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I'm really disappointed with my Norman B50


allthumz

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After reading glowing reviews in the HC review section my initial impression of the used Norman B50 that I bought is that this guitar is a dud. It has zero projection, no harmonics and the sound is dark almost ugly. My Washburn D12N with a new bone saddle from Bob Colosi is so much better that I am stunned. It is brighter, louder, and projects very well. The Norman's soundhole is like a blackhole of sound! A laminate top that beats down a Norman? How can that be?

 

You probably think I'm exaggerating but mercy. I put new strings, Martin SP lights, on. Are they a bad choice? The set up looks fine. The guitar looks fine. The nut and saddle are Tusq. The same as on my A&L AMI Cedar that just comes alive when played. Plus the Norman reeks of cigarette smoke. Could that contribute? Is there a safe way to get rid of the odor?

 

Okay. I'm getting myself together now. What can I do to brighten up this guitar? Were my expectations too high?

 

The B50 is solid spruce top w/ maple laminate sides and back. I thought it might sound something like a jumbo guitar w/ maple b/s. Not even close. It was made in 1999. It should be open by now.

 

Please help me figure out what to do. I am really rattled by this. Geez. :confused:

 

Thanks! :)

 

- Robert

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A couple of quick questions - did you play it or something similar before you bought it? I find it interesting that almost all of our HC reviews are pretty glowing - whether it is a $200 laminate or a 2000 Gibby or Martin. It seems like every guitar ranks an 8 or 9 or so. I look at what folks say, and really apply the old filters.

 

Anyway, last question first - the cigarette smell. There was a thread not too long ago on the martin forum but I don't remember the conclusion - as I recall the feeling was most of the smell was in the case and not the guitar. We inherited some furniture from a heavy smoker, cleaned it really thoroughtly with some sort of furniture and it seemed to help. But many years later I can still smell it in the wood. I doubt that it affects the tone tho. Personally I would never buy a car that had been owned by a smoker, and probably not a guitar either (unless it was Willie).

 

Second, is there anything structurally wrong with the git? Loose brace, bridge, saddle or nut not seated, etc. By its nature Maple should be bright but I don't know how much the laminate changes that. There is a concurrent thread about brightening up a mahogany guitar - I won't repeat the suggestions here.

 

What kind of strings did it have? Exactly which Martin SP did you put on (they come in both PB and 80/20)? A common feeling (but some disagree) is that PB's start a little brighter and quickly mellow, while 80/20 stay brighter in the long run. And of course, that coated strings are slightly duller, but last a long time. The SP's are quality strings - after all Martin uses them.

 

Does it have an UST? Any chance the saddle has been shimmed? Some people don't like Tusq - my only experience has been with bone.

 

Last, but not least. Do you know why the PO sold it? Any chance of returning?

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Can you put mediums on it? I had a Norman (B20?) and I thought the sound was okay. It was better with mediums but I hate playing those strings so I cut my losses and traded it. Otherwise, I can't suggest a thing.

 

For the odor try keeping it in its case when not in use with some baking soda. That might deodorize it. Get one of those travel containers for bar soap and drill some small holes in the top. Put some baking soda in it and place it below the headstock area. Leave the case flat and out of the way for a couple of days. You might even remove the strings and place another container in the sound hole wrapped with a piece of twine to help place and retrieve it.

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Robert, I just did a quick look at the HC review and it stood out that most of the high sound ratings seemed to be plugged in - do you agree? Does yours have a pickup? If it is an UST and is not seated right that can really kill the acoustic sound.

 

Also, I looked at the Norman site and they brag about no glue in the neck joint. If for some reason that was loose it would really kill the sound (and would probably also screw up the neck angle and action).

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Originally posted by Freeman Keller

Robert, I just did a quick look at the HC review and it stood out that most of the high sound ratings seemed to be plugged in - do you agree? Does yours have a pickup? If it is an UST and is not seated right that can really kill the acoustic sound.


Also, I looked at the Norman site and they brag about no glue in the neck joint. If for some reason that was loose it would really kill the sound (and would probably also screw up the neck angle and action).

 

 

 

I inspected the neck block inside the guitar and this is what I found.

