Gibson Electric Guitars and Amplifiers 1956

Download the twenty-page 1956 Gibson Electric Guitars and Amplifiers Catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Gibson_Elec_1956_cat

Products covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Gibson Super 400 CESN, L-5 CESN, ES-5 Switchmaster, Byrdland, ES-175, ES-175 DN, ES-350T, ES-125, ES-295, and ES-240 hollow-body electric guitars, Gibson GA-90, GA-77, GA-55 V, GA-70, GA-40 ‘Les Paul,’ GA-30, GA-20, GA-6, GA-9, and Gibsonette amplifiers; Gibson Les Paul Custom, Les Paul, Les Paul special, Les Paul Junior, and ES-225 electric guitars; Gibson J-160 E acoustic/electric, EM-150 electric mandolin, Gibson Electric Bass;  Ultratone, Century, BR-6, Console Grande, Consolette, Electraharp, and Multiharp steel guitars, plus more.

The 1956 GA-90 ‘High-Fidelity Amplifier,’ with six 8″ speakers and promised 20-20K hz frequency response (really?).

This very rare catalog is something special for fans of the electric guitar.  We see a number of trends developing – the solidbody electric guitar, ‘true vibrato’ circuits in amplifiers, high-wattage amps…  and a few notably absent: humbucking pickups and amplifier reverb.  These were right around the bend though…  Download and enjoy.

Original catalog image of the 1956 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Gibson’s 1956 ES-225T, the first of their many semi-hollow body guitars, the most iconic of which is the ES-335.   I borrowed a friend’s ES-225T for a few weeks in high school and I still have very fond memories of it… great guitars, very expensive today.

The 1956 Gibson 350T.  A slightly less-fancy Byrdland, also with a medium-scale neck.

The 1956 Gibson ES-140, their short-scale offering of the era.  An artist whom I regularly work with at Gold Coast Recorders often brings one of these to sessions, and it is a seriously fun sitting-on-the-couch guitar with a seriously noisy single-coil pickup.

The 1956 Gibson GA-6, one of their most classic amps.  Very similar to a Tweed Fender Deluxe.  Fantastic amplifier.

The 1956 Gibson Les Paul.  We have a clone of one of these (based on a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe) at Gold Coast Recorders and it sounds great.  1956 was an important year in the development of the Les Paul as it marked the appearance of the tune-a-matic bridge: it was now possible to intonate your guitar quickly and accurately, AND also customize the string feel and sustain characteristic by setting the stud to get the break angle that you want. 

Systems of the Stars

Above: From DOWNBEAT magazine 1966: Bassist Ben Tucker discusses his home hi-fi system.  Tucker played with a real who’s-who of the mid 20th century jazz world.  I really like this idea of profiling the hi-fi systems of studio-savvy musicians; seems like a potentially good way of cutting through the audiophile obsessiveness, the marketing hype, and the bargain-hunting mentality that seems to inform a lot of sound-system purchases.  Musicians tend to know what things are supposed to sound like and tend to respond intuitively to the emotional aspects of music reproduction, and they also tend to be on real-world budgets.  Seems like a good sort of individual to take home audio advice from.  Tucker used an Electrovoice 1177 receiver, AR3 speakers, Koss Pr-4 headphones, a Stanton Longhair cartridge, and a SONY 500 tape recorder.

Are any current publications/sites running similar features today on contemporary musicians?


Magnecord Tape Machines used for early stereo experimentation

Above: an unpublished photo from the collection of David Hall, courtesy T. Fine.

T. Fine: “Bert Whyte was an early Magnecorder dealer located on Long Island NY. He was also an early enthusiast for making 2-channel staggered-head binaural recordings. Whyte was a friend of Bob Fine, the engineer responsible for the Mercury Living Presence single-mic mono recordings in the early 1950’s. Fine and David Hall (Mercury’s recording director at the time) let Whyte tag along on several recording trips to Chicago and Minneapolis, where Whyte made experimental 2-mic binaural recordings for his own personal use and to demonstrate the abilities of the Magnecorder. This photo shows White and his binaural rig in the front of Bob Fine’s recording truck. In the foreground at left is a portion of one of the two Fairchild full-track mono recorders used to make the Mercury recordings. Photo date is likely 1952 or 1953.

