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1968 Goldtops vs 50s Goldtops?

Guitar Magic

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Joined
Apr 16, 2015
Messages
102
This is a question for those who had the fortune to own a real 50s example of the true golden period of Les Pauls. Maybe some of you old timers even had the chance to compare a couple of 50s examples to the '68 ones. Have you ever felt that a great '68 GT could be very close or even as good as an '56? I mean those few '68s that have it all: weight in the 9lbs range, high quality (dark and not overly porous) East-Indian RW, a lighter mahogany body paired with a darker, stronger neck that you see on many '50s examples. What I'm especially interested in is how they compare in terms of feel and acoustic properties because it makes no sense to compare pickups - we all know that '50s and late '60s pickups are very different. But do you think those few really great '68 GTs - with let's say 50s pickups - could match the 'real thing'? If you think about it that's a little hard to believe that the craftsmen in Kalamazoo suddenly forgot how to make a good Les Paul between 1960 and '68 and all of the good materials just vanished in that short time frame, right?

I ask this because I owned a '68 Goldtop that I sold about 7 years ago to a friend and believe me, I've tried everything to get that tone back by buying and trading Historics of every kind, dozens and dozens - not kidding - from the early 2000s and late 2000s to the newest CCs and Murphies, and that sound & feel is just not there. I keep hearing how close these new Historics are to the real thing but to me that's simply not true (if I take my old '68 as a baseline). Whenever I sat down with my '68 to goof around on it unplugged, it had that percussive dry hollow sound quality that I've could never find in a Historic Reissue. The lows sound completely different to me, the harmonics are different, the clarity is different + there was also a hollow 3D depth in the '68 that is not there in the Historics. Mine was definitely one of the good ones though. Chunky neck, super dark rosewood that looked and felt like BRW, light weight, mahogany with very dense growth-rings and every attribute that you generally read and hear about the 'real deal'.

Selling that guitar was the biggest mistake of my life. So I'm curious, is this the magic that everyone talks about regarding to '50s Les Pauls? Is there even a step further? Hard to imagine for me that there is something out there even more pleasing and joyful musically then that '68 Goldtop.

Please share your experience folks and let me know whether you had better luck with Historics then me. I'm personally starting to give it up with them.
 
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jimmi

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Joined
Oct 8, 2012
Messages
2,078
Construction wise there are similarities with 68-early 69s. Long tenon, one piece body and neck if early. Similar top carve (again early). Headstock angle and fret board materials are different. The neck shape is thicker in the ‘68-69s.

I think they are different guitars honestly. Feel different.

Second question…the Historics feel a bit different also but, with the right pickups and harness, you can get a very 50s sounding guitar with one. Put it this way, I have several 50s LPs and several historics (and a couple 80s prehistorics) but no 68-69 LPs. The price point, weight and necks are real breakers for me.
 
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Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
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I've had both. 1968 are every bit as good. Many are better. Certainly the same.

I'd say no real difference that makes one better than the other
two_68s.jpg
 
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MBSC

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Joined
Oct 31, 2023
Messages
76
I've had both P90 guitars. The 50's P90s and he 68 and my early 69' sound almost identical and feel identical
 

jimmi

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Joined
Oct 8, 2012
Messages
2,078
I've had both. 1968 are every bit as good. Many are better. Certainly the same.

I'd say no real difference that makes one better than the other.

two_68s.jpg
two_68s.jpg
They look fantastic. Which pickups did you put in yours?

Maybe it is just the ones I have played but prices right now seem to me a little too high. You can get a 50s for the same/similar price.
 

asapmaz

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Joined
Jun 19, 2003
Messages
303
I had both a late 1968 (50th week pots) and a 1953 at the same time. I sold the 68 and kept the 53. While a well constructed and solid guitar, to me, there was no comparison in the tone between the 68 and the 53 p90’s. The 68 p90’s sounded much flatter, 2-d and nowhere near as sweet as the 50’s pups. Multiple guitar buddies agreed with that assessment in person.
 

MapleFlame

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Jul 3, 2005
Messages
14,044
I have 52,54 and 56 for 50's and then a early 69 P90, early 69 PAF version. They all have a different tones but really good character, but wouldn't say one blows the other away. Butr if I were to pick one, 52 P90's are my favorite. The neck shapes and weight of each guitar are different obviously. Been a long time since I posted. Hope everyone is doing well in this crazy time in the world.
 

