Question for the Archtop guys

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by 900, Sep 2, 2006.

  1. 900

    900 Member

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    Pressed solid top vs. hand carved solid top - pros/cons?

    Any suggestion for some models which don't cost an arm and a leg.
     
  2. esoteric pete

    esoteric pete Supporting Member

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    i have 2 gibby hollowbodies w/ solid tops...one maple, and one spruce...is it tru that sold tops are more prone to cracking over laminate tops?
     
  3. DejavuDave

    DejavuDave Member

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    There are a wide variety of fantastic archtops available, both solid and laminate. I did a comparison of a Gibson ES-175 (laminate) with the Heritage H-575 (solid).

    The ubiquitous ES-175 has a more immediately recognizable tone since it has been recorded to death over its 50+ years of life. However, laminate tops are acoustically quieter and resonate less than their solid top brothers, so the electronics of laminates play a larger role in producing their amplified tone than do solid tops. That means solid tops tend to feed back more easily, too. Also, solid tops are more susceptible to changes in humidity than laminates, and may require more care and the use of a humidifier in some climates. A notable disadvantage of the ES-175 is its cost.

    I own a Gibson ES-175 but I would love to have the Heritage, too. And there are many others out there.
     
  4. DejavuDave

    DejavuDave Member

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    Yes, they are.
     
  5. esoteric pete

    esoteric pete Supporting Member

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    i had a 575 and the thing sounded great...sold it for something else, and havent had the urge to buy another, so it was a good guitar, but my ES-446 IMO, for me, kills the 575....but they are a bit different than one another...
     
  6. DejavuDave

    DejavuDave Member

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    True. But Stradivari don't have humbuckers. :)
     
  7. DejavuDave

    DejavuDave Member

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    The ES-446 is a beautiful guitar, indeed. I've never owned one but I've played a couple. They felt and sounded quite nice.
     
  8. Ogre

    Ogre Member

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    I agree with DejavuDave. The laminate tops are easier to amplify, but for just sitting around the living room, you can't beat a solid carved top.(unamplified)
     
  9. 900

    900 Member

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    ...unfortunately, I don't know any violin players or owners of a Stradivari or a pressed top violin.:BITCH

    I know that a laminated archtop SHOULD be less problematic than a solid one. On the other hand, I've had laminated jazz-boxes that did feedback pretty quick nevertheless.
    Anyway, since the pressed (or steamed) models usually are priced below the hand-carved ones, I was wondering if soundwise there is a general difference between the two methods, or if a pressed top archtop can sound exactly like a handcarved one (I suppose there's a difference, otherwise you could "steam" all tops). I don't have a store nearby, not even close, where I can check out some instruments.

    For ex. how compares a D'Angelico (all models pressed, solid spruce top) to, I dunno, an Eastman or Heritage with handcarved spruce top etc.
     
  10. billyguitar

    billyguitar Member

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    In the early days Epiphone considered laminate tops more resistant to feedback. I have a 1948 blonde Deluxe Zephyr and that is how it's built. I have played with a blues band and it wasn't much trouble. I have a couple of 175s and they're not hard to handle. I also have an ugly L-5 from the 70s that has a carved top but very easy to use for loud blues. I have a 1959 ES125CD; thin, hollow ply top and it feed back like crazy. My feeling is the smaller body has a higher resonant frequency and is excited quicker to feedback.
    I believe a Gibson L-48 may be a pressed top. I don't own one but I do own a Slingerland Nighthawk and a Harmony with pressed tops. The L-48 I remember checking out sounded fair but the pressed top guitars were both thinner sounding, granted they aren't very good guitars. My 1951 Epiphone Triumph is all acoustic and sounds as good as most archtops. I've never been too impressed with the acoustic sound of any archtop except a preadvanced early L-5 I should have bought years ago. THAT was a good sounding archtop, especially for a 16"! I played an Eastman lately and thought it a fine guitar. I also played a Martin archtop recently that has a top made out of spruce laminate and a honeycomb material. Very nice sounding archtop. $3,500 is not a bad price either, for a cutaway fully acoustic blonde archtop witha suspended pickup.
     
  11. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

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    I spent over half my life playing archtops. Solids, laminates, who cares. I hate them all. :BITCH
     
  12. lbw

    lbw Member

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    I wouldn't subscribe to all the hype. Most of the world's biggest Jazz stars have made great sounding records with plywood guitars! The biggest advantage of plywood is that it feeds back less compared to a carved top. This is a major advantage if you're playing large venues or at high volume.

