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I started to type this out as a response in another thread, but thought I would start a new thread so that maybe more people would see it and comment. The other thread got into a discussion of vintage Gibson slope shoulders.

 

Most of my experience is with newer guitars, but I do get the periodic opportunity to play vintage guitars. Often, this is playing the vintage guitars side by side with their modern counterparts, for example, a vintage J-45 against a modern J-45 TV or Legend. In a way, I want so badly to buy into the vintage is better thing, but almost every single time I have played a vintage slope shoulder acoustic guitar next to a modern one, I have walked away preferring the modern guitar. This has happened several times now. Sometimes at guitar shows, where I have played numerous vintage pieces (in various conditions) and sometimes in stores such as Chicago Music Exchange, where I played two banner J-45s against a J-45 TV. That time at CME, I walked away thinking the modern TV was a better sounding guitar than either of the banner guitars, and they were both in great repair/playing condition, so it not a factor of comparing shiny new guitars to beat up old guitars in poor condition. Only once has there been a 1951 Southern Jumbo at the Arlington Guitar Show that was better than anything else I played. I still kick myself for not buying that one, but I did not have the money at the time.

 

The thing I have noticed about vintage Gibson slope shoulders (the models I have the most experience with) is that I like the deep bass that they have, but the mids and highs don't do it for me. For lack of a better way of saying it, they are just "old and dusty" sounding. Perhaps compressed is the right term, I don't know. At last month's Arlington show, I played a lot of vintage Gibson slope shoulders. There were two that caught my ear. After walking the entire show and playing both new and old guitars, I went back and played those two again. Right away, the first one did not impress me the way it had at first. The second was better, but still not something I would trade my modern guitars for. In fact, the acoustic that I came away from that show wanting the most was a brand new rosewood Southern Jumbo.

 

Perhaps this is because I am more used to modern guitars, and their sound is just stuck in my brain. Maybe it is just that I like something different than some other people. I don't know, but I have pretty much given up on the dream of buying a vintage Gibson slope shoulder. If a great one falls into my lap, I will buy it, but I am no longer actively seeking one.

 

The funny thing is, I tend to think that vintage L-00s are better sounding than their modern counterparts, but I do not have enough experience with them yet to state this as a general rule. Hence, I now own a vintage L-00 and a modern J-45 Legend, and I am very happy with this situation. To my ear, the J-45L has all the dry woodiness you could ever want. The bass is not yet as open as that on some of the old ones I have played, but I have noticed that it continues to open up, so I am sure it will get there. And the mids and highs are to die for!

 

Oh, and I have practically no experience with Martins - vintage or modern.

 

Anyway, not really sure why I decided to write all of this out, other than to share my own personal experience. I wonder if there are others who feel the same way I do.

 

John

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I started to type this out as a response in another thread, but thought I would start a new thread so that maybe more people would see it and comment. The other thread got into a discussion of vintage Gibson slope shoulders.

 

Most of my experience is with newer guitars, but I do get the periodic opportunity to play vintage guitars. Often, this is playing the vintage guitars side by side with their modern counterparts, for example, a vintage J-45 against a modern J-45 TV or Legend. In a way, I want so badly to buy into the vintage is better thing, but almost every single time I have played a vintage slope shoulder acoustic guitar next to a modern one, I have walked away preferring the modern guitar. This has happened several times now. Sometimes at guitar shows, where I have played numerous vintage pieces (in various conditions) and sometimes in stores such as Chicago Music Exchange, where I played two banner J-45s against a J-45 TV. That time at CME, I walked away thinking the modern TV was a better sounding guitar than either of the banner guitars, and they were both in great repair/playing condition, so it not a factor of comparing shiny new guitars to beat up old guitars in poor condition. Only once has there been a 1951 Southern Jumbo at the Arlington Guitar Show that was better than anything else I played. I still kick myself for not buying that one, but I did not have the money at the time.

 

The thing I have noticed about vintage Gibson slope shoulders (the models I have the most experience with) is that I like the deep bass that they have, but the mids and highs don't do it for me. For lack of a better way of saying it, they are just "old and dusty" sounding. Perhaps compressed is the right term, I don't know. At last month's Arlington show, I played a lot of vintage Gibson slope shoulders. There were two that caught my ear. After walking the entire show and playing both new and old guitars, I went back and played those two again. Right away, the first one did not impress me the way it had at first. The second was better, but still not something I would trade my modern guitars for. In fact, the acoustic that I came away from that show wanting the most was a brand new rosewood Southern Jumbo.

