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Archtop Acoustics


RevDavidLee

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I'm going to post a photo of a Gibson L7-C just as an example but I'll conclude from the start that it's way more than I want to spend. I'm just curious to hear your suggestions on what is the best bang for the buck tone wise, woods & appearance wise that you own or used to own or have stumbled across in your travels. I'm really jonesing for a dark wood archtop acoustic lately but the caveat is that I want to spend under a grand. I may be wishing for too much for too little money but with all the pickers in here I'm hopeful someone will steer me into one that will thrill me. Thanks in advance for your time!

 

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Best bang for the buck would probably be the Godin 5th Ave. I went through an archtop pahse about 20 years ago. had some beautiful Epiphones (an acoustic Deluxe and a Zephy Deluxe Regent). Recently saw a few L-5s (at the Gibson display at the World of Bluegrass in Raleigh of all places). They were stunning and got me jonesing for a Gibson archtop again!

 

 

I'm going to post a photo of a Gibson L7-C just as an example but I'll conclude from the start that it's way more than I want to spend. I'm just curious to hear your suggestions on what is the best bang for the buck tone wise, woods & appearance wise that you own or used to own or have stumbled across in your travels. I'm really jonesing for a dark wood archtop acoustic lately but the caveat is that I want to spend under a grand. I may be wishing for too much for too little money but with all the pickers in here I'm hopeful someone will steer me into one that will thrill me. Thanks in advance for your time!

 

ed0b7c28-211e-4c8e-864f-1cfc7bfa9f57.jpg

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The Gretsch, Godin and Loar all look and sound good. The Loar is meant to be made with solid woods to my knowledge, whereas the Gretsch & Godin are solid top/ laminate back and sides if I recall correctly.

 

Have you thought of the used market? You can find good deals on Gibson L-48/ L-50's. Here's a '57 L-48 for $1199; http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1957-Gibson-L-48-Archtop-Maple-Mahogany-Acoustic-Guitar-w-Case-/221896431225?hash=item33aa0ed679

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I've had a Godin 5th Avenue for a few years and it is IMO superb...MIC...Canada... [thumbup]

 

There are a lot of badged Oriental boxes out there...

 

Mrs V and I do strongly suspect they are all made in the same factory... [biggrin]

 

Eastman is a highly respected purveyor of carved solid archtops...MIC...China....

 

Most things are electric nowadays.... :blink:

 

So a hollow electric archtop is perhaps an option

 

Enjoy... [thumbup]

 

Mr and Mrs V

 

:-({|=

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Guild A-150 Savoy.

New "Newark St." reissue,

based on early original Guild design.

 

> Solid spruce X-braced archtop.

> Laminated flame maple back & sides.

> Mahogany/maple/mahogany neck.

> 24-3/4" scale fingerboard, block inlays.

> Floating DeArmond single-coil pickup.

> Natural or sunburst finishes.

> Made in Korea - comes w/case.

 

Check out Sweetwater & Amazon.

Typical street price is $1150.

Money well spent, imho.

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I'd say your first decision is whether to hunt down a 16" or a 17" body model. I have both and can tell you there is a MAJOR difference in sound. In simple terms I'd call the 16" a blues machine, and the 17" a jazzbox.

 

The next thing I would consider is the differences between a carved top and a plywood top. This is the eternal debate among archtop players. For a new guitar in your price range you'll definitely be in the plywood category, but there may be some used carved top models out there at that price point.

 

Then there is the cutaway/non-cutaway choice. This is really a playing style question. Do you often play high on the neck? a full bodied non-cutaway archtop is a whole hand reach-around to access the upper register, not just a thumb spread.

 

Which brings me to body depth. For the "real" archtop sound, you need a 3 1/2" to 4" body depth. Many makers offer "thinline" archtops, and they sound just that way,.... THIN. Especially in a all acoustic instrument, deeper is better.

 

Think about the questions above and then shop for a guitar that meets your requirements and price range. I've seen some VERY nice, reasonably priced Asian built archtops.

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I have been trying to make peace with f-hole archtops for 55 some odd years. Last one somebody dropped off for me to goof around with was a 1930s Gibson L-12. I just cannot warm up to them, especially the high end. What I did manage to learn is that 13 gauge strings are a necessity. Never tried an archtop that was not improved by throwing on some heavier gauge strings. I do like round soundhole archtops though.

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Have you thought of the used market? You can find good deals on Gibson L-48/ L-50's. Here's a '57 L-48 for $1199; http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1957-Gibson-L-48-Archtop-Maple-Mahogany-Acoustic-Guitar-w-Case-/221896431225?hash=item33aa0ed679

My 2 cents.

 

For "bang for buck", used Gibson archtops are LOW these days. You can get a real L-7c for less than the reissue you posted in the first post (not that the reissue isn't "real" or "good").

