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  #1  
Old 09-28-2022, 03:51 AM
mrjop1975 mrjop1975 is offline
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Question Epiphone Masterbilt Century Archtops

Here is a question that I wondered if anyone may know the answer to - Why did Epiphone discontinue the Masterbilt Century Archtops series? I have a honeyburst Olympic model, and it is a keeper in my ever evolving guitar tastes. I got it somewhat because of David Rawlings playing one, but also because my first guitar style after strumming was the Carter scratch, and it was the closest I would get a Gibson L-5 or L-7 like Maybelle Carter used.
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Old 09-28-2022, 06:20 AM
Atomkraft Atomkraft is offline
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Probably because the archtop market is quite niche. Producing, shipping and selling them all cost money, and some of that money could also be spent on the billionth incarnation of the Epiphone Slash Les Paul. It is a shame though, I'd love to see the guitar world embrace archtops more, they're such lovely instruments. But I'll guess that the steel guitar world is saying the same thing!
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Old 09-28-2022, 10:01 PM
RLetson RLetson is offline
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The examples I played* were quite underwhelming--thin, harsh, brassy. And I've played enough pre-Gibson Epi archtops to have a good idea of what these ones weren't. As Steve DeRosa has pointed out any number of times, Godin has demonstrated that it's possible to build a respectable moderate-priced archtop, and to that I'd add The Loar 600 models.

* At, to be fair, Guitar Center, which is probably a sub-optimal venue.
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Old 09-29-2022, 12:49 PM
Keith Lee Keith Lee is offline
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Originally Posted by RLetson View Post
The examples I played* were quite underwhelming--thin, harsh, brassy. And I've played enough pre-Gibson Epi archtops to have a good idea of what these ones weren't.

My feelings exactly...really wanted to like this guitar, played several versions, new and used...looked intriguing from far away... > then thin underwhelming, colorless, powerless tone

Not even cool in a cheap guitar way
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Old 09-30-2022, 11:41 PM
radiofm74 radiofm74 is offline
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I would not be so negative: on their own terms they are cool little guitars but my thinking is that they were awkwardly placed on the market. On the one hand they do not cut it acoustically to appeal to the jazz/swing crowd: they cannot hold a candle to a good Loar and in fact they're even less of an acoustic guitar than, say, a Guild Savoy. OTOH they apparently did not make a big impression with the alt singer-songwriter crowd they were actually targeting (watch the demos!). So the niche was truly very small!

BTW, if Epiphone did a limited reissue of '30s archtops (say, a '32 Deluxe), made in the USA or in Japan with good woods and good workmanship, I'd be more than interested! But I suppose that won't happen anytime soon…

Last edited by radiofm74; 10-01-2022 at 12:17 AM.
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Old 10-01-2022, 07:37 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Originally Posted by radiofm74 View Post
...BTW, if Epiphone did a limited reissue of '30s archtops (say, a '32 Deluxe), made in the USA or in Japan with good woods and good workmanship, I'd be more than interested! But I suppose that won't happen anytime soon…
There was a long-standing rumor to this effect a few years ago: Epiphone realized their mistake and, when they pulled the Masterbilt archtops from the market (after only about 18 months), they were to be replaced with a Chinese-made, all-carved line of historically-accurate instruments based on '40s designs and priced to compete with Loar/Eastman. Unfortunately they chose to take a different direction, instead emphasizing their gee-I-wish-I-could-afford-a-Gibson designs and '60s-inspired flattops; shame, because they could have not only cultivated a new market with an archtop line but, with a greater push of their vintage-style Pac-Rim electrics (Coronet/Wilshire/Crestwood solids, Riviera, Casino, the discontinued Century, Embassy bass) they could have been a real competitor to Gretsch in the "affordable nostalgia" market...
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Old 10-01-2022, 09:48 AM
RLetson RLetson is offline
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When I first came across Eastman archtops (back when their standard finish was an antique-y violin-style varnish), my impression was that someone was finally imitating Epiphones rather than Gibsons. They sounded terrific to me--I was already an Epi owner--but I was told by the shop owner that some people were put off by the cosmetic appearance. When they started using a conventional shiny American-style sunburst finish, they sold better.

I suppose I shouldn't think less of customers who care a lot about appearance--I am automatically suspicious of black-lacquer-finish guitars.
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Old 10-02-2022, 06:18 PM
mrjop1975 mrjop1975 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
There was a long-standing rumor to this effect a few years ago: Epiphone realized their mistake and, when they pulled the Masterbilt archtops from the market (after only about 18 months), they were to be replaced with a Chinese-made, all-carved line of historically-accurate instruments based on '40s designs and priced to compete with Loar/Eastman. Unfortunately they chose to take a different direction, instead emphasizing their gee-I-wish-I-could-afford-a-Gibson designs and '60s-inspired flattops; shame, because they could have not only cultivated a new market with an archtop line but, with a greater push of their vintage-style Pac-Rim electrics (Coronet/Wilshire/Crestwood solids, Riviera, Casino, the discontinued Century, Embassy bass) they could have been a real competitor to Gretsch in the "affordable nostalgia" market...
Steve, the more I started thinking about it later on after posting this thread, I seemed to remember the same as you about reading somewhere that Epiphone realized they made a boo-boo and were going to retool and rethink the archtops in the Masterbilt series. The other thing that I thought about this a while after I posted this topic was that I personally think Epiphone was trying to do too much with the Masterbilt Century archtops - pick one size and do it well. I get it - they wanted 3 distinct sizes but honestly if they did just one and also had offered the case as part of the deal as opposed to separate, they could have had a real winner. As it is, if they ever did come back with one, and if I had the chance to try one and loved it, I would sell off my Olympic. Since that won't happen with what I noticed in their current offerings, I will be holding onto it for the time being.
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Old 10-02-2022, 07:15 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjop1975 View Post
...I seemed to remember the same as you about reading somewhere that Epiphone realized they made a boo-boo and were going to retool and rethink the archtops in the Masterbilt series....As it is, if they ever did come back with one, and if I had the chance to try one and loved it, I would sell off my Olympic. Since that won't happen with what I noticed in their current offerings, I will be holding onto it for the time being...
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjop1975 View Post
...I have a honeyburst Olympic model...because my first guitar style after strumming was the Carter scratch, and it was the closest I would get to a Gibson L-5 or L-7 like Maybelle Carter used.
Don't know if you're aware, but there's been a reasonably-priced, all-carved "Mother Maybelle" L-5 style instrument on the market for a long time:



