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Old vs new


splake

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Hi Guys,

 

I have a question, and I apologize in advance if it has been asked here before.

 

This is kind of a newb question that I guess would apply to the Gibsons, Martins, etc.

 

I currently have a Washburn acoustic that I love. I had the chance of playing a friends 90's Dove and it was a dream. An eye opener for sure.

 

My question is when considering buying an Acoustic, and you had the chance to buy a model that was in the mid 60's or one that was made in the USA 30 or 40 years later? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each.

 

Someone once told me that age does something wonderful to the sound of a guitar. Keep in mind that I am not a collector, and nostalgia really does not enter in here. Are the new Gibsons made with the same quality as the old acoustics...

 

I played a Martin ( made in mexico) dred at Guitar center today and it played amazing.. Decisions, Decisions.

 

Any help?

 

Thanks

 

T.

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I think you wil find that the general consensis is that Bozeman Montanna is building some good and consistent product today - and that delving into the mid-60s model will probably involve hunting down a good one. Is your Washburn a long scale guitar with a 11/16 nut width? You might have a delightful time playing a few short scale Gibsons. The Dove you played, I believe is a long-scale guitar, they're pretty cool - if you really like that model, I think the factory is coming out with a reissue. There was a bit of discussion surrounding this a few days ago. http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/101148-50th-ann-dove-review/

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New and vintage are 2 sides of the same coin or is it. . .

It's a huge question you come up with there, but you have to try your way forward and see if you discover some kind of pattern.

Some will fall for the feel and special extra dimension in the vintage voice, others will dig the oooze about a new guitar and find the bonding/breaking the guitar in process exiting.

In the first case you have to be aware the instrument is okay. Check the neck and have a look inside to secure every brace is in place – be sure it is in tune all the way.

If you meet a 60's Dove it will probably be expensive and besides have the tune'o'matic bridge*. That's a whole other theme, , , and there are lots of themes. . .

 

First thing is to enjoy the hunt – be happy - *The A/B/C between one of those a 90's model and a new should be uplifting in it self.

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The "youngest" guitar I own was made in 1963. The oldest rolled out of the factory in the mid-1930s. So I wear my perferences on my sleeve,

 

But given the choice between a Gibson made after 1964 and a new/newish one I am going with the newer one.

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For a while, I bought into the excessive hype about vintage guitars that you see on forums and hear elsewhere. According to all of the hype, vintage guitars are inherently better than new guitars, new guitars do not hold a candle to vintage guitars, play a vintage guitar and you will hear a choir of angels singing, etc., etc., etc. Then I went out and played a bunch of vintage guitars. The vast majority of them really disappointed me. In addition to structural issues that you need to be careful about, most of them really did not sound that good. I found that many of them had a certain sonic quality in common that I actually do not like. As best I can put it, they just sound dusty. Yes, there was the warmth and mojo of many years, but beyond that I really was not impressed with most of them.

 

I have hence come the conclusion that I like new guitars much better than vintage. There are so many builders around right now (including Gibson) building absolutely excellent guitars that it does not really make sense to buy a guitar that is 50+ years old. The proof is that I just bought a brand new acoustic and I am enjoying playing it much more than I enjoyed any of the vintage guitars I have tried lately. To me, new guitars just sound and feel great, and you don't have to worry about structural issues.

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Consensus here can and does change a bit, and the good thing about this particular forum is that there is room for a lot of variation in preference - most of us enjoy the quirks of other members, sometimes precisely because we don't share their tastes. That said, since I've been a member and prior to that skulking in the background, I've noticed that the prevailing view is that '30s to mid-'60s instruments are most desirable among the vintage Gibsons, with varying cut-off points depending on the model, and that Bozeman-made (so 1989 or later) Gibsons have generally marked a return to overall form which at least bears comparison with the company's best work. There is a lot of divergence about how well the Bozeman guitars compare with the good vintage ones. But most agree that you are more likely to get a good guitar if you look either side of the Norlin period (which ran late '60s to mid '80s). But of course, such truisms are all about probabilities, and there are plenty of exceptions to any such rule. If a mid-'70s Gibson sounds good to you, most here will applaud you for knowing what you like and sticking to your own taste. There are some objective matters that all will agree on, though: if you like a big neck or wide nut, you probably don't want a Gibson from the 1960s; if you like a narrow nut or slim neck, you probably don't want a 1940s banner model, despite its highly collectable status. Again, though, there are reports on this forum of banners with relatively slim necks, and there are 1960s guitars with wider nuts. Consensus on Martins seems to be no less subject to variation, but those in the know (not I), seem to think that at some point in the 1970s quality hit a low relative to what came before and what has come in recent years. I do get the feeling that 1970s Martins get a bit more love here than Norlin Gibsons, though.

