1954 Vega E-400

Discussion in '"Vintage" Instruments' started by nmiller, Jan 10, 2018 at 7:48 PM.


  1. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels

    Messages:
    5,259
    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Location:
    Rocky Hill, CT
    Vega was one of the top instrument builders of the first half of the 20th century, turning out some of the finest guitars, banjos and mandolins of the era. They were a pioneer in the field of electrification back in the 1930s, though their electric instruments lost ground as time went on. The overall quality of the instruments remained high until the 1950s, when the company began its slow, terminal decline. This guitar was built about 1954 (following the pot codes), and it shows a top builder just starting to derail.

    [​IMG]

    The Duo-Tron series were introduced by 1949. The name indicated guitars that could be used either as acoustics or electrics, thanks to their carved tops and floating pickups. By 1954, most of them had been redesigned with laminated tops, though the acoustic properties were still touted in catalogs. Since acoustic archtops were rapidly waning in popularity, this made some sense at the time. The cutaway Duo-Trons were available with one, two or three pickups, in shaded or natural finish, with chrome or gold hardware. This is an E-400, a dual-pickup guitar in sunburst and chrome.

    [​IMG]

    The floating pickup design actually works quite well, but it looks awkward and clunky compared to something like Gibson's McCarty unit. The all-laminated-maple body does produce a good amount of volume unplugged, but the real treat is clearly the variety of sounds available from the two enormous single-coil pickups. My own dissection of one strongly suggests that they were built by Franz, the same company that built pickups for United, Guild, and later Vega models. The suspended control box has volume controls for each pickup plus a master tone control.

    [​IMG]

    The guitar needed some wiring help, which was just completed by my local tech. The pots were beyond redemption and have been replaced, and at my request he jumpered a resistor that previously turned the neck pickup to mud. He also replaced the original screw-on jack with a conventional 1/4". Otherwise, the guitar is all original and pretty clean. Aside from the pickups suspended on Forrest Gump's leg braces, the one big off-kilter feature is the finish. The burst - which is not typical of a mid '50s Vega - is so oddly shaped on the top that it surrounds both f-holes. The edge of the coloration along the neck binding is also quite uneven, as if the finisher were new to the job and/or drunk. I'm guessing he was relieved of duty before the back was finished.

    [​IMG]

    There's a little bit of a hump in the uppermost frets that needs to be shaved down so that the action can be perfect, but otherwise it plays very well. The sound is big and full, with a good amount of output on the bridge and some amp-melting sounds coming from the neck. I needed another electric archtop like a hole in the head, but hey, it's a great find for a Vega fanatic like me.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Non-Musical Hack

    Non-Musical Hack Member

    Messages:
    293
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2016
    Location:
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Can you give us some sound clips?

    I'd love to hear that guitar/amp combo.
     
    DBBlues likes this.
  3. treeofpain

    treeofpain Supporting Member

    Messages:
    6,201
    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Location:
    Columbia, SC
    These old Vega amps sound killer and look pretty cool as well.
     
    DBBlues likes this.
  4. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels

    Messages:
    5,259
    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Location:
    Rocky Hill, CT
  5. ELmiguel

    ELmiguel Member

    Messages:
    2,561
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2013
    Location:
    East Coast of USA
    My Vega Lap Steel from the 1940's is my favorite, has a big pedal steel 3D sound

    [​IMG]
     
    DBBlues likes this.
  6. Laurence

    Laurence Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,395
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2006
    Location:
    Central CA, but Canoga By The C in my heart
    I've always lusted after Vega gear.
     
    DBBlues likes this.
  7. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    10,170
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Location:
    Montclair, NJ
    Strange, and very cool guitar. Love that look!
    MD
     
    DBBlues likes this.
  8. DBBlues

    DBBlues Formerly fullertone Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,517
    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Location:
    Over here
    There is something very charming about this guitar. For some reason I can't name, I love the odd front burst pattern. Then again, you may notice that the Strat in my avatar has an odd (for Fender) burst, with the red coming so far toward the bridge that there is a bit of yellow between the two "stripes" of red.
     

Share This Page