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  1. #1

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    Here are the specs:
    - 16" bout
    - 2.25" body depth
    - 1 11/16" nut
    - modern C-shape neck
    - MOP side dots and fretboard dots
    - ebony fretboard
    - simple wood binding on body;
    - Buscarino PAF humbucker
    - stainless frets
    - Gotoh tuners
    - Macassar ebony headstock veneer
    - cocobolo truss cover/bridge/tailpiece/pickguard/knobs
    - Ordered in early 2011

    I'm going to post my thoughts on this guitar over the next few days. I've had it almost a week now. I'll compare it to the following guitars that I've played at some point:
    - Sadowsky Jim Hall (tried in store)
    - Buscarino jazzcaster (mine)
    - McKerrihan 15" oval hole carved archtop (mine)
    - several megabucks carved archtops that cost more than many cars (owned one once, and have tried several owned by a couple collectors I know)
    - Ibanez AF125 (used to own)

    My overall comment is that this is an amazing guitar and a fantastic deal. The builder was also a pleasure to deal with at all stages.

    My first thoughts about this guitar:
    - featherlight. Notably lighter than the Sadowsky. Lighter
    - fit and finish are perfect.
    - sounds glorious through an amp. Definitely a different tone than my Buscarino solid body, even though both have the same humbucker.
    - very feedback resistant, even standing right in front of the amp and facing the speaker. Have not tried stupid volume levels though.
    - fits in quite a slim case, so easy to transport. Nice unexpected bonus, because now the whole thing weighs about 10 -12 lbs vs. 20 lbs + for my other guitars in their cases.
    - very comfortable to play standing up.

    I'm very pleased. Will post more thoughts as they come to me. Happy to answer questions. Here's a pic.
    Attached Images Attached Images Stephen Holst Archtops-done1-jpg Stephen Holst Archtops-done3-jpg 
    Last edited by coolvinny; 11-12-2013 at 12:56 PM.


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  3. #2

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    Looks fantastic. I can not see how he can make a living at this price, but if he is happy, you must be very happy. Superb.

    I assume the strings are ungrounded. Are you in BC or in a place that does not get super-dry in the winter? I just have minor trouble with electrical static on ungrounded strings in the dead of winter, but I think for many this is not a practical problem at all.

    Ornate (via the non-wimpy choice of specific wood pieces) and no-nonsense at the same time. Congrats on such a fine guitar.

    Last edited by PTChristopher; 07-03-2012 at 04:39 PM.

  4. #3

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    Lovely guitar. I really like the size.

  5. #4

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    Congratulations, beautiful guitar, a couple of years ago, I bought to Steve Holst an ebony tailpiece, is a great luthier and a realy nice person

  6. #5

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    Cool beans, coolvinny. Always liked Steve; both his guitars and the man. That looks like a keeper. Handmade archtop at a factory price. What's not to love?

  7. #6

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    Played it quite a bit tonight. Locked away my Jazzcaster so that I can focus on the Holst and get accustomed to its different feel and sound. I will probably take the Jazzcaster to the office as my "office guitar", then bring my acoustic home so I can take it outside in the summer, etc.

    Oh man does it sound sweet through an amp, and my amp is just a little ZT Lunchbox. I have big band rehearsal tomorrow so I'm excited to hear how it sounds in a large space with lots of other instruments around. I'd plugged the Holst into an amp (while I was on my trip to pick it up) at a music store and it sounded amazing, but I assumed that was in large part because I plugged into a giant beast tube amp...however it seems like the guitar really is a huge part of that tone because even through the ZT I'm getting just a wonderful "bloomy" sound. It makes the Lunchbox sound huge.

    The Holst sounds bloomier and richer through an amp than my Jazzcaster. And as for a comparison between the Holst and an Ibanez AF125, the difference is huge. When I returned the Ibanez (I bought it and kept it for about 2 weeks) back in 2010 sometime, I told the sales person that it "sounded too much like an electric guitar" and he looked at me like I was crazy, as if it should sound like something else. Anyways, the Ibanez just sounded like a mediocre electric guitar, and the Holst is way out of its league. I think the Buscarino humbucker helps a bit, as the Ibanez's pickups always seemed suspect to me.

    As for the aesthetics of the guitar, I'm glad others like the look I went with. I wanted a very natural, no-frills look. I have some personal attachment to cocobolo's reddish hue, which is mainly why I went with that colour, but I also like how it is different than the usual ebony - I was pretty sure the cocobolo would complement the natural looking top (I didn't want flame maple for the laminate plates...I requested plain-jane looking plates) and the brown headstock veneer, and it worked out well.

