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powerwagonjohn

Super 400 thin body

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I was at Daves Guitars in La Cross WI yesterday playing some new Gibson archtops. Along with a couple L-4CES, L-5CES, Super 400CES and L-5CEST guitars they had a Super 400 thin body. I had never seen one of these before. I was a very nice blond and played like a dream. By the way I came home enpty handed and will have to make do with me L-4CES, but that's not so bad.

Daves is really a nice shop. Where else can you get a chance to play and be surrounded with so many nice guitars. Not just Gibsons either.

Thanks John

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Ooh, I'd love to try one of those. I've only heard about them a few times. Even the independent luthiers don't seem to have produced many thin body 18" guitars.

 

Found this online... maybe a bit fancier than what John saw?

 

original.jpg

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There are also some photos on Dave's website of a sunburst example (two pickups), but all the photos are straight on (can't see the thinner sides).

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Ooh, I'd love to try one of those. I've only heard about them a few times. Even the independent luthiers don't seem to have produced many thin body 18" guitars.

 

Found this online... maybe a bit fancier than what John saw?

 

 

Very interesting guitar! Makes you wonder what the idea is with this design? The regular S400 body is large in order to produce a loud acoustic sound, and the depth of the 18" width body is also considerable, about 31/2" to 4". As Danny pointed out, it is not likely much easier for a player who would find the regular S400 less comfortable to get your right arm around. Has anybody heard this guitar being played, acoustic or electric?

Hannu

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Very interesting guitar! Makes you wonder what the idea is with this design? The regular S400 body is large in order to produce a loud acoustic sound, and the depth of the 18" width body is also considerable, about 31/2" to 4". As Danny pointed out, it is not likely much easier for a player who would find the regular S400 less comfortable to get your right arm around. Has anybody heard this guitar being played, acoustic or electric?

Hannu

 

I find my 17" thin L-5's to be more comfortable to play than the full-depth ones, with the trade-off being somewhat less bass, which isn't always a bad thing. I think that if I were 6' tall I'd enjoy playing a thin Super 400 for the same reasons.

 

Here is one of the thin Super 400's I've seen:

 

Super400CESNThin001_zpsdb0524ad.jpg

 

Danny W.

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I find my 17" thin L-5's to be more comfortable to play than the full-depth ones, with the trade-off being somewhat less bass, which isn't always a bad thing. I think that if I were 6' tall I'd enjoy playing a thin Super 400 for the same reasons.

Danny W.

 

The S400 size is a mixed blessing. There is also an advantage: the size and depth of the guitar makes it very stable, so your left hand (playing right handed) can be very relaxed, little further out from your body - helping your technique. But, if the right hand struggles to find the strings, then it is hard to play soft. I am 5'11" and I am using all of my frame to get around the S400.

There are also mental factors. Player laziness dictates, that if you want to pick one guitar out of several to play just a few casual licks, it won't be the S400. It seems like a big deal to lift the S400 and sit down with it, as if you are preparing for a Grand Concert of some kind. This is a good thing...

 

Great photos, Danny. These also reveal that the thin Super 400 neck is a different design. It appears to be a three piece maple/walnut/maple where most S400's are 5 piece, maple/walnut/maple/walnut/maple.

Hannu

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Danny, that photo is making me tingle. :) I recognize that setting, by the way- the old location of Lark Street Music in Albany NY. Buzz used to send me photos of guitars taken in that very spot.

 

If you can, and don't mind, I would love for you to share anything and everything you can recall about that 400. I've seen a lot of vintage guitars over the years, but I've never come across that one. For starters, how deep was the body? Standard scale? It must have been a custom order, circa... '55 or '56?

 

I may never see it again, or be able to think about buying it, but at least I know it exists, and can therefore dream!

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most S400's are 5 piece, maple/walnut/maple/walnut/maple.

Actually, Super 400 necks were 3-piece from 1934 to 1961.

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Danny, that photo is making me tingle. :) I recognize that setting, by the way- the old location of Lark Street Music in Albany NY. Buzz used to send me photos of guitars taken in that very spot.

 

If you can, and don't mind, I would love for you to share anything and everything you can recall about that 400. I've seen a lot of vintage guitars over the years, but I've never come across that one. For starters, how deep was the body? Standard scale? It must have been a custom order, circa... '55 or '56?

 

I may never see it again, or be able to think about buying it, but at least I know it exists, and can therefore dream!

 

Very good observation about the location--that photo was sent to me by Buzzy.

 

All I know about that guitar was that he talked me out of trying it, but it was a very long time ago and I don't remember the details. I think it wasn't in the best condition and that Buzz suspected the shallow depth wasn't factory original, but I might have it confused with another guitar.

 

Danny W.