    If you're buying an acoustic instrument without a pickup, it's a significant advantage to get a carved solid top as the top will vibrate more. If you're soley going to play it amplified, it'd not really a big deal (maybe even the opposite).

    In terms of reasonably priced archtops, I recommend the D'Aquisto range of re-issue guitars made in Japan or something like an Ibanez GB-10 or GB-20 also made in Japan.
     
  13. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    Depends what volume your playing at, solid tops resonate more and sound better, but that leads to more feedback problems.

    My opinion is that once you mount a pup into the top, all bets are off anyway, by that point you have a hybrid so a lam top is fine.
    On an acoustic archtop or one with a floating pup, solid is the way to go.
     
  14. dudeunitx5000

    dudeunitx5000 Senior Member

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    I went to Elderly Instruments about a year ago to try out archtops. After trying out several in the store within my price range- under $3000- I ended up going with an H575. It is one of my favorite guitars. I have had no problems dealing with feedback. Though I can get plenty when I want it.
    Right now I am shopping around for a fifties Gibson archtop with P90s. I may get an old Super 400 or L-5 but am interested in trying out old ES-175, ES-150, ES-300, ES-5, and maybe even some sixties ES-330s.
     
  15. mdog114

    mdog114 Member

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    I like them both for the reasons everyone has already stated.

    [​IMG]

    I currently have a Hofner Jazzica, it's a mid priced ($1500-1800) solid-top archie. It's a bit of a hybid type jazz box due to the fact that it has these "Cat Eyes" slits instead of traditional "F" holes and the body tapeds hard fron the heel of the neck to the bottom strap botton. It goes from about 2.75" body depth to about 4" at the bottom. It came with these Ebony, foam-backed plugs that are perfectly shaped to look like and fit into the holes. With the plugs in I can get it's gain pretty high before feedback, much higher than most any hollowbody (Lam or carved). I must say that it's one of the finest put-together instruments I own. It's made in Germany and I think that a big reason it's so well made. It sound great, both amplified and acoustically. Not plugged in, it NAILS the sound of old bluesmen playing those old guitars before the days of amps and PUs!

    They make another model in the same price range that has more traditional stylings. It also comes with these plugs.

    One other thing I have to mention is the case, this thing came with the most unbelievable case I've ever seen IN MY LIFE! It's not only built like a tank, it has a humidifier built-in along with a humidity meter.
     
  16. george4908

    george4908 Member

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    Might help to clarify a couple of things. There are:
    • Solid, carved spruce top archops with floating pickups (e.g., Johnny Smith) or set-in pickups (L5-CES)
    • Laminated, pressed spruce top archtops, mostly with set-in pickups (e.g., Guild X-500)
    • Laminated, pressed maple top archtops with set-in pickups (ES-175) or floating pickups (the current Herb Ellis Gibson, not the first edition).
    There are probably some carved solid maple tops around, but I can't think of any examples at the moment (semi-hollow Les Pauls don't count).

    Each of these is going to sound and act differently in terms of acoustic tone, acoustic volume, amplified tone and feedback resistance. There are more than enough variations between different models as well as individual guitars to prevent making any definitive statements about any one guitar without playing it, but some general guidelines would be.
    • A floating pickup allows for more top vibration -- hence what is generally considered to be "better" acoustic tone, louder acoustic volume and less control over feedback.
    • A set-in pickup (or two) will reduce top vibration, therefore reducing tone and volume, and increasing feedback resistance. More significantly, the amplified tone is different -- less wood, more pickup. Important note: This is nota bad thing! It is just different. Like that dark, smokey jazz tone? You may just prefer an ES-175 to a Johnny Smith.
    • Spruce tops are often described as warmer and woodier. I'll buy the woodier part, but I have a pet peeve about "warmer," a term that I think is much misunderstood (or misheard). Spruce reacts more quickly than maple, so you get a sharp transient attack; then it absorbs vibration more than maple, allowing the string to decay more quickly. Most people seem to equate warmth with "more mids, less highs" but spruce top guitars generally to have quite a bit of top end bite -- it just happens very quickly. Spruce also producers a broader harmonic content than maple, that is, when the string vibrates with the fundamental, it also generates a lot of overtones up (and to some degree) down the spectrum. It presents more to the ear. Okay, if that's what you're hearing as "warmth," I won't argue, but the increased harmonic content is what I think of as woody. (Hate to be a pedant here, but if we're going to talk sensibly about tone, we really need to make an effort to define our terms first so we're at least trying to describe the same things.)
    • Maple emphasizes the fundamental tone at the expense of a more complex harmonic content. While it doesn't react as quickly as spruce, being harder it doesn't absorb as much string vibration, therefore it sustains more. Because it emphasizes the fundamental, it does not generate as much high end. (What some people call "warmth," confounding the typical definitions.) Anyone who's played an ES-175 at volume knows they can me made to feedback very easily. While the maple may vibrate less than spruce, the increased sustain will allow these guitars to feedback -- though generally less than carved spruce guitar. In my own experience, what's at least as important in controlling feedback is how heavily the guitar is built. Lightly carved tops feedback like a mother, whether the pickups are set-in or not. Heavily built guitars, whether carved or pressed/laminated, are much more feedback resistant.
    Also, as noted above, f-holes make a huge difference in feedback resistance. I have one very lightly built spruce carved top guitar (with single built-in pickup) and no f-holes, and it does not feedback. My old ES-175 (man, I wish I had that one back) would howl once you cranked it past a certain point. And my spruce carved floating pickup archtop will feed back at conversational levels if you're pointing at the amp.

