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  1. #1

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    I have a 2000 model Wine red in the very tempting dark smokey style shading. Looked nearly like the shading of JZ's recent L5 Wes.

    Man, oh man...I just couldn't put the L4CES down! It sit's so balanced and perfectly in the lap. Unfortunately the music store I sampled the guitar in didn't have a small Deluxe or Twin amp, so I was forced to hear the guitar from a rock style amp that didn't do the guitar justice.

    But the guitars comfort, playability, and natural fit leads me to do further investigation. I immediately bonded with the L4CES' 3.5" depth! My Guild AA experience taught me that I seem to gel with archtops of greater depth.

    And as if that wasn't bad enuf, on the wall of the shop was a 1 owner, original condition, 1915 Gibson L4 in unbelievable condition. The guitar's finish was remarkably brilliant, as if it had been restored. The vintage Gibson is reportedly in 95% condition...we're talkin' 1915!!! Did I play it? Heck no, I didn't dare put my hands on it, but on the return trip I'll have to, if for no other than the experience of playing a 1915 Gibson.

    and to think...I only drove to the shop to acquire a new set of Classical guitar strings!


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    When Makis Ablianitis did his Archtop shoot-out on Youtube, the L4CES was among my favorites, along with the Super Eagle:

  4. #3
    Jon Dalton gets a great tone out of his demo too. I'm not fond of the tuners. Given all the brass on the guitar I'd have preferred Gibson issued the L4CES with the L5's Schaller brass plated tuners.

  5. #4

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    Whatever you do please ensure it is an earlier model ( with ebony board ) the newer one is rosewood mine is circa 2008 in natural , they are the biz.

  6. #5

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    I had a 2001 that was maple.

  7. #6

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    I picked up an NOS '88 L4CES around 1992 ... it had been sitting in the basement of Chuck Levin's in Maryland so long the neck was warped and it appeared to be a hopeless case

    I made them and offer on the condition they could straighten out the neck in their repair shop ... the neck straightened out nicely and has only needed a couple of adjustments since then .... so I got a great deal on it even for 1992

    Mine is a wonderful sounding guitar ... I keep thinking of trying to sell it, but it sounds so good ... and it has been around long enough to have a history with me ... so I haven't been able to let it go

    Mine has a mahogany back and side ... and it may be a pressed top as opposed to a carved top, buy I've never had that confirmed. The back and side have lots of checking ... as does my '85 ES175D ... so I'm wondering if Gibson was still trying to figure out how to spray hollowbody guitars in the Nashville humidity in the mid to late 80s.

    Good luck ... these can be great guitars ... the flame maple backs are pretty, but a mahogany back may be worth having for its tone ... I'm sure either choice can be a good one

  8. #7

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    I have one with Maple back and sides... It is "pretty" and does not lack for tone. One of the most underated archtops in the Gibson line.

  9. #8

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    Hi Bluedawg & Jaco

    Your comments encouraged me to dig out mine ,I agree with Jaco that it is an
    underrated model , not as popular as a 175 and usually not a quick seller.
    Since I took Patrick & 2b's recommendation and fitted the Bill Gagnon African
    Blackwood bridges to it and the L5CES the tone is improved also. I like the TF
    but the CES 's have the edge for ultimate tone quality IMO I have even strung
    the L4cES with TI , 11's which work well on it.
    Last edited by silverfoxx; 07-13-2015 at 06:58 AM.

  10. #9

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    The L-4 has gone through many design changes in its long, long life. The most recent version (L-4CES) has always had a carved spruce top, but the back plate has been either laminated maple or carved mahogany, with matching rims. There may be a laminated mahogany-back version in there as well (not sure of that). That may be important to some players.

    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop
    ...Given all the brass on the guitar I'd have preferred Gibson issued the L4CES with the L5's Schaller brass plated tuners.
    Gold. Gold-plated. Gibson plates its metals in nickel, chrome or gold. Their only main items fabricated with plated brass are their tailpieces - bridges and tuners are fabricated using other metals.
    Last edited by Hammertone; 07-13-2015 at 08:50 AM.

  11. #10

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    I think the L-4CES followed the ES-175 construction with laminated maple, laminated mahogany and the newer ones with solid mahogany backs and sides. Tops were always carved as far as I know. there was even a L-4CES with solid carved maple back and sides a couple years ago that was listed for as much as an L-5CES. There were even thin body L-4CES guitars. I played a custom shop model in CA. that had a sparkle ivory finish and intricate engraving on all the metal parts. Not my cup of tea but something Merle Travis might have played. There are a lot of flavors of L-4CES's especially if you include the older ones with different pickups CC, humbuckers and P-90's and some with single pickups. Don't for get about the acoustic versions which are wonderful guitars. All in all great guitars for the price, especially used.
    Thanks John

  12. #11
    But has there ever been a single humbucker L4CES, ala a '175?

