Vintage Gibson VS Brand New Gibson: You can not be a fan of both....


 There are SOOOOO many dyed in the wool Gibson folks out there that think Vintage and New Gibsons are EXACTLY the same.

So I am putting this forward.

There is no shame in being a huge fan of the Vintage Gibson brand, and it does not take anything away from disliking all the Gibson factory has done in the last few decades. 

 After reading much of why the new Gibson's are ending up in repair shops their very first week of ownership, and Gibson's lack of a 'real world'  warantee, I have no idea why this is ever a real conversation anymore.

  I draw your attention to the story I heard about from these pages a 4 years back.

This one story made me loose 100% respect for the company.

   A Luthier who works for a guitar store Gibson dealership had a two week old LesPaul come into his shop. The 19 year old New owner had wanted one for 10 years, so bought a new one after coming up with $2600 (I think that was the # anyway).

The reason it came back into the shop was that the axe could be tuned up, but would go wildly out of tune whenever the neck was handled, then would go right back into tune when no longer touched. 

 The repair guy had a look at it, and saw that even though the guitar was only delivered a few weeks beforehand, there were quite a few lacquer cracks at the neck to body join. On closer inspection, and after putting a straightedge on the fingerboard, he saw that the neck WAS moving around whenever the neck was touched.  He started to hold the body and move the neck around to get a better idea of exactly what was going on.... And with a loud CRACK the entire neck snapped off the guitar!

 Upon examination, and measuring everything over the next hour, he figured out exactly what the problem was: The neck block was about a 64th of an inch too big on both the sides  AND the end of the fingerboard! The neck was only partially glued to the back of the tongue, and the black lacquer was mostly what was holding the neck in place. 

 He contacted the factory, and after explaining the problem several times, got to talk to a shop foreman. What he said was shocking. He said that he was well aware  of the problem, and that this particular phone call was about the 35th that he had received about it.

The problem had been with the necks, and was discovered by a line worker when she  went to glue up the first neck of that lot.

The worker showed that exact Foreman, and he had gone and measured all the necks that were in that lot. The number of miss-cut necks was around 125 guitars. They all needed significant shimming to be actually glued in, but the Foreman could not OK this process

He brought the problem to HIS boss, and the decision was made.

The boss said that since the necks were already to be glued, to do the glueing up process With No Shimming and ship them out.

The Foreman had no choice but to tell his workers to do what they were told. 

 The repair guy/luthier  was told to do the shimming repair,then do as much lacquer work was absolutely needed. Then the Foreman told him that Gibson would not honor the guarantee  on that guitar. 

 The kid got his guitar back, the store swallowed the repair cost and , in this case, the young'un ended up with a Better Than New LesPaul.

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Stories like this are the reason I'm a fan of neither.

Have you seen the features of the 2015 Gibsons? I thought it was a joke when I first saw. Robo tuners come stock, I kid you not. They're using some sort of adjustable brass nut on every model. They've made the fingerboards wider while keeping the string spacing the same, for "increased playing area". I've seen a lot of Gibsons lately with long, rounded fret bevels that cause the high E string to slip, but instead of learning to bevel their frets properly, they just made the boards wider? Who's stupid idea was that?

I look forward to replacing a lot of nuts on brand new Gibson's in the coming year.

Maybe they got it all wrong, maybe its the nuts that need Gibson changes.

Firstly:   Disclaimer.   I make guitars which may or may not compete with the product I am about to refer to.   I  would not under normal circumstances broach this subject but this is just more of the same and Luthiers and repairmen alike will be forced to deal with more and more problems presented by customers who will be adamant that they have the best guitar in the world and Gibson would know better than we would.

Kerry, this is unfortunate stuff and usually taken with a grain of salt and some skepticism.  However, having dealt with this brand for a long time now, nothing would surprise me.

