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info on 70's deluxe goldtop please

Big Al

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Litcrit said:
Here's a dissenting voice. Obviously Big AL knows about the pickups and I agree about those, but I heartily DISAGREE about the '70's Norlin guitars. These are most often inert, rather toneless, shoulder breakers (HEAVY). The pancake body suffocates the resonance. Simply compare the acoustic tone of these to any 1 piece body guitar and you'll see. Yes, there are some exceptions: I had a really nice 70's standard that played well and sounded good, but most of these are like the 70's strats: corporate bean counter guitars made cheaply by a demoralized workforce. These are the guitars that STARTED the vintage craze becasue they were (and are) SUBSTANDARD. If you can buy one cheap, do it. Are they worth the $1000 plus prices? NOT TO ME. Better off with a 1 piece body post-Norlin guitar.

Lots of misinformation there. I'll state the obvious then explain.

This is meant to provoke thought and maybe stir things up alittle.
My style sounds rough and confrontational, but I don't mean it that way.
It is my barroom New Yorker argumentive style. I've got strong opinions and I'm not slamin' you Litcrit, as much as sayin' as we do up here, "Are you outta your friggen' mind?" "SUBSTANDARD?" Let me tell you all about it "

The obvious.
Norlin Les Pauls are not 50's Les Pauls. Neither are Historics.
They are not toneless or lifeless. They can break a shoulder.
They were not made by bean counters, but rather by proud skilled craftspeople who were not demoralized. They are not SUBSTANDARD.

Now the good stuff.
Norlins Les Pauls were made as a modern upgrade to the extinct originals(remember they BOMBED!). Thinking at that time was that heavy dense wood makes for better tone. This is true in many respects. Here are the truths.

A three piece neck is stiffer and more stable than a one piece. It has allways been a quality feature on Gibsons, and the BEST made guitars have allways featured them. Budget guitars got the one piece mahogany neck. Stiffer stable necks sound better. One piece mahogany necks are desireable on Les Paul reissues because it is a vintage spec. A one piece neck does not sound better than a laminate neck. I have compared many, done tests with great players with good ears and none of us could hear a difference that could be attributed to the neck. A soft neck or an instable one is easy to hear and pick out, it sounds like shit and is usually a one piece neck with a thin profile, though I recently played a freinds R9 with a soft fat neck that was a turd.

I want to meet the man who can hear the difference between a stiff stable onepiece neck and a three piece neck, 'cause he would be God.

Headstock pitch, shape and volute do seem to affect the tone and Norlin Les Pauls had them all. They also had small pegheads increased pitch and no volute. Each sounds different but none is better. Clearly if you want an authentic 50's tone, the 50's style tapered small voluteless steep pitched headstock will get you there. But I have heard wonderful tones from the Norlin design and though not as correct from a vintage point, they none the less produce a good tone that differs somewhat from vintage specs.

Things like Three Piece Maple or Mahogany Necks were unpopular with vintage "Why can't they make them like the 50's" fanantics, much like the ones you see here (I'm one too). Most people had no problem with them then and I still don't. They are well made functional necks that play and sound fine.

This is the main point of contention. They are not made like 50's. Most of the complaints are by people who value 50's burst above all else, and can see no other type. Anything that deviates from a 59 is caa caa. I've seen people foamin' at the mouth over the hue of the red in the burst, a multi piece neck can give such a person a stroke!

Lets talk bodies.

One piece bodies do not sound different than laminate ones. If they did you would HEAR the difference between 1974 sandwich bodies and 1975 one piece bodies. I've heard hundreds yet I've never spotted that thing that would define them tonewise by body construction. If you can you are a way better man than me.

I do prefer a onepiece body for it's look and obvious value, but I have owned many and still have a sandwich one because it sounds so freakin' good. Though I do not mind three piece necks in all honesty I would rather have a one piece body. Not for sonic but rather asthetic reasons.

Three piece maple is not as pretty, and I much prefer a two piece top, but I can't hear the difference. It is all about the look and I would say a three piece top has less visual quality than a centerseamed top. Again it is asthetics. Remember too that all those tonaly superiour 50's Goldtops had multi piece tops! So you can't argue about laminations. Firebirds have 7!!!

