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Vintage archtop guitars

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

  1. GearGeek01

    GearGeek01 Tele-Meister

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    Unless you like the old smell of mothballs or something, and you're price point is so super low... I have an "out of the box" find you might love...

    I don't see them on their web page anymore, but I have a spectacular Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II Pro Archtop. Its a hollowbody (no wood block up the middle). They came in a few colors, mine is antique natural. They also had a sunburst and this wine color:
    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ETEPWRGH--epiphone-joe-pass-emperor-ii-pro-wine-red

    $699.00 and you'll still have room in your $1,000 budget to get the Epiphone EEMCS case for the Joe...
    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/EEMCS--epiphone-joe-pass-emperor-ii-guitar-case

    I might suggest test driving one, actually more than one if you can. Before I settled n buying the one I have... First I played it at the store, and really truly ooly it was love at first twang. I played a different one at another store and it didn't have the same sparkle and "soul". Not all guitars are the same. I always test drive before I buy, and I don't favor buying anything guitar-wise off the Internet. If it doesn't sparkle or have "soul" (plays well, has a great sound... "soul") if it doesn't have soul I leave it in the store.

    I don't believe in the "tone woods" B.S. I think that is a term Paul Smith invented to sell more of his over-priced guitars. More of the beauty of any guitar's sound is what the musician brings in his or her hands. My saying: "tone is in the hands, not in the gear". There's a video out there in videoland where Stevie Ray Vaughan is playing a Squier Strat, and guess what... he sounds exactly like Stevie Ray Vaughan, LOL.

    Plus I might need to tell you, I'm not a "vintage" anything person. The only "vintage" anything I own is a 1980 Gibson Les Paul Artisan I've had since new in 1980. I will always keep it not because it is a great Les Paul, but because it was something between me and my mom. Mom worked for something like $1.40/hr, was not rich by any means, but was my cheerleader back in the day for my guitar playing. Mom bought me this guitar when I graduated high school in 1980.

    Was it a super great "vintage" guitar with hyper cool "tone woods" etc, et. al. NO...

    Quality wise being a Norlin era LP, it is probably one of the worst Les Pauls I've ever owned. It has the now famous super heavy of the Norlin era, its a neck breaking shoulder stiffening 13lbs 6oz. Not long after I got it the fretboard where it meets the body started to peel away from the body so much that I could stick a guitar pick underneath the separation. I sent it in to Gibson for warranty repair not once but TWICE and the dullards in Kalamazoo (where this one was made) never did fix it right. It wasn't until I met a REAL luthier in Los Angeles years later that solved the problem permanently.

    The Series VII High Output pickups have just about zero treble. They are all bass and midrange, but that makes this guitar unique to me. String this one up with a set of .012's and it is practically the perfect jazz box. Thick rich tone all those jazz chords love. Definitely NOT "P.A.F" sounding pickups.

    Now compare that to a brand new Epiphone I just bought a few months back. Its one of their 2020 "Inspired by Gibson" models, they call it a "1959 Les Paul Standard"...

    It includes all this cool stuff:

    - Made in partnership with the Gibson Custom Shop
    - Gibson USA BurstBucker 2 & 3 humbucking pickups
    - CTS pots
    - Neck Profile '59 Rounded "C" (my fave LP neck profile)
    - Graphtec Nut
    - Switchcraft selector switch and output jack,
    - 50s era wiring (my fave humbucker wiring)
    - Mallory capacitors
    - Long tenon neck joint (like they did in the 1950s)
    - vintage-style brown hard case (wow, it comes with a case...)

    Pretty much a "poor man's Les Paul Standard" - 800 bucks...
    https://www.nstuffmusic.com/p-12173...les-paul-standard-aged-dark-cherry-burst.aspx

    (I have the one in the NStuff ad... that exact guitar.)

    Made in China...

    Apples to apples this particular guitar has uber-soul... and I'll tell you, it a heckuva lot better quality made than my Kalamazoo, Michigan made, Norlin era Les Paul Artisan... which for some reason people on Reverb think is worth between $4,000-$6,700... Its worth that and more to me because of the story and the sentimental value of it having something to do with mom (who went home to Jesus in 2011). Plus I love my Artisan because of its flaws in tone and super heavy weight. Its my baby, and it goes in the coffin with me when they chuck me in the ground.

    But with the newer Gibson Burstbucker pups, the Epiphone has more of the (what people call) the "P.A.F." sound. Lot's of tone across the frequency spectrum, especially in the treble land. The Artisan has almost no treble with those high output pups. So many windings they tear up a tube amp for distortion, but compared to just about any other LP, not treble.