Another lamentable thing is noting the passion with which the Fanboys* leap to the defence of the in-defendable - plastic fingerboards are portrayed as a remarkable tone enhancing, eco-sustainable gifts to the guitar community and shotgunned drilled bodies that would otherwize be used to make heavy mallet heads are given similar accolades.   Not having the neck glued on straight is a badge of honor and adds to the charm and having bad lacquer and finishes is almost a mandatory requirement to gain access to the Fanboy club.

* Fanboys:    A lot of my colleagues, customers  and friend have Gibsons - and they have them for the right reasons - the tone and feel of a "good-un" is unmistakably Gibson and a fine thing.  But they also generally have instruments that have "chosen them" for all the right reasons.   To hear the ranting of the wanabes and Gear heads out there who worship blindly on the altar of image and hype and note the vitriol heaped on the non- believers is something else.  They are the true Fanboys.

This coupled with the cheap hardware and junk tuners combined with such nonsense as the throw away PCB mounted electronics which mean any pickup change entails a huge expense if the original pickup connector is to be used, further help to secure my mindset.  The auto tuners already have a number of forms and models - only time will tell whether these will become another expensive and unsupportable millstone around customers and repairman's neck. I wish them well but have some trepidation here as well.

Note:  some Gibson come with good hardware from Tonepros and the like, but then you get a Custom Shop Gibson with $2.00 Korean "flash gold" finished hardware and Zinc stop-tails's weird.  

Gibson's PLEK machines now iron out the speedbumps on the fingerboards, but as the feeler gauge under the frets test shows, the fretwork can be poor to start with and not a long term thing of beauty.  I suppose the plastic fingerboards may help here with consistent fret seating and stable "wood".

Seriously, the biggest threat to real guitar makers from this brand is that the media sway and active online propaganda coupled with the rabid dedication of the Fanboys associated with these guitars tends to denigrate the products and integrity of the makers who build with pride and really care about the musicians they build for.

I apologize for the appearance of my behaviour here - it's amateurish to criticise in an arbitrary way, but in this case it's a duty to support those who blow the whistle on the rubbish that is coming our way.  Mostly we just shut-up and allow these businesses to cut their own throats.


 Gibson's new online catalog came out a few days ago. For those who don't know, their prices have gone up 29% this year. It's so hard to believe as to be... unbelievable....  

As possibly the most vehement Gibson criticizer on this forum, I could not have summarized my feelings and observations better that Rusty did.

As a note, long time forum members know of my adoration for the ES-339 style body. After having to charge one of my dearest friends $200 to refinish the back of the neck on his $3K GIBSON 339, to make it playable for more than 3 minutes, I knew I couldn't/wouldn't even with a gun to my head, buy a Gibson ES-339.

In a fit of guitar lust, I recently purchased an Epiphone ES-339 made in the new factory in China (factory code is 15). Of course I have upgraded the hardware to Grover, MIJ Gotoh (makers for Tonepros sans set screws), CTS & Switchcraft  and changing the pickup magnets from A2 to A5 and removing the 6 pounds of potting wax, I now have a $550 guitar (including upgrades & hard case) that quality wise and sound wise, SMOKES the Gibson. It also came to me (from Sweetwater) set up perfectly...and I'm a setup nazi. Sure, it's not finished in nitro but for a stage guitar...what does it matter?.

I also agree that until the fanboize stop buying their crap, Gibson will be a giant. If they spent 1/10th of their advertising budget on goosing up their QC, they'd at least have a fighting chance of....never mind....they wouldn't. The real problem can be described as : Henry J.

About 30 years ago I abandoned ALL brand loyalty and I  began evaluating individual instruments as opposed to corporate laurels and my guitar buying life has been wonderful.

The saddest fact is that Gibson is AWARE of this criticism and does nothing to address the complaints. That attitude, in any business, is a death knell.  And at the prices they charge... it's darn near if not, criminal. And their "24/7 Customer Care Service"? WHAT A JOKE.