 

On the neck block there is a paper label. This label was partially loose so I took it all the way off. This uncovered two 12mm x 40mm bolts that I could easily loosen with the tips of my fingers. I took the bolts out and the heel is definitely not glued. The only thing holding the neck to the body is the fretboard which is glued to the top. Now get this. The fretboard where it is glued to the neck, at the 14th fret, is sunken. The board is straight from the 1st fret to the 14th then it angles noticibly down. Maybe 5 degrees? In the Ebay listing the seller made a point of saying the neck pocket was perfect. I think the key words here are WAS PERFECT. When? When it was brand new before you screwed it up? Not making any accusations here but something is not right.

 

Also the truss rod is tightened all the way clockwise. 1/4th of a turn counter-clockwise and I can spin the allen nut off the rod with my fingers. This nut is 4 inches long and is threaded from the end to where you insert an allen key.

 

Freeman, I think you have helped me find the problem.

 

What would you do. I feel like I have been taken advantage of. It seems to me that the sunken fretboard and the truss rod are not the way they should be.

 

Please give me some guidance here if you can.

 

Thanks.

 

- Robert

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Originally posted by allthumz




I inspected the neck block inside the guitar and this is what I found.


On the neck block there is a paper label. This label was partially loose so I took it all the way off. This uncovered two 12mm x 40mm bolts that I could easily loosen with the tips of my fingers. I took the bolts out and the heel is definitely not glued. The only thing holding the neck to the body is the fretboard which is glued to the top. Now get this. The fretboard where it is glued to the neck, at the 14th fret, is sunken. The board is straight from the 1st fret to the 14th then it angles noticibly down. Maybe 5 degrees? In the Ebay listing the seller made a point of saying the neck pocket was perfect. I think the key words here are WAS PERFECT. When? When it was brand new before you screwed it up? Not making any accusations here but something is not right.


Also the truss rod is tightened all the way clockwise. 1/4th of a turn counter-clockwise and I can spin the allen nut off the rod with my fingers. This nut is 4 inches long and is threaded from the end to where you insert an allen key.


Freeman, I think you have helped me find the problem.


What would you do. I feel like I have been taken advantage of. It seems to me that the sunken fretboard and the truss rod are not the way they should be.


Please give me some guidance here if you can.


Thanks.


- Robert

 

 

Sounds like the seller screwed you, but I'm wondering why he glued the fretboard to the top on a bolt-on neck. I gather it's because otherwise there'd be a visible gap, i.e., if he just let the bolts do what they're supposed to?

 

I'd contact the seller and explain the issue, i.e., there shouldn't be any glue there. It's (perhaps remotely) possible he/she didn't know of the structural issue - not all guitars on eBay are sold by players who could tell a problem simply by listening to a guitar's tone.

 

If the seller isn't helpful, you're options would be to attempt a chargeback (if you used a credit card), or bad feedback (if you haven't already left feedback).

 

Props to Freeman, as usual, for his insights.

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Originally posted by DonK



Sounds like the seller screwed you, but I'm wondering why he glued the fretboard to the top on a bolt-on neck. I gather it's because otherwise there'd be a visible gap, i.e., if he just let the bolts do what they're supposed to?


I'd contact the seller and explain the issue, i.e., there shouldn't be any glue there. It's (perhaps remotely) possible he/she didn't know of the structural issue - not all guitars on eBay are sold by players who could tell a problem simply by listening to a guitar's tone.


If the seller isn't helpful, you're options would be to attempt a chargeback (if you used a credit card), or bad feedback (if you haven't already left feedback).


Props to Freeman, as usual, for his insights.

 

 

DonK you are right on about the fretboard being glued. Without glue there would have been a huge gap. I want to know why the seller wrote the the neck pocket is perfect? Guess I'll ask him.

 

I put the bolts back in and they will not tightened. Stripped bolts = No sustain and dead sound.

 

DonK you and Freeman have pulled my bacon out of the fire. Thank you. Now let's see who is going to eat it.

 

I now know that I am going to do business face to face and phone to phone. Too many problems with the internet. Caveat emptor.

