Vela - optimum string height?

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by stevenew, Nov 23, 2017.

  1. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    A couple of weeks ago I got my pre ordered Vela Reclaimed Semi Hollow. This is the first USA PRS that I have bought new and thus came factory setup. I love the sound and finish, it's a great guitar but I find the factory set action a little height: low E is 5/64" high E just over 4/64". I find this a bit tight and more effort for my ageing arthritic left hand:)

    I usually have most of my electrics set 4/64" across all strings, my Hollowbody II (bought used) is setup like this. So I decided to lower the Vela action to 4/64" across all strings, it played easier but I couldn't believe how different the tone was, much thinner and indistinct. I have taken it back to the factory string heights and the tone is back!

    Wow talk about sweet spot, has anyone else found this?
    Can 1/64" really make that much difference?
    Are PRS guitars more fussy about string height than other guitars?
    Am I just imagining all this:)

    I am now tempted to to raise the action on my Hollowbody and see what happens.
     
  2. gush

    gush New Member

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    I have a feeling if you lowered your pickups you would probably still have that sweet spot.

    I've found prs pickups are very sensitive to small adjustments.

    I had a CE that had an uneven trem. When I leveled it the tone changed a bunch.
     
  3. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    I did measure the pickup height before changing the string height and then lowered the pickups minutely to get the same distance. Perhaps I should have dropped them further? I didn't want to make any drastic changes so I could get it back to factory easily. I didn't adjust the truss rod as there seemed no need.
     
  4. gush

    gush New Member

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    Prs guitars are really the first guitars that I've spent a lot of time adjusting pickups. I don't remember other brands being so sensitive to pickup adjustments.

    Dragon 1s that I have in one guitar have an incredible range of tones available just from height adjustments.
     
  5. gush

    gush New Member

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    Just remember pickups will come off of the screws if you adjust them down too far. Not a huge deal just a pita
     
  6. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    Thanks for the replies.

    I may give it another go and this time drop the pickups a little more, but I did have them the same distance from the pole pieces to bottom of the strings as they were in the factory setup. I am measuring all these settings with a small ruler with 64ths marked on it. I can play it with the factory setup it is just more tiring on my fingers. I have to say I have done similar height adjustments on my non PRS guitars and never noticed such a big difference in tone with such a small measurement.

    Edit: An important thing I forgot to mention was the difference in the unplugged acoustic sound, my partner commented on how it sounded tinny after the action was lowered. So I guess that could mean the lower action is not allowing the strings to vibrate as much? So perhaps the relief does need tweaking? Still can't believe 1/64" could make such a difference!
     
    #6 stevenew, Nov 23, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2017
  7. Geo408

    Geo408 New Member

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    What gauge strings are you using? On my Vela, I use 9.5's for my 62 year old hands! I also had to tweak the truss rod a bit, to add just a touch of fretboard relief. Once I got the action where I wanted, I then adjusted the pickups. It took me a few band practice sessions to get it right, but in the last 2 years, I haven't had to make any further adjustments. It's a very resonant guitar, and very stable like all my other PRSi...I guess my advice would be to work with it for a while, and use your eyes and ears. In my case, they are always more accurate than a ruler...ymmv, of course. It's like what the old recipe says; "follow directions, but season to taste"...
    I need to add that mine in not a semi hollow, but it is barely 6 lbs...and all light weight guitars take a bit of work, trial and error, and patience to dial in correctly...but it's worth it! Best of luck to you!
     
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  8. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    I'm using 10-46 currently, mainly as that was stock. I have used 9-42 on my Hollowbody much easier to play than 10s but prefer the tone with 10's. I use 9's on my Tele. I have never tried 9.5's, I guess I should:) Always a compromise of playability vs tone when your fingers are ageing. I always measure everything on a new guitar so I can get back to factory setup and start again. When its a guitar I know well, I just use my ears and feel. I'm going to give it another go this afternoon, lower the action and this time loosen the truss rod a touch to give a little more relief. If no luck I will take it back to factory again and try some 9.5's.

    Thanks for all the help.
     
  9. Boogie

    Boogie SuperD

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    Everyone is different, so my preferences are probably not applicable for anyone else. But, on my RL Vela, I prefer the stock 10s and the factory setup. The pickup height allows for great variance in touch dynamics and guitar volume/tone changes, so I haven’t messed with it. I’ve learned to leave well enough alone! One change can upset the apple cart.
     