 

Perhaps this is because I am more used to modern guitars, and their sound is just stuck in my brain. Maybe it is just that I like something different than some other people. I don't know, but I have pretty much given up on the dream of buying a vintage Gibson slope shoulder. If a great one falls into my lap, I will buy it, but I am no longer actively seeking one.

 

The funny thing is, I tend to think that vintage L-00s are better sounding than their modern counterparts, but I do not have enough experience with them yet to state this as a general rule. Hence, I now own a vintage L-00 and a modern J-45 Legend, and I am very happy with this situation. To my ear, the J-45L has all the dry woodiness you could ever want. The bass is not yet as open as that on some of the old ones I have played, but I have noticed that it continues to open up, so I am sure it will get there. And the mids and highs are to die for!

 

Oh, and I have practically no experience with Martins - vintage or modern.

 

Anyway, not really sure why I decided to write all of this out, other than to share my own personal experience. I wonder if there are others who feel the same way I do.

 

John

 

I hear ya, John. That is because the guitars that Gibson is putting out now are fantastic! This was not the case before Ren showed up and changed things in 1989 or so.

 

I am a vintage guy through and through. I have a couple of old J-45s as well as a vintage L-00. The way I describe the sound of the vintage slopes is "rumbly." Other terms I would include are "woody" and "dry." For some reason that tone does it for me. But, to each his own.

 

I think allure of vintage guitars goes beyond just pure tone. The fact that it came from the Kalamazoo factory just makes me want to pick it up and play. The feel of the aged lacquer with all the bumps and bruises over time just feels good.

 

Don't get me wrong. I love the way that the new Gibsons sound and feel. They are doing a great job and as long as that is true there will always be a market for them.

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I have little experience with playing truly vintage Gibsons from 40's and 50's.

 

But I did have a chance to try side by side a 51' J-45 and 54' J-50 against a J-45TV, and came to the same conclusion, the J-45TV was the best sounding guitar. It has a LOT of similarity to its vintage brothers but was much more alive and responsive.

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Yes, if you keep thinking you like the newer Gibsons best, you should have a wonderful and easy life because there seems to be plenty of them!

 

With the small amount of vintage Gibson experience I have, and I doubt I would have even known there were vintage Gibsons to be had without reading on this very forum, for me the big difference so far is the size of the necks! I know you have the large Legend 45 neck, but personally, my L50 neck feels about twice the width of my Blues King, with a nice spread of the strings that is great for fingerpicking, not great - REALLY GREAT - natural feeling. Not very technical comments I know, but I am not that technical - I either like the 'feel' or I don't...

 

AND

 

Once we get that buzz in the ear about vintage, well, as others will no doubt soon attest - GONE!

 

Thanks for expressing your thoughts on the new Gibsons though, GTS - I am NOT shooting you down for it and it is good to compare new and old....

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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I don't think there's a simple answer to that one. I have four Gibson acoustics right now: 1948-'50 J-45 (re-topped by Gibson 1968), 1947 L-7, 2005 Fuller's 1943 SJ, and 2010 L-00 Legend. They are all quite different from each other, and I would never say the vintage guitars are superior to the modern ones.

 

I have played a fair number of vintage Gibsons at shows, and their quality has varied dramatically. The best ones had a vocal character that said "I've seen it all, and I'm here to tell you about it." The worst ones just sounded old and cranky.

 

My two newer Gibson acoustics are extraordinary instruments by any measure. They tell me that the best instruments coming out of Bozeman today may be as good as any Gibson has ever made. They may lack the aural patina of age, but not all guitars age equally gracefully.

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Generally something like a Banner J-45 is a different beast than a J-45TV and is going to feel, respond and sound different. If nothing else, guitars like the Banners were more lightly built with thinner tops and bracing.

 

I do think Silver hit the nail on the head when he noted that the real standout features of the vintage guitars isthe low end. It is huge and dry and unlike anything you will hear today other than maybe a Legend Series guitar. I would also agree that a guitar like the J-45TV will ring with more of a midrange tone than a 70 year old guitar. The upper end of a vintage slope shoulder jumbo should will sound crisp and clear while the Bozeman-made guitars to my ear tend to sound brighter. And I think this is the key - folks often equate brighter with sounding better.

 

Me, I will stick with my old guitars. As Silver said about those he preferred, maybe it is because I am just used to them. But I love the feel of the beefy necks and 1 3/4" nut. And the sound - it is dry and powerful with a real crackling edge to it. What else could a poor boy ask for.