    Hope that doesn't muddy the waters too much! (Hell, we haven't even gotten into x-bracing vs. parallel bracing.)
     
  17. BigDoug1053

    BigDoug1053 Supporting Member

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    I love my L5-CES, and had a Heritage Johnny Smith for awhile.

    Acoustically, neither guitar can beat a flattop bigger than a 000 size, and the tone is midrangey and clipped on all of archtop guitars - which were designed for rhythm guitar players to sonically "cut through" 1920s and 1930's jazz ensembles. If the instruments were bowed - which really drives an archtop design, then perhaps the sonic potential of the carved soild top would be realized, but not plucked or strummed (recall how notched plucked violins sound), IMO.

    But archtops definitely play wonderfully, and are highly versatile instruments that can play a variety of musical styles. And they are definitely the coolest looking instruments.

    As far as I am concerned, because the tone of any archtop is already compromised, it does not matter whether you go with solid or laminate. You might check out Eastwood archtops - for the solid body bargains - and the Ibanez Artcores for the laminate bargains.

    Good luck and play often!
     
  18. 900

    900 Member

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    Thanks for that. Missed the solid, pressed spruce tops/archtops.

    Yeah, that bracing thing. What I don't get is that you always read/hear that parallel bracing has more punch/treble whereas x-bracing is darker sounding and mellower, but with some archtop clips I've heard, it's exactly the opposite.
     
  19. 900

    900 Member

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    I've been thinking about the Hofner's too, but more for the "New President" model, which doesn't have that tapered body like the Jazzica.

    Have yet to find a store nearby who has some Hofner in stock.
     
  20. Bluedawg

    Bluedawg Member

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    I think SSSS is looking for info on carved solid spruce tops verses pressed solid spruce tops, not pressed laminate tops.

    In my very limited experience the solid pressed archtops I've played had a much darker tone than solid carved archtops.

    I have an '88 Gibson L4-CES. Supposedly the 80s L4-CES guitars had a pressed solid spruce top. My L4-CES has a very dark tone (not a lot of highs). The L4 also has the top mounted (non floating pickups) which also contributes to the dark sound IMHO. Acoustically the L4 is on the dead side, but I suspect that has more to do with the presence of a bridge pickup more than anything else. The L4 can do the super mellow Wes Montgomery thing quite well. The newer L4-CES are carved solid spruce and the ones that I have played do seem to have a brighter tone to me than my older L4-CES.

    I once played a Fender D'Aquisto archtop that supposedly had a pressed solid spruce top. It also had a very dark tone IMHO.

    I also have a '92 Heritage Sweet 16 which is a carved solid spruce top. It has a floating pickup. It has a lot more top end and less bottom end than the L4. Over the years the Heritage has aged into a very nice sounding acoustic.

    Good acoustic archtops are hard to find. They can vary quite a bit even when you have two of the same make and model.

    Sometimes your choice of strings can also make a big difference. My Sweet 16 really comes to life with D'Addarios, but the Gibson strings that sound heavenly on my L4 will turn my Heritage into a tone turd.

    The L4-CES and the Heritage Sweet 16 are not cheap, but they don't cost more than most peoples cars either, unless you have to have a blonde guitar then the Gibson will cost you.

    A good acoustic archtop can be magical. It's a very different tonal world than a flattop.

    Good Luck

    :cool:
     

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