  10. swede71

    swede71 New Member

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    Some guitars like a lower stringheight and some higher.Then you have your righthand technique to consider.My personal setup is 5/64 on all strings measuring at 12th fret from top of fret to bottom of the string.Relief is .010.Thats My starting point.If im not really happy with the tone i try to dial in the trussrod first til i find the relief where i dont hear too much fret in the sound and Where the strings still feels snappy and bendable.A F major barre chord must feel easy to finger plus Paranoid played at 12th fret on E and A strings shouldnt sound all fretbuzz.Its a sweetspot for sure and its very personal.Trust your ears stevenew.
     
    #10 swede71, Nov 27, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  11. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    I set the Vela up again on Saturday afternoon. Kept the 10-46 strings, 4/64 string height across all strings, very slight truss rod adjustment to give a fraction more relief and lowered the pickups barely 1/8 of a turn. 2 days later it is still playing much easier for me, less pressure needed in fretting means less arthritic jolts in my finger joints:) The tone is 90% as it was with factory setup, you guys were right about the pickups being sensitive, amazing that just a 1/8 turn changes the tone. I would say it is the most setup sensitive guitar I have. More so than my Hollowbody, or perhaps I have always been too bold with my adjustments on it, maybe time to revisit it with subtle adjustments.

    Thanks for all the advice, I wonder how long it will be before I start tweaking it again:)
     
  12. Fro

    Fro New Member

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    I suspect the tweaking started back up before I typed this reply.
     
  13. dogrocketp

    dogrocketp I drank the PRS kool aid, and it was tasty!

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    I will go to my grave insisting that PRSi (including the Korean ones) respond more to small changes than any other brand that I've played in my 50 + years of spankin the plank. They also respond more to touch when playing than any other brand these old hands have touched.
     
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  14. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Totally agree!
     
  15. RickyFresh

    RickyFresh New Member

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    I’ve been looking all over for the Vela’s factory setup specs but I can’t find it anywhere. Stevenew where did you find 5/64??
     
  16. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    I bought my Vela Reclaimed New, the shop I bought from said they thought the setup out the box was perfect so they did not touch it. So I presume it came direct from the factory setup with the action set at low E 5/64" and high E just over 4/64". I still have mine at 4/64" across all strings with the pickups set just a fraction lower than they were out of the box.
     
  17. RickyFresh

    RickyFresh New Member

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    Gotcha, thanks Steve. I too bought the reclaimed timber, semi-hollow Vela. Sounds very good, however, I feel like my strings are just a tab high for my preference. I might do exactly what you've done.
     
  18. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    From my limited experience of PRS guitars with untouched factory setups, the Velas do seem to be setup with actions just a fraction higher than say Core Custom 24/22 or some of the SE range.

    Whenever I get a new guitar I always measure the action, relief and pickup heights, so when I start tweaking I can always take it back to how it was when I got it.

    Yes the Vela Reclaimed are very nice guitars and pretty unique with their own sound. I am still not sure if I like the 'regular' neck shape or not, I thought I was going to love it as I used to find 'wide fat' a bit too fat but now I have changed my mind and starting prefer the 'wide fat' again:)
     
  19. RickyFresh

    RickyFresh New Member

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    Hey Steve, any chance you could post the your measurements from strings to pickups?
     
  20. stevenew

    stevenew New Member

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    Fretting the last fret on the low and high E strings: Neck Pickup: 6/64" on both low & high E. Bridge pickup: 7/64" on low E, 6/64" on high E.

    This was the same distance when I got the guitar, so after I lowered the action, I lowered the pickups very slightly to maintain the same distance. You may need to adjust the truss rod after lowering the action but it will need no more than a 1/8 of a turn if that.

    I have to say this was the first guitar I have bought new where I thought the pickup height was about right, I find most are set too high for my taste:) I must I know a lot people set their action and pickup height by feel & ears, I used to do that too and to a certain extent still do, but making all those initial measurements before you change anything does allow you to go back to where you began and start again! In fact I have to say I am tempted to try going back to factory setup again and see what I think...
     

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