Resonance. Lets talk about resonance. Every Les Paul I have heard with a loud overly resonant acoustic tone sounded like a rubber guitar through an amp covered with a blanket. All that string energy that is vibrating the wood to create that acoustic tone is gone, sucked away by the wood and the pickup never sees it so your amp never reproduces it. Clashing out of phase frequencies further wool up the tone. You want toneless and lifeless? Don't look at the heavy stiff guitar.

Toneless and lifeless blanket statements are dead wrong in respect to these guitars. In fact a very good argument can be made that the reverse is true. Most heavy stiff guitars are louder, brighter and have a tighter bass. They have a huge sustaining tone. They lack some of the airy woody midrange of a vintage Paul but they ring with a loud clear voice with medium output alnicoV loaded Humbuckers and pure nickle strings. I have never, ever heard a dull, lifeless, toneless Les Paul from this era that was in good shape and stock condition. Things like hot ceramic overwound Humbuckers and stainless or plated stainless strings do not help them.

They were beautifuly made.
Binding, finish and woodwork is excellent on these guitars. They were made as well as ever, then. Nothing in the 70's was even close.

There are other distinctions too. Norlins came in many flavors.
First types were Sandwich bodied, 3 piece Mahogany Neck then 3 piece Maple Neck ones. Many sound awesome. These were only made for about 4 years.

Next came the one piece bodied 3 piece neck ones. Still lots of good sounding ones. Both had a preponderence of 3 piece tops but 2 piece tops aren't that rare. These were made until 82 or so.

In 80 they had both one piece, and my favorite Three piece, Vintage style necks, with small headstocks, no volutes and 17 degree headstock pitch. Bookmatched Flame tops made a reappearence then too.

By 83 Norlin Les Pauls had one piece bodies, one piece mahogany necks, deep dish carve and vintage style small headstock without volute and bookmatch tops were more common. By the end in 87 they were allmost allways bookmatched.

That is just Standards. Norlin had some cool models and good ideas. Some of which I'd like to see again. They were well made and in general sound good. They are not 50's replica's. We have Historics for that. They are excellent Les Pauls. They are not the holy grail, nor are they the best ever made. They may not even be collectable, (I think they are and look to Mike Slub for inspiration), or fetish instruments but, they made some stellar music that is still emulated today. I'd say take a good honest look and listen to one with an open mind, you might rediscover something besides substandard. As far as any modern guitar killing a Deluxe dead... bullshit! That is one ignorent statement. As for Gibson's modern day propaganda, are you that gullable? They are trying to sell you on new product. HYPERBOLE. With a list price better than 3K, and soon to go up they better be good. I'm excited about the new Standard and think it is a good thing. Can't wait to try one out.

But I do not look to Gibson for truth. Truth is on the stage and in the studio and rings in my ears and lays in my hands. Listen to my cut on the first Forum CD for a Norlin Les Paul in action, that's the truth, and it ain't substandard.
 
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MikeSlub

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Go, Big Al! I couldn't have said it better myself! If people want to keep dumping on Norlins, let them go ahead, because they will remain the great value they are in the used (and approaching vintage status) guitar market.....there will be more for those of us know the "real" story to play...... :)
 

