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Gibson Sonex Guitar
Solid body Gibson electric guitar, with Multi-Phonic body design

Gibson Sonex logo

The cheaper solid body guitars being produced in the 1970s such as the Melody Maker, S-1 and Marauder were starting to lose their popularity by the late 1970s. Shipping figures for 1979 were barely reaching double figures - not even that in some cases, and by 1980 these models were replaced by a new range of budget guitars, the Sonex series.

Gibson Multiphonic construction
The view inside the neck pocket of a Sonex-180 deluxe. Because this area is traditionally left unpainted, the differences in Resonwood, and the hardwood core are clearly visable

Like the Marauder and S-1, the Sonex guitars were constructed with a bolt-on neck, rather than a traditional Gibson set-neck; but rather than a solid wood body, the Sonex series used a Multi-phonic construction, which was both cheap to produce and with highly desireable audio qualities. It comprised an inner solid tone wood core sandwiched between slices of a composite wood material named Resonwood. This was not the first time Gibson had used such materials of course, having produced the Kalamazoo range of guitars and basses from a similar pressed wood material 15 years earlier. The image to the right shows the top layer of Resonwood, over the solid wood (maple?) core.

There were three models, the 180 Deluxe, 180 Standard and the 180 Custom, priced (in 1980) at $299, $375 and $449 respectively. The next cheapest Gibson guitar available in that year was the 335-S standard (solid body version of the famous Gibson ES-335) which was $499. By 1981, the Standard had been dropped in favour of the Sonex Artist, which was a lot more expensive at $749. By 1882 the Custom had been dropped also. By 1984 only the Deluxe model was left, now at $419.

Gibson Sonex Deluxe Gibson Sonex Standard Gibson Sonex Custom Gibson Sonex Artist
Gibson Sonex-180 Deluxe Gibson Sonex-180 Standard Gibson Sonex-180 Custom Gibson Sonex Artist

BODY SPECIFICATIONS The new Gibson exclusive Multi-phonic™ body construction • Single cutaway design • Adjustable chrome plated Tune-0-Matic bridge with chrome plated stop-bar tailpiece • Uniquely shaped double sided fingerrest with white revealed edge • Two high output Humbucking 3-point adjustable exposed pickups that feature one black and one cream coil • 3-position toggle switch for pickup selection (individual or both pickups simultaneously) • Attractive, efficient black speed knobs • Body size: Length 17 1/4" width 13" depth 1 3/4"

NECK SPECIFICATIONS One piece select hardwood construction • Width at fingerboard nut 1 11/16" • Rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays and corresponding side dots • Individually enclosed chrome plated machine heads • Gibson truss rod with distinctive truss rod cover • 22 frets • 24 3/4" scale length

SONEX-180 DELUXE • Ebony finish (and later Candy Apple Red, Silverburst, White, Antique Fireburst)

More about the Sonex 180 Deluxe

BODY SPECIFICATIONS The new Gibson exclusive Multi-phonic™ body construction • Single cutaway design • Adjustable chrome plated Tune-0-Matic bridge with chrome plated stop-bar tailpiece • Uniquely shaped double sided fingerrest with white revealed edge • Two high ouput Gibson "Dirty Fingers" 3-point adjustable exposed pickups that feature one cream and one black coil • 3-position toggle switch for pickup selection (individual or both pickups simultaneously) • Coil tap switch to place either humbucking pickup into a single point non-humbucking mode • Attractive, efficient black speed knobs • Body size: Length 17 1/4" width 13" depth 1 3/4"

NECK SPECIFICATIONS One piece select hardwood construction • Width at fingerboard nut 1 11/16" • Rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays and corresponding side dots • Individually enclosed chrome plated machine heads • Gibson truss rod with distinctive truss rod cover • 22 frets • 24 3/4" scale length

SONEX-180 STANDARD • Ebony finish

BODY SPECIFICATIONS The new Gibson exclusive Multi-phonic™ body construction • Single cutaway design • Adjustable chrome plated Tune-0-Matic bridge with chrome plated stop-bar tailpiece • Uniquely shaped double sided fingerrest with white revealed edge • Two high ouput Gibson "Dirty Fingers" 3-point adjustable exposed pickups that feature one cream and one black coil • 3-position toggle switch for pickup selection (individual or both pickups simultaneously) • Coil tap switch to place either humbucking pickup into a single point non-humbucking mode • Attractive, efficient black speed knobs • Body size: Length 17 1/4", width 13", depth 1 3/4"

NECK SPECIFICATIONS 3-piece solid maple construction • Width at finger board nut 1 11/16" • Ebony fingerboard with dot inlays and corresponding side dots • Individually enclosed chrome plated machine heads • Gibson truss rod with distinctive truss rod cover • 22 frets •24 3/4" scale length

