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Thread: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

  1. #1

    Default Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    I have a whim for one of the above. Would there be a difference in sound, assuming that one is Birch and the other Maple on the back and sides ? Or is the back-wood used more randomly than F2 Birch, F4 Maple ?

  2. #2
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Birch and maple are very similar in their weights, etc...

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    I have a whim for one of the above. Would there be a difference in sound, assuming that one is Birch and the other Maple on the back and sides ? Or is the back-wood used more randomly than F2 Birch, F4 Maple ?
    Well each mandolin is different you could have 2 F-4's from the same year with maple back and sides and one might be better, ya just never know!, Then there is all the different years and configurations, preloar-loar-post loar and 30's-40-'s, I like the later ones cause if your lucky you can get one with an elevated fretboard and to me they are way better than those that are glued flush to the top! F-2's were mostly birch up to the loar period!

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    I had a 1914 F-2 "I think that was the year" that had birch back and sides and it was actually a real good sounding mandolin, it wasn't real "tubby" like some of those are on the G string, I should've kept it but this was almost 20 years ago and I was playing guitar more. It wasn't pristine but I don't care about that anyway. And wouldn't ya guess I no longer have the guitar-that seems to happen a lot with me but when ya don't have too much $$ ya do what ya have to do to get what ya want at the time! I do like the late 30's to early 40's F-4's with elevated boards, some even have the kool F-7 type inlays and I love that sort of thing, to me these sound more bright because the tops vibrate more freely.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    I have a couple of friends who own sister F-2's same FON, three SN apart. They could not sound more different! So, there's them what gots "IT" and there's what don't. It's just the fact they are all individuals.
    I too have a back of the wallet desire for one of these beauties, if the right one comes along at the right time for the right price then it's the right all the way around!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Agree with all of the above. You're dealing with, in all probability, mandolins more than 80 years old. Besides the inherent variability of sound between any two instruments, even "identical" makes, models and vintages, F-2's and F-4's have had eight or more decades of "experience" since they were built. Some have been played frequently and vigorously, others have reposed in cases and closets for most of their lives. Some are relatively pristine, others have been repaired, refinished, customized with after-market components, etc.

    It's quite likely that any generalization about the different sounds of birch vs. maple, F-2 vs. F-4, will be totally overwhelmed by the differences among individual mandolins. The one constant will be that F-2's command lower prices on the market, as less expensive, less ornamented models originally. Suggestion would be to play as many instruments as you can -- which will be a challenge, since it's hard to find a dealer with more than one or two of each -- and pick the one you can afford, that appeals to you the most.
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    sometimes birch back and sides give a real punch. often better than maple, but it depends on the quality of both and the luck of the mandolins years. i used to prefer maple untill i had a birch back and sides A . it was amazing. had several repaired cracks but punchy.

  11. #8

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    I think the maple on the F4s give a better sound but as already said, they are all different. When I see people advertise mandolins and say it 'has the Gibson sound' I think it is a load of nonsense. They are all different. I have a 1919 one which has the best sound I've had in all 9 F4s I have owned. It is very lightweight and resonant. Set up is everything to me. I always change the pearl nut to bone. Tone is better.

  12. #9
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    I've played a lot of old Gibson F models.
    I don't think I can put a quantitative difference between the tone of F-2's versus F-4's.
    Each mandolin has its own voice. Some are good, some are not, and a few are much better than most of the others.

    I've seen many more 4's than 2's. That's because they made more 4's.
    2's still cost less, but over the last couple of years their prices have been moving closer to the price of 4's.

    It's been a while since I walked into a store such as Gruhn's and they had 6 or 7 oval hole F's in stock. I think that those days are over, at least for now.

    So the best advice that I can give to someone seeking one of these old instruments is to buy one with a valid return policy that the seller will honor, in case you don't like the instrument. I chose my words carefully, because not all sellers are equal, nor all vintage stores.

    I know from my experience and the experience of others that the 3 major Nashville vintage stores [Gruhn's, Carter's, and The North American Guitar] honor their return policies, as long as the returned instrument has been correctly packed and has not been altered, and the return is arranged within the alotted time period. I can say the same for Fred Oster's Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia. Bernunzio's, Elderly, and Gryphon have very good, long-standing reputations.

    If you buy from a private seller, talk on the phone and get a feel for the seller before ordering an instrument. If you listen carefully, you can tell a lot about the person on the other end of the line in a few minutes. Avoid sellers with "attitudes," and sellers who won't talk on the phone.

    It's always best if you are in a situation where you can play an instrument before you buy, but depending on where you live, that might not be possible.

    Good luck in your quest. A couple of years ago, the market was swimming with old Gibson F's. Right now, there are only a few.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Agree with all of the above. You're dealing with, in all probability, mandolins more than 80 years old. Besides the inherent variability of sound between any two instruments, even "identical" makes, models and vintages, F-2's and F-4's have had eight or more decades of "experience" since they were built. Some have been played frequently and vigorously, others have reposed in cases and closets for most of their lives. Some are relatively pristine, others have been repaired, refinished, customized with after-market components, etc.

