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  1. #1

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    Dear Jazzers,

    Same amp (Polytone Mini Brute) and same recording chain (amp -> Shure SM57 -> DAW).

    Make up your mind!

    Be safe and take care.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    They both check all my boxes but Fred you could put strings on a tree branch and make it sound good. The L4 has a softer attack.

  4. #3

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    Wow! They are both amazing. Great side-by-side comparison and phenomenal playing! Two of my all time favorite guitars.

  5. #4

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    Very nice playing and demos, Fred - thanks! Sound pretty similar to me (in all good ways!).

    [I'm assuming the volume and tone controls on both guitars are also the same??]

    My first real, jazz guitar was a 1988 L-4 (sunburst, not blonde); a great guitar, but I was playing mostly with a loud, drummer-led band in the Chicago area, and had a lot of feedback problems (this was before the invention of the internet, and the "f-hole plugs" available now!). I eventually sold it to a student for a darn good price (since people at the time were more interested in 175's than L-4s -- I couldn't give that thing away!), and the sale funded my first "custom" guitar.

  6. #5

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    They’re darned close, and great playing!

    It seems your treble is rolled way back. It sounds great, but I’m curious if there are more subtle differences when the treble isn’t rolled off so much. I also wonder how the unplugged tones differ.

  7. #6

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    Closer to one another than I would have expected. Your playing is fantastic! Yet I think you allocated some of the more daring chops to the L-5, which to me sounded a tad fuller and rounder (psycho-acoustics?) It would have been interesting to hear the chord stuff towards the end from both guitars. The point I always make is that subtle tonal differences get lost in a band setting. In the variety of real-life venues and playing situations, the ES-175 remains hard to beat.

  8. #7

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    Fred, Vinny said it best. YOU just flat out sound great. No matter what you are playing.
    Outstanding. The sound differences between each guitar gets overshadowed by your elegant touch.
    The one distinct sound I hear is the sound of the Polytone. Each note compressed perfectly. The Polytone puts a head on the notes so they cut through. An excellent Jazz Guitar Amp.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Joe D

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max405
    Fred, Vinny said it best. YOU just flat out sound great. No matter what you are playing.
    Well, if your name is "Fred Archtop," you'd better be great!

    [I worked with a colleague whose name was "Dr. Love." That's a whole other thread, though!]

  10. #9

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    Fred it sounds great an after a bit they sound almost the same. Maybe if I think about it enough and look with my eyes I detect a slight softer and rounder tone on the L5. In either case they both work. I guess I will have to take the L5 just because I am not fan of the sharp cutaway in the I prefer the rounded. Keep at it post as many as you want this is great.

  11. #10

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    I can't tell any difference. The only way I can tell when they switch is by watching the video. Without the visual, I can't tell when they switch at all. Great playing as usual, regardless of which guitar is in use.

  12. #11

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    They both sound great in your capable hands. I give the L-4 a slight edge in upper mid-range, the L-5 has an-ever-so-slightly "rounder" tone to my ears. Very tasty playing!

    PS I've long held that a big part of the L-5 CES's distinctive sound is that beautiful tailpiece. The shape, the particular alloy - to me, it looks like a big brass tuning fork with a sustain bar added - whatever it is, it's a part of the magic!

  13. #12

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    To my ears there was only a marginally thicker tone from the L5 CES vs the L4 CES. I enjoyed listening to the entire demo/comparison.

  14. #13

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    I am inclined to agree with those who declare a rounder/softer tone from the
    L5CES, very reluctantly, I confess ( in such esteemed company) to previously
    owning both identical models, harakiri is imminent LOL

  15. #14

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    Not to kick any sand but the 1989 L4 is mahogany laminate back and sides. Laminate and solid carved are apples and oranges.
    After 2004 Gibson went solid all carved mahogany back and sides on the L4. At bedroom levels solid will always win.
    Gibson made a few custom all carved maple back and sides L4 models around 10 years ago.

    Fred did a great job here but of course the L5 will win.
    I suspect those all carved maple L4 models with 1 pu would be a tough act to follow and give a run for the money to the L5.
    Also mahogany has a completely different sound. More Angelic. No Thunk.

  16. #15

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    Great video! I hear the differences pretty easily. The L-4 seems a lot like it's little brother 175. A bit more middy than L5 and a tad warmer, a little better note bloom in the higher register than a 175. In the end my question to you is which one do you enjoy playing most?
    Last edited by skiboyny; 10-19-2020 at 05:43 PM.

  17. #16

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    Great demo, I didn't watch the video for the first couple of minutes and honestly couldn't really hear much if any difference. Youtube tends to homogenize minor tonal differences. I imagine sitting in front of the amp, my observation might be different. I like the Florentine cutaway of the L4. What one do you prefer and under what circumstances?

