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  1. #1

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    Collective wisdom:

    I have a 1935 Epiphone Triumph, mostly original, in VG condition.
    Sad to say, it just doesn't have the response it should: it takes a lot of force to make it sound decent, and even then, it doesn't seem to have much of that woody resonance that I think an old Epiphone should.

    A friend of mine had the braces on his 50s D-18 scalloped, and the result was pretty astounding. Is there an equivalent surgical procedure, or a combination of things one might do to enhance the tone of an old arch top?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Tom

    arch top tone improvement-2014-11-28-10-49-51-jpgarch top tone improvement-2014-11-29-10-51-44-jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images arch top tone improvement-2014-11-29-10-51-00-jpg 
    Last edited by tfaux; 04-12-2016 at 06:25 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Sorry if it looks like evidence, but before considering heavy surgery to this beauty, did you try different strings (brands, gauge, FW or RW ...) This can make a huge difference.
    Same question for setup, especially action.
    Make a jazz noise here

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by 339 in june View Post
    Sorry if it looks like evidence, but before considering heavy surgery to this beauty, did you try different strings (brands, gauge, FW or RW ...) This can make a huge difference.
    Same question for setup, especially action.
    Thanks 339.

    I've tried different gauge strings, both flat and round wounds. The action is not super low, but comfortable.
    The floating bridge is original. I suppose a different bridge could transfer the sound better. I'm open to suggestions on that.
    I agree, don't like the thought of cutting.

    Tom

  5. #4

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    try a set of 80/20's on it...also keep the action on the high side...many archtops were not cannons, that's why pickups were made!! haha

    luck..nice guitar


    cheers

  6. #5

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    Does the bridge base fit correctly the top of your guitar ?
    Make a jazz noise here

  7. #6

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    If the guitar is too heavily braced, it is not easy to shave the braces down, as there is no way to get to them other than disassembly or through the end pin hole or the f-hole. Shaving braces is not reversible so you need to be sure that is what is needed before you try it. There is no accurate way to test the bracing other than maybe trying to flex the top at the bridge while strung up. Needless to say, but this would be a last resort.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    try a set of 80/20's on it...also keep the action on the high side..


    Does anyone make 80/20's in Half Rounds ?... ( I'm assuming those are round wound, correct ? )

    Then, any specific brand suggestions ?

    Thx.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman View Post
    If the guitar is too heavily braced, it is not easy to shave the braces down, as there is no way to get to them other than disassembly or through the end pin hole or the f-hole. Shaving braces is not reversible so you need to be sure that is what is needed before you try it. There is no accurate way to test the bracing other than maybe trying to flex the top at the bridge while strung up. Needless to say, but this would be a last resort.
    Thanks Matt, figured as much but thought maybe there were some secret magic luthiers' tricks for bringing an arch top to life. I think I've exhausted the basic stuff. Bridge seems to fit the top fine.
    Thanks all.

  10. #9

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    Lovely instrument, my kind of girl.

    Now for a little heresy: Try a metal tune-o-matic type
    bridge. Buy a cheapie so you can reduce the height by
    shaving the (wooden) base if necessary with no irreversible damage to the original.

    What can it hurt, it might help and you've done no harm.

    I used this on a '50's ES-125 because I must use the lightest possible strings
    It helped in this instance, and I mean acoustically more than amplified.
    I am not a real player, just a lover of fine kindling & music, but that doesn't
    mean this might not work.

  11. #10

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    Carved archtops are very directional and typically sound much better in front of the instrument than in the player's position. Julian Lage said he'll practice in a corner to hear the full voice of an archtop.

    Try listening to the instrument with someone else playing it. You might find you like the tone much better from the audience position. If that turns out to be the case, your problem becomes how to improve the tone in the player's position.

    I tend to practice on flat tops or amplified archtops for that reason. I'm most inspired to practice if the tone I hear is awsome.

    The advice to experiment with string and setup is good. I'd advise against modifying the guitar to try to make it something it's not. If you can't live with it, you might need a different instrument.
    Last edited by KirkP; 04-13-2016 at 12:38 PM.

