Is 'vintage' really better? Slightly different angle.

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by AaeCee, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. AaeCee

    AaeCee Member

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    I know it's been questioned to death, but I'm adding some particulars. What, specifically do you think leads to their (supposed) superior tone? Do the magnets in pickups not loose strength over time? Why then, do I often hear phrases like "the new strat hung right in there with the '57"? Wouldn't the 57 pups have decreased output, thus having trouble 'hanging with' a newer one? And, in general, don't most electronics/magnets loose something over time, thus deteriorating some tonal character? Now, I understand the theory that some deterioration is good...leads to a rounder or mellowing of certain tonal aspects that may be pleasing, but wouldn't new equivalent pups always sound bigger than vintage? And the wood...how big an advantage does 40 yr. old wood (in general) have over 5 yr. old wood, especially on a solid body? I'm not disputing anything, I'm truely curious. Is it more the rarity and the probability of escalating value, or is there really a 'tone' thing? Never owned anything of true 'vintage' status, but read constantly about various pros who wouldn't consider much else, due to the supposed inferior tone of new guitars. So help me rationalize this concept. Maybe I'll become a convert. Thanks as always, AC
     
  2. mbratch

    mbratch Member

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    I will spew some random thoughts on this...

    I think "better" tone is hard to argue for vintage. However, I think unique tone is probably arguable. The reason being is that tone must be unique due to aging, etc. But a lot of things make tone different, not just age.

    But vintage doesn't guarantee good either. There were lemons in the '50s and '60s just like there are lemons now.

    All this being said, it's arguable that more care went into the production of vintage instruments than most modern ones. The reason being that the trend in any industry is to reduce cost and increase production. So average quality goes down to minimal acceptable levels. Of course, there are exceptions, as there are many fine builders and brands of guitars and amps today in which that care is put into the building process.

    Then there's the nostalgia factor. Part of what makes a piece of vintage gear sweet is that it's really from that time period, when rock pioneers made this stuff popular. :)

    But I would not universally say that vintage is better than modern for any particular reason.
     
  3. hemlock

    hemlock Guest

    I think that what usually happens is that all examples of modern guitars get compared to exceptional examples of vintage guitars. Personally, I think that modern guitars are much better built than vintage guitars were. Closer tolerances, better tools, better chemicals for finishing, more knowledge. If you could play 1000 Teles from 1965 and 1000 from 2005, I'd bet you'd prefer more of the 2005 models.
     
  4. VSpaceBoy

    VSpaceBoy Member

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    Honestly, I think its all a matter of what somebody heard first and the "hyped" up. :Spank I know.. sorry..

    Most ppl tend to latch on to their "firsts". Just like bands. The "best" bands/musicians are the ones that they got into first. I'm no different...

    Obviously I'm generalizing and there is always an exception to the rule, but its just my opinion.
     
  5. ricoh

    ricoh Member

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    These are my Teles.....one is vintage .....the nocaster is 2003

    I like the Nocaster better ......It has a more open woody tone........
    I could hear it before I ever plugged it in.

    In 1970 I had 2 Strats... one sounded unreal....I wish I kept it!!!
    one sounded weak
    I have a CS 60's RW relic....it sounds like the one i wish I stiil had

    Now the vintage tele sure looks cool....I think that is part of the deal

    Rico
     
  6. Antero

    Antero Member

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    Here's a thought.

    -If it was from the 50's or 60's and is still working well today, it was well made and will probably sound good.

    -Thus, most of the crappy ones died along the way.
     
  7. Mayflower

    Mayflower Supporting Member

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    Generally true!
    I think there are the good, bad, and ugly from every year since guitars have been made.
     
  8. playon

    playon Supporting Member

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    What the old guitars had going for them was, the magnet composition was a little different, and the wood was better, and the run-of-the-mill production models were still largely handmade.

    As a general rule I think current production guitars are more consitent, but not as good sounding, largely because the world's forests are in much poorer condition today -- the primo wood is scarce now. However you can still get lucky and find a good new production guitar now and then.

    But today's custom shop guitars, or guitars carefully assembled from top-quality wood and parts, IMO are just as good and in many cases better than the old ones.
     
  9. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    "better" is subject. For example with finishes lacquer is rarely used anymore because of environmental issues. Poly is harder and causes the wood to vibrate less. Is that "better"?

    Cast Stainless steel is used in the bridges of most new strats. Is that better than stamped steel bridge pieces? It certainly doesn't sound the same.

    Magnets can be degaussed to sound like older weak magnets. Is that better?

    Aged wood suffers from organic deterioration. It's been proven that wood can be artificially aged to make it sound like 100 year old wood but as far as I know, only $10,000 violins get that treatment. No guitars are being made like that.

    So, better constructed to tighter tolerances? Yes. Better, it's subjective.
     
  10. Westy

    Westy Member

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    I have the Gibson owners booklet that came with my '69 SG standard. Here's what is says:

    "Your new Gibson instrument is finished with a carefully formulated lacquer designed to sustain the maximum tonal qualities of the wood and to preserve it throughout the life of the instrument. Lacquer contains many solvents which, during the early life of the instrument, continue to escape from the lacquer. As a result, the finish settles into a permanent position over a period of time and ages, much like a fine old violin. During this period, tonal changes in the instrument are normal and you will find, as the instrument ages, the tone becomes sweet and mellow."

