Vintage verses modern - am I wrong about this?

tombob

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I think the consistency of new guitars is a lot better than vintage guitars. I’ve played some vintage guitars that were great, I like lower output pickups and weaker magnets so they tend to fit my preferences anyway but I’ve also played some not so great vintage guitars. There was a lot more hand work involved before computer guided routers and sometimes things are just off on one. I played a 60’s Gretsch that had intonation problems with the frets and it was a full collector priced instrument but I absolutely wouldn’t use it for a player. Well played guitars do feel good though but I know someone who has played a 57’ reissue Strat since he bought it new in the 90’s and has played it a lot and it doesn’t feel or sound different from some of the real late 50’s Strats I’ve played over the years and nothing feels like one you’ve played yourself until it’s rounded off and slick. Really collectors have driven prices on vintage guitars to the point where they’re not practical for players instruments anyway, I worry enough about taking a $2500 guitar to a bar gig and couldn’t bring myself to take something worth $40k-50k to one.

I think of a vintage Fender as a preCBS and tend to forget, maybe a little on purpose, that now people are buying mid 70’s Fenders at vintage prices. When I first started looking at good quality guitars in the early to mid 80’s those later 70’s Fenders were common used/pawnshop guitars and most were too heavy with microphonic pickups and neck pockets that weren’t even close to as well fit as most $99 Strat copies now. If you like them that’s your preference but I’d rather have a new MIM model personally than a lot of 75’ to 80’ era Fenders I’ve played.
 
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Blackshadowrider

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Can I say most players would love to have a vintage guitar if they could taking cost and availability out of the equation. If you owned one would you travel to bar (or other gigs) with it? It is already beaten up some another nick is not the concern but exposure and weathering may be. Then there is always the protentional for theft. Things you need to deal with are fret replacements and maybe even a maxed out truss rod at some point.
I am truly happy with vintage reissue models whether regular or custom shop. I almost never-ever buy new guitar anymore as there is so much on the used market these days. Recent used purchase was a Fender CSRI 70th Anniversary Broadcaster for half of what a new instore model would have cost. Love it, and very different from my AVRI 52 Tele which I also love. I do have a 78 Tele I have owned for decades, it does not have the original pickups any more (hated them) but now has Fender CS Twisted Tele's in it which are amazing. The guitar unfortunately is not swamp ash but a more northern heavy ash so it is very heavy, bought this one used before the AVRI models came out, so a long time ago. I an now seeing 70's guitars going up in price but never thought they were very good, kind of the lost decade for Fender and Gibson.
 

Schlumpfmeister

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survival of the fittest

I agree. There was much variation among these old guitars when they were new, but the good ones survived. I have used modern guitars for ages (25 years) but have switched to a few vintage guitars rather recently with the following findings:
- I like my vintage guitars a lot sound-wise
- All are top serviced including re-frets, but playability of modern guitars is on par or better
- There is clear evidence of the impact of aging on pickups - I have mid 60s Strat, Tele, 330, 335, ALL of them sound more airy (and most a bit less meaty, but not the Strat, which is a monster!) than their modern counterparts

I have little concern modding a modern instrument to my liking. Adding a 5-way switch to my vintage Strat felt very uneasy, flipping PUs would be a nogo given the historic value. So I have to accept them as they are, quite a new experience for me, but it works. That came as a surprise, I hadn't thought that through.

Does anyone need these vintage instruments? No, the new ones are great too. Everyone to their liking.

Keep in mind that BFGs Pearly Gates was 12 years old when he recorded ZZ Top 1st Album. This would translate into a 2009 Gibson now. I just sold a 2008 Les Paul, it felt almost new.
 

Yuro

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Wow...Sorry guys. I've got two vintage electrics and have no regrets buying them. Cherry '61 ES335 with a thin taper neck that's on the large side of that style...they were hand made back then and not all the same. This one works for me and I have meat-hook hands. '57 ex-Allmans gold-top LP. What can I say? It's quite something...again, made by hand and you can tell, for sure.

Do they sound better than new guitars? Well, they do a certain thing better than new ones...because the wood is completely aged and the nitro has completely hardened and is very resonant. So...they're different. Are they better? Well they sure look better to my eyes. When I open the case to the gold top, it just takes my breath away every time. Stunning.

Both have original electronics and real PAF pickups. PAFs are not all the same. These are not either, but they're good ones. I love playing both of these guitars.

