Kent 823

The Kent 823 shares the body, neck, and some of the hardware that the other Kent 82x guitars have. The 823 has three pickups, a slide-switch for each, and volume and tone controls for each. It also has the hi/lo switch that the others have.

I recently acquired my 823 from Rob, in Canada, whom I mentioned earlier when he sent me photos of it.

Most of the guitars hanging on the wall at Guitar Center are in worse shape than this one is. The finish is close to flawless while my other Kents all have large cracks in the finish from the wood bodies going through changes along with the changes in environment during their long lives.

The electronics are in great shape but have some problems. A couple of the slide-switches were a little bit fiddely and the pots had a tiny bit of noise when turned. Amazingly, all four tone capacitors are still fully functional. The switch for the neck pickup works well. The rest are a little bit, to use a professional term, hinky. The don't latch securely and don't make real good contact. You can wiggle and mess with them and they will eventually make good contact, so you wouldn't want to count on changing pickups just before a solo, if you were on stage.

The neck pickup works and sounds great. The others are much weaker. You could get by just using the neck pickup, but why should you?

The bridge is the one most commonly found on 800-series Kents. It has the thumb-operated damper, also known as "that pain in the ass thingie", which gets in the way of your picking hand. My Kent 820 has a Gotoh "tune-o-matic" bridge. I may get a couple of those and replace the dampered bridges in my 823 and 834. It will be easy to put the guitars back to stock in the unlikely event that I decide to sell them... unless, of course, I lose the PITA bridges.

823 Stats

TypeScalePick upsNeck Width at Nut Thickness at NutNeck Width at 12th fretNeck TypeBridge stud spacingString SpacingWidth at Lower BoutWidth at Upper Bout Body Length

Body ThicknessTotal Length

Hollow

body

25.25

Inches

3 Single coil

1.6 in

41mm

.75 in

2 in

50mm

Bolt-on 2.8 in 2.2 in

16

inches

11.5

Inches

19.25*

Inches

1.6 in

41mm

40.75

Inches

* Includes bottom strap button

The jack socket is held on by a 12mm nut. You can hold a 12mm socket in your hand and get the nut tight enough. If your fingers are skinny enough to enable you to reach through the F-hole and keep the socket from turning when you tighten it, so much the better. There's always the risk of breaking a wire off. I couldn't reach it, but nothing bad happened.

Please note that specifications shown here apply to the guitars that I have. Parts can be changed during a manufacturing run so you can't take my figures as the final word, not to mention the fact that my measuring might be a mite sloppy.

"string spacing" in the table above refers to the distance between the centers of the two E-strings, measured at the bridge. Since the saddles are grooved so you can move the strings to center them over the pickup magnets, This measurement can vary. Knowing the string spacing at the bridge may come in handy when buying a replacement bridge. I have to check to see if the measurement is the same at the nut.

Layout

The Kent 823 is fairly rare among the Kent 800-series guitars, along with the Kent 822 bass, which has the same body type.

layout

All switches are below the strings mounted on a metal plate with a tortise-shell image laminated on top. Not only does this arrangement cut down on the amount of single-coil hum, it makes it much easier to access the electronics for work. The pickups are likewise mounted on a single plate, which is different from the 820s, which have individual mounting plates for each pickup. This is most-likely because three holes would weaken the top.

The control plate has three white switches, one for each pickup. They are on/off only. Some guitars have a position on the switch to reverse the phase of the pickup. That causes a very different sound. The Fender Mustang had phase-reversal switches and the reissues still do. As it is, there are lot of switch combinations to try. There is also a black Hi/Lo switch on the control plate.

The slide switches are a weak spot on most Japanese vintage guitars. Sometimes they just need to be cleaned but sometimes the bent metal "spring" that latches it in the ON position gets weak and limp. If you need to go looking for a replacement, here are some specs. The plastic switch "paddle" is about 7.5mm wide by 4mm thick at the bottom, where it is thickest, and around 12mm tall. The slot in the control panel is about 10mm long and wide enough to hold the switch. On the bottom side, the switch body is about 35mm long by 12mm wide. There are two soldering lugs plus one extended from the body for a ground connection. The mounting screws are about 27mm apart.

The bridge has six round grooved saddles and a thumb-operated damper. The part of the damper that mutes the strings is hard rubber that has a Vee-shaped groove in it so that there are two thin contact points. (Kind of like the drawing on the left.) It will probably be next to impossible to find an exact replacement for that part. You should be able to fit a piece of rubber, felt, or even the fuzzy side of a piece of Velcro. It's possible that several different materials were used for the mute. The bridge sits on a piece of rosewood which makes contact with the top of the guitar. It lifts the bridge about 5mm. This arrangement is fairly common on archtop guitars, although my violin-bodied 834 bridge is mounted directly to the body.

The damper bridge seems to me to be a bigger impediment to playing the 823 than it is on the 834. I think the narrower violin-shaped body on the 834 makes it easier to get your picking hand in a useable position. On the 823 I have a hard time getting my hand in a good position for accurate picking. I'm continually missing the string I am after. Maybe I just need to play it a lot more. All the pictures I have seen of the 700-series guitars with the muteable bridge have the lever on the other side, somewhat out of the way. The 12-string guitars also have the mute. I can't imagine that a 12-string would sound good with the strings muted

It has the vibrato tailpiece that is most common on the 800-series Kents. It works okay. The spring seems to be too weak to pull the strings back to pitch. Maybe it's due to age, maybe it's design. On the other hand, there are non-vibrato trapeze tailpieces that look like they will fit without having to drill new holes and might be a nice upgrade.

