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Select Mahogany, what does this mean?


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I don't know what it was like in bigger cities, but I can tell you that in the '60s some of the "mystery wood" in bowed-neck imports reminded me of stuff used for orange crates and shipping pallets. I think any term that got you thinking something else was going to be a public relations necessity.

 

m

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I don't know what it was like in bigger cities, but I can tell you that in the '60s some of the "mystery wood" in bowed-neck imports reminded me of stuff used for orange crates and shipping pallets. I think any term that got you thinking something else was going to be a public relations necessity.

 

m

 

There was a lot of mentions of "select hardwood" for bodies and necks on the EA & ET series from the 1970's. This select hardwood could be either a low grade mahogany, maple or any other mystery wood. We still dont know to this day. Epiphone apparently didnt want to admit to what exactly they were using back then, so the term "select" came in to play exactly for the PR you mentioned.

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The only reference to the word "select" I could find was in the early 1960's catalogs. They used the term "selected" or "specially selected" for the tops, and like you said, only mentioned the wood type for the back & rims, The only mention of the actual word "select" was for the Frontier and was referring to the "select" mahogany back & sides. The top was listed as "fine grained spruce".

 

The common usage for "select" as a reference to a laminated or mystery wood seems to have originated in the 1970's for the Japanese models. Possibly a little bit of shuck & jive to make the guitars sound better than they were.

RTH - Yes, the terminology may vary a bit in the old Gibson catalogs. The term "select" or "selected" spruce top was attempting to highlight the quality grade of the bookmatched solid top. I have a few Gibson catalog reprints, and out of curiosity will check to see what other variations turn up. Indeed, the Japanese manufacturers and/or their stateside distributors lifted the phrase to utilize it themselves in '70s catalogs, but for their own specific window-dressing purposes in applying it to laminated wood instruments.

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Okay, here's the scoop per my posts above regarding the historical use of "select" spruce in reference to solid topped instruments (based on my limited collection of catalogs):

 

At least as far back as Gibson's catalog 'Q' from 1928, both the A and A-O model mandolins are described as having a "sounding board of select spruce." These were of course carved & arched solid spruce tops. A number of other descriptors are used for the spruce tops of guitars and mandolins in this catalog including "selected", "choice", and "finest".

 

From a '50s catalog listing electrics, the solid topped CF-100e (cutaway flat top acoustic w/P90) has a "selected spruce top."

 

From a mid 60s catalog, the majority of solid topped flat tops are listed as having a "selected spruce top." Most solid spruce archtop models are described as having a "hand-graduated carved top of selected spruce."

 

From the 1968 catalog, the solid topped Heritage, Everly Brothers & B-25 models are described as having a "select spruce top." Descriptors for other acoustic models with solid spruce tops include "selected", "finest", "close grained", "fine grained", and (drum roll, please) "finest close-grain" for the J200.

 

From the above, it is clear that the terms "select" and "selected" originally referred to solid spruce topped instruments. From the '70s and beyond, the industry began morphing this into a convenient catch-all phrase unrelated to the original definition.

 

As for Gibson, they stuck to their guns through at least the 1980 catalog, where the solid topped J200, Dove, Heritage, and J55 are all described as having a "select fine grain spruce top."

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Thanks, Bobouz. I only had a chance to skim through my catalogs yesterday. I figured there were more instances of "select" as a descriptor, but I didnt have to time to search through all of the catalogs I have. I dont typically pay attention to their use of that term as I know that it means little to nothing - at most just a way to describe a possibly nicer grained piece of laminate. But one thing remains, and that is the term "select" is always in reference to a laminate these days.

 

When I create entries for the wiki and see that term, I always assume its a laminated piece even if it isnt described as such. But on modern Epiphones, you can bet that every piece that isnt described as "solid" is going to be a laminate anyway. And I always replace the word "select" for the term "laminate" as to avoid any confusion on the subject...with the exception being mostly stuff from the 1970's and 80's that didnt use any other descriptor for their mystery woods.

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Great report!

