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ES 345....removal of varitone (Heresy or Hip?)

CDaughtry

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A year or so ago, I got my first 1959 ES 345 from Kerry(J45). When I got it from him, he(or the prior owner) had removed the varitone from it, where it was the functional equivalent of a 335. This guitar just ROARS!!!
So, I always wondered....what I would do if I ever got one that had its varitone still intact.
Well...I found out recently. My most recent acquisition(the other sunburst one) had its varitone in it when I got it. It sounded good, but Kerry's old 345 that I now have sounded significantly better. So......I sent it to a trusted buddy who has done varitone removals on a number of 345s. What he does is remove the entire varitone harness, and builds a new harness for the guitar, making it essentially a 335. The varitone, pots and everything else stay intact, so if you ever wanted to re-install them, it is essentially two solder joints and the thing is back to 100% original condition.
I just got it back yesterday. The tonal difference is AMAZING. What started out as a good sounding guitar has turned into a burst killer. Taking the varitone out was like removing a HUGE blanket off of an amplifier. The guitar literally came alive.
Who else here goes for tone over keeping the guitar 100% original. I couldn't be happier. The "conversion" will happen on every 345 I ever get.

So....who else out there has removed the varitone from their 345 and what has been your experience regarding the before and after tonal effects?:jim
 

humbucking

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Charlie, I just removed the varitone from my 1960 ES355. Night & day! I bought the guitar for a song a few years back(pretty much what the PAF's are worth from it. The guitar always sounded killer, but now it screams! I have the cherry 1961 ES345 I bought from Bart a few years ago, but that guitar is so clean & sounds so good, I cant even get myself to change the jack from Stereo to mono! I just use an adapter plug. now that I dont hve the varitone in the 355, I need to keep the 345 stock for the different sounds I can get recording and layering.
 

Minibucker

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I probably would (remove) if I had one. I have a pretty simple approach to what I want from my Gibsons, so throwing notch filters and such into the mix would just be more clutter for me. And if I'm not usin gsomething, I'd rather that it not be there in the circuit to begin with. Then again, if I ever own a 345 and like how it sounds right away, might as well go for it.

I guess if there was a true way to defeat the varitone from the circuit when not in use...is it still affecting things when on the 'zero' setting?
 
Last edited:

TomGuitar

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Apr 28, 2005
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Charlie,
I have done it on my past 345s and was very happy.

I am struggling with the decision on the blonde though. While I know it will sound better, I have a bunch of 335s... so I really don't need another one. And there are occasions where some of that varitone choking can be useful.

But on the other hand, I really want to hear what it sounds like flat out. And it looks so cool and plays so well I'd love to use it for a whole night instead of only the few tunes that want it as it is.

What's a poor boy to do?
 

Minibucker

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Maybe a push/pull tone post that can completely disengage the varitone from the circuit?
 

CDaughtry

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Charlie,
I have done it on my past 345s and was very happy.

I am struggling with the decision on the blonde though. While I know it will sound better, I have a bunch of 335s... so I really don't need another one. And there are occasions where some of that varitone choking can be useful.

But on the other hand, I really want to hear what it sounds like flat out. And it looks so cool and plays so well I'd love to use it for a whole night instead of only the few tunes that want it as it is.

What's a poor boy to do?



DO IT!!! You won't regret it. What I did on mine was leave the pickups out of phase so I still get all the really cool Peter Green tones out of it.:jim
 

billys

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Tom -

If an axe like your blonde 345 is "unmolested", I would not mod it. Much wiser to pick up one of your 335's and plug it in. OTOH, if an axe already has some changed pots/parts, then it's not as big a deal IMHO.

In any case, there ought to be a non-permanent way to get in with a couple well-placed clipleads to effectively bypass the circuit without actually unsoldering anything. I did that on my Firebird 1 to bypass a resistor that sits on the high side of the output circuit. I know the Varitone is a more complicated setup to work on, but I bet it could be done without "molesting" anything.... :hmm

- Billy

Charlie,
I have done it on my past 345s and was very happy.

I am struggling with the decision on the blonde though. While I know it will sound better, I have a bunch of 335s... so I really don't need another one. And there are occasions where some of that varitone choking can be useful.

But on the other hand, I really want to hear what it sounds like flat out. And it looks so cool and plays so well I'd love to use it for a whole night instead of only the few tunes that want it as it is.

What's a poor boy to do?
 

CDaughtry

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I don't know that I would consider two broken solder joints a mod. In the burst world, if everything is 100% original on the guitar, I'd deduct one dollar from the purchase price for the two broken solder joints.:jim
 

billys

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I think it's definitely a mod. I guess you can easily enough hit "undo" and put it back but you'd want to disclose the work that was done. The issue is just how the prospective buyer views it. I'm never too psyched when someone says about a 355 "was wired for mono, now returned to its original factory spec" or on a 345 "was wired to bypass the varitone, now.....".

Bottom line is it sounds like you're OK with it. The next guy might not be. So in the world of otherwise virgin 1959 Gibbies, my instinct is to avoid any changes unless it's a gigging/recording guitar and one's livelihood depends on it, etc.... :jim

I don't know that I would consider two broken solder joints a mod. In the burst world, if everything is 100% original on the guitar, I'd deduct one dollar from the purchase price for the two broken solder joints.:jim
 

BigsbyTracks

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Another `convert' here, did it last year. I had over 25 years in which to use the Varitone, so when a tone pot messed up I just replaced the entire harness with a 335 style setup.

