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29er 02-22-2019 11:59 AM

Round/Oval Hole Archtop Tone
In general, can someone describe what tonal difference one might expect between an F hole versus a round or oval hole archtop? I have been thinking of adding an archtop to my collection of flat tops and I have not had the chance to try out anything other than the typical F hole guitar.

I am primarily a fingerstyle blues player and I just want a different tone and feel from my usual guitars. I also know that finding round/oval hole archtops is not an easy task! I see used Eastmans from time to time but these things are rare birds. Any thoughts or advise on what I might expect?

Bluemonk 02-22-2019 12:15 PM

I haven't had much experience with round hole archtops. My information is second hand. My understanding is that a round hole archtop will tend, at least slightly, toward sounding like a flattop, with a more diffused projection as opposed to the more focused forward projection of an f hole archtop.

I do have an Andersen archtop with a round hole in the upper bout of the bass side, and it seems to be a different animal altogether, with a little bit of Manouche (gypsy) guitar sound blended in.

mr. beaumont 02-22-2019 12:16 PM

Less different than you'd think.

THart 02-22-2019 02:03 PM

I have an F hole and a round hole archtop. While they are totally different guitars I think the F hole projects more but the round hole is more satisfying for me to enjoy playing. As for the sound, I think either one can be great for playing blues. Maybe the construction makes a bigger difference in the sound. I think my vintage Gibson with ladder bracing(?, is that the right term?) and round hole has a "bluesier" sound than my X braced Weber archtop with F holes. I just don't think it's the shape of the hole that makes the difference.

1Charlie 02-23-2019 08:50 AM

I just picked up a heavily used (OK, abused...) 1932 Gibson L-4 roundhole.

It sits right in the middle between the tone of an F-hole L-50 and a flattop L-00 from the same time period.

The L-4 is not as mid-rangy as the L-50, and it has much better bass response, and more sustain. Not quite as warm as the L-00, but warmer than the L-50.

The L-50 is loud and punchy. Notes bark and then die off almost immediately. The round hole L-4, OTOH, is smoother, rounder, less punchy, and a better all-rounder.

Quickstep192 03-06-2019 04:54 AM

I think the Andersen Oval Hole Archtop sounds just wonderful.
Here’s a link.

Silly Moustache 03-06-2019 09:20 AM

Hi, I'd see a similar differnce (is that a thing?) as the difference between Gibson F4 and F5 mandolins.

The F hole version is all about mid tone percussive projection. That's best for rhythm guitar in a dance band setting or X-5 style style mando in bluegrass.

The round hole is less projecting but a slightly (and it isn't enormously profound) "rounder" fuller sound.

This is a MASSIVE generalisation, but that is what I've perceived. I have three f hole archtops all very different :

but I still missed the '20s L-3 that I had to let go to pay my first mortgage (like this one):

ozarkmac 03-06-2019 01:50 PM


Originally Posted by Quickstep192 (Post 5998521)
I think the Andersen Oval Hole Archtop sounds just wonderful.
Here’s a link.

Wow! I really like that sound. Just don't like the price! But, you have to pay for what you want.

If I were a pro, no problem, but as a novice, it's difficult to justify.

Any other under $2,000 round hole archtops out there that are decent?

paddybrumson 03-07-2019 11:47 AM

Two options from Eastman worth looking into. Both are hard to find though:

Eastman AR 400

Eastman AR 904

I took a chance and picked up an AR 400 without playing it first and agree with the reviewer, sounds way better than a laminate should.

Spook 03-09-2019 12:31 PM

And now for some broad generalizations...

Individual guitar construction will matter quite a lot. In oval hole I have a 16" mahogany, 2 17" (one maple, on mahogany), and an 18" copy of a Monteleone Artist. They are made by Yunzhi and Wu guitars out of China. Solid woods, mostly Benedetto construction. I also have 17" and 18" regular archtops from Yunzhi. The oval hole guitars sound more 'open' and seem have a bit more bass and decay time. They still have the more pronounced attack of an archtop. Not the harmonics of a flat top, but more going on than the mid range punch of the archtops. I would choose an oval hole over a regular archtop for finger style blues but some want the dry midrange sound. Easy to figure that out just by playing a Loar at your local Guitar Center.

A Wu/Yolanda Team oval hole will run probably $1300 currently? Hand carved, solid woods, you get to spec neck width, trim, and other stuff. There is some information out there on the boards on how to order one of these. It's been some years since I got mine and I still have every one I ordered. Wouldn't mind a used Eastman but most likely would just order another Wu if I were looking.

kbrooks 03-21-2019 10:41 PM

Regarding round (oval) hole archtop tone,
here is a 2018 Collings AT 16:

Probably not affordable or even available,
but definitely inspirational.

Padma 09-26-2019 07:57 AM

Oval Hole Archtop
I have had an Eastman AR804CE, a maple and spruce oval hole archtop with a floating pickup, for about fifteen years. Nitrocellulose finish. For years I played it acoustically only; lately I have been playing it amplified through a Roland JC-22. I mostly play with my fingers, no fingerpicks, occasionally with a pick. At the moment I have acoustic phosphor bronze strings on it; I have had flat-wounds, TI Be-Bop, etc. I play mostly traditional blues, but also roots type music and a bit of jazz. The sound is very bright, as I would expect from a maple guitar, but deeper, with a more robust sound. It is a small guitar -- 16" lower bout I think, so not all that loud. It would cut through a mix of acoustic instruments, but not be very loud. It has that typical "tinney" sound of an archtop, but richer, with a bit more bass -- it has good tone and is pleasing. Amplified it is extraordinary, with a rich, open sound that is extremely clear -- perfect note separation. I highly recommend an oval hole archtop over a traditional amplified f-hole, of which I have a couple, if you play the kind of music I do.

Teleplucker 09-26-2019 08:18 AM


Originally Posted by mr. beaumont (Post 5987281)
Less different than you'd think.

I agree, I used to own an Andersen F hole and an oval hole. They are more similar than different.

DenverSteve 09-26-2019 08:58 AM

Just like comparing any two instruments - you can't accurately compare them without having them in front of you. Two different f-hole guitars, even the same model, will sound different. Similarly, two nearly identical round or oval-hole instruments will also sound different. Compound that with different years, strings...... So, broad generalizations won't suffice. As always, find a specific guitar you like and buy that one. I wast thinking after reading some threads here recently that a lot of people seem to spend far too much time conjecturing and speculating on guitar possibilities rather than playing the real guitars they have.

Richard Mott 09-27-2019 12:40 PM

A lot of what has been said here—i.e., all things being equal, which of course they never are, an oval or round sound hole archtop may tend to sound a little more open, while an f-hole may tend to project a bit better and be little more “compressed”. But those generalizations are typically overwhelmed by other variables like scale length, bracing style (tone bar versus X), small changes in the depth of the box, wood variety, density and stiffness, to say nothing of the carve and the curve. As players we naturally tend to attribute tone to things we can easily see like wood choice and round-hole versus f-hole, but the builder makes lots of other choices we never see. I once talked to the excellent flattop (and archtop) builder Mark Blanchard about the difference in sound of using some particular tonewood, and he said something to the effect “It would tend to make the sound more X, but there are so many other choices I make that are more important.”

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