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worst Gibson Acoustic "innovations"


Guest J-Doug

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Guest J-Doug

what do you think are the worst Gibson Acoustic "innovations"? Here are some of the usual suspects:

 

- plastic bridge

- double X bracing

- plywood bridge plate

- volute

- adjustable saddle

- tune-o-matic acoustic bridge (most often seen on 60's J-200s)

- changing J-45, SJ, etc. from slope shoulder to square shoulder

- changing headstock back angle from 17 degrees to 14

 

Anymore? Of course, these are open for debate.

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I would have to say the "Norlin era" adjustable bridge. I can understand what they were trying to do, but it just didn't work. AT ALL.

 

 

The adjustable bridge actually pre-dates the Norlin era. You can blame Norlin for a lot of things, but the ADJ was first seen as an optional upgrade on slope-J's in the mid 1960's or even earlier, such as on the J-160 almost from day one in the mid-50's.

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I would have to say the "Norlin era" adjustable bridge. I can understand what they were trying to do, but it just didn't work. AT ALL.

 

I've got four guitars with the adjustable bridge mechanism (with wooden, not plastic bridge). Nothing wrong at all with the way those guitars sound.

 

Red 333

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I have a '77 J-50 that is...

 

SQUARE SHOULDERED (GASP!!)

 

and...

 

DOUBLE-X CROSS-BRACED (QUICK - SOMEBODY GRAB THE SMELLING SALTS!!)

 

I've played this among many fellow musicians who are quick to point out how good it sounds, and, "by the way, is it for sale"?

 

"No."

 

MJ

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Worst "innovation" - the re-organization of 1965. Maurice Berlin (president of CMI) retires and Ted McCarty is forced out. The spray booths which applied all those gorgeous bursts were now reserved solely for guitars built in the Custom Department while everything else is slapped on a high speed conveyor belt finishing system. The new neck machines turn out necks with the reduced headstock angle (which although a break with tradition was probably not such a bad thing) and narrow nuts. The elaborate inspection system put in place by McCarty is tossed out and guitars start leaving the factory that previously would never have made it out the door. Build quality takes a nose dive. Gibson quickly goes from one of the best places to work to one of the worst and the company is hit by its first strike around 1966.

 

Second worst innovation - not bringing McCarty back in when the company was in trouble.

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The suicidal double-X that gave the brand the reputation of having socks in their acoustic guitars – and gave me a Gibson trauma under which I sadly suffered for 30 years.

Absurd and catastrophic*.

This thread should be seen as a welcome opportunity to praise the turnaround and of course Ren Ferguson.

Btw. seeing the JC-posted series from the plant at the same time was a splendid mini-portrait of the professional (but also personal) side of the man. We all hope Gibson will survive possible crises in the future and stay alive on the planet. What R.F. did to secure this is invaluable – and can be seen as more than 'just' working for the brand.

 

The better than good thing is that he's aware of all this. What an achievement in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* yes I know there are excellent sounding Norlins and that they too break in and become better. . . .

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The suicidal double-X that gave the brand the reputation of having socks in their acoustic guitars – and gave me a Gibson trauma under which I sadly suffered for 30 years.

 

* yes I know there are excellent sounding Norlins and that they too break in and become better. . . .

 

You can't blame it all on Norlin. Gibson had already been heading in this direction. First came the floating brace in the J-200. In 1968 the bracing in all their guitars got heavier. In 1969 it got even heavier and bulkier.

 

Regarding Norlin Gibsons - it seems to be a universal law that everybody who owns one of these guitars managed to find one of the few Norlin-era acoustics that does not suck.

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I don't know, maybe some of you had bad experiences with Norlin era guitars. I've had probably 40 guitars since I started playing in 1969. I've had 5 Norlin Gibsons, and still have 4 of them. I never had an issue with any of them. My 1973 goldtop Les Paul Deluxe is still my favorite guitar. Maybe I just got lucky.

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It is hard to imagine any innovation worse than thaqt big old nasty floating brace Gibson started screwing into the top of J-200s in 1961. They used two different versions over tyhe years but luckily they were easy to remove.

 

 

I had forgotten that one. Actually, the same floating brace was installed (by Gibson) in my old J-45 when it was re-topped by Gibson in 1968. I remember sticking my hand into the guitar and thinking "WTF is this thing?" Fortunately, as you say, it was easy to remove. The last bits of that (the wooden brackets on the sides) came out when the new bridge was installed in that guitar last year.

 

Still haven't figured out exactly what it was for, as the top they put on has exactly the same top bracing as shown in the Collins plan of the 1957 J-45.

 

Maybe it was just a taste of Norlin things to come: the pre-cursor of the double-x brace system.

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One can never tell about these things, and they sometimes can lead to questioning the importance of various components or construction methods. I've owned three (and currently one) of the B25 & Epi Cortez series guitars with plastics bridges. They've all had excellent tonal qualities, even with the goofier-than-heck plastic bridge. I've played others that sounded like they had a wet tee shirt stuffed inside. Same with the double-X bracing. Had a great sounding '72 Heritage Custom as well as a Dove from the same era, while other double-X braced instruments have sounded like the tanks they were designed to be. Conventional wisdoms often do not apply universally, particularly when discussing good vs bad years of production.

