ES-175 Chronicles

I own a Gibson a 2007 ES-175  'Steve Howe' Model.  I truly love this guitar; although it took me a bit of work to get the tone, look &  playability I sought.

My all time favorite jazz guitar sounds are those from Jim Hall during ~ 1956-1965. His work with Jimmy Giuffre, Art Farmer and Sonny Rollins really stands out for me. His 1950's ES-175 with a P90 pickup played through a Gibson GA-50 amplifier to me represents the finest and most desirable jazz guitar tonality. However recorded guitar tone comes from more than an archtop and its pickup: Recorded guitar tone lies multi-factorial.  For example:
  • the guitarist's talent, technique and nuances
  • plectrum thickness & perhaps material; or did they go fingerstyle?
  • strings 
  • pickup
  • guitar patch chord
  • amplifier
  • speaker(s)
  • microphone type and placement
  • the room
  • the recording engineer
  • post production EQ and effects
Hence, its near to impossible to nail Jim Hall's guitar sound with Jimmy Giuffre, however, his tone provides an ideal to strive for.  You do your best with whatever resources you've got and above all, enjoy the experience.

October 2018

I performed 2 mods on an ES-175. A neck pickup change,  plus, I installed a Faber® ABRH Bridge.  I modify all my guitars and amps; that's me.

While many guitarist love the sound of the Classic 57 pickup in the neck position on a 175, I don't.  My particular neck Classic 57 pickup sounded too dark and further, the mid-range tones did not suit my liking. My guitar sounded lifeless.

Of course, guitar tone seems a matter of personal taste — & proves subjective & often hyperbole-filled. I like and sometimes prefer single coil pickups; especially the P90. I counted at least 8 different P90 pickups that fit in a standard humbucker slot for sale this year. Some even claim to sound just like a full size P90 [ defying physics ]. Seymour Duncan Phat cat pickups are readily available in Canada and seem reasonably priced.  I like this company.

Above — I replaced the Classic 57 with a Seymour Duncan single coil Phat Cat in the neck position.  To my ears, the single coil pickup removes any muddiness at all settings of the volume pot and livens up this plywood top guitar.

Above — I measured the DC resistance of my particular Phat Cat at 8.0K Ω

Above — Removing and replacing pots + other parts on an arch top may prove quite painful. I chose the easiest way to replace the neck pickup  — cut the wire and splice in the replacement. The whole procedure took about 20 minutes and felt painless.  As shown above, I tested with my DVM prior to bolting everything down and re-stringing this guitar.

Above — I left the stock Classic 57 pickup in the bridge slot. I never use it and it's set low to keep its magnetic field from affecting string vibration.

 Above — The Duncan Phat Cat easily fit into my standard neck humbucker pickup slot.

Above —A photograph of the Faber bridge. The stock bridge seemed defective and gave me grief.  The Faber replacement seems solid, intonated perfectly and stays put over time.

November 2018

I received a gift of a Seymour Duncan Seth Lover neck pickup and stuck it in my ES-175. It sounds like the Phat cat pickup in many ways. Of course, that's minus the 60 Hz hum -- and perhaps with a tiny bit more high frequency response. Lovely mid frequency response -- the so called 'honk' . The Seth emits beautiful sounds, and by far, ranks as my favorite PAF type pickup installed in 1 of my guitars.

Above —DC resistance measurement.

 Above — Inductance measurement

Above —A photo of the back of my Seth Lover neck PAF-style neck pickup.

April 2019

I love the look of 1950's Gibson Kluson tuning buttons. Seeking to keep the solid Gover tuning pegs that came with my guitar, I discovered & then ordered some pearloid buttons to give my ES-175 a "50's Kluson look".

Above — Hipshot Pearloid A04 tuner buttons on my guitar. These fit most Grover tuners and came with screws.

Above — These Hipshot brand pearloid buttons look superb; plus tune my guitar solidly.

Winter 2020

Above — I placed gold knobs on my guitar along with some metal pointer plate knob indicators.

Above  — I prefer these knobs to all others and they blend in nicely with the sunburst top. I roll the volume knob up and down with my 4th "pinky" finger and these knobs well facilitate that maneuver .

Above  — The truss rod cover now carries the name of a favorite alto sax player : Gene Ammons. Gene could play bop, but more often chose melodic, dramatic runs with funk, groove and blues hooks. He sold many records and his music appealed to more than jazz aficionados. 

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