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Herb Hunter
09-17-2010, 01:33 PM
I just found out that Carvin has come out with a comparatively inexpensive, made-in-USA, semi-hollowbody guitar, the SH445. Unlike many semi-hollowbody guitars which have a plywood top that is bent in order to form the arch, the SH445 maple top is carved (both sides) out of solid maple. Its price more or less matches the street price of a Taylor Solid-Body Classic.

http://www.carvinguitars.com/catalog/guitars/index.php?model=sh445

Rick Jones
09-17-2010, 03:04 PM
Looks nice indeed, I had an Eastman semi hollow for a while, that was also carved top and back, and the difference in tone between that and an Epi 335 copy,all laminate I had was unreal.

It was actually louder unplugged than my friends Gretsch rancher acoustic!

Bob V
09-18-2010, 09:04 PM
Haven't played the Carvin, but I notice the construction is different than most thin-line semihollowbodies. Carved out solid guitars like this Carvin, or the Gibson ES336 and Johnny A model are very nice, but they're kind of an animal all their own. They do not have the acoustic overtones added to an electric sound like an ES335 or ES339, and yet they don't sound totally solid either. I'd have to say there are a lot of other types of guitars I'd like to have in the arsenal before I went with something like this.

Herb Hunter
09-19-2010, 03:52 PM
Haven't played the Carvin, but I notice the construction is different than most thin-line semihollowbodies. Carved out solid guitars like this Carvin, or the Gibson ES336 and Johnny A model are very nice, but they're kind of an animal all their own. They do not have the acoustic overtones added to an electric sound like an ES335 or ES339, and yet they don't sound totally solid either. I'd have to say there are a lot of other types of guitars I'd like to have in the arsenal before I went with something like this.

Why wouldn't a carved, solid-wood top generate stronger overtones than a bent, plywood one?

GAD
09-19-2010, 11:53 PM
The term "plywood" is a bit pejorative. These guitars are made from laminate for a reason. If you make an ES335 with a carved top, it will no longer sound like an ES335.

Laminate guitars of this ilk are not built with laminate to save money. Here's some more info: http://misc.msorensen.net/laminates.html

HudsDad
09-20-2010, 12:05 AM
I, too, greatly prefer the tone of a good laminate hollow/semi-hollow body electric. But then, I think the ES-335 is the standard against which they should all be judged.

I've heard some nice carved top/back guitars, but they just don't sound right to me.

JohnZ
09-20-2010, 06:12 AM
The term "plywood" is a bit pejorative. These guitars are made from laminate for a reason. If you make an ES335 with a carved top, it will no longer sound like an ES335.

Laminate guitars of this ilk are not built with laminate to save money. Here's some more info: http://misc.msorensen.net/laminates.html

Agreed, for most live applications a laminate is preferable to a solid top, be it a thinline or 3" body.

Herb Hunter
09-20-2010, 08:10 AM
The term "plywood" is a bit pejorative. These guitars are made from laminate for a reason. If you make an ES335 with a carved top, it will no longer sound like an ES335.

Laminate guitars of this ilk are not built with laminate to save money. Here's some more info: http://misc.msorensen.net/laminates.html

I haven't played solid-top, semi-hollowbody guitars but I'm having a very hard time believing that a laminate top is superior to a solid-wood top. Of course a solid top ES-335 would sound different but it might very possibly sound better. While I certainly do not believe laminate tops were chosen for any reason other than to reduce cost and possibly to minimize feedback, it is obvious that a sum of factors, which may or may not have included the laminate top, yielded a tone that became popular, the ES-335 having been the best seller until it was apparently displaced by the T5.

Lest I be misunderstood, The ES-335 and Lucille variant of the ES-355 have long been among my favorite electric guitars.

HudsDad
09-20-2010, 08:57 AM
I've spent quite a bit of time playing a solid topped Gibson CS-336 and a CS-356, plus I've owned a few ES-335 models over the years. In my experience, adding a solid top to these guitars pushes the tone much closer to a Les Paul than an ES-335. The ES is warmer/fatter. The CS is brighter/thinner.