  12. #11

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    Boy, I'd surely not pull the top off of that guitar. If I couldn't live with it, I'd either put a pickup on it or sell it. If you change the bracing, the only things you can be sure of is that the resale value will drop and you will pay a lot for the work.

    Fitting the bridge base perfectly may help a little. But that's easy and should be done regardless.

    The most obvious thing to do IMO is to put some heavier strings on that beast. By that, I don't mean 13's. Try these.

    20PH Jazz Flats - Heavy 15-56 | La Bella Strings

    La Bella calls these heavies, but they were not exceptionally heavy in the 1930s. Your archtop was built to have a lot of bridge pressure to drive the soundboard.

    These strings are less bright than round cores and give that beautiful thunky sound. They generate a lot of sonic energy without much sustain, which is great for that four-to-the-bar your guitar excelled in.
    MG

  13. #12

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    I can't tell from the photos but what is the breakover angle of the strings at the bridge? If the angle becomes too shallow this may effect your tone. The breakover angle is related to the neck set angle and how high the tailpiece sits. Most archtops have a breakover angle of about 10 to 15 degrees. More angle at the bridge adds down force. Heavy strings also add down force. More or less down force does not always make for better volume and tone but it is something to consider.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis D View Post
    Does anyone make 80/20's in Half Rounds ?... ( I'm assuming those are round wound, correct ? )

    Then, any specific brand suggestions ?
    who else but thomastik, make a bronze flat!!..it's their plectrum series...the E A D G are bronze..with the A-D-G being flat and the low E being round...they are very low tension, so go for higher gauge 13's

    arch top tone improvement-91mdyiahchl-_sl1200_-jpg

    john d'angelico came up with the idea of the hex core 80/20 with d'addario...they still make 80/20's in that style...and yes they are roundwound...thomastik is the exception

    d'addario also has a brand new string i posted about before..nickel bronze..its a bronze string with nickel outer plating...so it feels more like an electric string but underneath is a brighter bolder acoustic style core

    arch top tone improvement-nb1256-large-jpg


    cheers

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    who else but thomastik, make a bronze flat!!..it's their plectrum series...the E A D G are bronze..with the A-D-G being flat and the low E being round...they are very low tension, so go for higher gauge 13's

    arch top tone improvement-91mdyiahchl-_sl1200_-jpg

    john d'angelico came up with the idea of the hex core 80/20 with d'addario...they still make 80/20's in that style...and yes they are roundwound...thomastik is the exception

    d'addario also has a brand new string i posted about before..nickel bronze..its a bronze string with nickel outer plating...so it feels more like an electric string but underneath is a brighter bolder acoustic style core

    arch top tone improvement-nb1256-large-jpg


    cheers

    Thanks....

  16. #15

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    I've got T-I 'Plectrums' (their lightest) on two guitars.

    Sort of like orthopedic my underwear, I need these. But they also sound good on these boxes,
    one flat, one arched.

    An important (and only lightly odored) cheese like me, they should reward me for this endorsement.

  17. #16

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    Have you considered a sound post?

    A Violin/Cello maker could pop some in....

    arch top tone improvement-b2ftg-gif
    So a violin/cello would have a sound post installed to stop the string pressure collapsing the top plate.
    In this diagram there is one bass bar and the sound post takes up the treble side of the bridge


    arch top tone improvement-soundpost_position-gif
    The actual placement of the sound post and its juxtoposition of wood grain compared to the top plate.

    The sound post is fit into the instrument under pressure with no glue what so ever.

    As the purpose of the sound post was used as a means to an end it was discovered that it improved the tone of the instrument it was installed in.

    Now there has been many a debate on string posts on this here forum in the past. I myself tried it out on two slimline hollow laminated jazz guitars with some success (which of course is subjective).

    Both guitars were exactly the same....

    arch top tone improvement-dsc00096-jpg
    Tanglewood/Cort TRG 1's



    Both had two string posts, one under each bridge foot.

    The orange one had string posts wedged from the top plate to the bottom plate.

