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  1. #1

    Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    I'm getting ready to buy another Gibson archtop (because I CAN) & I'm seeing a lot of guitars I never knew about before.
    Since an L5 or a Super 400 is out of my price range, I started looking at other models, namely the L4 & L7 guitars. Significantly cheaper, to be sure. Then I started seeing even more models, such as the L48 & L50 guitars. Even cheaper still, & vintage to boot.
    Does anyone have experience w/some of these lesser Gibsons? How do they stack up? Are there other models I'm missing? & what to look for & consider as I'm browsing through these new-to-me guitars?
    Thx
    the faster we go the rounder we get

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member fakejake's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    AFAIK, L50s are laminated tops. I was looking into them a while ago when searching for an affordable acoustic archtop. They look pretty, but the 2 I've played were nothing to write home about. Playability was decent, but VERY low volume and just a poor, boxy midrange mess. I stopped looking for another acoustic and went back to my old Martin...

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member Triplet's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Instead of a lower grade Gibson I might suggest a higher grade Guild. 60's, 70's and 80's are all pretty sweet. CE 100, X175, X500, etc. I bought an ST 302 a couple months ago and I haven't put it down.
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  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Co-Owner Tom Wittrock's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    An L-7 can be a great alternative for an L-5. The L-4C is another favorite, albeit it smaller.


    Regarding L-50s, I have never heard of them having laminated tops. All of the old, L series archtops should have solid spruce tops, while all of the old ES series should have laminated tops.
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  5. #5
    All Access/Backstage Pass Wilko's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    L-7 are lovely and get you that L-5 sound. Not L-5CES sound, that is a "stiffer" more electric sound.

    I own an L-4c after a few 175s and a 165 Herb Ellis. Great guitar. I set it up different for acoustic playing with bronze strings and such. Flatwound are awesome for that real smooth sound. It's got the shorter scale so string tension is lower as is the volume. Basically a 175 with a carved spruce top.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogswell View Post
    I started looking at other models, namely the L4 & L7 guitars. Significantly cheaper, to be sure. Then I started seeing even more models, such as the L48 & L50 guitars. Even cheaper still, & vintage to boot. Does anyone have experience w/some of these lesser Gibsons? How do they stack up? Are there other models I'm missing? & what to look for & consider as I'm browsing through these new-to-me guitars?
    Thx
    I've owned a couple late 20s & early 30s L4s -- the archtop / large-round-hole models in spruce and birch or maple. I also had a mid-30s L-75 which is the same deal in spruce and mahogany, with a lovely horizontal sunburst on the sides. Both models have a unique and lovely sound but you want to really make sure you like a large, V 'boat' neck before committing. One advantage of those models is that they work nicely with floating magnetic pickups but also take flat-top soundhole pickups too.

    I owned a couple of early 30s L50s with solid spruce tops. The earliest ones also have solid maple backs and sides, not plywood. They're nice but L50s and L48s have no fingerboard 'overhang' over the body -- it's glued flat to the top. The only way to use a floating-style pickup is to have it mid-way back toward the bridge (which is not the archtop 'sweet spot'). If you are thinking about classic amplified jazz tone those models will get you EDIT in the ballpark but not past second base.

    L7s, man, 17 x 25.5" is where it's at for me. All the sound, all the feel and only some of the price, especially if you skip the cutaway.

    OH -- the guitarist in my 17-piece band plays a 70s EDIT L4CES. It's like an ES-175 with a solid spruce top. Sonically I hear no difference from a 175. YMMV.

    Have fun and let everybody know what you grab!
    Last edited by S a m; 03-13-18 at 12:22 PM. Reason: Fixed two errors; thank you folks
    "I wanted one until I got one." -- J45

  7. #7

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Thank you for all the replies! I will post here when I eventually make a choice.
    the faster we go the rounder we get

  8. #8
    All Access/Backstage Pass Wilko's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by S a m View Post

    OH -- the guitarist in my 17-piece band plays a 70s L4C. It's like an ES-175 with a solid spruce top. Sonically I hear no difference from a 175. YMMV.

    Have fun and let everybody know what you grab!
    L-4C was discontinued in the 60s and is an acoustic guitar available with a neck-mounted pickup.

    Here's my '62:


    Here's a sound file:
    Chitlins Con Carne much more "hi fi" archtop sounding than the ES-175

    After that is L-4CES which sounds more like aan ES 175 in that it has two humbucking pickups, four controls and a switch mounted to the thicker carved top.

  9. #9

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wittrock View Post
    Regarding L-50s, I have never heard of them having laminated tops. All of the old, L series archtops should have solid spruce tops
    According to the 1966 catalog, the L-50 (still) had a carved spruce top; while the L-48 is listed as having a laminated mahogany top by that time. According to Gruhn's Guide, the L-48 went from spruce (carved?) to laminated mahogany in 1952.

