Gibson Guitars.... do they all sound 'darker' than other acoustics ?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by Dr. Tweedbucket, Jul 18, 2008.

  1. Dr. Tweedbucket

    Dr. Tweedbucket Deluxe model available !!!11

    Messages:
    45,493
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2007
    Location:
    Gamma Ray detection station on Mt. Kwakkleberry
    I bought a reissue Hummingbird back around 98 and it's been a great guitar! It plays almost as nice as an electric and sounds great with fresh strings, but it gets pretty dark sounding as soon as the strings go a tad flat. I didn't even realize this until I bought a Martin D28VR. I love the balanced brighter tone of the Martin, but it just doesn't play as well as the Gibson even after a setup. :confused: ..... anyway, I've been trying to figure out what guitar I don't really need, but so far can't let go of either.

    What is it about Gibsons that make them sound so dark? My Dad's 1940s J?? sounds dark as well.
     
  2. aps

    aps Member

    Messages:
    173
    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2007
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Send the Hummingbird to me and all your problems will be solved!

    I'll also be very glad to take the Martin off your hands free of charge.

    :AOK:moon


    aps
     
  3. MikeB_18

    MikeB_18 Member

    Messages:
    676
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2007
    Location:
    Dover, Delaware
    Generally I do think a characteristic of Gibson flat tops is a darker sound and that's what I like about them. Of course it also depends on model and materials. My friend has a short scale Advanced Jumbo with an Adi top and it's got a really nice bright high-end. My "regular" AJ is louder and more full sounding and lacks some of the high-end but it still has enough to bring everything together.
     
  4. zombywoof

    zombywoof Member

    Messages:
    4,175
    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2006
    Gibsons do seem to eat strings. It also seems the bigger the box the more often you have to change strings.

    The old school Gibson tone is dark and boomy with fat rather than shimmering highs. They are the best strummers in the world but would not be your first choice for flat picked bluegrass leads or delicate fingerpicking styles.

    I ain't no expert but I believe Gibson used a heavier bracing than Martin (although not as heavy as the overbuilt guitars of the Norlin era 1970s had).

    I do know in the 1950s Gibson went to a double X bracing on alot of their guitars which made the tops stiffer. They also started using shorter unscalloped bracing.

    I am not sure I would call a Hummingbird dark, at least compared to round shouldered Gibbys. The square shouldered guitars were pretty bright for a Gibson and had a bit of a Martin D style vibe going on. Ted McCarty was a great admirer of Martin guitars and actually brought a Martin dred into the shop when they started to design the HB (which first saw the light of day in 1958 as the Epiphone Frontier).

    To my ear, many of the newer Gibsons tend to sound a bit brighter than the originals as most use a lighter scalloped single x bracing.
     
  5. dave251

    dave251 Member

    Messages:
    331
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2004
    Location:
    Lawrence, KS
    Gibsons are all over the map. The great ones are as bright as any Martin, with the ability to "darken up" at your will. I think that's one of the reasons Gibson still sells falttops....folks have the idea they will somehow get the "one"...99 times out of a 100 it doesn't happen....but when it does....

    If there is one thing consistant about Gibsons....it's their lack of consistency. Bet on it. Many many are dark sounding woofers....and the good ones can be too...but they can also play very bright with the right set of hands/ears.

    But you just may spend a lifetime of looking to find that "one".....so buy a good Martin in the meantime.
     
  6. groovadelic

    groovadelic Member

    Messages:
    258
    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago NW Suburbs
    Hummingbirds are mellow (I have an 07), but I wouldn't say "dark." There were a lot of acoustics coming out of the 90s that sounded muffled (I used to own one) when Gibson had quality control issues - they also had a issues with wood stability.

    I would disagree with Dave now, I don't believe Gibson Montana has consistency issues anymore and certainly things from the 90s have gotten a ton better. The guitars coming out now are top notch in tone and appearance.

    Back to the topic - what is it about Gibsons that make them sound the way they do? They are voiced differently than Martin and Taylor. Taylor being at the opposite end with being a very bright guitar. Martins can be bassy with an even mid and nice top end. Gibsons typically are known for warmth and woodiness and having that signature thump on the bass end.
     
