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  #1  
Old 09-01-2020, 06:30 PM
mandobaron mandobaron is offline
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Default Next best thing to an L5

I'm on the hunt for a 16" archtop that excels at old time and folk music as well as punchy old school jazz. Must have a raised fingerboard to get a floating pickup under there right at the end of the neck.

I've got a '53 L-50 that I love the sound of, but the fingerboard right on the neck means I can't get a floating pickup in there where I want it.

A lot of the modern builds I've played have a much smoother sound, and I can't shell out for a real-deal vintage L-5.

I think there were a couple transitional years in the 30's where L-50s had a raised board, and some other years where L-4's and L-7's hadn't moved to 17" bodies.

Or maybe there is a modern builder out there that captures the grit of the old ones at a price that doesn't break the bank?

Would love any pointers, be it specific years where vintage guitars fit my need, modern builders to look into, etc.

Thanks!
Baron
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  #2  
Old 09-01-2020, 08:04 PM
drive-south drive-south is offline
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I'd look into the Eastman line.

By the way, I believe all L4's are 16".
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  #3  
Old 09-01-2020, 08:22 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Some options:
  • If you're happy with your '53 L-50, Krivo's Micro-Stealth pickup is made specifically for low-clearance guitars like yours - not cheap at $200, but the reviews are excellent:

    https://www.krivopickups.com/store/p...zz_Guitar.html

  • Lollar offers a custom-order McCarty-style pickguard, copied from the Gibson originals and designed to fit any Gibson archtop:

    https://www.lollarguitars.com/blog/2...rchtop-guitar/

  • Several companies produce either under-base or saddle-mounted bridge transducer pickups, designed to offer a more "acoustic" sound without modifications to either the guitar or pickguard; a few examples:

    https://www.pickup.world/product/vin...rchtop-guitar/
    https://www.fishman.com/portfolio/ar...guitar-pickup/
    https://kksound.com/products/definity.php

  • Sometimes nothing will scratch the itch like a new guitar, and if you can't afford a genuine "Mother Maybelle" L-5 the Loar LH-700 is a near-exact replica at around $1500; be advised that it's period-accurate in all respects - including the classic midrangey prewar tone you say you're after (IME the 16" Eastmans are sweeter-sounding and lack the "cut" of a vintage guitar) - but if you're accustomed to a slimmer postwar neck the 1-3/4" thick-V profile might be more than a bit daunting (the only reason I don't own one right now). You'll also need to make sure you get a "good" one - I'm not familiar with recent examples but earlier ones had neck-set issues, that caused problems ranging from poor tone (FYI neck geometry is extremely important - far more so than a typical flattop) to complete unplayability - but the best of them can punch well above their weight:

    https://www.theloar.com/p/lh-700-vs

  • Finally, here's a reasonably-priced postwar L-4 already equipped with a professionally-installed pickup:

    https://www.archtop.com/ac_48L4_920.html
Good luck...
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  #4  
Old 09-02-2020, 09:21 AM
DanR DanR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
[*]Finally, here's a reasonably-priced postwar L-4 already equipped with a professionally-installed pickup:

https://www.archtop.com/ac_48L4_920.html[/LIST]Good luck...
Uh-oh! Very tempting.
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  #5  
Old 09-02-2020, 10:23 PM
sunra sunra is offline
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In a different vein, what about an Epiphone Blackstone from the 40s or 50s? Beautiful build, necks and easy to install a pickup (raised fretboard extension).
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  #6  
Old 09-03-2020, 10:12 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunra View Post
In a different vein, what about an Epiphone Blackstone from the 40s or 50s? Beautiful build, necks and easy to install a pickup (raised fretboard extension).
I used to own a '46 Blackstone, and IME they're seriously undervalued on the market (as are virtually all New York Epiphones) - you'll probably pay about 20-30% less than a Gibson L-50 (the closest comparable model) in similar condition; BTW if you're used to Gibson archtop tone be advised that the tops are carved to very different specifications, which translates to the uniquely Epiphone "cutting power" - more even across the board, versus the characteristic Gibson lower-midrange "thump." Unless you live in the Northeast Corridor they can be relatively scarce - this was considered an advanced-beginner/semi-pro 16" instrument, situated between the entry-level Zenith (the latter of which outsold/outlasted the Blackstone, which was discontinued in 1949, and was still produced in nominal quantities into the Kalamazoo era) and the Spartan, Epi's pro-level 16-incher (also discontinued by 1949) - but if you have a line on a nice one they're well worth checking out...
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  #7  
Old 09-03-2020, 10:20 AM
sunra sunra is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
I used to own a '46 Blackstone, and IME they're seriously undervalued on the market (as are virtually all New York Epiphones) - you'll probably pay about 20-30% less than a Gibson L-50 (the closest comparable model) in similar condition; BTW if you're used to Gibson archtop tone be advised that the tops are carved to very different specifications, which translates to the uniquely Epiphone "cutting power" - more even across the board, versus the characteristic Gibson lower-midrange "thump." Unless you live in the Northeast Corridor they can be relatively scarce - this was considered an advanced-beginner/semi-pro 16" instrument, situated between the entry-level Zenith (the latter of which outsold/outlasted the Blackstone, which was discontinued in 1949, and was still produced in nominal quantities into the Kalamazoo era) and the Spartan, Epi's pro-level 16-incher (also discontinued by 1949) - but if you have a line on a nice one they're well worth checking out...
Exactly and if one is willing to go for a 17" body the Epi Devon is one of the best values around for a vintage, carved top archtop. Same guitar as the higher priced Triumph and Broadway, less glitzy. Beautiful sound, yes, with cutting power, but also great clarity across the full range and wonderful natural reverb.
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  #8  
Old 09-03-2020, 01:09 PM
mandobaron mandobaron is offline
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Thanks for the thoughts everyone!

I would certainly consider outfitting my L50 with a pickup if I could get one under there, but have yet to find anything that would get close unfortunately. The Krivo is the lowest profile, but archtop.com suggests a 7/16" clearance, where I am measuring only 7/32" on my L50 going by their specs:

Approximate dimensions: Length- 2 3/4" (72mm); length including mounting tab- 3 3/8" (86mm); Width- 1 1/2" (40mm); Depth: 9/32" (6.5mm) Minimum recommended string clearance: approx. 7/16" (11mm) from guitar top to bottom of strings at the end of the fingerboard, with strings depressed at highest fret.

I've played some of the Loars, and they are certainly good for the money, but the ones I've played haven't had the sound I was after.

I'll have to look into those Epi's! Thanks for the tip!

I've been eyeing that L4, it's a beauty for sure. If it had a raised board I'd be all over it.

I've tried some under saddle transducers and haven't really found any of them to get the sound I'm after. Really looking for a P90/DeArmond sound out of a magnetic pickup.

The hunt continues, thanks again for all the wisdom!
Baron
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  #9  
Old 09-03-2020, 02:25 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunra View Post
Exactly and if one is willing to go for a 17" body the Epi Devon is one of the best values around for a vintage, carved top archtop. Same guitar as the higher priced Triumph and Broadway, less glitzy. Beautiful sound, yes, with cutting power, but also great clarity across the full range and wonderful natural reverb.
Played a couple back in the early/mid-70's (when a primo non-cutaway Emperor could be had for $500-600, a 17" Deluxe for $400-450) and I remember them being sweeter-sounding than their 17" counterparts, thanks to the mahogany body (some of the last examples - circa 1955-56 - used maple bodies, possibly originally destined for Broadway/Triumph non-cuts as demand decreased and Epiphone was facing imminent demise), but still possessing that signature Epiphone clarity and note-to-note definition. FYI Heritage revived the concept back in the '80s with their original Eagle, which was initially produced with a carved mahogany top as well as mahogany sides/back (TMK spruce tops were available by special order, essentially creating what the original Epiphone factory would have labeled a Devon Zephyr Regent), and the current Eastman AR610 is a modern execution of the Devon concept (especially in the sunburst finish - add a pickguard, Frequensator, and a set of the new "Epsilon" tuners used on the discontinued Masterbilt archtops, and it's 1950 all over again); here's examples of both:


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  #10  
Old 09-03-2020, 02:28 PM
sunra sunra is offline
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I had a Devon with a walnut body that i sold and still have one with a maple body...wonderful guitars.
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  #11  
Old 09-03-2020, 03:09 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandobaron View Post
I'm on the hunt for a 16" archtop that excels at old time and folk music as well as punchy old school jazz. Must have a raised fingerboard to get a floating pickup under there right at the end of the neck.