Litcrit

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Well, Big Al, obviously you know quite a bit, but as a fellow opinionated NYer I'll challenge some of your statements.
1. Multi-piece vs. 3 piece neck. I actually agree with you here. I can't hear the difference and multi-piece necks are more stable (some fancy Jazz guitars have 5 piece necks!). I've had guitars with 1 piece necks that warped. But I like the look better.
2. Multi-piece vs. 1 piece bodies: I strongly disagree. I can hear the difference acoustically and I believe the best sounding guitars I have are 1 or 2 piece bodies. I disagree that the acoustic resonance doesn't translate into vibrations that the pickups can "pickup". The logical extension of your reasoning is: a totally acoustically dead piece of wood (or any material) would make for the best sounding guitar! Acoustically resonant guitars tend to have more mid and bass response, they sound "fuller". Very noticable on strats, where the poly finished heavy 70's bodies are very harsh and trebly. Same for LP's: more pieces tend to be harsher. Your losing the full frequency range, accentuating a smaller range of frequencies.
3. Weight: not as direct a correlation. I didn't think back then that heavier guitars sounded better and I don't think now that lighter guitars always sound better ..but they sure are MORE COMFORTABLE. My 70's standard was breaking my shoulder, and that's when I discovered 335's. In theory, lighter guitars made from lighter wood have more resonance (less moisture content). But...you have to believe that acoustic resonance is a GOOD thing (which you don't).
4. Quality: First off, I've sold all the newer guitars I bought used (at a profit) and I only collect 50's, and 60's. I DON"T BUY NEW. I'm TOO CHEAP (so I'm not a Gibson shill). In fact, it would serve my purposes best if Gibson went out of business: My collection would be worth more.
But...they are clearly BETTER guitars than the 70's stuff I used to play, NO CONTEST. Better wood, better finish, better quality control overall.
So.. I appreciate your "Devil's advocate" stance, (I often take it myself) but I haven't heard anyone claim acoustic resonance is a bad thing or that the Norlin years were great. That's a new spin.
 

Wilko

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Wow, check out this debate!!!

You guys are on the money for most of the stuff. Im jumping in about resonance. In Big Al's scenario a Les Paul would sound the same as a 335 or a 175. the scale length is about the same, the pickups are the same. The wood resonance is the big contributor in their differences. the body shakes, the pickup shakes. more overtones and all.
that doesn't mean the 70's hard bodies are bad. they have less sympathetic vibrations and overtones so they produce a cleaner sinewave and therefore what most would describe as a more "focused" sound.
Remember, Les Paul himself wanted to use a steel rail. In his mind, and as the market showed in the 70's, less resonance is better. For a pure musical tone, yes it is. for an interesting harmonically rich tone, no it is not.
So we have both.
 

LesPauloholic

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Wilko said:
Wow, check out this debate!!!

<snip>
Remember, Les Paul himself wanted to use a steel rail. In his mind, and as the market showed in the 70's, less resonance is better. For a pure musical tone, yes it is. for an interesting harmonically rich tone, no it is not.
So we have both.

I don't think of a pure sine wave as musical at all. harmonically rich = Musical, sinewave = sterile.
 
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Wilko

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Ok, I was bit harsh on the sinewave.
As we see in the speed thread, as with all music, it's got to be in conext. Tension, resolve. the heart of all music.
A clear tone can be very beautifull, specially near a nasty one. Balance.

I use 70's and 60's Les Pauls and like them all for their differeces. Viva le diferance!
 

Big Al

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Litcrit,
it is the devils advocate, Big Al. I will hit your points one at a time and try to explain. We are closer in agreement than you think.

1
I agree. Multi piece is stronger and more stable. One piece is more vintage correct and visually pleasing. The trick is to get a one piece stiff stable neck. Those are wonderful.

2
I definately challenge your ability to hear acoustic differences in laminate body guitars of similar construction. You can't compare Historics to Norlins as there are many differences. I believe as I said, comparing several 74 laminate bodies to several 75 one piece ones, (where the only difference is the body), is the best way to test such a claim. I have yet to detect the difference.

Acousticly resonent guitars tend to have more bass and mids and are fuller is wrong. You can look at it that way but the truth is that acousticly resonant guitars lose high end. Bass and mids are not increased, rather treble is decreased. By the same token you make assumptions about finish on 70's Strats as making them harsh and trebely. The bodies got much heavier much thicker,(there was less sculpting) and Fender switched to Ash from Alder. This is the reason they are brighter along with the weaker pickups they used, not the finish or resonance. Fenders are bright, their pickups are bright, couple that with a heavy hard wood and you get a bright guitar. Body resonance in a Fender is a way to control undue high end. But again that is apples and oranges. Lets stick to apples. Les Paul and Ted McCarty both are on record as desireing a guitar without resonance. Les's benchmark tone was a steel rail. The guitar was designed to inhibit resonance and allow for purer string vibration. The neck is actually the thing that vibrates the most and part of what makes a Les Paul sound so great is that stiff assed, short(free of the heel) neck deeply sunk into a massive solid body. If the neck vibrates too much it conflicts and robs the strings vibration which is sensed by the pickup. resonance very rarely can add to a strings vibration and acts mostly as a filter. These can be complex and affect the string in a wonderful way to produce great tone, but too much robs tone. The fact is that stiff stable body platforms allow the string greater vibration and give the fullest range, not the other way around.

