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I just got a 1989 Gibson J-180 - Questions

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It's being shipped from Indiana - originally purchased by the seller from Gruhn Guitars - it comes with Paperwork explaining it was purchased by Barbara Mandrell's management company. He was told it was a 'tour bus guitar' and it certainly looks beat up. The seller said the action is a little high and it would make a great showpiece/museum guitar! I hope this doesn't mean it's unplayable.

 

I've been looking for a Black J-180 for a few months now - I love the stupid huge pick guards (which I've heard are fine as far as tone goes - and, do a great job amplified) and one just slipped out of my reach a few weeks ago at a local shop with what appeared to b a head stock crack.

 

From the photo's I can see there are bass and treble knobs - does anyone know what pickup system is in it? Fishman Matrix? (likely I'll replaced it with a Baggs Element).

 

I understand it was the first year making them at Boseman Mo. - SN 82569004 - is there any more info out there about this particular model?

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It's being shipped from Indiana - originally purchased by the seller from Gruhn Guitars - it comes with Paperwork explaining it was purchased by Barbara Mandrell's management company. He was told it was a 'tour bus guitar' and it certainly looks beat up. The seller said the action is a little high and it would make a great showpiece/museum guitar! I hope this doesn't mean it's unplayable.

 

I've been looking for a Black J-180 for a few months now - I love the stupid huge pick guards (which I've heard are fine as far as tone goes - and, do a great job amplified) and one just slipped out of my reach a few weeks ago at a local shop with what appeared to b a head stock crack.

 

From the photo's I can see there are bass and treble knobs - does anyone know what pickup system is in it? Fishman Matrix? (likely I'll replaced it with a Baggs Element).

 

I understand it was the first year making them at Boseman Mo. - SN 82569004 - is there any more info out there about this particular model?

 

Sorry but if the guitar came from Gibson with the pickup installed it is not a Fishman. I don't think Fishman was even in business in '89. If the two knobs you are talking about are on the top bout up by the neck then the system is a Gibson system called a S.O.R.S.or Symbiotic Oriented Receptor System. I even doubt that the guitar was made in Bozeman. The first price list has the J-180 on it and if the label says made in Bozeman,Montana then it is one of the very first. One of the knobs is a double knob. The bottom part is for bass adjustment the top is for trebel and the other knob is for volume.

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That's definitely the pickup system. Does anyone know what the S.O.R.S. system sounds like? There has been so much advancement in acoustic pickup technology in the past couple of years it might be woefully outdated. Perhaps sounding like one of the earlier Chet Atkins SST's - many people who've owned those have swapped that system out with something more current. I wouldn't mind putting a Bagg's Element UST and perhaps keep the knobs to control it in some fashion.

 

The serial number look up says it's from Boseman Montana, so it may be one of the first.

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The serial number look up says it's from Boseman Montana, so it may be one of the first.

Serial number lookup is completely unreliable. As Hogeye said, if it was made in Bozeman, the label will say so. (The serial number does look promising.)

-- Bob R

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The seller said it was made in Bozeman - but there are no photo's of the inside of the guitar. I've included some shot's here (very small). I got a really good price on it...but there might be some repairs required when it arrives, the ad said it's been used on several recordings but didn't mention anything about the playability - other than the action is a little 'high'.

 

It's been a long search for a J-180 - and I specifically wanted a gigging rehearsing guitar - so nothing too pristine - this certainly has that covered.

 

I've purchased several electric and a few solid body acoustic guitars online but never anything like this. I likely won't get for a month or so as it's going on a little 'walkabout - (the seller wouldn't ship to Canada - so it's visiting family in Wyoming on its way). It's all a bit of a gamble - I'll post back when it arrives.

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The seller said the action is a little high and it would make a great showpiece/museum guitar!

 

I'm no expert on early Bozeman Gibsons but I think this era may have the double dovetail joint (is that what it's called?). That may make a neck set much more difficult. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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The serial number does look like it places the guitar in the late 1980s.

 

Didn't the S.O.R.S. system used in the 1980s have some kind of strange black material inlaid into the bridge?

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The serial number does look like it places the guitar in the late 1980s.

 

Didn't the S.O.R.S. system used in the 1980s have some kind of strange black material inlaid into the bridge?

No. The S.O.R.S. used an undersaddle transducer with a "normal" saddle and slot. . I know what you are talking about but that system wasn't a S.R.O.S.