  13. #12

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    I don't think it was ever a production model, but there are a few custom orders

    Last edited by wintermoon; 07-13-2015 at 02:51 PM.

  14. #13
    Thanks WM! Okay, there's my L4. Where do I find it and what's it gonna cost me?

  15. #14

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    $10 234.00, Musician's Friend Guitar Sale.

    Gibson L-4 CES Owners-8-17-12001-jpg

    You must be a changeling. All these L-4CES with single pups have been hashed and rehashed since about 2012 as 2bop must be aware. Where did the real 2bop go?
    Last edited by Jabberwocky; 07-13-2015 at 03:04 PM.

  16. #15

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    Gibson L-4 CES Owners-2009l4ceswes-1-jpg
    Gibson L-4 CES Owners-2009l4ceswes-2-jpg

  17. #16

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    Gibson L-4 CES Owners-gibsonl4cesfront-jpg
    Gibson L-4 CES Owners-gibsonl4cesback-jpg

  18. #17

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    Why did I not start playing right handed? Some tasty guitar right there. Which one you ask? All of them! I blame my father, he was born lefty and had to "train" to be a righty. One time he gave me and my brother (also a lefty) a pair of lefty scissors, so that we wouldnt have to endure the same trauma he had to. Guess he could not have given us a Gibson archtop, cause they are not a single left-bloody-handed one (if you´re not a billionaire and could have one made). Apperently Gibson, after they make a lefty one, destroy all the tools, equipment and I take it, all the personnel aswell, and start the process all over again. Costly indeed.

    Still, there are some makers that are not so discriminating towards me and my sad, unhappy band of brothers and sisters. Heritage for one. Peerless and Eastman. Gretsch too. So I shouldnt complain too much. At least I am not a lefty piano player.

    Sorry for the rant and hijack, its just seeing those iconic instruments and knowing I could never get one...

    So, get one and play the living daylights out of it. Not for me, but for all of us cursed lefties.

  19. #18
    Okay, one final Q to my esteemed partners in guitar crime.

    What say you about a Mahogany back and sides mid 2000's L4, versus a maple back and sides L4?

    Thank you in advance!

    edit - Was there an upcharge for a Mahogany over Maple, or vice versa?
    Last edited by 2bornot2bop; 07-14-2015 at 05:33 PM.

  20. #19

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    Gibson L-4 CES Owners-three-gib-guitrs-jpg

    This '89 has maple back and sides, but I wouldn't let that be too big a factor.

  21. #20

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    I've played an L4 once...remember really liking it.

    Were I hunting for one, I'd want the mahogany, if only because that further makes it it's "own thing" and not a "baby L5."

    The more i play 'em...16" instruments are where it's at for me. Even though they look like Les Pauls on my frame.

  22. #21

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    2b, Yes my 165 has the same depth.
    I love mine. Everytime time I play it, it blows me away. I want to side by side it with my L5 when I do my Joe Pass "Night and Day" Video so folks can hear the difference. Only problem, that means I have to play the song perfectly twice in one take. That might zap ole Zeus of all his energy and turn him into sand..

    Just a word of advice for my bro from another mo.. The 165 is nice. Don't get me wrong. But from a buyers perspective, it will always be the cheaper alternative to the 175. Even though its the same Guitar as the regular 175 (sans the "D"). It has always been the Bargain 175. And that's a shame because its just as superb..

    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop
    Hey Joe, isn't your Herb Ellis the same depth? What do you think of it? At this point it's added depth, comfort, and playability that's the attraction for 2b
    Last edited by Max405; 07-14-2015 at 06:03 PM.

  23. #22

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    One thing I particularly like on the 175 is that gap between the end of the fingerboard and the pickup. It's my default 'picking zone'. The L4 looks like a great instrument but it doesn't have that gap, which I think I would miss.

  24. #23
    1994 to 2003 L4s had "laminated" maple back and sides and 2004 through current production the guitars are/were made with solid carved mahogany back and solid mahogany sides.

    A buyer wouldn't have known that without doing extensive research....The L4CES plot thickens....

  25. #24

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    Mine is c2008 with Mahogany back & sides and there is a noticeable tone difference
    between it and both the TF (2013 & Maple ) and a Es175 '59 VOS (laminate ) 'though
    i like the latter two ,the L4CES has the edge as most other contributors to your quest for
    perfection have said in their evidence your honour, ! But it's down to your ear as well as
    the visual appeal.

    Do I qualify for expenses if i am called back to give further evidence ( First Class flight no Red Eye )


  26. #25
    Thanks for the feedback SF! That's the problem with buying blind...there is no "ear" action. At this point I'm enamored with the feel of the L4CES, but I'm wondering if it's worth an extra $1400 for an L4CES to acquire that "feel." I don't need the redundancy in humbucker's as I've got that covered. I'm partial to acoustic playing most times.