Results 1 to 20 of 20

Thread: Gisom,A, A1,A2

  1. #1
    texaspaul texaspaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Magnolia, Texas
    Posts
    236

    Default Gisom,A, A1,A2

    I have always admired the appearance of the teens A1. My question is about any tonal differences between the A! and the A or A2?
    I once owned a late '21 A3 that had been refinished and a lot of top cracks. I really like the tone on that one and have played a few A2's and was not impressed with the tone or appearance.
    Is there a general sound quality difference when you move up the line?
    I realize there can be a big difference in specific instruments, I am asking a genera; question.

  2. #2
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    22,968
    Blog Entries
    52

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Quote Originally Posted by texaspaul View Post
    Is there a general sound quality difference when you move up the line?
    There might have been originally, but how the instrument has spent the intervening years since then will likely have much more impact on its present sound, to the extent that it probably obscures any differences due to the model.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  3. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    15,841

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Quote Originally Posted by texaspaul View Post
    ...I realize there can be a big difference in specific instruments, I am asking a general question.
    You put your finger on it. Main differences among the various Gibson "A" models had to do with finish, inlays, fancier tuners. The "lower end" ones were somewhat more likely to have birch, rather than maple, backs; don't think you can establish an overall sound hierarchy for that reason.

    I would guess -- and am ready to stand corrected -- that the carving and bracing process for the tops was substantially identical for all the oval-hole A-models in the 'teens. So much has happened to these mandolins in the intervening century, that there are now wide variations in sound among them. Some have been played for decades, some have sat largely untouched; some have been refinished, repaired, subjected to dryness or moisture, over-strung, altered in other ways.

    IMHO it's instrument to individual instrument, as far as comparative sound quality goes. The higher models are fancier, but look at the cachet attached to early-'20's "snakehead" A-Jr's, which were Gibson's least fancy models at the time. If you're in the market for a 'teens A-model, I wouldn't avoid an A or an A-1 because they have fewer inlays and purfling rings, and a blander finish.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  4. #4

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    My honest "general answer" to your questions is that there would be no discernible difference between the models. They would have the same basic construction, and only trim level would be different.
    There may be a difference that is more pronounced between individual instruments rather than model number.
    Having said all that, my feeling is that pretty much all the Gibson A's a really useable, fine mandolin for a decent price. I think that their price point is near impossible to beat.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    You guys are all describing Gibson mandolins. The OP is asking about Gisom mandolins

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  6. The following members say thank you to lenf12 for this post:

    jmp 

  7. #6
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    3,059

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Well, staying with "Gibson" for the sake of argument, I own an A1 and I've played an A4 and an A2 of about the same vintage (within a year of mine). Mine so far has beat the others hands down when you're talking tone; both the A4 and the A2 were in pretty darn good (or even pristine) condition and mine's beat to pieces. The owners of the other two instruments both said mine sounded better, even in a side by side comparison. so it could be that mine, which obviously has been well played, sounds better because it's more broken in. Or it could be that the intervening 80-plus years or so have leveled whatever differences there were initially except for the fancy work (like additional rings around the sound hole). fwiw
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

  8. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    5,077

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    My A2 will knock the socks off most A model Gibsons. Oh it's a Gibson not a Gisom tho
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  9. #8
    texaspaul texaspaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Magnolia, Texas
    Posts
    236

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Sorry about "Gison" tiny keyboard on Ibhone, i appreciate all the replies they seem to confirm my impressions in general. That main differences are cosmetic and if there were inferior sounding instruments and inferior quality after 90+ years they have been culled.

  10. #9

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Thanks texaspaul for a couple of grins. No offense intended at all I'm sure. I don't know if the poorer sounding or quality instruments have been culled as you say. I've played some 90+ year old Gibsons that didn't inspire me at all for different reasons. Some of them were really "tubby" sounding A models from 1910 thru to 1919 or so. I don't have any experience with A models from the late teens thru the 20's though a mid 20's snakehead could occupy my time. A few mandolins suffered from setup issues or really were setup for the specific preferences of the owner with strings or action and just didn't appeal to me. I've had my current (bff) Gibsons for a number of years now and have gone through changes in strings, setups, etc. and on the F-12 a new CA bridge.

    It gets said here constantly, if you can judge it in hand and play it, ask your self if that's the sound you seek. Then do a critical in hand inspection of the mandolin and ask yourself how new strings would change it, what would lowering/raising the bridge do to the tone and playability? If you can't play it, as others have said above, the differences are mostly individual to the instrument and some can be customized to your preferences, but mostly it's differences in the ornamentation plus a lot of tweaks that you can play with.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  11. #10
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.
    Posts
    15,764

    Default Re: Gibson, A, A1, A2...

    Anecdote, FWIW..

    My 'A' with an aluminum upper bridge is Brighter than My A4,
    [Now with a fossil walrus tusk Upper bridge piece]

    theres a whole selection of all the materials, Birch Vs Maple , and 93 years of time in them too .
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  12. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    15,841

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Quote Originally Posted by texaspaul View Post
    ...main differences are cosmetic and if there were inferior sounding instruments and inferior quality after 90+ years they have been culled.
    Yes and maybe. The main differences among the various Gibson pre-Lloyd-Loar A-models were in finish and ornamentation. They were all built on the same "chassis," if I can use that term. You can call that "cosmetic," though I'd attribute a bit more significance; the Handel inlaid tuners on the A-4 probably don't tune the strings any better than less expensive ones, but they're way cool.

