Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Archtop Vs Flat Top Acoustic Price Difference


Recommended Posts

Perhaps a dumb question, but why is it that Gibson flat top acoustics made with solid woods are so much cheaper than solid wood archtops?


Obviously there is more involved in producing carved top jazz box than a flat top acoustic, but does it really justify such a massive price difference? I always wondered about this and if you look at the top of the line J200 acoustic VS the Super 400, we're talking thousands of pounds/ dollars difference. Why is this?


Any suggestions?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My gut feeling is that the price difference is mystique and marketing. Not how easy or difficult a particular instrument is to make. Gibson tells us the solid archtops are unique and special then they charge us a higher mark-up on a limited number of guitars. The high volume of sales of flat tops probably allows them to make as much money as they can at a much lower profit margin per unit of production or per guitar.


At least, that's how I see it.

I'm sure somebody else will chime in.


Here is an example of price variations from Martin Guitars. The technical specs of their HD-28 and their D-45 are almost identical. Martin charges 3 x more for the D-45. All the separates it from the HD-28 is a whole lot of mother of pearl inlay.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A REAL archtop is one of the most complicated and time consuming guitars to make.


In just considering the top, it is carved out, not pressed. That basically means the arch is shaped from a thicker piece of wood, both from the top and the bottom of the piece.


Any bracing, whether X or parallel, is carved to fit the contour of the inside.


The neck joint then has a raised section that joins the fretbaord to the top that involves some fitting.


Sinse there is so much more work, it also means more chances to either make junk or make quality. Just like a flat top can get real expensive because of the care and effort put into it to make it "better" than average, so it is with archtops. But there is more cost to multiply.


It's one of the reasons I believe that prices go up and down so drastically at times (over years or months). It does actually cost a good sum to build them, and if they can't sell at a good price, they don't make them. Cutting down on trim don't make them all that much cheaper.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From a 1974/75 "Custom Order & Electric Acoustic Series" sales brochure:


"It takes Gibson 90 days to assemble, finish and adjust one electric acoustic guitar. The top is hand carved to exacting specifications and the f holes are carefully calibrated. The neck is laminated with the wood grains running in opposite directions for maximum strength. And, while modern, fast-drying adhesives are available, Gibson still relies on the time tested adhesives that require multiple body binding while they set."


To add to what has been stated by above, and by others, the bridge base also has to be custom contoured to the curve of each soundboard. Plus, think about all the ornamental binding on an L-5; 7-ply on the top, 5-ply on the headstock AND pickguard, 3-ply on the back, not to mention the heel-cap. Oh, and I almost forgot the 5-ply binding on the FINGERBOARD, including wrapping around the end point. I can't even imagine the time, skill and care it takes to glue all this up and trim it out.


And don't forget the GOLD plated hardware, gold isn't cheap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...