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Gibson Sonex Guitar

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

Gibson Sonex logo

The entry level solid body guitars being produced by Gibson in the 1970s such as the Melody Maker, Marauder and S-1 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 innovative new Sonex series. The Sonex took the styling of a Les Paul, but married it with innovative new construction that had "brilliant harmonic reproduction and superior sustain" yet was considerably less expensive to produce.

...capable of creating tonal qualities very similar to those found in our top of the line wood bodied instruments. For example the maple/mahogany combination used in our Les Paul guitars.

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 (maple) core are clearly visable
1980 Gibson Sonex owners manual The Sonex Deluxe, Standard and Custom were described in the 1980 Sonex owners manual, giving details of the electronics and their operation, aswell as care of the guitar in general

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; "a product that will be heralded for years in the future as a first" and one that was "astounding players" with it's "extraordinary sustain and harmonic reproduction" 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 maple core.

1980 Gibson guitar, bass and banjo catalogue
1981 Sonex pre-owners manual

There were three models available initially, the Sonex-180 Deluxe, Sonex-180 Standard and the Sonex-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. In comparison, the Les Paul Standard was $849 at this time.

All three Sonex models were listed in the 1980 Gibson catalogue, but by 1981, the Standard had been dropped, being replaced by a short lived and barely known model, the GGC 700. Theoretically this was not a Sonex as it had a mahogany (rather than Resonwood/maple) body - but in all other ways it was identical to the Sonex-180 Standard (including headstock branding, pickups and circuitry), and it was listed as such in the one price list it was included in (January 1982). Another Sonex, first priced in this list, was the Sonex Artist with active electronics, and a set (glued) neck, which was a lot more expensive than the other models at $799 - see the 1981 Gibson Sonex pre-owners 'manual'. It was an extension of the Artist range of guitars with Moog expansion and compression circuitry, first developed for the RD Artist in the mid 1970s.

By the price list of June 1982 the Custom and GGC 700 had been dropped. No Sonex guitars were listed in the 1983 Gibson catalogue, and by 1984 only the Deluxe model was included in price lists, now at $419, in fact the final inclusion of any Sonex model in a US price list.

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 • Semi gloss Ebony finish (later White, Silver, and several high gloss finishes Candy Apple Red, Silverburst, Antique Fireburst and Electric Blue)

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 (later Candy Apple Red)

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 "ARTIST" truss rod cover • 22 frets • 24 3/4" scale length

SONEX ARTIST Candy Apple Red, Silverburst 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.


Back to the GIBSON INDEX | comment



Gibson Sonex for sale


US ebay listings

Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe White Vintage Electric Guitar Local Pick Up San Diego

Current price: $350.00
buy it now
Time left: 10d 6h 49m
GIBSON 1982 SONEX-180 DELUXE USA CANDY APPLE RED NEW ROAD RUNNER BAG VINTAGE

Current price: $799.00
buy it now
Time left: 22d 10h 23m
1981 Gibson Sonex 180 Custom Electric Guitar - Vintage USA Right Handed Six

Current price: $629.87
buy it now
Time left: 7d 3h 56m
1982 Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe Electric Guitar - Sunburst w/ Case

Current price: $759.99
buy it now
Time left: 21d 17h 54m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe SER # 80441698

Current price: $899.99
buy it now
Time left: 28d 23h 8m
VINTAGE 1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE & CASE !!! Velvet Brick-Pickups !!!

Current price: $748.50
buy it now
Time left: 10d 16h 48m
Gibson Sonex 180 Custom 1980's Candy Apple Red *Hairline Cracks in Neck*

Current price: $549.00
buy it now
Time left: 27d 13h 41m
1981 Gibson Sonex 180 Custom electric guitar vintage Velvet Brick Humbuckers

Current price: $1499.00
buy it now
Time left: 20d 6h 18m
Gibson Sonex 180 Custom Electric Guitar

Current price: $500.00

Time left: 5d 9h 3m
1981 Gibson Sonex Custom Body- Original for Standard Deluxe 180 Made in USA

Current price: $99.99
buy it now
Time left: 7d 8h 7m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe Bridge Zebra Humbucker Pickup 1980

Current price: $62.32
buy it now
Time left: 8d 4h 35m
1980 GIBSON SONEX GUITAR ZEBRA HUMBUCKER NECK PICKUP 8.03K 1981 1982 1983

Current price: $125.00
buy it now
Time left: 24d 5h 23m
See more results on eBay here


UK ebay listings

Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe 1982 Vintage Guitar

Current price: £495.00
buy it now
Time left: 7d 20h 32m
1980 Vintage Gibson Sonex 180 Custom (Les Paul Jr, Junior, Special, Melody Maker

Current price: £375.00

Time left: 1d 8h 24m
Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe SER # 80441698

Current price: £586.18
buy it now
Time left: 28d 23h 8m
Gibson Sonex 180 Custom 1980's Candy Apple Red *Hairline Cracks in Neck*

Current price: £357.57
buy it now
Time left: 27d 13h 41m
1981 Gibson Sonex 180 Custom Electric Guitar - Vintage USA Right Handed Six

Current price: £410.25
buy it now
Time left: 7d 3h 56m
VINTAGE 1981 GIBSON SONEX 180 DELUXE & CASE !!! Velvet Brick-Pickups !!!

Current price: £487.51
buy it now
Time left: 10d 16h 48m
1981 Gibson Sonex 180 Custom electric guitar vintage Velvet Brick Humbuckers

Current price: £976.32
buy it now
Time left: 20d 6h 18m
GIBSON 1982 SONEX-180 DELUXE USA CANDY APPLE RED NEW ROAD RUNNER BAG VINTAGE

Current price: £520.40
buy it now
Time left: 22d 10h 23m
1981 Gibson Sonex Custom Body- Original for Standard Deluxe 180 Made in USA

Current price: £65.13
buy it now
Time left: 7d 8h 7m
1980 GIBSON SONEX GUITAR ZEBRA HUMBUCKER NECK PICKUP 8.03K 1981 1982 1983

Current price: £81.41
buy it now
Time left: 24d 5h 23m
1980 GIBSON SONEX GUITAR HUMBUCKER NECK PICKUP SURROUND RING 1981 1982 1983 1984

Current price: £18.89
buy it now
Time left: 24d 2h 36m
Set of 1980s Gibson USA Speed Knobs For GGC-700 SG L6S Les Paul Sonex Challenge

Current price: £25.39
buy it now
Time left: 2d 9h 3m
See more results on eBay here


German ebay listings

Gibson Les Paul GGC-700 Made in USA 1982 - Seriennummer 80642593

Current price: €520.00
buy it now
Time left: 1d 3h 3m
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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