  7. Cybercat

    Cybercat Member

    Messages:
    301
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2003
    Location:
    Kennedy Town, Hong Kong
    Only had my Roy Smeck "Stage Deluxe" re-issue (Bozeman) for a few months, but I've found the sound changes quite dramatically with different choices of strings. (It seems to react to string types more so than my Martin)

    With a set of .013 Thomastik "Spectrum", the Smeck has as much or more bottom-end than even my friends Martin B-1 acoustic bass (!), - yet the Spectrums don't give anywhere near as much bottom end on my D-28.

    With the Spectrums on the Smeck, the top end is warm, sweet & fat, similar to what Zoombywolf said above (though I'd not really call it boomy - my D-28 really can get boomy with SOB strings, especially when they get old). Very nice for slide, which I suppose isn't surprising, as the original 1930's Smecks stared life as lap-steels.

    When I put on a set of Elixir Nanoweb (also .013) for 4 weeks while waiting for the Spectrums, the top end shimmered & sparkled with harmonics everywhere, but the mid range was seriously attenuated, & the bottom end was neither as deep or as full. I needed to play more over the sound hole & away from the bridge to 'balance' the tone.
    Still a better match than the D'Addario's it came with though - any brighter & they would have sliced the heads of chickens at 30 paces!
     
  8. Tuberoast

    Tuberoast Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,213
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan
    I love the Gibson cowboy sound. When you get a good one, loud with a strong resonant mid-range, it's great. I've heard the tops became progressively thicker thru the 60's. I've owned a 58 J-50 that my jam session buddy's drool over. The old L-00's sound fantastic, especially the 12 fret ones. The bum Gibsons have a dull thud and limited sustain.
     
  9. WahmBoomAh

    WahmBoomAh World Crass Guitarist Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,423
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    New York
    In my case it took 48 years to find it .... it`s a 1947 LG-2
    it`s certainly opinionated...with new strings and the proper mic it sound very bright but there`s a smokey quality to it ...pushed mids .It`s got the sweetest clear bell like honey coated high notes and a crisp articulate bottom ...i LOVE IT

    I imagine the gibson dark is a result of so many mahogany bodies . A Martin 018 0018 00018 will sound darker than a rosewood equivalent too
     
  10. Dr. Tweedbucket

    Dr. Tweedbucket Deluxe model available !!!11

    Messages:
    45,493
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2007
    Location:
    Gamma Ray detection station on Mt. Kwakkleberry

    I don't totally agree with that. Gibson was making some great guitars in the 90s. I tried out a bunch before I picked mine out ( of course this was 98-99, so I don't know about the earlier 90s ). Most of them sound great with fresh strings, but as I said, they darken up or lose the top end when the strings go flat.
     
  11. Dotneck

    Dotneck Member

    Messages:
    2,762
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2004
    Location:
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    I think Gibsons are voiced for that low thumpf...but also remember that Tweed asked about the tone particularly when the strings are going dead. I notice that too...and it is the strings loosing their sparkle.

    I don't know what I was thinking but I bought a bunch of coated strings (EXP?) when I gought my Advanced Jumbo last winter. Finally have used them up and now I'm going to start trying some new strings.

    BTW...there is a decent Gibson acoustic discussion board on Gibson's website. Sort of a mix between knowledgable guys and Gibson newbies....
     
  12. Stubee

    Stubee Member

    Messages:
    184
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2007
    Well, I've owned a number of older ('40-'60s) Gibson dreadnaughts, from the round shouldered to square shouldered models. I also had a few Martins plus Taylors and some others. I ended up with a couple of old Gibsons plus an Advanced Jumbo RI. That's because I determined after many years of playing around that I prefer the Gibson thing. Maybe that's because my first decent flattop was a Gibson. I still do love a number of other brands, they are great, but for me, it's Gibbys.

    IMO, Gibson dreadnaughts can have a warmer sound than some other guitars, as they seem to blend the tones quite a bit when strummed. They also tend to have a pronounced "thumpy" bass, one of their endearing features to me. Maybe some would hear that as "darker" tone. Martins, to me, tend to accent the fundamentals of each note more. Taylors are maybe in between this. I have an old and beat LG-2. It is a small body so doesn't thump like a jumbo, but is one of the more piercing soloing guitars around: it'll cut thru about anything. So lots of variation in the models.

    But the right model dreadnaught Gibson (an AJ, for example) will also have pronounced highs when needed, and can be great for soloing or flatpicking. Other models, esp. the Hummingbird except for a rare one, are better suited for chording than single stringing or double stops and such.

