Why Do Vintage Electric Guitars Sound Better? Shocking Truth Revealed
When we talk about vintage guitars, we are referring to the first editions of those models that became classics over time. Those that came on the market in the 50s and 60s. Its components, its design, and the fact of having seen them in the hands of guitar legends led to these models becoming a bestseller.
Through the years there were reissues, special editions, custom editions, and all kinds of remakes of these models. This made those first models still, and increasingly, more important and valuable. Not only because they inspired thousands of musicians around the world, but also because of a very important factor: the sales success led the factories to mass production, and this inevitably led to a drop in the quality of the components. Undoubtedly, the technologies help to improve the standard in terms of manufacturing and price, but nothing can match the old sound of a guitar in its original state.
In addition to its historical value, today it is almost unimaginable to spend so much time manufacturing components the way it was done then. The added value of the human hand, which can be found very little in manufacturing today, plus the original idea, which was later replicated countless times, makes these guitars unique and unmatched in their sound, quality, and performance. Let’s talk about some of these models.
Why Do Vintage Electric Guitars Sound Better As They Age?
Well, there are many possible reasons, and it’s a huge, ever-open discussion in the world of musical instruments. Let’s look at some of those reasons:
- The different types of wood, especially the Brazilian Rosewood that was used in many models and is no longer used today. In addition, the fact that the wood dries out over the years and acquires resonance properties that improve the final sound of the instrument.
- Hand-wound pickups, components made and installed by humans, and finishing and quality checking, were also carried out by specialists who took care of every manufacturing detail.
- The fact of mass manufacturing, which always leads to the intention of reducing costs, manufacturing time, and other details, little by little and over time had lowered the quality of the instruments. Many models have been replicated, imitated, copied from the original, and modified in small details that make this manufacturing cost lower. By losing those details, a bit of the final experience and quality was also lost when playing.
- The large number of guitar models manufactured and sold today also includes different audiences and budgets, which means that the average quality overall has decreased.
What Makes Vintage Electric Guitars So Special?
Beyond how wonderful a 60-year-old guitar can be, we have to say that the best guitars made today are no worse guitars than those made then. Technically we can say that they can’t sound the same, but today’s top-of-the-line components are still excellent, just as they were in the 50s and 60s. As a product, however, it has become so diversified that we can find very cheap guitars, with very cheap components. So what is it that makes vintage guitars so special? You can achieve a great sound without them, but if you are a lover of vintage sound you will undoubtedly want a vintage guitar until you have it.
In addition, beyond the “vintage” reissues, and compared to the total number of existing guitars, there are very few guitars originally made between the 1950s and 1970s. It is a very limited quantity, which will not grow larger over time. This gives these guitars a “collectible” status and makes their value sky-high. Are those guitars special? Without a doubt. Are they historical? Definitely. Do they sound great? They will take your breath away. Are they better guitars than any new model? Here we can no longer answer yes.
ICONIC VINTAGE ELECTRIC GUITARS
We will talk about some of the vintage models that are most valuable today. Those that were used and replicated the most in history. Ironically, many of these models are made today in the image and likeness of those made at the time, with the term “Vintage” added to the name of the model, or something that refers to it. So, in some cases, their production was interrupted for a few years, and in others not. This leaves us, on one hand, with these new guitars built to old standards, and on the other, original guitars that are 50+ years old.
FENDER AMERICAN VINTAGE II 1951 TELECASTER
FENDER TELECASTER CUSTOM ´62
This model features a remarkably accurate version of the 1951 designs.
Drawing inspiration from the booming growth and expansive reach of television, the first Telecaster Blackguard rolled off the line in 1951, and the model has been in continuous production ever since. Deceptively simple and innovative, the Telecaster brought the solid-body electric guitar to the masses, inspiring countless players along the way.
The American Vintage II 1951 Telecaster features an ash body finished in Butterscotch Blonde to capture the tone and look of the original. It has a ’51 “U”-shaped hard rock maple neck, a 7.25″-radius fingerboard, and vintage tall frets. Characteristic of 1951 production, the dot spacing of the 12th fret face is narrow and the guitar’s only Phillips head fastener is on the truss rod nut.
Brass saddle treble bridge, “Fender Deluxe” in-line headstock, and Pure Vintage ’51 Telecaster pickups.
FENDER AMERICAN ORIGINAL 50´S STRATOCASTER
FENDER STRATOCASTER AMERICAN STANDARD 50TH AN. SONIC BLUE
As a curiosity, this series includes a review sheet of employees who have produced the guitar, along with a certificate.
The wood used for the body is ash. The neck is called one-piece (includes neck and fingerboard), although if we take into account the rear walnut strip that covers the opening made to insert the soul, it would be said that they are two pieces.