    The blue one had string posts wedged from both brace/bass bars to the bottom plate.

    Now bearing in mind that my experiment was not scientific but more of a voyage of discovery. Yes there would be inconsistencies due to wood grain la la la but I found that both guitars did improve in acoustic tone (and yes they are predominately 'electric' in design). The blue ones tone improved the most which was acoustically 'dead' due to the copious amounts of blue two pack lacquer sprayed over the orange tinted lacquer.

    I believe that the sound posts transfer string vibration directly to the back as opposed to through the sides. This must be of some benefit! N'est pas?

    If you decide to go ahead with the string posts and there's no real improvement you can take them out or leave them be.

    There's also a lot of good advice here. Bridge fitting the top plate, string break angle, roundwound bronze strings - all good stuff.

    But the ole' string posts may bring something different without any drastic woodwork.

    Good luck matey.
    “When a wise man points at the moon the fool considers the finger.”

  18. #17

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    So scratching around for evidence (and pictures!) on the early Gibson L5 vari-tone tail piece I found you this to consider....

    arch top tone improvement-teaserbox_946380972-jpg
    Original hand tag for a '40 blonde L5

    arch top tone improvement-cache_946380977-jpg
    More info

    arch top tone improvement-cache_937605447-jpg
    So you adjust through the little peep hole

    arch top tone improvement-teaserbox_941216497-jpg
    Which in turn presses against the metal tang against the guitar top plate.

    Gibson pulled this design as they were getting a load of warranty claims due to over adjustment and cracking of the guitars top plate.

    Yes, I know your wanting the L5 picture....

    Here she is fellas...

    arch top tone improvement-cache_937605525-jpg

    arch top tone improvement-cache_937605992-jpg

    So what was the science behind this? The micro movement of the tailpiece which changes the string tension. Try experimenting with changing the tailpiece!?!

    Try the Epi Frequencer

    arch top tone improvement-frequensator-jpg
    You can bend them a touch and tighten the nuts to change the pitch of the string sets.

    Anyhoo, good luck on your tone voyage (ToVo).
    “When a wise man points at the moon the fool considers the finger.”

  19. #18

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    good stuff jb..was gonna ask op if that bridge is the original..even a small change in length or height of tailpiece will change tone..via break angle

    plus- with age, many tailpieces start to lift from body..from string tension..this creates a shallower break angle over bridge..which affects volume

    also common source of ghost or wolf tones..why you occasionally see guitars with some kind of damping material in that area

    cheers

  20. #19

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    A loss of breakangle is a possible cause of the poor response described by the op. If there is a slight top collapse along with a reduced neck set angle (from age) , a slightly high tailpiece, and these things will all add together to a low breakangle. If it has a low breakangle, I like jazzbow's idea of a sound post. That may be the best way for a practical and low cost partial fix. That and get the tailpiece down a little lower somehow. Hopefully Tom will write in and tell us what the breakangle is.

  21. #20

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    I would look at the neck joint to insure a tight fit. Old epis in many cases require neck resets. If the neck joint is loose then tone and sustain is lost to some extent. I had an old 48 epi deluxe and after the neck reset - the guitar rang like a bell and required little effort to play.

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  22. #21

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    I'm really into the Martin Retros ATM. Vintage sound and great gauging for jazz.

  23. #22
    Wow, leave a post for a few days and information grows all over it...

    Thanks everyone.
    • Got out my daughter’s protractor and an angle square from my carpenter days and measured the break angle: about 12 degrees.

    arch top tone improvement-img_1025-jpg


    • The bridge is original, and sits very snugly against the top, no problem there. It’s a nice old rosewood bridge that I’d be reluctant to switch out, but in any case, it looks good there.
    • There is no sign of the top caving or sagging. Interesting idea about a soundpost. If the solution below doesn’t give results, the guy who works on my wife’s violin could probably fit a soundpost in there.
    • I agree about not wanting to remove the top.


    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Longobardi View Post
    I would look at the neck joint to insure a tight fit. Old epis in many cases require neck resets. If the neck joint is loose then tone and sustain is lost to some extent. I had an old 48 epi deluxe and after the neck reset - the guitar rang like a bell and required little effort to play.