    I really love the MOP side dots. They glow like crazy in low light. I really only got the MOP fretboard dots to make it easier to show other people how to play stuff, and so my guitar teacher can see where I am when he shows me stuff. While I'm playing, I don't notice the fretboard dots at all, which is why I went with dots rather than big block inlays that, in my experience, are hard to ignore.

    Don't you worry Pierre...this will get played at least a couple hours daily. I bought it to be my main guitar. The only reason I'm (probably) keeping the others is to have one at the office all the time, and my acoustic has a Calton case which I plan to use for trips that force me to fly.

    I am in BC so it is humid pretty much year-round.
    Last edited by coolvinny; 11-12-2013 at 12:57 PM.

  8. #7

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    Those specs would be perfect for me, and what a beautiful instrument... the colors are sooo nice. Wear it in good health!

  9. #8

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    Beautiful instrument you've got there! The textures in the finish and the tailpiece are the parts that really grab my attention. I hope we get to hear you playing it soon.


  10. #9

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    Gorgeous guitar! I would like the short scale as I have a Byrdland. Cheers, Jeff

  11. #10

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    So I had my big band rehearsal.

    Wow. It sounds huge through my tiny ZT Lunchbox. I have it strung with TI Swing 12's vs. Swing 11's on my solid body. The bass player was mightily impressed and said that it sounds totally different - much bigger and enveloping - than my solid body. I still like the directness of the solid body's tone (to me, it sounds more like a horn than the Holst), but with a small amp like the ZT I definitely prefer the Holst's tone. This is interesting since I think many other people have commented that the ZT does better with solid body guitars? I've wondered about that since I saw Reg Schwager gig with a laminate archtop/ZT combo and sound like a million bucks.

    I had to be cognizant of my guitar/amp/body position when playing at loud volumes today. There was a bit of feedback at times when I got lazy or when I turned and left the back of the guitar totally exposed to the speaker. But it was easily manageable once I stopped being an idiot and doing that.

    The Holst also sounds much more organic through my iPhone's "PocketAmp"/iRiffPort combo.

    I love that I can play it standing - that was the main reason why I ordered this guitar in the first place. I stood through the whole rehearsal - ahhh...freedom to move around...and it saves my back. This guitar is so light that I don't even realize I am wearing it. Big difference from a solid body, totally night and day. I stood up with it for 2 hours and had absolutely no fatigue and felt no need to stretch out.

    Oh, I also loved that I could do the Kessel/Raney/Farlow thing by turning my volume all the way down and playing four-to-the bar acoustically to comp for the bassist.

    I just love this guitar. If you are considering a laminate archtop, you have to think about a Holst. You just have to (in my opinion) especially given that it is no more expensive than other luthier or boutique laminate archtops. Sure, you'll have to wait a while, but then you can stop chasing the dragon. Take your time with the specs as many guitars beforehand as you can. Identify your priorities.
    Last edited by coolvinny; 11-12-2013 at 12:58 PM.

  12. #11

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    You didn't get plain-jane plates; Steve described your guitar as having quilted maple plates. Just so you know....

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky
    You didn't get plain-jane plates; Steve described your guitar as having quilted maple plates. Just so you know....
    Good observation. However, his "quilted" plates are his plainest ones (though that might be subject to his stock of laminate plates at any given time, since he makes then in batches). He's got a really cool sub-section of his website that just talks about his plates. Here's a pic from the work-in-progress stage - pretty darn plain. Mostly I wanted to avoid the heavy flame maple stuff, because they remind me of certain guitar companies that charge an arm and leg for that stuff on their solid body instruments - a practice that just rubs me the wrong way.

    I also posted a full frontal pic below. I tried to post a pic of the MOP side dots to inspire others to try this if they order a guitar, but either I'm too tired or my computer is too tired because it is not working.

    edit: the strap in that pic is totally overkill - it's the one I used to use on my solid body back when I played it standing. I took that photo a couple days ago. I'm now using the flimsiest leather strap available, and it works just fine since the guitar is so lightweight.
    Attached Images Attached Images Stephen Holst Archtops-ag6-jpg Stephen Holst Archtops-holst-front-jpg 
    Last edited by coolvinny; 07-05-2012 at 03:33 AM.

  14. #13

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    It's a beautiful guitar, and thank you for taking the time to give us your extensive comments on it. Extremely interesting and very impressive. Until reading this, I was never aware of this builder at all.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stbatz
    Congratulations, beautiful guitar, a couple of years ago, I bought to Steve Holst an ebony tailpiece, is a great luthier and a realy nice person
    I met Steve on eBay around 2003, I had an old Gibson L7N that I wanted a ES175 style tailpiece for - I first bought a couple of ebony tailpieces from him and then custom ordered the ES175 tailpiece. I emailed with him back and forth and he was so pleasant to work with I made him a bunch of George Benson concert cds and other music. Truly a great gentleman and a real stickler for detail. Check out this tailpiece of ebony and rosewood:

  16. #15

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    I can't belive that laminate plates can look that good...

