Thursday, January 3, 2019

Why the ES 125 is the best vintage Gibson buy


I came across and old blues comping video that I made in 2006. The guitar I was playing was one I no longer have, a 1951 Gibson ES 125. So I did a guitar nerdy thing yesterday and I played two etudes in straight eights over the old vid with my current 125, so some 13 years later. The first 2 choruses are Joe Pass, the last chorus Warren Nunes. A duet with my younger self ... You can find the Pass etude with tabs here and the Nunes etude here.

1951 Gibson ES 125
So I've had two Gibson ES 125 guitars over the years. The first one, the 1951 model, I purchsed in 1998. I had seen Martijn van Iterson play one many times and his sound and playing blew me away. I paid about 1200 euros (2500 pre euro Dutch guilders) for it at the time and it was my first "vintage" instrument. It was very light, very responsive and it sounded great. Unlike my other, more modern laminate guitars, you could actually play it unamped and it would still sound good. Years later, in the mid 2000s. I gave it to my daughter who sold it later fo fund a foreign trip  - and still regrets it to this very day! I always missed that guitar and to set things right I purchased a 1964 model in 2017. My daughter drove me to Amsterdam and we both felt it was the right thing to do. The price had gone up though. I had to pay 1800 bucks for it and |I knew it needed some fretwork and some other other maitenance. But it sounded too good to leave behind.

1964 Gibson ES 125
My new 1964 ES 125 was in fact very much like the 1951 one. Light, responsive and IMHO even better sounding. So I kind of liked it even better than the earlier 1951 model but of course a comparison only exists in my mind because I cannot play them side by side anymore. Still, the 1964 one certainly rings all the right bells with me and the lighter, early 1960s sunburst of the top I like definitely better than the very dark burst you see on early 1950s models.

In the meantime I have had my guitar tech do a complate overhaul of the guitar and I play it with great satisfaction. I have some fine guitars but the 125 certainly holds its own

So why do I think the 125 is the best vintage Gibson buy? That's easy. It's very much like a 1950s P90 equipped Gibson ES 175 but at half the price. The 125 was an entry level archtop at the time but the differences with the more expensive 175 are largely cosmetic. No cutaway, no fretboard inlays, fewer bindings etc. Last year, I compared my 125 with an early 1950s 175 side by side and thought it sounded pretty similar. Sure, a P90  175 is a fancier guitar but that's about it.

The bottom line is that the 125 is the best vintage Gibson ES buy these days. Though prices have gone up over the years (in Europe, expect to pay over 2000-2500  bucks these days), it is still a reasonable price among all the insane vintage pricing that I see all over the place for Gibson ES guitars like the the ES 175, 300 and the 350. And you do get the same 50s bop sound and vintage looks!

To read more about the 125 click here.