Late 70's-early 80's Tokai LS50 vs 100 vs ? - Big difference in build quality?

villager

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100s had dimarzios as stock 80s had gotoh...
 

Whoopysnorp

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For the LCs too? Authoritative information is hard to come by but all the sources I'm finding suggest the Gotohs were stock in this model.
 

maxkulicke

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My two cents, redundant though they may be:

Earlier this year I did a ton of research (including on this forum) and ended up springing for "non-functioning" 1979 LS 60, got it for just under $1000. Only thing that made it non-functioning was a missing tuner key and no output jack, both of which are quite easy repairs.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you're going for the vintage Gibson facsimile (the 1957 - 1960 Les Pauls) then the LS 80 and higher are for you, for all of the reasons already mentioned: period correct headstock angle, fret end binding nibs, one piece back, nitrocellulose lacquer. Additionally, the general consensus seems to be that the sweet spot was from 1978 - 1985, although, as previously mentioned in this thread, Tokai is still making excellent guitars to this day.

I spent some months watching the markets for an affordable (for me, under $1500) LS 80 from the time period mentioned, and came up dry. They seem to hover around $2000, while the LS 50's and LS 60's can routinely be found for much less. However, in my opinion, the two piece back, the headstock angle, and the fret nibs just didn't justify the discrepancy in price. The lacquer VS the polyurethane is a very significant difference to me though, both in terms of visual aesthetics as well as feel in the hands. However, I refinish and rebuild guitars as a hobby, and thought rebuilding and refinishing a Les Paul would make for a nice project.

So, I pulled the trigger on the "non-functioning" 1979 LS 60.

Once I got it, I immediately replaced the tuners and wired an output jack, and left everything else stock. The guitar screamed! An absolute ripper. The stock pickups were a touch mid-focused for my taste, but were way more dynamic, touch sensitive and harmonically detailed than most of the stock Gibson humbuckers I have played. The whole guitar is extremely resonant, and has sustain for days. The neck is a wonderful mid-chunky profile, the truss rod was straight as an arrow and needed no adjustment once it was strung up, and all the electronics worked perfectly. The wood seems to be very high quality; the fretboard is a rich and chocolatey piece of rosewood, East Indian by the looks, and, as mentioned, the bookmatching of the mahogany on the back is perfect, you can only tell its a two piece by finding the seam in the end grain. The finish, even though I don't love polyurethane, was also excellently done. All in all, an excellent, excellent Les Paul "out of the box" as it were. It far exceeded my expectations.

I still went ahead and stripped and rebuilt the whole thing, but in terms of your original question, from my limited experience (sample size n=1) it seems that the general consensus is right, and that the build quality and materials of those old Tokai's are absolutely excellent from the bottom of the budget line (LS 50's and Ls 60's) to the very top of the custom order range (your LS 120's and such), and the primary difference has to do with model specs, like finish material, pickups, plain top vs flame top, headstock angle, fret nibs etc.

My advice for you would be to figure out what specs, if any, make a serious difference to you as a player, and then pull the trigger on the cheapest one you can find that you also think is pretty! I don't think you will be disappointed.

A final anecdote:
I was recently on tour (pre COVID) and killing time before a show, my band and I went into a nice guitar shop. The staff was super friendly, and offered to let me play any of the guitars in the store. At my request, they pulled down a fairly recent Gibson R0 ($6000) and a Gibson R9 ($8500). I plugged them both into a vintage blackface Princeton Reverb so I could hear how they pushed and they were both..... totally fine. Not bad guitars by any means, but wholly unremarkable, and certainly not worth even a fraction of their asking price, in my opinion. My Tokai, with just the stock parts, is a more resonant and lively guitar, by a significant margin. The finish on the Gibson's were really the only aspect that was superior to the Tokai, but I don't personally think that a nitro finish is worth $5000, but then again, I spray nitro finishes for fun, so i'm not the typical customer.

This is the thread where I detailed that rebuild by the way:

Hope we've been helpful for you. Happy hunting!
 

dasherf17

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60's are poly. but you'll never notice a difference of the 2 piece back etc. yes the pups are maxon and not dimarzio, so there's that. but they don't suck so bad you need to remove them, it's preference.

the difference in going to an 80 or 100 from a 50 or 60 is the way the finish feels. poly is poly and the 80s and 100s and up feel different. that's the biggest difference you'll notice imo. all the guitars are very well built down to the old LS-50s. (had em, 50, 60, 80, 100, 120, all 78-80 years.)

the downsides to the old guitars can be fret wear or a fallen bridge. the nice thing about a 60 or 50 is no nibs. so if you do need fret work, you don't have to cry about losing nibs.

overall, my rec is to buy the best one you can afford. if it has an "upgraded" bridge, that may be a good thing. they were a bit too close to accurate with the bridges and they suffer the same fate as many old tune o matic bridges, they can sag over time. (insert age joke here.)
No, 442, I promise I won't...
 

