Does Old Really Mean Good? - Jemsite
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post #1 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-12-2014, 03:12 PM Thread Starter
 
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Does Old Really Mean Good?

This is something that has puzzled me for a while. Many guitar players and collectors will go to the ends of the earth to find an axe or amp from the 50's, 60s, 70s or 80s. When I ask friends who buy vintage gear why, I am told "they don't make them like this anymore!" or "it's the tone man!".

On another post Rich asked if anyone can tell him what's better about an old Jem and I tend to agree (not about Jems because I have played a few over the years of both amazingly good and terrible quality, not having collected them I don't know enough, but equipment in general). I can understand certain classics. However, I have always felt that as technology improves equipment becomes better.

If I tried to charge $1,500 for a 40mhz 1991 IBM PC for all your home needs provided those needs could be attained through Dbase3 and Wordstar, you wouldn't be impressed. I can understand collecting rare items or those with a certain asthetic value, but I honestly don't get the way one friend in particular refuses to even look at anything that was made after 1979 (he was born in 1980).

I sold a LP Custom I didn't play anymore about a year ago. When the guy who came to try it heard it was over 30 years old he had a semi, I thought I was going to have to throw a bucket of cold water over him to stop him humping the damn thing.

I think the equipment has got much better, you can now simulate any amp sound from your PC. The players have become more technical and in my view much more skilled at their game, 20/25 years ago you could blast out a few pentatonics with a couple of muffled Malmsteenesque runs at a gig or in a guitar store and gain instant respect, adulation and felatio. Look at our own Kyle, the guy plays like a god and he's just 16, imagine what he'll be able to do at 20 or 25 if he keeps his heart in the game.

What do you guys think?
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post #2 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-12-2014, 03:30 PM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

For the most part I think it's a crock of s**t! The idea that it can't be good because it's own is just bunk.
I do have a theory though and it relates to samurai swords.The master swordmakers are known because their wares didn't break in battle, allowing for potential repeat customers. It's hard for a dead customer to sing your praises when his blade snaps in battle. The same is true for vintage gear I think. If it's lasted this long and is still good then it IS good. Time has weeded out the weak sisters.
And the computer thing... not a good example... Moore's Law and all.
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post #3 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-12-2014, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

Yes, very true on the swords, it was also because the techniques employed by the better masters were only passed to their direct successor. Miyamoto Musashi had such a belief in his technique that he used a bokken in duels against swordsmen, if you haven't already I recommend Book of 5 Rings as an interesting read because it is refreshingly sarcastic for a Japanese writer of the time and can be applied to many fields.

On the computer thing, I think Moore's Law can be applied to more than computers, look at the way pedals have advanced, amp emulation etc., Ok, a guitar still has the same ingredients it had in 1969, but I'm sure the technology involved has improved 10 fold. With the technology available it's a lot easier to test frequency ranges and tolerances, so I'm sure pickups are made to a much greater degree of accuracy. I'm not sure if it has been applied to the guitar industry (but I can't see why not) we could assess the structure and composition of the wood at a molecular level and then decide if it's fit for purpose. From my limited personal experience I feel the average guitar has got better. Sure there are some axes that are great, but the average has improved a hell of a lot from the days of dreadful Encore and Aria.

What's your thoughts on this idea? not sure if it has been done, if it hasn't it's mine and I want the profits, all mine!

Pickup emulation. Simple, Dimarzio/EMG/whomever sell you a set of digital pickups attached to an emulation circuit at a premium cost. The pickup is actually a series of microphones to capture the sound, this passes through the circuit which can then be either adjusted by the user with a PC to their own specification or you can go to their website, pay $20 and download the exact emulation of a pickup as used by your favourite guitar player. Is there a market there?
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post #4 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-12-2014, 07:36 PM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

I don't know on guitars. I'm a fan of being practical. If it can be done just as well with a hammer and nail rather than some super high-tech new way then I'll go with the practicality of the hammer and nail. In my opinion there's innovation and then there's unnecessary.
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post #5 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-12-2014, 08:18 PM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

I think there's also something to be said for wood continuing to dry out a bit with time, and I've always felt guitars need to "break in" a little, and spend some time getting used to being a guitar and not a chunk of wood with a few bits of wire. But that seems to happen pretty quickly...