  17. #16

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    It must be much the same as my Painter - the same basic idea. Tom Painters design is more crude than Steve Holst's (no binding etc.). If it plays and sound as well as my Painter, you have a very nice guitar.

  18. #17

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    I'm still loving this guitar. With the shorter scale and very comfy neck, I'm playing lots of melodies in octaves.

    If I was stricly a home player, I'd have gone with 2 3/8" depth at least...but as I try to jam with others fairly regularly, I'm glad I went with 2 1/4" if only for the slimmer case it fits into. So, keep that in mind if you look to purchase or custom order a similar guitar.

    As for Painter guitars, I don't think they are more "crude" but rather he achieves more of a vintage Gibson look. Holst's guitars are to me more of a modern styling - really a matter of taste. I actually did not want any binding at all but was told that the guitar needed some binding for his construction methods. I like the binding but I don't think binding is any better than no binding.

  19. #18

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    Holst 16" archtops remind me of the Roger Borys B120 guitar.

  20. #19

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    Well you know how you buy something and at first you're over the moon but then that fades?

    That is not happening with my Holst! I love it more each day. I play the heck out of it. It's totally comfortable to play either standing or sitting. It sounds unreal and resists feedback as much as I will ever need. I took it to my lesson recently and my teacher couldn't believe how lightweight it is (he plays a vintage 175) and after he played a few chords he commented that it sounded perfectly even across the strings, which is something he struggles with on his guitar.
    Last edited by coolvinny; 11-12-2013 at 01:00 PM.

  21. #20

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    How long did you wait for the guitar to be completed? I've never order a custom guitar, but I've heard from others that wait time can be years. Knowing myself, I just might change tastes in the years that I spend waiting for my guitar.

  22. #21

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    Jabberwocky, You hit that on the head about the Holst being like a Borys B120. I had one ( I also owned his #1 420) and it was fantastik. There's a B100 on Ebay now. It also reminds me of my Pisano. Those guitars went by the way side in search for the holy grail. And here coolvinny has brought me full circle with the grails newest incarnation. Great guitar coolvinny!

  23. #22

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    To answer some questions:
    - it sounds better than it looks...but in its optimal position (i.e. when I'm playing it) all I look at is the side of the neck - the top could be purple and I wouldn't know the difference.
    - it took a little over a year from the time I finalized the specs. It took me a few months to finalize specs though. Yes, during the build time I'd sometimes agonize over my previous decisions to spec it a certain way, but in the end it came out perfectly. The only somewhat "last minute" changes I made were to have all the appointments made from cocobolo; at first, it was only going to be one or two of them but then we realized the peghead was almost a perfect match for cocobolo, so it made sense to go all-out).
    - I very briefly played a friend's laminate Borys once. It was surprisingly loud and toneful for a laminate, but I can't really compare it to my Holst since the Borys had a much deeper body. But at current prices, seems to me the Holst makes more sense as a "keeper" guitar.

  24. #23

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    Very cool, Coolvinny. That's a real beauty.

    I'm within a couple weeks of having my Holst delivered. I think yours was just ahead of mine. I hope I like it as much as you do yours.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan0996
    Very cool, Coolvinny. That's a real beauty.

    I'm within a couple weeks of having my Holst delivered. I think yours was just ahead of mine. I hope I like it as much as you do yours.
    That looks really cool - is it a laminate model or a solid wood model? I hope it's a solid wood model because otherwise I might have to kick myself for not considering a side port in my laminate (I actually have a side port in my acoustic archtop, so you'd think I would have had this on my radar).

    Looking at the flame, I'm betting yours is laminate. Looks great! I'm sure you'll love it.

  26. #25

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    Hey Vinny,

    Mine is a laminate, and don't feel bad about not thinking to ask for a side port. I didn't think to ask for a Florentine cutaway, which I would have preferred, but I see that somebody's having one built. I just figured he didn't do them.

    Steve has really gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I got just what I wanted. He's a very accommodating luthier who puts his customer's needs and desires first. I can't say enough about how good he's been to work with.

    Mine's pretty similar to yours, except with ebony appointments and a 2.75" body depth and 24.75" scale. I got it at the old price too, which is a steal.

    It did my heart good to see your glowing review. I really needed the reassurance, but I'm sure I'll be pleased. I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying yours so much. Hope it becomes the love of your life.