Are Japanese “Orville” guitars essentially re-badged USA-level Gibsons?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by MisterTV, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. MisterTV

    MisterTV Supporting Member

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    Curious about the ‘90s era “Orville” Gibsons made for the Japanese market. Were these made exactly to USA specs, just manufactured in Japan with a different logo on the headstock? Or to put it another way, did Gibson beat the lawsuit copycats at their own game?

    If so, I’m wondering why Gibson didn’t take this concept globally. By comparison, I put a Japanese Fender slightly below a USA build, but above a Mexican standard.
     
  2. Yamaha 350

    Yamaha 350 Member

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    Japan Fender is better quality than American. Why different specs that Amrican's do not want because they hate change.

    Orville to my understanding is Gibson found a Japan factory that made Gibson to their specs. But Japan had exact copies made by other manufacturers. So In my way of thinking Gibson by Orville did not do anything to stop the exact copies. :dunno:confused:munch
     
  3. danelectro

    danelectro Supporting Member

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    Years ago I owned an Orville which was a very nice guitar. It was definitely a step up from an Epi Les Paul. The hardware was nickel plated, it had an ABR bridge rather than Nashville Tune-a-Matic like the USA Standard. Other than the fact that it had a poly finish, it seemed just as nice (if not nicer) than a USA Standard.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
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  4. neilrocks25

    neilrocks25 Member

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    I wouldn't say it was better quality.
     
  5. cap10kirk

    cap10kirk Member

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    Orvilles were pretty nice from what I've seen. A step up from Epi, but they still aren't exactly the same as a Gibson. Whether that difference is better or worse depends on what you want from the guitar.
     
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  6. ED_P

    ED_P Silver Supporting Member

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    I had a Gibson Orville steel acoustic in the 90's and was never sure on it's country of origin. Was perfectly acceptable.
     
  7. Bossanova

    Bossanova Silver Supporting Member

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    Nope
     
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  8. Austin_Taunt

    Austin_Taunt Member

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    I had an Orville for about 2mo. That piece of crap had something wrong with it. My tech tried several times to adjust the intonation and it would be spot on but when I played the notes could be changed to the point it sounded out of tune by just pressing down harder. Was a terrible guitar and what I got for trying to cheap my way into a Gibson. I’m sure it was just a lemon but I will never buy one again
     
  9. theruley

    theruley Member

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    I had an MIJ epiphone, which is what the orville brand eventually got re-badged to. It was an absolutely outstanding guitar and I wish I never sold it. It had the abr-1 bridge, good pots and pickups, deep neck tenon...the good stuff you want on a les paul.

    The only thing is the flame tops are typically a veneer or photoflame over a plain maple top. You can usually find a plain top model for cheaper and they can look just as good or better.
     
  10. standard24

    standard24 Member

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    I sold my American Std Strat to keep my MIJ Std (basic Strat). It fits my hands better. I've put a ton of money into it, and it's my #2 guitar.


    But I ordered a brand new Fender 62 Jazz bass from Ishibashi. It was the "premium/top end" model with USA Vintage pickups, etc.

    My friend had the exact same bass, but it was the USA Vintage reissue model. I compared them side by side... The USA one had...
    Better wood, both neck and body
    Deeper, more luxurious 3 tone sunburst (very rich looking.)
    More refined chrome on bridge, tuners, pickguard screws, etc. The chrome had a real luster.
    The fluted edges on the tuners were more precisely cut
    The rosewood was much higher quality
    I don't remember the pickguard, but I would bet the USA was more refined/beautiful

    Plus his bass sounded quite a bit better.

    Now, his USA Vintage bass cost $1500, with a nice tweed case. My CIJ was $700 shipped from Japan with a basic gig bag.

    Was his bass twice as good as mine??? Probably not, but easily noticeably better.

    When I found a USA Standard P-Bass, I sold my CIJ and never once regretted it.

    Just don't ask me to sell my MIJ Strat!
     
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  11. toomanyamps

    toomanyamps Member

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    That is not an opinion most people would consider true.
     
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  12. Yamaha 350

    Yamaha 350 Member

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    So it is the truth.
     