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When I was first getting involved in the world of guitar buying, guitar-comparing, and developing a sense of the new and the old, the used and the beat, the vintage and the custom, my thoughts were limited by what I had available to audition, see, play, smudge up, etc.

 

And initially, that experience was admittedly "limited". After all, how often do you come across vintage guitars? Unless you really go looking for them, the odds are "not a lot". So, sampling the things is naturally a function of what your 'encounter rate' might be.

 

By the mid-to latter 1990s, I finally started having opportunities to see, touch, play and listen to not only used but also vintage guitars. I remember a mid-'50s J-185 that left me kind of "meh". I would not have spent money to get THAT one. Tried an Actual 1930s Advanced Jumbo, and played it A/B/C with two modern Bozeman-made re-issues. The Bozeman guitars SMOKED the original.

 

Found a 1951 J-185 in Minneapolis once, and happened to have my "1951 re-issue J-185" with me. The re-issue was significantly better sounding than the original.

 

Still, by the time I had been "back into" guitars for about 10 years, I had really not encountered all that many of the original "vintage" guitars that were of greatest interest to me. I'd had plenty of opportunities to play new or newish Bozeman re-creations. In some side-by-side tests, the Bozeman stuff was superior, tonally.

 

Over the last ten or so years, though, as my experience has included more and more vintage sampling, I have observed that the best Bozeman re-issues are simply not "as good as" originals. Or at least, "some originals". [biggrin]

 

So perhaps you can attribute your current experiences to limited sampling, as I have. While I think the current Bozeman guitars are -- on average -- good, very good or just plain excellent (and will continue to become better with more playing!), as good as a nice freshly-made True Vintage, Legend, or other historic re-issue is, when you have a good vintage guitar in your hands, there just ain't nothing quite like it.

 

Fred

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Well, not all vintage Gibsons are created equal.

 

We collect both old Gibsons and old Martins, and I must say I get to play more new Martins than I do Gibsons. This is because when we play socially (a lot), it is mostly bluegrass. Thus the primary "new" Gibsons I get to play are mostly AJs, although I have played several Jackson Browns lately.

 

We are into flattops -- so I don't have much personal experience with other types.

 

Like Martin, with Gibson there was a continuing evolution away from the incredibly powerful and lightly braced instruments of the 1930s up until the 1970s, by which time Gibson (and Martin too) were building instruments which are now widely considered to be the lowest quality of their history. The simple model is that in each decade, the instruments were less "good" than in the previous decade. By the mid 1950s, Gibson was making changes which were not good by modern standards -- laminated body woods, larger bridge plates, adjustable bridges, and heavier braces. For example, here is the bracing on a '59 LG-1

 

59LG1plates.jpg

 

By any measure, that bridgeplate is huge. Here is a '36 J-35

 

j35inside.jpg

 

and here is a '62 Hummingbird

 

Hbirdbraces.jpg

 

You can see the effect, and a '62 Hummingbird is a pretty classy 60's instruments.

 

Like Martin, Gibson has increasingly seen their future in their past. It is certainly possible to build, in the 21st century, guitars which are quite close in every respect to those of the 30s and 40s.

 

But don't forget the evolution to stronger (and less responsive) guitars was not done to irritate musicians. It was done because the instruments were failing under the conditions to which they were being subjected -- mostly heavy strings.

 

You can build a new instrument that matches the old instruments in every way save one. You can match tonal balance, power, sustain, and attack as well as geometry. The condition which only comes with age is clarity -- the ability to hear every string individually even in a blended chord. Clarity only develops with age, and even though I have sought a shortcut with enthusiasm for 30 years, I have never found one -- and I don't think it ever stops. The most remarkably clear instrument I have ever played is our 117 year old BRW jumbo Almcrantz.

 

Clarity has a functional advantage -- clear instruments are much more audible in complex musical environments. Bluegrass players figured this out in the 60s (and maybe before) and snapped up the old Herringbones. New instruments are generally called "green," -- which is just a little more blended and a little bit fuzzy compared to old instruments: this begins to attenuate right away and continues for the life of the instrument. This is often called "coming out."

 

Now if you don't need the special features old guitars provide -- like audibility in string bands -- then don't waste your money. Humans really learn to love the music around them, and the new guitars are not hard to love for sure.

 

A couple of years ago, we started a project to try to document the tone of vintage instruments: small Gibsons and Martins and Large Gibsons and Martins. Good headphones or a very high quality audio system is required.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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Beautifully put, Tom, thank you! It pretty much sums up my own experience - although I would agree that 'vintage' is not a guarantee of great sound quality, the better of the vintage examples I have owned and played have posessed a depth and clarity that I just can't find in the modern versions. Although my bank balance sincerely wishes this wasn't the case!