 

Just a thought: if you double that 1k you want to spend, and perhaps spend 2k, the quality you can get is LITERALLY that of a 5-10k guitar. They just can't build them for that cheap, and they don't try because the used market is so flooded with them. And those that are built, are toward the very high-end, the "flagship" models.

 

Many vintage Gibson archtops that are lower in the product line are, in my opinion, the same quality as the high-end models. Given same specs, obviously.

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Wow! Leave for a few hours and look at all the responses! Thanks very much everyone! I have a lot to check out now thanks to all of you.

 

No cutaway wanted on this one - I don't need to hit the top frets with what I want to do with this one. A 16 inch bottom is what I'm looking for and certainly do not want a thin body as I am looking for that deeper bottom fuller sounding tone. I've been scanning Reverb, Ebay and Craigslist and I've got a lot of reading to do on the other models people have suggested here. And that is exactly what I wanted - thank you everyone! I will keep you posted [thumbup]

 

I love this place! :)

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When I went on the hunt for an acoustic archtop I was surprised how many great sounding vintage guitars were available for within my $1500 budget: the winner was a lowly '40s Epiphone Blackstone with a stripped top for well under a grand, with second place going to a Gibson made Recording King which looked gorgeous but couldn't quite match the Epi for tone. The Blackstone came from Emerald City in Seattle, who were kind enough to let me compare with a beautiful '30s Gibson L-12 and the Blackstone aquitted itself extremely well against the Gibson.

 

Student grade archtops seem to vary a lot in quality and I've played a good number I've really not liked, but the good news is a huge number were made in that era, they're not heavily in demand so the prices are very reasonable and there are good instruments out there if you look. I would certainly recommend investigating Epiphones and the Gibson budget brand guitars (Recording King, Kalamazoo and so on) from the 30s and 40s.

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I own two vintage Epiphones, a '38 Broadway and a '39 Zenith. They are both marvelous guitars, excellent for swing style comping. But they both needed work when I got them. Often, when I do see a vintage archtop in my area( central New England), it either needs work, or the setup is bad. I did play a Loar 700(very nice) and a 300( not bad for the money).

 

The old Epiphones are great, if you can find one in good shape( or pay little, then get it fixed up).

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If you look at the picture to the left in my avatar - 1935 Gibson L50 Black Special #4, I think the long name is...it is more than your proclaimed budget but at Elderly they have a sister guitar with scribbles over the top and they have been asking $2K for it and ir has been listed there for absolutely years and years and years.

 

I would make a cheeky offer or 2 and you could arrive at a good deal and whoever consigned it to Elderly would be real glad to lose it! My guess.

 

If it sounds like mine, and it should, ignore the scribbly bits and think of the stories you can tell ....and you will have a vintage Gibson.

 

 

I have played some of the others mentioned and even own a Godin 5th Ave.....but they don't and can't sound like a vintage Gibson [tongue]

 

 

(I got a Schatten ebony bridge with a pickup and lead that does not alter the guitar- more joyousness!!)

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

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The old Epiphones are great, if you can find one in good shape (or pay little, then get it fixed up).

 

Went to dinner last night at a local restaurant that has live music on the weekends. A guy came in with a case that obviously had an old archtop. Turns out that night it was a guitar/trumpet duet...playing old swing standards. Guitar player had a '49 Epiphone Emperor (straight acoustic). Trumpet player had a muted old trumpet. Guitar player chopped chords four to a bar...just the way those old guitars were meant to be played.

 

What a joy to listen to those guys (plus had a wonderful birthday dinner for my wife.) All our kids were there too. Nice evening with a cool old guitar.

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Went to dinner last night at a local restaurant that has live music on the weekends. A guy came in with a case that obviously had an old archtop. Turns out that night it was a guitar/trumpet duet...playing old swing standards. Guitar player had a '49 Epiphone Emperor (straight acoustic). Trumpet player had a muted old trumpet. Guitar player chopped chords four to a bar...just the way those old guitars were meant to be played.

 

 

You've hit the nail on the head here. If you try to play an archtop the way you play a flat top, you will probably end up disappointed. Generally, archtops have a quick decay, and lack the overtones and sustain we expect in a flat top.

 

But they are great rhythm instruments, particularly for playing chopped, jazzy chords. They make a pretty good lead instrument when flat-picked hard, like David Rawlings does.

 

It all changed, of course, when they started adding pickups to archtops, at which point they became completely different animals.

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I've had both the Godin 5th Avenue and the Loar LH600. Both spent far too much time in their cases - both have now moved on. I just could not get my ear attuned to the archtop sound after playing a flat top for years - even though I really wanted to dabble with jazz.

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