View Full Version : Gibson Ovals: Pre Loar vs. Post Loar

Loren Bailey
Jan-30-2006, 10:03pm
Topic says it all. Just want some impressions of pre and post loar sound diferences, if any.


Ken Waltham
Jan-31-2006, 6:54am
Hello Loren.
I think there are more differences between post Loar oval holes to the Loar and teens than there are between Loar and pre Loar period instruments.
The post Loar oval holes, ( the ones still in the golden period) are really fine mandolins.
They tend to be a little more agressive in their sound, more focused, and, as a rule, louder.
The best F4's are just post Loar, IMHO. When you get too far out, say to 1930, the quality is way down. Just think about the depression, and what it did to manufacturing.
They are well past the mandolin's popularity as well, so not too much attention is given to them by Gibson.
I don't care for them at all.
The earlier oval holes, teens and early pre Loar twenties are really fine instruments, made in the very hey day of mandolins in America.
They are more delicate sounding ( not in a wimpy way) open, and sweet sounding.
The Loar period mandolins are somewhere in the middle. They are still varnish, ( the post Loar ones are lacquer) but are still #more focused than their predecessors. Perhaps the truss rod has something to do with this, I'm not sure, I'm no builder... The snakeheads for some reason seem to be a creation to their own, they always seem to be fine mandolins. Again, more focused, less "hollow" sounding.
In conclusion, for my own preferences, I don't care for early ones, 3 pointers, and such... too tubby, flabby sounding, and I don't care for 1930's and past, too crummy of workmanship, etc, but anything in between is still the best bargain out there.

Loren Bailey
Jan-31-2006, 10:33am
Thanks for your input. Just what I was lookin' for.


Jan-31-2006, 1:42pm
I think there are some general characteristics of Gibsons from different years, but still so much variation and exceptions to every rule. I owned a 1925 Snakehead A - very disappointing sound. Traded it for a 1929 A-O that is amazing - when I played it in the shop, every other customer came over. Its loud, and sweet, and even-sounding across strings. I didn't expect a 1929 Gibson to be as good as one from the earlier 20's. I have played a 1921 A Junior - beautiful. I, for one, believe that Snakeheads are over-rated. I have made assumptions about instruments that were proven to be innaccurate and I almost didn't check out that 1929 A. J

Jan-31-2006, 9:44pm
The bigger difference (to my ears...and yes, Gibson's early output is riddled with exceptions) may be between pre-1908 and post-1908 mandolins when they went to a tall bridge and elevated pickguard. Personally, I favor those wacky old pieces with low bridges and inlaid pickguards.

Paul Hostetter
Feb-02-2006, 6:14pm
Those wacky old pieces were also larger, and won't even fit in later A cases.

Feb-02-2006, 9:22pm
I love'em.

Paul Hostetter
Feb-02-2006, 9:47pm
I do too, but having had a few opportunities to remount necks (broken through the heel because they were made of cedar), I found a higher bridge made them sound even better! The only downside is the neck width - a little dainty for some hands.

Feb-03-2006, 11:29am
....so if you were picking an F4 ----what would be the prime yr(s) to go for?


Paul Hostetter
Feb-03-2006, 1:31pm
If by "picking" you mean actually seeking one to play, I think it's less about years than how any particular mandolin sounds. I've played real early ones and real late ones that were equally impressive. And lots from all points in the range that were ho-hum.

Feb-04-2006, 6:08pm
I have a '27 Blackface A Snakehead. Top bound, A-1 I think. My oval search is over. This one does it for me. Loud and robust. Just right.

Nick Triesch
Feb-04-2006, 9:03pm
IMHO the snakeheads all just about sound great with a very similar wonderful loud/sweet tone. A friend of mine had a paddle headstock A type about 1914 and it sounded very much like my 23 A type. I think old Gibson A types are some of the best sounding mandolins ever made. So to me that makes them the deal of a lifetime. I can't tell you how many terrific F and A type mandolins I've played over the years but when folks hear my old A, they always say "Now that mandolin sounds sweet!"

george kraushaar
Feb-05-2006, 11:29pm
I think the best thing to do is to try several from the different years and pick the one that sounds best for you. I had a 1914 A-2-just great. I also had a very fine 1917 F-2. I had a 1923 snakehead A which was just okay. I ended up buying a Bussman A model which is a recreation, but caused my MAS to subside for a year now.

It's hard to generalize. There are some fine old oval holes out there, but some ordinary ones as well.