Gibson CS 356 - Deserves more attention on TGP

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Brian Scherzer, Aug 3, 2008.

  1. Brian Scherzer

    Brian Scherzer Staff Member

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    I recently purchased a used Gibson Custom Shop 356 with a koa top. I waited for a while to post until I felt like I had a good feel for the guitar and could give my impressions.....after the newness had worn off.

    The fit and finish is wonderful. Whatever issues Gibson has had with quality control, this guitar doesn't have any issues that I can find. Only a small number of the CS 356 models were made with a koa top which, in my opinion, gives the guitar a slightly different sound than its maple-topped brethren. I had wanted one of these without the Bigsby and felt fortunate to have this axe become available from a friend. It gave me a chance to play the guitar in my house and through my amps for over a week before deciding to pull the trigger.

    The neck is a thin one, so anyone looking for more of a "C" neck will need to look elsewhere. It is small for my hands, but very easy to play. The relatively flat ebony fingerboard is a joy and helps give a "snap" to notes when played fingerstyle. I'm not very good at describing tone, but I'll do my best. The CS 356 has a smaller body than a 335, which makes it very comfortable to hold and play. The concept was to combine the features of an LP and a 335 in one guitar, but with a body size much closer to an LP. That would also describe the tone.

    There is no missing the LP similarities in tone, but with a woodier sound that fits with the 335 body design. Reviews elsewhere that describe the sound as being more LP than 335 are accurate with this guitar. Yet, there is no mistaking the effect that the semi-hollow body has on this guitar. There is an incredible depth to notes and clarity to chords when played clean, even at louder volume. Lower string notes have a solid and deep bass tone. Notes played on the top 4 strings reach across the frequency spectrum to have a nice, but not shrill top end. The sound across the strings is smooth on the neck pickup soloed. The middle position offers the ability to play chords overdriven, but with a lot of clarity. The bridge pickup soloed gives a nice bite, but not one that is ear-piercing. Unlike the solidbody LP, there is no hump in the midrange. The tonal qualities of this particular guitar are the way the low end and the high end frequencies give a large dimensional sound.

    I haven't weighed the guitar but it feels like it is in the 7 lb. or less range. The solid mahogany block and mahogany back and sides give sufficient mass so that there is no hint of feedback at higher volumes. They have a significant impact on the overall tone of the instrument. Having compared this guitar to some of the maple-topped models of the CS 356, I have to say that I prefer the sound of the koa. It is "richer" and not quite as bright sounding, with lower frequencies being a bit more present. I guess I would describe the sound as "large" when played through either my Gibson 12R or Fender SuperSonic amps. Getting more subjective, this guitar just hits me the right way, in feel, playability, and tone. It sounds different enough from both a Les Paul and a 335 that I feel like I have a guitar that is "my sound"! Very pleased!

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    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008
  2. MikeB_18

    MikeB_18 Member

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    Beautiful guitar! I really liked the look of the guitar when I first saw someone post pics of Saul's stock a Centre City Music. He had a few with Bigsby's that looked awesome.

    I've always wondered how they sounded with the Koa tops. I just assumed they would be very bright so it's good to hear that isn't the case. A local store had a plain top 336 a year or so ago that sounded great and I loved the size and weight.

    I've been jonesing for a hollowbody lately but ended up unexpectedly with an SG. My hollowbody craving will have to wait a bit longer.
     
  3. sanhozay

    sanhozay klon free since 2009

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    Quite a looker. Looks quite at peace bathing in the sunny yard. Great headstock.
    Gibson makes some turds but they make some gems. Sounds like you got a good one!
     
  4. bluesjuke

    bluesjuke Disrespected Elder

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    That is a beauty Brian!
    I saw these online and was curious about them, thanks for the review.
     
  5. marsos52

    marsos52 Member

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    sure is a beauty but im tellin gerald on you

    marc
     
  6. GAD

    GAD Wubbalubbadubdub Silver Supporting Member

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    Magnificent!

    GAD
     
  7. treeofpain

    treeofpain Silver Supporting Member

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    I have always found theat koa is somewhere between maple and mahogany. I haven't played a koa 356, but I can't imagine it sounding much different from a regular 356. I think the wood is gorgeous - congratulations!
     
  8. esoteric pete

    esoteric pete Member

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    nice bri! love the koa top. about 4 years ago, i sprung for this, not a 356, but a 336, and i knew from first touch that it was an amazing guitar. mine is 6.5lbs and has the same this you described about plucking the string acoustically.

    dont mean to hijack, but i love sharing pics. the sunlight really made the guitar look yellow, but its a very vintage correct looking burst with some great mineral streaks in the wood. looks a lot like an old gibby.

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  9. Brian Scherzer

    Brian Scherzer Staff Member

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    I don't think that there is a large difference in sound between a maple top and a koa top, but this guitar sounds different.....audibly different.....from the two maple-topped models I tried. Every piece of wood is different, so it's possible that the tonal differences are due as much to the particular mahogany used in this guitar as to the koa.

    I don't consider your post a hijack at all! I haven't read about the 336 for a while but, if I'm correct, it is constructed the same way as the 356, just without some of the aesthetics and with a rosewood board instead of an ebony board. I would imagine that it might sound slightly warmer than the 356 due to whatever degree the rosewood board imparts its sonic signature on the guitar.

    I decided to add an image of the figured mahogany back.

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    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008
  10. boog204

    boog204 Member

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    gorgeous guitar...
     
  11. ShaunzNoiz

    ShaunzNoiz Member

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    I miss mine. Thought of getting another one, but I had quality controll issues with the finish. I was the second owner, and according to Gibson it was the 10th one made. Had the vintage cherry gibson finish, and there was bleed on the binding all over the guitar. I'm told by gibson owners that this is a necessary evil when dealing with this finish, but I'm not 100% certain.

    What I can say is it was an amazing playing and sounding guitar!!!!

    Also, there are/were two neck profiles that you could get with the guitar, a 50's profile which is thicker and a 60's profile which is thinner.
     
  12. Sadhaka

    Sadhaka Member

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    I want one so badly and I've wondered why there isn't a thread running. I want the Cherry with the Bigsby arm. Most beautiful guitar I've seen I reckon. Hard to get in Australia...
     
  13. Tim Pourciau

    Tim Pourciau Member

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    Awesome guitar. I have your guitar's brother. This one was from last year's batch.

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  14. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    Stunning guitar Brian. I love the sort of "7/8 of a 335" size as well. Much easier to play sitting down. Koa is right up there as a favorite wood too.
    Now...we want CLIPS!!!
     
  15. Brian Scherzer

    Brian Scherzer Staff Member

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    Clips? CLIPS? You want a bass player who is learning how to play guitar to post clips?!!!

    Maybe after I learn more than my current less than 60 seconds worth of repertoire!
     
  16. Custom50

    Custom50 Member

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    beautiful guitar, good buy.
     
  17. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    ^^^^^^^ Well it's a heckuva nice guitar to learn on.
     
  18. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    That's a thing of beauty, Brian. Absolutely gorgeous. I am so happy for you.
     
  19. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    Time for a new avatar?


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  20. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    No offense to your photography skills, Brian, but your pics don't do the guitar justice.

    Having laid hands on the guitar in question, I can vouch for the guitar's build quality and playability. Tonally it's nice but not particularly my cup o' tea. But that's my problem. ;)
     

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