Vintage ES-330 choice

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by PierreL, Apr 16, 2016.

  1. PierreL

    PierreL Member

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    Hi guys.
    After listening to a lot of Eddie Roberts lately (from the New Mastersounds), I'm on the lookout for a 60's ES-330.
    I have already spotted a few on differents vintage specialized sites, but I can't make up my mind whether going for a pre 1965 or a a later model (between 1966 and 1969).
    Besides the cost (obviously also an important factor), it seems that a few changes occured after 1965 :
    Fingerboard/body junction at the 19th fret
    Narrower nut
    Headstock angle

    I'm mainly wondering about the first two, how they would impact playability, in one direction or the other.
    Is the narrower neck a big deal ? And is it really a problem if the neck joins the body at the 16th rather at the 19th fret ?
    Doesn't seem to bother Mr Roberts as he uses a 1965 model, at least for this last aspect.

    It seems also that the cherry finish costs more on the vintage market, any reason why ? Are they rarer ?

    And last, I had spotted some nice specimens on Elderly Instruments, but they state that those instruments cannot be shipped to EU countries. Could that be because of the Brasilian rosewood fingerboard ?

    Anyway, if you have some experience with ES-330s of those particulars vintages, please feel free to share.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Supporting Member

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    It's a mistake to try to generalize about how "xxx year is better than yyy year" when discussing instruments approaching retirement age. There are winners and losers in every batch.

    Here's an ES-335 chart I once found here on TGP. It's not 100% but it's pretty good. Although 330s have their own set of yearly 'developments' this should be some help.

    Happy hunting!

    [​IMG]
     
  3. zztomato

    zztomato Supporting Member

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    Just buy a 59 reissue. Honestly, they are great guitars. Normally I'm in the vintage camp but after owning a Memphis 59ri, I'd say they got it right. You get the vintage sound, vintage feel of the best year of production and a price that is less than a vintage guitar.
     
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  4. smiert spionam

    smiert spionam Member

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    I'm a pretty big advocate of vintage over reissue -- for so many great guitars, you can actually do much better with vintage. Why anyone buys a reissue ES-175, for example, I'll never understand (I do understand the convenience, but you can do so much better for the money). But zztomato has a good point. 330s, unfortunately, have crossed the point at which reissues start to look like a very strong choice. I've been watching casually for several years for the right vintage deal to cross my path, and there are just too many compromises. I don't like block inlays, I loathe chrome pickup covers, really dislike late '60s Gibson neck shapes (and by the end of the decade, lots of other stuff, too), and don't want a long-neck 330.

    For me, that means stumbling into a player grade '60 or '61 with a decent sized neck, or just finding a good '59RI. The latter is a LOT easier to come by, and is probably the right choice.
     
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  5. PierreL

    PierreL Member

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    Guys, thanks a lot for your replies.
    I get the Reissue advice, it seems that Gibson did a wonderful job with those. Those Wildwood videos with Greg Koch demonstarting quite a few are sweet indeed.
    But the fact is, in Europe (and especially France), the RI bought new will cost almost as much as a vintage one... And it's quite difficult to find them on the second hand market.
    And last, but not least, I'm going 50 this June, and I would like to get myself something special for the occasion... hence the vintage version (maybe a 66 then ? :) )

    I understand the "xxx year is better than yyy year" does not always mean something when it comes to vintage stuff. I just wanted to know about the structural changes made by Gibson to the range.
    I'm fine with block inlays (like them actually), and chrome covers are ok. Which leaves the neck width and length mainly.
     
  6. smiert spionam

    smiert spionam Member

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    If that's the case, you should have some decent options. It's true that there's nothing like the feel of a great vintage guitar! Personally, I'd avoid the long neck versions, thoug.
     
  7. vivaoaxaca

    vivaoaxaca Member

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    The most important difference between the 19th fret neck joint and the 16th fret neck joint is the placement of the pickups and the bridge relative to the body. You can see the difference clearly in photos. I personally think the different bridge position has the most to do with the difference in sound between the two. To me the 19th fret neck joint ES-330s do not sound as rich and full as their 16th fret cousins. The 19th fret neck joint is also weaker than the 16th fret joint and some of the old 19th fret ES-330s have failed. They basically fold in half

    As for the narrower nut, it is a deal killer for me. I simply cannot play any of the narrow nut late 60s Gibsons. Try it for yourself as many people have played plenty of great music on a narrow nut guitar. But the feel is very different so try before you buy.

    Vintage ES-330s also seem to vary more in sound quality than other vintage Gibsons. There are plenty of duds out there that sound sterile and stiff. But the good ones are wonderful. Notes full of rich overtones seem to fly effortlessly out of them. They really reward dynamic playing.

