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Old 09-17-2010, 12:33 PM
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Default Inexpensive American-made Semi-Hollowbody

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...hp?model=sh445
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Old 09-17-2010, 02:04 PM
Rick Jones Rick Jones is offline
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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!
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Old 09-18-2010, 08:04 PM
Bob V Bob V is offline
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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.
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Old 09-19-2010, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob V View Post
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?
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Old 09-19-2010, 10:53 PM
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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
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Old 09-19-2010, 11:05 PM
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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.
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Old 09-20-2010, 05:12 AM
JohnZ JohnZ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GAD View Post
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.
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Old 09-20-2010, 07:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GAD View Post
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.
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Old 09-20-2010, 07:57 AM
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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.
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Old 09-20-2010, 08:04 AM
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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.
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Old 09-20-2010, 06:21 PM
Bob V Bob V is offline
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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.
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Old 09-20-2010, 08:11 PM
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The SH645 models are drop dead gorgeous!
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:07 AM
Rick Jones Rick Jones is offline
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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.
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Old 09-21-2010, 07:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob V View Post
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.
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Old 09-22-2010, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Herb Hunter View Post
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...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...
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