Do We Think Vintage Equals "Better"

Robbie

Friend of Fred
Jun 17, 2013
5,838
Sarnia Ontario Canada
I often wonder about this. The old, i.e. Vintage, guitars we like to hear on old records were not Vintage when the recordings were made.

My 1978 355, although not convinced it would be considered Vintage, sounds the same today as it did when I purchased it about 1996 or so. I think it was just a good guitar from the day it was made. My 2013 Panther is a fabulous guitar, one set up originally and it's never moved.

I love a good guitar...Vintage or new. What do you think?
 
Last edited:

dak55

Country Gent
May 31, 2018
1,865
Central Florida
I don't think it means better at all. I'd leave it to the pickup experts on board to say if a 50's Dyna sounds better that a TVJ T-Armond. I don't know. I've had a number of 50's Gretsch including a 55-6120 and despite its flaws it would always get more oohs and aahs than a new one. Vintage is just cool but not likely a superior build. Time will tell but I doubt binding rot or neck resets will be a thing in modern era instruments 50 years from now. I equate them to cars: a 1957 Chevy Nomad oozes cool, but a boring, slab sided new Chevy is clearly a better built and more reliable vehicle.
 

englishman

Gretschified
Apr 5, 2014
13,054
Detroit
I think you have to take into account that NO guitar recorded in the 50s and 60s would sound like that today. Not unless you could replicate all the old recording equipment with the original wiring, know exactly what the EQ settings were, what amp was used, what state the amp was in (condition not location). There are 1000s of factors that affected the sound between strumming the guitar and it being pressed into vinyl. Modern equipment doesn't color the sound nearly as much.

That said, the mojo in some vintage guitars is almost magical.
 

stevo

Friend of Fred
May 1, 2012
7,167
Atlanta
Vintage guitars can be very amazing, especially acoustic guitars. But chances are, the good ones are all owned and no one wants to let them go. Just like modern guitars, there are a lot of mediocre ones and those are generally the ones you find for sale.

My experiences:

  • Played a couple of 40's Martins that had incredible sustain and tone. The neck was a bit bowed on one, but it sounded like a dream.
  • Played dozens of 60's and 70's Martins over the years that were duds. Rarely in the 70's did I play a Martin that impressed me.
  • Starting in about 2010, I noticed something different. D28's sounded very alive and strong. My local shop told me that Martin had recently upped their game and I agreed. If I were looking for a D28 today, it would likely be one from 2010 and beyond.
  • My 1997 Taylor 710 BCE has Brazilian rosewood back/sides and Engleman spruce top. It's the equal in sustain and bell like tone of any vintage guitar. Truly remarkable.
 

jarrodtaylor

Gretschie
Mar 14, 2019
394
Delray Beach, FL
I think we've gotten better at building guitars over the years. Or at least at production line builds, not getting into custom luthier master built guitars. And the TV Jones Ray Butts are pretty damn good pickups.

We can certainly record in higher fidelity than in past decades. And we can also still record like it was done in the old days.

Adjusting for that, does a new guitar sound better than an old one? I don't think so. But a better build doesn't mean it's *that* much of a better guitar than an old one. It's a factor, but a small one.

First, who's playing it? SRV could make a Strat sound way better than I'll ever be able to, and that's not because of the guitar.

Second, there's the nostalgia factor of old songs.

Third, how many songs and players have the old recording influences over the years? That stuff is ingrained by now.

Time and memory have a way of filtering out the crap and making the stuff we like stand out. The creations that stand the test of time are the ones worth keeping. The ones that don't fall away. That applies to both recordings and gear. The Telecaster is a timeless design, flaws and all. Stereo output pickups were too much of a pain in the butt and we moved on.
 

ZackyDog

Friend of Fred
Feb 6, 2015
7,582
In the USA
Having owned vintage Gretsch guitars...I say new.

There are tweaks (pickups, bridges, strings, picks) that can get you nicely in the vintage sound neighborhood.

