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Old 06-21-2022, 03:43 PM
29er 29er is offline
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Default Gretsch G9555 New Yorker vs Godin 5th Avenue?

I'm considering adding a budget arch top to my little collection and these two seem like natural rivals. The slightly wider nut width and solid top on the Gretsch seems like it would get the nod in tone and (for me, anyway) easier finger style playing. Does anyone have side by side experience with these two models?
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Old 06-22-2022, 01:08 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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I do - I own a 5th Avenue, play just about anything with a Gretsch logo on the headstock every chance I get...

First off, if you're using flattop guitars as a reference point be advised that laminated construction doesn't have the same deleterious effect on tone - something double-bass makers have known for over a century (FYI New York-era Epiphone laminated basses still have a strong following among knowledgeable players); while it'll never be a threat to a Loar-era L-5 the Godin is a fine-sounding little 16-incher in the mold of the postwar student archtops, with a bit more upper-bass/lower-midrange response that'll make it more appealing to a newbie and/or someone looking for an outside-the-box fingerstyle instrument - and with a set of medium-gauge monels it'll also do the Big Band four-to-the-bar comp thing. If you've ever played one of the Seagull mini-jumbos you'll find a lot to like here - including the light weight (thanks to the ultra-thin woods used in its construction) and identical neck profile...

Conversely and unfortunately, IME the New Yorker's solid top does little for tone - I've played a few (both the original acoustic-only and the current DeArmond equipped model) and find them to be thin, metallic, and strident-sounding; in addition, unless you've ever handled one in person suffice it to say that the neck is an anachronistic '20s profile (the original Gretsch New Yorker - an all-laminated instrument BTW - was introduced in 1949) - a thick V-shape which, depending on what you're accustomed to, can be a real bear to handle. If you're looking for a solid carved-top with a big neck, save up your bucks and score a postwar 16" New York Epiphone (Zenith, Blackstone, Spartan) - no tonal compromises, still available at fairly reasonable prices, and built to the quality standard you'd expect from a good vintage guitar; although the Loar LH-600 has "that" classic Jazz Age tone and can be had used for under $1K if you look around, the neck geometry - very important to both the tone and playability of an archtop (more so than a typical flattop) - can be a bit of a crap shoot, and even though it would appear to check all your boxes I didn't/wouldn't recommend it...
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Last edited by Steve DeRosa; 06-25-2022 at 08:53 PM.
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Old 06-22-2022, 03:08 PM
29er 29er is offline
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Thanks, Steve. That's exactly the kind of info I'm looking for and coming from you it bears weight. I do own a Seagull mini jumbo and the 1.8" nut width is just perfect. The only thing that makes me hesitate with the 5th Avenue is the 1.72" nut. I've heard enough good recordings of the Godin to know that I'd be happy with it. I know there's more to playability than just nut width so maybe I just need to get my hands on one.

Thanks for the honest input on both the Godin and the Gretsch!
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Old 06-24-2022, 01:20 PM
Dadzmad Dadzmad is offline
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I have two guitars that get played unplugged - a Kingpin and a 0 size Seagull. I don't know how the exact measurements compare but I play these two interchangeably and do not notice much difference in the scale and feel of the necks. Its a very comfortable and familiar cross section for me - years ago I had an old guitar with the thick triangular cross section neck, put up with it for a while but eventually moved on.
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Old 06-25-2022, 09:09 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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For those who've never actually seen an all-acoustic 5th Avenue, here it is - and I can, in a side-by-side A/B play-test, vouch for the acoustic superiority of the non-pickup version over the P-90 Kingpin:



Getting a little hard to find, though - particularly in the blonde and black finishes (I was lucky enough to score a blonde CW II - the single-cutaway, twin P-90 electric version - before they went out of production) - so if you're serious about one of these, you might just have to pounce on the first one that turns up before someone else does
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Old 06-26-2022, 03:23 AM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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I bought the Godin 5th Avenue acoustic second hand a few months ago (on Steve's recommendation). I put a cheap Ebay "rosewood" adjustable bridge on it and a set of medium gauge pure nickel strings. It sounds great!

I flatpick Carter picking style county/bluegrass /America on it and use it for song accompaniment. I only play cowboy chords. I capo for pretty much every song I do, anywhere between the 1st and 6th fret. I also Travis pick on the instrument with thumb pick and metal fingerpicks.

I love the sparse "roots" timbre for singing over. The guitar has plenty of punch with my set-up and it just spits out the notes.

There's no rich bass or overtones or sustain like you get from a flattop. But I really like its clarity and adjust my accompaniment arrangements accordingly.

I played it just mic'd at the local cinema/theatre a few weeks back and it filled the auditorium with sound.
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Old 06-26-2022, 09:40 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin, Wales View Post
...I love the sparse "roots" timbre for singing over. The guitar has plenty of punch with my set-up and it just spits out the notes.

There's no rich bass or overtones or sustain like you get from a flattop. But I really like its clarity and adjust my accompaniment arrangements accordingly.

I played it just mic'd at the local cinema/theatre a few weeks back and it filled the auditorium with sound.
You've pretty well summed up the whole raison d'etre for archtops as a whole - it's just unfortunate that few players born after the Eisenhower administration (or, for our cousins in the Empire, the Profumo affair) really understand what these instruments are all about. Here's one of my favorites of the younger generation archtop players, fellow AGF'er Jonathan Stout (AKA CampusFive) showing how it's done at Norman's Rare Guitars; note the subtle tonal distinctions between guitars of the same make/model as well as between different makes/body sizes, how each is used in both solo and comping roles - and precisely why those New York-era 18" Epiphone Emperors (my favorite BTW) were so renowned for their ability to cut through a full-tilt 20-piece horn section with no problem:



Many of the old-timers referred to their own (different) archtop technique as "coaxing the velvet out" - extracting that rich, creamy, woody, "tone you can eat with a spoon" from what could, in the hands of a lesser player, be solely a strident and steely-sounding instrument, to the ears of some lacking in dynamic range and character. While both approaches have their place and time (and a well-rounded archtop player should be proficient with both) I always preferred the latter: Romain Vuillemin provides a perfect example here, on similar instruments to those used by Messrs. Stout and Rossi, and providing a strong contrast to their edgier, punchier style intended to showcase the "cutting power" these guitars were known for:

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