SONEX-180 CUSTOM • Ebony or White finish

BODY SPECIFICATIONS Exclusive Gibson multiphonic body construction • Single Venetian cutaway • Chrome-plated new design 3 point adjustable Tune-0-Matic bridge • Chrome-plated TP-6 fine tuning stop-bar tailpiece • Black fingerrest with black/white revealed edge • Active electronics featuring compression expansion, and bright mode circuitry and two compatible humbucking pickups • 3-position toggle switch for selecting either pickup individually or both simultaneously • Master volume control • Full function cut/boost individual bass and treble controls • Three mode switches controlling On/Off function of compression, expansion, and bright modes • Black speed knobs • Chrome-plated"Posi-Lokinch strap buttons • Body size: Length 17 3/8 width 12 3/4" depth 1 3/4"

NECK SPECIFICATIONS Fixed heel, 3-piece laminated maple construction • Width at fingerboard nut 1 11/16" • Rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays • Deluxe chrome-plated machine heads • Gibson truss rod with inscribed"ARTISTinch truss rod cover • 22 frets • 24 3/4" scale length

SONEX ARTIST Candy Apple Red or Ivory finish

The following text is taken from Gibsons 1980 'Sonex by Gibson' leaflet entitled 'Only the price brings it back to earth'

You've never heard this kind of sound at this kind of price.

Gibson-Sonex™-180 is a totally new kind of guitar. The secret is in the exclusive, new Multi-phonic™ body design, featuring an incredibly durable and acoustical material colled Resonwood™. Resonwood has the weight of mahogany and the density of maple. That means you get brilliant harmonic reproduction and superior sustain never before available on on electric guitar at this low price.

Gibson multi-phonic constructionThe Sonex Multi-phonic™ body is composed of Resonwood surrounding an inner tone wood core. The tone wood core not only acts as the anchor point for the neck, it also adds acoustic resonance and exceptional body resilience. The Sonex body is so resilient, that it's structural properties survived extreme testing in temperatures ranging from 40° below to 180°F.

Sonex sustain. A very notable characteristic.

Gibson Sonex sustain, as compared to ash and laminateThe rock solid consistency of Resonwood gives the Sonex guitar incredible sustain capability. Gibson compared it to conventional ash/poplar laminate models and found there was no comparison. A Sonex Multi-phonic™ body delivered greater sustain than many guitars priced two and three times higher. And the Sonex-180 has the welght and feel of even the most expensive guitars. Pick it up. Play it.

Experience a Sonex instrument. It's unlike any guitar you've ever played.

Famous Gibson styling. Famous Gibson quality.

There are three guitar models to choose from in the Sonex Series, all with the popular Gibson single cutaway design. The Sonex-180 Deluxe features a rosewood, dot inlayed fingerboard and adjustable exposed coil high output Humbuckers™. Other Sonex-180 features include a three-position pick-up selector switch, Tune-0-Matic Bridge', stop bar tailpiece and volume/tone control speed knobs.

In addition to all the features offered on the Deluxe guitar, the Sonex Standard and Custom models feature famous Gibson 'Dirty Fingers' pickups, plus a coil top switch for even more versatility. And to really enhance your payability, the Custom has a three-piece maple neck and ebony fingerboard. The Sonex-180 Custom is also available in a striking white finish, as well as ebony.

Unlike comparably priced guitars, the Gibson Sonex series is made in the U.S., and is backed by a one year, limited warranty on all parts and labor. What's more, Sonex is backed by the strongest service center network in the industry.

Gibson guitars have shared the stage with some of the greatest rock names on earth. But never on earth has there been a Gibson guitar like the Sonex series. Designed for the future. But priced like time stood still.


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Gibson Sonex for sale


US ebay listings

Gibson Sonex Deluxe 180 Deluxe Rare Color ohsc and tags

Current price: $529.00
buy it now
Time left: 19h 59m
Rare 1983 Left-Handed Gibson Sonex-180 Deluxe Guitar (Black)

Current price: $895.00
buy it now
Time left: 1d 23h 2m
1981 Gibson Sonex 180 Custom electric guitar vintage Velvet Brick Humbuckers

Current price: $799.00
buy it now
Time left: 25d 5h 55m
1983 Gibson Sonex 180

Current price: $1000.00
buy it now
Time left: 28d 22h 53m
USED GIBSON SONEX 180 CUSTOM VINTAGE WHITE

Current price: $899.99
buy it now
Time left: 23d 21h 54m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe SER # 80441698

Current price: $899.99
buy it now
Time left: 12d 15h 22m
VINTAGE 1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE & CASE !!!

Current price: $848.50
buy it now
Time left: 2d 1h 26m
Vintage Gibson (Logo) Neck Plate / S-1, L6-S, Sonex, Marauder ? ? ?

Current price: $25.00
buy it now
Time left: 2d 6h 40m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe "Velvet Brick" Humbucking Pickup #2

Current price: $45.00
buy it now
Time left: 17d 23h 5m
1981 Gibson Sonex Custom Body- Original for Standard Deluxe 180 Made in USA

Current price: $99.99
buy it now
Time left: 7d 6h 58m
VINTAGE 1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE & CASE !!!