Just my opinion. :)

Breaks my heart, every time a Gibson fanboy brings me a brand new guitar that they saved up for, and I have to go through and tell them everything that needs fixing. I make sure to explain to them that all of these problems (poorly cut nuts and shoddy fret work in most cases, as well as under set necks from the Bozeman factory) are pretty common in newer Gibsons. I like to think that I'm doing something to change people's impressions about Gibson, but the fact of the matter is, for every one customer I see, there are 100 who just assume that the high price tag alone is indicative of quality. These players aren't proficient enough to know that they're being jipped. I actually had this exact conversation with someone earlier today, and the conclusion was that Gibson, by hiking prices without showing any regard to quality, cares more about the unquestioning rich doctors and collectors, who'll always buy Gibson because they've been told it's the best, than the working musicians who are far more discerning.

I have to keep my mouth shut with customers when it comes to Gibsons and Cole Clarks.

With Gibsons, they don't make em like they used to....and they never did.

I have '54 and '67 ES125's but I don't delude myself about quality.

Check out what former Gibson employees have to say:

I've scratched my head at the pots mounted on plates, the #40 wire, the Robotuners, etc. It seems to be about reducing installation time - and the skill needed.

This may be applicable....... :) Gibson price increase....

Story upon story of poor quality would be the death of so many businesses/products.  It shows you one thing:  The incredible power of BRAND recognition.  A well-honed, polished, funded BRAND can hide a multitude of sins.  Word of mouth sometimes cannot keep up with well-oiled BS in advertising and stubborn consumers.

I've worked 20+ years in manufacturing where quality problems KILL and kill quickly.  The entire business leaps into action when a quality escape is reported. But, the products we make are not subjective, like guitar tone or appearance, either the air conditioning system cools the house down in 100 degree Texas heat or it doesn't.

I can't say much about electrics but I've had a fair amount of experience with Gibson flattop acoustics.  I consider some of them to be great guitars and I've owned and played some that I regretted letting go of.  With that I must say that I don't believe that I've ever seen a Gibson that I felt was superior in build quality even when I like the sound and feel. Since these were almost always vintage instruments it completely possible that I was working with instruments that had already benefited from the adjustments of someone outside of Gibson's plant.  I know of at least 3 on my personal list that had been subject to fairly extensive repairs before I was introduced to them.  Anyway,I have come across many older vintage Gibsons that I really liked a lot but, as it is, Gibson guitars probably had more to do with me learning to evaluate every guitar on it own merit than any other brand.     

Vintage is the key word in the opinion I just posted.  So far, I haven't seen a single acoustic from their standard lineup that I would want to own that was made after 1967. They are not all terrible guitars but even the better one are, IMO, lacking in some way. The exception to that are a couple of the Mark series that I came across. The bottom line is that I've never thought of Gibson Acoustics as nicely, cleanly built instruments even when I liked them.

(I have always found it interesting that a lot of the guitar public have come to not only accept the thick, checking finish on so many old Gibsons but are actually looking for ways to mimic it. No matter how I look at it, that "feature" is still a fault/ flaw in the build to me.) 

Conversely, it's always seemed to me that their build quality in other instruments has always seemed to be better than their guitars. All of the Mandolins I've seen seem to be cleaner and more consistent in build than I would expect of their guitars. Although I really have pretty limited exposure to them, I also think the banjo's I've seen were built to higher standards than the guitars. I have almost no exposure to either of these instruments made in the recent decades so I can't say this would be true in that case. Maybe I have this perception of better build quality because the poorly built instruments in these categories have already been weeded out  and I'm only seeing what remained or maybe it's the fact that almost all of these I've been exposed to were made before 1950. I don't know.

I really don't know what would help the disconnect between perception and fact on the part of the general public. It seems to me that the industry,as a whole, would benefit from some sort of public education program but I have no idea how it would be funded much less implemented.. All I really know is that human nature pretty much insures that the more we spend on a toy the less likely we are to admit that it was a bad investment. Unfortunately that's usually accompanied by a need to lead other people to the same mistake. Security in numbers, I guess.  After all know that it's really not the quality of the product, it's the number of owners that counts... Right?.


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