If you have been around the guitar world for a bit now, you might have heard about PLEK’d guitars or getting a guitar PLEK’d.
As alien as this might sound, this is a rather common practice at guitar factories, and even some stores offer it as a service for their customers.
But is getting your guitar PLEK’d worth it? Here is the short answer
Getting your guitar PLEK’d is worth it as long as it is not a factory PLEK’d instrument. In this case, there’s nothing left for the PLEK machine to do. I would also consider it not worth it for lower quality guitar since the frets and the overall action would not be your main issues to prioritize solving.
If you want to know more about this topic, in this article I will try to answer the most common questions any guitar player could have about the PLEK process.
After reading this post you will have a clearer idea of having your guitar PLEK’d is worth it for you.
Are you ready to get started?
What is a PLEK machine?
A PLEK machine is a computer-controlled device that takes precise measurements of a guitar’s frets, nut, fretboard, and bridge. It can also perform small adjustments to the instrument if it detects any kind of deviation. A PLEK machine gives any guitar the most precise setup money can buy.
You can think of these kinds of machines like CNC routers that analyze your instrument and then print a list of measurements taken and even could perform small retouches.
This is the cutting edge of guitar setups.
What is the PLEK process like?
The PLEK process consists of the 6 following steps:
1. Initial scan
In this first checkup, the machine probes distinct aspects of the guitar like string length, spacing, position, gauge, fret height, fret wear, fret profile, action, fretboard profile, and contour. This gives the system a very detailed picture of the instrument.
2. First analysis
With the initial data, an experienced guitar tech will know which is the best plan of action to take on.
Not always the correct solution is having major work done on the guitar. Sometimes probably the issues detected by the PLEK machine could be easily solved with a professional setup or just some minor maintenance.
3. Rescan without strings
If the technician determines that fretwork is needed, the guitar is destringed and probed again. This time the process is faster because the machine already knows how to move around that specific guitar.
This new scan focuses on determining how much, and which frets need to be milled down.
4. Fret milling
The milling process doesn’t start until the technician inputs what they decided is the best adjustment to take on. The machine expects input and doesn’t make any decisions.
Once the job is configured, the PLEK machine starts working, filing down precisely the frets that were too high. After finishing this process, it recrowns the affected frets to restore their round profile.
5. Last scan
After the work is done and the guitar is restrung and tuned, the machine does another scan to determine if the milling was successful. If any anomaly is detected, the new measures can be used to determine the plan of action going forward.
6. Hand finish
After everything is done, the guitar is removed from the machine, unstrung again, and finished by hand. The technician makes sure to polish the frets and to give the instrument a final human test.
In this video, you can see the whole process happening:
What are the benefits of having my guitar PLEK’d?
By having your guitar PLEK’d you will make sure that your instrument ends up in the best setup shape possible. The millimetric measurements and adjustments made by the machine are impossible to be replicated by a human, and having a technician overseeing the whole process assures you get a perfect result.
Can you PLEK a bass guitar?
Yes, you can PLEK any bass guitar, even if it is 5 or 6 strings. PLEK machines are very advanced and can work with, at least, the most common stringed instrument. You should ask the technician or manager, beforehand just to make sure the work you intend on getting is possible at that exact location.
How much does getting my guitar PLEK’d cost?
An average PLEK job would cost around $200. This will depend on the location and the availability of the machine. You should take into account that some guitars come factory PLEK’d and perhaps this kind of setup won’t be necessary. Inform yourself before being taken advantage of by an unethical technician.
PLEK vs luthier or guitar tech setup
A PLEK machine does not replace the need for a professional luthier or guitar tech. Think of it as just another tool. All of these experts will surely have rulers and contraptions to measure certain aspects of an instrument. Think of a PLEK machine as the ultimate measuring device.
The final word is always human, and although the machine is rarely wrong, a guitar tech might complement its recommendations with experienced professional input that takes the whole process to the next level.
Do popular brands PLEK their guitars before shipping?
Some popular guitar brands have PLEK machines in their factories and give their finished instruments a precise setup before shipping.
Here are the most famous guitar brands and their PLEK approach:
All Gibson USA guitars built after 2014 are factory PLEK’d. Before this, from 2010 only Traditional Les Pauls and guitars of quality above to this model were machine setup.
Fender is well known for not using PLEK machines in any of their factories or custom shop.
Suhr offers premium instruments that come factory PLEK’d to ensure their customers the best possible fret action.
PRS is a brand well known for not using a PLEK machine in their factories. They even claim that PRS guitars are one of the few instruments that don’t need that kind of setup.
All G&L instruments are factory PLEK’d before shipping from their factory in Fullerton, California.
Taylor does not use a PLEK machine in their factory to level their guitar’s frets. However, they have a custom process designed to do this. So, the result is a setup as good as the one in a PLEK’d guitar.
Martin guitars do PLEK their instruments before shipping them, this ensures their customers get the most precise setup and the best string action in their guitars.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.