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One can never tell about these things, and they sometimes can lead to questioning the importance of various components or construction methods. I've owned three (and currently one) of the B25 & Epi Cortez series guitars with plastics bridges. They've all had excellent tonal qualities, even with the goofier-than-heck plastic bridge. I've played others that sounded like they had a wet tee shirt stuffed inside. Same with the double-X bracing. Had a great sounding '72 Heritage Custom as well as a Dove from the same era, while other double-X braced instruments have sounded like the tanks they were designed to be. Conventional wisdoms often do not apply universally, particularly when discussing good vs bad years of production.

 

Agree! I had a '66 Epi Texan way back when. I did a side-by-side comparison vs. a Martin. I preferred the sound of the Epi Texan and purchased it. Fellow musicians scoffed at it. I continued to play it and loved it. The laughs and scoffs continued. Then it became known that McCartney recorded "Yesterday" on a Texan. All of a sudden (voila!) the [perceived] sound (magically) improved and other musicians LOVED it.

 

Funny how the mind plays tricks on us. I listen with my own ears. They've served me well and continue to do so.

 

MJ

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I had forgotten that one. Actually, the same floating brace was installed (by Gibson) in my old J-45 when it was re-topped by Gibson in 1968. I remember sticking my hand into the guitar and thinking "WTF is this thing?" Fortunately, as you say, it was easy to remove. The last bits of that (the wooden brackets on the sides) came out when the new bridge was installed in that guitar last year.

 

Still haven't figured out exactly what it was for, as the top they put on has exactly the same top bracing as shown in the Collins plan of the 1957 J-45.

 

Maybe it was just a taste of Norlin things to come: the pre-cursor of the double-x brace system.

 

 

Whoa, it looks like Gibson may have been a bit paranoid about keeping the tops from bellying up something.

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Whoa, it looks like Gibson may have been a bit paranoid about keeping the tops from bellying up something.

 

I'm sure that was the case, but it's not like this was a rampant problem, that I remember. And can you imagine what it did to top resonance?

 

I can't remember the entire arrangement, but I seem to recall that it involved a cross brace below the top, with an adjustment screw tying the top to the cross brace. I kept it for years, but it's long-gone now.

 

edit:

Just went into my old spare parts bin, which is a bit of a time capsule. All I have left of this arrangement are remains of the two mahogany(!) side supports for the cross brace. These were glued to the inside of the sides of the guitar, sort of like corbels, just forward of the bridge. The cross brace itself was of light-colored wood (maybe spruce, poplar, or maple, judging from the small amount of material left stuck in the glue on the top of the side supports). I seem to recall that it had a thumbwheel-operated screw that went through this brace, and up to a pad(?) on the underside of the top just forward of the bridge.

 

I assume it was to stop the top from dipping forward of the bridge under string tension. Remember we almost always used medium or even heavy strings on these guitars back then, in a effort to increase volume. We played a lot outside, like on the college green, street corners, etc.

 

It's all coming back like a bad dream now. My first thought when I saw it was that it was some sort of brace they put in temporarily while gluing the new top on. I think the pad under the top was not glued in place, and came out when I loosened the thumbwheel screw. I then cut the floating brace in half, and snapped it off the side braces. It was quite a little truss structure.

 

I had Ross Teigen remove the last vestiges of it during last year's million-mile re-fit on the old J-45.

 

Talk about a tone-killer! I couldn't understand why my guitar sounded so bad when it came back with the new top. The removal of the brace was the first in a long line of orthopaedic and cosmetic surgery this guitar got to turn it back into a great musical instrument.

 

I'd be curious if anyone else with a mid/later 60's Gibson still has this thing in place. If you do, here's a free tip on how to make your guitar sound 100% better: get rid of it (the brace, not the guitar)!

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To be fair, a light weight bridge sounds like a good idea. In theory, it makes for a livelier soundboard. Does anyone know if this light weight bridge DID, in fact, improve the tone of these guitars?

 

At the time, the science of plastics was a new field. The short life-ed-ness of the plastic bridge was a function of not having a better alternative. However, the plastics of today are longer lived. One wonders if a light weight, plastic/composite/graphite bridge might have some application today.

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To be fair, a light weight bridge sounds like a good idea. In theory, it makes for a livelier soundboard. Does anyone know if this light weight bridge DID, in fact, improve the tone of these guitars?

 

At the time, the science of plastics was a new field. The short life-ed-ness of the plastic bridge was a function of not having a better alternative. However, the plastics of today are longer lived. One wonders if a light weight, plastic/composite/graphite bridge might have some application today.

 

In Gibson's execution of the plastic bridge, the bridge itself was indeed lightweight, but the associated hardware was quite heavy, so any potential low-weight gain from the plastic would have been offset by the hardware. As for improved tone, on a previously owned '65 B25n, it made almost no difference when I swapped out the plastic bridge for one made of ebony (to structurally stablize the instrument). I had expected a significant improvement & surprisingly it did not materialize, making me question preconcieved notions.

 

Regarding the short life span of this component, all I can say is that on my current '66 Epi FT45n Cortez, the plastic bridge is virtually like new after 46 years, so at least some of these have aged quite nicely.

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Never liked the plastic bridges, but I'm not convinced they were a bad idea. You might consider them a rare example of Gibson looking forward. Lots of companies at the time were looking at alternatives for carved wood. So it made sense to try it.

 

So they ran it up the flagpole. But we weren't impressed.

 

I do remember the glue that bled through the tops, hence offering x ray vision of the braces. Now that was some murky thinking.

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