    On the "culled" point: even a less than sparkly 'teens Gibson A-model is worth a fair amount of money. And mandolins survive for a variety of reasons; one of them, surprisingly, is if they're bought and just put away, seldom played. Maybe the purchaser didn't like the sound, and never played the mandolin. Now, it's unearthed, as a "near mint" 1915 A-Something, and it gets priced higher than the better-sounding one that got its finish played off, its frets worn down and replaced, its pickguard lost, etc.

    So, just because a mandolin has survived for a century, you can't assume it's a "better" mandolin than one that was "played to death" (perhaps literally!). Any vintage Gibson will command some market interest, and in the vintage market, condition sometimes trumps acoustic quality.

    The conventional wisdom is "play as many as you can," and I think conventional wisdom is right in this case. Not everyone likes the sound or feel of pre-truss-rod Gibson "paddleheads," and they're not all gems in any case. I do agree that ranking them by model number probably makes little sense, if what you're looking for is the best-sounding mandolin.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  13. #12

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    TXPaul, if you as a moderator kindly they might be willing to correct the title of this thread.
    Bill Snyder

  14. #13
    Registered User Scott C.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    Waynetown Indiana
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    I am only a novice here. But, what I have noticed, from the ones that I have seen, is that the wood changes with the grades. If you set a JR, A, A1 and A2 inline and compare the top wood, you will notice that the grain gets finer as the grade gets higher. Here is a 1913 A, 1917 A1 and a 1923 A2.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	1913 Gibson A Mandolin 13703  FON 1707 017.jpg 
Views:	166 
Size:	146.8 KB 
ID:	134019Click image for larger version. 

Name:	1917 Gibson A1 Mandolin 31913 FON 3140 005.jpg 
Views:	192 
Size:	188.5 KB 
ID:	134017Click image for larger version. 

Name:	1923 Gibson A2 Mandolin 71879 FON 11788 022.jpg 
Views:	220 
Size:	202.7 KB 
ID:	134018
    Last edited by Scott C.; May-13-2015 at 12:25am.

  15. #14
    texaspaul texaspaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Magnolia, Texas
    Posts
    236

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Scott, is the first picture an A or A1? It appears to have top binding.
    Last edited by texaspaul; May-13-2015 at 1:57pm. Reason: Duplicate post

  16. #15
    texaspaul texaspaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Magnolia, Texas
    Posts
    236

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Bill, I'm not sure how to make changes to a post after time has lapsed.

    It is very difficult to get several of these in one place to compare them. There are not a lot of vintage shops near Houston and very few music shops that carry quality mandolins. I just like the appearance of the A1s in general and the one currently listed on the Cafe is a good example. I like "pumpkin" tops but with a logo on headstock and top binding.

  17. #16

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    [QUOTE=Scott C.;1400613]If you set a JR, A, A1 and A2 inline and compare the top wood, you will notice that the grain gets finer as the grade gets higher. Here is a 1913 A, 1917 A1 and a 1923 A2.

    Hi Scott,

    That looks to me like the natural variations you would see in batches of spruce over a 10 year period. Good eyes spotting the correlation but IMHO it's a coincidence. There are A-4s with 3 piece tops, off quarter sawn tops and lord knows what they were trying to hide behind the solid finishes (I love the black tops). With A models, sound is king, the model number is bling.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  18. #17
    Registered User Scott C.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    Waynetown Indiana
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    Yes, that first one is a 1913 A. I just got it back today from Wil at Sprucetree. It had a few issues that needed addressed. It now has the correct bridge and clamp also. I need to get it photographed and posted in my profile with the others.

    I have looked at pictures of several of them and most of the time my observation has been correct. I have seen a few exceptions. Again, I am just a novice and going strictly on my limited experience.

    Also, take a close look at the pick guards. Notice that the 1913 A has a scroll around the bridge and raises up between the bridge and the neck. The 1917 A1 has a smoother radius shape, but still has the raised area. The 1923 A2 has the smoother radius but is flat on the top. Is that something that changed with the years? Or, did it change with the grades?

  19. #18

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    I have recently owned four A models (still own two and know the guy with the other two). One is 1909 A, the other a 1923 snakehead. Both have very similar tone. The other two were both around 1920 A2 models. They had similar warm voices, and were nothing like my lyre label or snakehead. You just have to play them. All of them sounded awesome, but they each lend themselves to different styles of playing. One thing is for sure, you can't buy 100 year old tone in a new instrument. But there again, its what you like.

  20. #19
    texaspaul texaspaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Magnolia, Texas
    Posts
    236

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    When playing fiddle tunes or hymns I think I prefer the sweet, mellow tone, the 100 year mature tone . Bluegrass does need a little more bite or cut. I want another of the teens Gibson. Maybe some day.

  21. #20

    Default Re: Gisom,A, A1,A2

    I've played quite a few early A models (pre 1930's) and owned several. Every one of them has it's own voice but at the same time they are all very similar. There doesn't seem to be much difference between the models. I have played A-0's or jrs that were at least as good as the best A-4 I have played and I have played A-4's that were as bad or worse than the worst A jr I have played. One thing though every so often you pick one up that for some magical reason--(or maybe just because of a remarkable set up) just really sings and that one can be any of the models.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •