It's not my old '61 but I really like it!

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by Steve D, Mar 22, 2019.

  1. Steve D

    Steve D Active Member

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    Today I finally took delivery of my shiny new 2018 SG Special. For breif backstory (I've moaned about this before so I'll keep it quick) I had bought a '61 SG Special for peanuts back when i was in high school sometime around 1984 without knowing what it really was. Played if for something like 15 years and then when it started to really have lots of fret buzz, and rather than getting neck refretted I sold it for peanuts because I had a strat I played more anyway because Clapton, Hendrix and SRV. Then they guy I sold it to took it in for the fret work and the luthier said "oh wow, do you know what this is?" Then he managed to get it crushed in a car accident and scrapped it. :ohno:

    Anyway, after hearing me cry in my beer for a decade about my mistake my wife just said "I don't ever want to hear about that thing again. Just buy another one but don't break the bank." Hmm. Sometimes she is pretty smart. So I did, and rather than breaking the bank I bought a 2018 Special off reverb.

    Some initial observations with some relevant "but how does it compare to vintage" comments:
    • Initial Visial Inspection:
      • The seller sold it in used condition. He was way too conservative. I can't see any evidence that it was ever removed from the original box (which it came in) except to photograph it for sale. I'd call it "new". Maybe it was handled be people in the shop or something but there isn't a scratch or blemish or fingerprint on it. The 'ol 1961 was the opposite of that! Nicks and dents, worn out frets, and oxidized metal hardware is what you get when you own one of them in all original condition.
      • The wood grain isn't very attractive, not figured at all. It's the interlocking grain that looks like a million short dark lines, all in a row. Mot beautiful but on the other hand if you take three hunks of wood with grain like that and glue them together it's basically impossible to tell where the glue line is. So I'll take that.
      • I put the poker chip on because I like them. But I may reverse that in time.
      • It's not as dark as the original pix made it seem but it's darker than many I've seen. I don't mind that, my old '61 had faded from original cherry to a more reddish brown and was kinda dark too. I may, however, someday experiment with a cream colored pickguard, I think it would look good.
      • My wife is very happy with the look of it, the shiny chrome and the dark wood makes it look much nicer sitting in our living room than my purple strat did. Happy wife = very good thing.
      • The bag it came in is something in between a gig bag and a hardshell case. It's soft but offers so much more protection than a gig bag. And I gotta say, my '61 came with it's original kinda hard chipboard (glorified cardboard!) case that it survived in for 30+ years and this is a great improvement on that so I'll take it.
    • Initial Reaction and comparison to vintage 1961 model: Plugged it into a basic practice amp (no Marshall stacks around, I'm afrain) and played it a bit. Thoughts
      • The neck is listed as slim tapered. It's wide from top sting to bottom but not overly thick front to back. I sort of expected it to be really slim since my old original model had a really thin neck and it said it was slim so.. I loved that old '61 neck more than any other I've played so was hoping this recaptured that feel. No, it's not that. But it feels good, and is very playable.
      • Tuning: it has the stock "Gibson Deluxe" tuners. So far so good. I gotta be honest, my vintage SG was TERRIBLE at keeping tune, those oxidized old vintage tuners were brutal. So the comparison bar is very low there. These are new and as expected operate smoothly and (so far) well.
      • Sound: wow. The sound. I am really really happy with it. The mini humbuckers are crisp and clean but gain it up and it takes distortion really well. I had kind of thought I would swap in a P90 for one of them but as of right now, nope. Just loving the tones coming from this.
      • Interesting side note: the volume and tone pots are really good. On my strat I can dial my tone and from 1 to 8 it's basically mud. Then at 9 it sounds a bit brigher and at 10 a little more. Basically it has very little fidelity, it's either clean or mud. That's with the original pots I had for a long time and the new ones I recently swapped in. But on the SG small differences in those middle number ranges are really audible. It's going to be fun playing with the knobs and actually having it make a difference!
    Verdict: It's not a vintage relic but what is? No, it's a iteration of a true classic that I enjoyed a great deal in my youth, new and amazing but nostalgic at the same time. Gotta say, I'm very happy!
     
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  2. Bad Penguin

    Bad Penguin Active Member

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    What are your thoughts on the 24 vrs 22 fret neck?
     
  3. Steve D

    Steve D Active Member

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    Good question. I haven’t really tried to play that highly yet so I can’t weight in. But i assume its like an amp that goes to 11 instead of 10, it has to be better, right?
     
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  4. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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  5. Steve D

    Steve D Active Member

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    So I'm not a guy who hangs out up that high on the neck, really; I'm a classic rock kinda guy, not a shredder. But for the sake of science I fiddled around on that end of the neck. Also, anatomically I have stubby little fat fingers, so of course your mileage may differ.

    First, the guitar needs some setup, the intonation is off. Second, those top frets are really really small so if you want to play up there you have have to be very precise in your fingering but of course that's obvious. With my fat fingers, I could do slides and legatto stuff up there but trying to play more complex stuff fast wouldn't be pretty, I'd be hitting some wrong frets for sure. Third: the cutout makes it really easy to reach that 24th fret on the bottom 3 strings in particular but the E, A, and D were a little tougher to curl around and get to (but they wouldn't get much work even if they were a snap to reach). So if you have want to play up there, you can easily access the strings you'd most want to shred with.