My problem with a lot of older guitars is I tend to prefer things - flatter radiuses, larger fretwire - that you just don't find on older guitars. But I don't think older guitars are "worse" than newer ones, either - it varies more guitar by guitar, and a special guitar will always be special regardless of its age.
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post #6 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-12-2014, 08:56 PM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

I admit that pre-1980 turns me on but I know they may not have been better, and may not even be better with age and there's a certain soft spot of getting a guitar that was in when I first started back then.

I think this starts stoking an old debate pitting players against collectors. Before I was a player, I collected stuff including guitars so I understand that mindset, too. Both collecting and playing can be tremendously fun.

I have had probably 15 "vintage" guitars and I loved them all. The dried out wood and broken in feel certainly helped so I like them more. While some may not like a thrashed guitar, I can dig most of them assuming it's not so bad it's fretted out or the neck isn't so dinged up in back that it affects my playing. I think there are a lot of people like me that love a blackened out maple fretboard and crazed lacquer.

That being said if the vintage guitar had been new, given new wood and a non-broken it guitar I think they are about the same if reissues are to be believed as a representation. If you take a new guitar, break it in and age it, I would guess it would seem much better. But with better pickup winding control, as opposed to the wildly different Gibson PAFs, and computers, I think manufacturing is probably better today.

The market will tell and if there are enough people willing to pay for old stuff, and some old stuff which is not that good (we have all seen them) falling through the cracks and bringing in big money, then that's the fault of the buyer. The local vintage dealer near me is honest in that he will not price something at the top if it doesn't play well. Top dollar should go to something rare, but playing well with all original components. But of course if the guitar is super rare, like a Korina or White Penguin, then it will bring in a ton regardless of playability. I don't have the money so if it's vintage and I save up for one, I make sure it can double as a playable instrument, too.

New guitars I was blown away with (different price levels):

Yamaha Pacifica, then under $300 out the door, have always been a great find
All ESP/LTDs with their good price and wonderful fret work on all price points
New Ibanezes back in the late-70s through mid-80s which I thought were amazing and the best on the market

Old guitars which I have owned which I loved which are as good as any:

'65 tele
'68 tele
'65 Melody Maker
'47 OO-17

If a guitar is good, and you like it, then get it. At least if it's higher in price like vintage stuff, you can get a higher percentage of that back than if you buy any new guitar.

Last edited by 63Blazer; 05-12-2014 at 09:07 PM.
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post #7 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-13-2014, 09:58 AM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

I've always thought of guitars being like wine. there are good years and bad years for all makes and models. Lots of Ibanez people like late 80's or early 90's RG's; particularly from the famous 1991 catalog. In my opinion the 1999-2001 RG's were the best playability-wise. Sure, they were dull to look at but super wizard with bubinga stripe? Original Edge? AANJ? General quality from what I've seen is the best. Finishing sucked from those years though.
Mid 00's Prestiges were good too.
i'm certain the same can be said for Gibson and Fender too and other manufacturers.
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post #8 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-13-2014, 11:34 AM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

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Originally Posted by mike570 View Post
I've always thought of guitars being like wine. there are good years and bad years for all makes and models. Lots of Ibanez people like late 80's or early 90's RG's; particularly from the famous 1991 catalog. In my opinion the 1999-2001 RG's were the best playability-wise. Sure, they were dull to look at but super wizard with bubinga stripe? Original Edge? AANJ? General quality from what I've seen is the best. Finishing sucked from those years though.
Mid 00's Prestiges were good too.
i'm certain the same can be said for Gibson and Fender too and other manufacturers.
I don't know if it's because I discovered Ibanez then, but the late 70s through early 80s does it for me. I know there wasn't the S and RG dominance of metal with the Edge trem, but stuff like the late-70s/early-80s Artist, AS200, Iceman, and Blazer were representing the brand really well.

Gibson has a great electric guitar period from 1952's Les Paul until the mid-1960s before Norlin took over (in 1969) and the few years before that when Gibson was in decline in their quality. Some may not like anything after 1960 though when the Les Paul was axed.

Fender had their heyday from the 1950 Esquire and Broadcasters all the way up until the end of 1964 when Leo Fender was at the helm of the company.

That being said, for most of us it means a Gibson from 1965-1979 is reasonably within reach in most examples and Fenders from 1980 are affordable. Fenders from 1965-1979 may not be cheap but are still much more approachable than the Leo Fender 1964s and before.

