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  #31  
Old 10-01-2022, 06:45 AM
tbeltrans tbeltrans is offline
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Originally Posted by WmHulme View Post
It seems like maybe the reason you’ve experienced acoustic archtops being easy to play could be the same reason they sound bad to you—the wrong strings. For an acoustic archtop to sound good, you should be using medium gauge PB strings, or monel. They are simply not going to sound that good acoustic with electric guitar strings.
That also seems to be the case with at least some flat top acoustic guitars. Those that are lightly built seem to respond better with lighter strings. In the case of my Huss & Dalton 00, there is a sticker inside that states to always use light gauge strings to avoid damage to the guitar. On the other hand McPherson guitars seem to fare better with medium gauge strings, presumably because they are heavier built.

With regard to archtops, aren't they similar to violins, violas, and cellos? If so, then it seems that if a builder takes the time and care in the building process, the instrument can be made to respond with other than heavier strings. This would certainly justify the high cost of the better instruments. My Gibson Citation is just such a guitar, and it sounds quite good with the strings that were on it when I purchased it. These were .012 gauge on the high E string and .052 on the low E string. I can even feel the guitar vibrating against my body.

But, then, this is not your typical archtop. It is quite expensive, and in any other circumstances than what I was in at that specific moment, I would never own anything close to that. It seems to me that its cost has more to do with how it was built than that somebody famous played this model or that it caters to collectors as a "vintage" guitar. I just don't see that a solid body guitar such as a Telecaster or Les Paul will benefit from the care taken to build the Citation or other similar (or better) archtop or a flat top guitar in which its acoustic properties benefit from such care in building. I bought it because I was absolutely blown away by how it played and sounded, and it had light gauge strings on it. I didn't know what the gauge was when I first played it, but knew that it "played like butter" and sounded great. I had never played any guitar that had that utter smoothness and sound. As the subject of this thread says, it alone had "the sound" that I heard in my head for an archtop.

I don't doubt that my Citation would sound even better (make that MUCH better) with medium gauge strings as you say. However, it certainly sounds fine even with light gauge strings, which makes it that much more attractive to me personally.

In googling around about these high end Gibson guitars, I found only one that was apparently more expensive than the Citation. This is the Super 4000 Chet Atkins model. That model was apparently built specifically as a collector's item with only about 20 or so ever built. It would be interesting to compare that to the Citation in terms of sound and playability. Would it honestly out perform the Citation or is it in the same league but more expensive due to only a few ever built?

Steve DeRosa frequently mentions some other brands of archtops as being exquisite models, so clearly the Citation is but one of many. He mentions Stromberg and D'Angelico, for example. Some fine players have owned these, based on what I have read. I would guess that, at least today, these would sell for much more than my Citation because in addition to their apparent exquisite quality, they are now also "vintage" collectibles and quite rare. It would be interesting to know if these sound good acoustically with light gauge strings on them. I suspect they would, even if they would sound much better with medium or heavy gauge strings.

In general, I would agree with your assessment, so all I am pointing out is that there are some possible exceptions. I can't imagine comparing my Citation to, say, the Ibanez AF95FM that I owned for a while. In my experience, these Ibanez guitars are an incredible value. But they are not the same as a high end archtop that is built without regard to production quotas and by very highly skilled luthiers.

Edit: My line of thinking on this also begs the question... I also have an Eastman FV-880CE-SB. If I read correctly (and I could be wrong), this is one of their most expensive archtops. I bought it before I even knew about the Citation. It is a fine guitar, but it simply doesn't compare to the Citation that just oozes class. From what I read about the Eastman archtops, the solid wood models have hand carved tops and are built with care by craftsman. I have no reason to doubt this. However, other than price, what accounts for the difference in quality? The Eastman is certainly a quality guitar, so I am not intending to knock it or say anything negative about it. However, to me there is a clear difference in the overall fit and finish and just overall quality between it and the Citation. That said, if I had not encountered the Citation, I would still be perfectly happy with the Eastman and have every intention of keeping it.

