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View Full Version : Gibson A-00 v A40 v A50. Put 'em in a ring and let's have a fight



Marc Woodward
Jun-17-2011, 8:22am
Which is best? That is to say the only one I've tried was a '60s A50 (I think) which I didn't like much.

Were their tops carved like teen/20s A models or pressed? The one I tried looked pressed and didn't exude the sense of workmanship the old Gibsons had.

I read somewhere (probably an over enthusiastic Stan Jay description!) that the wide body bell shaped A50s are good instruments...

Also I'm wondering about 1930's A-00 with f holes and flat backs... how do they sound?

Thoughts please from any of you much more knowledgeable kind folk?!

Thanks,
Marc

Capt. E
Jun-17-2011, 9:27am
My understanding is that the mandolins Gibson made in the 60's do not compare favorably to those made in the 50's and earlier. Gibson's mandolin production was rather small from the 1930's on and quality fell as time went on. I have heard some very nice sounding A-00, A-40 and A-50 instruments, but the good ones have all been made in the late 30's to mid-50's. I have yet to hear a 60's vintage A50 that really impressed.

Darryl Wolfe
Jun-17-2011, 9:36am
The very best ones are the later 30's ones that resemble A50's (although they were not called that) These have the 20's adjustable bridge and the 20's style tailpiece and pearl script Gibson or white painted Gibson depending on the model. Some models had sunburst sides and back and another was just brown stained maple. They are superior to anything made later and are more closely based on the 20's body shape

mildini mandolini
Jun-17-2011, 9:51am
I used to own a A50 (large bell shaped body that I had gotten from Gruhn in 79) probably made in 1939 and it was a great bluegrass mandolin and in terms of sound and playability definitely better than the later A models.

mandroid
Jun-17-2011, 5:33pm
Which is best?.. oh that ultimate subjective question.. :popcorn:

I was happy with my A40n for decades.
then it got a companion Oval hole A , now I have an A 50,
but it has been professionally modified to function like an EM150, in CGDA 4 string function..
with a different pickup type.. EM150 is itself an A50 made in the Gibson Factory
to wear a pickup and 2 control pots.

f5loar
Jun-17-2011, 9:04pm
Don't tell Buzz Busby the A50 ain't much of nothin' . I like the '42 A50 because it's got the little diamond pearl inlay and small script Gibson logo in pearl. They feel the best to me. Most any 50's A40 or A50 is likely to be good if set up right. Get into the 60's it becomes a hit or miss with maybe more misses. They all had craved spruce tops.

John Rosett
Jun-18-2011, 8:42am
The very best ones are the later 30's ones that resemble A50's (although they were not called that) These have the 20's adjustable bridge and the 20's style tailpiece and pearl script Gibson or white painted Gibson depending on the model. Some models had sunburst sides and back and another was just brown stained maple. They are superior to anything made later and are more closely based on the 20's body shape

I completely agree! I've played a lot of old Gibson A style mandolins, and the two or three that stand out were all the A1 models from the late 30's with the normal body shape. They differ from the A50 models in that they have no fingerboard binding, and the stenciled script logo.

Capt. E
Feb-13-2012, 5:41pm
I recently found a 1936-39 A-00 at a pawn shop (raised pickguard carved back). The back had separated at the tail, there is a crack running from one f hole, it needs a fret dressing and the top shows a good deal of playing wear, but otherwise all original, played pretty well and the price was right. I should pick it up from my luthier tomorrow! Total of about $750 into it. Can't wait to report on how it plays and post some pictures.

Rob Sharer
Feb-13-2012, 7:37pm
I have had occasion to re-graduate a couple of the later A-50s. From the outside, they looked very cool, much like an actual nice mandolin. On the inside, it was obvious that the "graduation" scheme consisted of taking the top off the pantograph and running with it. I'm talking about a hard corner where the carving stopped and the flat of the top blank remains, all in all a massive, heavy top with no flexibility anywhere. No wonder it sounded like a cigar box.

After re-graduation it sounded great, in my opinion. Might be one way to get a topping vintage mandolin for not much dough, assuming you can relieve someone of a rough-sounding A-50 for a reasonable price.


Rob

Capt. E
Feb-13-2012, 8:28pm
The ones from the middle-late 30's had not fallen so low. While not the most wonderful craftsmanship, they were still better than most other manufacturers of the time. I'll try and post some pictures after I pick it up tomorrow.

Capt. E
Feb-14-2012, 5:00pm
82473

82472

1936 - 1937. FON 12030 with 13 after in pencil. Carved back. Mostly original except for the tailpiece and the McClung armrest I added. It's got that "Gibson" sound.

The tuners are both Grovers (original) but the knobs on one have turned yellow. How does that happen?

Capt. E
Feb-14-2012, 5:05pm
Here's a couple of pictures of the backside.

82476

82477

Capt. E
Feb-15-2012, 9:50am
Actually, the cloud tailpiece is probably original as well. Pix of other A-00 are equiped the same.

mandroid
Feb-15-2012, 1:35pm
Anyhow, A 50, domestic wood, Birch or Maple, A40 used Mahogany,
.. not native to NA..

John Kinn
Feb-15-2012, 6:57pm
My 1949 A40 is a sweet sounding mandolin. It's a keeper.:mandosmiley:

AlanN
Feb-16-2012, 8:02am
Does anyone have a bridge for an A-40? On mine, one of the feet broke.

mandroid
Feb-16-2012, 3:46pm
Cumberland Acoustics , they may supply a rosewood one,
similar to the material used, originally, as well as their usual Ebony..

they would want to know the bridge height, then you get a Tech/Luthier,
Locally, to match the new bridge base to the top of your Mandolin.