That's not necessarily a bad thing since I love Les Pauls, but it's not the tone I'm looking for when I pick up a semi-hollow body Gibson. In many ways, the solid, carved top turns the guitar into a "tweener." Somewhere between an ES and a LP. If that's what you want, then it's a great guitar. But most people are looking for one or the other.

dthumb
09-20-2010, 09:04 AM
Agreed, for most live applications a laminate is preferable to a solid top, be it a thinline or 3" body.


Very true....a carved spruce top sounds great unplugged but, feeds back in a most "un-musical" way at higher volumes. A laminate top is much more controllable.

"Plywood boxes" are great for jazz and blues and are real cane-raisers for the raunchiest of electric R&R.

An Eastman archtop puts out a HUGE amount of sound with the Armstrong pickup and when dialed back is quite elegant though, I prefer a more well mannered pickup, myself.

As for plywood....one advantage is that the sound is what it is and will be that and no more or less from the purchase date (like a solid body).

It's all in what your ear needs and where you plan to play.

Bob V
09-20-2010, 07:21 PM
I guess we're all missing the point that solid wood just has to be "better" because plywood is cheap.

Then again, if we're going on how these guitars actually sound as opposed to arguing theoretical predictions, I'd certainly agree with the characterization offered by HudsDad.

Taylorplayer
09-20-2010, 09:11 PM
The SH645 models are drop dead gorgeous!

Rick Jones
09-21-2010, 06:07 AM
I dunno, my sonic evaluation of the whole thinline construction thing is different than all of yours.
I have owned an Eastman t185mx, all maple with a solid carved too and back, at the same time as a Gibson "Lucille" and previously had an epiphone dot.
The eastman was a total suprise, much more open toned...not at all like a les Paul sound (I have a '59 reissue LP now) and utterly controllabe when it came to feedback.
It had sparkle for a humbucker guitar, and the in between, ie two pickups on, through a clean fender twin had more depth and clarity than the Lucille, and when I kicked my Seymour twin tube overdrive on, it kept its voice more than the Lucille too.....in that notes stayed fat and bled into feedback if you wanted, not sometimes on their own.

Just goes to show how we all hear different things.

Herb Hunter
09-21-2010, 08:47 AM
I guess we're all missing the point that solid wood just has to be "better" because plywood is cheap.

Then again, if we're going on how these guitars actually sound as opposed to arguing theoretical predictions, I'd certainly agree with the characterization offered by HudsDad.

I haven't seen an argument that solid wood is better because it costs more. I had said that I believed a laminate was originally chosen to reduce costs but that is not the same as saying that laminates can't sound better because they are cheaper. If a laminate top is tonally superior (I'm not saying it isn't just that I don't understand why it would be), it would not be the first time that cost-cutting led to the discovery of an improvement from less expensive materials.

Someone suggested that a laminate top produced more overtones. I doubt that and asked why it would but no one has ventured an explanation.

The problem I see with comparisons between the ES-335 and the CS-336 / CS-356 is that one can't be sure to what extent the tonal differences are due to the solid top or the smaller body size.

dthumb
09-22-2010, 09:06 AM
I haven't seen an argument that solid wood is better because it costs more. I had said that I believed a laminate was originally chosen to reduce costs but that is not the same as saying that laminates can't sound better because they are cheaper. If a laminate top is tonally superior (I'm not saying it isn't just that I don't understand why it would be), it would not be the first time that cost-cutting led to the discovery of an improvement from less expensive materials.

Someone suggested that a laminate top produced more overtones. I doubt that and asked why it would but no one has ventured an explanation.

The problem I see with comparisons between the ES-335 and the CS-336 / CS-356 is that one can't be sure to what extent the tonal differences are due to the solid top or the smaller body size.

One point..."superior" is a moving and very personal target.

A laminate top is tighter. A wood top is more flexible. The rules of sound apply to electric hollowbodies the same way they do to acoustics BUT, since (aside from piezo saddle pickups/transducers) the sound you hear from an electric is the sound of the strings magnetism and vibration effected by the body/neck/etc. the cavity and top movement is secondary ,as opposed to being a primary force in an acoustic.

