Farewell, my Gibsons

M

Member 37136

I know I'm going to be accused of being a Gibson-basher, but I assure you that this isn't the case. My first "real" electric was an ES-330 I bought used in 1976. I traded it for a brand-new 1979 Les Paul Custom when I was 19. I've owned two Les Paul Melody Maker P-90s, an ES-339, and a J-45. I LIKE GIBSONS!

But I just sold my last ones and I probably won't be back, unless I find something used that really speaks to me, like an older LP Junior. Here's why:

The ES339 cost me $1799. It came with a certificate of authenticity from the "Custom Shop" in Memphis. Turns out, there really isn't a custom shop in Memphis, it's just the part of the production line they devote to semi-hollows. No big deal, but still - I thought this was coming from the "real" Custom Shop in Nashville, and none of their literature or advertising indicated otherwise. My fault for not researching, I guess.

The guitar had a dead spot on the 12th fret of the G-string that could not be fixed by fretwork. It was just a resonance issue, but being located right in the middle of the fretboard on a neck position I use a LOT, it was frustrating. I learned to work around it, but why should I have to?

One day I took out the neck pickup to have a look-see inside, and found a neck tenon joint that looked like my 11-year-old son had made it. The tab was cut too short and was undercut. Very little wood-to-wood contact there. Filled in around this nub was a mix of sawdust and glue to fill most of the void. A small piece of wood was glued to the top of the pickup route, as though it had been cut too big and shimmed. Re-installing the pickup, I noticed that the fretboard on the 20th - 22nd fret had visible file marks. Mind you, these issues didn't affect playability, but along with the dead G, it really left a bad taste in my mouth. This is "custom shop" quality?

On to the J-45 -- a sweet-sounding, great looking acoustic if ever there was one. This was also a Custom Shop guitar, with an Adirondack top and Honduran mahogany back and sides. Post-honeymoon, I noticed the blobs of glue on two of the braces, the finish flaws where the fretboard meets the top, the dodgy endpin jack, and the nut with the too-shallow slots. Again, nothing that really affected playability, but I was disappointed that this $2300 "Custom Shop" guitar had any issues. Maybe my expectations were too high, I don't know. Maybe I was just transferring my frustrations with the 339 to this one.

I ignored all this stuff for a couple of months, but they kept eating at me. It just didn't sit right, and I began to focus on the imperfections more and more, as well as any other tiny flaw that caught my eye. What started as merely an irritation eventually festered into full-blown dissatisfaction.

So they're both gone now, and I kind of miss having a Gibson in the house. I replaced the ES-339 with a nice Telecaster, and the sale of the J-45 made room (and paid) for a wonderful Taylor Limited Edition. I ended up making money on the deal, and I'm happy to say that both of my new guitars are nearly flawless, and great players.

So what's my point - that Gibson sucks? No. It's that they aren't as I remember them, and that's sort of a shame. I know they still make perfect guitars; I just didn't get one of them, even though I paid the same as someone who did.

But moreover, if Taylor and Fender can bring their high-quality, made-in-America guitars to market for LESS, and without these sorts of issues, why can't Gibson? It saddens me that they can't or won't address these relatively simple matters of sloppy construction. I really like Gibsons; a good-looking Les Paul, SJ-200, or 335 will turn my head every time, but I can't really support them anymore.

Oh, well. Things change...

End rant, flamesuit on.
 

ssdeluxe

Member
Messages
1,298
nicely written, un-emotional review:

I have to agree, there has been so many posts about the qc, and us gtr players trying to love gibson, but just not finding guitars with any true merits seems to be a common finding. ( I know, with the exception of the odd gibson elec/or acoustic, I have not been impressed by sound/feel/look/fit/finsh of most all the ones I've played in many stores, custom shop models included).

its a good thing to let it go and look elsewhere, if gibson wanted to make you something you'd love, they would. Luckily, so many others have the passion.

I don't blame gibson, its just how it is right now.
 

FractalGarden

Member
Messages
1,793
A sad, sad tale. I have 4 Gibsons, and I love them all, but I tried out many, many more before buying these. While I've bought other brands sight unseen with great success, I will never buy a Gibson without first laying hands on it.
 
M

Member 37136

I have to agree, there has been so many posts about the qc, and us gtr players trying to love gibson, but just not finding guitars with any true merits seems to be a common finding.
Thanks for your compliments! Just for the record, I wouldn't say they are without merit. The '57 Classics they put in the ES-339s sound like heaven, and the '59 rounded neck is one awesome piece of lumber.
 

humbuster

Senior Member
Messages
744
After I sold off most of my collection in 2008, including all my Gibsons, I'd sworn off Gibsons as well.

Here we are in 2010 and I am the proud owner of the best new ES335 I have ever played as well as a J45 Custom shop and Historic Korina SG.

Go fiqure.
 

AaeCee

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
18,583
Yeah, I kinda feel the same way, but love the three I have. It's really a shame, because a great Gibson can be soooo great and full of character like few others, but their quality control, or more likely the entire company's focus and sense and purpose, seems to have diminished significantly. I sense that a change is underway with them (by virtue of the multitude of rumors involving control), and hope it comes soon. Still love a great Gibson though!
 

