There are few guitars as important to the history and development of Gibson as a major manufacturer of six-stringed instruments as the Super 400 and Super 400-CES. The model first appeared in 1934 as an archtop acoustic with no cutaway, simply named the Super 400. As it was then – and still remains today in the Super 400-CES – the Super 400 was the largest guitar the company had ever produced, with an astounding body width of 18 inches. But as Gibson has evolved over the years to adapt to the industry’s ever-changing advancements, so have its Super 400s. The earliest Super 400 models were quite similar to Gibson’s other archtop acoustic, the L-5, and featured a hand-engraved tailpiece and hand-engraved finger rest support, along with an “L-5 Super” truss rod cover. In 1939, the guitar underwent several changes that still remain with it today, including an enlarged upper bout, a new tailpiece similar to the one on the L-5, enlarged f-holes and a venetian cutaway option that is now a standard feature. Although the Super 400s were discontinued during the mid-1940s because of the supply shortages of WWII, Gibson reintroduced the model in 1949. And as Gibson strived to gain an upper hand in the electric guitar market in the early 1950s, the model continued to progress with the eventual introduction of the first electric version.
The First Super 400s
The Super 400-CES of 1951 featured a pair of Gibson’s legendary P-90 single coil pickups, and while a few Super 400s had been previously custom ordered with the P-90s, the new model was the first dual-pickup production model in the Gibson line, equipped with individual volume and tone controls for each pickup and a three-way toggle switch for switching between pickups. The next significant changes occurred in two years later when the model was upgraded with two of Gibson’s Alnico pickups, although a few continued to be produced with the original P-90s until the stock was depleted. Gibson’s revolutionary Tune-o-matic bridge also made its first appearance on the Super 400-CES in 1953.
Today's Super 400-CES Gibson’s pioneering humbucker pickups, which were also being fitted on the ES-175 and Les Paul Goldtop models, began to appear in earnest on the Super 400-CES in November of 1957. And while several subtle changes were made to the model during the mid-1960s, the Super 400-CES model of the late 1950s is the one faithfully recreated today by the skilled craftsmen of Gibson Custom. The body of the Super 400-CES remains the largest produced by Gibson today, with the following dimensions: 18 (W) X 21¾ (L) X 3⅜ (D). Its top is crafted from high-grade spruce, with high-grade maple used for the back and sides. The body is then adorned with multi-ply black and white binding on both the top and back, with single-ply white binding around the f-holes. The gold hardware includes an ABR-1 bridge with a base made from ebony, and Gibson’s period-correct L-5 tailpiece. The 25½-inch scale length neck is a five-piece neck made primarily from high-grade maple, with two streamers made from high-grade walnut, resulting in one of the most stunning neck designs in the history of Gibson Custom.
The eye-catching neck is topped by a 20-fret ebony fingerboard with pearl block inlays and multi-ply black and white binding, then hand-fitted with Gibson’s traditional ES-rounded neck profile. The pickups are a pair of Gibson’s legendary ’57 Classics, which faithfully capture the unique and subtle variations between coil windings of the original “Patent Applied For” humbuckers of the late 1950s, delivering a warm and full tone with a balanced response. Other appointments include Gibson’s traditional five-piece split diamond motif inlay on the headstock and Schaller M6 tuners. The guitar is available in Vintage Sunburst and Natural finishes, just as they were offered in 1959. They also come with a Gibson Custom case and certificate of authenticity.