The results are a lighter guitar, a sparklier, more detailed sound, and controls that work more practically for me. So far I don't miss the Varitone too much.

I did not have to deal with the `oh god you broke a solder joint' issue because the guitar had issues already. That's a buyer/seller/collector psychology issue I'm not qualified to comment on. I'm extremely lucky to have my 345 at all.

I do think that unless you use a stereo Varitone guitar with a two-channel amp setup as it was designed, you are not really hearing how the guitar is supposed to sound anyway. Passively mixing the two pickups loads them just a little too much.
 

J.D.

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I agree, if it's a valuable original, play the 335 mono and use the 345 for a stereo rig which can be really cool. If you just dig the 335 sound then mod it, it's not terribly hard to do or undo and probably won't affect resale value a whole lot if the original parts are all present, working, and reinstalled properly.
 

j45

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For reference, here's a clip I did in the bypass position right before I bypassed the VT. I think you can hear the effect on the natural sound of the pickups. I do keep one of my 345's stock for the times that I may want that filtered tones. Charlie said in a post a while back that his first 345 gave his bursts a run for the money and here uses "burst killer" in description. It's true that 345's can be a powerhouse equal to a burst and the prices are still at the bottom of the range for each respective year. I also agree with Charlie's assessment that if it were a burst he would deduct a dollar for two broken solder joints.

clip:

http://www.lespaulforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=120053
 

CDaughtry

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Bottom line is it sounds like you're OK with it. The next guy might not be. So in the world of otherwise virgin 1959 Gibbies, my instinct is to avoid any changes unless it's a gigging/recording guitar and one's livelihood depends on it, etc.... :jim



Yeah...but why miss out on the full enjoyment of it? I don't want it to just sit in the case and appreciate. I'd rather appreciate it......:jim

I understand there are those anal collectors out there who wouldn't buy it if they knew that the varitone had been out of it, but there's just as many, probably more, like me when I heard that Kerry's already had it out, that thinks its actually worth more that way.:2cool

It's kinda like when I bought my 1958 burst. It had been expertly refretted with 59 wire. I thought...."Thank God!!!!":dude:
 

CDaughtry

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I do keep one of my 345's stock for the times that I may want that filtered tones.


Kerry,
How often do you find the need to use those tones? In an email in which you and I were discussing those tones, you used the term "novelty" tones, and I thought that was a perfect description of them.......:2cool
 

billys

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CD - In my experience, it's not that people "won't buy"; it's more that it can become a valuation issue and you just have to be comfortable with the $ spent to get into the guitar in the first place. And of course if it's a flamey burst, well then I'd say that's a "Whole Nutha Oprah" ™ :dude:

In the end whatever you need to do to enjoy the guitars is the most important thing. Guess I'm just a simple guy who lives in blissful ignorance with his stock 345's :)
 

shuie

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If I already had a good guitar that had the varitone removed, Id probably be too much of a wuss to yank one out of a pristine 345. Im always supportive of other people removing them, tho :)
 

ultra

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Dec 7, 2001
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Yes, I too have made the mod and have direct comparison with a 345 which is stock.
I left my '59 untouched and my fave '61 had the varitone taken out of the circuit but left the original harness save for the mono jack.

The mod seems to open it up. The '59 sounds "polite" in comparison, if you know what I mean.

I see no reason why you wouldn't do it if the original harness was left intact a la CD and a replacement harness used. I should have done this too.

267105235.jpg
 

strat71

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Jul 7, 2006
Messages
78
my mod!!!

Hi,
already posted here, here's what i did on my non collectable 1967 ES345 (refinished, neck break, etc...) i won't tell you if you can/must do that on your guitar but i give you the information...

i also realized how much the sound of the stock stereo wiring is different from the 335 type circuit...
if you look at the original stereo schematic (bottom left),

17140997.jpg


the problem has two origins:
  • when shunting the two stereo output to make a "fake" mono circuit the two volume pots are in parallel and thus the value drop to 250k... BIG loss of high frequencies...
  • moreover, even in the first position of the varitone there's five R,C,L path to the ground which are not bypassed (only the 100k resistor is bypassed in the stock circuit) which bleed the highs to the ground...

i totally re-thinked the wiring (based on the varitone monaural circuit) so that i can keep the best of both world:
  • a great 335 sound in position 1 of the varitone (the varitone is truely bypassed)
  • and the ability to use the varitone if needed... in the 2-3-4-5 position (i hate to have something useless in my guitars...)
the thing is you have to rewire everything but it's worth the pain... i remove one of the stereo signal path and use the corresponding half of the varitone switch to bypass the varitone circuit in the first position...
here's the schematic...
17279181.gif


i must say that it's not an easy mod to perform.... but if you have a little experience in soldering a wiring harness it's not that complicated.. and you can ask a good technician to do that for you...

I'm so happy with my 345 since i did this mod...
on the first position on the varitone switch you've got a stock 335 circuit letting your guitar sound like it should... and you keep the varitone useable in the 2-3-4-5 position...
if you have the stock pickups it also keep the out of phase sound in the in-beetween position... Tasty...

Everyone here in Tahiti (LOTS of stereo gibson users) who try it want me to do this mod...

hope it help!!!
Ben
 
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