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  1. #1

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    I just got my new '53 ES-150 back from local shop that did a setup, glued a couple loose inlays and replaced the chipped tuning buttons.
    Couldn't wait to get it home and do a side-by-side with a '57 ES-125 i got about a year and a half ago. As i've stated before, I'm very much a beginner, but ears and my feel for the sound are getting a little better.

    Briefly, they sound pretty different. Strings are somewhat similar. The 125 has D'addario .12 Half-Rounds and the 150 has TI BeBop rounds. I MAY try and do a video, but I have no editing equipment, pro Mic, etc, etc. Plus my playing is pretty limited, but I could probably cobble something together to give at least a feel for them.

    The INTERESTING part and my main take away was what i noticed about the thickness of the tops. Just eyeballing and touching them, the difference was glaring. I got out the micrometers and here are the numbers:

    '57 ES-125....5.39mm
    '53 ES-150....3.16mm

    Look forward to hearing what you guys in the know will have to say about this. Did this change from year to year or model to model or guitar to guitar?
    Attached Images Attached Images Interesting Difference: Gibson ES-125 '57 vs. ES-150 '53......-es-150-125-jpg Interesting Difference: Gibson ES-125 '57 vs. ES-150 '53......-es-150-125-ii-jpg 
    Last edited by DMgolf66; 08-25-2020 at 02:43 PM.

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  3. #2

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    Congrats! Great-looking guitars and an interesting finding. There's another new thread asking about the transition from acoustic to electric archtops. Your two guitars seem to be on different sides of the demarkation line, suggesting that the need for feedback resistance led to thicker laminated tops somewhere in the mid-'50s. I believe that carved Gibsons began to receive thicker tops a few years later, but there are experts on these waves who probably can identify the change with serial-number accuracy. I further believe that similar observations could be made about other makers, e.g. Epiphones before the Gibson takeover and Levin.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gitterbug
    Congrats! Great-looking guitars and an interesting finding. There's another new thread asking about the transition from acoustic to electric archtops. Your two guitars seem to be on different sides of the demarkation line, suggesting that the need for feedback resistance led to thicker laminated tops somewhere in the mid-'50s. I believe that carved Gibsons began to receive thicker tops a few years later, but there are experts on these waves who probably can identify the change with serial-number accuracy. I further believe that similar observations could be made about other makers, e.g. Epiphones before the Gibson takeover and Levin.
    Yeah, I'd love to hear from some others with examples of these from around this period.

    Ha, Boy, did the pictures upload awfully shitty.

  5. #4

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    Guess not that interesting or not that interesting without a video.
    Noted

  6. #5

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    Don't worry, I've experienced the same may times. The other thread about when archtops changed from acoustic to electric contains a lot of info that corroborates your finding and its interpretation. Introduced in 1936, the ES-150 was the first archtop designed to be played with a pickup (ES = Electric Spanish). As amps became more powerful and speakers more efficient, early laminated or pressed instead of carved guitar tops weren't enough to address the feedback issue. They had to get thicker. The Remo synthetic drum skins, introduced in 1957, in my interpretation resulted in quantum leap in how loud the band's other instruments could or had to be played. In those days, few venues had a PA system, so it was up to the band to make hundreds of dancers move and reach the back rows. Today, we're much better off, except the bloody drummer is still far too loud.

  7. #6

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    You have two great guitars there - congrats! I'd like to hear what others say about them too.

    Just curious - do you have a preference for one over the other? Obviously they're very similar with the only visible difference being the inlays. I'm thinking the 125 has the shorter 24.75 scale neck, while the 150 has 25.5. Is that true? Are they both the same body size or is the 150 bigger (16" vs 17")? Are there any other differences you've noticed?

  8. #7

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    Nice pair of old Gibsons. I'm sure you're glad to have them both home and back together!

    I have a '52 ES-150 that has a thin laminate top like yours.
    It is surprisingly light and a pleasure to play and hear.
    I'd imagine if I was playing this one at higher volume in the wrong room it would likely have feedback tendencies, but since I don't thats not an issue.

    I haven't had many other 50's Gibson electric archtops to compare, but have heard people here mention that earlier 50's ES-175's also had thinner ply tops.

    My carved acoustic '45 L-7 (see avatar) has a thicker top and is actually a heavier guitar than the ES-150!
    I'm sure thats why it makes such an excellent electric guitar with the floating McCarty pickguard/pickup.

    I play some early 17" electric Guilds from '53....heavier guitars that have very thick laminate tops, and it seems likely that they were built that way to avoid feedback issues. Guild first entered the market at that time with a line of electric archtops (no acoustics at first). Probably made to appeal to jazz players of the day.

  9. #8

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    Interesting......where/how are you measuring? I have a 49 ES 150. As noted, the accepted lore is that the earlier laminates were thinner. I used digital calipers to measure at the widest part of the f hole and got something a bit over 5 mm. I would have expected something more in line with your 53. Maybe I should measure at the top of the f hole?

  10. #9

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    Interesting Difference: Gibson ES-125 '57 vs. ES-150 '53......-20200827_142436-jpg[
    Attached Images Attached Images Interesting Difference: Gibson ES-125 '57 vs. ES-150 '53......-20200827_142821-jpg 

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevmoga
    Interesting......where/how are you measuring? I have a 49 ES 150. As noted, the accepted lore is that the earlier laminates were thinner. I used digital calipers to measure at the widest part of the f hole and got something a bit over 5 mm. I would have expected something more in line with your 53. Maybe I should measure at the top of the f hole?
    Hopefully you can see from the picture that I measured in the same spot but it's so clear that the whole Top on the both guitars are uniform and one is very thin and 1 is very thick. The ES125 is actually heavier than the 150 due to the thick top.

  12. #11

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    That's basically how I'm measuring.....just went and tried again and still get about 5.5 mm. I know it's a 49 - FON numbers check out and the neck has dots instead of parallelograms. I'd be curious to know if anyone else has run across older ES 1xx examples with thicker tops.

  13. #12

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    This thriller had a slow start but now the top, sorry, plot, is thickening. For comparison, my ES-175 1959 VOS is 5.25 mm, a 2007 Benedetto Bravo 4.65 mm and an Ibanez AFJ91 5.01 mm. The 5th Avenue is not where there rest are but definitely thinner. The Bravo and AFJ have a spruce veneer on top; I'm beginning to understand why the budget-price AFJ sounded so good on an outdoor gig earlier tonight.

  14. #13

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    One more: Epi Emperor Regent, MIC -99: 5.5 mm. Seems that 5-6 mm is where most archtops with PUs land.

  15. #14

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    A couple more data points. My single pu Heritage 575 with a carved spruce top ranges between 4 and 5 mm, the thicker measurements on the treble side. Sadowsky semi (laminate) averaged about 3.5.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevmoga
    A couple more data points. My single pu Heritage 575 with a carved spruce top ranges between 4 and 5 mm, the thicker measurements on the treble side. Sadowsky semi (laminate) averaged about 3.5.
    Wow, those a thin, especially the Sadowsky.

  17. #16

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    Anyone have a laminated archtop that is thinner than 3.16mm?

  18. #17

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    More information to contribute;
    1960 ES-125TDC, 4.6mm top
    1951 ES-350, 6.1mm top
    Go figure…