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Confused on sound quality between Gibby models


John Hirt

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Hey y'all, brand new here and yes, I plan on partaking and not just jumping in when I need some free expert help! I have a 2008 Gibson Hummingbird Artist, a 2011 Hummingbird Pro, a 1970 J50, 1977 J50 and a 1993 Martin D28. I can't seem to understand why the J50's have less volume and a brighter sound then the other three, also a bit of a hollow echoing sound. Same size, same bracing (I think)but the Hummingbirds are cannon with a really nice mix (to me at least) of bass, mid and high with plenty of volume. the D28 is similar but a little brighter overall (I know it may be the rosewood back and sides on that). What befuddles me is the J50 sound. Why is so different? I also noticed the 70 is almost a pound heavier than the 77 but similar sound. Don't get me wrong, the bright sound is beautiful and not thin but what makes it that way and with less volume?

 

Also, what sound do y'all prefer?

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Welcome.

 

As MOP commented. In the Norlin era, particularly the 70s, Gibson was building their acoustics with an eye toward limiting their warranty liabilities. So the acoustics of that era are built heavier, some would say "tank-like". There are gems to be found in the remaining 70s examples, but you've got to be willing to look. The reputation of Gibson acoustics took a hit. Starting in the late 80s, Ferguson and the Montana shop have brought it all back - so your 2008 'Bird looks great and sounds great.

 

 

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Uh oh. 70s norlin era gibsons that's why

 

Yeah I know about the Norlin issues. Luckily the 1970 was right before that takeover and the 1977 one is actually super light compared. I don;t think either suffered the Norlin effect as when I play a current year J45 at the shops it sounds identical to both of my older Gibbys. What makes a current j45 brighter than a Hummingbird Pro or say and Advanced Jumbo? I thought the bracing etc was all the same.

 

thanks for all the feedback so quickly!

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Welcome.

 

As MOP commented. In the Norlin era, particularly the 70s, Gibson was building their acoustics with an eye toward limiting their warranty liabilities. So the acoustics of that era are built heavier, some would say "tank-like". There are gems to be found in the remaining 70s examples, but you've got to be willing to look. The reputation of Gibson acoustics took a hit. Starting in the late 80s, Ferguson and the Montana shop have brought it all back - so your 2008 'Bird looks great and sounds great.

 

 

.

 

Yeah the 1970 is heavier, but the same as the current Gibbys I have. Oddly the 1977 is the lighter one.

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Yeah I know about the Norlin issues. Luckily the 1970 was right before that takeover and the 1977 one is actually super light compared. I don;t think either suffered the Norlin effect as when I play a current year J45 at the shops it sounds identical to both of my older Gibbys.

 

Thing is while Norlin gets bad rapped, Gibson was heading down that road before Norlin ever entered the picture. They started using a heavier top bracing as early as 1968. In 1969 Gibson went to an even heavier top bracing. This bracing while not as nasty as the infamous Norlin double X bracing still had the effect of damping top vibration which is why you cannot get alot of volume of your 1970 J-50. Then add to this things like thicker pickguards, heavier laminated bridge plates and such and you ain't got the best recipe for sound.

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Yeah I know about the Norlin issues. Luckily the 1970 was right before that takeover and the 1977 one is actually super light compared. I don;t think either suffered the Norlin effect as when I play a current year J45 at the shops it sounds identical to both of my older Gibbys. What makes a current j45 brighter than a Hummingbird Pro or say and Advanced Jumbo? I thought the bracing etc was all the same.

 

thanks for all the feedback so quickly!

 

 

Norlin already had the company by then and had already been making changes.

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Hi, John. Welcome.

 

First let me say I agree with zomby - that's a pretty concise description of the late 60s and 70s American guitar market. It was somewhere during that time that prices of "vintage" guitars soared past the price of new ones simply beacuse the used guitars sounded better. They just weren't building great guitars in that era, inclufing Martin and others, though there are exceptions to that statement.