Peter Mac

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For the LCs too? Authoritative information is hard to come by but all the sources I'm finding suggest the Gotohs were stock in this model.
The LC-100 had Gotoh as standard pups, whilst the LS-100 used DiMarzio. The LC-100 also had a complete mahogany body with no maple cap. LS-60 also used the 'B' Gotoh, whilst the LC-100 used the 'A' Gotoh pups.
 

Mosster47

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I've owned about every vintage Tokai model and the best player of them all is a black 1980 LS-50. The tone on it comes in #2. I had an 81 LS-120 with a headstock repair that absolutely nailed the 'tele on steroids' tone. I should have kept it. The best looking is an 83 LS-100 with a three piece back and a 5A flame.

The new Tokais are nice too. I have a 2000 LS-59 custom shop that's basically an LS-420 and it's the nicest single cut I've ever held. I got it from RebornOld on here years ago.

You really can't beat these guitars. Find one you like, set it up the way you want and you won't regret it.
 
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Very helpful! Thanks for the input!

My two cents, redundant though they may be:

Earlier this year I did a ton of research (including on this forum) and ended up springing for "non-functioning" 1979 LS 60, got it for just under $1000. Only thing that made it non-functioning was a missing tuner key and no output jack, both of which are quite easy repairs.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you're going for the vintage Gibson facsimile (the 1957 - 1960 Les Pauls) then the LS 80 and higher are for you, for all of the reasons already mentioned: period correct headstock angle, fret end binding nibs, one piece back, nitrocellulose lacquer. Additionally, the general consensus seems to be that the sweet spot was from 1978 - 1985, although, as previously mentioned in this thread, Tokai is still making excellent guitars to this day.

I spent some months watching the markets for an affordable (for me, under $1500) LS 80 from the time period mentioned, and came up dry. They seem to hover around $2000, while the LS 50's and LS 60's can routinely be found for much less. However, in my opinion, the two piece back, the headstock angle, and the fret nibs just didn't justify the discrepancy in price. The lacquer VS the polyurethane is a very significant difference to me though, both in terms of visual aesthetics as well as feel in the hands. However, I refinish and rebuild guitars as a hobby, and thought rebuilding and refinishing a Les Paul would make for a nice project.

So, I pulled the trigger on the "non-functioning" 1979 LS 60.

Once I got it, I immediately replaced the tuners and wired an output jack, and left everything else stock. The guitar screamed! An absolute ripper. The stock pickups were a touch mid-focused for my taste, but were way more dynamic, touch sensitive and harmonically detailed than most of the stock Gibson humbuckers I have played. The whole guitar is extremely resonant, and has sustain for days. The neck is a wonderful mid-chunky profile, the truss rod was straight as an arrow and needed no adjustment once it was strung up, and all the electronics worked perfectly. The wood seems to be very high quality; the fretboard is a rich and chocolatey piece of rosewood, East Indian by the looks, and, as mentioned, the bookmatching of the mahogany on the back is perfect, you can only tell its a two piece by finding the seam in the end grain. The finish, even though I don't love polyurethane, was also excellently done. All in all, an excellent, excellent Les Paul "out of the box" as it were. It far exceeded my expectations.

I still went ahead and stripped and rebuilt the whole thing, but in terms of your original question, from my limited experience (sample size n=1) it seems that the general consensus is right, and that the build quality and materials of those old Tokai's are absolutely excellent from the bottom of the budget line (LS 50's and Ls 60's) to the very top of the custom order range (your LS 120's and such), and the primary difference has to do with model specs, like finish material, pickups, plain top vs flame top, headstock angle, fret nibs etc.

My advice for you would be to figure out what specs, if any, make a serious difference to you as a player, and then pull the trigger on the cheapest one you can find that you also think is pretty! I don't think you will be disappointed.

A final anecdote:
I was recently on tour (pre COVID) and killing time before a show, my band and I went into a nice guitar shop. The staff was super friendly, and offered to let me play any of the guitars in the store. At my request, they pulled down a fairly recent Gibson R0 ($6000) and a Gibson R9 ($8500). I plugged them both into a vintage blackface Princeton Reverb so I could hear how they pushed and they were both..... totally fine. Not bad guitars by any means, but wholly unremarkable, and certainly not worth even a fraction of their asking price, in my opinion. My Tokai, with just the stock parts, is a more resonant and lively guitar, by a significant margin. The finish on the Gibson's were really the only aspect that was superior to the Tokai, but I don't personally think that a nitro finish is worth $5000, but then again, I spray nitro finishes for fun, so i'm not the typical customer.

This is the thread where I detailed that rebuild by the way:

Hope we've been helpful for you. Happy hunting!
 

