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Vintage archtop guitars

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Oldsmobum, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

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    I would echo what Freeman said, for under a grand you're likely to encounter and instrument the needs more work to be playable which could add up quickly. +1 on Drak's suggestion on Eastman, in the sub $2k range they are the most likely to give you that authentic archtop sound, they really have their voicing of acoustics down now. Unless you're looking for that old funky blues tone, in which case go for a harmony and be ready to more money/work into it.
     
  2. Old Smokey

    Old Smokey Tele-Meister

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    You can find decent deals on vintage Italian and German archtops.

    If you prefer American brands, ES-125s come up once in a while in the sub $1500 range. Or maybe look for a Kalamazoo.

    Depending on the guitar, you can sometimes add a floating magnetic pickup. You'll want to look for a guitar that has the neck set proud of the body for clearance.
     
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  3. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    Around 1k (often enough less) you can find player grade guilds from the 50s and 60s. ce or ca-100s, x or a-50s. absolutely solid guitars, every bit as good as a 175 or l-50, but 1 5/8” nut width is not for everyone.
     
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  4. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Holic

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    If we consider modern stuff in the retro vein, the Loars/Newark St. Guilds and some others are pretty good and sub 1K. I have an X175 Newark St. Manhattan and it is a pretty good instrument (the pickups are a little problematic tho). Bought it minty used around $600 with case.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2021
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  5. Dano-caster

    Dano-caster Tele-Meister

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    Keep a look out for vintage Gibson L48,L50 student type Archies.good tone if you can find one playable, not needing a reset, they are going up in price these days.Sold my '47 L50 a few years back in a batch sale.I think it brought $850...
     
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  6. Oldsmobum

    Oldsmobum Tele-Holic

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    This is good input. My main concern is that some of the modern versions are voiced based on a flat top guitar... and I have a flat top guitar guitar.

    I am looking for acoustic, electric would be okay if it is not routed for a pickup... I can add a floater myself without too much effort, and I have a lot of different electric guitars already. I just assumed that I would not find one of the guilds/gibsons etc in this price range.

    How did it sound?

    Acoustic. Examples of the second tier brands can be found with this work done in the price point- if I am willing to trust the person who did it. I usually look at their feedback to get an idea of how they do...

    I didn’t think about guild- I know nothing about their arch tops but their vintage hollow bodies are priced criminally low in the aftermarket.

    I know that anything I am looking at will have a pressed top, but I will check out the epiphones. An acoustic archtop would be preferable and I’m not sure Loar does one?

    I figure anything I find will be pressed, so I’m not going to kill myself (the iPhone corrected that 3 times trying to convince me not to say it) trying to find one with a carved top.

    I’m not afraid to work on my own stuff, but at the same time some things are more work than the trip to the lumber yard and starting from scratch.

    There are 8 million of them out there, so I wanted to be sure I shouldn’t necessarily write them all off.

    I have touched on my only concern with Eastman’s, is there every video I’ve seen of one being played it’s apparent they are voiced with a more “modern” sound in mind. They sound good, but I have a flat top that sounds plenty modern. If there is a specific model I should keep an eye out for I would be all over it. I do like the fact that they offer fully acoustic options which aren’t as common.

    this is the idea. If another $500 is what it takes to get into the game, it is what is it but at the same time I would need to sell some guitars off to mentally justify the expenditure... which wouldn’t be a bad thing either.


    Thank you everyone for you responses, it looks like I should have had this idea 10 years ago...
     
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  7. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

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    Birch guitars are interesting sounding, but if you don't know if you want one, you probably don't. Personally, I wouldn't get one unless it was to try a pickup on it.

    Kay and Harmony archtops are all over the place for sound quality, but some sound great. I'd be looking for a carved spruce top and only the largest body styles, and nothing after 1959.
     
  8. Dano-caster

    Dano-caster Tele-Meister

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    My friend growing up had a Kelvinator Kay which was really hard to play.Never cared for the Kay models that I have played.
     
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  9. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    You can find Hofners for right around a grand that are pretty interesting. I would also not shy away from a Godin in that price range.
     
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  10. hnryclay

    hnryclay Tele-Meister

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    I own a D'Angelico, its a remake when the brand relaunched. Floating pickup attached to thw pickguard. I like it, and they can be had all day for 1000-1200 used.
     