 

BTW, the CF-100e looks very much, and is sized very similarly as the current Epiphone PR5e. It's also a similar overall body size and feel to the ES175. A friend has one and the closest I could find that I liked the neck and "feel" on is the Epi AE offering. I wouldn't recommend trying to head to my friend's Montana ranch to buy his Gibbie; it'd be a waste of time I think - regardless of the cash offer. And it's not as old as either of us.

 

I know the current commentary on a magnetic pickup on a flattop hasn't been very positive, but IMHO, it sounds quite nice and "acoustic" run through a PA board.

 

m

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Thing is though - Gibson never used the word laminate at all. So the J-160E was described as having the finest spruce top or the J-200 (which beginning in 1955 had a laminate body) has having a body of highly figured maple. So basically nothing has has changed.

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I sometimes miss the days when I first started playing and did not know a good guitar from a can of tuna. There were no debates about tone woods or if the it was made of solid wood or laminate. The only things I looked at were was it easy to play and could I afford it.

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I think Zombie has a great point.

 

At lower price points, today's guitars are far superior than what was available to me in the early '60s - and I'd rather have had a laminate that was stable than some of the poorly-aged woods I saw around that already were warping big time while on a store's wall...

 

When "we" have a combination of knowledge from experience and a few more bucks, a decent to great solid wood guitar is the aspiration, but... sheesh, for a beginner, there's so much better stuff out there than when I started, both in sound and build quality, that there's no comparison.

 

Another factor I think gets ignored is the number of quite successful admittedly laminated high-end archtops and semis that have lasted, sound and play quite nicely after more than a half century.

 

Then, too... So many of the $2-300 US guitars are AE - and sound surprisingly good amped. Better, IMHO, than when "we" tried to get decent miking for a theoretical all-acoustic gig that lived or died by a tube PA with lousy speakers and very distance-dependent mikes.

 

I also wonder if in 40 years and all guitars are carbon fiber 'stedda wood thanks to various ... laws ... whether we won't seen these low-end laminates that have managed to outlive beginner teenagers as wonderful examples of the olden days...

 

m

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I think Zombie has a great point.

 

At lower price points, today's guitars are far superior than what was available to me in the early '60s - and I'd rather have had a laminate that was stable than some of the poorly-aged woods I saw around that already were warping big time while on a store's wall...

 

When "we" have a combination of knowledge from experience and a few more bucks, a decent to great solid wood guitar is the aspiration, but... sheesh, for a beginner, there's so much better stuff out there than when I started, both in sound and build quality, that there's no comparison.

 

 

 

+ 1 to both Milod and Zombie.

 

Red 333

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  • 8 years later...

I am aghast.  I  purchased a HummingbirdPro .  One  thing I was careful to shop for -- I thought -- was a solid wood body.  And now I learn that the "select mahogany"  back and sides of my guitar are -- PLYWOOD?  Is this misrepresentation?  Am I the only one who thought that "select mahogany" was some kind of special-=grained solid wood?    Even now,  the Hummingbird Pro is not a bad  guitar 

But in a few years?   I wanted to see the sound and quality of the solid wood improve with age.  What happens  to the quality of glue?  I live in the Northwest?  Will the adhesive  or resin or whatever dissolve in 10 years.?   Will the solid Sitka spruce top age and change at the same rate as the plastic side and bottom?  Am I looking at warp-age and splintering?

If somebody had told me what Epiphone's argot meant at the time, I would have upgraded to the  real, wooden pseudo- Hummingbird .  Should I mention that the design on the pickguard is starting to wear off, too?  Forgive my rampage, but I just found out  what "selects" means last night this last night, and I am just heartsick. 

--SIGH -- 

I'm curious to know if anyone   else has presented this little snafu to Epiphone and with what results

 

Edited by Flightless Bird
I left out a preposition.
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38 minutes ago, Flightless Bird said:

Is this misrepresentation?

You got a guitar, and its back and sides are made of mahogany.

That's not misrepresentation. Epiphone didn't tell you it was solid mahogany, you just assumed that.

Misrepresentation would be describing the guitar as "plastic."

Laminate guitars have been produced for 100 years, by Epiphone, Gibson, and many other brands. I've never seen complaints about top, back, or sides de-laminating.

