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~Introduction to the kit~
This little Encore P29 Electric Guitar Kit is a useful starter guitar set which can be a good buy for anyone thinking of trying their hand at learning to play an electric guitar without breaking the bank. The set has many of the basic items needed to begin learning to play the electric guitar with and as such it offers good value for money based on its contents as a whole, when bought at the right price. As this set comprises of a number of items, this is a long review which covers a little about each of the main items in the set and briefly touches upon the other items that are included. The set includes a basic Les Paul style guitar, a 10 watt practice amplifier, a guitar stand and case, a simple guitar strap and tuner, a 'how to' CD, spare strings, a plectrum and a basic guitar lead.
~The Encore P29 Guitar~
Straight out of the box the Encore P29 guitar that came with this set seemed to ready to play after just a light clean and a little tuning and it was it easy enough to plug the guitar straight into the amp and give it a go. This guitar does have a nice tone at times which can be pleasing, although it is often over run by interference and buzz from the strings which I feel may in part be due to poor quality pick ups. There are two double coil pick ups on this model, which I feel would have benefitted from being humbucking pick ups, as a set of humbucking pick ups could have reduced those annoying buzzing noises that arise quite often. You can set the pick ups via the toggle switch/ pick up selector to switch between the neck pick up, the bridge pick up or a combination of the two with a simple flick of the toggle switch which is placed at an easy to reach angle although whatever setting it sits at there is still some degree of buzz.
The guitar has a Tune-O-Matic bridge which should provide a good amount of sustain although it hasn't worked all that well on this guitar. The sustain from this guitar is very poor at times, to the point of there being almost no sustain when bending a note unless the strings are pushed further than normal resulting in sounds that are far removed from those wanted. The action on this guitar is not too bad at all and although it does lack refinement it is easy to get to grips with and will suit a beginner. The intonation of the guitar was fairly good straight from the box and only a few very minor adjustments were needed there. The guitar has two volume and two tone controls on the front which can be used with ease once you become accustomed to setting them up and these work well enough.
The hardware on the guitar is in a chrome silver finish with no fading or rusting that I can see, although there has been a slight issue with one of the enclosed machine heads on the headstock of the guitar I have. There a silver toned stop tail on the P29 and in order to re string the guitar you simply run your new strings through the correct hole in the stop tail which you shouldn't undo. This guitar has an arch top contoured basswood body finished in black lacquer with a cream pick guard, with a body that is slightly thicker than a standard Les Paul guitar. There is a rosewood fingerboard comprising of 22 well spaced frets and a maple bolt on neck. There have been some issues with the strap buttons on the guitar working lose which has required some maintenance work, although this can and does happen with heavy bodied electric guitars such as this one. Prices for this guitar on its own sit at around £70 which is fair value for a beginners guitar such as this one, which I feel deserves a 3 star product rating.
~The BB Blaster Amplifier~
The starter sized guitar amp that comes with this set is a small 10 watt unit which can be used with or without headphones on for practicing. The headphone input can be very helpful if buying this set for a beginner as they will be able to play whilst plugged into the amp without disturbing anyones ears except their own . This compact yet heavy little amp has a number of limited features that will keep a beginner happy including simple twist action volume, base, treble and gain controls. There is also a push in pop out clean or overdrive option which is very basic in terms of the sounds it produces. There is a standard 1/4 input jack for plugging in your guitar although you can use it with other instruments which use the same fitting if wanted.
When using a 1/4 jack to plug in your headphones for private practise you simply set the volume controls etc as usual and the sounds from the unit will be heard only via the headphones. Plugging a set of headphones into the amp automatically disconnects the internal speaker allowing for nice quiet practising and plenty of peace and quiet for those around you. The unit has a simple on and off switch at the front which is easy to use and the power cable is built into the back of the mini amp for ease of use. You can store the power cable with its attached plug in the back of the amp inside the space at the bottom, as long as you are careful not to mess about with the speaker or its connections when doing so.
The simple black case that the amp comes in is made from textured tolex material and the corners have black plastic bumpers fitted to protect the amp from knocks and bumps. The front of the amp has a neat black powder coated metal grill which protects the front of the speaker and the top of the amp has a small yet serviceable carry handle that can be pushed flat when not in use. The base of the amp case has a series of 4 small rubber feet set onto it which allow the amp to sit well on a flat surface. The sounds that come from this little amp are basic in form with no real refinement to them, although as a basic small sized practice amp this does work well enough.
Prices for the amp on its own are between £40 to £50 which is quite high for such as basic little unit and in my opinion if thinking of buying this as a stand alone item I wouldn't want to pay that much for it as there are better small sized practise amps you can buy for similar prices. As part of the set reviewed here I feel the amp is good value as you are looking at the price of a complete starter set up for far less than the price of each item on its own. My over all rating for this amplifier as a basic practise amp is 3 stars which I feel it more than fair based on its abilities.
~The JHS 200 Guitar Stand~
The guitar stand you get with this set has a tripod type 3 legged base that should in theory ensure a nice stable feel once it has been set up. In reality I have found that due to two of the support legs at the base being longer than the shorter third support leg at the back, the stand is at risk of tipping over. This stand can be especially prone to tipping if knocked from behind but could even topple over if knocked from the side due to these odd leg lengths. The tripod base should be placed on flat floor surfaces such as laminate, wood or tiles rather than carpet in order to give the most stable base for it to rest on. I feel its best not to place the stand close to a wall or another guitar stand as the tripod legs can pose stability risks as well as taking up far too much room.