Thin Slices

Member
Messages
381
In my local shop there is a new 345 "custom", a historic 57 goldtop and two dirt cheap new Melody Makers among other gibson stuff. Guess what. Both the 345 and the historic has got finish problems, the historic has got a bad alignment of the thin E-string with the neck. The 345 has a neck that sits weird on the body. The 57 custom looks like the fretboard is twisted and gibson compensated by filing down the frets towards the e-string.

The dirt cheap Melody Makers have the better finish (they got the burst right and the finish is thin. No sealing in a thick clear laquer) and seem to be without issues. Go figure.
 

franksguitar

Member
Messages
3,683
I usually buy used and very selective as well. The only brand new Gibson I bought is a 2001 Firebird V reissue. Most I have purchased used were good players 50's thru early 90's and always avoided Norlin years stuff.
 

dspellman

Senior Member
Messages
8,309
I've had Gibsons since my first purchase in the late '60's, but until this year really never bought anything past about 1980 model year. A $4K custom-built Custom Shop (the real one) Axcess Custom really hasn't changed my mind about that much, but it's an okay guitar.

My take on Gibson in general is that they really don't pay much attention to the quality of their guitars *until* you get over the $3K mark. I don't really mean that to bash Gibson; they just don't do a good job on the cheaper guitars.

But I think that folks should probably be buying Gibsons with an eye to making them better players before they wade in. And by that I do NOT mean attack the guitar with GS kits and aftermarket pickups and treble bleed circuits and all that foof.

Over the last year I've had a chance to compare a Gibson Plek'd at the factory with another similar (nearly identical, but significantly less expensive) guitar from another manufacturer. That second guitar had its frets superglued and was Plek'd and set up to my action preferences. It's really a better playing and sounding guitar, even though it and the Gibson have every bit of hardware and electronics absolutely identical. I think it has almost everything to do with the setup, the superglue and the Pleking.

The two big issues with the OP's original guitars appear to be directly related to setup issues. While we can argue about Gibson quality all day long, there seems to be little doubt that they ship their guitars with an abyssmal setup. Yeah, I know, there will be some who will claim that theirs are just perfect. Nonetheless, the songs about the nuts cut too high, the dead frets and the action glitches have become a symphony.

All of this can be fixed, but you have to simply add $200 to the price of your new Gibson to have your frets superglued, the frets PLEK'd (even if they've supposedly been done at the factory), the nut properly cut, the saddles set properly for the radius of the fretboard, etc., etc. -- in short, a really good professional setup will make all the difference. Note the "really good" business. Probably 80% of the techs purporting to have great experience and great references are simply hacks. I have no idea how you separate the wheat from the chaff in this regard; I've been pretty lucky. But that's your business. A really good professional setup will make all the difference. You're already overpaying for the privilege of having "gibson" on your headstock -- you may as well simply spend the extra bucks to have the guitar play well.
 
M

Member 37136

The two big issues with the OP's original guitars appear to be directly related to setup issues ... [Y]ou have to simply add $200 to the price of your new Gibson...
I think this is probably very true, but I believe it's wrong. Neither my Telecaster nor my Taylor needed anything besides the basic neck relief and action/intonation adjustments to play great. Requiring a $200 Plek job to make a $2000 guitar playable seems a little ridiculous to me, but as you said, I suppose one should just figure that it's part of the initial expense. Sheesh.
 
Messages
12,062
I have 3 Gibsons. 1 AJ, 2 Les Pauls. They all require a certain amount of attention, if one plans on playing the guitars professionally. Sorry you have hit the 'brick wall', proverbially. More for me.
 

morgan918

Member
Messages
3,478
I've owned a bunch of new (and old) gibsons over the years. The ones I've bought have all been great. The few I've bought new when I couldn't play them I bought from reputable online dealers. But I can't say how many I've played that just felt lifeless to me. Decent enough guitars, but not really worthy of the expense, IMO. Out of the factory setups are not their thing, I've seen some pretty scandalous fretwork. But if you can get a new one, it is totally worth it. That said, all 3 of my current gibsons I bought used.
And not to leave Fender out, when i was looking for a jazzmaster or jaguar I played probably dozens of new american made ones. None of them felt right and the setups generally were just awful. After about two years I found an MIJ that just felt right. I still have it.
 

jzucker

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
20,962
i hear you. QC on the 339s is *HORRIBLE*. I've had 4 of them. One was ok. The other ones had these problems:

Glue joint leakage into the endpin seam and neckjoint and the other one had the bridge screws into the body at an angle so that the strings hit the back of the bridge even when the tailpiece was as high as it could possibly go. I have heard that certain parts of that guitar are manufactured overseas and final finishing is done in Nashville. That might explain why it's over $1k less than the 335 and why QC is so poor.
 

Guitar Josh

Resident Curmudgeon
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
19,272
You'll get no flame from me. I thought the 339s I've played are some of the worst made pieces of garbage I've ever played.
 

jzucker

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
20,962
You're certainly in the minority on this forum.
Well, 3 out of 4 that i bought had issues. That's a worse failure rate than any other guitar I've bought. I've had multiple 335s, Les Pauls, Ibanez GB10s, Ibanez PM120s, strats, etc. MANY, MANY multiples of some of them. (probably 12 GB10s). None of them were as bad as the 339s and i've read many reports of bad fretwork, bad nuts, bad glue joints, etc. If you haven't seen this than you are not looking. Or...Maybe you're too busy looking at the other G Strings. :D
 






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