    So the best advice is to get your hands on as many of them as you can and don't be in a big hurry to buy.
     
  8. Tone Loco

    Tone Loco Silver Supporting Member

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    Anybody played the single pickup one (ES-330 T)? I wonder how the placement affects the sound, probably a little brighter than the neck pickup on the double pickup models?
     
  9. vivaoaxaca

    vivaoaxaca Member

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    As far as I'm concerned the single pickup ES-330s are not worth considering. The placement of the pickup relative to the scale length creates a sound that is not as rich and full as a traditional neck pickup and not as bright and open as a bridge pickup. It is a little brighter than a neck pickup, but not enough to get into bridge pickup range.

    I would happily play an ES-330 that had only a neck pickup or only a bridge pickup. But the single pickup in the middle of those two just doesn't sound right or particularly good.
     
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  10. Tone Loco

    Tone Loco Silver Supporting Member

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    Makes sense I guess. Most of the better known Gibson's with one pickup are either at the bridge or the neck, even hanging off the neck in the case of a Johnny Smith. Seems sort of unlikely that it would be wholly for construction reasons since they do have it in the middle on the 330s.
     
  11. SPROING!

    SPROING! Member

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    I love a centrally placed single pickup. To me they are very "acoustic" sounding if that makes any sense.
     
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  12. PierreL

    PierreL Member

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    Guess I have found the One (well for me at last :) ).
    Will post pics when I get it.
     
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  13. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

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    I looked for one of the older ones for the longest time. Found a pretty well played '62 with a repaired headstock at a local shop. It had that sound. But the price was borderline unreasonable. Passed and just found a used Heritage H525. Not quite the same, more like an ES-225 without the funky bridge, but close enough. My search stops here. This H525 is one sweet sounding guitar.
    MD
     
  14. PierreL

    PierreL Member

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    The one I have spotted is a '65.
    Expensive, but not a lot more than a RI.
     
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  15. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    As far as the narrow nut is concerned, it's down to the individual and the guitar concerned. The internet seems to have decided en masse that the 1 9/16th width is unplayable but for many it's not a big deal, and I'd always suggest playing a few examples for yourself rather then relying on other opinions. Also, Gibson were pretty consistant with nut width but the profile varies a lot and late 60s guitars can vary from skinny to pretty full and deep so the feel can be totally different for individual guitars.

    If you do prefer the wider nut width, be aware that 1965 was a transitional year - there are plenty of wide nut '65s out there but plenty of 1 9/16ths guitars out there as well.

    In terms of colour, vintage sunburst is the most common from '58-'64 with cherry a fairly close second. Later than '65 the sunburst is most commonly an iced tea type. I don't generally see a big difference in price between cherry and sunburst.

    Current CITES legislation requires any guitar with Brazilian Rosewood components have paperwork when it crosses international borders. Some EU countries are really cracking down on this and, since this is a pain and an expense for dealers, many are taking the stance of Elderly and refusing to export to the EU. Many other dealers will ship to the EU in which case it's up to you whether you want to risk it, and the same goes for flying back with one yourself. With ES models the fingerboards were originally Brazilian with a gradual switch to Indian around '67-'68. That means a 16 fret 330s is more likely to have a Brazilian board.

    With the CITES issue, VAT/duty and the fact that 330s vary quite a bit, it's worth checking out your options in the EU as well as looking at guitars in the US. Try Vintage Guitar Boutique and Angel Guitars in London - they both usually have 330s and the prices aren't outrageous.
     
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  16. PierreL

    PierreL Member

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    Actually, I have sourced mine in Europe (Italy), after a discussion with the people from Elderly I have decided not to take the risk of importing one from with the US and having it held up in customs. It's an iced tea one. Cherry models from that vintage, at a reasonable price, are hard to find.
    Measurements for the neck are 42,56mm at the nut, 52,15 mm at the 12th fret.
    Unfortunately I have to buy sight unseen, I hope I won't be disappointed (pretty sure I won't :) )
    Thanks for the advices.
     
  17. PierreL

    PierreL Member

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  18. sa1126

    sa1126 Member

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    Congrats. That is a beautiful instrument.
     
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  19. Dave Orban

    Dave Orban Gold Supporting Member

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    I have a '64. The nut is not too narrow, and it plays like a dream. The pickups are awesome (though not as "robust" as those in my '53 175, which will tear your head off.)

    Definitely a keeper.
     
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  20. PierreL

    PierreL Member

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    This one is a 65. Plays beautifully. Being used to the ES335, it's surprising to hear the 330 ring so loud unplugged. And it's almost as light as my Tele.
     
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