I was doing some "inventorying" yesterday and here is what I heard from a few examples. Played through a Blues jr set just to the point of overdriving via a Mexican Fender Telecaster:

Eastman AR 810 CE.....drove tubes to distortion at more than 1/3 volume/ extreme feedback above that..otherwise, pristine clarity at lower "send" volume.

Hamer Echotone w/ SD custom shop PU's and upgrades....drove tubes without distortion/ear piercing highers/fat nasty lows, controllable feedback

Ibanez AF75....loss of bottom clarity in neck pu but, juiced in saddle...smooth, jazzy soul at lower setting, bad feedback

Ibanez AS73....high output, great gain but, loss of midrange clarity, very workable feedback

Epiphone Dot Studio (anlicos)....EXTREME output, fabulous driving to near distortion..no break up or loss of clarity, no feedback

Epihpone Les Paul Venetian Hollwbody....BAD overdriving, Bad distortion, BAd feedback However,...at lower overdrive setting, crystal clear and sweet with highly workable tone switching and feedback.

Yamaha AEX 500...nearly perfect in every way at same setting with VERY high output and ultimately controllable tonal range.

Epiphone Joe Pass....extreme output, variable feedback, loss of bass clarity but, VERY rich mids and highs.

Washburn HB15....sweet, mellow and nice breakup (low output PU)

Gretsch G5120....fabulous on all accounts at this setting but, considerably lower output/ no feedback

Fender Baja Telecaster..ideal at this setting, no feedback.


Notice that the amp setting is constant and was set to be driven by a mid output P/U on a solid body.Each of these guitars has an "ideal" amp setting and distance from the cabinet. No two are the same.

That said, the Eastman and the Washburn (one solid/carved spruce) the other (a laminate) are both delights to play unplugged and return fabulous "acoustic" sound at the proper settings. In fact, I use acoustic strings on the Washburn with excellent results.

Were I to choose just one...God forbid:D...The Gretsch offers so many options and tonal characters I would tend to lean to this beautiful and affordable laminate top....but, that's just me...;)

Herb Hunter
09-22-2010, 09:18 AM
... Were I to choose just one...God forbid:D...The Gretsch offers so many options and tonal characters I would tend to lean to this beautiful and affordable laminate top....but, that's just me...;)

I briefly played a 5120 through a Fender Blues Deluxe and was impressed with its tone.

dthumb
09-22-2010, 09:39 AM
I briefly played a 5120 through a Fender Blues Deluxe and was impressed with its tone.


The Gretsch is my most recent addition. As a matter of fact, I went to buy one once before and was underwhelmed after hearing the Joe Pass (mine had been modded by the previous owner..pots, switches and an ideal setup...all Epihpone weaknesses, btw).
A year and a few specific needs later a good deal on a used Gretsch caught my eye...my ear followed closely behind. These are truly fine guitars suited to most any application except, perhaps, .....hmmmm,....no....I take that back:D....a proper rig and effects loop makes all things possible with this baby.
Although they are made in Korea (not American as you specified) and owned by Fender (not a bad thing) the level of craftsmanship is outstanding. Very impressed.

skyver
09-22-2010, 11:04 AM
Anyone looking for an inexpensive American-made semi-hollowbody should try a Gibson ES-135. They were discontinued in 2003; nowadays, you can find them on eBay for between $800 and $1100. I have one now, one of the late transition models with 57 Classic humbuckers and no f-holes. A friend of mine has one with P-100s (stacked single-coils), and another friend has one with two humbuckers.

I also own an ES-335, and the 135 is very close in construction and sound. The 335 is fancier, of course, with a bound neck (like the 135's replacement, the 137), but even used, it's at least twice the price. I took my 335 over when my friend with the humbucker-equipped 135 played a gig, and he used the 335 for the first set and the 135 for the second. Out in front (he plays in a big jazz band, with horns, sax, and a female vocalist), I couldn't hear any difference in the guitar sound. Afterwards, he commented that although the guitars feel sightly different (body thickness, neck size, access to higher frets), he agreed that the sound was pretty much the same to him too.

