M-85/Les Paul Triumph comparison

hieronymous

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I finally took some pictures of my '71 (?) (Ale)M-85 II and '71 (?) Gibson Les Paul Bass, AKA Triumph, AKA Hobbit. I tried to leave the stand in the same position and had my phone on a tripod - not ideal, this is the best I came up with:



Hopefully this shows the subtle differences in outline, stuff like where the neck meets the body (would be easier to see if the M-85 had frets, the M-85 is 21 fret and the Les Paul is 24), position of the bridge & pickups, etc.

Want to take some more pictures, maybe matching up the positions of the bridges, the headstocks, etc., but thought I'd start with these.
 

hieronymous

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what's the scale length, is it different?
Both are "short scale" - measuring from the nut to the 12th fret and doubling, the M-85 comes out to 30.5" (what I expected), the Les Paul is 30" (the specs I saw on Fly Guitars say 30 3/8"). So very close - I think it's the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences in shape and construction that make them look different.

Is the Triumph maple, walnut?
Mahogany!
 

Guildedagain

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Gibson had some incredible Mahogany. The early stuff was reportedly 400 year old Honduras Mahogany, big trees. All the bodies were slab cut 1 piece, usually with amazing figure.

I feel like I should probably share this totally unrelated story and I don't have pics thx my first ever pc Acer laptop that lost everything that was on it... but way back in the day, I found a Les Paul recording, in black and gold, with extra inlays and a carved maple top, which I'm not sure was the norm on these.

Also special order was a Varitone on top of all the other crazy stuff, so it had like more tonal positions than the Karma Sutra, except that you can't actually get a good AC/DC tone from a Les Paul Recording...

But really the most striking thing about was that it weighed something like 14lbs and some ounces, and I remember playing it laying in bed in the morning like I like to do, and it was totally crushing, it was "only 14lbs" but it felt like pier block on your chest, you couldn't even breathe.

It went buy buy on eBay, to some Les Paul recording freak.
 
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fronobulax

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Thanks. The "Les Paul Bass" had escaped my notice until I saw it mentioned as something Jack Casady had tried on the way to developing his signature bass.
 

mellowgerman

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Thanks. The "Les Paul Bass" had escaped my notice until I saw it mentioned as something Jack Casady had tried on the way to developing his signature bass.
Yes, the Les Paul Bass that influenced Jack's signature model was an almost identical-looking "Les Paul Signature" hollow body. Really didn't look too much like a more traditional solid-body Les Paul guitar or bass. The "Triumph" and "Recording" basses had a much more Les-Paul-looking body; essentially the same thing just scaled up a bit larger.
My Triumph bass ONLY weighed around 10.5-11 lbs but that was plenty heavy for me. What ultimately made me let it go was the small upper bout that did not get along with my lanky physique. Made me slouch and bend my wrist awkwardly. I wish it had been an SG body instead. Would have been much more comfortable for me and would have made it lighter too. In any case, great sounds though! I like the idea of a varitone thrown into the mix. I modified mine with a pickup blend setup in place of the 3-way switch for a broader tone spectrum.
 

hieronymous

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Thanks. The "Les Paul Bass" had escaped my notice until I saw it mentioned as something Jack Casady had tried on the way to developing his signature bass.
Info on the Les Paul Signature Bass (the one that Jack Casady's signature bass is based on) here at Fly Guitars (which is an awesome website for Gibson Bass stuff!)
 

fronobulax

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Info on the Les Paul Signature Bass (the one that Jack Casady's signature bass is based on) here at Fly Guitars (which is an awesome website for Gibson Bass stuff!)
Indeed if I had chosen to cite my source that would be it.

My main point is that Gibson basses just did not make much of an impression on me. I'd heard of, heard and maybe even played an EB-0 and EB-3. I knew the EB-2 existed but not much more. I recall the names Ripper and Grabber but don't remember much more than one of them had a pickup that could be moved which ended up being one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" things because in practice players would set the PU and never move it again. There was definitely a time when I was a Guild player and not enough of a bassist to pay attention to alternatives.
 

Happy Face

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Info on the Les Paul Signature Bass (the one that Jack Casady's signature bass is based on) here at Fly Guitars (which is an awesome website for Gibson Bass stuff!)
Some years ago. 23? Jack and Paul appeared in an pretty much unannounced show at a show at a small club in Portland, Maine.

Luckily I was on their email list. So, there were like 20 people there at most. Put into a small side room.

I stood about 10 feet away and watched Jack playing said Gibson Les Paul bass. The hollowbody you folks are referring to.

After that amazing experience I almost bought one on sale down in Massachusetts offered at $1600, as I recall. But money was tight then.