Where it could be said that an early-60s Gibson is probably quite a bit better than a late-60s Gibson, it's harder to say that same thing about Fenders since there are a ton of 1965-69 Fenders that are still stunning guitars and have as much vintage vibe and pre-CBS gems.
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post #9 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-13-2014, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

63, I get where you're coming from, but part of your criteria is playability. I've played a few old ones in friends collections. Particularly older strats (I never got Teles). Some of the 80s ibbys I get and the collector in me really wants some of those 70s Ibby LP copies(what is it with guys and collecting things, I suspect if many of us were laying in bed with the most beautiful woman on the planet we would secretly think "wow if only she had a twin sister").

Mike, I agree on the mid 00 Prestiges, I own 2 and have played some more over the years, they definitely play better than some later ones I've played. I had a 99 RG which played well apart from that awful Lo-Trs trem.

I've seen a few of those Ibby LP copies for sale here, does anyone know how they played and sounded in general?

I should have stated in my original post that I was also interested in your thoughts on amps and pedals. My friend who got me thinking about this buys only old valve amps, thinks Jems look like electric toothbrushes and thinks I'm killing the music by using amp sims. Seriously, the room he keeps his amps in smells like a public toilet, I reckon the previous owners lived in some of the amps. Oh, and the guy refuses to use multifx units or any digital pedal.

Interestingly one of the most fun guitars I play occasionally and the one with the best action I have played bar none is one my wife bought for €99, it's a strat copy made by a Taiwanese company called Lisa and has the words "Made Under Supervision of USA Technicians", keep meaning to turn it into a strat project.
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post #10 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-13-2014, 04:00 PM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

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Originally Posted by Laobi View Post
63, I get where you're coming from, but part of your criteria is playability. I've played a few old ones in friends collections. Particularly older strats (I never got Teles). Some of the 80s ibbys I get and the collector in me really wants some of those 70s Ibby LP copies(what is it with guys and collecting things, I suspect if many of us were laying in bed with the most beautiful woman on the planet we would secretly think "wow if only she had a twin sister").
What I tell people is have new guitars, or recently used ones be the ones you practice and gig with and save the vintage axe for recording. There may be a better tone to an original 1980's RG when it's recorded, or it may just be the same thing as today's RG but old.

You have to determine if a true vintage guitar, like a coveted 80's RG, Jem or Gibson/Fender, is worth spending the extra money for and if you only go out on a branch and get one such vintage guitar, it's no great loss. It would be terrible to buy a whole bunch of vintage guitars, at great cost, looking for the perfect one only to find you really only like new guitars. There are quite a few guitarists who like stuff brand spanking new, relish in being the original owner, and don't like the used feel of an older instrument. That's OK too and it's what makes us all different.

I may not claim older guitars were way better, but it's hard not to like a 20 or 30 year old pickup. I don't know if the harder edges get softened over time but there's nothing in the humbucker realm I have liked for (at least cleans) as much as my original early-60's Gibson PAF. People pay thousands for them and for a solidbody guitar, most of the sound is attributed to the pickup. Pots, wiring, switches, wood choice, neck choice, and fingerboard choice all play a factor but for a solid bunch of wood with some metal and plastic, the pickups end up being the overall voice of a Les Paul, strat, or RG. If a person doesn't want to go out and get let's say a rare vintage Ibanez, you can always buy a vintage Ibanez pickup like Super 58s, 70s, or 80s and sometimes radically change the sound of a new guitar. It's the cheapest way, at this time, to get the old, vintage sound. There may come a time when there's a pitch perfect digital effects box/software that can get the sound, but for now, eBay and old Ibby pickups can get one a big part of that golden era of Ibanez sound. Same goes for old Fender and Gibson pickups, too when it comes to solidbodies.

So if somebody says it's the maple, mahogany, or dedicated workers in the past that makes a vintage guitar different, they still won't play as much a part soundwise as the aged pickups. Short of spending sometimes too much on some genuine vintage pickups, you can get some Seymour Duncan aged magnet pickups which get that basic vintage sound people chase after. It's a real sound and while not radically different than the sound of a similar new pickup, there are those willing to pay extra for that yesteryear sound.

