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  1. #1

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    Just bought this well-preserved Gibson ES-175D from 1990, and I'm as happy as a guitar player can be. Besides the mythical "mahogany back and sides", this one has been a case queen for most of its life. Came with 20 years old Thomastik Infeld JS111 Jazz Swings, which sounded great, actually.

    Upon closer inspection, I've found some interesting things to share.

    First of all, it either was played more than advertised, or by an careless player, since she's not mint. Don't really care, just reflecting on human nature to exaggerate.

    Then, it's a couple years before Historics (custom shop models, whatever's the name) - from a simpler time when a factory made a guitar, and if you liked it, you'd get it.

    Third thing - from what I can see, no kerfed braces, solid ones all the way through. This is the best picture I can make:
    Gibson ES-175D from 1990 and its peculiarities-21-jpg

    Forget about the "ES-175" Jazzguitar article and the statement "1968-present... the back of the neck has the same size as those from the 1963-1964 period." This neck is slimmer than the neck on my 2014 SG Standard, or just as slim. But whereas my SG has broad shoulders and is more of a D, this one's a V. It reminds me of a Clapton Martin 000/Signature Fender Stratocaster neck. Very triangular, very unsupportive. I wouldn't normally pick one based on this neck alone, I'm 6 foot 8 in and I love chunky necks, but what the heck. People play mandolins and ukuleles all the time and live to tell the tale.
    Gibson ES-175D from 1990 and its peculiarities-16-jpg

    Then, the trussrod. I know for a fact that on this guitar it wasn't tweaked a lot, if at all, because the strings were low but the neck was bowed. Previous owner simply lowered the strings and lived with the buzz. But the trussrod protrudes! So it's not because it's disfunctional, but because "it was not a bug, it was a feature". They left the factory like that, I presume.
    Gibson ES-175D from 1990 and its peculiarities-13-jpg

    The pickups. Didn't took them out yet. They measure 7.7K (neck) and 9.2K (bridge). No idea what they are. They should be something before 57 Classics, maybe Pat.No's or 490's, but on those measurements alone, I'd call them 57/57+. Whatever they are, they sound good and will stay. But I wonder what they are.
    Gibson ES-175D from 1990 and its peculiarities-17-jpg

    You can see the markings, small lines, indicating the ideal bridge position. No chance that they are factory original?

    This is how the guitar sounded on arrival:


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  3. #2

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    Nice guitar thanks for sharing.

    I have 4 Gibsons from the early 1990s and the fit and finish look similar.

    Traditionally the bridge position would be different for any different saddle or string diameter. Especially if it were a carved saddle, where the intonation is adjusted by bridge placement. So, I'd say 'no' to factory marks for bridge position. I think the (bad) idea that everyone uses the same string gauge and same adjustable saddle so the bridge can be pinned, came many years later.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by icr
    Nice guitar thanks for sharing.
    Thank you, you're welcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by icr
    Traditionally the bridge position would be different for any different saddle or string diameter. Especially if it were a carved saddle, where the intonation is adjusted by bridge placement. So, I'd say 'no' to factory marks for bridge position.
    Thanks again, one mystery down, one to go - what do you think, which pickups do I have?

  5. #4

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    That truss rod nut definitely did not leave the factory like that. It’s quite marred and has clearly been cranked down.

  6. #5

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    My 1993 Gibson brochures are individual fold-outs. For some reason I don't have the foldout that shows the ES-175. The 1993 ES-165 and ES-335 show 490.

    All my Norlin and 1990s Gibsons came with nominal 300k pots. I did change them all to 500k with improved sound to my ear...except for my ES-175. I kept that 300k just to be different as all my other archtop humbucker guitars have 500k pots.

    Maybe you already checked the pots, but if they are 300k and you ever compare you guitar to a vintage ES-175 and the older one sounds better, maybe it is the pots.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ThatRhythmMan
    That truss rod nut definitely did not leave the factory like that. It’s quite marred and has clearly been cranked down.
    Might be the case. I'm no sightseer and don't really know the absolute truth about this guitar's past, but some of that marring is mine, and a lot of the story, as told by the seller, checks out. We'll see how the neck holds up in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by icr
    My 1993 Gibson brochures are individual fold-outs. For some reason I don't have the foldout that shows the ES-175. The 1993 ES-165 and ES-335 show 490.
    Good to know that it's an option. I'm currently not going to disassemble everything to lift the pickups, but perchance I'll borrow a small camera.

    Quote Originally Posted by icr
    All my Norlin and 1990s Gibsons came with nominal 300k pots.
    Ah, I didn't expect that. I was going to replace the volume pot for the neck pickup soon, because I tried to lift the knob and it was really stuck, so I had to exercise extreme force and the pot is now shorting. That means I'll have to replace both volumes, because I can find only 500K Gibson pots in Belgrade right now.