 

I'd also suggest that those who judge the sound of a guitar weighted heavily on its volume level in comparison to others may be disappointed by Gibsons in general. Though this is alwaays an easy way to start a good natured shouting match, Gibsons generally have less volume than do Martins. (That's just my opinion and plenty will disagree with it and there are many, many exceptions to that claim.) Gibson has produced some high volume designs that have been very successful but their bread and butter is Gibson's voicing which produces a beautiful, unique, smooth tone and thump without a huge focus on volume.

 

I've spent a lot of years trying to decipher guitar sound. The placement of this brace and the size of that one. This certain kind of bracing design with that ceratin kind of top/back wood combination. Pin and saddle materials. Kalamzoo, Nashville, Bozeman. After many years and much money I've absolutely found the definitive answer: it's magic. Some have it; some don't.

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GDC, yep some agreement and diisagreement. I play Gibson acoustics for their "voices" as you said. To me mellow and balanced. But that being said I have two Hummys one a 2003 and the other a 2011. Both are sweethearts. The 2003 has drop dead low low low action, no buzzes and plays with little effort and sweet mellow tone.

 

The 2011 Bird is a cannon. Action a wee but high. Also very mellow sounding but loud.I was in the market for a Martin 00-18 Hog. I took my 2011 Bird to a Mom and Pop store that specializes in Martin acoustics. I wanted to compare the Bird to the Martins. My friend Tom a true pro guitarist went with me so I we could play the martins and the Bird back and forth for sonic comparisons. When I pulled out the Hummingbird the store staff (2 young guys) freaked out and about fell over backwards. They were literally awestruck. And no I didn't let them play the Bird.

 

 

So we played the 00-18s, the D40s, the D28s (different flavors), the D-18s (2012). The Bird literally drowned out every Martin we tested. Even the store staff were blown away and agreed the Gibby was one of the loudest and best sounding guitars they had ever seen and heard. I know I am blowing my own horn here, but it was also the best looking guitar in that store.

 

Tom also blew everyone away with his playing. Needless to say I did not purchase any Martins that day ( I do own Martins). Tom's comment as we were leaving is he couldn't believe the prices charged for the Martins.

 

Ok long post I know. I am assuming my 2011 Bird and I shopped round for this one, is an exception to the Gibson being a quiet guitar statement. On the other hand my 2003 is kind of quiet, but sweet.

 

PS: I have 2009 longscaled Hummingbird Pro and she is a cannon too. (shes a picker)

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Thanks for all the info guys! the bracing etc answers my volume question and it is good to see there are varying degrees of volumes and overall sound. In the end I love the sweet bright sound of the 70 and 77 but the kid in me loves volume to! However, these are almost always plugged in and with my fishman matrix pickups they sound amazing that way too. Having the Hummingbirds which have more low end I had to get used to the J50's but after some time I am actually loving that brighter sound. Now I know why people play different guitars for different songs. I try to be a one guitar guy but it doesn't really work!

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Thing is while Norlin gets bad rapped, Gibson was heading down that road before Norlin ever entered the picture. They started using a heavier top bracing as early as 1968. In 1969 Gibson went to an even heavier top bracing. This bracing while not as nasty as the infamous Norlin double X bracing still had the effect of damping top vibration which is why you cannot get alot of volume of your 1970 J-50. Then add to this things like thicker pickguards, heavier laminated bridge plates and such and you ain't got the best recipe for sound.

Thank you! that makes a lot of sense and answers my over inquisitive nature about why some sound so different. Overall though I have played some 50's and early 60's models and they all seemed a bit quieter and brighter than the newer models.

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Overall though I have played some 50's and early 60's models and they all seemed a bit quieter and brighter than the newer models.
. I dont know about 'quieter' but certainly 'brighter'. A good 40s or early 50s J45 will have a ripping tone (just ask our man JT, who has authored a tome on the subject, or an owner of a high-end reissue). That said, neither will likely have a resoundin' bass. The round-shoulder rolls off of the low end resonance and lets the high end sing. A square shoulder box like the Bird, all things being equal, will tend to enhanced bass. Simple physics. That part of the difference that makes a slope-J more of an all-rounder and a preferred finger-picker. But if you like the lows, then good on yer.
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