The vibrato tailpiece on the 700-series guitar is a little different. There is a chromed cover and the arm passes through a hole in the top of it. I'm betting that the basic design is about the same as on the 800s.

There are volume and tone knobs for each pickup. As you can see, the volume knobs are white and the tone knobs are gold. This is typical of the Kent 700 and 800 guitars, although variations are plentiful.

The pots that the knobs control are mounted directly to the body. They are close enough to the F-holes that you can take them off and put them back on easily if your fingers aren't too fat.

823 knobs

On this 823 the neck seems to be the standard 22-fret neck found on the model 700s and 800s. And like most, it has the zero fret. Truss rod adjustment is at the heel of the neck, like the other Kents in the series. There is a nice metal cup providing access to the truss rod nut with little risk of marring the surrounding finish. With this particular guitar I was able to adjust the neck using a standard hex wrench without removing it. I suggest using a single-piece wrench rather than one of those sets that has each size swivil out out from a handle.

The neck strap buttons are placed the same as most other guitars with 820 bodies. Any normal strap can be attached, unlike on the violin-bodied models. However, if the end of your strap is too wide and you have the standard vibrato bridge, you might have a little problem. The vibrato unit is hinged where it bends around from the end of the body to over the top. That hinge is a little thick and may interfere with the strap, keeping it from swiveling around the strap button. You won't have to trim the end of the strap as much as you would on one of the violin-shaped guitars.

The guitar seemed to be set up well when I got it. The neck pickup is considerably louder than the middle and neck pickups. (It really sounds good, too.) Normally you would expect it to be just a matter of adjusting the pickup heights. The problem is that the bridge sits pretty high on the guitar body causing the strings to pass over the pickups sloping up over the bridge. Removing the piece of rosewood that the bridge sits on will lower the bridge about 5mm, which may take care of the problem, but the bridge isn't supposed to sit like that. I was able to raise the bridge and middle pickups a little bit and that helped a lot. I was worried that the bridge pickup was already about as high as it would go. Replacing the bridge, as discussed later, rendered that issue moot.

This guitar sounds great! (at least the neck pickup does.) I don't know if there are any major electronic differences between it and my two other Kent 6-strings, but I now have an idea of the sounds I should be getting from them.

A New Bridge

I decided to replace the mutable bridge on my 823 with a Tune-O-Matic style. I've been told that bridges that will fit a Gibson are a drop-in replacement on these Kents.

I ordered a Gotoh bridge from Steward-MacDonald online. My Kent 820 came with a Gotoh bridge.

It was a drop-in replacement. I used the original studs and the rosewood base. The bridge would have been too low without the rosewood base. When you get a new bridge, you have to cut grooves in the saddles for the strings. The saddles on this bridge have little "starter grooves" to make it a little easier to make the proper slots. You can use nut slot-cutting files to make the grooves.

You can save yourself a little time by adjusting the new saddles to the same positions as the old ones. That'll make setting up the intonation go pretty fast. On this 823, the original saddles were almost straight across, so I didn't need to adjust the new saddles.

Everything lined up perfectly, including the "starter grooves" on the saddles. A couple of minutes of filing and adjusting the bridge and pickup heights and I was done. All the pickups sound great, although the middle pickup is a little weak, and the action is about perfect. The switch for the middle pickup may need a little more messing with.

The neck is very slim, perhaps too thin for some players. It feels very skinny compared to the Fender Stratocaster although measurements indicate that the Kent is only a tenth of an inch thinner and the fretboard width is just a hair smaller at the nut.

There are some noise issues which are present on many guitars. The pickups are single-coil units and can pick up hum and buzz from exterior sources such as flourescent lights, amplifiers, "wall wart" power adapters, etc. Most Fender guitars are also single-coil and subject to the same issue. Most Gibson guitars are equipped with dual-coil pickups which tend to cancel out such noise. That's why they're called humbuckers. It's a little harder to deal with hum in hollow-bodied guitars because you can't isolate the pickups with copper foil shielding. There is one possible fix that consists of placing a coil of wire (taken from a pickup you won't need to use anymore) near the pickups and in the signal path, the same principle as humbucker pickups. I haven't tried that yet.

The single-coil hum doesn't seem to be as bad on this guitar as on my other Kents.

Another issue with hollow-bodied guitars is feedback. When the amplifier is cranked up loud, the body starts to vibrate from the sound striking it. The result is the same as if the sound from a microphone gets back into the same microphone. This is a much harder problem to solve. Some players stuff foam rubber into the body. Some cover the F-holes with tape. Sometimes an EQ pedal can be used to find the frequency that is resonant with the body and dial it down. But really, the only thing to do is get away from your amp and/or face away from it. Just kinda turn yourself from side to side until it quiets down. You can also reduce single-coil hum that way.

Think of it this way: Ted Nugent performed with a Gibson hollow body guitar in front of multiple amplifiers pumping out more than 1000 watts of power. He marked on the stage where he could stand and not have feedback and also where he could stand to get feedback when he wanted it. So it is possible to overcome feedback with these guitars.

Some players have a little trouble with the middle pickup on a three-pickup guitar getting in the way of their picking. They won't play a Fender Stratocaster for that reason. For some, even the extra width of humbucker pickups can be a problem, depending on how they are placed. For those players the same problem will be present on the Kent 823. It would be a mistake to pass on any three-pickup guitar because something as minor as this. There are often some great sounds to be had with three-pickup guitars. The 823 is no execption.

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