Subsequently I've toyed with the urge to buy one when I've seen them offered. But never felt obliged to spend the money on a larger form bass.

Most or even all I have seen were stamped as "seconds", usually as a result of some finish blemish.
 

mellowgerman

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Some years ago. 23? Jack and Paul appeared in an pretty much unannounced show at a show at a small club in Portland, Maine.

Luckily I was on their email list. So, there were like 20 people there at most. Put into a small side room.

I stood about 10 feet away and watched Jack playing said Gibson Les Paul bass. The hollowbody you folks are referring to.

After that amazing experience I almost bought one on sale down in Massachusetts offered at $1600, as I recall. But money was tight then.

Subsequently I've toyed with the urge to buy one when I've seen them offered. But never felt obliged to spend the money on a larger form bass.

Most or even all I have seen were stamped as "seconds", usually as a result of some finish blemish.
I've played 2 of the original Gibson specimens and several of the Casady-spec'd Epiphones. Based on my experiences, the Epiphones are generally preferable from a player's perspective. I say generally because one of them was admittedly a lemon.
There's a funny story about the first time I tried one of the Gibsons. it was in Frankfurt, Germany and I found myself at the top of a high-rise in the business district, standing in an office with walls lined in at least one of every Gibson bass model ever produced up until that point... That day I got to A/B the Casady and the vintage Gibson counterpart.
My Dearmond Starfire had actually come to me in a nice Gibson gig bag, that I concluded had to have been made for an EB-2 bass, since it fit my Starfire perfectly. Once I got a hard case for the bass, I posted the Gibson bag for sale on ebay. Incidentally, a collector in Frankfurt bought it. I was flying to Germany to visit family (in the Frankfurt area) a month or two after the sale, so I offered to bring it right to him to avoid shipping. He was nice enough to invite me to stop by his office and see his collection. When I mentioned my love for Jefferson Airplane and Jack Casady's influence on me as a bassist, he suggested we pull down the Gibson and the Epiphone to compare them. To me, the Casady bass was more comfortable all around and the tone was bigger and punchier. The next time I played one of the Gibsons was at a store in NYC while on tour in 2014 (Rudy's maybe?). It was the same somewhat underwhelming experience.
I know that some structural issues of the originals were addressed in the design process of the Casady. They also modified the original pickup design to come up with the Electar JCB-1 pickup. I don't recall all the specifics, but I know at least an extra magnet was added under the D and G string. Sure there's a natural mystique about rare, vintage instruments, but in this case, I think Casady and Epiphone worked together to come up with a better instrument, rather than just Epiphone trying to make a more affordable imitation of the original. Probably the same reason why Jack plays a Korean-made Epiphone on stage. Of course the Epi's potentiometers and switch aren't the greatest and the tuners and bridge can also be improved upon by swapping them out for Hipshots, but if you're looking for a bass to use regularly, my recommendation would be to go for the Casady. Of course, there's nothing wrong with going for the Gibson for the collector's value, but I would caution against expecting it to be a "better" instrument.
 
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gilded

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So mellow, are the scale lengths the same? Isn't the Epi bass 34"?
 

mellowgerman

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So mellow, are the scale lengths the same? Isn't the Epi bass 34"?
Indeed, both the Epiphone Jack Casady Signature and the hollowbody Gibson Les Paul Signature it was based on are 34" scale. The main reason I don't own a Casady anymore. If it was a short scale, I would definitely still have one!
I am actively on the look-out for a working Epi Casady pickup (Electar JCB-1) with the corresponding step-up transformer, so that I can put the circuit in a short scale... maybe even a Newark Street SFB-I or M85
 

hieronymous

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Indeed if I had chosen to cite my source that would be it.

My main point is that Gibson basses just did not make much of an impression on me. I'd heard of, heard and maybe even played an EB-0 and EB-3. I knew the EB-2 existed but not much more. I recall the names Ripper and Grabber but don't remember much more than one of them had a pickup that could be moved which ended up being one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" things because in practice players would set the PU and never move it again. There was definitely a time when I was a Guild player and not enough of a bassist to pay attention to alternatives.
Gibson basses (especially the "classics") are definitely odd and an acquired taste. I always wanted an EB-3, since Jack Bruce and Andy Fraser were two of my favorite bassists. In 2002 I almost got a vintage EB-3 but it slipped away; ended up with a '68 EB-2 that I still have, and a '68 Melody Maker (like a budget EB-0) that I traded away. The big ol' pickup in those is something else - no high end, extreme volume output - but I loved it for how it would push distortion/fuzz pedals.

Some years ago. 23? Jack and Paul appeared in an pretty much unannounced show at a show at a small club in Portland, Maine.

