Archtops that won’t break the bank?


Hey Steve,

I’ve really been digging the sounds you’ve been getting out of the L-5 and the Vega (I think this is what you played at the Ardmore with Ron Holloway last November). Anyway, I’ve been in the market for an archtop myself and am wondering if you have played anything or have good info about any archtops in the vein of the L-5 or Vega on a student’s (ish) budget. Say, under $1500 or so.


Brice, Maryland

3 Thoughts on Archtops that won’t break the bank?
    20 Jun 2022

    The blonde archtop in Ardmore was the Gugino; 1930’s era neck-thru archtop. More on that later. .

    Anything that isn’t a solidbody will get you in the ballpark.
    Plenty of budget options available, you’ll just have to commit to “running the racks” and playing a couple dozen Epiphone’s and Eastman’s etc until you find a special one.
    There are at least three Epiphone thin/semi-hollow’s I’d be happy to own: the 335 style with the big humbuckers, the mini-hum version, and the John Lennon type with the P90’s.

    Epiphone also makes a full box flat-top John Lennon type thing with the pickup built in at the end of the fingerboard, not the most popular format these days, but I’d eat that up. . cool guitar.

    I’ve seen a few Eastman full box “jazz guitars” working well after upgrading most of the hardware and electronics.

    Again, the important part is strings attached to a box of air, not a plank. That’s the funk and complexity in those guitars: resonant, colorful attack, short sustain.
    That’s all “box stuff”. Wooden bridge helps for sure, and generally less mass for tuners and tailpiece than you might think.
    Heavier hardware could be considered an upgrade on some solid bodies, but not for the more acoustic style guitars in my experience.

    Anyway, you’ll be fine with your budget, you’ll just have to shop around.
    Also, there are lots of options out there.
    I just mentioned Epiphone because I’m a Gibson fan and a Beatles fan and I want a Casino. .

    Happy Hunting!

      24 Jun 2022

      Cool. Thanks Steve! Been looking at some Eastmans at local stores and played a few Epiphones but nothing has really called my name just yet. What strings are you running with on the Gugino? Flats?

      Thanks again for the answers, been meaning to set up another lesson soon but I’ve been pretty busy lately. Hope to catch up soon!

        28 Sep 2022

        So far I’ve only had flats on the Gugino, light ones too!
        Pyramid 11’s or more recently Dogal Expressive Jazz 11-46 which are maybe a little too light for me onstage.
        I really don’t want to wear the frets out on that guitar so I’m shying away from the medium roundwound bronze I like on the L-7.

        Do not get hung up with the “archtops+flats” generalizations.
        Every guitar is different; some like heavy strings, some work better light, sometimes flat’s are good, sometimes they’re a drag.

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