38 minutes ago, Flightless Bird said:

I'm curious to know if anyone   else has presented this little snafu to Epiphone and with what results

What would you expect Epiphone to do? They are responsible for publishing the specs, not for making sure you understand them.

Edited by pohatu771
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6 hours ago, Flightless Bird said:

Forgive my rampage, but I just found out  what "selects" means last night this last night, and I am just heartsick.

Should have hung out at the Epiphone Forum sooner.  (Like 2012, when this thread was started?)  🙂  But really, the back and sides are not nearly as crucial as the top to get an excellent tone.  That's why the top is called the soundboard.  The top is what participates in the vibration; the back is more reflective.  Lots of Alvarez-Yairis are laminate backed, and they're very highly regarded.  Some very high-end Guilds have laminate backs; they also happen to be arched and braceless, and they pump out the volume and tone, but still....

I used to have an Epiphone Performer ME that was laminate back and top, and somehow it had a crazy good tone.  So you never know. 

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Some Gibsons throughout the years have also had laminated/select sides and backs.  "Select" is another way of  calling it laminated, as it's not calling it solid.   It is a marketing ploy for sure.   But, frankly, as Cougar indicates, a solid wood top is what makes a significant difference on a guitar and not whether the sides and back are solid or not.  (I have a 1994 Gibson Gospel Reissue that has a laminated back and sides with a solid top and it sounds fantastic.)  Plus, two of my Epi Pros have solid wood tops and laminated backs and sides and they too sound great.  Is a solid wood back and solid wood sides guitar worth more than a laminated back and sides guitar?  Yes.  But, it also costs more.  Does it sound better because of the solid wood back or solid wood sides, I can't say for certain...as each guitar has its own sound and its pretty much known that the back and side woods are secondary to the top's wood, where an acoustic guitar's sound vibration comes from.   The game-changer/showstopper for me for a flat-top guitar is that the top is solid wood.   A solid wood top on a flat-top acoustic guitar makes the big difference in terms of sound spectrum and is the trigger that the guitar's sound will improve with age.  I can understand your shock with the sides and back, but using laminates for back and sides has become a standard cost cutting thang, without substantially diminishing the guitar's sound.   Plus, today's laminating processes are much improved over some laminating processes of years gone by.     And, again its the top's solid wood that makes a significant difference on an acoustic flat-top guitar.  As you'd said, your guitar sounds great.

QM aka "Jazzman" Jeff

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18 hours ago, Cougar said:

Should have hung out at the Epiphone Forum sooner.  (Like 2012, when this thread was started?)  🙂  But really, the back and sides are not nearly as crucial as the top to get an excellent tone.  That's why the top is called the soundboard.  The top is what participates in the vibration; the back is more reflective.  Lots of Alvarez-Yairis are laminate backed, and they're very highly regarded.  Some very high-end Guilds have laminate backs; they also happen to be arched and braceless, and they pump out the volume and tone, but still....

I used to have an Epiphone Performer ME that was laminate back and top, and somehow it had a crazy good tone.  So you never know. 

I agree with you about getting involved sooner-- but I didn't buy the guitar until 2017.   The specs say the top is solid Sitka spruce -- but with what I've learned recently, who can say?  What I don't understand is if the material for the back and sides have make so little difference, why is the pro $350 and the Masterbilt solid body 2x as much?   One other queestions:  When Guitar Center looked up my eons-old receipt, I was told that rather than the Hummingbird-Pro I thought I had purchased, they sent me home with a Hummingbird Studio.  Both of them say Pro on the Truss rod cap.    Guitar Center is willing to work with me by giving me 10% off the price of a new Master-Bilt -- and nothing for my pro.  Is this reasonable?  I feel like throwing the pro in the trash can and maybe learning to play the piano. 🙂  HaHa

 

 

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Just now, Flightless Bird said:

