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Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by E5RSY, Jul 26, 2018.
I guess you meant to say "unplugged it’s NOT very loud" instead of "unplugged it’s very loud"...
Not really sure what he experts out there say. In some 55 years I have just never even seen a 1934 17" L-5 nevertheless played one. Does not mean they do not exist, just that I haven ever run across one. What I had always heard from guys who play L-5s though was that the 17" L-5 was introduced in late summer 1935 and was being built along side the old style 16" guitars. Somewhere out there is a site dedicated to the L-5 which had a ton of info culled from factory records. But if you know Gibsons you know that it is not like they changed specs at the stroke of midnight on January 1. So you will, as example, run into 1955 Gibsons that had the new style pickguard but the old style bracing and vice versa. And as I said I played a 1939 L-12 that still had the X bracing.
I am not an expert on acoustic guitars or the archtop sub-family. However, in my experience plugged in vs unplugged are two different beasts. If you are playing plugged in, you don't want a super resonant
top because then you get uncontrollable feedback. Conversely, if you are playing unplugged, you really want that top to resonate like crazy because that amplifies your acoustic sound. Thus, for example,
I prefer my Ibanez AS-173, 335 style guitar over other fully hollow electric guitars I have had that didn't have a center block because it resonates just enough to give the guitar a special sound that's a little different from a full solid body,
but not so much that the feedback isn't easy to manage.
Similarly, once in a music store I tried out an Ovation guitar that was designed to optimize its plugged-in sound. It sounded very "meh" unplugged, but sounded
really excellent plugged in. Again, conversely, I have had some really nice acoustic flat-tops that I also use plugged in, but I have to put one of those rubber covers over the sound hole and do other things to control
feedback, and I find it a little harder to minimize that piezo "zing" sound vs. when using a much duller sounding acoustic guitar.
So while I imagine it's possible to find an acoustic archtop that sounds great unplugged, such as Loar or Eastman, I also suspect that their loud acoustic quality would make them more difficult to manage plugged in when a floating
pickup is added. After all, that's why center blocks, ply tops, and solid bodies were invented-- not just to cut costs but to improve unplugged performance.
All that said, I would really like to have a nice, punchy, acoustic archtop to have around the house to just play unplugged. Also, as others have mentioned, I imagine it would stand out if I were jamming with flat top players.
This is mostly oversimplification. Some guitars are more feedback prone than others, and its not always the ones you think. Although it's irrelevant to this thread, so I'll leave it at that.
Most rules of thumb are over-simplifications, but I get your point. So, what are the candidates for archtop guitars that sound really great unplugged, and also
excellent plugged in, without too much difficulty keeping them from howling with feedback when plugged in?
Of course nowadays there are excellent acoustic amplification systems that have notch EQ filtering, automatic feedback detection and squelching, and other sophisticated
ways to optimize amplified tone while controlling feedback. So in theory it is possible to take ANY guitar and successfully amplify it to your satisfaction. But it may take
a little work. If someone out there were quite good at this I suspect they could generate a good clientele with an Internet-based business. I know it would be worth some
$$ to me to have someone work with me to understand my needs and then give me a plug-and-play solution. There are some real wizards out there in some of the acoustic
guitar shops, but how many potential customers live near one of these shops? And how many of those wizards know the full range-- flat-top, arch-top, etc.?
You can put a piece of electrical tape under your transducer to reduce electronic pings, and other unwanted feedback, including that slight hum you can sometimes get when using effects pedals to clean up your sound or to add dimension to it. This acts as a shock absorber for all the wood vibration that sometimes be very harsh especially with heavy strings. Archtops shouldn't have this problem since the bridge sits above the body. However you shouldn't be experiencing any feedback from a transducer - not that you can't but this is a lot harder than with regular guitar pickups.