Wilko

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They look fantastic. Which pickups did you put in yours?
The sunburst had 61 PAFs with long magnet swap. Goldtop had Antiquities. PAFs went into a '56 conversion. Sold to forum member a few years back.
 

jimmi

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Oct 8, 2012
Messages
2,078
The sunburst had 61 PAFs with long magnet swap. Goldtop had Antiquities. PAFs went into a '56 conversion. Sold to forum member a few years back.
I know that conversion. Still surprised you sold it.
 

Wilko

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I know that conversion. Still surprised you sold it.
Yeah, divorce and kids changed some priorities around, and the realization that my Traditional (avatar) is a great hunk of wood that looks better and has everything but the bragging rights.

I've had several '68s that were all under 9 pounds, had great necks (very similar to '59) That sunburst is the actual last serial from '68 as published everywhere. Traded it for a stop tail converted 1964 ES-335.

I do still have a few great vintage pieces that I'm more connected to.
 

Guitar Magic

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Joined
Apr 16, 2015
Messages
102
I had both a late 1968 (50th week pots) and a 1953 at the same time. I sold the 68 and kept the 53. While a well constructed and solid guitar, to me, there was no comparison in the tone between the 68 and the 53 p90’s. The 68 p90’s sounded much flatter, 2-d and nowhere near as sweet as the 50’s pups. Multiple guitar buddies agreed with that assessment in person.

I'd be more interested in the acoustic qualities of them because pickups are interchangable when you're a player. I have also found that 50s P90s and 68 P90s are not in the same league. I actually tried them both in the same 68 GT so I had a pretty objective and direct comparison: while the original '68 pickups sounded great, the '50s ones sounded richer and the difference was noticeable to me.

So this question is more about the acoustic properties of a great 68 GT vs a fifties one. This forum quoted, I think the Tony Bacon book, many times in which the researcher states that the old-growth wood dried up by around 1969 and up until then Gibsons were still consistantly made of the same mahogany and maple source - except for Braz (although there are a handful of examples of 68 and 69 Gibsons with confirmed original BRW boards, I had one myself).
 
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jwalker

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Dec 10, 2004
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2,593
I have a early '56 Goldtop that weighs 8lb 10 oz and a late '68 / early '69 small headstock Goldtop that has the very thin maple veneer between the top and back that weighs 9lb 10oz. Necks are very similar soft V profiles with the '56 being a little more of a V, but still very similar. Top carves are both very dished and nearly identical. Neck heel is half round on the '56 and rectangular on the '68. The back on the '56 is a little tighter in grain than the '68. Acoustically they are both very alive with the lighter '56 sounding a bit warmer and the '68 sounding a bit brighter and snappier, which I would expect given the weight difference.
 

fernieite

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Joined
Jan 3, 2010
Messages
611
I have a early '56 Goldtop that weighs 8lb 10 oz and a late '68 / early '69 small headstock Goldtop that has the very thin maple veneer between the top and back that weighs 9lb 10oz. Necks are very similar soft V profiles with the '56 being a little more of a V, but still very similar. Top carves are both very dished and nearly identical. Neck heel is half round on the '56 and rectangular on the '68. The back on the '56 is a little tighter in grain than the '68. Acoustically they are both very alive with the lighter '56 sounding a bit warmer and the '68 sounding a bit brighter and snappier, which I would expect given the weight difference.
No need to be shy about photos, Jon. We like pics!... ;)
 

Phil 52

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Sep 7, 2005
Messages
825
..... Been a long time since I posted. Hope everyone is doing well in this crazy time in the world.
Thank you MF for your wise words.
As much as we all here love our guitars and love to discuss and talk about these.
(And we definitely will continue doing that)
But probably the most important thing in these days is what you said above.
Have a nice weekend.

Phil
 

Red Baron

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Jul 14, 2004
Messages
6,781
I've owned several of both, some excellent examples of 50's goldtops and 68's, and some average examples.

Of the two 68's, both weighed around 9.5 lbs, and felt very similar to one another, both had what I describe as rawcus sounding P90's, closer to humbucker output/sound than 50's P90's. One of these 68's was a fantastic sounding guitar while the other was very average and lifeless compared to the good one. Acoustically they were very similar so it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why one guitar was superior to the other.