3 Weight. It sucks. It hurts me too. My back is ruined from them. I agree that comfort is the consideration here. I was challenging the assumption that Heavy=Bad tone. That simply is not the case. Heavy= a sore shoulder. But a heavy guitar will sound good and often great because of it's stability and resistance to vibration. INERTIA BLOCK. The majority of people wanted heavy guitars then. The use of them was in responce to that demand. Too heavy is uncomfortable and too light sounds like wool. There is a great middle ground around 9lbs that works for me.

4
Quality. Yes it is improving. But I still maintain the quality of Norlin guitars. Those Les Pauls are quality made and the wood is too. The Mahogany is often better and all the Maple I have seen is Rock Eastern Maple. Plain but high quality.
 

Wilko

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I just posted a soundfile in the tone zone of my Deluxe with minihumbuckers. The song just screamed for that guitar. The bass player had such bad intonation that the song was edited down to a sort of "vignette"
 

Litcrit

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BIG AL: Okay, I GIVE!!! UNCLE!!!! Actually, you make a lot of good points and I agree that we're closer than it would appear at first. The main problem with LP's is that there are too few early examples around: to get a 50's you need to be wealthy (I'm not), to get a '68 or '69 you need to spend 4 to 6 G's (I won't). So.... you're left with 70's and later. With other guitars (SG's, 335s) you have 60's examples around at affordable prices, with LPs, NOPE! As a kid I had a '68 custom, but I couldn't play then so I wouldn't know if it was a good guitar or not. The standard I had in the mid 70's was the heavy decent guitar I talked about. I recently traded a "Heritage 80", I never liked that very much. The 3 Historics I've owned were all really nice guitars, IMHO much nicer than the 70's guitars I had, but I dislike shiny new guitars and I offed them/traded them. I need to find a beater Historic, but no one beats them (not yet). Get this, I JUST BOUGHT (tonight) an '83 Custom project...Norlin right? Seller says its a good player and the price was right....If it's half decent, I'll keep it, if it sucks, to Ebay it will go...
 

Big Al

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Wait, wait wait!!!!
Litcrit, in my zeal to make a point I get caught up in the moment and somethings get lost.


First I am not claiming that Norlins are vintage nor are they the "Best" Les Pauls.

I do not believe them to be tonaly inferior, or pigs that are built bad. I think overall they offer real value and tone for the player.

I do not, nor have I ever endorsed the Norlin LP's as a big money item. I feel they made a million of them,(production runs, not limited editions or small batch stuff), they are more than servicable and they should be had at a resonable price. Pristine examples are collectable however, and mint clean examples should go for decent money. Some have unique and very desireable voices,(Deluxe anyone), and should be seriously checked out with open ears.

I do think the modern made Historics are wonderful guitars with the ever elusive 50's spec and vibe returned, and they are worth more money. I don't think the production Standards ect.. of the late 80's or 90's were better than Norlin at all.

I was arguing about the tonal aspects of Norlins, which I have had some great experiences with, and which seem to have earned this "Tone Pig" stigma that is so patently wrong. They do sound good.

The other thing I want to clear up is resonance. YES there has to be some resonance. It is the thing that gives a guitar it's personality. I feel the majority of this resonance is from the neck and not the body, though the body does have an effect of course.

The reason I zero in on the neck is this, I have clamped weights to the body, stripped it of finish, tried heavy and light tailpieces and always the changes were subtle. Yes there is a difference, but it is sleight. Now put a Fat Finger or Fat Head or Grovers on a Les Pauls headstock and BANG! That's a pretty dramatic change in tone! I have just been so facinated lately with this fact that I have been experimenting on my freinds guitars as well as my own. One buddy of mine has Grovers and a Fatfinger on his R9 allways now.