Oranjeaap

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I have a 1980 LS-50, quality is superb. It's very heavy so that's not ideal.
 

Chuckyz2

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This thread is old but there is a lot of incorrect info enclosed.
This info I have gathered on 78-81 LS Models The good (old wood) ran out after 81
The most desired are the 81 and more so for each earlier year. Save the LS200 and 150's (hard to find)
LS50-3P Back-3P Front-Plain Top-Gotoh pickups-Poly
LS60-2P Back-2P Front-Plain Top-Gotoh pickups-Poly-Nicer Top Wood than the LS50
Both the LS50 and 60 Usually came in over 10 lbs. They were old wood though.

LS80 1p back-2p front-plain little better than 60-DiMarzio pickups-Lacquer and nibs-little lighter than LS60
LS100 same as LS80 slighter better tops some with slight flame and some with AA flame but is laminate.
LS120 same as above but much more flame but is almost always laminated top. Very few solid flamed tops.
LS150 same as above but but nice solid well matched solid flamed tops.
LS200 Best woods and tops. Cashew lacquer, The only model with Brazilian Rosewood fretboards.

The trend is they get lighter the higher up you go but not always the case.
All use mostly Indian Rosewood boards Except the LS200
The best luthiers were on the the higher end ones.
The LS50 were where they trained new luthiers but still decent.

I have a nice LS60 German replica tuners, bridge and tail piece aged nickel I think Schaller. Tone Pros pots and russian oil in paper caps wired 50's style and all braded wires, switch and jack. Very dark Indian Rosewood board. Almost looks Brazilian. Have all original shit parts. Has the mojo and sustain just fucking sucks it weighs 10 lbs. I like the stock pickups. But would love to have some from a True Historic 2016 and newer.

I have seen and played an LS80. That and mine are the only LS's I have seen.
But I have read and researched most of everything that is on the Web.
The old guitar cases these came with are expensive so try and get that with a purchase.

There seems to be 98% high reviews praising these guitars. There are however more people
that think pickups suck than those that like them. Electronics all suck. Bridge and tailpiece suck.
Those are all bolt oo easy fixes and the guitars are worth every penny doing it.

The main thing that is not mentioned in this thread is the important facts about the quality.
I'm sure most people know when buying a Standard from Gibson, you are far more likely
to get a dud and very few really good ones. It seems to be the opposite with the old Tokais.
Most are consistently good with few duds. When buying sight unplayed that is a very noteworthy
piece of important info. When shopping on Ebay or Reverb you never know what is going
to show up. With an old Tokai, they are almost always loved. That is why they are as rare
as hens teeth except in Japan and why they are increasing in value every year.
 

Grenville

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Chuckyz2, this is the first I've heard about LS80s and DiMarzio pickups.

Certainly my 1979 LS80 had Gotoh PAFs when I bought it 9 years ago.
 

zeneffect

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I find the ls80s are the flamey ones. My 78 ls100 looks like it has a cardboard top with its lack of any sort of figuring.
 

R1sky

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I’m sure a late 70/early 80 ls100 is an ls80 with dimarzio pickups?

My LS80 is I believe nitro, has FEB and is a 1 piece back with a lovley 2 piece maple top.
 

nopea

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I had a Tokai Gold Top that I bought here in Japan in 97 and sold in 2006, excellent guitar! Not sure what the modal was as I was not tracking those things in those days, I remember that it was made in Japan and I got a deal on it because one of the tuner holes on the headstock was not aligned correctly.

As I say it was an awesome guitar! I sold it only because I moving and hand to shed some weight. Since returning to Japan I have been playing some of the current builds in the stores, they are still well built guitars! I know that some are hunting down the vintage ones, but unless you really need or want a vintage one, then the current builds are exceptional.

I have a 90's Burny John Sykes Les Paul and a 2010 Cool Z (Fujigen) Les Paul burst and these more than satisfy my need for a MIJ Les Paul.:cool:
 

villager

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the good wood did not run out in 1981, PU on LS-80 are gotoh, ls-100 only veneer post 83 before all solid, the weight has nothing to do with the model number, they did not train the new luthiers on LS-50s... the 200 was built by the top guys the others were spread out.. the electronics bridges and tailpiece do not suck.. are all fine, LS-80 and higher got lightweight TPs..

for a reference.. I have owned over 150 pre 1985 Tokai LPs from LS-50s to LS200s.. heres some in a collage i did..
Resized tokais.jpg
 

zeneffect

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Ls100 equipped with dimarzio, not ls80 and in the les paul reborn or reborn old days should be solid no veneer plain top. Hardware was actually pretty good as well. Electronics were pcb but still... not bad. Ls80 should have gotoh pickups. Listen to villager to do otherwise would be foolish. What I don't see is one of those blister top customs in that collage.
 
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