The neck profile is soft V and thick. The fingerboard radius is 9.5″, where we find 21 vintage-style frets. The radius that would correspond to the original has not been respected, which would be 7.25″, more curved than the actual one. Vintage-style tuners and bridge (6 screws) as well. Three single-coil 59 pickups with vintage wiring handled by a volume, two-tone, and 5-way switch, originally a 3-way Telecaster-style switch.
GIBSON SG CUSTOM
GIBSON SG SPECIAL TRIBUTE ‘60 SATIN VINTAGE SUNBURST
In 1960, sales of the Les Paul fell well below what they had been in other years, so the model had to be modified. In 1961, the Les Paul came out with a revamped shape, with a slimmer body and two cut-away sharp horns that gave more access to the upper frets. These modifications lowered production costs. Since Gibson had not warned him of these modifications, Les Paul demanded that his name be removed from the models, rejecting his new shape, but Gibson already had too many caps made with the “Les Paul” signature, so the model continued to carry it for two more years. Finally, the company listened to the guitarist and changed the name of the model to SG, short for “Solid Guitar”.
The 1961-63 Custom models do not carry the ‘SG’ badge. Instead, they have the Les Paul signature between the neck and low pickup. Standard models have “Les Paul” engraved on the top covering the truss rod from 1961 through early 1963. Models produced between 1961 and 1965 have a small pickguard; models after 1965 have a large pickguard, around the pickups. Many variants and reissues have been released over the years, such as the SG Vintage Sparkle Burgundy, the SG Special 1964, or the SG Special Vintage Cherry, but these are the truly vintage SGs.
RICKENBACKER 300 SERIES
Rickenbacker is considered the inventor of electric guitars, launching the first one on the market in 1932. In 1960, The Beatles used their 381 V69s.
The Rickenbacker 300 series is a series of semi-acoustic guitars made by the Rickenbacker Company. Launched in 1958, shortly after Rickenbacker was taken over by FC Hall. The guitars were created by Roger Rossmeisl, a German guitar maker.
There are three main groups in the 300 series: Instruments in the 310 group (310 through 325) feature a short 20-3/4″ scale, dot fingerboard inlays, and small bodies (12-3/4″ wide ). The body is loose, semi-hollow (although it lacks a sound hole), and features “crescent moon” style cutaways. This series is currently only available in “Vintage” or “C” reissue versions. These instruments were originally intended to be student models but gained prominence due to John Lennon’s use of a 325 during the early years of The Beatles.
The 330 group consists of full-scale guitars with standard features. These models (numbers 330 through 345) feature 24-3/4″ scale necks, wide 15″ unbound bodies with Rickenbacker’s trademark “slash” sound hole, and Pearloid dot fingerboard inlays.
Finally, the 360 group of models, deluxe, numbers 360 through 375. These instruments have hollow bodies with rounded top edges and binding on the trailing edges, “Rick-O-Sound” stereo output in addition to standard mono output, and large triangular inlays. on the fingerboard made of crushed pearl. There are two body styles for these models: the earlier or “old style” that was produced from its introduction in about 1964, and the newer style, with rounded top edges. The original styling shared the body style of the 330, with sharp edges and cutaways, distinguished only by the front, back, and neck and triangle inlays.
DANELECTRO ‘56 BARITONE BLACK
Danelectro is an American brand of basses, guitars, and other instruments, founded by Nathan Daniel in 1947 in the state of New Jersey. The company began manufacturing amplifiers, and in 1954 they began the production of their characteristic guitar models.
Danelectro guitars quickly became popular thanks to their innovative designs, good sound, and unique features. In addition, the brand had cheaper prices than other legendary brands such as Fender or Gibson.
The brand always offered innovative and original models both in terms of aesthetics, construction design, and manufacturing of its electromagnetic pickups.
The frame of the body of the Danelectro Guitars is usually made of plywood sheets, and its construction is finished with a sheet of masonite for the bottom and another for the top.
They also make their models of pickups. The famous Danelectro Lipstick, reproduced by legendary brands of pickups like Seymour Duncan.
These microphones are covered by metal casings, to provide shielding against interference, they have a low output level, they are made with an alnico magnet, and their sound is crystal clear and with a characteristic twang or twang sound.
One of its most characteristic models is the Danelectro 59 series, used by guitar legends such as Jimmy Page or Mark Knopfler.
Today we have a model with an original vintage bridge (Danelectro DE 59 DC O), and an updated or modified bridge (Danelectro DE 59M Dano) with individual metal saddles.
As we can see, there are many factors to take into account when we talk about vintage guitars. Beyond the label to sell, it is worth clarifying that the true vintage guitars are those manufactured between the 50s and 70s. Most of these models are also manufactured today, but with all kinds of variations that make the final price. Perhaps the best guitars made today are equivalent to the only models that existed in the golden age of the 50s and 60s. That is why it is considered a golden age. That is also why the same models continue to be manufactured decade after decade. And that is why these original instruments are so valuable today.
Source of images: www.instagram.com/gourasmusic