 

I have learned quite a bit about guitars in the last few days.

 

- Robert

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And now just to add some "fuel to the fire", one thing I've noticed about the Normans (that I've seen in the stores and the couple that I've owned including a B50) is that they all displayed the "dip" at the 14th fret that you were describing allthumz.

 

FWIW, one other thing to look for, however, is that at about the 14th fret the dip is preceded by a little hump/bump. IOW, the fretboard elevates at the 14th fret and then dips.

 

On the more recent Normans -mine for example- you don't see this. But I have to add that despite my TLC, the Normans have some buzzing with the high E string.

 

Otherwise, I find Norman to be a great-sounding guitar.....

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Originally posted by d03nut

And now just to add some "fuel to the fire", one thing I've noticed about the Normans (that I've seen in the stores and the couple that I've owned including a B50) is that they all displayed the "dip" at the 14th fret that you were describing allthumz.


FWIW, one other thing to look for, however, is that at about the 14th fret the dip is preceded by a little hump/bump. IOW, the fretboard elevates at the 14th fret and then dips.


On the more recent Normans -mine for example- you don't see this. But I have to add that despite my TLC, the Normans have some buzzing with the high E string.


Otherwise, I find Norman to be a great-sounding guitar.....

 

 

I wish this one were great sounding. It is awful.

 

Now the guy who sold it to me says that Normans do not have bolts. He also says I am confusing him with someone else.

 

I think this is going to be a difficult transaction. He is trying to bait me into saying something that will give him a way out. He needs to refund my money and move on.

 

- Robert

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This will be real quick because I have to go to dinner. Contact Norman somehow and confirm that here should be no glue on the neck to top - some bolt on necks will have the extension glued to the top. Is it possible that the bolts were merely loose and if tightened everything would be OK? Or will the neck angle be all screwed up.

 

I'm sure we have someone with legal knowledge who can advice but it seems like you should send a registered letter to the sell with a copy of the e-bay add, any questions answered on the ad, etc, stating in effect that the guitar was not as advertized and you want to return it. You probably paided with PayPal or something that can't be reversed, but if it was a check or escrow put a stop to it. I would suggest being firm but polite - no threats, just ask for a refund and state that you want to return it. If there are issues you can use the negative feedback on E-bay.

 

If you have a bud who is an attorney, buy her a beer and ask for some advice. If it turns out you are stuck with it we'll figure out how to make it sound good!

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Originally posted by Freeman Keller

This will be real quick because I have to go to dinner. Contact Norman somehow and confirm that here should be no glue on the neck to top - some bolt on necks will have the extension glued to the top. Is it possible that the bolts were merely loose and if tightened everything would be OK? Or will the neck angle be all screwed up.


I'm sure we have someone with legal knowledge who can advice but it seems like you should send a registered letter to the sell with a copy of the e-bay add, any questions answered on the ad, etc, stating in effect that the guitar was not as advertized and you want to return it. You probably paided with PayPal or something that can't be reversed, but if it was a check or escrow put a stop to it. I would suggest being firm but polite - no threats, just ask for a refund and state that you want to return it. If there are issues you can use the negative feedback on E-bay.


If you have a bud who is an attorney, buy her a beer and ask for some advice. If it turns out you are stuck with it we'll figure out how to make it sound good!

 

 

I am being polite but firm for sure. My sister-in-law is an attorney. She is coming over for dinner tomorrow.

 

The neck angle is funked. That was the first sign that something wasn't right. The paper label over the recessed bolt area of the neck block was partially torn away. Somebody at sometime messed with those bolts

 

If I can get it repaired I will probably negotiate for a price reduction per the repair expense.

 

I appreciate you advice and help.

 

- Robert

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Originally posted by d03nut

But how do you like your A&L? Norman and A&L both belong to the Godin family, with Norman being actually a "step up" from the A&L.


Anyway, I sincerely hope that things work out in your favor...

 

 

The AMI is awesome. Great tone and is loud with light strumming or picking. I really love the neck. 1.72" with a D shaped profile. It fits my hand very well.

 

Right now A&L is WAY ahead of Norman in my experience!

 

I'll get satisfaction in the Norman deal.