So, if the question is, "are they GOOD guitars?" The answer is, mine definitely are.

If the question is, "Are they worth 10x what a good boutique guitar costs?" I have to say probably not. I usually play Knaggs or Collings guitars. Both are built to standards that Gibson rarely achieves these days...although their newest stuff is really good and they also made some pretty great LPs in the late 90s and early 2000's. I have my eye on one of those Murphy aged LPs from 2001...but it's pretty expensive too.

But if we're talking single-coil? I skipped the vintage Tele and Strat thing. The build quality is too sketchy on those early strats. Some of them sound pretty mediocre. I didn't want to take a chance on buying an expensive strat online that I didn't like to play. Too many fakes too. I think early Teles are cool and some of the lighter ones are like a good old violin, but if you find the right one, it's generally going for stupid money.

I paid stupid money for my LP, but it's really something. The cherry 335 was my dream guitar in the mid 60's when I first started playing in a band. Couldn't afford it so settled for a Tele, which I never really liked. Now, they're going for $25K! Mine was rosewood board with Duco blue finish. It had chipped edges and was a little bit heavy. I don't really even know what happened to the thing. My amp and guitar disappeared when I went off to college. Both would have been worth many thousands these days. Someone got a great deal.
 

agejaded

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If you are looking for the tone on the old records, then you need an old guitar.

I’m not convinced that they play any better though, I’ve got an Anderson Drop Top & a Tyler USA HD Elite. In over forty years of playing they are the easiest playing guitars I’ve ever had.
 

AviA

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I have no opinion about the monetary value of vintage guitars, that’s just supply and demand doing it’s thing.

To me the more interesting question is this:

Are they good guitars?

In a blind playing and listening test would an early 50s Tele consistently beat out anything coming out of the custom shop today?

I would argue that no, they can’t be. How could the workers in the 1950s compete with the expertise of the modern builder? Even if some of Leo’s employees back then were experienced luthiers, they were building something that was brand new. And they didn’t have 70 years of combined experience to learn from. (and yeah some argue that the aging of the material is what makes them better, and if we’re talking acoustics then yeah maybe, but solid body electrics? I don’t buy it)

I think the perception of vintage guitars being better is just nostalgia and romanticism skewing our opinions. And it’s people with the money to buy them wanting to further justify their purchase.

Having said all that do I want one? Of course I do. But I’d want one because it’s such a cool piece of history, not because I’d expect it to be better than anything made today.

Am I wrong?


From personal experience here is my conclusion....
Vintage guitars are nice to see in pictures and on various YT channels which make a living out of selling it.


Bottom line is that new guitars plays x10000 better.
 

Bill

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I've got a few and have spent a fair amount of time A/B'ing vintage to modern reproductions. I've found some to feel the same, but not sound or respond the same.

And it's not like I have a lot of money invested in them, so I hope it's not my overcompensating ego speaking.

Also, yes there are vintage dogs out there and stellar new instruments. And no, I would not pay current vintage prices as I think they don't represent the inherent value of the guitars.
 

DaveG

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Keep in mind many of the greats recorded with instruments they got in pawn shops because they couldn’t afford much else. They made their sound on what they had. I think people today have too much choice and worry too much about gear instead of working on their playing techniques and sound. Just my opinion!

This, totally.
So many of "the greats" weren't great when they got ahold of their now-iconic instruments. Esp. rockers.
Sure, many jazz/swing guys had their L-5s and Emperors and Strombergs, etc. and they knew they were great, pretty much hand made guitars. Others, probably not.

When George Harrison bought that first Gretsch Duo-Jet he knew he was stepping up from his Futurama. But did get to "select" it from a bunch on the rack? No, it was the only one around. Lucky pot luck. And he just used it. Couldn't afford anything else for a while. How did he get the "job" playing with John and Paul? He could play "Raunchy". He practiced.

Same for the "Peter Green Les Paul". By all accounts that iconic sound was from a mistake.

How many Mustangs did Kurt Cobain go through?

Seems like a lot of times these guys were playing "around" faults or issues with the instruments they could get. Imagine if they all had had perfect PRSs or Taylors. They would probably sound sterile, like a lot of those re-recording you hear from artists who don't own their masters and re-do their greatest hits. The notes are often perfect, the sound, not so much.