Luckily I was on their email list. So, there were like 20 people there at most. Put into a small side room.

I stood about 10 feet away and watched Jack playing said Gibson Les Paul bass. The hollowbody you folks are referring to.

After that amazing experience I almost bought one on sale down in Massachusetts offered at $1600, as I recall. But money was tight then.

Subsequently I've toyed with the urge to buy one when I've seen them offered. But never felt obliged to spend the money on a larger form bass.

Most or even all I have seen were stamped as "seconds", usually as a result of some finish blemish.
Paul = Paul Kantner? Or Les Paul??? Sounds like a cool show either way. I saw acoustic Hot Tuna in 1988 at my college (Clark University in Worcester, MA) during my first semester - I tried to get backstage to get my poster signed but they wouldn't let me in (of course!) - can't remember if the guy at the door took it back to get it signed, I think maybe not. He played an acoustic bass that night - maybe a Guild? I had forgotten all about that show, it was the first of many amazing acts I saw at that small little club ("The Pub") - that was also where I first saw Phish, Blues Traveler, and others.
 

fronobulax

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There are clips of Casady playing a Guild B-50 from the 80's so at one time it was his acoustic of choice. His current choice is an iteration of the custom built Diana Bass. You can search and find articles and videos about the design. The thing that remains with me is that Jack said an acoustic bass and an electric bass are not the same instrument and he approaches them differently.

To continue the veer, I have seen a couple of places that say Jack gets one or two new Signature basses per year and that he uses them on stage unmodified. No lighter weight tuners or different quality pots - pretty much stock, out of the carton. As a consumer it says a lot to me that the Famous Artist regularly uses their Signature model and that it is used stock, just like one I could buy.

It is a 34" scale which is why I don't have one. But as I get older and my judgement gets clouded and less rational I think I want a blue bass and can imagine searching for the less common blue JC Sig instead of waiting for a blue Newark Street Starfire II bass.
 

mellowgerman

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It is a 34" scale which is why I don't have one. But as I get older and my judgement gets clouded and less rational I think I want a blue bass and can imagine searching for the less common blue JC Sig instead of waiting for a blue Newark Street Starfire II bass.
What about parting together your own short scale blue semi-hollowbody from Warmoth? They offer their "Mooncaster" bass parts for a couple of years now and they offer a number of different blue finishes. Relatively easy to assemble or would be an easy job for your local luthier if you don't want to do it yourself. I had one that I liked quite a bit. Ultimately it wasn't getting enough play time to keep it around. Lives with a buddy in TN now.
They let you spec it out completely, but I think you should be able to get all the ingredients for a basic single-pickup short scale Mooncaster for under $1500. Certain options add cost, so look out for that. Also, if you grab an in-stock short scale neck, it's typically cheaper than having one made from scratch. Unfortunately no blue Mooncaster bodies in-stock currently, but they'll be happy to make you one. I'm sure you could save here and there by sourcing some more common parts from reverb or ebay, like perhaps Wilkinson tuners, cheaper knobs, etc. I think all products offered by Warmoth are made in USA, so they don't carry cheaper alternatives that would fit just as well
 
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FWIW: awhile back, I asked Warmoth if they wound be willing to route Mooncaster pup cavities for pups other than those which they offer, specifically for Bi-Sonic type pups. They politely declined. If memory serves, they offered it routed for P-90-type bass pups and that was it.

Of course, that may have changed. And if a guy is handy with tools, he could always enlarge the "stock" routes himself, though that's a bit more dicey if the body is ordered with finished already applied. But that was the situation maybe two years ago.
 

mellowgerman

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FWIW: awhile back, I asked Warmoth if they wound be willing to route Mooncaster pup cavities for pups other than those which they offer, specifically for Bi-Sonic type pups. They politely declined. If memory serves, they offered it routed for P-90-type bass pups and that was it.

Of course, that may have changed. And if a guy is handy with tools, he could always enlarge the "stock" routes himself, though that's a bit more dicey if the body is ordered with finished already applied. But that was the situation maybe two years ago.
They used to offer a darkstar route option on their "normal" bass bodies, so they're perfectly capable, but maybe they just want to sell TV Jones Thundertrons. Great pickups. I like the way they sound in the neck position especially. They can be tapped for single coil but the dual coils pretty articulate and warm as is. Not overly powerful so they're great as is. If you tap them, they get a bit thin sounding to my bisonic-accustomed ears.
 

fronobulax

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Of course we all know that I am not one to tinker with guitars, let alone build my own from parts. And @twocorgis is trying to entice me with a blue Pilot, an option I am trying to not even think about until is is safe to travel and meet in person. :)
 
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