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Tone: 1955-58 LP Special Single Cuts vs '53-'55 wraptail Goldtops

Guitar Magic

Active member
Joined
Apr 16, 2015
Messages
104
What do you think about the tonal differences between these constuctionally similar vintage guitars? I've been loking into '57 SC Specials more and more lately and I'm blown away by the tones these instruments are capable of producing. I find them very similar to wraptail Goldtops with maybe a touch more additional clarity and percussiveness.

Here's a video that I think is a really good representation of the LP Special tone. Listen to the distorted parts as well. If I'd close my eyes I'm not sure I could tell it apart from a '54 Goldtop. What I notice is maybe a little more Tele-esque snappiness and attack in general. I'm curious what your experiences are especially of those who owned both vintage wraptail Goldtops and Single Cut Specials.

For me this below is easily among the top 10 best vintage Les Paul tones I've ever heard in my life, I'm totally blown away by it.


 

brandtkronholm

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,751
Having had each, my experience is that the sound of a '50s Special is very, very different than that of a '50s wrap-tail Les Paul Standard (gold-top).
My ears tell me the opposite of what you state in your post above. The all-mahogany guitars get lost in the mix sometimes. Maybe "mushy sparkle" is descriptive?
Don't get me wrong, a Special is a great guitar and sounds terrific, but compared to a gold-top, the latter wins in every way, every time - in my opinion.
A gold-top has much more sustain, snap, and overall "musical" qualities. I think the maple makes all the difference.
My vote is gold-top every time.

I've had a few of each, but I never could bond with the P90 so they didn't last long. I love it when other people play P90s, just not me!
 
Last edited:

Guitar Magic

Active member
Joined
Apr 16, 2015
Messages
104
I'm a big fan of Specials. Some great tones in this video:


Dunno "mushy", I'm playing here my Original series Special, comments please:


Thanks for the video, exactly what I was looking for. I prefer the Goldtop here but the Special also has that vintage mojo. Nice tone and playing there!
 

Guitar Magic

Active member
Joined
Apr 16, 2015
Messages
104
Having had each, my experience is that the sound of a '50s Special is very, very different than that of a '50s wrap-tail Les Paul Standard (gold-top).
My ears tell me the opposite of what you state in your post above. The all-mahogany guitars get lost in the mix sometimes. Maybe "mushy sparkle" is descriptive?
Don't get me wrong, a Special is a great guitar and sounds terrific, but compared to a gold-top, the latter wins in every way, every time - in my opinion.
A gold-top has much more sustain, snap, and overall "musical" qualities. I think the maple makes all the difference.
My vote is gold-top every time.

I've had a few of each, but I never could bond with the P90 so they didn't last long. I love it when other people play P90s, just not me!

Yeah, in theory the Goldtops should have more highs because of the hard Michigan maple top. Thanks for sharing your experience. It's interesting though that in some of these Specials - and especially in Single Cut Juniors - I can hear a twang that is not as pronounced in GTs. The Special in the video that I linked sounds so crystal clear, twangy and super articulate, it's unbelievable to hear such tones coming out of a Les Paul.

I'm currently in my P90 phase. Always been a HB guy but the clarity and snap of the old P90s blows my mind and I like that they never get muddy.
 
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