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk
    • Steve. I think you have hit on something. The neck doesn't feel loose but there is a tiny gap at the heel that I didn't notice until I read your post. It’s wide enough to slip a piece of paper into. A neck re-gluing is in the near future for this old bird. Hopefully the sound will perk up accordingly.


    Again, MANY thanks all!
    Tom

  24. #23

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    It seems your neck may need to be reset. If there is a gap at the neck heel that indicates there has been some movement through the years, it may be solid and last for many more years but if it has pulled away even slightly then the neck angle is surely off a little and would probably benefit from a neck reset. By the way, if repairs are needed inside the box, it is the back that is removed, not the top. I did the math and with a 12 degree breakangle a set of strings with 120 lbs of string tension creates a down force at the bridge of only about 25lbs. A heavier set of strings will add more downforce but may not be good for your neck. A reset won't be cheap, but if needed, a great guitar like yours deserves it.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by tfaux View Post
    Wow, leave a post for a few days and information grows all over it...

    Thanks everyone.
    • Got out my daughter’s protractor and an angle square from my carpenter days and measured the break angle: about 12 degrees.

    arch top tone improvement-img_1025-jpg


    • The bridge is original, and sits very snugly against the top, no problem there. It’s a nice old rosewood bridge that I’d be reluctant to switch out, but in any case, it looks good there.
    • There is no sign of the top caving or sagging. Interesting idea about a soundpost. If the solution below doesn’t give results, the guy who works on my wife’s violin could probably fit a soundpost in there.
    • I agree about not wanting to remove the top.




    • Steve. I think you have hit on something. The neck doesn't feel loose but there is a tiny gap at the heel that I didn't notice until I read your post. It’s wide enough to slip a piece of paper into. A neck re-gluing is in the near future for this old bird. Hopefully the sound will perk up accordingly.


    Again, MANY thanks all!
    Tom
    Tom,
    You have a nice old epi certainly worthy of a neck reset and proper set up - which will change its playability and enable the tone , resonance and sustain to improve.

    If you don't know a luthier - I would recommend Bryant Trenier. He has taken apart many epi necks and will get that instrument playing beautifully.

    Good luck.

  26. #25

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    Tfaux, at the risk of my sounding stupid, I hope that you know that an acoustic archtop does not sound like nor have the acoustic response of a flat-top like a D-18.

    I am not sure if you are saying there is a problem with the response of your 1935 Epiphone Triumph because it does not sound like your friend's D-18. Of course, they don't.

    Please correct me if I am wrong...

  27. #26

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    The canard (quack) that an old archtop needs to be played to "wake" it up is true. Perhaps you just need to play it a lot.

    Try a set of Martin Tony Rice 13-56 Monels on them.

    I am pretty sure that the Thomastik-Infeld AC113 Plectrum are roundwounds. The AC111 set is the one with flatwounds and one roundwound E2. The AC112 has one flatwound G3 with the rest being rounds.

  28. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
    Tfaux, at the risk of my sounding stupid, I hope that you know that an acoustic archtop does not sound like nor have the acoustic response of a flat-top like a D-18.

    I am not sure if you are saying there is a problem with the response of your 1935 Epiphone Triumph because it does not sound like your friend's D-18. Of course, they don't.

    Please correct me if I am wrong...
    Since you invited correction...

    The D18 I mentioned was a good sounding mid-50s instrument that my friend took to Dana Bourgeois for the scalloping, and as I said, the transformation was remarkable. It went from being good to being just about as good as any D18 I've ever played (quite a few.)

    But my question wasn't about making the Epi sound like a 1950s D18, rather, it was about making it sound more like a 1930s Epiphone Triumph. I've been playing guitar seriously for more decades than I like to admit, and am very familiar with the sound of these old birds. As I said in the original post, this instrument doesn't sound the way it should. And as I noted earlier, on reading Steve's note, I'm thinking that the slight opening at the heel might indicate some vibration loss.

    I'll leave it at that.

    Again, thanks all for the concrete suggestions!