  11. tanplastic

    tanplastic Tele-Holic

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    This is my old Hofner, they go for about a grand.
    [​IMG]
     
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  12. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't want to re-quote your quotes again, so here's just some points you were asking about (for reference: I currently own a Loar LH300, and a Godin Kingpin II, as well as a 60s flattop Harmony, and I have played various Kay and Silvertone, as well as German-made, and recent Eastman, archtops):

    Loar builds MAINLY acoustic archtops (but mostly, mandolins) - their few electrics are the exception... Actually, a (discontinued, so used) LH300, or an LH600 might be the ONLY option in your price range that will give you the classic acoustic archtop tone you are looking for. Just make sure to try before you buy, fret and finish issues aren't unheard of with these...

    Eastmans do indeed have a more modern (Benedetto influenced) sound, somewhat closer to a flattop, but not the same thing; at any rate, for less than 1k $ you'd have to be really lucky to find one, even used - their (carved top) acoustic models are considerably more expensive than their (laminate top) electric models (the latter ones are easy to find for less than 1k, but won't sound that great unplugged, they ARE electric guitars; OK, maybe a single-pickup carved top AR503 - but that still has a more modern tone).

    There may be 8 million Harmony (& Kay & Silvertones out there) - but of those 7999999 will either need a neck reset, or fretwork, or both - so you'll have to get one that has already had that work done, or you'll have to take it to a luthier - both options will cost you more than 1k.
    If you don't mind the pressed top/laminate top acoustic sound of those (which isn't exactly "the" classic acoustic archtop tone - less volume & bark, and even more boxy than a carved one), maybe look for a Godin without pickups - those are super well made (but the Loar still sounds better played as an acoustic...)

    ES125s for less than 1k? Maybe a decade ago... Or a real dog that needs lots of work; also: those are essentially ELECTRIC archtops. You might find an L48 or something similar, but if you find that for less than 1k, be prepared to spend a bit on necessary work, it won't be pristine/flawless...

    The only vintage acoustic archtops you will find for less than 1k will mostly be German-made ones (Höfner, Hüttl, Framus, Hoyer, etc.) from the 50s/60s - there are a myriad of different models, different makers, different quality levels, you'll really have to do your research to find a good one for a fair price!
     
  13. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    PS: Absolutely stay away from those recent Epiphone Masterbuilt archtop models - those look sexy, but that's pretty much the only positive thing you can say about them...
     
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  14. sloppychops

    sloppychops Tele-Holic

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    Well, I like my Masterbuilt Zenith round hole. It sounds halfway between an f-hole arch top and a flat top acoustic, plays well, and is flawlessly built, although a bit heavy.
     
  15. lathoto

    lathoto Tele-Meister

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    Maple or spruce with one neck pickup. I would try to find a Gibson or a Gretsch.
     
  16. sloppychops

    sloppychops Tele-Holic

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    I didn't realize the LH-300 has been discontinued. Glad I got one. Like you said, a Loar really is the only option for a carved top arch top under $1,000. Not a bad option at all.
     
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  17. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    I haven't tried any of the round hole ones, but the mid- and large-size f-hole models (Zenith & Deluxe).

    Very quiet/low volume, none of the typical projection & bark of a classic acoustic archtop; useless pickups (you really do need a mic for picking up the acoustic tone, piezos sound even worse than they do on flattops). Also, I personally didn't like the finish at all, felt very plastic-like.

    Even my twin pickup/cutaway/laminate top Godin Kingpin had a better acoustic archtop tone...
     
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  18. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

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    I wish I could get german acoustic archtops over here. I'm sure there are some, but I've never even gotten to try one. They sure look cool.

    As for the Chicago stuff, Kay and Harmony both made carved top acoustic archtops as well as laminate. The Barney Kessel electrics even had carved spruce tops.
    I suspect there are plenty of carved top chicago closet queens still out there, but it might not be easy to find the good ones for someone who hasn't been stalking them in pawn shops and old catalogs for decades. I've had a few and played a lot.
     
  19. drmordo

    drmordo Tele-Afflicted

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    Like a cardboard box. It also had a neck that was like a classical guitar. It was a horrible guitar in every way.
     
  20. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Holic

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    In an earlier post, someone mentioned Vega and these are kinda overlooked in the vintage market (or used to be). I had a late 40s C66 and that had a pretty good acoustic tone. 17", spruce top, a soft v neck, nice player. I used it for a couple years and gave it to my Uncle Joe who played western swing in north Texas. This model, but in sunburst:
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2021
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