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  13. CapnRex

    CapnRex Member

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    I don't think there's much objective evidence to say they are "better." I live in Japan and playing them side by side in shops, I generally prefer the US models. Then again, it's rumored we get the best US models and they leave the midlevels in the US
     
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  14. handyman

    handyman Member

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    In the current day, Fujigen is making some pretty mind blowingly good Les Paul copies in Japan. Same outfit that makes the Ibanez Prestige Japan guitars.

    The old Orville stuff was kinda odd though. Better than the Epiphones, didn't seem as nice as the USA made stuff. There was plenty of top notch stuff coming out of Japan at the time, so Gibson could have found someone to build top quality guitars had they really wanted to. Not entirely sure what the business case for the Orville venture was in the first place.
     
  15. toomanyamps

    toomanyamps Member

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    Take the pickguard off and it becomes quickly apparent where the Japanese model has cut corners.
     
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  16. jwguitar

    jwguitar Supporting Member

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    Japanese guitars are really well made. The primary reason Gibson started Orville is probably because other companies, such as Tokai, were making direct copies and at one time it was very hard to get American guitars at a decent price in Japan. Gibson sold Japanese epiphones for a while in the early to mid 2000's as the Epiphone elite line. Those guitars were far better in quality to their American counter parts IMO. I own an Epiphone Elite 335 and the quality and detail is impeccable. I suspect they stopped making these because they competed to closely with the US Gibsons. More than likely it is also why Orville never made it over here.
     
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  17. Mr Fingers

    Mr Fingers Member

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    My '96 Orville (MIJ by Fujigen) has better wood construction than Gibsons of that period, but in some other respects is not a better guitar. Mine is built to '57 specs, with a long tenon, correct angles, etc. But it also has features like a 3 pc. top, a 2 pc. back, a poly finish, and crappy electronic components. I refinished it as a thin nitro goldtop and replaced all the hardware and electronics, and the resulting guitar is a complete monster. But untouched, it was burdened by a thick, dead finish and lousy guts. I think this is the case for many Orvilles, though I'm believe some are nitro finished and have 2 pc tops and 1 pc backs. Mine came out really great, and feels way better than newer Gibsons... but it didn't come out of the factory that way.
     
  18. vortexxxx

    vortexxxx Member

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    Their higher end guitars branded as Orville by Gibson were not cheap. I had a 59ri and I would have to say the quality is somewhere between a Gibson USA guitar and a custom shop. The ones branded as only Orville were meant to be lower priced guitars.
     
  19. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Member

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    'Tis safer under the bridge.
    The Orville by Gibson used "mahogany" that was not Swietenia macrophylla, Honduran Mahogany, used by Gibson. It was usually Philippines Mahogany aka meranti used in the lower tier or African Mahogany used in the higher tier guitars. (Fender Japan used Basswood or Paulownia for its Strats and Teles, not alder nor swamp ash.)

    Gibson USA uses Honduran Mahogany. It may be Fijian plantation grown and may not be light but it is Swietenia macrophylla, species correct. Gil Yaron posted that he saw a bill of lading from the 1950s showing a shipment of African Mahogany to Gibson Kalamazoo. So, he surmised that a few Les Pauls could have been made with African Mahogany.

    I have 3 Made in Japan Tokai LPs of African Mahogany and it is hard for me to tell it apart from the Fiji grown Honduran Mahogany of my R9s.

    The highest tier Tokai LP used a solid one piece Honduran Mahogany billet for its back, and its neck; Jacaranda rio for its fretboard. (Japan uses Portuguese names for its rosewood for historical reasons as the Portuguese were the first westerners to arrive at its shores.) It cost about as much as a Gibson Custom Shop Historic 9. Back in 2010, it cost JPY540 000. I no longer see Tokai offering it today.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  20. Gonkboy

    Gonkboy Member

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    I'm an ObG Les Paul owner and know a little about these guitars.

    There are basically two levels: Orville by Gibson and Orville.
    The Orville by Gibson guitars were considered the best. They had vintage correct specs, and American made hardware.
    The Orville guitars were cheaper. They used Japanese made hardware.

    An Orville with upgraded parts will be pretty much the same as an Orville by Gibson. Some models will have a photo-flame maple top.

    Overall, they are very good guitars. Try to get your hands on it before you buy one though.
     
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