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I'm no expert on early Bozeman Gibsons but I think this era may have the double dovetail joint (is that what it's called?). That may make a neck set much more difficult. Correct me if I'm wrong.

 

If the guitar is a late 80's vintage then it had the famous Gibson paddle cut neck joint. These were very strong joints and the paddle kept the top from dropping in front of the sound hole so there were fewer neck resets required. The neck set is no more difficult to do then the regular neck set.A good repair person just needs to know what he's doing. Marcus Engstrom here in Bozeman is a master at it. Just call Music Villa for details.

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That's definitely the pickup system. Does anyone know what the S.O.R.S. system sounds like? There has been so much advancement in acoustic pickup technology in the past couple of years it might be woefully outdated. Perhaps sounding like one of the earlier Chet Atkins SST's - many people who've owned those have swapped that system out with something more current. I wouldn't mind putting a Bagg's Element UST and perhaps keep the knobs to control it in some fashion.

 

The serial number look up says it's from Boseman Montana, so it may be one of the first.

 

The S.O.R.S system is a great system. Gibson should still be using it. The guitar will sound just like it does acoustically only louder. Guitar pickups have changed over the years. The biggest reason was to make a bad sounding guitar sound better. Gibson guitars are great sounding and don't need any help. I some cases they just need to be louder. If you have the need to make your J-180 sound like a Tele or Strat just buy a rack mounted EQ.

 

There was a thread a while back on the Brad Paisley guitar. Some thought it sounded badly when played acoustically. It has a goofy pickup that closes off half the sound hole and weights the top down. No guitar is going to sound good when you do that to it.It's a pity to do something like that to such a great guitar. I can't wait to hear the comments to this.

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There was a thread a while back on the Brad Paisley guitar. Some thought it sounded badly when played acoustically. It has a goofy pickup that closes off half the sound hole and weights the top down. No guitar is going to sound good when you do that to it.It's a pity to do something like that to such a great guitar. I can't wait to hear the comments to this.

I guess I got issued the wrong ears for playing guitar, because I find a guitar equipped with an Ellipse Aura that has been loaded with an image generated using that particular instrument to be, no contest, the most jaw-dropping accurate reproduction of playing the guitar mic'd short of actually playing it mic'd. (Unfortunately, a model generated using a guitar of the same model may produce less satisfactory results, and a model generated from a guitar of the same "type" may be even less satisfactory. But you should eventually be able to generate your own model, playing your own guitar in your own style into your own preferred mic, which will solve that problem.)

 

Conventional pickups may make your guitar sound good or not so good, but they can't produce the signal that an external mic would have produced, and that's what Aura is all about. People have the idea that the Aura is supposed to improve the tone of your guitar, making it sound more like the guitar used to generate the image -- partly thanks to some misleading marketing BS produced by Fishman and Martin -- but that is completely wrong: Aura was designed to transform the signal from the pickup into what the signal from a properly located external mic of some specific model would have been, period. (Exactly the same can be said of Mama Bear, but Mama Bear uses a physics-based model of the effects of the guitar's structure on the signal while Aura models are inferred from signal comparisons. The downside is that the model is generic, so the specifics of the effect of your guitar's structure on the signal have to be recovered from the pickup signal. While not impossible in principle, the effect of, say, adding a cutaway on the signal captured by a UST has to be pretty subtle compared to the effect on the mic'd signal. So, while I think the Mama Bear approach is cooler, the Aura "brute force" Aura approach is pretty much bound to win in the long run: as more and more parameters are added, the reproduction will become more and more accurate, steadily approaching perfection.)

 

And, BTW, I can't hear any difference in acoustic tone whatsoever caused by adding one. If you're the nervous type and prefer an Aura pedal, that's fine too. But the open mic I play every week doesn't allow pedals, so I'm grateful for the on-board option.

 

That said, people should go with whatever option sound best to them. If you think that, say, a Trans Amulet M (or S.O.R.S., or whatever) sounds better than an Aura, go for it! For starters, you may not think "best" means "closest to mic'd" -- there's nothing wrong with just liking the tone you get with an Amulet. Also, even with the best possible image, an Aura's transformation isn't perfect, and maybe the differences between mic'd and Aura signals sounds more significant to you than the differences between mic'd and Amulet signals. Different ears (and brains) hear differently. My main points are just (1) that, according to my ears, the current Aura does such a fantastic job, given the right image, and (2) that, if what you want is the tone you get playing through a mic, you're going to eventually want digital signal processing to transform the pickup signal into a "mic signal" in your signal chain -- existing transformations may not be good enough for you yet, but it's just a matter of time.