    I am really digging the new "Inspired by Gibson" (IBG) Epiphones. I also had one of their IBG Firebirds -- what an awesome guitar. But I had to sell it due to financial reasons and covid... blah... I will be buying another one of thiose down the line. The balance of that guitar was perfect. With it on a strap it moved effortlessly as my body moved. And it had a nice Les Paul feeling neck...

    So, for your $1,000 go check out the Epiphone Joe Pass at your local store. Oh... and the newer models have push/pull pots for coil split on the volume controls. I love switchy-things... LOL. Its a lot of guitar fr $700. They definitely did Joe the man proud with this model IMHO.
     
  2. Leonardocoate

    Leonardocoate Tele-Meister

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    I have a Loar 301t which is a replica of a Gibson ES125.....I really like it!...I had to experiment with strings and replace the pots.....I settled on flatwounds(11's)..The thing with archtops (IMHO) is that they aren't good at being electric or acoustic they are just very fun to play. I'm considering replacing the P90 with an acoustic pup and using silk and steel acoustic strings.....Loar or Godin would be in your price range and you won't be disappointed.
     
  3. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Yep, my thoughts exactly.
     
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  4. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire

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    I would go for the Blackstone, no contest. I played one once in a shop. It was so easy to play I at first thought it had light gauge strings on it. Blackstones are a bargain for the money. The one I played was around $1200 at the time. You're price sounds like it's in the ballpark.

    The Kalamazoo could be nice too...but I'd rather have something I can play in person when dealing with a vintage archtop...or else a VERY reasonable return policy.
     
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  5. Telekarster

    Telekarster Tele-Afflicted

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    My advice is, for your price range, stay away from vintage AT's unless you're prepared to do a lot of work to them to make em playable, which will likely push you over your budget. It's possible you could luck out, but that would be very rare. For the ones that have already had this work done, it's probably going to cost you a lot more than 1K to buy it. I've never seen one that didn't need a neck reset, binding redone, arch collapsed, frets worn out, fret board worn out, etc. etc. especially on the Kay, Harmony, types. Gibson and their subsidiary companies of those days are the only vintage AT's I would even consider, but even with them there will be issues in most cases. I'd probably purchase a new made AT and call it good.
     
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  6. Misty Mountain

    Misty Mountain Tele-Meister

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    Check out the epiphone masterbilt century models. I have the Olympic based off the epiphone 1930’s version. They are cool and a great buy for the bucks. I got mine for less than 400 because it had a belt scratch on the back from some bozo at GC.

     
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  7. Tom Grattan

    Tom Grattan TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    P1000674.jpg The key for me here is someone deciding to get a guitar with a pickup inserted into the body or an AT with a floating pickup. IMO once you put a pickup into the body the acoustic tonality is compromised. If you don't care about the pickup in body your choices are more varied and you can probably hit your price point, or close to it. If you want, what I would consider a "real" AT, and be able to play it acoustically you need a guitar with a floating pickup. If you have pickups in the body you essentially have an electric guitar. Seems like a lot of people are more interested in how something looks vs how it sounds. If you're going to play it acoustically get a hand carved spruce top. Unless you really luck out you're probably headed toward a pickup in body AT. I've had my 52 L7C for years and the prices keep going up, up, up. Good luck
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2021
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  8. Chandlerman

    Chandlerman Tele-Meister

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    I paid about $1,000 for this Rodebald Hoyer found on the racks at Carter's in Nashville. It plays wonderfully and a previous owner added the Armstrong Jazz pickup. You don't see many Rod Hoyers around. This photo doesn't show the beautiful tortoise binding front, back, on the neck, and in the f holes. This is one I'll have for a long, long time.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. tubedude

    tubedude TDPRI Member

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    I picked up an Epiphone Emperor Regent 10 years ago. Fantastic detail and QA out of the Korean factory then. Sounds and plays better than a ES125 and 225TDC I tried. I'd give it up for a Benedetto or a Triggs, but I love the playability and tone, 16183358481294960911408382356697.jpg acoustic or electric.
     
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  10. Frankentronics

    Frankentronics TDPRI Member

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    A good Gibson L-50 can be a good option. They vary greatly. I have an L-50 (I think it might be from the 40s) and I also have an L-7C (from 1969). In may ways the L-50 (which should be inferior) is actually better than my L-7C. They are very different guitars, though. I do not play jazz, so in my case it's not that important. I just really like archtops and I always wanted to have one simple archtop and one with a cutaway. So, the L-50 and L-7C are good for me.
     