68881-f5e9664f143127f0e97ae0dcbfa78f1b.jpg
upload_2020-2-11_13-15-30.jpeg
images
upload_2020-2-11_13-16-46.jpeg
images
 

Wonderland Drive

Gretschie
Nov 29, 2017
235
Durham, NC
I have Gretsch guitars from the 60’s, 70’s, and a 98’ Roundup made in Japan before Fender bought Gretsch.

They all have different pickups and different neck carves and widths. I like them equally for what they offer; they’re all good guitars.
 

radd

Friend of Fred
Dec 27, 2017
5,975
Santa Cruz
Given my experience with motorcycles, vintage is often times beautiful and full of charisma. But, but, but, can’t compare with present day performance.

Two of mine. The modern one could out perform the vintage one in every aspect. But, the vintage one was so much more fun to ride, bad brakes and all.

Maybe guitars are a little like that

56E95536-2B1D-4DBD-992C-0843737FD854.jpeg
 

afire

Friend of Fred
Feb 12, 2009
5,722
Where the action is!
When it comes to Gretsches, yes, I will take a well-maintained properly functioning vintage example every time. If you're comparing a run down vintage basket case to a shiny new guitar, well, that's not a very fair comparison.
 

afire

Friend of Fred
Feb 12, 2009
5,722
Where the action is!
Two of mine. The modern one could out perform the vintage one in every aspect. But, the vintage one was so much more fun to ride, bad brakes and all.

Maybe guitars are a little like that

View attachment 131322
There's some truth to that analogy. Some vintage guitars do have a worn in and lively quality that can be a lot of fun. But considering how little the basic construction and appointments have changed in the last 60 years, I think as long as a vintage guitar is maintained, there's no real reason for it not to reliably perform on par with a new one. Same goes for amps. I've been gigging with the same 1964 AC30 for 15 years. When I got it, I replaced some worn out tubes, all electrolytics, and a handful of resistors that had drifted too far out of spec. It's performed flawlessly ever since, while the other guitarist in the band has had three or four modern Voxes crap out on him in that time.
 

stevo

Friend of Fred
May 1, 2012
7,167
Atlanta
Given my experience with motorcycles, vintage is often times beautiful and full of charisma. But, but, but, can’t compare with present day performance.

Two of mine. The modern one could out perform the vintage one in every aspect. But, the vintage one was so much more fun to ride, bad brakes and all.

Maybe guitars are a little like that

Don't disagree that motorcycles and cars can be like that, but there are precious few advancements in guitars over the past 50 years that make a difference like that. IE, a great Les Paul from 50 years ago is not much different from a great one today.
 

radd

Friend of Fred
Dec 27, 2017
5,975
Santa Cruz
Not being a rabble rouser...


Ya know, not long ago someone posted a blindfold comparison of a modern violin and a premiere vintage one and the experienced violinists playing both more often selected the new one as better.

Just some food for thought about how much our eyes and brain influence what we think we hear.
 

dreamingGretsch

Synchromatic
Oct 12, 2010
731
Melbourne, Australia
My luthier, who is an established guitar maker, and have a lot of experience in handling/repairing/setting up guitars, new and vintage, and other stringed instruments told me when I considered buying a vintage telecaster, that the only thing desirable about the vintage guitars is the charm, of being made in the golden days, but sonically, the old wood that has been used back then, the old wood that is still resonating to the present day, and the pickups that magnets have been slowly demagnetized over the years..

He said that he is agreeing with Paul (PRS) in terms of producing the best guitars today that can exceed vintage guitars.. and if only he has access to really old growth wood harvested back in the day, he can easily give me a telecaster worth less than a fraction of a vintage tele, and put in pickups that replicate the demagnetization and voila, vintage tele built with exact accuracy and best construction methods now.

I believe him though.. Id still want a vintage 62 telecaster custom, and play it until I die, but I can rest in the fact that if I commissioned him to build me one with old growth wood and all, Id get the best one I'll ever get for my money..
 


Top