I've played a Carvin solid-body guitar in a shop, and thought that the construction was first-rate. You can nearly always find some finish flaws, or a bad pot, with a Gibson, but that's part of their charm for me. They're built in a very old-fashioned way.

I also own a 2005 Gretsch 6120. It's made in Japan, like all the current 6xxx series Gretsches. It's quite different from the Gibsons; for one thing, the quality control is flawless. It's very nice to play, more twangy than the Gibson. Used ones appear to sell for more than the 135, but I've seen a less flashy model, the Tennessee Rose, for around $1000 used. Not American-made, but certainly American-style, and you can get many great classic sounds out of them. The older American-made ones (pre-2000) seem to go for similar prices, but I've read that the quality can be inconsistent. You can still find a very good one, but it would probably be wise to try before you buy. I've played several old Gretsches, and I think the current Japanese ones are very, very good in comparison.

Herb Hunter
09-22-2010, 12:46 PM
...Although they are made in Korea (not American as you specified) and owned by Fender (not a bad thing) the level of craftsmanship is outstanding. Very impressed.

As I'm somewhat familiar with Gretsch guitars made in Japan, Korea, China and older US-made versions and noticed the made-in-Korea label on the 5120 I tried, it must have been someone else that specified, American.

One thing that isn't clear to me is the extent to which Fred Gretsch III is involved with Gretsch guitars. In the last few years, he and his wife have been at the CAAS Conventions representing the company and seeming to be in charge. Yet for 8 or 9 years now, Fender has had control over manufacturing and distribution.

Tone Gopher
09-22-2010, 01:23 PM
Just goes to show how we all hear different things.

Did you have the same model pickups in the Eastman and Gibson?

Let's also remain aware of the differences in body size, neck, and cavity block construction.

There are no A-B comparisons anywhere in this thread. That's alright, but please don't jump to making the comparisons of top construction while comparing apples and ducks.

dthumb
09-22-2010, 01:46 PM
As I'm somewhat familiar with Gretsch guitars made in Japan, Korea, China and older US-made versions and noticed the made-in-Korea label on the 5120 I tried, it must have been someone else that specified, American.

One thing that isn't clear to me is the extent to which Fred Gretsch III is involved with Gretsch guitars. In the last few years, he and his wife have been at the CAAS Conventions representing the company and seeming to be in charge. Yet for 8 or 9 years now, Fender has had control over manufacturing and distribution.

Sorry, Herb....it was the OP that specified "American Made"...my bad.

The latter.....I have no idea???

dthumb
09-22-2010, 02:10 PM
Did you have the same model pickups in the Eastman and Gibson?

Let's also remain aware of the differences in body size, neck, and cavity block construction.

There are no A-B comparisons anywhere in this thread. That's alright, but please don't jump to making the comparisons of top construction while comparing apples and ducks.


WEll, uh,...I kinda DID A/B ( see earlier post) ...at least that was the idea...

I have often wondered what a nice Vintage '57 PU would do for my Eastman....that would be an interesting comparison, no?

Solid wood to laminate.....different creatures all together...not "better" nor "superior"...just "different".


BTW,...a big thumbs up on the ES 135...very nice, reasonably priced guitars.

Tone Gopher
09-22-2010, 02:46 PM
WEll, uh,...I kinda DID A/B ( see earlier post) ...at least that was the idea...

I have often wondered what a nice Vintage '57 PU would do for my Eastman....that would be an interesting comparison, no?

Solid wood to laminate.....different creatures all together...not "better" nor "superior"...just "different".


BTW,...a big thumbs up on the ES 135...very nice, reasonably priced guitars.

Sorry that I was less than explicit - I was referring to the talk regarding the effect of solid vs laminate top. You did compare several guitars and you did compare Eastman to Gibson. However, when comparing any two electric guitars and commenting on the differences in sound due to the tops, one needs to recognize that pickups make a HUGE difference.

Yes, it would be especially interesting to play the Eastman with Gibson "Vintage '57" pickups.

P.S. and FWIW, as someone that played an ES-335 for a living during the '70s, I find the ES-135 to be a very different guitar (than the ES-335).

