My 335 sounds better than my 355.....what to do

Matt L

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11,662
I have a '74 ES-355TD that has the original stereo Varitone setup and T-top humbuckers. It has had a stoptail conversion and looks like it possibly had a very nicely done headstock repair. It plays well and looks cool, but after getting an ES-335 Dot RI with 57 Classics, I realized it paled in comparison tonally. The wound strings don't come through very well when playing live, and the clean tone is somewhat lifeless. It's just dark and lacking sparkle. I'm at a crossroads.....do I sell it, or do I try a new harness and make it mono w/o the Varitone? Are the pickups an issue, too? How about the guitar itself? I'm not worried about modding, since it has already had work done, but yanking and replacing the harness is not something I really wanna pay for twice if it ends up not helping. I've heard people say the difference post-Varitone was huge to them, so that has really got me thinking maybe that is my problem, but I'm just unsure. I could sell the guitar and be well on my way to getting a replacement, but this guitar has a lot of character and patina, and I like it. What would you do?
 

hogy

Silver Supporting Member
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14,956
Ahh man, this is what i need to hear.

Not to mention the guitar will be almost a pound lighter.

Here's an observation:

I've been around vintage Gibsons for a long time. Played dozens of PAF 335s, 345s and 355s. Always chased that "one" that I would keep.

The three very best ones I've ever played were a factory mono 1960 355, a converted '59 345, and the converted '60 345 I kept. There were many killer 335s including a bunch of dot necks, but none made the top three for me.

The 345 and 355 have their center block cut away in front of, and to the right side of the bridge pickup. This makes them more percussive and less solid-body-like narrow sounding that a 335. I'm firmly convinced of this, you can hear it both acoustically and plugged in.

That is not to say that a vintage 345 or 355 can't be a dud. But if they're good, they can be killer.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
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40,982
Ahh man, this is what i need to hear.
big +1.

there's also a way to true-bypass the varitone if you really want to keep it, so that you still have the various different sounds but the "off" setting is actually off. bit of a pain but doable.

that plus making sure the pots are not the dull-sounding 300k or even 100k of the '70s. if they are, a swap for all 500k audios will be the other piece of the puzzle to wake the thing up.

finally, you might want to "de-mod" one pickup by flipping its magnet back over, so that you can run the two together mono and have it sound right.
 

Matt L

Member
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11,662
big +1.

there's also a way to true-bypass the varitone if you really want to keep it, so that you still have the various different sounds but the "off" setting is actually off. bit of a pain but doable.

that plus making sure the pots are not the dull-sounding 300k or even 100k of the '70s. if they are, a swap for all 500k audios will be the other piece of the puzzle to wake the thing up.

finally, you might want to "de-mod" one pickup by flipping its magnet back over, so that you can run the two together mono and have it sound right.

I forgot about the flipped magnet...thanks.

I'm just gonna yank the entire Varitone unit. I never use it, it clunks around and adds weight, and is apparantly masking what this guitar really has to offer. See ya.
 

walterw

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40,982
I forgot about the flipped magnet...thanks.
i like the idea of taking a little magnet and checking the two pickups against your new 335 to figure out which old pickup is "backwards" and flipping the magnet in that one.

i suppose it doesn't really matter, but i'm going under the premise that the reissue gibby pickups are fairly accurate as to their magnet polarity vs the vintage ones.
 

AdmiralB

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3,060
i suppose it doesn't really matter

There was an article in Guitar Player a long time ago...late '90s I think...describing the "Peter Green" sound. The author swore that flipping a magnet sounded different than reversing leads (when practical, i.e. not with braided single-conductor).

Some things, to some people, are like religion.
 

hogy

Silver Supporting Member
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14,956
There was an article in Guitar Player a long time ago...late '90s I think...describing the "Peter Green" sound. The author swore that flipping a magnet sounded different than reversing leads (when practical, i.e. not with braided single-conductor).

Some things, to some people, are like religion.


It does.

Not a huge difference, but it's there. I don't know why.

I stumbled upon this many years ago when I put a phase reversal switch on the neck pickup of a dual humbucker guitar, specifically to get that "Peter Green sound". I was surprised when I noticed that flipping the switch made a subtle difference in sound when I was playing the neck pickup alone.
 

AdmiralB

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3,060

When I see a double-blind indicate such, I'll buy it. Until then, I'll file it in the 'if I think it makes a difference, it makes a difference file', and live and let live.

