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Thread: Old vs New Oval

  1. #1

    Default Old vs New Oval

    Hey everyone,

    Looking to buy my first oval hole. Considering a new Collings MT O but wondering about vintage Gibson ovals. One challenge is there are no available Gibsons near me to try. Anyone have thoughts about the pros and cons?

    Thank you,

    Matt

  2. #2
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    I have an MTO (love it), it is a more "modern" sound than the vintage gibsons I've played. The Collings has a brightness and a sort of gloss to it, the older gibsons are woodier or tubbier in tone (that's not a criticism). The construction on both are topnotch, the Collings is a new instrument and very consistent, pretty low maintenance. The vintage gibsons may need a bit more care, they have a distinct charm to them.

    You won't go wrong with either of them.
    -Dave
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Very helpful. Thanks, Dave!

  5. #4
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Over the years I have owned a number of teens Gibson oval holed mandolins. While they had a nice vintage tone and vibe I had to move on from them because the necks were too big for my aging hands. They are quite big. If I were to consider getting another vintage Gibson it would have to be an early 20's snakehead. The necks are very nice and they have an adjustable truss rod, plus every one I have played sounded great.

    If I were looking for new oval holed mandolins, I would also include Pava, Mike Black and Girouard mandolins in your search.
    Last edited by Charles E.; Jul-20-2020 at 2:59pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  6. #5
    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Of the ones that have been mentioned so far I'd recommend the Collings MT-O or Girouard. Vintage Gibsons can be nice but at least in my experience the better modern ovals are a big step forward in playability, reliability, tone, etc. But definitely try whatever you can get your hands on, that's half the fun right there.

    Enjoy!
    Gavin Baird F4 & F5, Weber Octar, Gibson K-1, Guild D50, Martin D35, Yairi DY-84, etc...

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  8. #6

    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Great info. Thanks, Charley!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thanks, Gavin! Helpful!

  9. #7
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Quote Originally Posted by MattMN View Post
    Looking to buy my first oval hole. Considering a new Collings MT O but wondering about vintage Gibson ovals. One challenge is there are no available Gibsons near me to try. Anyone have thoughts about the pros and cons?
    I have both a vintage Gibson snakehead and a modern Black A2-z. The former has that dried out, ancient tone, but it arrived needing some work and has older playability features (narrow nut, flat board, tiny frets, etc.) that may or may not agree with you. The latter might not have the tar beaten out of it ó yet ó but it plays comfortably as a modern instrument, and if you order one from Mike, you can ask for it however youíd like (even with a Virzi!).

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    If I were looking for new oval holed mandolins, I would also include Pava, Mike Black and Girouard mandolins in your search.
    Iíd add an Old Wave to that list. Man, Iíve always wanted to own one of Billís ovals.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
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  11. #8

    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Don Paine, who makes Pomeroy mandolins, also builds a fine oval along with all kinds of mando family things.
    Palatable to a Goat: New Music from Gregg Daigle and Don Grieser, now on bandcamp
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  13. #9

    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    MattMN

    I am also in MN. Private message sent.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    I'd get a vintage Gibson from the 20's! They have the resale value and appeal, Maybe Collings does but I'm not into ovals. I had a very nice late 24 A-4 Virzi Snake head, it was really nice but I had to swap her off.

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  17. #11
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    I’d add an Old Wave to that list. Man, I’ve always wanted to own one of Bill’s ovals.
    I have had one for over 15 years. I also took care of another one for Bill for several months (long story). Mine is spruce over maple. The other one was cedar over mesquite. They of course each had different sounds, but both were excellent.

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  19. #12

    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Thanks, Gavin!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thanks, John!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thanks, Don!

  20. #13
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    I like the old oval hole Gibsons. Very well. Probably more than I like any other mandolins.
    I believe that they play the best when they have had modern frets installed.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jul-20-2020 at 9:18pm.

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  22. #14
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    do you want an oval hole mandolin or do you want a mandolin with an oval hole? Gibson ovals are odd by today's hybrid standard. It's like the consumer has forgotten what the Gibson oval hole mandolin looked like?

    Gibson has the neck joint at the 12th fret on their oval mandolins. When the F5 was introduced they went to the 15-fret neck joint on their F-hole mandolins - recall there was only one A-model f-hole mandolin back then. Today's builders (typically), make f-hole, a-model mandolins with oval holes. There's still the 15-fret neck joint and there's still the elevated fretboard. Nothing wrong with that, it's just not comparing a Gibson oval to a modern oval.

