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  #1  
Old 11-27-2017, 01:39 AM
Tommy_G Tommy_G is offline
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Default Archtop tone is growing on me

Some may recall I purchased a Yamaha AEX1500 recently.

I have played electric and flat top guitars for years and it took a little getting used to a tone that initially presents as less harmonically complex, boxy and dark compared to electrics or flattops.

Paired with the right amp,I am definately getting what I consider to be tonal mojo. Really enjoying this archtop and getting excited that it may very well become my main guitar... It is very versatile.... I prefer the neck width to my LL16 acoustic. But still prefer the thinness of an electric neck.

I do not have a lot of experience outside this guitar for what the archtop tone really represents on a broad scale. Honestly... In the past any archtop I picked up and strummed would be met with disapproving ears. Thats why I bought this mail order! Haha. I have considerable trust in Yamaha.

I think I might be inclined to hear archtops differently now.

Last edited by Tommy_G; 11-27-2017 at 01:49 AM.
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  #2  
Old 11-28-2017, 06:28 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tommy_G View Post
...it took a little getting used to a tone that initially presents as less harmonically complex, boxy and dark compared to electrics or flattops...
Welcome to the "dark" side...

You're right about archtops having a very different tone than (solidbody) electrics or flattops; that said, there's a broad spectrum of "archtop tone" out there, and experienced players are going to have very specific preferences when it comes to achieving their signature sound. You've got a good example of what was one of the first commercial multi-source (piezo/mag) instruments - if memory serves me correctly Martin Taylor used one back in the late-90's (I'm sure many players will recall the clever ad copy) - but I'd also recommend getting your hands on other types/sizes, by other makers, and really fine-tuning your ear to the possibilities. By way of suggestion, if you find the AEX1500 dark and boxy-sounding you might want to look at something with a thinner top; I own a '64 Gretsch Double Anniversary and a recent Godin CW II, and the thinner tops (about half that of a typical laminated archtop) lend a natural liveliness and sparkle to the tone...

There's also the question of pickups and how they're mounted, which in combination with the body construction (laminated, solid pressed, solid carved, hybrid) can make differences - some subtle, some dramatic - in tone; as a general rule a fully-carved instrument with a suspended pickup (or two) will offer not only the greatest versatility (usable as either an acoustic or electric) but arguably the most-complex and least-boxy tone, as the finely-tuned soundboard is free to vibrate. On the other hand, thick-topped full-laminated instruments with built-in controls/pickups (such as your Yamaha) can often sound "thuddy" and one-dimensional, particularly if paired with darker-sounding pickups; be advised, however, that some players like this combination - mellow when doing chord-melody work or amplified comping, punchy and percussive on single-string lines - so it's a matter of what works best for your style...

Finally, there's the matter of which amp you're using; while "big clean" - plenty of headroom/dynamic range, mid-/high-power, 1x12"/2x12"/1x15" speaker(s) - is the order of the day for full-bodied archtops, you're going to get a very different response from a tube amp versus solid-state with the same speaker complement. Unlike typical rock players for whom tube amps are the tonal Holy Grail, archtop players (particularly jazzers) after a more "modern" tone will use high-quality solid-state equipment like Polytone, Henriksen, Jazzcat, Evans, et al.; by the same token, there's a certain magic when a big-body guitar is played through a nice tube amp - the classic tones of the first generation of electric jazz and blues, as well as every rockabilly record you've ever heard - and if you can handle the requisite maintenance schedule (plan on visiting your friendly local tech at least once a year if you're gigging regularly) and generally heavier weight, they're still a viable option...

Hope this helps...
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Old 11-28-2017, 07:49 PM
Tommy_G Tommy_G is offline
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Thanks for the great reply. I look forward to my next music store tour. There are some mid priced solid carved eastman archies kicking around.

In terms of amps... i have collected famous and sleeper amps for years and have some really great undervalued ones.

a Music Man RP112 65 has a beautiful rich smooth mag pickup tone.. Tones of vibe... But the speaker doesnt seem to give the presence and air required for the piezo


Also a. Peavey Heritage which is two channels of independent eq.. able to great tones on both the mag or piezo via separate channels.

Both are hybrids.. SS preamp and tube power amp, which I think is probably the best of both worlds for this style of guitar. Very crystalline preamplification combined with the smoothing effect of the output transformer and a bit of Class A tube halo effect.

Last edited by Tommy_G; 11-28-2017 at 07:58 PM.
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Old 11-28-2017, 08:36 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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As the former owner of a late-70's Music Man 410-65 and mid-80's Peavey Bandit 65 I'll +1 you on both amps - that Bandit sounded good with anything, from a first-run Gibson '61 SG Reissue to a first-generation Ovation Custom Balladeer (only amp that ever made that guitar sound acoustic). BTW, if you're into collecting undervalued/sleeper amps check out some of the pre-1985 (the independent two-channel orange/gray-stripe versions) Randall RG/RB combos - the 2x12"/1x15" models make great archtop amps (I've got a gray-stripe RB-120 that does double-duty for quasi-jazz/early blues and old-school R&R/R&B bass), and I've seen clean ones selling in the $175-250 range; keep in mind that these were intended as direct competition to Fender's silverface lineup as well as Leo's own (then-)upstart Music Man (and comparably priced in their day), so if your taste runs to the aforementioned "big clean" tones and/or you need lots of trouble-free headroom and power (these babies are built like tanks both electronically and structurally - and weigh about as much as their '70s tube counterparts ) one - or more - of these would make a worthwhile addition to your arsenal...