 

- Robert

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Robert, just to clarify - most bolt on necks have the neck extension glued to the top of the guitar - the only one that I know of that doesn't is the Taylor NT (it has a bolt). If the seller questions the statement about Normans have a bolt on neck just go to their web site (that is where I got the info).

 

My issue here is that it seems like the guitar had a defect when you bought it and the best thing IMHO would be to return it or negotiate a repair. You could always have it fixed, but why if it was advertised as having a good neck joint? Obviously there are alway the potential for problems when buying a used guitar, but it really do sound like the PO was trying to unload this.

 

I had an old Martin that badly needed a neck reset. I really wanted to sell it, but could not bring myself to pass the problem on to someone else. I had the work done so I could, in good conscience, sell it. Now I don't want to.

 

Good luck with this - please keep us posted

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Hi.

 

One minute before I received your e-mail i got one from said PO.

 

He will refund. Originally he said Normans did not have bolts but per your advice I sent him to the Norman site. He claims he knew nothing about the problem. Now that he will refund, I believe him. :D

 

Thanks for getting me through this one. Right now I'm feeling lucky and inclined to stay away from Ebay. I've also decided that buying a guitar with lifetime warranty and taking care of it is a good idea.

 

Funny that coming close to getting screwed on a $199 deal makes me much more likely to spend $700-1000 on a nice new guitar.

 

I'll sleep better tonight.

 

- Robert

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This will make me sleep better too.

 

My wife bought my Taylor on evil bay and it turned out to be a great experience - she had several e-mail conversations with the seller and said that one of the scariest things she has ever done (besides marrying me) was to click the "submit bid" button. One of mine was taking it out of the case, tuning up, and picking that first chord.

 

I guess my only sage advices is like buying anything else used - try to find out as much as possible about the item. I would always try to find out as much as I could about the guitar - and I don't think it is unreasonable to ask the seller to run thru the little tests in the "Is My Guitar Sick" sticky - the yardstick test might have pointed out your neck problems. I would also be interested in the reason it is for sale - is the seller trying to raise money for a new guitar (a good reason), or have they given up on trying to learn to play (happens to a lot of folks), or is there something wrong with the git and are they trying to unload it. Lots of older guitars have actions that make them almost unplayable - again the "Sick" tests should indicate that.

 

I am also pretty anal about not buying anything I had never played - or at least having some sort of escrow or other way to back out of the deal. If that wasn't possible I might ask the seller to take it to a shop and have their tech look it over for me - kind of like taking a used car in for a check by a mechanic.

 

Lastly, we talk a lot about price, discounts, and what a used guitar should sell for. Again, my humble opinion is that a warranty is very valuable if you plan to keep the guitar - almost every one will need some neck work in 15 or 20 or 30 years - and it will be expensive if you don't have the warranty. The warranty isn't transferable so if I found a nice old guitar that needed a reset I might ask the original owner to have it done for me before I bought it (give him a check to hold or something).

 

I'm sorry to be babbling on like this and I'm very glad it seems to be turning out OK for you, Robert. Good lesson for all of us.

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Freeman, it seems that I always have to learn a lesson the hard way. $199 for a B50 is too good to be true and that was definitely the case.

 

The real protection I have is that he stated in the Ebay listing that " No loose braces or warps...the neck pocket is perfect". This guitar has warps and the neck pocket isn't perfect.

 

Get this. The seller now wants to know if I will have it fixed and he will refund the repair charges. He is still trying to wiggle out of this one! Well that dog don't hunt.

 

Although, I suspect it will cost more than I paid to get it repaired properly. Wait! I could make money on this deal. Rrrriiight... That ain't gonna happen.

 

I now know that buying new with a warranty is the way to go.

 

Alright. Time to get my money back. I'll keep you posted here. I have a feeling that this might get drawn out a bit.

