View Full Version : old Gibson A vs. old Gibson F4s & F2s

Jan-24-2006, 11:11pm
A question raised many times in these threads has been F vs A but with F holes. With the price of the F4 & 2s on the rise, are the tonal differences between the old oval hole As and Fs about as indefinite as the difference between the "modern" f hole counter parts ( because there was only one f hole A model Loar). OR are there consistent differences between the two.

Jan-25-2006, 2:18am
I already feel left out having a 2 point oval hole. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif
I have not heard a difference between oval F or A styles. My friends seem to prefer the A styles.

Jan-25-2006, 9:41am
Yes, I guess I did leave you out. I forget those were ever made, I see so few of them. Really is was referring to the pre-1930s models where the A models seem similar (to me) to the F models.

Bob DeVellis
Jan-25-2006, 2:14pm
I haven't systematically compared oval hole A's against oval hole F's but my impression is that there's a certain instrument-to-instrument variation that's probably more important than any variation between A-styles and F-styles. There were construction differences (maple vs birch backs, for example) between some models but in my experience, each instrument is unique unto itself. For example, recently I compared several teens A-models to one another and each sounded different. Even within models, they sounded different. This kind of comparison can be a bit perplexing because it reveals that there are distinctly different sounds that are equally appealing despite being different. No F's in the mix on that occasion but I don't think an F2 or F4 would have made much difference in my conclusion had it been available. It might be, in fact, that an A-4 and an F-4 are more alike than an A-1 and an A-4.

Jan-25-2006, 2:46pm
I have two teens A/A1s myself, and they also sound fairly different to me, though both sound good. #I have also heard a few As and Fs that frankly sounded pretty bad. #I love the As and think they're the better value, though that's only opinion. #For the price of an F2, you can still find 2 or maybe even 3 As. #The A pricesare also very much on the rise, maybe as much so as for the Fs, percentage wise.

Jan-25-2006, 10:50pm
I had a 23 F2 that was nice because it was during the Loar Era, but the think had no sound. Perhaps it needed to be set up. THe best Gibson I player that same time was an old white face Gibson A just laying with some left over materail at a luthier shop in Mounth of Wilson, VA.

I recently read that Norman thinks there is one in one humdred of those old Gibson a that have it.

I have a Eastman MD 504 that looks like the Gibson F2's finish that is really opening up. I like open strings and cross picking, and Norman Blake's style so the A's give me the sound I like.

FYI, I recently saw Peter Ostrosko perform with what I considered a copy of a Gibson A.


Jan-26-2006, 10:59am
I have a Gibson A1 and a friend has an F2. Both are good sounding mandolins, but very different. The F2 has an almost extremely dry tone, while the A1 is much brighter sounding. He uses the F2 in a family bluegrass band and does a lot of chop rhythm as well as lead. It is next to impossible to get a good chop out of the A1, open chords are pretty good, and single note playing (Irish, old-time, some swing) is very good.

Jan-26-2006, 12:50pm
I have a 1915 A4, a 1914 F2 and a 1928 A1. The A4 and the F2 are similar sounding...with the F2 just a little more "woody" and the A4 brighter with more sustain. There's little to choose between them for volume. Neither have much chop at all. The A1 has a less refined sound than the other two, but has similar volume. It doesn't have much chop either. Oval holes are great mandolins for a variety of styles, but (mine at least) tend to get swallowed up in a band situation. Wouldn't be without them though......

Jan-26-2006, 3:42pm
Neither have much chop at all. #

I feel like the good ones DO have a sort of chop, it's just not the bluegrass F5 chop, which (let's say) sounds like "Chunk!".
The oval hole chop sounds to me more like "phwupp", but it's effective and rythmic with the right combinations of instruments and volume. I "chop" on mine quite a bit, just not with the usual 4 finger closed chords.

Jan-27-2006, 10:59am
I think Jeff has a good point there. An oval hole mando has a chop - it's just different than the chop you get with f-holes.
As for comparing an oval A to an oval F, opinions abound. I think there's too much variation from mando to mando and listener to listener to come up with definitive answers. But then, that's just my opinion.

Feb-23-2013, 7:22pm
I think there is a big difference in tone between the F4 and the A4. However, I have not played enough different ones to note if this holds true when looking at dozens of different instruments.

Jack Roberts
Feb-23-2013, 9:26pm
I have a teens A-1 and a teens F-4: for classical music I prefer the F-4 and for fiddle tunes I prefer the A. But every vintage Gibson has its own sound, and I've never agreed with the generalizations.

Feb-24-2013, 12:07am
I haven't systematically compared oval hole A's against oval hole F's but my impression is that there's a certain instrument-to-instrument variation that's probably more important than any variation between A-styles and F-styles. .

Well said.

Feb-24-2013, 10:14am
Thread returns after seven years! Some subjects never die...

Feb-24-2013, 11:01am
The only difference that seems perceptible to me is nice maple backs. Perhaps there is a bit more bass on the three-point bodies from the end of the three point period (7500-11000 or so serial range).

Beyond that, it's instrument by instrument.

Even Loar period F2/F4s vs snakeheads- you might get a great sounding F4, you might get a fantastic plain A snakehead.