    But the guitar sounds fine with those that are already there. I presume that with 300K pots it's a bit darker than with 500K pots? Sounds bright enough for me, even too bright at times.

  8. #7

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    Nice guitar! I had a 90 mahogany back bought new, had to sell but did love it.

    it's a couple years before Historics (custom shop models, whatever's the name) -

    The ‘custom shop’ was alive and well in 90. My 89 L5 had a sign off sheet from the custom shop. Difference is Gibson hadn’t turned the custom shop into THE CUSTOM SHOP lol. All I got in 89 was a sign off sheet.... no COA, no case candy, and of course no crimson folio. Those fellas sure know how to market))’

    My 89 pickups are “patent number” (2,737,842).

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket Roll
    Might be the case. I'm no sightseer and don't really know the absolute truth about this guitar's past, but some of that marring is mine, and a lot of the story, as told by the seller, checks out. We'll see how the neck holds up in the future.



    Good to know that it's an option. I'm currently not going to disassemble everything to lift the pickups, but perchance I'll borrow a small camera.



    Ah, I didn't expect that. I was going to replace the volume pot for the neck pickup soon, because I tried to lift the knob and it was really stuck, so I had to exercise extreme force and the pot is now shorting. That means I'll have to replace both volumes, because I can find only 500K Gibson pots in Belgrade right now.

    But the guitar sounds fine with those that are already there. I presume that with 300K pots it's a bit darker than with 500K pots? Sounds bright enough for me, even too bright at times.
    You need this:

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    I had an ‘80 mahogany 175 years ago and just bought another (‘88) from a guy on the forum here. I don’t recall the details of the bracing and neck, I just remember that it was a sturdy guitar.

    I know it’s been said before, but each 175 is its own beast. Many people have pointed out that Gibson didn’t make things a standard way every day for long periods of time, they made slight mods along the way. Or they used up extra stock (pots and caps and so forth) that was available.

    Also knowing a thing or 2 about wood, I think it is a marvel that any neck is straight after 30+ years, even with a truss rod. Fortunately many of the ones that are still on the market have stood the test of time.

    So it’s said that you just have to play any 175 to make sure it has the sound you want. If you can LOL—sometimes you just take a leap of faith.

    Nice sound from yours—exactly why I wanted to get another one. Will look forward to getting mine in the next week or so.

  10. #9

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    Nice guitar! Congratulations, and play it in good health!

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket Roll
    I presume that with 300K pots it's a bit darker than with 500K pots? Sounds bright enough for me, even too bright at times.
    500K would make it brighter. Frequently a benefit on a Les Paul to my ear. On ES-175 I don't know, because if you play with the volume rolled off then the effect of the overall pot resistance is less and less.

    Gibson ES-175D from 1990 and its peculiarities-secrets14-gif

    You can't really do this test on an archtop, but you can easily add 200k to a 300k pot on a switch and quickly go back and forth between 500k and 300k as you play. Everyone I know can hear the difference. You can't leave it that way, however, because in the 500k position, you can't turn the volume off.

    Gibson ES-175D from 1990 and its peculiarities-500k-pot-test-jpg

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by jazzkritter

    The ‘custom shop’ was alive and well in 90. My 89 L5 had a sign off sheet from the custom shop. Difference is Gibson hadn’t turned the custom shop into THE CUSTOM SHOP lol. All I got in 89 was a sign off sheet.... no COA, no case candy, and of course no crimson folio. Those fellas sure know how to market..
    Way I heard that story told, Gibson Custom Shop was a division from 1986, and produced special models and limited runs, but THE Custom Shop (as in: division in quality, ie. "regular crap" and "real instruments" having their own separated production lines) started in 1994.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff
    ...just bought another (‘88) from a guy on the forum here.... Nice sound from yours—exactly why I wanted to get another one. Will look forward to getting mine in the next week or so.
    Thank you, and congrats - I've seen the sale thread, and wondered who'll be the lucky guy.

    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    Nice guitar! Congratulations, and play it in good health!
    Thanks from the heart! It's my first original ES-175 and I love even its acoustic sound. Sounds more complex and/or louder than the clones - I've got an Aria 2302 and had an Epiphone Swingster that went to the former owner of this ES-175 as part of the trade/sell deal. This ES-175 is nicer than that Swingster, and I've chosen that Swingster (made in Indonesia, btw) among four others.

    Quote Originally Posted by icr
    500K would make it brighter. Frequently a benefit on a Les Paul to my ear. On ES-175 I don't know, because if you play with the volume rolled off then the effect of the overall pot resistance is less and less... Everyone I know can hear the difference.
    I'd love to have it as original as possible - where I live, every modification is sacrilegious and, in another player's point of view, a clear sign that you're the idiot thinking that those fine engineers in American factories don't know what they're doing. Which is sometimes so true. But my main motivation, in this moment, is the fact that it sounds great as is.