The height of the back support on this stand is adjustable and it can be placed at a height that will support your guitar at the top of the body where the neck begins, which I feel offers the best option for safe support of your guitar. I have seen these stands used to support the full length of the neck and body of a guitar too, although I feel this is far from ideal and would not choose do do so. The stand has two cradle arms one at the top and one at the base, which are there to provide support for your guitar and these don't work as well as they might as they don't stay in place well and are easily knocked out of position.
The JHS Guitar Stand is taller than an A frame type stand even when pitched at its lowest setting making it less stable and more prone to being knocked over than any of the stands I have. I find that when taking a guitar out of this stand more care is needed, especially if there is a guitar strap fitted which could end up wrapped around parts of the stand, ending in the whole kit and kaboodle being dragged towards you as you try to lift the guitar out of it. I feel that this stand is best suited for use by youngsters who are just begining to play guitar and won't be placing high value instruments on it, as the stand can easily be knocked and is not as stable as it could be.
In the stands favour I can say that it has remained in reasonably good condition with no chipping, rusting or serious scuffing to the metal frame and black powder coated paint work. The plastic height adjuster still works, although it is not ideal and the metal tube that supports the cradle arm at the neck of the guitar performs in a basic way yet could do with being a little stronger. All the coated rubber/ foam parts of the stand are as lightly padded and tear free as they were when this was new, although a little more padding would have been better from the very beginning. I don't feel this stand is very portable and you cannot really fold this stand away easily when it is not in use. Prices for this stand on its own range from £10 to £14 and my rating for this item is a mid range 3 stars.
~The Kinsman Guitar Case~
This soft bodied case is very light with no real padding, which means that even when it has a medium to slightly heavy weight electric guitar inside it the case and guitar together aren't too heavy. The case offers the very minimum in terms of protection for your guitar from knocks and bumps although it is easy to transport from A to B via two short handled webbed carry straps that you can slip over your shoulder. The two main zips around the edge of the case make for easy opening and closing of it and there is a handy side pocket which can hold a music book if needed. The case is not at all bulky and won't take up too much room when being carried and it can be folded away when not in use for easy storage, although you shouldn't really leave the case on the floor with a guitar in it as you could easily knock it or tread on it. The body of the case is made from a black nylon type of material that has a lightly textured look and feel to it which has not ripped or scuffed at all when in use and the case looks neat and smart if a little thin. Prices for the case on its own are £7 to £9 and my rating for it is 3 stars.
~The JHS Guitar Tech Strap~
I have had some issues with fixing this guitar strap onto the guitar that came with this set as the fixings on the guitar have worked lose over time and have needed attention. The strap is made from a plain and simple black toned nylon material and has a lightly woven and textured feel to it with neatly finished stitching to the leather look ends. The button holes on the strap are well sized which should make it it easy to slip them in place over the fitments on the guitar without having to force them open, yet they are small enough so that they won't slip out of place once fitted. The strap is adjustable so you can set the length to suit your needs and the whole thing seems fairly strong and well made. I feel this is a cheaper guitar strap which is fine for a beginner to use which normally sells for between £1.99 to £5 and my rating for it is 3 stars.
~The Guitar Tuner~
The battery powered tuner that comes with this set can be used to tune any acoustic, electric or bass guitar to 'E' standard tuning although won't help at all if you like to use any form of drop tuning. The screen shows an easy to read meter as well as the notes you are tuning to and the body of the tuner is made from a simple looking sturdy plastic. If using the tuner with an acoustic guitar all you need to do is switch on your tuner and then play the note/ string that you want to tune up. It is best to site the tuner close to your guitar when using it as there is a built in microphone that picks up the sounds made by your acoustic guitar. If using the tuner with an electric guitar you can use the in and out jacks built in to it to plug your guitar lead into. The tuner is very basic in its functions but will be helpful to a beginner. Prices for this basic tuner range from £6 and my rating for it is 2.5 stars. The tuner has in and out jacks, a built in microphone, an LCD meter and automatic note selection.
~What else does the set come with?~
There is a simple 'Learn how to play guitar' CD included with this set which is worth viewing if you are a complete beginner, as well as a spare set of Encore guitar strings although you will need to buy more over time. A simple black toned Encore plectrum is provided to get you started, as well as a budget range guitar lead which will do until you can replace it with a better one. The lead is quite short in length which means you cannot really stand or sit all that far from the amp when using it which is a minus point. The connectors on the lead which came with the set weren't all that good either which was a another reason to replace it.
~Rating and price~
The set does work out slightly cheaper than when buying the items within it on their own and as such there is a small saving to be had. This kit is still available to buy even though the set I have was bought some years ago and you can expect to pay between £125 to £135 for the whole thing. I bought this set blind from an online seller so I was unable to view it prior to purchase and although I have had some concerns with various issues, I feel that over all the whole kit does offer good value as basic starter set. I feel that you could pay just a little more to buy a basic Fender Squier Strat Starter set if you are thinking of buying a complete kit for an adult beginner, which would give you a better slightly quality guitar, although the Les Paul style guitar that comes with this kit can be used to play a good variety of music styles even though it is rather heavy. My final rating for the set as a whole is 3 stars which I feel is more than fair for the items that make up the kit.