Rick Jones
09-22-2010, 04:05 PM
Did you have the same model pickups in the Eastman and Gibson?

Let's also remain aware of the differences in body size, neck, and cavity block construction.

There are no A-B comparisons anywhere in this thread. That's alright, but please don't jump to making the comparisons of top construction while comparing apples and ducks.




The Eastman is an all maple 335 styled thinline semi hollow with Kent armstrong PAFs.
The Gibson Lucille is an all maple laminate thinline semi hollow 335 with Gibson PAFs.
The epi dot is..........get the idea?

Apples and ducks? Hardly.

dthumb
09-23-2010, 09:11 AM
The Eastman is an all maple 335 styled thinline semi hollow with Kent armstrong PAFs.
The Gibson Lucille is an all maple laminate thinline semi hollow 335 with Gibson PAFs.



So,....aside from the HUGE difference in the Armstrong and the Gibson PU's what do YOU think the difference is?

If you set each guitar up in what you might find to be an "ideal" setup for your ear (amp, EQ, etc.) and play the same way on both (or as much as can be expected) do you find one to be "more" and the other "less" of this or that"?

That said, do you think/find that one top construction is what makes that difference? and, is it "superior" or decidedly "different"...and "how"?

I think that would be a fair comparison, no?

Rick Jones
09-23-2010, 11:41 AM
The pups in the eastman are marginally hotter, but they have very much the same sonic signature, slightly too midrange biased for shimmering cleans, but fat and sweet for single note work.
I have Gibson PAF pickups in my les Paul too, and that is closer to the Lucille than the Eastman.
Now the Gibson semi cost double what I paid for the Eastman, and I removed the vari-tone myself as I am constantly changing pickups and volume levels, and I sing in my band too, so I like a les Paul switch configuration, for when my brain is on autopilot.
I also added sprauge caps and a treble bleed cap on the volume control whilst I had the wirings gut out of the guitar......threading it back was hell.

But the Eastman, with it's cheaper pickups, no sprauge caps, no added treble bleed and Chinese switches and jack, has the more woody, open tone, better acoustic sounding cleans on both pups on, more sustain measurably I would say, better note separation, sweet response to legato, and unplugged it's loud as a guild rancher and comparable with a T5.


This is all through the same settings on a twin reverb and pro co rat rig I have owned since my teens, and I'm now 34.

The both guitars have a similar size tone block judging by tapping till you hear the resonance change, and the finishes are nitro in each case. The biggest difference, styling aside, is the 1 3/4 nut width on the Eastman.
My brother owns both semis now, I have a prs hollow body, which is a duck to those apples so not worth comparing. But I didn't base my opinion on idle thought.... I am somewhat of a geek with such matters, my wife days obsessively so.

Antonio Salieri
09-23-2010, 01:43 PM
Take a look at the Godin Montreal, and its now discontinued predecessor the Godin Flat Five. The construction of the Montreal is impressive.

http://www.godinguitars.com/godinmontrealp.htm

dthumb
09-24-2010, 08:59 AM
The pups in the eastman are marginally hotter, but they have very much the same sonic signature, slightly too midrange biased for shimmering cleans, but fat and sweet for single note work.
I have Gibson PAF pickups in my les Paul too, and that is closer to the Lucille than the Eastman.
Now the Gibson semi cost double what I paid for the Eastman, and I removed the vari-tone myself as I am constantly changing pickups and volume levels, and I sing in my band too, so I like a les Paul switch configuration, for when my brain is on autopilot.
I also added sprauge caps and a treble bleed cap on the volume control whilst I had the wirings gut out of the guitar......threading it back was hell.

But the Eastman, with it's cheaper pickups, no sprauge caps, no added treble bleed and Chinese switches and jack, has the more woody, open tone, better acoustic sounding cleans on both pups on, more sustain measurably I would say, better note separation, sweet response to legato, and unplugged it's loud as a guild rancher and comparable with a T5.


This is all through the same settings on a twin reverb and pro co rat rig I have owned since my teens, and I'm now 34.

