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Question about a specific tonal characteristic of vintage Les Pauls

Guitar Magic

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The consensus seems to be that you have to go vintage or be really lucky to find that 'Tele on steroids' tone in a modern example. It would be really great to find out the ingredients for that kind of tone. Unfortunately doing it the way I did, buying and selling on a monthly basis to find that unicorn is no longer feasible at least around my whereabouts. The prices shot up in the EU like no tomorrow because of the escalating conflict nearby. I kick my head in the wall now for selling those handful of magical ones.

Sold my '68 GT for about 8.5K EUR a few years ago, now they go for 25-30K..
 
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brandtkronholm

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The consensus seems to be that you have to go vintage or be really lucky to find that 'Tele on steroids' tone in a modern example. It would be really great to find out the ingredients for that kind of tone. Unfortunately doing it the way I did, buying and selling on a monthly basis to find that unicorn is no longer feasible at least around my whereabouts. The prices shot up in the EU like no tomorrow because of the escalating conflict nearby. I kick my head in the wall now for selling those handful of magical ones.

Sold my '68 GT for about 8.5K EUR a few years ago, now they go for 25-30K..
Vintage does not correlate to good tone -- and what follows I say as a nutty super fan of vintage Gibsons. (Love 'em.)
Full disclosure: I've recently acquired a 1960 Blonde Florentine Byrdland that is out-of-this world.

The truth of the matter is that if you can't get the tone you want after cycling through dozens of modern Gibson Les Pauls, reissue or otherwise, then the problem is not to found in the guitar. Moreover, while we love that vintage mojo that only a 60+ year-old Gibson can have, the tone in general, even the specific characteristic described in the first, post does not depend on the fact that the guitar was made in Kalamazoo in the late 1950s.

I have owned several varieties of vintage Gibsons - Gold Tops (P90s), SGs, ESs etc., and modern Gibsons - prehistoric, R9, ES, etc., and the real keepers have been a 1995 R9, a 1959 ES345. I still have the 1995 R9 and 1959 ES345.
Vintage has nothing to do with good tone. (I've had a few Pre CBS Strats and Teles too. I'm just not good enough a player to understand them.)

In 1999 I went shopping for a nice old Martin D28. I really wanted a post war non-herringbone from the late '40s to the early '60s. I travelled to every shop that had vintage Martin Dreadnought style guitars in the northeast. It was at Mandolin Brothers that I bought a brand new D42 - and if you know what Mandolin Brothers means, then you know they had a LARGE selection of D28s from every era to try. The modern D42 stood head and shoulders above all the vintage in every way. I still own it and it is still an amazing instrument.

Vintage does not correlate to good tone.

Just for fun here's a video featuring the (now 23 year-old) Martin:
(And now you can see what I look like!)
 

jb_abides

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I travelled to every shop that had vintage Martin Dreadnought style guitars in the northeast. It was at Mandolin Brothers that I bought a brand new D42 - and if you know what Mandolin Brothers means, then you know they had a LARGE selection of D28s from every era to try. The modern D42 stood head and shoulders above all the vintage in every way. I still own it and it is still an amazing instrument.

Ooh-h. Ah-h, that's nice!

And the journey to find it sounds wonderful too! Anywhere else we might know... Did you happen to hit Maury's in PA or Folkway in ON, CA?

Yup, tone is between the ears. šŸ§ 
 
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Tim

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The prices shot up in the EU like no tomorrow because of the escalating conflict nearby. I kick my head in the wall now for selling those handful of magical ones.

Sold my '68 GT for about 8.5K EUR a few years ago, now they go for 25-30K..
Just sit tight, margin calls...
 

Emiel

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Many bring the wood into the discussion for obvious reasons, but in my experience the hardware plays a vital role too.

When I compared my Japanese replica to a '52/'57 conversion, the first thing I noticed was how different they sounded unplugged... and it is exactly what the OP noted. The low E on the '50s Gibson sounded thick but bright, and the high E is loud and snappy but there's again with a thickness to the tone. My guitar was a bit more one-dimensional sounding. This is my experience with most Nashville hardware equipped Gibsons as well, and I think you can get quite close if you change to more 'vintage-correct' hardware (being: zamak bridge, brass bridge posts & thumbwheels, aluminium tailpiece, steel studs and bushings). I eventually changed the hardware on my guitar to more 'correct' hardware and it got now much closer, both unplugged and plugged in. In the end, close enough for me.
 

sws1

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I've heard dull and snappy on both vintage and newer LPs. Changing out hw didn't get rid of the dull low E. It's genetic.
 