It's the singer, not the song = it's the player, not the gear.
 

pippoman

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I have no opinion about the monetary value of vintage guitars, that’s just supply and demand doing it’s thing.

To me the more interesting question is this:

Are they good guitars?

In a blind playing and listening test would an early 50s Tele consistently beat out anything coming out of the custom shop today?

I would argue that no, they can’t be. How could the workers in the 1950s compete with the expertise of the modern builder? Even if some of Leo’s employees back then were experienced luthiers, they were building something that was brand new. And they didn’t have 70 years of combined experience to learn from. (and yeah some argue that the aging of the material is what makes them better, and if we’re talking acoustics then yeah maybe, but solid body electrics? I don’t buy it)

I think the perception of vintage guitars being better is just nostalgia and romanticism skewing our opinions. And it’s people with the money to buy them wanting to further justify their purchase.

Having said all that do I want one? Of course I do. But I’d want one because it’s such a cool piece of history, not because I’d expect it to be better than anything made today.

Am I wrong?
I tend to agree. I’m 68 yo, so I’ve owned a few vintage instruments and traded them because they weren’t really vintage at the time. I think by now Fender knows how to build a good Tele, and it doesn’t have to be a custom shop. The American Standard Teles I own still float my boat (do people still say that?). My buddy has a ‘63 Strat and it plays and sounds phenomenal, but the neck on my ‘96 feels just as good and the hot noiseless pickups, to my ears, sound better, plus I had Aperio Guitars install jumbo SS frets and it plays effortlessly. Would I rather own his? Heck yeah! It’s way more cool than mine.
 

stormin1155

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I'm a tech/luthier, and get a fair number of vintage instruments through my shop. I post them on my FB page and people oogle over them what great guitars they are.... dripping with mojo.... so much superior to new guitars... all that stuff. Sure they are cool, and they are worth a lot of money. I love working them, and I especially love it when there are stories attached to them. But if I had to choose one guitar to go on tour with, I can't think of a single vintage guitar that I've worked on that I would pick over my 2018 American Professional Strat. Yes, I think Fender has learned a few things about building guitars over the past 60 years...
 

warrent

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How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
If you can answer that question you can answer the OP's.
And both answers will be equally relevant to making music, buying guitars or life in general.
 

decibel

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It depends on the guitar, but in general I don't like old Fenders due to the 7.25" radius, and I find all modern guitars more comfortable to play because of that. Vintage pickups can lose some magnetism over time, making them sound "warmer." So that can be nice.

Agree it matters more with acoustics. They benefit from the aging.

In general, I prefer modern electric guitars. I think they're one of the few things that got better over time. With acoustics vintage is better, in general. Though I have played some reissues that were better than the original models even with acoustics. The Gibson CF-100 comes to mind. The originals had unpredictable nut spacing and could feel very cramped.

With something like archtops, vintage is generally better.

So, it depends. When you've played a lot of guitars all of this starts to become intuitive.
 
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Captdan61

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What's the deal about vintage guitars?
The whole Vintage scene went from "collecting" to "investing" approx. 20 years ago. Romance is gone. It's a total different animal now. People now go "guitar and amp hunting (hint hint)" together with a bodyguard and US$50'000 in their purse: money means nothing to them. I started collecting when we avoided custom color Teles and Strats, because we thought, the wood wasn't good on them. Fenders: pre-CBS only, Gibsons stopped at the narrow necks, Martins stopped after the early 60ies. Gretsch? Maybe. A '59 Les Paul was 5-10'000 (in today's money maybe US$10-40'000). People buy now vintage guitars for vintage's sake and not for their quality. They want trophys.​

Are vintage guitars better guitars then new ones?
In my experience only very very few, but most of them not at all. TO me, new guitars are of higher quality then vintage ones. Any Fender CS or Gibson CS is IMHO better than any CBS-era Fender and/or Norlin-era Gibson. There are maybe other experiences.​

Are vintage guitars worth their huge amount of money?
IMHO almost all of them not, some very few maybe yes, but to me, it stops with a certain amount. IMHO, no guitar on earth is worth more than US$25'000. Period. OTOH celebrity owned vintage guitars can indeed be expensive, and that for good (George's SG, for example). But: is a "regular" '59 Les Paul worth US$250'000 - 400'000? An '59 335 US$70'000?: I decided: no way. You decide for yourself. Hint: decision is easier when you can spend US$500'000 oout of your wallet tomorrow... again: there are maybe other opinions around.​