I have played some sonic turds lately and in everycase they had OVERLY loud resonance and soft necks. They sound HUGE unplugged, yet thru an amp they are dull lifeless turds. The last one I found was a 2001 R9. So it can't be the tenon, or other specs, and this one had an Eastern Top, but it is very light and loud and it sounds like a cardboard Epiphoney in an amp.

These things have led me to my anti soft neck and overly resonant guitars stance. The 335 analogy does not apply, as to my way of thinking, if the neck is key, and it is so very unique in a Les Paul, they are not expected to be similar.

And yes I wanted to shake people up and piss them off. Maybe stimilate some independant thinking and get away from the group think, sheep mentality, and maybe get some people checking out stuff with open ears.

If you are lucky, you find a guitar with a nice comfortable weight with a stiff ass heavy neck and tone to die for. With the right combination of resonance to filter and complicate the tone, and yet not so much that will strangle it, and looks to suit. That is the dream.
 

Litcrit

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Big Al: It sounds like you've done more research than me re: "overly resonant" LP guitars. Generally for most electric guitars, I haven't found good acoustic resonance to be a problem plugged in (except archtops feeding back). I will admit to mostly playing strats in the last 10 years and there the correlation is clearer: more resonant guitars acoustically clearly sound better plugged in, and I've gone through A LOT of strats to "prove" this. I'm willing to suspend my judgment re: this for LP's, as I haven't had that many. But it still seems counter-intuitive to me. Soft necks: I can see your point (they also warp, so who wants that?)
Now, re: Norlin, maybe my statement about "substandard" is too harsh, elsewhere I called them "serviceable" and that's where I'll stay. Decent guitars that will play fine. For $500-$700, I'll buy a '70's Deluxe. For $1500, NO WAY. Really, do you think they're worth that kind of money? Would you pay it? Same as a '74 strat: $500: sure. $1500: you gotta be KIDDING!!
 

billywade

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I purchased it

Originally I started this thread asking about the positives and negatives of a particular guitar. Well, I bought it. Turns out it is a '73 (at least the pots are), very clean and original. The case was some MIJ thingy but the guitar is really nice (smells like smoke more than any other guitar I've ever smelled). My '00 classic with the fralin's was sold/traded for a USA Strat plus cash to help finance the deal and the Deluxe GT was purchased for $900 + a squier fat strat. I'm satisfied and think it sounds great. I A/B/C/Dd it with my '93 custom, '87 GT and '97 SG standard. It hangs in with all those guitars just fine. The frets remind me of the ones on the '70 es 335 I used to have way back when this thread started, although there is a considerable amount more life left in the ones on the Deluxe. Really clean for a 29 year old guitar. I'm happy. I'm having my friend take digital pix so when I trade it later for something else I'll have the memories. My collection like the collections of a lot of you guys and girls is constantly evolving. I've found that the more guitars you trade the easier it gets and it's getting pretty darn easy these days. For example the classic I just traded was my numero uno for a few months. I kinda miss it but I'll forget about it soon enough. I like to look back through the pix of all the stuff I've sold/traded every once in a while. Sometimes I can literally barely remember owning an instrument. I have no Idea where I'm going with this I guess I just have a completely uncontrollable perpetual case of GAS. I'm thinking the Deluxe is a darn fine guitfiddle though, the minis sound pretty close to the 490s and the classics to me. Besides I could probably make pearly sound like a Silvertone so don't ask me about wood and resonance and tone and all that unimportant junk. I just wanna jam. Look cool for the chicks and stuff like that.
 

leoslespaul

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Billy-It sounds like you got a good deal-I don't know much about a Squier Fat Strat but if and when you might get the GAS again I'd be more than willing to offer up some enticing trades/and/or cash for that Deluxe. I've got a '73 sunburst that needs a stable-mate. ;)
russnor@pacbell.net
 

billywade

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I'll keep you in mind.

I forgot to say thanks to BigAl and everyone else who had comments on these guitars. Consructive criticism is always welcome because I was asking for everyone's opinion. Not just all positives. I'll tell you guys what sealed the deal for me. I'd been watching ebay for a couple of months and these do pretty well on there. But, I walked into GC in Houston and they had a '70 and a '74 (both virtual twins to the guitar I purchased including serial numbers in the 1xxxxx range but neither one nearly as clean) and they were asking mid 2Gs for both. One had the wrong pickguard on it. Now I know GCs vintage stuff is systematically overpriced big time but I figured I'd better go for it before someone else did. Thanks again to all the fine folks on the LP forum for their knowledge and expertise.
 