I agree with you about getting involved sooner-- but I didn't buy the guitar until 2017.   The specs say the top is solid Sitka spruce -- but with what I've learned recently, who can say?  What I don't understand is if the material for the back and sides have make so little difference, why is the pro $350 and the Masterbilt solid body 2x as much?   One other queestions:  When Guitar Center looked up my eons-old receipt, I was told that rather than the Hummingbird-Pro I thought I had purchased, they sent me home with a Hummingbird Studio.  Both of them say Pro on the Truss rod cap.    Guitar Center is willing to work with me by giving me 10% off the price of a new Master-Bilt -- and nothing for my pro.  Is this reasonable?  I feel like throwing the pro in the trash can and maybe learning to play the piano. 🙂  HaHa

 

 

The Pro is $359.  The Solid wood, $799.  Is the solid wood worth 2x the price?

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3 hours ago, Flightless Bird said:

The Pro is $359.  The Solid wood, $799.  Is the solid wood worth 2x the price?

Sounds like you’re in a bit of a “fight or flight” mode on the topic.  My suggestion is to pull back and figure out if you like and enjoy the guitar that you now have as well as if it’s time to expand your guitar collection, as well as if you can afford an expansion...and, if so, what would be a good addition to your collection to switch off to from what you presently have in your collection.  (As well as still go back to for variety.).  Most guitar owners know that variety is one of the spices of guitar owning and owning different nuanced guitars helps one explore the music the instruments help one to produce.  

Marketing and pricing of guitars is the stuff stores deal with.  Musicians deal with the music they can produce on a said instrument.

That’s my perspective.

Having said that, I hope this is thought provoking to any decision you make on this topic.

 

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

 

 

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17 hours ago, Flightless Bird said:

I agree with you about getting involved sooner-- but I didn't buy the guitar until 2017.   The specs say the top is solid Sitka spruce -- but with what I've learned recently, who can say?  What I don't understand is if the material for the back and sides have make so little difference, why is the pro $350 and the Masterbilt solid body 2x as much?   One other queestions:  When Guitar Center looked up my eons-old receipt, I was told that rather than the Hummingbird-Pro I thought I had purchased, they sent me home with a Hummingbird Studio.  Both of them say Pro on the Truss rod cap.    Guitar Center is willing to work with me by giving me 10% off the price of a new Master-Bilt -- and nothing for my pro.  Is this reasonable?  I feel like throwing the pro in the trash can and maybe learning to play the piano. 🙂  HaHa

 

 

Interesting that I am going to look at a hummingbird sustainable. If shape and bracing are the same as vintage and  top is what gives that sound why not?  any advice? 

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18 hours ago, Flightless Bird said:

The specs say the top is solid Sitka spruce -- but with what I've learned recently, who can say?

What I don't understand is if the material for the back and sides have make so little difference, why is the pro $350 and the Masterbilt solid body 2x as much?  

One other queestions:  When Guitar Center looked up my eons-old receipt, I was told that rather than the Hummingbird-Pro I thought I had purchased, they sent me home with a Hummingbird Studio.  Both of them say Pro on the Truss rod cap.   

Guitar Center is willing to work with me by giving me 10% off the price of a new Master-Bilt -- and nothing for my pro.  Is this reasonable?  I feel like throwing the pro in the trash can and maybe learning to play the piano. 🙂  HaHa

Yes, the top is definitely solid sitka.

Yeah, guitar pricing seems pretty arbitrary.  You could also ask why another 6-string is not just twice as much, but 10 times as much!  I didn't pay nearly that much for mine, but this used (1974) Guild F50R that's up for sale on ebay is going for $3,600!  My F50R does sound better than a Masterbilt, but honestly, not 10 times better.

Epiphone's site says the Hummingbird Studio used to be called the Hummingbird Pro.  Either way, good looking Epiphone!

A 10% discount at GC is pretty standard if you ask for it, so they're not doing you any great favors.  Ask "Well, how about a 20% discount?" and maybe you'll get one for 15% off.  :^)

Epiphone's got a whole new line of "Inspired by Gibson" guitars.  Of course, Epiphone has always been "inspired" by Gibson, which is its parent company, but now they've got this new lineup.  Personally, I preferred the Masterbilt production run from 2003-2010.  Fine instruments.

Edited by Cougar
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