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Jazz boxes super 400's etc etc


eeh1

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I have never played an L5 or Super 400. Anyone want to shed light on the sound and overall playability. I know alot of them have carved tops and maple back and sides. Archtops etc etc

I love the look of the 36 or 38 L5 with the small upper bouts and non cutaway. I also love the non electric super 400 non cutaway. Anyone own any?

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You're missing something. I have a '34 L7-- which is basically an L5 without all the bling. It's also affectionately known among players as a 'working man's L5'.

 

It's the best made guitar I own- the most professional. When you go to fret it, your left hand knows it's dealing with something of substance. A real instrument. It sounds like a harp or piano. Lean into it, and it's louder than any flattop. An archtop will cut better and project farther. It will also make you a better guitar player. In order to pull tone out of an archtop, you have to attack it just so. And if you're sloppy with your fret work- no sound at all.

 

The interesting thing I've found: flattop guitars respond better to the same techniques I use on the archtop. My theory on this: a flattop will give a basic OK sound if you just strum across the strings. So most players never really learn how to get real sound out of a flattop.

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I used to spend a lot of time, some years back, at a local archtop repairman's shop. Lots of great old guitars came through that place. I generally liked the L-5s, L-4s, L-7s, L-10s and L-12s the best....they're pretty much just as Hoss has mentioned. They tend to have a very hollow, wooden, unadorned tone, which is ultra-dry and clear. If you're a barefingered picker, like I am, they can be a real challenge to play well.....but you can improve your technique quite a bit, if you can learn to harness the energy of these guitars, and extract some tone from them.

 

I'm always struck, when encountering prewar and wartime Gibson flatops (and some of the better Montana examples), at how much of that Gibson archtop tonal character many of them possess....it's definitely there.

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The L-5 CES is an electric model and it draws a lot of respect anywhere. I have a Washburn L-5 CES clone (the J6) and IT draws a lot of respect -- everybody wants to see it and play it and examine it. The Gibson L-5 is close to $10K (and worth every penny of it -- except I did not have $10K) so I got my Hamer Newport Custom Pro -- also a PERFECT guitar. Pretty much flawless. My Washburn is a good friend and I love to play it. I'd love to have a Gibson L-5 CES. It is definitely something to behold! Gosh I have nothing bad to say (really) about a good guitar. Most all guitars I see today are well made (but I do not like laminate or unfinished looking guitars --even though they are good enough). If you can get a Gibson L-5 CES hang on to it.

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I own a few arch tops. I have an L5 CES, L4 Mahogany, an ES165 (Herb Ellis) and an ES 150 (1948) with a P90. They are all great - different but great.

 

Whilst I've not played one, I understand that the Super 400 has a bigger body than the L5. They are supposed to be great guitars and a good friend of mine owned a Super 400 until he put on too much weight and decided to play an L5 which he found more comfortable with his new body size. However he has always spoken very highly of Super 400's.

 

I understand that the Super 400 neck is different to the L5. When my friend decided to change over to an L5, Gibson specially built him an L5 with a Super 400 neck.

 

I quite like the ES165, not quite as heavy as the L5 and has a scale length of 24.75 rather than 25.5 on the L5. I personally find the shorter scale more comfortable but that's just me. The ES 165 has gorgeous tone but less variety in tone, as it only has a volume control and does not have a tone control.

 

Worth playing a few of the different models to see what you like.

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I've got a few archtops, including a '54 L-5N and '49 L-7N, both non-cuts. While you'd think these archtops are very different from regular Gibson acoutics, you do find them from time to time in Old Time music, C&W and other types of bands. They're fun to play, you get to learn your chords and if you play any type of solo, because of the quick decay, you need to be on your toes. I'm of the opinion, that playing and archtop in a band will make you a better musician.

 

They respond well to heavier gauge strings 13/58 or even heavier, lighter gauges sound like rubber bands and won't get the solid top moving or any air going thru the instrument. It baffles me that considering the high level of workmanship these archtops, especially the acoustic ones are so undervalued compared to other Gibsons. I know Leslie West played a Les Paul Jr with a P90, but come on. The L-7 is probably one of the best vintage Gibson guitars you can buy right now.

 

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  • 5 weeks later...

I own both an acoustic L5 and a Super 400 (both non cutaways). the Super 400 is noticably louder and has a bit more bass response. comparing it to my 1940 Epiphone Emperor, it has a sweeter tone, but the Emperor is substantially louder. In their time, Epiphones were the affordable alternative to Strombergs - loud, but compromised tone, and gibsons were the affordable D'Angelicos - great tone, compromised volume.

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Mark Lee states:-

 

"I own both an acoustic L5 and a Super 400 (both non cutaways). the Super 400 is noticably louder and has a bit more bass response. comparing it to my 1940 Epiphone Emperor, it has a sweeter tone, but the Emperor is substantially louder. In their time, Epiphones were the affordable alternative to Strombergs - loud, but compromised tone, and gibsons were the affordable D'Angelicos - great tone, compromised volume. "

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Mark Lee states:-

 

"I own both an acoustic L5 and a Super 400 (both non cutaways). the Super 400 is noticably louder and has a bit more bass response. comparing it to my 1940 Epiphone Emperor, it has a sweeter tone, but the Emperor is substantially louder. In their time, Epiphones were the affordable alternative to Strombergs - loud, but compromised tone, and gibsons were the affordable D'Angelicos - great tone, compromised volume".