Tony

Tony
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Last edited by tbeltrans; 10-01-2022 at 07:48 AM.
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  #32  
Old 10-01-2022, 10:17 AM
RLetson RLetson is offline
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When I Googled the Citation model, I noticed two things that account for price and one that probably accounts for acoustic quality. First, everything about that model, from materials to features, screams "top of the line." Second, these were limited-run instruments that clearly must have gotten a lot more individual attention from the builders--so labor costs would be significantly higher. And if the builders spent a lot of time carving and voicing the box, that is likely to affect the instrument's voice, perhaps even the consistency of voice. (I suspect that a custom-shop model is more likely to be influenced by the oversight or even hands-on attention of a single craftsman.)

I'm sure I have offered this anecdote before, but it has a bearing here. Nearly thirty years ago, my friend Tom Crandall built an archtop in his grad-student apartment. He used nearly all hand tools (though he says he did have some kind of power tool to rough out the top and back), and once the guitar was structurally complete but unfinished, he started to voice it by stringing it up, playing, then unstringing and refining the top with a finger-plane, then playing, then planing again, and so on, until it had the voice he wanted. (The top has a marked recurve around its perimeter.) Then he French-polished it. The result is a very responsive and flexible instrument. And if built today, it would certainly have to have a five-figure price-tag (as big-name archtops do) to be a viable commercial item.

I suspect the Citations have something like that degree of labor and attention to sonic as well as cosmetic detail in them, even if they're not necessarily the product of a single pair of hands/ears. Which would also explain why, say, L-5s exhibit such sonic variability. There's only so much finesse one can expect of a commercially viable line of guitars.
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  #33  
Old 10-01-2022, 11:34 AM
tbeltrans tbeltrans is offline
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Originally Posted by RLetson View Post
When I Googled the Citation model, I noticed two things that account for price and one that probably accounts for acoustic quality. First, everything about that model, from materials to features, screams "top of the line." Second, these were limited-run instruments that clearly must have gotten a lot more individual attention from the builders--so labor costs would be significantly higher. And if the builders spent a lot of time carving and voicing the box, that is likely to affect the instrument's voice, perhaps even the consistency of voice. (I suspect that a custom-shop model is more likely to be influenced by the oversight or even hands-on attention of a single craftsman.)

I'm sure I have offered this anecdote before, but it has a bearing here. Nearly thirty years ago, my friend Tom Crandall built an archtop in his grad-student apartment. He used nearly all hand tools (though he says he did have some kind of power tool to rough out the top and back), and once the guitar was structurally complete but unfinished, he started to voice it by stringing it up, playing, then unstringing and refining the top with a finger-plane, then playing, then planing again, and so on, until it had the voice he wanted. (The top has a marked recurve around its perimeter.) Then he French-polished it. The result is a very responsive and flexible instrument. And if built today, it would certainly have to have a five-figure price-tag (as big-name archtops do) to be a viable commercial item.

I suspect the Citations have something like that degree of labor and attention to sonic as well as cosmetic detail in them, even if they're not necessarily the product of a single pair of hands/ears. Which would also explain why, say, L-5s exhibit such sonic variability. There's only so much finesse one can expect of a commercially viable line of guitars.
Well said and thanks for posting this. You said it much better than I could have done.

Edit: A good friend and pro musician who knew the people at Gibson who built these, told me that there were only two people involved. Unfortunately neither is alive today, so I doubt that any more will be built. Apparently, Gibson selected their top two luthiers, put them off by themselves and had them build limited runs of these, using only their finest selections of wood. They only built a handful each year of those years that they did the builds. The Super 4000 I mentioned earlier was only built for a short time with the idea of being a collector's item, while the Citation was simply to be the best that Gibson could produce, however many would be made. Each run of Citations was over a span of a couple of years, and I think there were three of these spanning from the late 60s-early 70s, then mid-90s, and then mid-2000s.

