Michael Kelly Patriot.....

Discussion in 'Other Guitars' started by soulman969, Feb 14, 2021.

  1. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Keeping with a 2021 promise to myself to give a dual humbucker guitar one more shot and after doing some pretty thorough research I decided to step outside of my usual box and go with an off brand I've never played before.

    When you look at my "fleet" of guitars and basses you'd know this was a bit out of character for me but I'd set a lower than usual price limit both to allow for any potential upgrades and also to reduce my risk if it turned out again that I just couldn't bond with it.

    Two I'd also considered were a Xaviere Pro500 and a Harley Benton SC Custom II. With shipping both would have been about the same price but the Xaviere in the finish I chose was out of stock with no indication when or even if it would ever be available again. The HB was also on back order for 4-5 weeks but after indicating more would be available in one week they magically went right back to a 4-5 week wait. With my patience worn thin last Monday the Michael Kelly popped up.

    I routinely receive emails from them but being a Tele fanatic those were the models I looked at most often and they do produce many in some very unique finishes. But that morning it was their Patriot Series that caught my eye so I dug a little deeper and found that they are house exclusive for Sam Ash. Since I'd already had one very good experience with their Sarasota, FL store with a bass I bought last August I called them. They had only one of the models I wanted in stock and after assuring me it was spotless would discount it by $50 as an open box sale and no sales tax. So I bought it.

    It's reviews have been universally positive both from media reviewers and owners and the few video demos I could call up told me the pickups were clean and transparent enough that they may be just fine as is. Grover tuners and a Tone Pro bridge tells me those should also be good as is. I expect the electronics will be typical of many imports in this price range but I can easily enough deal with that myself should they need to be replaced. So it should need little if any upgrades.

    The FedEx people tell me to expect delivery on Tuesday so I'll have a more accurate personal assessment sometime after that. This will be my only dual humbucker guitar so I hope it works out as expected but if not there are at least a half dozen Epi models I can always fall back on.

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    Last edited: Feb 14, 2021
  2. Supersonic

    Supersonic Well-Known Member

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    Never played a Michael Kelly guitar but that looks amazing. The string-through body thing looks interesting. Congrats, I hope you enjoy it and keep us updated.
     
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  3. Davis Sharp

    Davis Sharp Well-Known Member

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    Good looking flame pattern. I hope it scratches the itcHH. But the string-through body eliminates the joy of arguing about over-wrapping the stop bar.:)
     
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  4. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Funny thing is this model has been around in various versions and finishes for well over ten years and for the exact same $399 price. Who else hasn't raised prices or cheapened their product for over a decade yet the specs on these have remained much the same all along.

    The entire brand seems to have flown a bit under the radar as just another direct sale importer of Asian built instruments. Then a couple of years ago Samson bought them along with Sam Ash and made them an exclusive house brand raising their profile a bit.

    They still sell direct and I see a handful listed on Amazon but it seems Sam Ash is the only US dealer handling and selling them new. So that also gives me a 45 return privilege just in case it proves not to be so special after all. Less risk than a Harley Benton and having to ship it back to Germany.
     
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  5. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Cannot lie and not say that was an attraction for me. They also have a version with a quilt maple top and a faded natural to transparent black or blue finish but I'm too old school to pay $200 more for a fancier finish.

    But that same model can also be gotten with Seymour Duncan P-Rails ($799) or with Bare Knuckles The Mules ($1199) with same basic platform specs wise so they do have a couple of serious upscale models as well.

    A string through body with an ABR bridge is an interesting concept and yeah, no under or over the stop bar debates. :D
     
  6. John

    John Well-Known Member

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  7. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Ha ha.....yeah I thought so too John.

    I'm just hopin' it plays and sounds as good as it looks. I don't need a $400 wall hanging. :fingersx:
     
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  8. dasherf17

    dasherf17 Member

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    Nice! Nice to get off the beaten path every once in a while...
     
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  9. Mooseboy

    Mooseboy New Member

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    Hey, I'll be interested to know what you think of this axe. I've toyed with the idea of ordering one before.
     
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  10. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    It arrived just before noon and is presently sitting in it's inner shipping box slowly acclimating to 72 degrees after some chilly days and nights while it traveled.

    This evening I'll take it out, give it a thorough exam, and do a full set up based on my specs. Then within a day or two I should be able to do a good write up.

    I've looked through enough threads and posts many dating back 10 years and more to say that the overwhelming majority of the comments have be favorable.

    I'm a fussy guy when it comes to both tonality and playability so I'm hoping I'm as pleased with mine as others have been with theirs. And another shout out to Sam Ash Sarasota, FL for efficient order processing and a great packing job.

    That store is top shelf and runs the way GC only wishes theirs could. I've been very pleased with Sam Ash as a dealer.
     
  11. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    OK, now 24 hours into this model I can give some first impressions. More will follow once I've played it more.

    The label says crafted in Indonesia so the builder could be Samick, Cort, or WMIC. All three are South Korean companies with plants in Indonesia so take your pick with the current consensus being WMIC as most likely.

    Quality wise I'd put it up there with the mid to higher end Epi Les Pauls. The finish is gorgeous, flawless and deep much like G&Ls finishes. The flame top shows up nicely and the ebony fretboard and black headstock match up well with the black border on the top and the body sides. The back of the body and neck are finished in a black gloss. So cosmetically for me and my love of old school looks I'd say 8-9 'cause nothing's a 10......right?