    Tom
    Last edited by tfaux; 05-29-2019 at 09:31 AM.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by tfaux View Post
    But my question wasn't about making the Epi sound like a 1950s D18, rather, it was about making it sound more like a 1930s Epiphone Triumph. I've been playing guitar seriously for more decades than I like to admit, and am very familiar with the sound of these old birds. As I said in the original post, this instrument doesn't sound the way it should. And as I noted earlier, on reading Steve's note, I'm thinking that the slight opening at the heel might indicate some vibration loss.
    I don't believe that archtops, especially not a great vintage Epi like yours, ever suffer from being too heavily braced. That's a problem unique to flat tops. It's quite the opposite on archtops, because you occasionally see sunken tops. It's a very different construction and physics problem: one puts pressure on the top downward, the other can "pull" on the top (especially the bridge).

    I can't speak to the neck set issue, but I can say that "set up" is far more than merely the action at the 12th fret. I keep trying to put heaver strings on one of my guitars and it never feels right, and it's because, I finally realize, the nut slots are not V'd, so the thicker heavier strings sit above where they should. Consequently the action on the lower frets is uncomfortably high, even though the its fine by the 12th fret. Especially given that a 1935 Epi doesn't have an adjustable truss rod, things like proper nut slot profile and even fret dressing have a lot of impact. If all of that stuff is proper, then sure, a neck set may be in order.

    That said, you've got a piece of history, and I would say most luthiers are not properly acquainted with the proper function and set up of an ACOUSTIC archtop. Years ago, I took mine to one of Los Angeles' "best", and the guy tells me they do Lee Rittenour's guitars, and he can pull 11's on it and make the action super low. I told him that make no sense and that I play 1930's music acoustically and that I needed the guitar to project, so he offered to install a floating pickup. [facepalm]
    Jonathan Stout
    www.campusfive.com/swingguitarblog
    My new solo acoustic archtop CD, "Pick It and Play" is available NOW!
    Preview and pre-sales at jonathanstout.bandcamp.com

  30. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by campusfive View Post
    I don't believe that archtops, especially not a great vintage Epi like yours, ever suffer from being too heavily braced. That's a problem unique to flat tops. It's quite the opposite on archtops, because you occasionally see sunken tops. It's a very different construction and physics problem: one puts pressure on the top downward, the other can "pull" on the top (especially the bridge).

    I can't speak to the neck set issue, but I can say that "set up" is far more than merely the action at the 12th fret. I keep trying to put heaver strings on one of my guitars and it never feels right, and it's because, I finally realize, the nut slots are not V'd, so the thicker heavier strings sit above where they should. Consequently the action on the lower frets is uncomfortably high, even though the its fine by the 12th fret. Especially given that a 1935 Epi doesn't have an adjustable truss rod, things like proper nut slot profile and even fret dressing have a lot of impact. If all of that stuff is proper, then sure, a neck set may be in order.

    That said, you've got a piece of history, and I would say most luthiers are not properly acquainted with the proper function and set up of an ACOUSTIC archtop. Years ago, I took mine to one of Los Angeles' "best", and the guy tells me they do Lee Rittenour's guitars, and he can pull 11's on it and make the action super low. I told him that make no sense and that I play 1930's music acoustically and that I needed the guitar to project, so he offered to install a floating pickup. [facepalm]
    Thanks Jonathan. I appreciate the point about the bracing. The thing is, this guitar feels fine to play. I think the neck will need to be re-glued because of the separating heel joint, but not reset in the sense of neck angle.

    FWIW, the thing on this guitar that's not original is the binding. When I got it--5 or 6 years ago--the cellulose was a mess. Cracked, shrunken, missing in places, etc. I sent it to Andy Todd in Nashville, who did a fantastic and meticulous job replacing it.

