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Thread: Gibson A50

  1. #1
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    I presently play an F style but would like to have an A (MAS has struck again). I am thinking of buying a Gibson A50. Does anyone out there have first hand knowledge of this particular model? I like the idea of the longer scale length of the A50 (compared to other A models) and the resale value shouldn't deteriorate like many of the new A styles. What I am wondering about is the sound of the A50. I would have to buy it without having played it first and I don't want to have the hassle of returning it and the expense of shipping it back to heh seller. Any help would be appreciated.
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    jim-
    i haven't played many a-50 that really knocked me out. i think the old oval hole gibsons are alot nicer. i just got a '13 a, and have been playing it with a little jazz group. i don't really miss the upper register access (i can reach the 12th fret easily). besides, everyone knows there's no money past the 5th fret.
    good luck, john
    "it's not in bad taste, if it's funny" - john waters

  3. #3
    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    A50s are short neckers. A5s are a long neckers.
    Which do you mean to know about?

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    Many A-50's are fine instruments. The 10" bout is more visually graceful than the 11" (to me, anyway). This model seems to have been an answer in the 40's to a declining popularity of the instrument from the previous several decades?? Well made and they can sing richly with a nice woody tone. If original, which many are not completely anymore, will have dark rosewood board and bridge, which give it a character of it's own. Beautiful maple backs and sides. There are the usual things to be on the lookout for - fretwear, cracks, etc - but the prices are still reasonable. If you have specific questions I would be glad to try and address them.

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    I bought one of these in the early 70's for $200 and still have it. It was my only mando for many years until I bought an F5 10 years ago. They used to call it the poor man's F5. The only problems I have had was that the plastic they used for the tuning keys in the late 30s was pretty bad and has crumbled away. I posted a picture of it on the headstock pics thread with the rotted keys in place if you want to see. I replaced the tuners with modern schallers which work great. Also the pickguard crystallized but I never used it anyway. As far as the sound, mine is loud but doesn't quite have the lows that I can get from the F5 but still sounds pretty fat if you don't compare it back to back with the F5. I did alot of recording with it in the 70's and early 80's and it sounded very good closely miked. Some people consider it collectable because it has the unique long scale. This does give it an interesting tone which I can't describe in words. If you want an older instrument that will slowly appreciate, this is probably not a bad choice but I'm not a collector, so you might want to ask someone who is. If you're looking strickly for fat tone, I have heard gibson and flatiron A models that were much fatter sounding but you have to play a bunch and find the right one because some sound pretty bad. This mando has better sounding highs though so it's a nice compromise. I wouldn't pay more that $1200 and it should be a nice one for that. There were also two slight variations, one was slightly more expensive and had metal tuning keys and a stair step peg head.

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    I think we're talking about two different instruments here. The A-50 was at first (about '36-'38 I think) a lot like other A models (10" wide body), but with F-holes. Then for a few years ('38-40'?), they went to the wide-body (11") A-50 with a longer scale length and fancier inlays. That one is a hole different beast, and was an attempt to do with the mandolin what was being done with arch-top guitars; i.e., make the body bigger and bigger. I have had both. The wide-body A-50 looks funny to some, but mine was a great mandolin. I played it side-by-side with some fairly expensive mandolins, and it held it's own. The 10" wide body A-50 that I had was a really nice instrument too, probably just as good as round-hole A's, but with the f-hole sound. I think the A-50's reputation suffers from it's association with the A-40 of the time, which was more cheaply made. To suggest that Gibson just didn't know how to make good instruments in the late-30's is kind of silly; people would kill to get a Gibson arch-top or flat-top guitar from that period. It seems that the 10" A-50s are up to about $1100 now and wide bodies a couple hundred more. Still a pretty good deal for a vintage Gibson. My 2 cents.
    Brent

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    Mine is the wide body. It's hard to find a case that it will fit into if you happen to find one without a case. I noticed Elderly has one in their current list.

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