The both guitars have a similar size tone block judging by tapping till you hear the resonance change, and the finishes are nitro in each case. The biggest difference, styling aside, is the 1 3/4 nut width on the Eastman.
My brother owns both semis now, I have a prs hollow body, which is a duck to those apples so not worth comparing. But I didn't base my opinion on idle thought.... I am somewhat of a geek with such matters, my wife days obsessively so.

Excellent write up!....

Which Eastman do you have and which Armstrong PU does it have?

My 810Ce is older. Its PU (no tone control/volume only) is God-awful loud when opened up...far too bright for its own good and would not compare well with a Gibson PAF . In fact, as I mentioned earlier, I have considered swapping it out with a Vintage '57 just for that reason.

I am "assuming"..and you may have mentioned this before...that your Eastman is a thin body (335 type)? Comparable to your Gibson, no? Mine is a deep (3" body) so, no comparison could be made like that.

One thing still hangs in the balance....do you think the solid wood top is what makes the difference or are there additional elements in play?...manufacturing, neck thickness/design/joint, tailpiece (metal or design) bridge, etc?

One more question....how do you like the PRS? ..and which one do you have? When the new ones came out I was quite excited about them having been playing a Vintage Thinline Tele Hollowbody for a while but, the ones I played in GC left me kind of flat...then again, I sold the Tele, too.......

Rick Jones
09-24-2010, 01:56 PM
Excellent write up!....

Which Eastman do you have and which Armstrong PU does it have?


I have (on long term loan to my brother at the moment though), the (I think) thinline ES335 style semi hollow mine was a special edition with gotoh hardware and figured maple back etc.....the pickups are PAFs....Kent armstrong but Gibson based;

http://i172.photobucket.com/albums/w12/RickJones_bucket/Gear%20pics/001-2.jpg

My 810Ce is older. Its PU (no tone control/volume only) is God-awful loud when opened up...far too bright for its own good and would not compare well with a Gibson PAF . In fact, as I mentioned earlier, I have considered swapping it out with a Vintage '57 just for that reason.

Nope, the KA PAFs sound like PAFs....the only humbuckers I use are PAFs, I have Bareknuckle PAFs in my PRS, PAFs in my Les Paul '59 reissue, PAFs in my allparts strat bodied thing I built..... they are all pretty similar sounding.
Your 810ce may benifit from a 250k volume pot....or a 500 if it one meg....that will take the edge off it, and a 0.001uF cap across it will help retain dynamics when rolled down a little.

I am "assuming"..and you may have mentioned this before...that your Eastman is a thin body (335 type)? Comparable to your Gibson, no? Mine is a deep (3" body) so, no comparison could be made like that.

Yep! 335 dimensions and shape. Just a solid carved top and back.

One thing still hangs in the balance....do you think the solid wood top is what makes the difference or are there additional elements in play?...manufacturing, neck thickness/design/joint, tailpiece (metal or design) bridge, etc?

Yes, I think it is the top that makes the difference. Why?
Well the things I like about the sound are apparent unplugged on this guitar, such as sustain, depth of bass and clarity.
The tailpiece etc are Gotoh and very like the Gibson ahrdware in weight and feel.

One more question....how do you like the PRS? ..and which one do you have? When the new ones came out I was quite excited about them having been playing a Vintage Thinline Tele Hollowbody for a while but, the ones I played in GC left me kind of flat...then again, I sold the Tele, too.......

I have the single cut hollowbody 1, piezo bridge and stereo output.... I can't comment on the II models, as I have never played one or seen one in the flesh, but mine is an amazing guitar....a true do everything guitar....the piezo tone is passable for gig work, and I had bareknuckles put in it that are like super dynamic PAFs.
I'll post some pics when I get it back from my friends studio....he borrows it all the time to record and says he struggles to use anything else now.

dthumb
09-24-2010, 10:07 PM
Don't get me wrong, Rick.....its not that I believe there is no difference between a solid and laminate top..far from it. But, that difference, while desirable to you is not always desirable for all players all the time.

I have a certain fondness for cheap plywood boxes....a strange "vintageness" that is hard to explain but, easy to hear when compared to a carved top ....I also, have a fondness for Seymour Duncan Custom Shop pu's...to each his own.;)