Guitar Magic

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I've heard dull and snappy on both vintage and newer LPs. Changing out hw didn't get rid of the dull low E. It's genetic.

Genetic, it's a good wording. That's my experience too after spending years of experimenting and deep diving into hardware mods. Hardware change has an effect but it's highly overstated - it won't transform a dull guitar into a snappy one. The core timbre stays constant.
 

Guitar Magic

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Apr 16, 2015
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Vintage does not correlate to good tone -- and what follows I say as a nutty super fan of vintage Gibsons. (Love 'em.)
Full disclosure: I've recently acquired a 1960 Blonde Florentine Byrdland that is out-of-this world.

The truth of the matter is that if you can't get the tone you want after cycling through dozens of modern Gibson Les Pauls, reissue or otherwise, then the problem is not to found in the guitar. Moreover, while we love that vintage mojo that only a 60+ year-old Gibson can have, the tone in general, even the specific characteristic described in the first, post does not depend on the fact that the guitar was made in Kalamazoo in the late 1950s.

I love Les Pauls. In fact I haven't been able to fell in love with any other type of electric guitar. The Les Paul is the crown of musical instrument craftsmanship for me. The "problem" is I know very well how those few magical ones can sound and I find them to be one in a million.

Then again, it's different for you folks in the US where you have a Gibson in every small town pawn shop and you can try out many at once and choose the best example. As I stated I also had a few good modern ones but the old ones were certainly more consistent in that specific tonal characteristic.
 
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charliechitlins

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Gotta have the zamak bridge!
It's also good for making cheap costume jewellery and hood ornaments in the JC Whitney catalog!
 

Progrocker111

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3) When Rollo Werner retires in 1973, Gibson might have good wood in stock still for a couple years (?)
Fact is, 2 years later in 1975, Gibson change for maple neck on Les Pauls, and the quality of the guitars seem to really decline until
much later..

So maybe my above speculation is a big part of the reason wood was better in the old days..? hmm
I mean, in 1973, the succsessor i.c. of purchasing was most certainly not trained & qualified in the same way as the two gentlemen Ted McCarty and Rollo Werner. And management was pretty much indifferent about that, AFAIK.
Plus, of course, was it even possible for Gibson to get old growth wood by then (1975 -ish), even if they wanted to?

I am with this, late 70s to early 80s was the switch to different mahogany from my observations. My former 83 Custom had very different mahogany (visually and even heavier in weight) from early or even mid to late 70s.
 

Emiel

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Genetic, it's a good wording. That's my experience too after spending years of experimenting and deep diving into hardware mods. Hardware change has an effect but it's highly overstated - it won't transform a dull guitar into a snappy one. The core timbre stays constant.

Sure, like I said it's just another one of the ingredients. A Nashville equipped Les Paul will sound different, no matter what.
 

Guitar Magic

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I am with this, late 70s to early 80s was the switch to different mahogany from my observations. My former 83 Custom had very different mahogany (visually and even heavier in weight) from early or even mid to late 70s.

I've had Les Pauls from '68, '69, '70, '72, '73 and '74. The '68 Gt, one very late '69 Gt (interestingly Braz board) and the '72 GT 54/58 RI (1-piece body, 1-piece neck - pretty rare model) were the most incredible sounding guitars I've had. I would have to buy about 40-50 current Historics to find great ones, but I'm still not sure they could compare to those older ones. That special acoustic quality is not there. So my experience tells me that older Les Pauls had consistently better wood, period.

I've had a 2005 R9 that was comparable to those old Goldtops but still somewhat different. The old ones have a distinctive character. I also had an old wood Braz board Replica that had that snappy low-end but it didn't have that blooming quality of the sustained high notes so I let that go.
 

Guitar Magic

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Anyone knows a source about the wood getting different from '58-'60 to '70? Everyone says that the wood degraded in that 10 year period but I can't find any evidence. I know that Gibson officially stopped using Braz around '65 but what about the Honduras mahogany and Eastern maple? All of the 68-70 GT's are in the 9 lbs range. There are minor structural differences, sometimes 3-piece tops, different routing for the electric cavity, etc - but is the wood really different?

I had a 68 GT with 50's P90s and comparing it to a '54 we found them pretty similar.

For instance, we know that Gibson changed to Fiji sourced mahogany around '09. We know that in '07 they officially stated in the catalogue that they use genuine Honduras mahogany, then in '08 they stopped naming the source. We know that they sourced mahogany from Peru around 2003 and they also sourced it from Mexico and various other regions around South and Central America in that period. In the 90's they mainly sourced from Guatemala according to sources who worked in the factory at that time.