 

 

Sorry about the previous posting. I pressed the wrong button!! What I was going to ask is - Is there much difference between the sound produced from an acoustic L5 and an electric L5 that is played as an acoustic? The reason I thought top ask is that my Herb Ellis is more like an acoustic as the pick up is not cut into the top and nothing touches the top. Its acoustic sound is quite loud and very attractive.

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I own both an acoustic L5 and a Super 400 (both non cutaways). the Super 400 is noticably louder and has a bit more bass response. comparing it to my 1940 Epiphone Emperor,

 

Wow! How about a nice group photo? I'd really like to see them.

 

Seems odd though. You have $100,000 worth of archtops and you complain about the price of strings? And in the Lounge you're asking questions about Chinese archtops?

 

I think you should pose them for a nice pic so we can all enjoy them.

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What I was going to ask is - Is there much difference between the sound produced from an acoustic L5 and an electric L5 that is played as an acoustic?

 

Yes' date=' I've found there to be a major difference. By design, construction, and materials my L-5 and L-7 are basically the same guitar. The L-5 is the "CES" model with two humbuckers cut into the top, the L-7 is full acoustic, although I have added a "floating" pickup attached to the pickguard.

 

Unplugged I find the L-5CES virtually useless. The holes cut in the soundboard of the guitar for the pickups and knobs, plus the weight of the humbuckers screwed to the top, completely compromise the acoustic integrity of the guitar, and it is not very loud and sounds somewhat constipated (plugged in it sounds incredible). Fortunately for me I have the '47 L-7 for those acoustic situations. The amplified sound is also very different from these two types of pickup mounting. I also have an old Silvertone archtop on which I put a fingerboard mounted pickup, this also nicely preserves the acoustic properties of the guitar.

 

Here's the two guitars for which I speak.

[img']http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3165/2323691443_5af6b8754a_o.jpg[/img]

 

 

Knowing what I know now, for me the ultimate Gibson L-5 type production guitar would be the "Johnny Smith" model. A dolled up L-5C with a floating pickup.

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Wow! How about a nice group photo? I'd really like to see them.

 

Seems odd though. You have $100' date='000 worth of archtops and you complain about the price of strings? And in the Lounge you're asking questions about Chinese archtops?

 

I think you should pose them for a nice pic so we can all enjoy them.[/quote']

 

Anything in this world is possible, but Mark Lee did state he plays in a school band. $100,000 worth of archtops is pretty high corn for a schoolboy. Go Mark!

 

Some pics are pretty much essential here, for pure archtop porn reasons :-)

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Wow! How about a nice group photo? I'd really like to see them.

 

Seems odd though. You have $100' date='000 worth of archtops and you complain about the price of strings? And in the Lounge you're asking questions about Chinese archtops?

 

I think you should pose them for a nice pic so we can all enjoy them.[/quote']

 

Whats so bad about Chinese/Asian archtops? and I highly doubt that I have 100K worth. Its probably closer to 25k worth. I will take a pic ASAP and post it when I work out how to.

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Wow! How about a nice group photo? I'd really like to see them.

 

Seems odd though. You have $100' date='000 worth of archtops and you complain about the price of strings? And in the Lounge you're asking questions about Chinese archtops?

 

I think you should pose them for a nice pic so we can all enjoy them.[/quote']

 

Whats so bad about Chinese/Asian archtops? and I highly doubt that I have 100K worth. Its probably closer to 25k worth. I will take a pic ASAP and post it when I work out how to.

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Knowing what I know now' date=' for me the ultimate Gibson L-5 type production guitar would be the "Johnny Smith" model. A dolled up L-5C with a floating pickup.

 

[/quote']

 

The Johnny Smith is quite a different animal to an L5 C. It has a shorter scale, thinner body, wider nut, and X barcing. acoustically, the thinner body will cut the bass response, however, the shorter scale probably compromises this. Another model you might consider is the Gibson made Epiphone Noveau NVJ. it's got the full 25.5 scale and 3.5 inch body depth, and a full size floating humbucker, just like the Gibson Super 4000 Chet Atkins models. You can usualy find them for under a grand. The parts were made in Japan, then shiped and assempled in the USA.

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Archtops are sweet! I own a '47 L-4 and a Tacoma AJF22CE, I own some flat top boomers too, and I find that the archtops have no problem keeping up with a D-35 Martin.

Someone asked "what's wrong with Chinese archtops?"

My problem with them is they are over priced, they are not going to go up in value (IMO).

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Mark Lee writes

 

"Unplugged I find the L-5CES virtually useless. The holes cut in the soundboard of the guitar for the pickups and knobs, plus the weight of the humbuckers screwed to the top, completely compromise the acoustic integrity of the guitar, and it is not very loud and sounds somewhat constipated (plugged in it sounds incredible). Fortunately for me I have the '47 L-7 for those acoustic situations."

 

I don't find my L5 useless acoustically but its definitely not that sweet and I find my Herb Ellis to have a more attractive acoustic tone for the same reasons that you make about the '47 L-7. That is nothing is drilled or cut into the soundboard.

 

Are second hand L5 fully acoustics rare or are they accessible and if so at what approximate cost?

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A guy has some for sale locally on Craig's list. I have no affiliation with this guy, and haven't even seen the guitars. BUT, they seem to be custom specials, that I have never heard of. Prices seem a little high...but who knows....here they are...

 

 

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/msg/1105224589.html

 

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/msg/1105209947.html

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