Minneapolis Slim

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I find this thread extremely interesting as I just picked up a Norlin LP myself. It is a '78 LP Pro Deluxe, which, as I understand, is a Deluxe with P-90s and an ebony fretboard.

I'd have to agree with the Norlin supporters here. This guitar sounds great, plays great and is a quality instrument. You can tell by the feel of the controls, the quality of the wood, and everything else. It is a fine guitar.

Very cool thread!
 

Blue Rufus

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I really enjoyed this thread myself. My one piece body, three piece top, three piece maple/ebony board/volute neck '81 standard is the only LP I'll be owning for quite a while and I love that guitar. The ebony finish hides the 3-top, so no big deal. I've had it for 21 years, and hopefully for another 21+.
 
D

Doug H

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I love teh Deluxe. That's my fave neck pup tone ever. VERY versatile, those mini hums are. :yoda ;)

You'd think after getting my R8 that my '76 BB and '75 Dlx would be history...but you'd think wrong. Instead, I have 3 LPs that sound very different from one another. Them two Norlins are staying.
 
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Mike and Al...

I've long contested that a GOOD Norlester is a really good guitar, and a great Norlester can hang with any of them. Problem is there are a lot more BAD Norlesters, percentage wise, than in the pre Norlin and recent years.
Now about sandwich bodies, There IS a difference, it is not only audible, it can be felt. It's subtle, but it's there. It's NOT a BAD difference, so many seem to think that any feel or sound that is significantly different from a 50's Gibson is BAD. That is the biggest bunch of CRAP in the world.
As I've stated over and over, a 1959 Gibson Les Paul 'Burst is the best guitar in the world... at being a 59 Les Paul 'burst! That's it! I am so happy that a lot of guitarists will NEVER play or record with 59 Les Pauls, it doesn't fit the music or style or sound that matches them.

Remember everyone, in 1973-1980, with some small "custom" type instruments as possible exceptions, Gibson guitars were the best being made on the planet. And with guys like Travis Bean, Steinberger, and others, much more experimentation and research was being done to make better guitars than is being done today. I'm no Fender basher, they are great and needed tools in the guitarist's arsenal, but GO PLAY a 1973-1980 FENDER if you want to see an inferior instrument. Norlester's were good stuff, but definitely different.
 

rio45

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I also found this to be a very interesting, well-reasoned and informative post. Opposed views were expressed forcefully but fairly. It's great reading.

I have a 73 Deluxe GT, which I bought second-hand in 1978, sold in 1984 and then bought back again this year. It was my first "real" guitar. Immediately, I regretted selling it, and I was lucky to be able to get the same guitar back again after 18 years.

Three piece mohagany, neck, small volute, pancake body, and it weighs a ton.

One of the owners (not me!) switched the neck pup to a DiMarzio, but luckily, they just shaved a millimetre or two from the sides of the stock routing, so I was able to restore a period mini-humbucker without too much cosmetic damage. There's some nicks, scratches, belt rash & finish wear, but they just add to the vibe.

It sounds sweet. I agree with what others have said about the neck pup, it is one of the best. The bridge pup is so bright that it's just a little brittle or thin, but it's still an impressive sound (which improves if you roll off just a touch of the treble). It plays wonderfully, with the lowest action I've very had on a guitar, and a neck that's neither thick nor thin, about the same as recent standards. Apart from the weight, the guitar feels and plays really well.

While they're similar, the deluxe sounds brighter and airier than a standard. I've been preferring the standard for rock or harder blues, and the deluxe for a more jazzy or lighter vibe.

It's definitely a keeper.
 

franchelB

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Jul 19, 2001
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Big Al is my new hero...

I've been ready to dump my '74 Deluxe or switch the mini-hummers or....
And along comes Big Al....
Thanks! I think I'll hug my Deluxe; and hold on to her for a long, LONG time!:bigal
 
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