as the Outdoor Products packs, but definitely less than what you're going to get someplace like REI. I've been told that Teton makes "budget" gear. My experience has been that their gear is just as good as the REI stuff I have, it just doesn't cost as much. So, if "budget" means good-quality-low-cost I'll take it every day over good-quality-high-cost. Teton makes good stuff. And this bag is no exception.
I've got a couple of others that I really like...like the one that attaches to a gig bag...but I use these three probably more than any of the others right now. In later posts, I'll take the two day packs, and talk about them in a little more detail. So what's your favorite backpack? These are three of mine.
I bought my Epiphone 339 back when they first released them in 2011. I missed that first run that delivered in the fall of 2011, so the one that I got was made in that second run. That means that I had to wait 4 or 5 months to get mine. I ordered it in November, and got it the end of March or first of April. One change that they made between the first run and the second that I didn't see them announce anywhere was that the original 339s shipped with their Probucker pickups and the second run shipped with their Alnico Classic Pro pickups. I had actually been looking forward to getting to try the Probuckers out, but the Alnico Classics sound good to my ear, so whatever.
Never gave it a whole lot of thought after that. Like I said, I wasn't unhappy with the pickups it came with. I had always heard that the Alnico Classics were Epi's version of Gibson's 57 Classics and the Probuckers were Epi's version of Gibson's Burstbuckers. I had put a pair of Burstbuckers in an old Les Paul I had, and I really liked them. Never really bonded with the guitar, but I thought the pickups sounded good. I had a Gibson 335 for a while that had 57 Classics and I really liked them too.
In my head, I always said I preferred the 57 Classics. I'm not really sure why. Honestly, I think I liked them better because that's what it seemed that most Gibsons I liked were getting when I started paying attention to that brand, and they were advertising them as being "like PAFs." In the last few years, I've realized that they now seem to be putting Burstbuckers, 490s, MHS, and another pickup or two in guitars as much as they are the 57s. When I saw that, I realized that several of those are also said to be "like PAFs." Now, I must confess, I'm not really sure what a PAF sounds like, but being a good gear hound and sometimes cork-sniffer, I know that PAFs are the sound that everyone thinks they should have. So, if it sounds like a PAF, that's the next best thing to actually having a PAF, right?
Now I'm just confused. All these PAF-like sounding pickups, and they all seem to sound a little different to my ear. What's the real PAF sound? No clue. At that point, I realized I had been sniffing a cork or two, and figured, I wasn't unhappy with the way that 339 played or sounded. As well, from a similarity standpoint, I had the real 57 Classics in that 335, and, to my ear, they didn't really sound all that different from those Alnico Classics. If I really sat and listened to them, I thought Epi version may not have been quite as clear and articulate on the low end, and they may not have been quite as harmonically rich when driven, but they sounded good. Just playing at church on Sunday or at the local blues jam, and nobody was going to hear a difference in the two. So there was no reason to change the Epi pickups.
Then last fall, I picked up that Epi LP Standard 50s (or whatever it's called). I immediately bonded with that guitar. Loved the neck! Loved the sound! And did I mention the neck? I had been playing that 339 predominately for nearly 18 months when I got that LP, and the 339 suddenly found itself relegated to hanging on the wall. One of the things I really liked about that LP were the pickups in it. They seemed super clear and articulate, and sounded good clean or driven. Maybe it was the guitars. Maybe it was the pickups. Maybe it was a bit of both. Either way, it had the Probuckers in it, so I was once again questioning what the 339 would sound like with Probuckers instead of the Alnico Classics.
So I started looking for a set of them. You could get them direct from Epiphone, but they were (1) $150 a set, and (2) out of stock. So Reverb was my option since I don't like eBay. Someone from Thailand was selling them starting at $50 a set with a wiring harness. That's a good deal, right? Seemed super sketch to me, so I passed on them. I'd see others showing up here and there, but they were running about $50 a piece (or more). I found a pair that someone pulled out of a new Epiphone where they were asking $70 for the pair. I messaged them for pics of the back of the pickups, and, when he sent them, it turned out they were actually the Alnico Classics like I already had. I let him know what he actually had, and that I'd pass since they weren't the ones I wanted. His ad hasn't changed. So be careful if you come across that ad; they're not actually Probuckers.
The next afternoon, I noticed someone had posted a set of Probuckers for a super price. Looking at the ad, the pics all looked right, so I was convinced they were real. According to the ad, the seller had just pulled them out of a new Epi LP Modern that they had gotten. Pics looked right, and the story sounded legit. Looked at the price again, and three other folks had already made offers on them and someone had them in their cart. So, since the price was really good without asking for a deal, I pulled the trigger. I will say that they are the Probucker 2 and 3 pickups where my LP has the Probucker 1 and 2.
Finally got them swapped out, and the Alnico Classics are now sitting beside me on the desk. What's the verdict on the 339 now that it has the Probuckers in it? I like them better! I think they have a clearer low end. I'm not sure the difference in the Probucker 1 in the LP neck and the Probucker 2 that is in the LP bridge and the 339 neck, but I still like the Probucker 1 best of all. To my ear it really sounds good. Either way, again, to my ear, the Probuckers have a clearer low end and are just a bit more articulate than the Alnico Classics. They also seem to be a little bit smoother and not quite as harsh when driven. When turned up, they also don't sound as hot to me. The Probucker 1 is easily my favorite, but the 2 and 3 I also like better than the Classics. Granted, in a blindfolded side by side, the only one I think I could pick out of the mix would be the 1. That is, if I could pick it out of a crowd. But trying to be objective sitting in my quiet little music room, I believe that I hear a difference in the two types of pickups.
So, I have to say that I think the Probuckers are great pickups. They're half the price of the Gibson Burstbuckers, and, to my ear, they're not that different. Granted, I haven't A/Bed them at this point, but from what I remember of that pair I had, they're pretty close. Given the chance, if I had another Epi with those quick connect ends, if it didn't have the Probuckers in it, I'd see about finding another pair. I'm not sure that all the hype around the Probuckers isn't at least a little marketing, but, I think, they're well worth the money. Like I already said, they're not the Gibson (or Duncan or Lollars), but they're close enough that nobody but us gear hounds are going to hear the difference. Bang for your buck, especially if you get them used, I don't know that you're going to get anything better.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. If Coca Cola was alcohol, he'd be a raging alcoholic. He dislikes going to the grocery store. And he still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 2 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.