    Gibsons can be kind of inconsistent, though I've never had to sort thru 100 to get a good one. I've never noted that Gibsons need new strings any sooner than any other brand. All guitars benefit from decent strings, and pick type, attack and set-up will of course impact tone, volume, etc.
     
  13. Ogre

    Ogre Member

    Messages:
    4,308
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2002
    The Gibson acoustics from the Montana shop have been their most consistently good guitars ever. Still, you must play a few to find the "one". I find their relative lack of brightness refreshing. Too many guitars made today are overly bright. The devil is in the details, and in this case I am talking about the mid frequencies. Gibson gets it right more often than most of the brands you hear touted on these forums.
     
  14. zombywoof

    zombywoof Member

    Messages:
    4,175
    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2006
    Going back to the original question, again I think older Gibsons tend to eat strings because they were heavier guitars with taller/bulkier bracing. I am not sure why a 1990s HB would have this same tendency as in the mid-1980s, Gibson went to a very Martin-like scalloped single X bacing. I do believe, however, that the weight of the bracing varies depending on which version of a particular Gibson you own whether it is a True Vintage model or whatever.

    Gibson quality - As far as newer guitars the best J-200 I have ever played was an early Montana built guitar - a 1989. The worst was also a Bozeman built model - a 1994. So yeah, I would say the quality is all over the place.

    As far as the best Gibsons sounding like the best Martins unless you are talking about the Bozeman guitars, I respectfully disagree - too much difference in body shapes, bracing and weight. Ain't a Martin made that has the voice of my favorite Gibson - the J-200 which in the 1950s had a unique bracing system with an X pattern under the end of the fingerboard above the soundhole. What a good J-200 will share with a good Martin dred is lots of volume (although I give the edge to the Gibby) and an incredible airy mid-range. But very different low and high end voicings.
     
  15. Tricks

    Tricks Member

    Messages:
    389
    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    I have a '65 Hummingbird and, compared to my HD28, is not as bright with new strings, but the sound is much sweeter, with a beautiful bottom end and midrange. However, it is a softer guitar by far. That said, it does seem to prefer newer strings, whereas with the Martin I'll tend to want to play in the strings a bit to get rid of the overly bright sound, so, I s'pose it's logical that the Hummingbird will sound dead a bit sooner - 'cos it wasn't as bright to begin with. Definitely has a "woodier" sound.
     
  16. vintage66

    vintage66 Member

    Messages:
    6,377
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Location:
    Right here
    To me, my '94 Gospel just sounds balanced-when you hit a big chord, it just has "the" sound. I think it's not as bright as a Tayor but a lot of Martins sound lifeless to me. Don't get me wrong, I have played some magical Martins, but they tend to be the expensive ones. I hand picked mine from several stores and tried all the Gibsons, Martins, Taylors, Guilds and whatever else I could find in my price range, which was kind of mid priced, but probably lower end for these makers. Btw, I do like Taylors, and Larivees also, which are almost but not quite as bright as Taylors, so my taste tends to be toward brighter guitars.
     
  17. groovadelic

    groovadelic Member

    Messages:
    258
    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Location:
    Chicago NW Suburbs
    Tweed, for maybe to brighten it up you can try a denser material for the nut, saddle, and pins (bone or ivory).


    Vintage66, I've heard those Gospels are sleepers... is it a long or short scale? I remember finding a J-30 in a small guitar shop that had THE sound: Big open and vibrant...
     
  18. padavis

    padavis Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,331
    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2007
    Location:
    Indiana
    My '61 Country and Western acts exactly as you guys have mentioned. It eats strings big time but put on some new strings its pure magic. It really is mid heavy too but geez its a soulful mother... I like the bluegrass sound, I really do, I even like the Taylor sound but there is something really unique about the Gibson acoustic sound.
     
  19. The Walrus

    The Walrus Member

    Messages:
    79
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Location:
    oHIo
    I have a 94 Gospel too. I like it! :AOK
     
  20. vintage66

    vintage66 Member

    Messages:
    6,377
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Location:
    Right here
    I'm pretty sure it's standard Gibson scale, kind of thinish neck with a soft V. Mine's vintage sunburst like a J-45, which at first I didn't like but it's really grown on me.
     

Share This Page