Bert Whyte went on to write an influential record-review column for Radio & TV News, later Electronics magazine. He was also a founder of Everest Records, where he oversaw engineering and recording of the well-regarded Everest classical records. After Everest went out of business, Whyte returned to journalism, writing for Audio Magazine from the 1960’s until Audio ceased publication. Whyte also continued to engineer and produce records over the years. Probably his best-known later recordings were the direct-to-disc records made for Crystal Clear Records in the late 70’s. At the Crystal Clear D2D recording of Virgil Fox, a parallel recording was made using the prototype Soundstream digital recorder. Those recordings were later released on CD, titled “The Digital Fox.” Whyte was an early enthusiast of digital recording, praising the Sony PCM-F1 recorder in the pages of Audio Magazine. He ran PCM-F1 backups of his direct-to-disc recordings in London, also for Crystal Clear Records.”

What is Psychoacoustics? (1961)




Do certain acoustic phenomena create universal psychological effects?

Does rhythm hold primacy in the hierarchy of musical elements owing to the ever-present heartbeat, with us since months before we are even born?

Do we have genetically programmed responses to such things as the doppler effect (captured via the Leslie speaker), surely a useful phenomenon for hunting animals to pay notice?

Are there other musical devices that could possibly be based in instinctual animal behavior?

1957: Golden Age of Hi Fi (ladies-of), take two

Download a two-page scan of Radio & Television News, August 1957, featuring screen-star Martha Hyer and her DIY audio-hobby.

DOWNLOAD: Martha Hyer 1957 Radio TV News

Hyer is shown above in the midst of assembling her PERI 50, a mono hi-fi amp of the late 50s.  You can download the schematic for the PERI 50 here: DOWNLOAD PERI 50 SCHEM.  It’s a 50-watt ultralinear amp of extremely simple, efficient design.

Thanks to PS dot com reader T.F. for providing this article.  This piece comes as contrast to typical Women-In-Fifties-HiFi depiction, examples of which are in this series of images.    Despite the fact that ‘soldering-your-own-amplifier’ falls much closer to the wine-rack rather than gun-rack end of the macho spectrum, there was apparently nothing in American culture of the 50’s that could not be bro-ified, as this charming shop-apron of the era makes apparent:

Despite its intended message of unapologetic philandering and stamina, I kinda of get the impression that dude’s workmanship is shoddy and he has a shrill voice.  Maybe not the best image to project.  Thank god for social progress.  And on that note: does this website have any female readers who build/service audio equipment?  Drop us a line and represent…



Webster-Chicago: Because Shouting Is Outmoded (1939)

Download the 24pp 1939 Webster-Chicago Sound Systems catalog (in two parts due to size)

DOWNLOAD PART 1: WebsterChic_1939_1

DOWNLOAD PART 2: WebsterChic_1939_2

Products covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Wesbter-Chicago Super-Fidelity Mixer W-4004, amplifiers W-4030, W-4070, W-4030; remote mixer controls W-903 and W-902; W-975, W-945, W-930 .W-920, W-830, W-814, W-808W-929, W-820 mixer/ amplifers; W-200 microphone matching transformer, W-1260 record changer, plus a host of speakers, intercom equipment, and microphones (appear to be re-branded Bruno, Turner, and EV units: W-1224, W-1245, W-1236, W-1242 and W-1243).


Above: from page 2 of the catalog.  The year is 1939.   “Why Buy Sound Equipment? Because shouting is outmoded.”   The ‘sound of tomorrow’ is electrically amplified sound.  Shouting is a thing of the past.  The sound of one human’s voice can now easily reach many tens of thousands of assembled individuals.  The first recorded use of sound reinforcement (i.e., a PA system) was the inauguration of Warren G. Harding in 1922 (Bushnell, Ferree 2011).  This was incredible technology at the time, technology that has given musicians infinite new possibilities for performnce.  Technology that would also be used to devastating effect in Germany in the 1930s when one bitter man would be able to stir the passions of thousand of assembled individuals in ways that would have been impossible a mere decade early.  Before the PA system: before electrically amplified sound: there were real physical limits to the dissemination of a vocal performance.   That limit is no longer.

Above, Webster’s ‘super-fidelity’ high-power system intended for multi-speaker distribution in arenas ETC: no low-impedance voice-coil output is even offered on this unit.  It does, however, offer two-band EQ and dynamic expansion/compression.

Above, Webster-Chicago’s most modest PA system, the 8-watt W-808.  This was the first piece of antique audio equipment that I ever purchased: $75 at a multi-dealer antique shop on Wickenden st in Providence RI.   My system came with an American D-4 dynamic mic, which I still own and which still works fine after all these decades.   The amplifier and speaker worked too, although I could never figure out why there was a strong slightly off Bb bass-note that went along with everything that I played.  This was several years before I had any awareness of filter caps, of course.