  31. #30

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    Hello Tom. I'm new to the site and late on this thread but I can offer you an interesting experiment . Try cutting two small squares of rosewood veneer and placing them as feet under the bridge. I've seen archtops really respond well to not having bridge contact with the body over the whole length. Being veneer it will hardly change string height at all and, of course, is totally removable. Place them under the e strings to begin with. If it does help you then have to reshape the bridge!
    Nick

  32. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by maccy View Post
    Hello Tom. I'm new to the site and late on this thread but I can offer you an interesting experiment . Try cutting two small squares of rosewood veneer and placing them as feet under the bridge. I've seen archtops really respond well to not having bridge contact with the body over the whole length. Being veneer it will hardly change string height at all and, of course, is totally removable. Place them under the e strings to begin with. If it does help you then have to reshape the bridge!
    Nick
    Thanks for the post Nick.
    Willing to experiment, but I'm a little dense. Why might putting something between the bridge and the top improve transfer of sound?

    Tom

  33. #32

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    I think it's to do with exciting the top from a smaller area.if the feet are above the struts, they spread the vibrations, possibly more effectively (faster) than the dense bridge wood. Having said that, I failed to mention that to work really well the bridge needs to be hollowed out to reduce the mass. What I've always wanted to try but never have, is a bone saddle shaped to two feet mounted straight to soundboard, rather like a violin bridge, very low mass. My reply only adresses volume by the way, tone is another matter.

  34. #33

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    Cool guitar, and you've gotten plenty of good advice... I have a 1940 Epi Deluxe, and I'm really happy using Newtone strings. Their Heritage series - 13 -55 - have about equal tension on each string, and the overall tension is a bit less than D'Addario Lights. Only drawback is that the D string is almost too short because of the Epi tailpiece, but, so far, that hasn't been a problem. Good luck with improving the sound of your Epi -
    Attached Images Attached Images arch top tone improvement-newtone-acoustic-guitar-heritage-phosphor-bronze-low-tension-013-055-nhs6-1355-3-gif 

  35. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by mercosound View Post
    Cool guitar, and you've gotten plenty of good advice... I have a 1940 Epi Deluxe, and I'm really happy using Newtone strings. Their Heritage series - 13 -55 - have about equal tension on each string, and the overall tension is a bit less than D'Addario Lights. Only drawback is that the D string is almost too short because of the Epi tailpiece, but, so far, that hasn't been a problem. Good luck with improving the sound of your Epi -
    Follow up to this old thread.
    1) After a neck reset and reglue by Third Coast in Chicago I was much happier with the guitar. I think the loosening of the heel joint was contributing to some loss of tone.

    2) Mercosound, those Newtone strings are hard to find. I got "no longer available" from several sources. HOWEVER, Optima has a similar heavier gauge/low tension string, and they are fantastic on this instrument.

    Belated thanks all.

  36. #35

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    I've tried the Newtone strings, and they do sound good, but go dead very quickly. Like Christian, I really like the Martin Retro Monel strings on my acoustic archtops. But of course string choice is a very subjective thing, so use whatever you like.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by tfaux View Post
    Since you invited correction...

    The D18 I mentioned was a good sounding mid-50s instrument that my friend took to Dana Bourgeois for the scalloping, and as I said, the transformation was remarkable. It went from being good to being just about as good as any D18 I've ever played (quite a few.)

    But my question wasn't about making the Epi sound like a 1950s D18, rather, it was about making it sound more like a 1930s Epiphone Triumph. I've been playing guitar seriously for more decades than I like to admit, and am very familiar with the sound of these old birds. As I said in the original post, this instrument doesn't sound the way it should. And as I noted earlier, on reading Steve's note, I'm thinking that the slight opening at the heel might indicate some vibration loss.

    I'll leave it at that.

    Again, thanks all for the concrete suggestions!

    Tom
    What strings are you using?

  38. #37

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    Because the two frequensator arms are hinged, pending them will achieve literally, exactly nothing. The string tension will pull from the hinge axis to the top of the bridge along the same line of action whether the pieces are straight or bent.

  39. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Mmaddox7 View Post
    What strings are you using?
    I've started using Optima strings on this guitar. The last two string changes I used Optima Bronze 12s; for my next change I want to try the VintageFlex. Supposedly heavy gauge/low tension. Not sure how that works.

    Tom