    For me the 24 fret things was a "well, sure why not" item but not a real factor in picking this instrument. My thinking went thusly:
    1. I set a budget of about a grand. The less I spend on the guitar, the more I can spend on some suitable peddles or maybe some mods like pickup experiments. So I was aiming around $700 for the guitar itself That eliminated the Standards and lots of others. But it had to be Gibson, otherwise I'd still be sitting back whining about my lost Gibson street cred.
    2. My old SG had been modded before I bought it with some sort of humbuckers so there was no nostagia factor in the pickusp for me. I kinda wanted P90s because I love the sound but was intrigued by the mini humbuckers. I figured I'd give them a try and if I fell in love, all good. Otherwise, easy swap out. That led me towards a 2018 Special.
    3. I wanted a slim neck, my stubby little fingers hate baseball bat necks. Another item in favor of 2018 model.
    4. Stupid reason 1: The 2018 has the vintage-ish small pick guard. That's what I had in my old SG of course so it's what I love. I',m just not a bat wing guy. Love them on other guys gear, just not for me because of nostalgia reasons.
    5. Stupid reason 2: If I'm going to go with a standard, why not one with the crown on it? Yeah, the '61 was plain but the crown on a Special looks cool. If I can't have a bound fretboard, gimme a crown on the headstock at least!
    As you can see, I wanted a quasi vintage look and feel for el cheapo price but still a legit Gibson, not Epi or other clone. I was looking at some '60s tribute ones that sorta fell in my range but this one came up with a price I really liked, and then was further on sale for St. Patrick's day so I pulled the trigger. Simple as that. Extra frets? Bonus! But they do sorta wreak havok with the pickguard placement (look at it, you'll notice it doesn't really hug the horn profile like basically every other SG guard does) so that's a bummer.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
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  6. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    congrats, excellent choice IMHO.

    I've fallen hard for the mini hums as well. they seem to get all
    the tones I want, using my setup anyway. Lots of presence but
    not too hot. They sound really good with my Blues Driver
    and also with a tube screamer.

    love the color, it really does look a little like the old ones do,
    after fading and yellowing the lacquer. My fave SG is a faded
    brown from '07, and I think they got it right on that color then.

    Interesting review and NGD post.
     
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  7. Bad Penguin

    Bad Penguin Active Member

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    Well, my question was more on the tone of the neck pickup. I have always preferred 22 frets, since I feel, operative phrase being "I feel", that you loss that wonderful neck tone with 24 frets, since the pickup is further away from the harmonic octave. I love that deeper, slightly more muddy tone of a 22 fret neck.
     
  8. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    That's an interesting question...

    Just looking at the OP's guitar, I'm wondering if the extra length of the fretboard
    simply takes up the space where the tenon cover goes...
    SG spl 24 fret.jpg
    compare... The Silverburst below has only 22 frets, like traditional SGs and Les Pauls.
    Body@100.jpg
    We'd have to measure the distance from the 12th fret to the center of the neck p'up, (or from the bridge)
    and then we'd know.
     
  9. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    2018 SG Special
    24 frets
    24.75" scale length
    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/guitars/open-box-gibson-sg-special-2018--solid-body-electric-guitar

    2016 SG Special
    22 frets
    24.75" scale length
    http://guitarspecs.net/guitar/specs/911/sg-special-2016-t_gibson

    Both 22 and 24-fret versions have the same scale length. Both neck pickups appear to be at same location. The 24-fret version has the two extra frets where the tenon cover is on the 22-fret version.
     
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  10. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Sigh, no, no it isn't.......
    You beat me to it, CG. Superstition trumps reason every time I guess. I stopped counting the number of times I've corrected this myth.
    Really? Can you provide audio examples?
     
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  11. Bad Penguin

    Bad Penguin Active Member

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    Can I provide examples of the difference in neck tones of a 24 fret and a 22 fret? No, since I don't have a 22 fret and a 24 fret that are built exactly the same, with the same pickups and strings. I could provide samples between my 73 SG, with the pickup right at the edge of the fret board, and say my Ric 330. But that wouldn't be a fair comparisons, now would it? And also, I believe I said "operative phrase being "I feel"" it's actually a matter of opinion.
    My question was a simple one, since on my SG, the pole pieces are at the 24th fret position, and on the mini-hum 24 fret neck, they aren't.
     
  12. brazilnut

    brazilnut Active Member

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    I used to have a Firebird with mini-style hum buckers...but they were not really minis. That guitar sounded brighter than a Les Paul, brighter than my SG Standard. [I have a very meaty-sounding SG.] I wonder if your minis in an SG sound like a Firebird? That thing killed for lead or rhythm, but got a little icepicky if you didn't EQ it before a gig.
     
  13. Steve D

    Steve D Active Member

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    Well I dont have a 22 fret SG to compare it to but for those interested I measured the length from the center of the 12th fret inlay to the center of the neck pickup, it's 7.5". So that's the distance between two fixed points on the guitar that you can use for your own measurement to see how far they differ from your own setup, for what it's worth. I mean I guess your saying that moving them further down the scale would make them more trebley but short of finding someone with mini humbuckers on a 22 fret guitar, I don't know how to weigh in on that.

    But here's a video of a guy playing it switched in all three positions:


    Somewhere around 5 and a half minutes in he finally plays it with clean tones.

    And here's the same guy playing the 2018 Standard model which has 22 frets (and different pickups so it will sound different regardless but maybe it's a useful comparison). This time he wastes ... I mean takes ... nearly 7 minutes demoing it with fuzz effects and the like before finally playing it clean.
     

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