    It's quite likely that any generalization about the different sounds of birch vs. maple, F-2 vs. F-4, will be totally overwhelmed by the differences among individual mandolins. The one constant will be that F-2's command lower prices on the market, as less expensive, less ornamented models originally. Suggestion would be to play as many instruments as you can -- which will be a challenge, since it's hard to find a dealer with more than one or two of each -- and pick the one you can afford, that appeals to you the most.
    My guess is that if it is in good enough shape that it still has its birchiness or mapliness is a keeper, regardless.
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    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Interesting that this thread has been revived out of the blue after 5 years. I wonder if Davey found what he was looking for way back then or if the quest continues!

    Certainly prices have changed since 2017.

  16. #12

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    I have a 1919 one which has the best sound I've had in all 9 F4s I have owned. It is very lightweight and resonant. Set up is everything to me. I always change the pearl nut to bone. Tone is better.
    We can also ask Jimmy the "Reviver" now that he's found the Gibson F-4 of dreams

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  17. #13

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    To answer Lenf12, I reckon I have as good as I am gonna get in the Uk. I did have another 1916 one recently with Handel tuner buttons and extremely clean but it was more of a plum sunburst and I prefer the orangy colour of the one I have It also has a really good top arch and plays just great. I can't see me ever buying another. When I bought the F4 (from Gruhn's) the tuners were replacement and hopeless so I put on a set of Stewmac Golden Age retro tuners with Mike Blohm inlaid buttons which I bought from Mike and it looks and plays great. In spite of someone on the forum saying the Stewmac tuners were no good, I disagree. They work great. I know 1919 would not have inlaid buttons but I've always liked them so I had to have them.

    I'd love an H4 from same period.

  18. #14

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    [QUOTE=jimmy powells;1871063]To answer Lenf12, I reckon I have as good as I am gonna get in the Uk. /QUOTE]

    Perhaps, but also as good as you're gonna get just about anywhere in the "mando-sphere" and the Mike Blohm "Handel" buttons are a lovely upgrade visually. You can see by my avatar that I too love Handel buttons. Congrats and happy playing!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  19. #15

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Thanks Len. Actually the Blohm buttons are VERY GRADUALLY starting to be more like the genuine Handels in colour. When first fitted a year or more ago, they were almost white. Now going a little more creamy colour. Look fab!!
    [QUOTE=lenf12;1874600]
    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    To answer Lenf12, I reckon I have as good as I am gonna get in the Uk. /QUOTE]

    Perhaps, but also as good as you're gonna get just about anywhere in the "mando-sphere" and the Mike Blohm "Handel" buttons are a lovely upgrade visually. You can see by my avatar that I too love Handel buttons. Congrats and happy playing!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  20. #16

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Glad to hear it Jimmy. They are gorgeous!! Do you have a picture to share??

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  21. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    I agree with my wise colleagues' comments above. However, IMHO the mandolins made circa 1921 of any Gibsons seem to be consistent and well-made. So, if you are looking to buy remotely you might narrow down to around that year or so. They will be less expensive than the Loar era ones but still have that refinement that comes from years of making them. Anyway, those are my humblest of opinions.
    Jim

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  22. #18

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Hi Len.
    Cheers Jimmy

    - - - Updated - - -

    Hi Len. This pic still looks like almost white buttons but they are going creamy.

    Cheers Jimmy
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  23. #19

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Hope this works Len.

  24. #20
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    To answer Lenf12, I reckon I have as good as I am gonna get in the Uk. I did have another 1916 one recently with Handel tuner buttons and extremely clean but it was more of a plum sunburst and I prefer the orangy colour of the one I have It also has a really good top arch and plays just great. I can't see me ever buying another. When I bought the F4 (from Gruhn's) the tuners were replacement and hopeless so I put on a set of Stewmac Golden Age retro tuners with Mike Blohm inlaid buttons which I bought from Mike and it looks and plays great. In spite of someone on the forum saying the Stewmac tuners were no good, I disagree. They work great. I know 1919 would not have inlaid buttons but I've always liked them so I had to have them.

    I'd love an H4 from same period.
    Yes, the restoration ones are fine; it’s the “normal” A style ones with “modern” spacing that have been known to be problematic. ... but how did you manage to swap the buttons - they’re welded on. Or are the “F” ones different?

  25. #21

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    Hope this works Len.
    Looks great Jimmy!! Here's a close up shot of 2 of my main "squeezes". I see what you mean by white vs. "creamy".

    Len B..
    Clearwater, FL
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  26. #22

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    The tuners on the mandolin were shot so I put on Stewmac tuners with Blohm buttons. I pactually put small pearl dots instead of the screw holes and a touch of superglue to keep them there. They look great.

  27. #23

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Hi Len. Love these pics. Wat year is your F5? Be good to see a full pic of it. For a while I had a tortoiseshell style pick guard attached and stuck a piece on top of the tailpiece cover. I've since removed them.Click image for larger version. 

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  28. #24
    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	202750 This is my #71364 1922 F2
    Just turned 100 this year
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  29. #25

    Default Re: Gibson F2 and F4. Difference in sound ?

    I've got a 1915 F4, 115 years old and still plays and sounds great.

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