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  11. tanplastic

    tanplastic Tele-Afflicted

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    A really beautiful guitar!
    Is the logo below the bridge pressed into the wood?
    It has similarities to Hofners.
     
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  12. Fmalitz

    Fmalitz TDPRI Member

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    Wow, what a great reply! I was going to make suggestions until I realized we have no idea what its intended purpose is. the only disagreement you would get from me is calling Kay/Harmony/Silvertone second tier. I would call them third tier or worse. maybe I'm wrong but I've only been playing for 55 years professionally and I'm a telecaster builder. I used those brands when I was a teenager copying the Rolling Stones in 1964!

    If he or she is going to plug it in, they will have a lot more options. An Epiphone EJ 200 may look like a J 200 but it's a terrible instrument with no bass despite the gigantic body; walk away, Conversely, an Epiphone electric arch top will be ornate, shiny, and sound perfectly fine. I'm also quite happy with my Asian D'Angelico but even on a deal, it might be a little more than $1000. beautiful stuff. very good quality control. very little set up required.
     
  13. Chandlerman

    Chandlerman Tele-Meister

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    The logo is a decal under the finish. All the German guitars from the '50s and early '60s are very similar in design and parts. I believe the German builders of the era worked together rather than as competitors. Maybe someone more knowledgeable could speak to this. Cheers!

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. aeyeq

    aeyeq Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    My experience was I had to go through several to get satisfaction. Epi Joe Pass, Gibson L4, a couple of Eastmans - I was happy with my T49:


    Until I found this lawsuit Howard Roberts copy branded Speedfire. All the proper appointments, June 76 build. It was case kept and the pick guard gassed off damaging most of the metal. I paid less than $1k but the replacement PU, tuners, and tailpiece put it above that amount.

     
  15. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Holic

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    Yes---I had the Ibanez or something version of the HR and it was a good instrument. The top seemed pretty thick, so it was resistant to feedback. Used it with a loud B3 player and it was pretty controllable. I wouldn't choose it for its acoustic tone though.
     
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  16. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I've always liked vintage archtops. Never could afford a good one until I found this one, a 1915 Gibson L-1 (Orville was still alive)...in excellent condition.

    1915 L-1.jpg

    This thing sounds just like whatever Riley Puckett is playing in "Ragged But Right"...good thing too, 'cause I love that sound.

     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
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  17. Maguchi

    Maguchi Tele-Holic

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    Gibson L-4 CES. Not the top of the line Gibson, but plays and sounds top notch.

    Gibson L4CES.jpg
     
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  18. jayyj

    jayyj Tele-Afflicted

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    German guitar history is really interesting. Before WW2 it was centered around the Vogtland and Egerland Districts where there was a large number of workshops making musical instruments. There were also a few parts makers supplying everyone hence so much cross pollination of parts, some makers formed collectives (eg Migma) to make it easier to export and there were large retailers and distributors (Lindberg, Meinl & Herald) contracting different companies to make instruments they could sell under their own name.

    After the war the Vogtland District ended up in East Germany and Egerland in the Czech Rep, and very quickly felt the impact of the Soviet block making trade with West Germany and beyond difficult so many makers (including big names like Hofner and Framus) saw the writing on the wall and moved West while the border was still reasonably porous. Others stayed put and tried to make do but the GDR put increasing pressure on those workshops and by the end of the 40s had started seizing workshops from owners deemed to have ambitions that didn't fit the Soviet ideology. Those workshops became Musima, a large GDR State owned manufacturer and by the 60s all of the East German workshops sold their instruments to Musima in return for a state salary.

    Meanwhile, the companies that left the region flourished. They had the skills and facilities to ride the guitar boom, easy access to US instruments via a steady influx of US servicemen and they quickly became the dominant force in European instrument making. Rodebald Hoyer I don't know a great deal about but he was originally from Shoenbach in Ederland - which is now known as Luby just inside the Czech Rep border - and fled to Bavaria in the late 40s, and ran a reasonably large operation splitting production between his own brand and a retailer called Lindberg. I've had one of them, a Lindberg branded thinline from the very early 60s, which was a really cool guitar.
     
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  19. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    I'd highly recommend an ES125. Its a great basic design, the body shape, scale and bridge location just work great, and the P90 couldn't work better with that guitar. Great plugged, unplugged. Or a clone, like the Loar or Godin. The basic design shines thru, regardless of who makes them.

    Puckett was the best. He was photo'd with different guitars, I figure he spent a lot of time in pawn shops...

    I've got a L37, great guitar, fits in a 00 case. But I've always wanted an ES125.
     
  20. Chandlerman

    Chandlerman Tele-Meister

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    Thank you!
     
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