You can also get a standard new tube amp that doesn't have too many bells and whistles and get some vintage speakers and see how you like the tone. Many of us who were used to gradually harder and harder rock upped our Marshall speakers or Fender speakers and got stuff with more kick. At the height of the modding years, many put EVs into the Fenders to replace standard Jensens. Also some liked hotter speakers than the Celestions for Marshalls and even Celestion made hotter replacement speakers to get a more biting tone. Sometimes too much power is harsh and I found that under a Marshall when I went with four 100 watt Jackson speakers. It was just too much and I had wished for four 30 watt Celestions. Louder is not always better and that's where old speakers and old guitar pickups come into play the most.

It's probably a fallacy to say they were categorically better in the old days, but that maybe they have a tone that people like which they may find hard to sort out under all the uber modern gear. I put in tens of thousands into old gear and maybe I shouldn't have but it was fun still looking for it everywhere and beating other collectors to the punch.

Last edited by 63Blazer; 05-13-2014 at 04:26 PM.
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post #11 of 55 (permalink) Old 05-13-2014, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

I never thought of the pickup idea, I must keep my eyes open. Regarding the splashing out, I am seeing those 70 Ibby LP copies going for a couple of hundred, I liked my old custom just for the playability and the tone, so I was wondering if the Ibby copies were a good copy or like many East Asian products of the time slightly sub par.

It's true about people liking what they like, I love certain Jems and UVs and my taste is strange, I love the early FP, but am not keen on the DY, 7v series or the Indonesian green ones. I'm not really a fan of the tree of life inlay, I'm a huge fan of Steve Vai, but I love the Jem for it's design and playability, not because it's SV's axe. I was also a closet maple lover for years, so when I had set aside some cash for a Jem (enough to choose between quite a few models) I made what would seem to many here a completely blasphemous decision - I spent months doing research and more months hunting I found a pristine 505 and I love the guitar, it's everything I was looking for in an Ibby.

Most would disagree on the tree of life, but for me the tree of life is something Steve really wanted, it means something special to him, it doesn't have the same resonance for me, I would pay good money for if Ibanez sold custom Jem necks with inlays designed to client specifications.

Last edited by Laobi; 05-13-2014 at 04:39 PM.
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post #12 of 55 (permalink) Old 06-18-2014, 09:37 AM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

I think it is interesting that players will resist innovation. Look at the Stratocaster. It's floating trem system is unstable even if you know all of the "tricks." People will still suffer though owning one of those because it is a "legend." Give me a modern high tech instrument any day of the week. More stability in the tuning, more frets, more ergonomic, more tonal options, thank you Ibanez for making the Strat SUPER.

That said, I own an '87 RG550. I bought it for nostalgic reasons. It is a great playing guitar, but I play my RG1570 and modded RG350 99% of the time.

Last edited by JimmyJazz; 06-18-2014 at 09:47 AM.
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post #13 of 55 (permalink) Old 06-18-2014, 10:23 AM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

The guitars so desired and valuable because they are tied to the age and to the music, so closely that to many people they ARE the age and the music. And for someone who was young when rock 'n' roll was young, the guitars represent their youth, and how valuable is THAT to a person?

Peace

Mike
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post #14 of 55 (permalink) Old 06-18-2014, 10:37 AM
 
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

And to address the question in the title of the thread, no, older doesn't always mean good.

I have played some real dogs from the 1960s. Most memorably, a twenty-thousand dollar Strat with an awful, garish three-tone sunburst and a very bland, generic sound. Every Fender dealer in America had a Stratocaster on the wall that sounded and looked better in a competition on pure merit.

You just gotta look for the good ones and avoid buying those not-so-great examples that are out there from every manufacturer.

Peace

Mike
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post #15 of 55 (permalink) Old 06-18-2014, 12:17 PM
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Re: Does Old Really Mean Good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimmyJazz View Post
I think it is interesting that players will resist innovation. Look at the Stratocaster. It's floating trem system is unstable even if you know all of the "tricks." People will still suffer though owning one of those because it is a "legend." Give me a modern high tech instrument any day of the week. More stability in the tuning, more frets, more ergonomic, more tonal options, thank you Ibanez for making the Strat SUPER.

That said, I own an '87 RG550. I bought it for nostalgic reasons. It is a great playing guitar, but I play my RG1570 and modded RG350 99% of the time.
At the end of the day, all of Ibanez's "modern innovation" still can't make a guitar that sounds like a strat. Personally if I'd rather have one good sound than the option of having 100 ok sounds. If I want a strat sound, I'll grab a strat, not a split humbucker, 24 fret floating trem guitar.
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