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For me, an older (vintage) guitar is fine, assuming a new model is not available and I'm really wanting a particular kind of guitar. I think in a great many cases that the older guitars (even the ones in good shape) are way-over-priced. Of course, a guitar is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it, so to some folks the age makes the guitar worth more. I have no issues with that line of thought, but I'd (in most situations) prefer a brand new guitar over one that is decades old. Aside from being new, I don't know that a new guitar is actually better than the same model made 40+ years ago. Likewise, I don't believe a guitar made in 1940, etc. is better than the same model guitar being made today. I like the history that comes with an old guitar, but I also like to make my own history. Most of the old vs new debate boils-down to personal preferences. I'd love to have one of the J200s, D28s, or D35s that Cash played for years, but no matter how good of shape the guitar is in, it's not worth the money to me when I could get a new one for far less. I recently purchased a J60 from 1992. The guitar is in great shape, love it to death, and I wanted a J60. I got it for what I feel is was a very fair and reasonable price and the guitar truly is in excellent condition, but as much as I wanted a J60 there is no way I would have paid 5-600 more as some places were asking.....Anyway, good discussion.

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Old guitars will not make you run faster and jump higher. But for me it just does not boil down to sound.

 

These old guitars can give me a sense of a connection with the musicians I have listened to and who have inspired me to pick up a guitar and play all my life. Being a big lover of the pre-War blues, I get one heck of a kick out of owning an Oscar Schmidt-made guitar. Yeah, I can buy a modern reproduction. Probably better made and with better lumber. And I will still sound like an Advanced Hack no matter if the guitar is old or new. But if there is an iconic blues guitar out there it is these original Schmidts.

 

Other times it is just seeing a guitar in historical perspective. Lawdy, my 1942 J-50 was one of the first J-45 style guitars to roll out of Kalamazoo. Every time I pick it up I think of that small army of untrained women breathing in sawdust and pre-EPA lacquer fumes all day who made it.

 

In other cases, like my 1956 Epiphone FT-79, there is just not a darn thing out there being made like it. The Epiphones of today have no connection with their pre-Gibson past.

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My thoughts,

Old guitars are great and have that worn in feel and usually have been played enough to open up and sound beautiful. But just because the guitar is old and "vintage" doesn't make it a magical object. How the guitar was taken care of over the years makes all the difference. Old guitars usually need something, be it re-gluing loose braces, fixing a lifting bridge or needing a neck reset, fixing cracks (because solid wood guitars are very prone to this). If you happen across a vintage acoustic that is truly ready to rock, and is in good shape, be prepared for a bad case of "sticker shock"!

New guitars give the benefit of a store's return policy (hopefully) and some form of a factory warranty. Also, other than a general setup for your style, a new guitar shouldn't require any work to be done to play well. If you buy quality, a new guitar will retain value over the years, and it too will age gracefully into a fine old instrument one day. Generally speaking, a new model guitar will cost much less than the same model made 40-50 years prior!

Personally, If I were only going to have 1 guitar for a while, I'd buy a new, or almost new guitar. If I already owned a decent guitar of two, I'd test the waters with a vintage model. Someday, you will be in a situation to own both new and old, if you stick with it.

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We have been collecting old guitar (my wife and I) for most all of our married lives (45 years). The question of old guitar sound is pretty complex. Usually that makes it a poor topic for forums. However, last week we had a pretty good discussion of the topic on the AGF -- this was a bit odd because of that forum's structure does many good things, but it generally does not encourage careful considered exchanges. It gave me a chance to talk about old guitars and sound science, and maybe this could be of interest here too. Here are my four posts that cover the topic. 1 2 3 4

 

That is a pretty long winded discussion about sound. What it basically says is new guitars can match old guitars in most dimensions but not all; human sound perception is extensively learned and thus very subjective; and the vintage market is impacted by collectors in ways that are not driven by sound.

 

We love our "old instrument" lifestyle which as resulted (after many, many years) in us having many wonderfully sounding instruments which have also been great investments -- BUT there are many additional issues associated with old guitars that make them problematic for many (most?) people. As has been pointed out above, good guitars if not abused (be many have been) can be fixed, but it can be expensive and their are not all that many luthier who are up to the tasks. It is an adventure -- acoustically, financially, socially, musically, culturally -- it can be be very rewarding and it can be very dangerous.

 

Good luck,

 

Let's pick,

 

-Tom

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My biggest problem with mid sixties Gibsons is the narrow 1 5/8" neck width which came in somewhere around late '64 and continued through the remainder of the '60s and beyond.

I sometimes like the skinney necks

(there can be lots of variation),

and love the fat, low, & fast frets.

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