 

 

- Robert

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Robert,

 

I have had plenty of ebay experience, most of it good, some not so good. When you really get down to it, there is very little you can do, other than leave negative feedback. The rest of ebays safety features are mostly empty promises, even PayPal is like trying to get blood out of a stone. If your seller has a substantial amount of good feedback you will probably be alright, but unless he lives close by, you have very little "muscle". Believe me, I know. If you want to read some scary stuff, go to ebay's "Safe Harbor" forum where fellow ebayer's swap experiences. It will curl your hair, and should be required reading for anybody using ebay. Best of luck, just hope your seller has some integrity and values his good feedback rating.

 

Dave

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Originally posted by Dave W.

Robert,


I have had plenty of ebay experience, most of it good, some not so good. When you really get down to it, there is very little you can do, other than leave negative feedback. The rest of ebays safety features are mostly empty promises, even PayPal is like trying to get blood out of a stone. If your seller has a substantial amount of good feedback you will probably be alright, but unless he lives close by, you have very little "muscle". Believe me, I know. If you want to read some scary stuff, go to ebay's "Safe Harbor" forum where fellow ebayer's swap experiences. It will curl your hair, and should be required reading for anybody using ebay. Best of luck, just hope your seller has some integrity and values his good feedback rating.


Dave

 

 

I'll take a look at Safe Harbor.

 

I believe this will work out okay. He has had one other transaction where he gave a refund. Tthat buyer gave him neutral feedback. I will give him positive feedback if he handles this in a timely fashion. I told him this.

 

If it comes down to it I'll give him negative feedback and eat the loss. It's just money afterall.

 

Thank you for your input!

 

- Robert

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Originally posted by allthumz



I will give him positive feedback if he handles this in a timely fashion. I told him this.


- Robert

 

 

Robert,

 

That is the right approach, IMO. If he does a good bit of business on ebay, his feedback is vital. Those red donuts from negative feedback stick out like a sore thumb, and are particularly harmful if the comments by the buyer are credible. On a $200 guitar I would just want a refund. It just doesn't seem worth the hassle of getting involved with a repair. More work for you and something else to haggle over. Ebay is a great resource, but you really need to be careful and know the ropes. Best of luck.

 

Dave

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Originally posted by Dave W.



Robert,


That is the right approach, IMO. If he does a good bit of business on ebay, his feedback is vital. Those red donuts from negative feedback stick out like a sore thumb, and are particularly harmful if the comments by the buyer are credible. On a $200 guitar I would just want a refund. It just doesn't seem worth the hassle of getting involved with a repair. More work for you and something else to haggle over. Ebay is a great resource, but you really need to be careful and know the ropes. Best of luck.


Dave

 

 

Well, he says he will send a refund... as soon as he gets the guitar back from me. You know, I'm not sure if I can agree to that. Somehow I don't quite trust the guy at this point. I do have that in writing though so maybe.

 

- Robert

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Originally posted by allthumz



Well, he says he will send a refund... as soon as he gets the guitar back from me. You know, I'm not sure if I can agree to that. Somehow I don't quite trust the guy at this point. I do have that in writing though so maybe.


- Robert

 

 

Robert,

 

Well, no way he, or anybody else on ebay, is going to send your money back before getting the guitar, that's just the way it works. Pour through his feedback and see if you trust him. In the meantime maybe a guitar repair tech could tell you what you are looking at. If you got a steal on the guitar maybe it would be worth eating the repair. Just a thought, I don't know much about that guitar or how much work it needs, but really, if the guy says he will refund you, I think he will, as long as his feedback is decent.

 

Dave

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Originally posted by Dave W.



Robert,


Well, no way he, or anybody else on ebay, is going to send your money back before getting the guitar, that's just the way it works. Pour through his feedback and see if you trust him. In the meantime maybe a guitar repair tech could tell you what you are looking at. If you got a steal on the guitar maybe it would be worth eating the repair. Just a thought, I don't know much about that guitar or how much work it needs, but really, if the guy says he will refund you, I think he will, as long as his feedback is decent.


Dave

 

 

Dave -

 

Yeah you're right about the refund. I would want the guitar back first if I were in his shoes. Possibly he didn't intend to deceive. The discription was misleading though.

 

I should have never bitten on a $800 guitar that he was selling for 199.

 

He gave his word on the refund. I'll trust him on that and hope for the best.

 

Thanks for your views on this. I can't see it objectively right now.

 

- Robert

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