BTW, if you want the ultimate old-school Randall suss out an RG-300 2x12"/1x15" combo: Marshall Major-style power in a Twin/Vibrosonic Reverb-size cabinet, relatively rare (considered overkill even in its day) but arguably the only way to go if you needed 'verb and trem in a compact stadium-worthy package, and you could probably score one now for well under $500 in decent shape...
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Old 11-29-2017, 08:55 PM
Tommy_G Tommy_G is offline
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Was in a small music store today...

Tried a Godin Montreal Premiere with Bigsby, Godin Fifth Avenue and a used Ibanez ??71 methinks and a Guild Starfire 3.

The Montreal had gorgeous dynamics and an wonderful vibey tone. I liked the fretboard shape. It was more expensive than it was worth for the build quality. But about right or maybe a deal for tone... It really had nuanced qualities to it. Maybe I meed to go up to the Supreme...lol

Godin Fifth Ave was sterile and clunky... Meh.

The budget used Ibanez for 320 US bucks was killer tone per dollar...

Thought a Guild Starfire 3 was probably the best bang for buck..not quite in the same tonal league as the Godin but half the price

Last edited by Tommy_G; 11-29-2017 at 09:17 PM. Reason: 1980s
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Old 11-29-2017, 11:18 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tommy_G View Post
...Godin Fifth Ave. was sterile and clunky...Meh...
Which one - I've got an all-acoustic 5th Avenue as well as a CW II dual P-90 electric, and not only have they got a small but loyal following around here but TMK Tony Bennett's guitarist has been using one of the latter on tour for the last couple years (and I'd be inclined to think both he and his boss know a little something about tone); FWIW, for all their build quality Godin makes two fatal mistakes - equipping them with a plastic (they claim GraphTech) bridge as well as 12-gauge (wound-G 11's on the electrics) strings - which, if you've had any experience with archtops, will suck all your tone right out. I've got PB 14's on my acoustic (which I'll be replacing with Martin Monel 13's at my next string change) as well as a StewMac bridge (best $20 you'll ever spend IMO) and it's surprisingly good-sounding for an all-laminated 16-incher - plenty of low-midrange punch and bark, and a far cry from the Gypsy-jazz wannabe it was when I first got it a decade ago; the CW II currently wears D'Addario half-round 13's (formerly Chromes flatwound 13's) - with the twin P-90's it'll cover just about any style short of death metal, and while it doesn't have quite as much unplugged volume as my all-acoustic 5th Avenue it's quite usable when it comes time to work out vocal arrangements with my band. I'd recommend finding a used one (or two) that's been set up correctly (FYI archtops need heavier strings to get the top moving and get some "wood" into your tone, as well as a bridge base that's tightly fitted to the contour of the top) and give it a good workout - I suspect you'll come away with a very different impression...
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Old 11-30-2017, 11:11 PM
Tommy_G Tommy_G is offline
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The 5th Avenue had pickups... Cannot recall the model. I tried 6 or 8 guitars over a half hour.

Not the first time I picked up a 5th Ave and put it down...

The Montreal Premiere sounded better than my Yammy AEX1500... Now I have GAS.

Good tips on tweaking! Thanks.
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Old 01-07-2018, 05:31 AM
Frankieabbott Frankieabbott is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tommy_G View Post
Was in a small music store today...

Tried a Godin Montreal Premiere with Bigsby, Godin Fifth Avenue and a used Ibanez ??71 methinks and a Guild Starfire 3.
Ibanez AF71? I'm playing one of these acoustically (no amp). I love it. Narrow neck....Woody sound....enough volume and projection for playing at home....and cost me only 320.
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Old 01-08-2018, 08:29 PM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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I'm really confused at your definition of archtop.
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Old 01-10-2018, 09:11 AM
kayakman kayakman is offline
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It did not take long for me when I got my Deluxe Campellone all acoustic archtop.Several years ago had an Epi Triumph NYC made, was not satisfied, went back to Martin flat tops. When I wanted to find a good archtop,Mandolin Bros at the time had the Campellone, wow great guitar!!!
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Old 01-10-2018, 10:01 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kayakman View Post
...Several years ago had an Epi Triumph NYC made, was not satisfied...
Just curious if yours was a post-1951 model - IME the earlier ones were pretty consistent, and were (still are) among the unsung bargains in the vintage guitar world. As I'm sure you're aware there was the infamous strike and subsequent transfer of production to Philadelphia (which, in combination, led to the formation of Guild in 1953); as a result quality could range from top-shelf, fully competitive with the best prewar examples, to (literally) unplayable - the last models produced in 1956 were so bad that the remaining warehouse stock had to be trashed when Gibson bought the company, and Silver & Horland's Park Row operation still had some decade-old NOS in their storeroom when I went to buy my Gretsch Double Annie in early '64...
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Old 01-10-2018, 11:42 AM
kayakman kayakman is offline
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Steve my Epi pre 51..
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