Current price: $848.50
buy it now
Time left: 11d 2h 53m
1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE EBONY VELVET HAMMER ZEBRA COILS FREE US SHIPPING!

Current price: $799.00
buy it now
Time left: 6d 54m
See more results on eBay here


UK ebay listings

Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe Guitar in Sunburst yellow bundle with amplifier

Current price: £400.00
buy it now
Time left: 9d 14h 49m
USED GIBSON SONEX 180 CUSTOM VINTAGE WHITE

Current price: £575.26
buy it now
Time left: 23d 21h 54m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe SER # 80441698

Current price: £575.26
buy it now
Time left: 12d 15h 22m
VINTAGE 1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE & CASE !!!

Current price: £542.35
buy it now
Time left: 2d 1h 26m
1983 Gibson Sonex 180

Current price: £639.18
buy it now
Time left: 28d 22h 53m
1981 Gibson Sonex 180 Custom electric guitar vintage Velvet Brick Humbuckers

Current price: £510.71
buy it now
Time left: 25d 5h 55m
Holiday Sale! Gibson Sonex 1982 Silverburst w/ original case

Current price: £382.87
buy it now
Time left: 9d 16h 15m
VINTAGE 1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE & CASE !!!

Current price: £542.35
buy it now
Time left: 11d 2h 53m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe "Velvet Brick" Humbucking Pickup #2

Current price: £28.76
buy it now
Time left: 17d 23h 5m
1981 Gibson Sonex Custom Body- Original for Standard Deluxe 180 Made in USA

Current price: £63.91
buy it now
Time left: 7d 6h 58m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe Wiring Harness

Current price: £19.18
buy it now
Time left: 17d 20h 39m
1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE EBONY VELVET HAMMER ZEBRA COILS FREE US SHIPPING!

Current price: £510.71
buy it now
Time left: 6d 54m
See more results on eBay here


German ebay listings

GIBSON les paul Sonex...1980 real Vintage

Current price: €666.00
buy it now
Time left: 5d 21h 31m
SONEX® GENUINE 80-84' BLACK PG f.GIBSON® 3PLY BWB PICKGUARD USA HANDMADE QUALITY

Current price: €38.50
buy it now
Time left: 21d 16h 35m
See more results on eBay here

There are 8 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
Lyndon Comment left 18th November 2011 14:02:08
I have a Sonex Custom for 20 years. Great guitar. It's finished in candy apple red - not one of the colours listed for this model. It has the coil tap switch, etc., and says 'Custom'. No sign of the neck having been changed. Any thoughts?
Jim Comment left 6th December 2011 18:06:40
I have the same one with an orginal case bought from Speno's Music in Auburn, NY in the summer of 1981. I have played this guitar and LOVE it. Heavey yes but the sustain is better than any other guitar that you can buy today. Jim
Chris Chandler Comment left 27th December 2011 09:09:12
"NECK SPECIFICATIONS One piece select hardwood construction" Really? Even the headstock? Are you completely sure. Completely? When the headstock on my 1983 Sonex snapped off it was anything But wood! It was white composite material. The only wood on that neck was the fretboard and the nickel sized bit of mahogany around the trussrod. The rest was pure composite. So this specification is either wrong or was mysteriously changed over time.
vintage guitar and bass Comment left 27th December 2011 10:10:52
Hi Chris - thanks for your interesting comment. The descriptions above are Gibsons official specifications circa 1981. Gibson always put something along the line of 'we reserve the right to change specifications at any time'. So how many are wood vs resin is hard to know. The resin never really took off, so it may be just a small-scale trial, or more widespread in later Sonex's. What model Sonex was yours? Could you send pictures to me? see http://www.vintageguitarandbass.com/contact.php for my email address
Andy Comment left 3rd June 2012 20:08:51
My 1979 Sonex 180 Standard definitely has a real wood neck, my guts say mahogan based on the grain visible on the edges of the neck from over 32 years of Sabbath and AC/DC tunes, played both man and pimply youth, heavy as a laden mule but I'm still to find a lower, sweeter action than I somehow ended up with on this thing. Now I'm an old git I play it less as the weight gets to my Parkinson's affected neck, but it still holds fantastic tone and sustain for a bolt-on, very metal in the pre-thrash/death sense of the word.
jimelomany Comment left 8th July 2012 15:03:38
Whats a ballpark value for a sonex artist? They seem pretty rare compared to the other models. I find them pretty intriguing really
Sandy Howitt Comment left 7th June 2014 10:10:13
Value my guitar please. It's Sonex built in Nashville August 2008. Serial number 82260664 Thank you
vintageguitarandbass Comment left 24th October 2014 21:09:17
Hi Sandy that serial number is from August 1980 - I guess you mistyped? The value will depend on the model of Sonex, condition, where you are selling it etc. Typically $400 - $800

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