So what about those 10 years between '60 and '70? Any official kinda data about a change in wood? Anecdotal observations about different wood grain or tonal characteristics?
 

Wilko

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The Tony Bacon Les Paul book cites 1969 as a change in wood. Got heavier and more dense.


My copy is packed away somewher...

That seems to match my experience with the weight/tone change
 

Wilko

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this thread might have info on the wood changing:

 

Guitar Magic

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The Tony Bacon Les Paul book cites 1969 as a change in wood. Got heavier and more dense.


My copy is packed away somewher...

That seems to match my experience with the weight/tone change

Wow, thanks for the suggestion. I'll buy a copy. I agree that the mahogany got different in the 70s. Denser, different grain structure. I can agree about the gradual change from '69 to '74 from my personal observations, then by about '75 it was all gone.

Regarding the weight. I had a '69 Deluxe that had a weight of 3,85 kg / 8.5 lbs. Strangely I liked that one the least, but it could be for a completely unrelated reason. Most of the '68-'70 GTs I had or tried in my friends' circle were all in the 8.8 - 9.3 lbs range.

This '68 of mine below was insane: dry woody tone, snappy, wide tonal spectrum. '54 P90's. Around 9 lbs. Beautiful top carve, long tenon, dark RW, fat neck. "Cathedral" grain pattern on the back like on many of the Bursts. I can't imagine how insane it would have sounded if it was routed and equipped with original PAFs.
 

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Guitar Magic

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Would have been great if some of the vintage LP owners on this forum gave some personal anecdotal contribution to this topic. This place here is the echelon of Burst owners. Could you fortunate folks who own and play the Holy Grails share your thoughts?

I'm sure if I owned a Burst, the first thing I would do is to make at least a dozen videos about every small detail. Close up miking it to show the acoustic properties, comparing it with various Historics and older late 60s LPs, etc, etc.

It's a pity that to this day the only such clip we have is the Guitarworld comparison of the Larry Dimarzio Burst and the R9.
 
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Would have been great if some of the vintage LP owners on this forum gave some personal anecdotal contribution to this topic. This place here is the echelon of Burst owners. Could you fortunate folks who own and play the Holy Grails share your thoughts?

I'm sure if I owned a Burst, the first thing I would do is to make at least a dozen videos about every small detail. Close up miking it to show the acoustic properties, comparing it with various Historics and older late 60s LPs, etc, etc.

It's a pity that to this day the only such clip we have is the Guitarworld comparison of the Larry Dimarzio Burst and the R9.

I only have a conversion (52/57) so no burst here but happy to try and record something. I only have a phone to use but can share some info if it's useful. Guitar has PAF's and a vintage harness. I'm sure we will get some burst owners here though and I will retreat back into my cave :ROFLMAO:
 

sweiger

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Would have been great if some of the vintage LP owners on this forum gave some personal anecdotal contribution to this topic. This place here is the echelon of Burst owners. Could you fortunate folks who own and play the Holy Grails share your thoughts?

I'm sure if I owned a Burst, the first thing I would do is to make at least a dozen videos about every small detail. Close up miking it to show the acoustic properties, comparing it with various Historics and older late 60s LPs, etc, etc.

It's a pity that to this day the only such clip we have is the Guitarworld comparison of the Larry Dimarzio Burst and the R9.
See my post #8.
My avatar pic is 0 7437, the first real burst I've owned. Got it recently.
And I think it's a truly magic instrument, as were the '57 humbucker Goldtop I once had. And the '56 LP Custom I had, to name a few. They posess the 10-15 % extra... [...I can't express exactly ] ..tone of old growth wood, & the feeling when playing them are equally joyful. To me at least.
But as I mentioned earlier, the Murphy Labs come really close compared to previous historics from Gibson IMO.
I'm sure there are also other great LP's that come close to the originals in both tone & playability though. (CC's, Murphy burst, Gary Rossingtons, Jimmy Page reissues etc.)
But I'm a not so young grumpy ol' man who thinks you can't beat the real thing.. šŸ¤˜:giggle:
 
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Guitar Magic

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I only have a conversion (52/57) so no burst here but happy to try and record something. I only have a phone to use but can share some info if it's useful. Guitar has PAF's and a vintage harness. I'm sure we will get some burst owners here though and I will retreat back into my cave :ROFLMAO:

Please do it man! Just a regular working man's set of Ernie 10-46's and a close up phone or mic recording of pure wood resonance. Play that sweet thing and let her get alive on both the highs and lows. Lookin forward!
 
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