Trapeze Circus

phread

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I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of the 3 Trapeze equipped Les Pauls that I have to quantify what the differences are between an original '52, an '09 Tribute, and a '12 60th Anniversary. Now the first thing I will admit is that the '52 is *extremely* difficult to play conventionally due to the understrung bridge that the incorrect neck angle requires. I am planning on swapping it with one of the Joe Glaser bridges in the near future so that I can get the most use out of it.
phread-albums-trapeze-gold-tops-picture54683-three-les-paul-goldtops-all-trapeze-bridges-original-52-09-tribute-12-anniversary.html

The first comparison that I made was to check their weights. The '52 weighs in at exactly 9 pounds, the '09 Tribute is 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and the '12 Anniversary is the heaviest at 10 pounds, 8 ounces. Considering that the '12 is not a Custom Shop guitar, it's not surprizing that it's the heaviest of the trio.

The headstock angles are all the same so they got it right there, the repro tuners on the '09 seem a bit closer to the originals, though the '52s are unmarked, the '09s say Gibson and the '12s say Kluson. The repros are supposed to be nickel plated and time will tell to see how they age. The one immediate difference between them is that the '52 has the Gibson logo placed about 1/4" lower then the modern equivalents.

As far as the tailpieces, all three are different, but the '09 Tribute has a casting that is very different from the original. I have an early '50's ES-225 that has the same bent sheetmetal as the '52 as well. I do believe that some of the early sketches show a casting, but I've never actually seen one on a guitar before the Tributes came out. All three of them have pretty acceptable intonation for a set cast bridge, but if you are a perfectionist, you would want to look elsewhere.

On thing that all three guitars do have in common is that they are very resonant and exceptionally bright sounding when you play them acoustically. I have always thought that these bridges got a bad reputation due to the engineering flaw with the '52, but when you put it on a properly set-up guitar, they have great sustain and a bright tone.

A cosmetic difference that is readily apparent is that the pickguard is shaped differently. It comes to more of a point along the fingerboard as well as by the control knobs. You will also notice a 1/4" gap between the end of the fretboard and the neck pickup on the '52. The two reproductions both have the neck pickup placed right up against the fingerboard. This might explain some of the tonal differences between the three, but only to a point. A final cosmetic point is that the inlays on the '12 Anniversary are very silvery in colour whereas the '52 and the '09 are noticeably yellowed, though the '09 has a way to go to catch up.

I will say that the '52 has P-90s that are very unique sounding. A bit more power, and a bit darker to start. The '52 definitely causes the amp to break up before the newer P-90s. The Tribute is the weakest of the three and sounds along the same lines of the '60s P-90s that I have. I don't want to say they are bad sounding, becuase they certainly are not, but they don't have the punch or dark tone that seems unique to the '52. I may look into trying out some Lollar or Novaks to see if I can reprdouce the '52s. For those of you who think that higher impedence means more output, the '52 measures 7.45k and 7.66k (neck and bridge), whereas the '09 has 7.90k and 7.98k, and the '12 has 7.84k and 7.87k. And trust me, the '52 has a *lot* more output!

As far as the body, Gibson has come a long way since the '70s in restoring the dish carving but the '52 seems to have just a slight bit more depth. This is a visual evaluation, I did not take a micrometer to it. Both of the reissues have lighter coloured mahogany, but some of that may be due to the age of the finish on the '52. Also, the edges on the '52 are bit more rounded on the back, it seems like they spent a bit more time doing final shaping and sanding.

The neck profile is also fatter on '52, but I know some of the Custom Shop guitars are just as thick (my '54 reissue is even thicker than the '52) but they are still thicker than later era Gibsons.

So in conclusion, I like all three guitars, depsite their minor differences. I have always felt that the Trapeze bridge has a lot of potential and was given a lot of negative press even though the bridge itself was sound. I do hope to eventually replace the pickups on the modern guitars with a suitable reproduction of the '52s but for now I am enjoying them as is. All three of them certainly do rock!

PS, I tried to include the pics in the middle of the text, but seem to be having some issues with the
 

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phread

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Additional pics of the tailpieces.
 

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phread

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Pickguard pics.
 

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phread

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Fretboard pics.
 

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phread

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So I was wondering if anyone out there has found a set of P-90s that sound like the '52s? I love the tone, punch, and breakup characteristics of them and would like to make a few substitutions, probably starting with my R4. There is such a difference between them and I love the sound of the '52, but don't want to take it out of the house.
 

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phread

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Latest news! A friend of mine is attending the NAMM show this week and I was told that Gibson is coming out with a new Tribute. It has his full name, date of birth and death on the pickguard as well as a custom headstock design. I'll see what it looks like, but not sure if I want something so over-the-top!
 

phread

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Latest news! A friend of mine is attending the NAMM show this week and I was told that Gibson is coming out with a new Tribute. It has his full name, date of birth and death on the pickguard as well as a custom headstock design. I'll see what it looks like, but not sure if I want something so over-the-top!

And it has a Trapeze bridge with the casting, similar to the '09 Tribute.
 

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