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  1. #1

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    Besides the differences in size and scale, is there a notable difference in sound between these two? I have a '99 L-4 CES with a laminate back and wondering how it would size up in tone next to an L-5 CES, no opportunity yet to compare side by side. Thank you for any opinions or experience with these archtops.

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  3. #2

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    While there are differences in body shapes ,size,scale lengths,etc. I think it come's down to personal taste and preference. Especially since it's the amplified tone that were talking about ultimately.

    If you're happy with your L-4CES, I'd stick with it, unless you find an L-5CES that you just can't live without.

  4. #3

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    And there is no guarantee that two L5s will sound the same, or 2 L4s.

  5. #4

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    While I agree with the above premise in theory. There's a range any designed instrument falls between. So definitely neck shapes,weight,pickups,tuners, will vary depending on year made. The basic design will sound basically the same.

    As always try and compare in person!

  6. #5

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    I've never had access to either L-4 or L-5. Just looking at the share of voice that ES-175 and L-5 get on this Forum, L-4 seems to be "stuck in the middle". I hope this triggers its proponents to stand up, because I'd like to know more of this fine guitar.

  7. #6

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  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomvwash
    Besides the differences in size and scale, is there a notable difference in sound between these two? I have a '99 L-4 CES with a laminate back and wondering how it would size up in tone next to an L-5 CES, no opportunity yet to compare side by side. Thank you for any opinions or experience with these archtops.
    I owned an L4CES, which I traded for an L5CES. Both guitars were from the same era (the L4 was made in 2001 and the L5 was from 2007). My L4 was the version that had a laminated maple back. The L4 was a beautiful guitar and extremely comfortable to play, due to the 16” body. It sounded great, but different than the L5. The L5 sounded more full and a little warmer. I also owned a few 175’s at the same time and the L4 did not sound like them either. It was unique, somewhere between a 175 and an L5. Not bad, just different.
    Keith
    Last edited by floatingpickup; 12-23-2020 at 12:24 PM.

  9. #8

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    Again if you just listen to the above video, the difference to my ears is not that drastic as perhaps the feel when playing them.
    Excellent representation in that video!

  10. #9

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    I've played one L4's and several L5's, but never owned either or spent enough time with them to have all that reliable opinion. That said, the L4 I tried struck me as a bit more mid-range-y and flutey/sweet than the L5's; kind of like a 175 but a little less trebly because of the pickup placement and with less of the percussive attack (dare I say "thunk"?) that's characteristic of the 175. The L5's struck me as more scooped, and with more of the acoustic sound coming through. But the difference is subtle, and with the right settings on guitar and amp you can get them sounding pretty much the same, as the video upthread makes clear. I've never particularly coveted an L5 because I don't like the bigger body size. But the L4 I tried was really appealing.

    A friend of mine just got an L4, but I haven't had a chance to check it out yet. Definitely looking forward to it and seeing how well my memory of the L4 sound compares to a live one.

    John

  11. #10
    Thank you for the video, very helpful. And thanks for the other comments. Subtle difference in tone, yes. I can stop looking at L-5's for the time being.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    I've played one L4's and several L5's, but never owned either or spent enough time with them to have all that reliable opinion. That said, the L4 I tried struck me as a bit more mid-range-y and flutey/sweet than the L5's; kind of like a 175 but a little less trebly because of the pickup placement and with less of the percussive attack (dare I say "thunk"?) that's characteristic of the 175. The L5's struck me as more scooped, and with more of the acoustic sound coming through. But the difference is subtle, and with the right settings on guitar and amp you can get them sounding pretty much the same, as the video upthread makes clear. I've never particularly coveted an L5 because I don't like the bigger body size. But the L4 I tried was really appealing.

    A friend of mine just got an L4, but I haven't had a chance to check it out yet. Definitely looking forward to it and seeing how well my memory of the L4 sound compares to a live one.

    John
    Exactly

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by skiboyny
    I think the L5 sounds better but the L4 is most likely easier to play for long periods.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by skiboyny
    Hey there,

    I am the OP of the video and I can tell you that there is more difference in real life than restituted by the video on YT. The L5 sounds fuller than the L4 on all the spectral range. The L5 has a broader dynamics than the L4 with this characteristic "slap in your face" sensation when you play it. As so, it emulates more chops when you are playing, at least for me. The L4 is a nice compromise between the 175 and the L5 and it its value/price is unbeatable on second hand market. All of this being very personal statements. It's hard to put words on psycho-acoustic sensations.

    Cheers.

  15. #14

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    In the late 90s I auditioned an L4 and L5 side by side at Chuck Levin’s outside D.C. I had budget for a “lifetime” instrument. I loved everything about the L4 and then tried the L5. The difference in feel was striking. You didn’t play it, you played with it for lack of better descriptions.

    I walked out with the L5. But I’ve thought about the L4 ever since. Maybe I should have spent more time with it after the L5, it’s like my subconscious has been guilting me for 23 years. It’s the one that got away.

    Long story short: get and keep one of each if you appreciate their distinct differences and can afford to do so!


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  16. #15

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    Hold onto your L4CES. Something tells me it is going to be a whole lot more in demand, especially now that Gibson is only making it to order.



    Joscho is my new hero.

  17. #16
    Very persuasive, in more ways than one. Thank you for that perspective. I didn't realize Gibson had stopped making them.

  18. #17

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    Jabs, on Joscho, you and me both. What a player.
    I’ve never owned an L4.
    The thing that most people don’t give enough credence to is, the “feel” of an L5. The sound, comes from the player, for the most part. Nothing and I mean nothing feels like the L5. The visual experience of looking down at the L5 while you are playing it, helps put it in a class by itself.
    Nothing compares to an L5.
    Joe D

  19. #18

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    If one wants to buy a jazz guitar and get one that will always have value, sound great, and yet be at the top of the heap........An L5 is the ticket. Buying an L5 at a decent price in my opinion is the safest buy in jazz guitars today. Meaning if you are paying a general market rate for L5's say $5.5-7.5k and it has no issues, this probably is the safest bet. Buying something even like a D'angelico or Stromberg is much more risk and money if you figure at some point you are going to sell it or your heirs. An L5 has had some ups and downs like the market, but in the end it has always produce something down the line if taken care of. To me it now is at the center of the market in terms of modern jazz, players of all ages use them and know them, non-vintage and vintage. Another great thing is they are not rare as such they can be found. Now is that not a great thing? Give me an acoustic L5 or a Wes L5 anytime.........I am still looking around.

    My best example is my 17" inch 1972 Barker with a Dearmond 1100. It is basically near mint and sounds much better than most L5's I have played. It has a very desirable pickup and frankly is pretty rare, but Barker was know among jazz players. It also has a beautiful 1 3/4 neck and super booked matched maple back. Bottom line is I could sell an L5 way faster and probably get more money. As the years go on though the younger generation and treads, who knows?

    But and L5? We know!

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by skittles
    In the late 90s I auditioned an L4 and L5 side by side at Chuck Levin’s outside D.C. I had budget for a “lifetime” instrument. I loved everything about the L4 and then tried the L5. The difference in feel was striking. You didn’t play it, you played with it for lack of better descriptions.

    I walked out with the L5. But I’ve thought about the L4 ever since. Maybe I should have spent more time with it after the L5, it’s like my subconscious has been guilting me for 23 years. It’s the one that got away.

    Long story short: get and keep one of each if you appreciate their distinct differences and can afford to do so!


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    Best advice ever. That is exactly what I did. Local seller had one for $4500. Who can pass that up!