 

Is this the sort of response you couldn't wait to hear? :)

 

-- Bob R

 

P.S. I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I couldn't resist responding. Sorry!

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Hey, great response - and you're not hijacking the thread at all. I love my Fishman Aura Pedal and I would attempt amplifying an acoustic guitar without it. The Mic Modelling ads a tiny but of papery transparency to the Quack of a UST pickup. I also had a newer Gibson J200 with the factory installed Aura Elipse on board and it sounded fantastic.

 

If the S.O.R.S system in this J180 is as good as people say it is, and represents that natural sound of the guitar - replacing it with a Bagg's Element won't be necessary.

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I guess I got issued the wrong ears for playing guitar, because I find a guitar equipped with an Ellipse Aura that has been loaded with an image generated using that particular instrument to be, no contest, the most jaw-dropping accurate reproduction of playing the guitar mic'd short of actually playing it mic'd. (Unfortunately, a model generated using a guitar of the same model may produce less satisfactory results, and a model generated from a guitar of the same "type" may be even less satisfactory. But you should eventually be able to generate your own model, playing your own guitar in your own style into your own preferred mic, which will solve that problem.)

 

Conventional pickups may make your guitar sound good or not so good, but they can't produce the signal that an external mic would have produced, and that's what Aura is all about. People have the idea that the Aura is supposed to improve the tone of your guitar, making it sound more like the guitar used to generate the image -- partly thanks to some misleading marketing BS produced by Fishman and Martin -- but that is completely wrong: Aura was designed to transform the signal from the pickup into what the signal from a properly located external mic of some specific model would have been, period. (Exactly the same can be said of Mama Bear, but Mama Bear uses a physics-based model of the effects of the guitar's structure on the signal while Aura models are inferred from signal comparisons. The downside is that the model is generic, so the specifics of the effect of your guitar's structure on the signal have to be recovered from the pickup signal. While not impossible in principle, the effect of, say, adding a cutaway on the signal captured by a UST has to be pretty subtle compared to the effect on the mic'd signal. So, while I think the Mama Bear approach is cooler, the Aura "brute force" Aura approach is pretty much bound to win in the long run: as more and more parameters are added, the reproduction will become more and more accurate, steadily approaching perfection.)

 

And, BTW, I can't hear any difference in acoustic tone whatsoever caused by adding one. If you're the nervous type and prefer an Aura pedal, that's fine too. But the open mic I play every week doesn't allow pedals, so I'm grateful for the on-board option.

 

That said, people should go with whatever option sound best to them. If you think that, say, a Trans Amulet M (or S.O.R.S., or whatever) sounds better than an Aura, go for it! For starters, you may not think "best" means "closest to mic'd" -- there's nothing wrong with just liking the tone you get with an Amulet. Also, even with the best possible image, an Aura's transformation isn't perfect, and maybe the differences between mic'd and Aura signals sounds more significant to you than the differences between mic'd and Amulet signals. Different ears (and brains) hear differently. My main points are just (1) that, according to my ears, the current Aura does such a fantastic job, given the right image, and (2) that, if what you want is the tone you get playing through a mic, you're going to eventually want digital signal processing to transform the pickup signal into a "mic signal" in your signal chain -- existing transformations may not be good enough for you yet, but it's just a matter of time.

 

Is this the sort of response you couldn't wait to hear? :)

 

-- Bob R

 

P.S. I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I couldn't resist responding. Sorry!

 

OK. So here is my point. I really don't care how good the pickup is. If it ruins the acoustic sound of your acoustic guitar when it's not plugged in what's the point? Most of the folks here think that a J-45 sounds better than a Brad Paisley.They are built exactly the same. The B.P. has a huge on board amplifier that attaches to the top and fills half of the sound hole.

 

Sound hole? Top? Ya that things that folks obsess about. You know the thing that sounds so much better when you put the right pins in your bridge.Does that amp weigh about 10x what the pins or pickguard weigh? Oh ya, that little hole in the middle of the top that the good Gibson sound comes out of. Does anyone here think that maybe that's why the J-45 sounds better than the B.P. all else being equal? Hmmm. But then if you can't hear the difference maybe the B.P. has another issue. Any ideas?