In response to the question of whether or not you can get cracks with plywood and who has used, or still uses this technique DON'T BE FOOLED! Gibson has been doing this since the 1940s. I had an archtop that I got from my @sshole brother that thinks the world revolves around him. The neck came off easily, the finish was gone, but it had the original stamp at the end of the headstock and the binding was coming off. It had been underwater at some point in time, but when I got to it - it was too late to do any good to it. I had to remove the binding and the treble side of the body. It was THREE PLY maple with what looked like mahogany in the center. The end blocks were both made from poplar which is strange because it's not a hardwood. The outside and inner layers were made from maple. The top didn't have cracks as you would think WIDE, but these were all splits in a couple places. The backside was mostly intact, but someone put white woodfiller in the treble side and the finish was mostly gone. except for the remainder in the woodgrain. Maple plywood is what Gibson has used for ALL their archtop guitars since at least the mid if not the early 40's. These were all pressed in layers, then glued together and left a separate press to dry. Later these were removed and the excess glue scraped away. What kind of bracing made no difference. However the archtop guitar makes a slightly brighter sound than the regular acoustic body because the soundhole pushes the sound out under the strings whereas the archtop sends it out through the f shaped soundholes in a more subdued manner but with the force of the sound being pushed out through the sides with most of the acoustic vibration still bouncing around inside the body. I've both dreadnaught and jumbo guitars, but the one that I loved the sound of the most was the Ovation Celebrity Deluxe that I took my all maple J-200 with me to compare it to. This was the one that I played against guitars costing 1000's of dollars more than this guitar. It was the one that sounded the closest and the best! This guitar doesn't have the "sweet spot" that you have to find on most acoustics, it's sweet all over! Bracing makes very little difference in actual tone, except for how much that top with vibrate. The type of wood that the top is made from will.
As far as acoustic only archtops are concerned, I'm still holding out for a nice used Weber. But if I won the lottery tomorrow, I might order a Collings AT-16:
But, I'd probably get a Ken Parker acoustic Archtop instead:
Ken Parker archtops are definitely a lottery winner option!
Yeah I LOVE the archtops myself and I lean more toward them than the flat top acoustics any way!
If I was really willing to spend some serious bucks on an archtop I would be on the phone with Jim Triggs in Kansas. Triggs, along with Kevin Kopp and John Walker, was one of the early Gibson Custom Shop guys but pretty much sticks with achtop guitars and mandolins.
There is laminate and then there is laminate. You have that stuff which is just some cheap filler material layered in between two nice pieces of veneer or you have that made of several even layers of the same wood glued together. Cracks do not go all the way through but particularly with cheaper laminate what you see is the top layer lifting above the cross grain section. While Gibson has built both acoustic archtop and flattops (the J-200 from 1955 on as example) with laminate backs, I have never seen one with a laminate top. Pressed rather than carved wood top on lower end models yes but not laminate.
Really? I've only heard the Parker archtop with charlie hunter playing it, but even with him I thought it sounded terrible. Every Parker guitar i've ever tried or heard had a thin nasty quality to it, like a plastic toy banjo.
I'd love to try the collings. Their flattops are my first choice for flattops.
I've never gigged an acoustic archtop plugged it, but there are plenty of acoustic archtops with floating pickups out there. Someone likes them, and a lot of great jazz sounds were recorded with them.
"Too much difficulty" is not defined, so I can't answer that for you. If your talking about with distortion, or with a huge amp backline, the answer will be much different.
It's different for every guitar. I get feedback with the electric hollowbodies I play, but it is always on a lower note, and always works to sustain the note, never howling or squealing. The frequencies that happens at will change with the guitar top, the pickup, the amp/speaker. But it sounds like you think its a much bigger problem than I've experienced or witnessed. I certainly can't imagine resorting to notch filters for any electric guitar sound.
Man, that thing is gorgeous. I might have to track one down or drive down to their shop just so I can say I played one.
p.s. Wow, that is a flat neck. Do all archtop acoustic necks have such a flat radius?
Absolute and utter nonsense
The only laminate top acoustic archtop I am aware of is the later version of the absolute bottom of the range L48.
I used to have one of those Godin 5th Avenue Uptown GT models with the Bigsby on it. Man, I loved that guitar but I needed cash about 2 years ago and had to sell it. I miss it bad! I wouldn't say it was my main guitar but I did play it a lot. It took me a while to find the perfect string gauge and setup but once I did it played like a dream.
So sorry to hear that. I feel really bad for you. (Please place irreverently smirking emoticon here.)
Personally, I'd love for my next flattop to be a Lowden. As far as traditional looks are concerned the Collings AT-16 really looks like a nice Lloyd Loar signed L-5 although they are X-braced. It's my understanding that there's quite a wait list for these; not as long as for the Ken Parker but they are a bargain compared to what the Parker Archtops sell for these days.
I'm late to the party but only if you are going to amplify it. I've had archtop acoustics I loved, but they are drowned out by ANY soundhole acoustic guitars if playing with others. ('38 Martin Archtop, F47 Guild archtop etc)
My new Gary Rizzolo 18 inch full body Archtop is much louder than my 1974 "Banjo Killer" Guild D40 Bluegrass Jubilee and my 2001 Gibson SJ200