I've got a '53 L-50 that I love the sound of, but the fingerboard right on the neck means I can't get a floating pickup in there where I want it.

A lot of the modern builds I've played have a much smoother sound, and I can't shell out for a real-deal vintage L-5.

I think there were a couple transitional years in the 30's where L-50s had a raised board, and some other years where L-4's and L-7's hadn't moved to 17" bodies.

Or maybe there is a modern builder out there that captures the grit of the old ones at a price that doesn't break the bank?

Would love any pointers, be it specific years where vintage guitars fit my need, modern builders to look into, etc.

Thanks!
Baron
Perhaps you mean something like this :



or



However, if you are going to screw a floating pick up on it - then might as well just go for a loar.
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Last edited by Silly Moustache; 09-03-2020 at 03:15 PM.
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  #12  
Old 09-03-2020, 07:28 PM
Dave Richard Dave Richard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandobaron View Post
Thanks for the thoughts everyone!

I would certainly consider outfitting my L50 with a pickup if I could get one under there, but have yet to find anything that would get close unfortunately. The Krivo is the lowest profile, but archtop.com suggests a 7/16" clearance, where I am measuring only 7/32" on my L50 going by their specs:

Approximate dimensions: Length- 2 3/4" (72mm); length including mounting tab- 3 3/8" (86mm); Width- 1 1/2" (40mm); Depth: 9/32" (6.5mm) Minimum recommended string clearance: approx. 7/16" (11mm) from guitar top to bottom of strings at the end of the fingerboard, with strings depressed at highest fret.

I've played some of the Loars, and they are certainly good for the money, but the ones I've played haven't had the sound I was after.

I'll have to look into those Epi's! Thanks for the tip!

I've been eyeing that L4, it's a beauty for sure. If it had a raised board I'd be all over it.

I've tried some under saddle transducers and haven't really found any of them to get the sound I'm after. Really looking for a P90/DeArmond sound out of a magnetic pickup.

The hunt continues, thanks again for all the wisdom!
Baron
Mandobaron, funny that Steve DeRosa mentioned his ‘46 Epiphone Blackstone: I’m selling, for a friend, a ‘47 Blackstone, in excellent condition, and it sounds excellent. Even the OHC is EC. $1300 plus shipping. If you are interested, I will send photos. I myself own several vintage Epis, and have repaired many more: you can see photos and videos of those I’ve worked on, at my FB page, David Richard Luthier.
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  #13  
Old 09-04-2020, 10:32 AM
Ray175 Ray175 is offline
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Maybe consider an L7?
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  #14  
Old 09-13-2020, 10:08 AM
lat18 lat18 is offline
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Default Love my Loar

I'd like to say a few words in praise of my Loar LH-700. I bought it used through Reverb about a year and a half ago. Payed about $1000. It had hardly been played. I had no archtop experience but wanted the classic L5 sound having heard a bunch of YouTube vids from Jonathon Stout on his L5. (I recommend his solo acoustic guitar album "Pic it and Play it") I'm so happy with the Loar. I think it really has that sound and plays just fine. It's my go to guitar for couch playing which is about all I do these days. I can feel the vibration of the back against my body, very cool. I really think the sound has gotten better the more I've play it. I've used Elixir Nano phospher bronze (PB) strings on all my other guitars and have them on the Loar right now. They are very "zingy" if you know what I mean. I tried Martin Retro monels on it and liked the sound, very different from the PB's, darker, I want to say "duller", but not in a bad way. I'll go back to the monels when the PB's die, which takes a long time. Elixirs last, expensive but worth it to me. I play mostly jazz standards using four note movable chords up the neck. Love the sound in that style.
Anyway just wanted to share. Cheers!
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  #15  
Old 09-22-2020, 11:43 AM
mandobaron mandobaron is offline
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Thanks Dave, I've sent you a PM. Will also reach out on FB.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Richard View Post
Mandobaron, funny that Steve DeRosa mentioned his ‘46 Epiphone Blackstone: I’m selling, for a friend, a ‘47 Blackstone, in excellent condition, and it sounds excellent. Even the OHC is EC. $1300 plus shipping. If you are interested, I will send photos. I myself own several vintage Epis, and have repaired many more: you can see photos and videos of those I’ve worked on, at my FB page, David Richard Luthier.
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