 

I agree with your assesment of the pickup but think that it should be put on a Yamaha.Just sample the J-45 sound with a Nuumann mike and you would have a J-45 for next to nothing.Pluged in.

 

I will tell you this, if you would bolt one up to your 43/45 maybe I would be a believer.

I would love to go to your open mike. I think you are a fine picker and your collection of cool guitars is the best. And yes. That is exactly the response I was looking for. Thank you. I will stop now as the thread has been lost.

Warblers rock

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I agree with your assesment of the pickup but think that it should be put on a Yamaha.Just sample the J-45 sound with a Nuumann mike and you would have a J-45 for next to nothing.Pluged in.

That's exactly the sort of comment about Aura that drives me nuts! There's no reason to think transforming a Yamaha pickup signal using a J-45 image would make it sound any more like a J-45 than it would if you used a Yamaha image (or any other image). That's just not how the technology works -- despite the fact that Martin is now claiming using an image created using a '30s Martin D-20 image will make your Aura-equipped new D-28 sound more like the old one. Using an old-Martin image rather than a new-Martin image is just as likely to make a new Martin sound less like the old one as it is to make it sound more like the old one. And using a J-45 image with a Yamaha is as likely to make it sound less like a J-45 as it is to make it sound more like a J-45. The only guarantee is that the guitar will sound less like itself than it would if you used the proper image.

 

You're just lucky I'll have forgotten all about the by the next time I'm in Bozeman, or I'd probably show up at your door, fully equipped with whiteboard and markers, and you'd have to suffer through at least part of my "How Aura works -or- 'It's not a synthesizer'" talk prior to making your getaway.

 

-- Bob R

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You're just lucky I'll have forgotten all about the by the next time I'm in Bozeman, or I'd probably show up at your door, fully equipped with whiteboard and markers, and you'd have to suffer through at least part of my "How Aura works -or- 'It's not a synthesizer'" talk prior to making your getaway.

 

-- Bob R

 

 

Sounds like an idea for a clinic at the next Homecoming. LOL

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Sounds like an idea for a clinic at the next Homecoming. LOL

Well, keep it in mind and, if you need the room cleared at some point, just let me know!

 

-- Bob R

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That's exactly the sort of comment about Aura that drives me nuts! There's no reason to think transforming a Yamaha pickup signal using a J-45 image would make it sound any more like a J-45 than it would if you used a Yamaha image (or any other image). That's just not how the technology works -- despite the fact that Martin is now claiming using an image created using a '30s Martin D-20 image will make your Aura-equipped new D-28 sound more like the old one. Using an old-Martin image rather than a new-Martin image is just as likely to make a new Martin sound less like the old one as it is to make it sound more like the old one. And using a J-45 image with a Yamaha is as likely to make it sound less like a J-45 as it is to make it sound more like a J-45. The only guarantee is that the guitar will sound less like itself than it would if you used the proper image.

 

You're just lucky I'll have forgotten all about the by the next time I'm in Bozeman, or I'd probably show up at your door, fully equipped with whiteboard and markers, and you'd have to suffer through at least part of my "How Aura works -or- 'It's not a synthesizer'" talk prior to making your getaway.

 

-- Bob R

 

I stand corrected. I hope you remember and stop by as I missed spending time with you at the Homecoming. I enjoy your playing and your guitars. Anne would recognize the quilt on our couch. It has kept us and our cats warm thru many a long, cold Montana winter night. I enjoy your posting so keep 'em coming.

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Sounds like an idea for a clinic at the next Homecoming. LOL

 

This could be entertaining:

 

"Click HERE for funny video of two old farts arguing about how sound systems work" .....

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Back to the original thread. The J180 arrived from Indiana via Cody Wyo. I cleaned it up, oiled the fretboard and bridge and put 12's on it. The action was a little high. I cranked the truss rod increments over the next 4 hours a total of 3/4 turns. I kept it tuned down a step, as I was still seeing a little more that an 1/8" at the 12th. Later in the evening I tuned it up a step and did another 1/2 turn. No issues. It's deeper and louder than my J200. I really had one of those 'moments' playing it. Where the song sounded brand new, with a flood of images like was remembering a recent dream. Something like the left and right brain getting perfectly out of phase where everything feels like a déjà vu.

Has anyone experienced that feeling when playing a new guitar? Usually with me it involves walking out the store with it.

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