Of the 50's Les Paul's, I owned two lightweight 54's (1 @ 8lbs and 1 @ 8.5 lbs) and two heavyweights (54 and 55), which were both around 9.5 lbs, and therefore comparible to the 68's weight-wise.
The 8.5lb '54 was converted to '59 specs with PAF's etc, and it was a great sounding guitar.
The super lightweight 8lb '54 (although very resonant) was thin, hollow and overall a very average sounding guitar that lacked oomph.
The heavyweight 9.5lb '54 was also very average sounding, dull, not very resonant, and definitely did not sound as good as my best sounding '68.
The heavyweight 9.5lb '55 (all-over gold) was arguably the best sounding Les Paul that I've owned - it had balls and so much organic character in the sound, if ever there was a burst-killer, this was it.

So as you can see from my own experiences, weight means absolutely "0" in the sonic equation, and I think that the same can be said of unplugged acoustic resonance (to a degree). In general I prefer 50's Les Paul's over 68's, but 68's do have their own special qualities that makes them different to 50's Les Paul's, and to me 'different' doesn't mean 'better' or 'worse'.

I currently own an R4 that weighs 7.8lbs - acoustically and amplified it sounds huge, different to the 50's and 68's, and it's one of the best sounding/playing Les Paul's that I've ever owned.
 

Guitar Magic

Active member
Joined
Apr 16, 2015
Messages
102
I've owned several of both, some excellent examples of 50's goldtops and 68's, and some average examples.

Of the two 68's, both weighed around 9.5 lbs, and felt very similar to one another, both had what I describe as rawcus sounding P90's, closer to humbucker output/sound than 50's P90's. One of these 68's was a fantastic sounding guitar while the other was very average and lifeless compared to the good one. Acoustically they were very similar so it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why one guitar was superior to the other.

Of the 50's Les Paul's, I owned two lightweight 54's (1 @ 8lbs and 1 @ 8.5 lbs) and two heavyweights (54 and 55), which were both around 9.5 lbs, and therefore comparible to the 68's weight-wise.
The 8.5lb '54 was converted to '59 specs with PAF's etc, and it was a great sounding guitar.
The super lightweight 8lb '54 (although very resonant) was thin, hollow and overall a very average sounding guitar that lacked oomph.
The heavyweight 9.5lb '54 was also very average sounding, dull, not very resonant, and definitely did not sound as good as my best sounding '68.
The heavyweight 9.5lb '55 (all-over gold) was arguably the best sounding Les Paul that I've owned - it had balls and so much organic character in the sound, if ever there was a burst-killer, this was it.

So as you can see from my own experiences, weight means absolutely "0" in the sonic equation, and I think that the same can be said of unplugged acoustic resonance (to a degree). In general I prefer 50's Les Paul's over 68's, but 68's do have their own special qualities that makes them different to 50's Les Paul's, and to me 'different' doesn't mean 'better' or 'worse'.

I currently own an R4 that weighs 7.8lbs - acoustically and amplified it sounds huge, different to the 50's and 68's, and it's one of the best sounding/playing Les Paul's that I've ever owned.

Thanks, that's a pretty helpful and detailed comparison.

It seems to me that the general consesus is that the '68 Goldtops are pretty much comparable in overall quality and tone to the golden era 50s Les Pauls (which is reflected in the pricing of '68 LPs these days).

For a player who is looking for THAT tone, a '68 GT with a nice set of 50s P90s could be the ticket.
 

jimmi

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 8, 2012
Messages
2,078
I've owned several of both, some excellent examples of 50's goldtops and 68's, and some average examples.

Of the two 68's, both weighed around 9.5 lbs, and felt very similar to one another, both had what I describe as rawcus sounding P90's, closer to humbucker output/sound than 50's P90's. One of these 68's was a fantastic sounding guitar while the other was very average and lifeless compared to the good one. Acoustically they were very similar so it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why one guitar was superior to the other.

Of the 50's Les Paul's, I owned two lightweight 54's (1 @ 8lbs and 1 @ 8.5 lbs) and two heavyweights (54 and 55), which were both around 9.5 lbs, and therefore comparible to the 68's weight-wise.
The 8.5lb '54 was converted to '59 specs with PAF's etc, and it was a great sounding guitar.
The super lightweight 8lb '54 (although very resonant) was thin, hollow and overall a very average sounding guitar that lacked oomph.
The heavyweight 9.5lb '54 was also very average sounding, dull, not very resonant, and definitely did not sound as good as my best sounding '68.
The heavyweight 9.5lb '55 (all-over gold) was arguably the best sounding Les Paul that I've owned - it had balls and so much organic character in the sound, if ever there was a burst-killer, this was it.