Like the kind of wood from which amp head cabinets are made, for another example.
 

hogy

Silver Supporting Member
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14,956
Like the kind of wood from which amp head cabinets are made, for another example.

That actually makes a much bigger difference than a phase reversal switch.

But I have completely given up arguing these kinds of issues. Some hear it, some don't. Life is easier for those who don't.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
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40,982
That actually makes a much bigger difference than a phase reversal switch.
an amp head cab? as in, "no speakers in it"? :confused:
I was surprised when I noticed that flipping the switch made a subtle difference in sound when I was playing the neck pickup alone.
the difference it makes is in the interaction with the amp at volume; flipped one way you might get smooth, additive feedback at the fundamental while the other way it'll want to split off into a higher harmonic or even die off. move five feet over and it'll all change.
 

hogy

Silver Supporting Member
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14,956
an amp head cab? as in, "no speakers in it"? :confused:


Yes that is correct. I'm not saying that the head shell can make a bad sounding amp great, or vice versa. Just that there is an influence, provided the amp is capable of reproducing a lot of detail in the first place.

Here's how that works:

Any tube amp is microphonic. Not just the tubes, that goes without saying. But crank the amp and tap the chassis, you'll hear a sound come out of the speaker. If you poke around a live circuit with a chop stick, you'll hear that certain signal caps reproduce sound as you tap them, signal wires against the chassis, plate load resistors, etc., too. The whole thing is one big microphone.

If you put that amp into a wooden box, that box will resonate with sound waves coming from the speakers, and some of that will feed back into the circuit via its microphonic properties, forming a feedback loop. Pretty much the same way a guitar body reacts to sound waves.

IF the amp is sensitive enough, you can most definitely hear a difference between the amp outside the box and in. It mostly affects harmonics.

People on here like to dismiss this kind of detailed stuff, and there will no doubt be ridicule forthcoming. But it's a real effect.

I learned this from Ken Fischer. His Trainwreck amps were designed to be right on the edge of stability, where small things make a big difference.

There's a video out there where "Mad Professor" Bjoern Juhl explains the concept beautifully. He's a guy much smarter than I am, maybe check that out.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
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40,982
Any tube amp is microphonic. Not just the tubes, that goes without saying. But crank the amp and tap the chassis, you'll hear a sound come out of the speaker. If you poke around a live circuit with a chop stick, you'll hear that certain signal caps reproduce sound as you tap them, signal wires against the chassis, plate load resistors, etc., too. The whole thing is one big microphone.
true, and fair enough. now that you mention it, i remember our amp tech wrestling with a tube head that sounded just fine sitting naked on the bench but would keep misbehaving with oscillations and such when slipped back into its wooden head shell.

i'll buy "head shell vs. no head shell" in more extreme cases (as in more unstable amps) but i'm not buying "one kind of head shell wood vs another kind of head shell wood", which is where i thought you were going with that.
 

dotmkr

Member
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496
Besides the electronics mentioned above, there are many things that effect the sound of the high end. The center block being the main one for high end. But the fit of the parts is hugely important. The contour brace is important to the way the attack of the note happens and also the low and high end of the spectrum of the note. But if the fit of the brace to the top is not solid, or there is any delamination of the plates then this effects it all too. Especially the sustain which can die off quickly due to poorly connected parts. Another factor that is big is the plate construction and glue used. I don't contradict advice given here but should state that in my opinion you might likely have more efficiency looking for another semi guitar. The pickups and varitone do effect the high end though as stated above. Make sure the pots are 500k or above and the Caps are good quality. You can Ohm the pickups and the circuit with a short cord to get an idea and go from there.
 

hogy

Silver Supporting Member
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14,956
i'll buy "head shell vs. no head shell" in more extreme cases (as in more unstable amps) but i'm not buying "one kind of head shell wood vs another kind of head shell wood", which is where i thought you were going with that.


That makes no sense. The difference is not one of principle, but of degree. If head shell resonance can influence the amplifier's sound, and different head shell materials resonate differently (as different kinds of wood will), then there would be a difference. And, with the right amp, there is.

I fully intended to go there.
 

walterw

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40,982
There's a video out there where "Mad Professor" Bjoern Juhl explains the concept beautifully. He's a guy much smarter than I am, maybe check that out.
linky?

i found this one where he talks about trainwreck amps being designed to live in that precarious "almost but not quite oscillating" zone, but he makes no mention of different kinds of wood in the head shell affecting the sound.
 




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