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Thanks Danny. The thought of a cut-down modification had occurred to me, but I didn't think that was very likely (not that one sees many custom-ordered thinline S400's). Buzz is a very cool and straightforward guy, though, and of course very experienced and knowledgeable. Either way, it has the stuff that dreams are made of... for me, at least. If it was cherry red and had a Charlie Christian pickup, we'd perhaps be talking about my personal dream guitar.

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Gibson started making production thin-body L-5s during the '50's (I'm counting the Byrdland as well as the Gobel) and has had sporadic production ever since--the L-5CT is in their current catalog--but never did the same with the Super 400, Any of those are strictly one-offs and there can't be many. Most of the ones I've come across seem to have been made relatively recently. I think that Hannu might be right; anyone who's big enough to play a S400 doesn't need the thin body. <_<

 

I seem to remember that one of the West Coast vintage guys had one with a natural top and walnut-stained back and sides, maybe Lloyd Chiate. I could be hallucinating that one too.

 

Danny W.

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It just occurred to me that I've seen several vintage (circa '59-'60) thinline Epiphone Emperors. Don't know how many of those were produced, but they must have made more than a few. They never seem to sell very quickly. Not surprising, I guess.

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It just occurred to me that I've seen several vintage (circa '59-'60) thinline Epiphone Emperors. Don't know how many of those were produced, but they must have made more than a few. They never seem to sell very quickly. Not surprising, I guess.

 

I don't think Gibson made many of those--they were very expensive. They're also very thin; at 1 & 13/16" they felt more like an oversized semi than a true hollow. Being 18.5" wide, they were still quite an armful, too. A thin S400 would probably be 2 & 3/8" deep, which is a better compromise, I think.

 

Here is an Epi I owned for a few years:

 

eff90363.jpg

 

Not sure that I liked it very much, but it looked great.

 

 

On ebay now, from Gary's Classic Guitars - I think this must be the one in JimR's pic, it's a 2003:

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2003-Gibson-Super-400-CESN-Thin-body-GAT0274-/330705813616?pt=Guitar&hash=item4cff9a4070

 

Some price!!

 

I've done some business with Gary in the past. His prices are high, but he does get interesting stuff.

 

Danny W.

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Ooh, I'd love to try one of those. I've only heard about them a few times. Even the independent luthiers don't seem to have produced many thin body 18" guitars.

 

Found this online... maybe a bit fancier than what John saw?

 

original.jpg

 

The thin body Super 400 is one of the most beautiful archtops I have ever seen. It is on my must have guitars list when my lottery numbers come up. [thumbup]

Hassan

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I have been contemplating an L5 CES, not that my playing ability warrants one, but has been a lifelong dream to have one. I see Dave's has the L5 CT for sale. Since you were in there and playing them did you notice much tone difference with the thinner model? I had a 175 at one time and the tone was great, but the body size makes them a little difficult to play if you're used a Les Paul or 335 or 336.

 

Gibson website lists an L4 CT in the product page, but the description is for an L4 CES full thickness body and doesn't specify how thick the CT is. Maybe I'll check the Custom Shop site and see what they have to say?

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As someone had mentioned the thin body S400 was a little lacking in bass played acoustically, same for the L-5CT but plugged in there was not much difference if any at all. I have tried a thin body ES-175 but never a thin body L-4, that would be interesting. Usually when I play my L-4CES I use a little bit of amp to bring up the bass but still have the acoustic sound in the mix. I am intrigued by the thin body archtops. If I won the lottery I think a Johnny Smith would do the trick for me. I prefer the X braced tops I have played in the past but I am by far no expert with an archtop.

If anyone has a chance to get to Dave's guitar you should make the trip. There are lots of hotels in the area and you could easily spend the whole day it that place. Really great staff too, you can spend as long as you want trying out acoustics and electrics. They also have small lesson rooms to use if they are not in use.

Thanks John

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As someone had mentioned the thin body S400 was a little lacking in bass played acoustically, same for the L-5CT but plugged in there was not much difference if any at all. I have tried a thin body ES-175 but never a thin body L-4, that would be interesting. Usually when I play my L-4CES I use a little bit of amp to bring up the bass but still have the acoustic sound in the mix. I am intrigued by the thin body archtops. If I won the lottery I think a Johnny Smith would do the trick for me. I prefer the X braced tops I have played in the past but I am by far no expert with an archtop.

If anyone has a chance to get to Dave's guitar you should make the trip. There are lots of hotels in the area and you could easily spend the whole day it that place. Really great staff too, you can spend as long as you want trying out acoustics and electrics. They also have small lesson rooms to use if they are not in use.

Thanks John

 

Thanks for the reply. I used to live only about 4 hour drive from Dave's but now have moved south and would take a couple days to get up there. Mabye I'll call and see if I buy a thinline and don't care for it they would take it back and exchange for full size. I'm guessing the thin body would sound fine, but for that kind of money I have to get the true fat jazz tone.

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