https://www.sweetwater.com/store/det...bacco-sunburst

FWIW I had the opportunity to audition one many years ago at Mandolin Brothers (RIP...) side-by-side with a genuine 1928 L-5 and, while the then 80-year-old instrument was the clear winner, the Loar LH-700 was well within the ballpark of what it must have sounded like when it rolled off the Gibson workbench during the Prohibition era. There are,, however, a couple of caveats:
  • Other than the long-discontinued Gibson '34 L-5 reissue, this is as authentic a copy as you're going to get for anywhere near the price - including the thick, chunky, hard-V 1-3/4" neck that turned out to be the dealbreaker for me, so you'll want to take this into consideration;
  • I'm not sure if they've addressed the issue, but the neck geometry (extremely important for an archtop) could be somewhat iffy - if you decide to make the move have a tech who knows what he/she is doing when it comes to archtops (IME many excellent electric/flattop techs don't have a clue when it comes to making these babies sound/play their best) give it a thorough going-over, and send it back if it's not up to snuff...
That said, if you do get a good one (and you're OK with the period-correct neck) it's as close as you'll get to taking a time machine back to the Jazz Age and buying a brand-new one on New York's 48th Street - everything the Epi Masterbilts could/should have been from the get-go, and I wouldn't think twice about selling off the Olympic if all is well...
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Old 10-03-2022, 06:25 AM
Dlew919 Dlew919 is offline
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I have a masterbilt MM40L mandolin. It got a lot of hate online as it was made in China, but it is in fact a superb instrument especially for the price. I also have an Epiphone MM50e mandolin and a Casino - the casino needs a fret job, but otherwise both are also superb instruments. It's a shame they're not making the masterbilt mandolin or guitar anymore. But I suppose business is business.
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Old 10-03-2022, 04:47 PM
mrjop1975 mrjop1975 is offline
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Steve, I had heard of the Loar and it's archtop acoustic series, but had no idea that the model you provided the link to was as close to the Gibson L-5 or L-7 (anyone know what model it really was) that Maybelle Carter used after 1929. The only potential deal breaker for me could be the v neck. I think it is something I could work around if push came to shove. Unfortunately, in my neck of the woods, I just don't think any of the couple of music stores would have one in stock for me to try before I buy, so I could make sure. However, I did add to my wish list on Sweetwater so who knows?
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Old 10-03-2022, 05:58 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjop1975 View Post
...Unfortunately, in my neck of the woods, I just don't think any of the couple of music stores would have one in stock for me to try before I buy, so I could make sure. However, I did add to my wish list on Sweetwater so who knows?
IME Sweetwater is #1 in the industry in customer service, including a very liberal return policy: worst case scenario is that you buy, try, and return if it doesn't meet your expectations - bearing in mind of course that archtops, as a whole, are far more idiosyncratic and individual in their response, so while this one may be just what you're after it's nice to have the option of returning it and continuing your search...

Another option might be to place an order through your local Guitar Center (I see there's one in Champaign - but I'm sure you know that already...) on an approval basis - you'll have the advantage of a pre-purchase hands-on, but IME they don't pay as much pre-delivery attention to their instruments as Sweetwater; in short, what you see is what you get - and you'll need to take that into consideration in any evaluation...
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Old 10-05-2022, 10:11 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjop1975 View Post
Here is a question that I wondered if anyone may know the answer to - Why did Epiphone discontinue the Masterbilt Century Archtops series? I have a honeyburst Olympic model, and it is a keeper in my ever evolving guitar tastes. I got it somewhat because of David Rawlings playing one, but also because my first guitar style after strumming was the Carter scratch, and it was the closest I would get a Gibson L-5 or L-7 like Maybelle Carter used.
Hi, I don't know why they pulled them so quickly.

I went to a store with a jazz playing pal to check out the full line.

Sales assistant led us into the "acoustic" section, put two guitars at a time on stands then fetched a small amp and plugged them in!

They were nice looking and nice to play, but ...not really carved top acoustics.

I guess we were not the market they were aiming at.
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Old 10-05-2022, 10:14 AM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Default This was the Chinese Archtp that I settled for

I use an Epiphone case though!
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Old 10-05-2022, 02:37 PM
buddyrama buddyrama is offline
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What strings are you using on the AR805?
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