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Not a Gibson, but here's a review of a new Epiphone Olympic


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Here's a recording and review that I had put on the Gibson Acoustic and Epiphone Acoustic forums of my new Epiphone Olympic archtop...that I thought I would share with the Archtop section of the forum.


The new Olympic is a mass produced (in Indonesia) acoustic-electric archtop that pays homage to the original handcarved Olympic by the former New York Epiphone Company (prior to Gibson buying Epiphone.) Its good to see Epiphone revisiting its original heritage by issuing the new Olympic.



I've had the guitar 3 weeks now and wrote the review when I had it only 8 days. But,in those 8 days, I used the Olympic electric at a 4 hour gig, plus, I has played it acoustic at a songcircle that had at least 8 flat-top guitars also playing at the same time, plus, I also played it both electric and acoustic at a songwriter showcase where I solo played 3 songs.


Right after my review is a sound recording of my Olympic I put on YouTube this past week. The recording is of it unplugged.


The review:


First, the Masterbilt Century Olympic shouldn't be considered a guitar just for anybody. Archtop guitars have a expected mid-range sound that does not sound like a fuller sonic spectrum flat-top guitar. If you have a full or thin body hollow body electric guitar with standard pickups attached to it (which mute the sound when it is played acoustic)...this guitar is for you. Though the Olympic has a pickup in it, its inside the guitar (so there is no acoustic muting) with a thig a mah jig that runs into the archtop's adjustable bridge...so though the guitar can fully be played plugged-in electric, it can also fully function as an acoustic. Very cool.


Plugged in, it sounds just fine. It can be made to be mellow like a jazzy hollow body or it can be turned to a higher treble to sound less jazzy and more hard hitting. The tone and volume controls are accessible through the bottom F hole...and, of course the electric sound can also be controlled through the amp. At my 4 hour gig, I ran it through an old 10w Kalamazoo Amp with the amp's tone at 4 (on a scale of 10) and the am volume at 6 (on a scale of 10). The sound was great. (At home I tried it through my 50W UltraSound acoustic amp and it had tones of power to it, plus the tone could be adjusted to an entire spectrum. (Note: I only ran it through my old Kalamazoo amp at my gig because all summer long I'd been running my other guitars through my UltraSound amp and simply wanted a different feel this particular gig. In the future, I will likely run it through my UltraSound amp like I usually do with at gigs.)


At my gig, I had one person come up to me and tell me they loved my vintage Epiphone guitar. I was in the middle of a song so I couldn't explain to him that the guitar was new and a replica. I also had another person come up to me during a break and tell me out of the blue they loved my guitar. I mention this because I have noticed a pattern when I gig. When I play my Gibsons, folks come up to me or walk by and tell me how they love my guitar, but when I play one of my other non-Gibson guitars at a gig, no one ever says anything to me about the guitar I am playing. So, this was exceptional...people commenting about my Epiphone! So, it definitely has a perceived coolness factor. Very cool.


Now...at the songcircle I played at, I played soley acoustic. Because the Olympic is an archtop, it has a different EQ than a flat-top guitar. So, the Olympic definitely cut through all of the other flat-tops (about 8) when everyone was playing together or when I did an instrumental solo jamming to the music.


That different EQ can be perceived as some as greater volume...but its really just a different EQ than a flat-top. I say this because I have a 1936 Epiphone Zenith (not a replica) and that larger guitar is super loud and has a different EQ than a flat-top, too. The larger vintage Zenith is also 80 years older and is a handcarved guitar.

To be honest, the vintage Zenith I have is in mine and just about everyone else who has heard it...is too loud. At jams, it not only cuts through every other guitar, it also is super louder than the other guitars.


So, I decided that I did not want to buy one of the Masterbilt Century series archtops that was or could become way too loud. I wanted a smaller, potentially more comfortable feeling archtop than my larger 1936 Zenith)and that had a different EQ than my flat-tops,,,but would not be super loud. The new Olympic meets that criteria. It cuts through flat-tops, has an archtop sound and EQ that makes it seem loud, but is not super loud.


Now, when I played the 3 songs at the songwriter showcase I mentioned, the sound person recommended I not plug in on my third song like I did on my first 2 songs...but, instead just use the standing mic that was there...he said let's try it through a standing mic because it sound like it might be loud enough without being plugged in like all the other flat-top players did. I said sure...and sure enough it was fine just being in front of mic.


Now, about the neck. When I first tried the guitar at Sam Ash a week or so ago...I was stunned at how large the neck seemed. It was much larger than my 1936 Zenith's neck. Or, any of my flat-tops. But by the middle of the first song I tried on it at Sam Ash, I was totally comfortable with its larger neck because it was really comfortable to play in first positions on the neck as well as up and down the neck up to the 15th fret. (I fingerpick and play mostly melodic music utilizing all positions on a guitar's neck.) So, I was and am fine with the thicker neck it has...but, some might be scared off by it. But, I suggest to give it a chance. Its fine.

The fretboard radius is also really good, though I couldn't tell you what it is in terms of mm or inches. The action is great too...plus, having an archtop adjustable bridge, ya can change the action any time ya feel like it. (But, beware....you may have to reposition the floating bridge to get proper intonation at the 12th fret if you do. That's just part of an archtop.


Here's more. I thought I would buy the Olympic just to have an archtop that I could actually bring out of the house. My 1936 Zenith is starting to really age (its binding is shrinking). My 1958-60 Silvertone archtop is still playable and plays fine, but its sides lately has started to separate from the top a bit when I bring it out into the Midwestern cold to play it at jams. I have a 1933 Kaykraft archtop that plays well but looks so strange with its curly cello head stock that I don't dare bring it out. Plus, it is much more versatile acoustically than my thin-line 1965 Gibson 125TC archtop. The Olympic is perfect for playing an archtop in the house as well as out of the house. Plus, it plays really well, has a coolness factor...and, I think is better built and better playing than I thought it would be...to the point of I might do a number of my future gigs with it rather than with my Gibson J-45 that I usually gig with (or than with my Gibson 125TC when I feel like gigging with a plugged in archtop


....I chose the honey burst finish for the Olympic I purchased because it fits in with some of the other honey burst or faded cherry sunburst guitars in my collection. And, it was different than my 1936 Zenith's tobacco sunburst finish...for some variety.


Was their price bargaining in my purchase? Yep, although I had to do it creatively. Sam Ash had a used Sigma by Martin dreadnaught in their store, so though they couldn't lower the price on the Olympic, they were fine with giving me the Sigma for free with my Olympic purchase at my request...for a pretty cool knock-around/beach guitar that looks like a Martin, but isn't, but plays like its solid wooded none-the-less (I'll never know, I guess).


Hope y'all enjoyed my Olympic review and that its helpful.


Click below link for the sound recording of my Olympic I put on YouTube last week. I'm playing a jazzy version of Tequila on the guitar in the video. Photos are in the video of me playing it.


Hope you enjoy! All comments welcome!



QM aka "Jazzman" Jeff

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  • 3 years later...

Very helpful review, the description of the neck especially so as I require a smaller neck. Thus I must cross this one off my list, but appreciate the details given. I sure wish Gibson would do a modern reissue of either the ES 125T 3/4 with the small neck, or the ES 140 3/4 with the neck about 1 & 1/2 at the nut. An old injury necessitates such for me. The largest I can handle now is 1 & 5/8 width at the nut. But that's my problem, although I bet others have similar needs in a small arch-top. I must say this Olympic sounds great for the price.

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