So as you can see from my own experiences, weight means absolutely "0" in the sonic equation, and I think that the same can be said of unplugged acoustic resonance (to a degree). In general I prefer 50's Les Paul's over 68's, but 68's do have their own special qualities that makes them different to 50's Les Paul's, and to me 'different' doesn't mean 'better' or 'worse'.

I currently own an R4 that weighs 7.8lbs - acoustically and amplified it sounds huge, different to the 50's and 68's, and it's one of the best sounding/playing Les Paul's that I've ever owned.
It’s not the volume of the acoustic resonance it is the tone quality of the resonance.
 

jimmi

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 8, 2012
Messages
2,078
Thanks, that's a pretty helpful and detailed comparison.

It seems to me that the general consesus is that the '68 Goldtops are pretty much comparable in overall quality and tone to the golden era 50s Les Pauls (which is reflected in the pricing of '68 LPs these days).

For a player who is looking for THAT tone, a '68 GT with a nice set of 50s P90s could be the ticket.
The right Historic probably gets you close with vintage electronics. I have a couple reissues that are very close after putting in vintage pickups etc
 

TImk1964

New member
Joined
Mar 28, 2024
Messages
12
This is a question for those who had the fortune to own a real 50s example of the true golden period of Les Pauls. Maybe some of you old timers even had the chance to compare a couple of 50s examples to the '68 ones. Have you ever felt that a great '68 GT could be very close or even as good as an '56? I mean those few '68s that have it all: weight in the 9lbs range, high quality (dark and not overly porous) East-Indian RW, a lighter mahogany body paired with a darker, stronger neck that you see on many '50s examples. What I'm especially interested in is how they compare in terms of feel and acoustic properties because it makes no sense to compare pickups - we all know that '50s and late '60s pickups are very different. But do you think those few really great '68 GTs - with let's say 50s pickups - could match the 'real thing'? If you think about it that's a little hard to believe that the craftsmen in Kalamazoo suddenly forgot how to make a good Les Paul between 1960 and '68 and all of the good materials just vanished in that short time frame, right?

I ask this because I owned a '68 Goldtop that I sold about 7 years ago to a friend and believe me, I've tried everything to get that tone back by buying and trading Historics of every kind, dozens and dozens - not kidding - from the early 2000s and late 2000s to the newest CCs and Murphies, and that sound & feel is just not there. I keep hearing how close these new Historics are to the real thing but to me that's simply not true (if I take my old '68 as a baseline). Whenever I sat down with my '68 to goof around on it unplugged, it had that percussive dry hollow sound quality that I've could never find in a Historic Reissue. The lows sound completely different to me, the harmonics are different, the clarity is different + there was also a hollow 3D depth in the '68 that is not there in the Historics. Mine was definitely one of the good ones though. Chunky neck, super dark rosewood that looked and felt like BRW, light weight, mahogany with very dense growth-rings and every attribute that you generally read and hear about the 'real deal'.

Selling that guitar was the biggest mistake of my life. So I'm curious, is this the magic that everyone talks about regarding to '50s Les Pauls? Is there even a step further? Hard to imagine for me that there is something out there even more pleasing and joyful musically then that '68 Goldtop.

Please share your experience folks and let me know whether you had better luck with Historics then me. I'm personally starting to give it up with them.
I have a '68 to '57 conversion Gold Top. It is the '68 body & neck, but has a pair of '57 pre-sticker PAFs with stainless covers and pots and caps dated 1958. The guitar weighs in at 8.8lbs. I've been told that Gibson used old wood they had on hand to build those '68s and that why they were lighter. The body carve is spot on with the '50s. It has the '50s headstock and logo. Neck profile a bit smaller though...but still fantastic! This is a dream guitar that will be something to pass down to my son. I also have a Steve Hague built '59 Greenie Burst. Steve used old wood and real Brazilian and vintage correct parts. It has ThroBaks with flipped magnet. It sounds and feels like the real thing too! It weighs in at 8.6 lbs and has all period correct appointments! They both sound fantastic, but there's something that can't be replicated when it comes to real early PAFs. The '57s had Alnico 2 and the stainless covers. A bit weaker at 7.25 & 7.45, but more woody and clean. Hard to describe but you know it when you have it. I'd have to defer to those who have played multiple PAFs. My experience is limited. I just know that I have the sound that one has to pay $175k for now if they want a 1957 Gold Top...and I sure didn't have to pay that to get it. :)
 

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