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You can build a new instrument that matches the old instruments in every way save one. You can match tonal balance, power, sustain, and attack as well as geometry. The condition which only comes with age is clarity -- the ability to hear every string individually even in a blended chord. Clarity only develops with age, and even though I have sought a shortcut with enthusiasm for 30 years, I have never found one -- and I don't think it ever stops. The most remarkably clear instrument I have ever played is our 117 year old BRW jumbo Almcrantz.

 

 

 

This the kind of thoughts that many of us who prefer guitars from the 1930s and 1940s have found impossible to put into words. We can hear it but we don't know how to describe it.

 

Incredibly well put and thank you.

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OLD or NEW, every guitar has to be played, merits evaluated, then accepted or discarded. When they hold the Marin County Vintage Guitar show here twice a year, in my opinion, most of the guitars are just OLD, very few fine sounding guitars, need work like neck resets and refrets, and in fact, are priced at or above the highest blue book price from George Gruhn or Vintage Guitar Magazine Price guide......I don't think I would ever buy anything from one of these shows, but go to learn, see some history, and hang with my buddies. Just for entertainment, basically. If I can get a new reproduction guitar with a lifetime warranty, CHEAPER than the vintages I've seen at these shows, then it would be a no-brainer which way to go. That being said, I have played some vintages, that bring tears to my eyes and ears......THESE guitars, would tempt me to go deeper into my pockets. These instances are rare, I must say.

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OLD or NEW, every guitar has to be played, merits evaluated, then accepted or discarded. When they hold the Marin County Vintage Guitar show here twice a year, in my opinion, most of the guitars are just OLD, very few fine sounding guitars, need work like neck resets and refrets, and in fact, are priced at or above the highest blue book price from George Gruhn or Vintage Guitar Magazine Price guide......I don't think I would ever buy anything from one of these shows, but go to learn, see some history, and hang with my buddies. Just for entertainment, basically. If I can get a new reproduction guitar with a lifetime warranty, CHEAPER than the vintages I've seen at these shows, then it would be a no-brainer which way to go. That being said, I have played some vintages, that bring tears to my eyes and ears......THESE guitars, would tempt me to go deeper into my pockets. These instances are rare, I must say.

 

 

The Orlando (Florida) show last year had a great variety of both newer and vintage instruments, including a ton of Gibsons. Like any specialty show, many of the items are overpriced junk, but there were some gems as well, both in condition and value. The quality of the vintage Gibsons, on average, did not justify the asking prices. There were some great values in late-model used Gibsons, however.

 

I love guitar shows, but only if they have a large vintage component.

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Well, not all vintage Gibsons are created equal.

 

We collect both old Gibsons and old Martins, and I must say I get to play more new Martins than I do Gibsons. This is because when we play socially (a lot), it is mostly bluegrass. Thus the primary "new" Gibsons I get to play are mostly AJs, although I have played several Jackson Browns lately.

 

We are into flattops -- so I don't have much personal experience with other types.

 

Like Martin, with Gibson there was a continuing evolution away from the incredibly powerful and lightly braced instruments of the 1930s up until the 1970s, by which time Gibson (and Martin too) were building instruments which are now widely considered to be the lowest quality of their history. The simple model is that in each decade, the instruments were less "good" than in the previous decade. By the mid 1950s, Gibson was making changes which were not good by modern standards -- laminated body woods, larger bridge plates, adjustable bridges, and heavier braces. For example, here is the bracing on a '59 LG-1

 

59LG1plates.jpg

 

By any measure, that bridgeplate is huge. Here is a '36 J-35

 

j35inside.jpg

 

and here is a '62 Hummingbird

 

Hbirdbraces.jpg

 

You can see the effect, and a '62 Hummingbird is a pretty classy 60's instruments.

 

Like Martin, Gibson has increasingly seen their future in their past. It is certainly possible to build, in the 21st century, guitars which are quite close in every respect to those of the 30s and 40s.

 

But don't forget the evolution to stronger (and less responsive) guitars was not done to irritate musicians. It was done because the instruments were failing under the conditions to which they were being subjected -- mostly heavy strings.