From what I understand, the Citation wasn't the only model that was built apart from the rest of the factory. Apparently the Johnny Smith and a few others were too.

There isn't much to be found about these, but here is what I found (and I found these after I had purchased mine and got a bit curious):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson_Citation

https://www.vintageguitarandbass.com...n/Citation.php

https://uniqueguitar.blogspot.com/20...nd-gibson.html

https://www.frettedamericana.com/pro...ibson-citation


Tony
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Last edited by tbeltrans; 10-01-2022 at 11:49 AM.
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  #34  
Old 10-02-2022, 01:56 PM
WmHulme WmHulme is offline
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Of course the all guitars have a sweet spot for the best strings. My point was that many archtops have pickups and correspondingly electric strings. These are often great guitars, but if unplugged just don’t sound that great acoustic with the electric strings. The problem is the pickups don’t work with PB strings. Monel strings , I’ve read, can work a pickup though I haven’t tried this. I believe it’s what the CC era played. Monel strings do sound good acoustic.
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  #35  
Old 10-02-2022, 03:09 PM
tbeltrans tbeltrans is offline
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Originally Posted by WmHulme View Post
Of course the all guitars have a sweet spot for the best strings. My point was that many archtops have pickups and correspondingly electric strings. These are often great guitars, but if unplugged just don’t sound that great acoustic with the electric strings. The problem is the pickups don’t work with PB strings. Monel strings , I’ve read, can work a pickup though I haven’t tried this. I believe it’s what the CC era played. Monel strings do sound good acoustic.
You could very well be correct about all guitars having a sweet spot for the best strings. Certainly there are a number of folks in these forums who have long been on the quest to find the perfect strings for the guitars they currently own. Then, when those guitars are moved on and new guitars acquired, the search starts all over again.

I have never been into that for some reason. On acoustic guitars, I have long used D'Addario EJ-16, but then more recent Taylor guitars I have purchase, shipped with coated strings, so I continue to use those same strings as replacements on those guitars. The only Taylor I kept is the 912ce. I use the same strings it shipped with, Elixir HD Lights. On my Huss and Dalton and McPherson carbon fiber guitars, I use D'Addario EJ-16.

I only know that on my Citation, it has uncoated light gauge strings, but I don't know the brand. When I change strings, I plan to use NYXL light gauge and I am sure they will be fine. hat is what I have, so that is what I will use unless they sound terrible, which I doubt/hope not.

For all my guitars, it is entirely possible that there are strings that are perfect for each, and also very possible that what I am using are not that. However, I just can't seem to get into that whole search for the perfect string as long as my guitars sound good to me.

Now that I have the Citation, there really isn't anywhere else to go to get something better (or if there is, I can't imagine the difference being so great to warrant switching to that instrument - when is a good thing good enough), so I can relax and just enjoy playing it, rather than constantly being "on the hunt". I started another thread listing the books I have collected to focus on, as hopefully being useful to anybody else wanting to focus on playing too. It is a solid plan, with absolutely no dependency on the internet, which is very much like shifting sands, always changing and always some shiny new thing to distract me. For me, anyway, it can be difficult to maintain long term focus on anything involving sites on the internet - too many distractions.

So I have the strings I intend to use, and the materials containing what I want to master, and it is a matter of taking each day as it comes, making progress without distraction.

Tony
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  #36  
Old 10-02-2022, 03:41 PM
T3mp T3mp is offline
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My Benedetto Fratello with flat wounds sounds like that acoustically. It has that classic 40's/50's Jazz tone I love.
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  #37  
Old 10-02-2022, 03:57 PM
tbeltrans tbeltrans is offline
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My Benedetto Fratello with flat wounds sounds like that acoustically. It has that classic 40's/50's Jazz tone I love.
Everything I have heard or read, indicates that Benedetto makes really fine instruments. Congrats on your choice!

For some reason, I have never taken to flat wound strings even though they seem to have a mellower tone overall. This is not at all a reflection on the strings themselves, I just don't seem to take to them for some reason.

Tony
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