    The fretwork is good. No high frets I'm aware of so far. The fret ends are well finished and polished with little if any fret spout some humidification won't cure. A cleaning and polishing of the frets came courtesy of my old standby Gorgomyte and some F-One oil took care of the dry fretboard. It's a nice deep black now.

    One small glitch was with the neck tone knob. The knobs all fit into shallow circular depressions in the top and that one knob was grinding against something as I rotated it. So I popped the knob and found a couple of rough spots in that depression. Sanded those down and that took care of that.

    After I restrung with .095s the truss rod needed about half a turn to get the relief where I like it but the rest of the setup was good. Intonation was probably spot on for .009s but now a gnats ass hair sharp across the board so I'm not gonna mess with it for now. Close enough for rock and blues/r&b/soul.

    Still messin' around with pickups heights and settings but overall they sound decent and cleaner than expected or previously experienced. They're Alnico V with 42awg wire and the resistance readings are Neck: 8.14k/3.97k (split) Bridge: 8.58k/4.36k (split) so they're bold but not over wound. Wound in the US by Michael Kelly I believe.

    The electronics are import stuff but Korean branded full size volume pots and push/pull tone pots. I might change tone caps and add treble bleeds but unless something fails none of it needs to be replaced. The Grover tuners are smooth as silk. That a nice quality touch you don't often find on a $400 guitar either. Graphite nut as well. Tuning is uber stable.

    The neck is a typical "Modern C". Squier CV like. It's flatter and shallower than I prefer but I can adapt to it and overall it does play well. My opinion is it's surely worth $400 and would probably list for at least a couple hundred more if it had a bigger name like Fender or Epiphone behind it. The online listing said "open box" but it shipped in it's original packaging so it's brand new and for $348 net/shipped I'd call it a fair bargain.

    I've got more playing time to put it through but my impression so far is that I'll keep it.
     
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  12. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Final thoughts on this one for you brother.

    The overall quality is there with some above average features not often found on other guitars at this price point like an ebony fretboard, flamed top, Grover tuners, Tone Pros bridge, coil splitting electronics, etc, which leads me to believe WMIC builds them for Michael Kelly and has for many years.

    While the neck is not what anyone would call "beefy" or "meaty" it's very easy to adapt to. Comfortable and reasonably fast so overall the guitar plays quite well. I'm a bit of a neck profile snob and if I can adapt to it as quickly as I did I don't feel others would have much problem either.

    Yesterday I got the pickups heights dialed into my liking and balanced between neck and bridge. The volume balance across the neck from high E to low E is outstanding. No tweaking needed. Tonally they're beautifully clear and rare for many humbuckers so they're exactly what I wanted.

    But there's also more than enough gas and boldness in them to drive an amp into break up or power dirt pedals without losing clarity so I believe they'll satisfy harder rock and metal guys as well. I can honestly say I like them better than Epi Alnico Classic Pros that were in my former ES339.

    If there is any negative at all it would be their output when split which is roughly halved, volume drops considerably. They sound fine but if the bridge is soloed when split you'll want to clean boost it in order to retain your volume. I would probably prefer coil taps at 70%-75% output but that's me.

    IME it's all it's cracked up to be and IMHO a fair bargain @ $400 new. Others may be found used for a bit less still knowing their specs will be much the same if not identical and I would have no problem at all recommending this guitar and the Sam Ash store I purchased from to anyone. I'm pleased.
     
  13. Fullmoon 1971

    Fullmoon 1971 Well-Known Member

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    Congrats on your new guitar - Michael Kelly instruments are really underrated.

    The brand used to belong to Hansen Holdings (own also owned BC Rich at the time) They were originally made in Korea by "World Musical Instruments" who also made PRS SE's and Chapman guitars at the time. Production then changed to China in 2014 and lastly Indonesia this is how they have managed to keep costs low. I've owned 2 Patriots - a Patriot Supreme with EMG 81-85 pickups (that I gave to my son) and still own a 2009 Patriot Custom.
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    The original specs were slightly different from the current version
    Tigerstrip top - Now has Quilt Top
    Ebony Fingerboard - Now has Pau Ferro
    Abalone Block Inlays - Now has "instinct" Abalone and pearl
    Rockfield SWC Pickups - Varies by version
    1 volume, 1 Tone (both spiltable giving the same Great 8 Mod) & 3 way switch - Now 2 Volumes (Splitable - Great 8 Mod), 1 Tone & 3 Way Switch

    I've played a couple of the current Patriot Custom Bold's - they are fantastic guitars but I probably look for a early Korean model with the ebony board if I wanted another one.
     
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  14. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. They are under rated IMHO and your 2009 also shows that same build quality the current ones to. These guitars are somewhat inexpensive comparatively speaking but they are not "cheap" by any means.

    I suspected WMIC was involved due to the overall quality and finish. If they aren't still building them whoever is seems to be following the same basic template QC wise.

    Mine still has an Ebony board and what MK calls SWC-Plus pickups that I wouldn't call overwound based on their output. The "Bold" look is quite unique but not worth $200 more to me.

    I probably would have preferred two volume pots and a single tone pot with individual coil splitting but all of my Epis have the same two volume, two tone electronics so I'm used to that too.

    I'm always looking at value first and these guitars do offer great value.
     
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