    The pickups they used back then are pretty good, too!

    Westy
     
  11. cvansickle

    cvansickle Supporting Member

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    It's funny to me how most so-called vintage instrument dealers justify the "vintage" distinction and the "vintage" price on some pieces. When I go to a guitar show, most of what I see is just "old." Okay, if it's old it must be vintage, I'll accept that. However, I don't believe for a minute that just because it's "vintage" it must also be "good." As somebody already said, they made lemons in the past too. I once played a 58 or 59 Les Paul that played and sounded like absolute shizt, but it had a pretty top. And the dealer wanted uber-bucks for it. Well, Hooter girls have nice tops too, but it doesn't mean that I want to take them home either!
     
  12. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    Having owned vintage guitars, 63 strat, and a 55 Gretch for me the thing I enjoyed about the instruments was the broken in feel. I have a hard time with new or guitars that feel stiff and need to be broken in. I like instruments with necks that have the back worn like an old stairway bannister. There is nothing quite like that slick non sticky feel.

    Guitars from any era can both be good and bad and I have played old ones that were good and many more crappy ones so IMHO the vintage phenomona is a lot of hype to create a market for something which really isn't justified. My biggest problem with the vintage stuff is it really doesn't have to do with quality of the product, instead it's about what the headstock says. Case in point old Hamers sell dirt cheap and they generally are built better then any Les Paul.
     
  13. 1959burst

    1959burst boogieman

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    well i'm a vintage guy, i do have some newer custom shop stuff and i'm sorry but i prefer the vintage.....................they can make it look the part, but haven't figured out how to make it sound the part imo.
     
  14. DonW

    DonW Velocity Town Angel Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm with those that love the broken in feel. My '60 LP Special plays like no other. The sound is distinct. "Better" is up to one's own taste but I know that for me it does sound better than other examples I've heard of the newer variety. I love modern guitars as well, p/u's etc. but the vibe is automatic in vintage for me. My '05, '50's style neck LP Standard is a killer and I love it. I have a '88 HLE strat that plays and sounds great too. I'm not a collector though. It doesn't have to be 100% original. You can get in to some really great old wood cheaper if it's not original. I wouldn't want one completely modded or too abused though.
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  15. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    I suspect that nobody can really quantify the "vintage" tone. It's like oxygen-free cable. If *YOU* believe it, it's real. Otherwise, I'm not convinced.
     
  16. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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  17. phretbored

    phretbored Member

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    I have heard that as wood ages there is some crystallization that occurs within and that it contributes to be what we perceive as improved tone over time.
    Perhaps that allows the wood to resonate more or better.

    Also as guitars accept their fate of being strung up under all that tension they seem to "open up" over time.
    The ones that accept their fate from the beginning sound and play killer right away and just get better the more they are played.
     
  18. ToneRanger

    ToneRanger Member

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    My guitar tech who also builds guitars and I once had a chat about the wood and its effect on tone.

    I don't know much about this stuff, but this is what he told me. He said that two thing happen to wood over time, it dries and it looses its "inner tensions". His opinion that the wood drying doesnt has that much effect and most of the lacquer stuff is bs as well. nitro lacquer is the same stuff that they use to make ping pong balls and is just as "thick" a cover than a poly one. The lacquer doesnt have an effect on the drying of the wood though 'cause the wood begins to dry when it's cut. (for the record I love nitro finishes and how they age). So, the drying of the wood might make it more resonant.

    But the thing this dude really pointed out was that what makes the wood sing (in his opinion at least) was that when the wood looses it's inner tensions. I know this might sound crazy, it's hard for me to explain this in English :).

    Okay, that was what I've found out about wood and ageing. I don't know if I'd buy high dollar vintage guitars even if I had the money.. just go with what feels right, I think there are lot of great guitars out there, old and new.
     
  19. phoenix

    phoenix Gold Supporting Member

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    To quote Bob Willcutt, "We are now in the golden age of guitar building." I have some killer new customs but mostly vintage pieces. My take on it is that modern construction and hindsight is far better. Many companies do backflips trying to duplicate the good AND bad constuction techniques of the past to be able to sell historic sounds.
    However!, while my new guitars are better, vintage will always sound more historic because of the specific parts and construction of THOSE years. Thats what I love. for example, here's my Fender 'samples' from '62, '64, '52, '65. Old trees, different climates. It cant be a complete coincidence that primal inspiration is called a woodie.
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  20. EBGB

    EBGB Member

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    Let's not forget the electronics:

    I think components were beefier then.

    I own an awesome real 57 LP Jr. When I first bought it, the original bumblebee cap was in the case-- the leads were clipped and too short to allow the thing to be used. So we put in a new "orange drop" cap. It was OK. Then I discovered someone who could fix bumblebee caps and got it repaired.

    The bumblebee sounded 10x better than the orange drop-- fuller, thicker, and more substantial.
     

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