    Old Wave, Gilchrist, Black, and others do replicate the old Gibson. If that's your thing, get one like that. I love my A3.

    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

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  24. #15

    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Thanks, FD. Looking for a mandolin with an oval hole for Celtic and classical, which I'm playing more of than bluegrass. I know I can play both with an F-hole mando--I currently have an Eastman 805v--but when I upgrade that it'll be bigger leap.

  25. #16
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    I had a modern oval hole and I ended up selling it after acquiring a 1921 Gibson A4. The tone and vintage mojo of the old Gibson just speaks to me more. The playability of the newer oval hole was superior but it just didn’t have the soul of the old Gibson. Extra bonus that Gibson was less expensive.
    I have also played one Mike Black and it was a great mandolin. I would definitely check his work out if you are leaning towards a modern mandolin that is built like the old Gibsons.
    2014 AL Smart F5
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  27. #17
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    I have a '22 A2, truss rod, and the playability is as good as any of my newer f hole mandolins. If setup right any mandolin can play well and old Gibson's are no different.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  29. #18
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Collings and Girouard both build hybrid ovals: longer neck joins and AFAIK much different bracing patterns from the vintage Gibsons. Both are well-made mandolins, but I think there is a real difference between a modern hybrid and a vintage Gibson. It is apples vs. oranges, completely different tone machines. I own a 23 A2 snakehead and it always surprises me how wonderful a tone I can get with it. So I lean in that direction in order to get a mandolin that gives me a contrasting tone to my f-hole models.

    There are very few modern makers who actually copy more closely the Gibson oval design, who follow the specs I mentioned above. Mike Black is one of them, I believe. I have not played any of his instruments but many folks here love them.

    I play a Gibson snakehead copy A-4 built by Hans Brentrup and it is perfect for me, for tone and playability. Unfortunately, Hans had to stop building instruments due to health reasons.

    MattMN: are you trying to get something with very different tone from the other mandolins you own? The Collings ovals I have played sounded very nice but I felt they were closer to their f-holes in tone than to old Gibsons. I actually prefer their f-hole models of the ones I have played.
    Jim

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  30. #19
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    I'd agree, I think the tone, attack and sustain of an MTO is somewhere between a Gibson oval hole and a Collings MT. That may or may not be the tone you are looking for.
    -Dave
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  32. #20
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Pheff,Walter Carter has an Old Wave oval A mandola. Was mine in the past. Great instrument. I have a Giroaurd sp? Oval A Studio Mandola (mine on consignment, I traded in the Old Wave to get it). Not sure if mandola is in your future, but thought I would throw this out to you.

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  34. #21

    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Thanks, Jim. Yes, looking for a rounder tone for classical. I started on an Eastman 804v, and will upgrade that one day to a nicer F-hole.

  35. #22
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Would a some one delete my past post that was intended as a PM.

  36. #23
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    I have had and have both. I have a raised fret, Collings MT2-O. Great instrument. I have a Hester F4 recreation of a 20s F4. Awesome. I prefer the short neck sound of the F4 when playing alone or with a small group. The Collings can hang with any jam, even hard core grass (although it looks out of place). Both have there place. Were I to be only able to have one, it would be the Hester, but either would be fine. The Hester while aged new is old in feeling and look. It looks like the red 20s Gibson F4s would look new. Gail did an amazing job (It plays and sounds better than any of the F4s I have ever played, and that is a large number (including 2 that I owned)).
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    Tony Huber
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  38. #24
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Yes, I was trying to remember Gail Hester’s name as another maker who builds non-hybrid ovals, or closer modern copies of Gibson vintage ovals. There are probably a few more out there. I may even have a list before I found my Brentrup.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Old vs New Oval

    Old Wave, Gilchrist, Black, and others do replicate the old Gibson.
    I am one of the "others", having made around 200 so far and still going. The very old Gilchrists do replicate the old Gibsons, but he changed the body size quite a few years ago, can't remember when, so what he makes today is quite different and different sounding from the old Gibsons. I also make an oval hole with a smaller body size, and they do have a different sound. All mine have the crosspiece at the 12th fret. They don't replicate the looks exactly, but they do have the Gibson oval hole sound, especially after years of playing.

    Here is one recently finished, made from Australian woods

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    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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