 

You can build a new instrument that matches the old instruments in every way save one. You can match tonal balance, power, sustain, and attack as well as geometry. The condition which only comes with age is clarity -- the ability to hear every string individually even in a blended chord. Clarity only develops with age, and even though I have sought a shortcut with enthusiasm for 30 years, I have never found one -- and I don't think it ever stops. The most remarkably clear instrument I have ever played is our 117 year old BRW jumbo Almcrantz.

 

Clarity has a functional advantage -- clear instruments are much more audible in complex musical environments. Bluegrass players figured this out in the 60s (and maybe before) and snapped up the old Herringbones. New instruments are generally called "green," -- which is just a little more blended and a little bit fuzzy compared to old instruments: this begins to attenuate right away and continues for the life of the instrument. This is often called "coming out."

 

Now if you don't need the special features old guitars provide -- like audibility in string bands -- then don't waste your money. Humans really learn to love the music around them, and the new guitars are not hard to love for sure.

 

A couple of years ago, we started a project to try to document the tone of vintage instruments: small Gibsons and Martins and Large Gibsons and Martins. Good headphones or a very high quality audio system is required.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

 

 

Tom ,

 

I really liked the reviews you did of the AJ and Roy SMeck on Vimeo you should get them on youtube also .

those are monster vintage gibsons =)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JC

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OLD or NEW, every guitar has to be played, merits evaluated, then accepted or discarded. When they hold the Marin County Vintage Guitar show here twice a year, in my opinion, most of the guitars are just OLD, very few fine sounding guitars, need work like neck resets and refrets, and in fact, are priced at or above the highest blue book price from George Gruhn or Vintage Guitar Magazine Price guide.

 

These are wise words. Judge each guitar on its own merits. A vintage guitar will also have had 70 or so years to stray from factory spec and setup, so they can vary quite a bit from one example to another.

 

I will add that a properly set up vintage guitar should play and sound fantastic. But some owners or dealers (even some luthiers) are unable or unwilling to put them right. When you hit that sweet spot, with a classic vintage guitar, set up right, good neck angle, good frets, deep sound, then you have a home run. A piece of art you can make music on.

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Hey guys, sorry to start a thread and then be absent for a couple of days. That's the way life goes some times - the real world gets in the way of the things we love!

 

Anyway, a lot of great things have been said in this thread, and it is good to know that I am not the only one who really appreciates the new guitars that Bozeman is putting out. To be clear, I am in no way bashing vintage guitars (not that anyone has accused me of such), and I very much understand the non-tonal aspects of vintage guitars that can be aluring - the nice worn finishes, that warm feeling you get holding something that old and comfortable. And I agree with others that when you find a great vintage guitar, it can be truly great. I am actually very happy that I have come to the conclusion that on average I find more modern guitars that I like than vintage guitars. New guitars are easier to come by, both in terms of finding them in stores and in cost. Of course if the stars align and I find a great vintage acoustic when I happen to have some cash in my pocket, I will buy it, but at this point I am happy to say I am not actively searching out vintage guitars. I am very much enjoying the new guitars that Gibson and other makers are building. It's a great time to be a guitar player!!!! [laugh]

 

Play on, and have fun!!!

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I have just straight swapped a 1962 Epiphone Texan for a new (unplayed) 2010 Gibson J-200 Standard! Do I miss the Texan? Hell yeah! But would I swap back? Not yet.

 

I think Bozeman are making some great sounding acoustics at this period in time, although this particular J-200 has a few minor finishing niggles, and an awful looking Tusq nut & saddle which both appear as though they were dyed with a used Tea bag (Bone replacements are on their way as we speak)!

 

However the tone is just wonderful, and I guess my Bozeman made 1994 J-100 Xtra which itself sounds like a 60s J-45/50 to me, but bigger, helped steer me in this direction. I just wish the new ones had Brazillian fretboards, and those gorgeous jumbo frets.

 

Apart from that I`m happy. [biggrin]

 

Steve.

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  • 3 weeks later...

But who is to say what sounds good and what sounds bad, or better? It's just personal preference. I tend to prefer guitars which are older with the wood opened up. I also prefer Gibson acoustics to Martin or Taylor, but that's just me - I like guitars that boom!

 

I also really like the pre-war Kalamazoo ladder braced flat-tops. They have a loud, boxy, vintage blues sounds that blows me away. I brought a few of my vintage guitars for a friend to play who has a music degree, and has CDs out, etc, and he played the heck out of some of my guitars, but he took one strum on my Kalamazoo KG-11 and put it down. It wasn't his bag. I was floored!

 

Besides, vintage guitars can be a pain in the butt, the modern guitars are pretty fun to play and easy to find.

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