  18. #17

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    I have always held that different guitars are for the performer, not the audience and there should be no need to prove anything to a listener to justify instrument choice (or the desire for multiple choices).
    "Will I play different as the notes come out of the insturment easier or harder or do the subtle things I hear (that the audience can't) make me choose notes differently. etc."

    For example, my L-50; the audience can't feel the triangle neck and the way it changes my hand position. The lack of a cutaway, etc makes note choice unique to that instrument. The audience does not hear these things.

  19. #18

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    To me the difference is very clear, but i trained myself to hear it.
    The L-5 us more complex harmoniclly speaking than the L-4 whichs is a more dry sound. The L-5 has more of everything: low subharmonics and higher ones too.
    Which is better? Just a matter of taste. I played both extensively and the L-5 is far more responsive due to the scale lenght and size of the body. For solo guitar playing i prefer the L-5.
    If you are after a sweeter sound probably the L-4 is the way to go.
    The playing is beautiful and the sound of it with polytone is as good as it gets.

    Enviado desde mi LG-H870 mediante Tapatalk

  20. #19

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    Fred Archtop is the real winner here: Imagine waking up each day deciding which one you are going to play today. I can't say enough how much I enjoy the sounds, playing and beautiful Southern California beachwoperson tan of the spruce tops.

    I could barely tell them apart in a blind listening. The L-4CES is warmer, velvety with less distinct note definition and attack. The L-5CES sounds tauter, snappier. But close enough that they are practically indistinct.

    I enjoy the L-4CES more as a guitar object and as a guitar. I don't like Florentines in general but it is perfect in the 16" L-4CES and ES-175; the curvature is the lower half of a perfect circle, not a misshapen ellipse.

    Are the pickups original Classic 57s?

    No need for an L-5CES really if you only want to keep one and have some money left over. The L-4CES is such a sleeper archtop.

  21. #20

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    Dear Jazzers,

    Thanks a million for your positive thoughts and clever comments. As for which one I prefer, the L5 brings more dynamics/punch and emulates extra chops from the player. It's so much responsive. But the L4 is veeeeeeery close with an extra sweeness brought by mahogany. If you consider the market price of each and the fact that you can get 2 L4s for the price of an L5, the L4 is clearly a steal. As for gigs playing, I could only try the L4 over the last 2 years since the L5 arrived in late June during the pandemic and there are no more gigs around here. The L4 is just doing great when playing live.

    Following some of your comments, I will try other demos with more treble ends on both guitars.

    Last edited by Fred Archtop; 10-19-2020 at 03:42 AM.

  22. #21

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    Do you also happen to have an ES 175 lying around? It would be great to hear it especially against the L4.

  23. #22

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    The L5 sounds *slightly* fatter, the L4 *slightly* more bell-like clear. But the difference is miniscule. Had to listen a couple of times.

    Guitars aside, great playing. I really enjoyed watching your r hand technique with your pinky lightly grazing the fingerrest. That's exactly how I play, but I hold my pick reversed angled up ala GB. Been doing that since the age of 10 before I even knew who he was. Maybe it should be called the Woody Sound technique, not the GB.
    Last edited by Woody Sound; 10-19-2020 at 09:49 AM.

  24. #23

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    They were close but the L5 sounds sweeter. It's what I'm accustomed to I guess.

  25. #24

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    Through just my laptop speakers, they are pretty close. The L5 has a little more snap on the attack, the L4 is a "duller" sound, but not in a bad way. I'd happily have either sound anytime, anyplace.

    And yes, really nice playing!

  26. #25

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    The one L4 I've ever played was considerably more mid-rangey than the several L5's I've played. These two are much closer than that, almost indistinguishable to me. If you don't need both, I'll take the L4, and won't even charge you


  27. #26

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    To my ears the L5 is a bit mellower and the L4 slightly more percussive, but very close.
    Anyway, on both guitars, nice sound and nice playing as usual !

  28. #27

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    The L5 just has a special something. But the L4 does a good job of holding its own. Thanks Fred for putting up these videos from France, of all places! Fred is bopping out!

  29. #28

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    Wow, that is some kind of sweet playing and a great comparison! Thanks for recording and posting it here!

    I'd take the L5 just because, but I'd probably hear more difference in tone if one of the guitars was sunburst.

  30. #29

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    I love this gorgeous pair of blondes. Each bearing the family resemblance in construction and sound. Genetically similar, yet, distinctly identifiable as individuals. Any of us would be blessed to have either. Moreso to have both!

    Thanks again for sharing, Fred!