Do I have vintage guitars?
Yes, quite a few, I used to collect, but not anymore.
Do I play vintage guitars on stage?
Only occasionally, mostly some frankensteined vintage ones compiled from old and new parts (yes, they can indeed have PAFs, etc.), and some are custom- or self made relics. Why? They feel better, sound better to me. Again: there are maybe other opinions around.
Just my 5 cents...
I have had the chance to play to different 1957 le s Paul juniors. Both were eye opening. Juniors are the one flavor of les Paul I just don't find them attractive. Or should I say I didn't...until I got to play a couple. Light weight resonate GREAT neck shape lovely feeling in the hands. I have not played a modern custom shop reissue so I have no way to compare vintage to new. But I am a convert. And wish I could find a junior I could afford to live own and just got the deal out of. They are just sadly to expensive .
 

Captdan61

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How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
If you can answer that question you can answer the OP's.
And both answers will be equally relevant to making music, buying guitars or life in general.
Angles don't dance. They boogie!
 

skypilot

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I have no opinion about the monetary value of vintage guitars, that’s just supply and demand doing it’s thing.

To me the more interesting question is this:

Are they good guitars?

In a blind playing and listening test would an early 50s Tele consistently beat out anything coming out of the custom shop today?

I would argue that no, they can’t be. How could the workers in the 1950s compete with the expertise of the modern builder? Even if some of Leo’s employees back then were experienced luthiers, they were building something that was brand new. And they didn’t have 70 years of combined experience to learn from. (and yeah some argue that the aging of the material is what makes them better, and if we’re talking acoustics then yeah maybe, but solid body electrics? I don’t buy it)

I think the perception of vintage guitars being better is just nostalgia and romanticism skewing our opinions. And it’s people with the money to buy them wanting to further justify their purchase.

Having said all that do I want one? Of course I do. But I’d want one because it’s such a cool piece of history, not because I’d expect it to be better than anything made today.

Am I wrong?
 

skypilot

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The bottom line: better schmetter can you play? That’s all that matters . New old ? A guitar is a guitar. You got some romantic notion that old is better? Aint necessarily so. EC played w joe b at royal albert hall. EC amd he used brand new EC strat and 57 reissue twin and it still sounds like him. It’s in the fingers you know

To me the more interesting question is this:

Are they good guitars?

In a blind playing and listening test would an early 50s Tele consistently beat out anything coming out of the custom shop today?

I would argue that no, they can’t be. How could the workers in the 1950s compete with the expertise of the modern builder? Even if some of Leo’s employees back then were experienced luthiers, they were building something that was brand new. And they didn’t have 70 years of combined experience to learn from. (and yeah some argue that the aging of the material is what makes them better, and if we’re talking acoustics then yeah maybe, but solid body electrics? I don’t buy it)

I think the perception of vintage guitars being better is just nostalgia and romanticism skewing our opinions. And it’s people with the money to buy them wanting to further justify their purchase.

Having said all that do I want one? Of course I do. But I’d want one because it’s such a cool piece of history, not because I’d expect it to be better than anything made today.

Am I wrong?[/QUOTE]
 

Matthias

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The golden age of Fender from a specs and consistency angle is right now IMHO. If you want a certain era’s tone, you’ve got endless aftermarket pickup options… But then the guitar is only one part of the tone equation whatever era it’s from. A Squier can get a great tone if everything else in the signal chain is good and you can play it well.

Vintage, in my eyes at least, is about owning an original object from a specific era. It’s like buying an original 2 sheet movie poster instead of a repro, a first pressing of an LP or a 50s Eames lounge chair. They’re time machines. That’s either important to a person or not.

But taking all that out of the equation… Vintage guitars are essentially all used guitars and they all have the possibility of issues or bad/unsightly wear (rather than being comfortably worn-in), and every era has a proportion of duds. But, you can find good ones.
 

Whitebeard

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Modern guitars are more consistent due to the production procedures CNC etc.. That said, a guitar made "back in the day" could have turned out exceptional while the one made before it and the one made after were quite ordinary. I will say that builders had a better choice of wood back then when supplies were plentiful. Fender has had a few pickup winders over the years whose pups have become a preferred choice. Again that said, Lindy Fralin and others today will hand wind whatever you ask them to make. The old saying goes; six of one a half dozen of the other which means that two alternatives will render the same outcome.
 




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