Vacuum-Tube Output Stage for Shure Level Loc

Many of my regular readers will be familiar with the Shure Level-Loc.  For those unfamiliar, the basics:  the Level-Loc is a brickwall limiter made by the Shure microphone company for public-address-system use (podium mics, specifically) in the 1960s.   It uses discrete transistors and transformers in the signal path; it offers balanced mic-level i/o and an unbalanced consumer-level 10K ohm impedance output as well.  There is an input-level control (simply a pot that follows that secondary of the input transformer) and a switch marked ‘distance selector,’ which seems to me to be a threshold control.  That’s it for control.  It is fairly noisy (full-bandwidth noise), even after a recap,  and the transformers are not especially well-shielded.  It runs off of a 9V battery.  For more information on the Level-Loc, you might want to start here.

Anyhow…seems like a toy/piece-of-junk and maybe it is, but these things have become highly coveted for use in recording rock drum performances.  How much so? Well, how many other prosumer PA-system pieces are currently available as a plug-in, an API-500 series module, and a boutique re-build? (image source for above)

I recently picked up a clean Shure Level-Loc for a few dollars at a yard sale; after the aforementioned re-cap (and we’re talking about 20 capacitors here…), it was sounding like it was probably operating within its original design parameters.  I was intrigued, and figured it might be worth getting it into the racks at Gold Coast Recorders to see what it could do.   GCR is a big, live-sounding room, so there’s plenty of sound to get out of it with a squashed compressor.  The only potential problem: the Level-Loc offers only mic-level or low-level medium-impedance output.  I like to run my mic preamps directly into the Lynx convertors; so for the most direct signal, I would need a bridging amp to bring up the level and lower the impedance of the Level-Loc.  It would be nice to have an output level control too, and I wanted the piece to be as physically small as possible so that it could sit directly next to the Level-Loc on a 2RU rack shelf.  Here’s what I did to solve all of these problems and fold the Level Loc into the studio alongside all the other outboard mic preamps.


Most of the RCA Receiving Tube manuals have a schematic for some sort of ‘audio input amplifier’; I wanted one that would provide about 20db of gain as well as a very low-impedance output so that I could drive a 15K:600 output transformer easily (I used an NOS UTC Ouncer to save space).  Based on this i selected the circuit above RCA manual # RC-24.  One 12AU7 tube.  Simple, easy.  The physically smallest plate/filament transformer that I had on hand was an NOS Stancor 120v:120V/6.3V, so I used the voltage-doubler B+ supply circuit as-found in the Altec 1566 and 438; see here for that schematic.  For once i actually did not bother wiring up a DC filament supply, since the gain of the unit is pretty low.  This was the right choice, as i can hear no hum at all in the finished unit.  I added a 500K pot at the input jack and voila.  The whole thing fit inside one of those aluminum Bud Boxes that some folks use for DIY’ing guitar effects pedals.  I left the power transformer bolted outside the unit on the rear; it’s always a good idea to keep power transformers away from audio transformers if you can.   Here’s the interior of the unit:

…and below you can see the finished piece.  Not my finest piece of industrial design but it does the job.  I put the 1/4″ TS input on the front of the unit so that I can use it as a DI input for Keyboards ETC if the need arises.  The circular grill on the top surface of the piece is a heat-vent positioned directly above the 12AU7 tube.

The unit performs well, especially considering that there are only two stages of filtering in the power supply.  I always use four stages of filtering in the equipment that I build for customers, with at least one choke; I was curious this time to see how the basic Altec B+ scheme worked, though, and it seems just fine!  People love their 1566s and 438s so fukk it.  Good enough is sometimes good enough…

Above, the two units side-by side.  So how does it sound?  TW and I were putting down live drums on a track at GCR and here’s the result we got.

First, the drumbeat: close-mics only: CloseOnly

Here’s the same mix, but with the Level Loc signal added: in this case, the Level Loc was amplifying a figure-8 ribbon mic 20 feet from the kit, with the null of the mic facing the kit; the waveform was then re-aligned to eliminate some of the delay: withLevelLoc

And finally, the Level-loc signal only: LevelLocOnly

The Level-Loc is aptly named.  Regardless of what you put in – a baby’s breath or an atomic blast – you get the saaaaame level out.  Zero dynamics.  It’s pretty uncanny.  And a great sound for heavy rock drum beats.  This is the 2nd track that I have used it on in a week and I think it will continue to get a lot of use at the studio.   The output of the balancing amp is a little low – even with the input attenuator all the way open it cannot quite get to full level via the Lynx convertors.  It’s good enough, but it could stand to put out a few more DB.  If you build one of these devices for use with your Level-loc you might consider using a 15K:60K interstage transformer at the input to get a little bit more level out of it; or re-bias the two stages in order to use a 12AT7 instead of the 12AU7.

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