    In terms of shopping for a vintage Gibson archtop to fit a budget, I think it largely depends on what kind of sound and performance you're after. If you want a guitar that you can put a floating pickup on for a classic jazz tone, you'll want something like the L-4 (or L-4C) or L-7 (or L-7C) or an L-10 or L-12. A Super 300 is another possibility, although they're harder to find.

    An L50 isn't going to give you as much tone, but is obviously less expensive. Traditionally, probably more of a play-around-the-house, leave it on the sofa guitar, imo. An L-48 (or an L-47, or L-37, or L-30) is a notch below that. They're the kind of thing you're more likely to find in a chipboard case.

  10. #10

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by S a m View Post
    I owned a couple of early 30s L50s with solid spruce tops. The earliest ones also have solid maple backs and sides, not plywood. They're nice but L50s and L48s have no fingerboard 'overhang' over the body -- it's glued flat to the top. The only way to use a floating-style pickup is to have it mid-way back toward the bridge (which is not the archtop 'sweet spot'). If you are thinking about classic amplified jazz tone neither of those models will get you in the ballpark.
    Although a floater may not work, aren't there other, more modern ways to install a decent pickup in these models? I would like to think that someone has developed a method to electrify these guitars by now. This is the 21st century, after all! & these guitars seem to be dirt cheap right now
    the faster we go the rounder we get

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Co-Owner Tom Wittrock's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogswell View Post
    Although a floater may not work, aren't there other, more modern ways to install a decent pickup in these models? I would like to think that someone has developed a method to electrify these guitars by now. This is the 21st century, after all! & these guitars seem to be dirt cheap right now
    I've yet to see an electric [magnetic] pickup made as thin as those fingerboards. And because of that, there aren't any that can be placed next to the end of the fretboard, where most people want it.
    Pauls to the walls!

    Hüter der Flammen!

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  12. #12
    Les Paul Forum Member Xpensive Wino's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    I had a 1949 L-4 for years; never installed a pickup. Worked great with a mic.

  13. #13

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Suggest you look for an original, full body depth, long scale ES 350, either cutaway or non cutaway....fine, fine guitar. Very similar in shape/depth to an ES 5, or later Switchmaster. I'm not sure if all are laminated tops or not. Most people are more familiar with the ES 350T (also known as The Poor Man's Byrdland) for it's thinner body style and short scale neck. Chuck Berry is seen playing a short scale blonde version on one of his album covers. The original full depth instruments have P-90's, the later 350T's have P-90's, then switch to HB.

  14. #14

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    I'm embarrassed to say I used to own a 1953 ES-350 & let it go. I was a basket case that I restored (or more accurately, had restored). After sinking a lot of money into it I discovered the truss rod was busted & sold it cheap.
    the faster we go the rounder we get

  15. #15

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by reddeluxe View Post
    Suggest you look for an original, full body depth, long scale ES 350, either cutaway or non cutaway....
    Non-cutaway model was the ES-300. 350's all had cutaways.

  16. #16

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogswell View Post
    I'm embarrassed to say I used to own a 1953 ES-350 & let it go. I was a basket case that I restored (or more accurately, had restored). After sinking a lot of money into it I discovered the truss rod was busted & sold it cheap.
    Hey, at least yours had an issue! I let go of two 350's (a minty '51 sunburst, and a custom blond with a CC pickup) with no issues. It was part of the good old wheeling and dealing, "trading up" process that worked out well for me over the years, but still... when I think about those 350's (and a few other gems I let go)...

  17. #17

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by JimR56 View Post
    Non-cutaway model was the ES-300. 350's all had cutaways.
    +1, you are right, JimR56.....the non cutaway IS an ES 300. Have a friend with a beautiful sunburst '53 ES 350 that is a fantastic jazz guitar.

  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member kharrison's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    ES 125’s

  19. #19

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by Cogswell View Post
    Although a floater may not work, aren't there other, more modern ways to install a decent pickup in these models? I would like to think that someone has developed a method to electrify these guitars by now. This is the 21st century, after all! & these guitars seem to be dirt cheap right now
    Boris Dommenget does (or did do) a fantastic slim profile 'jazzbucker'. It fits nicely on a repro guard and can be positioned in the front p/up position on most archtops. This was for a 1941 L-12. Great sound too.







  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member JJ Blair's Avatar
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    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    I have a '56 L7 with a Johnny Smith pickup. I love it. A really great jazz box.

    I also have a 1960 ES350. A terrific guitar. If you don't mind the scale of the Birldand, then you'll dig it.

  21. #21

    Re: Gibson sleeper hollow bodies:

    Quote Originally Posted by JJ Blair View Post
    I have a '56 L7 with a Johnny Smith pickup. I love it. A really great jazz box.

    I also have a 1960 ES350. A terrific guitar. If you don't mind the scale of the Birldand, then you'll dig it.

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