The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
Reply to Thread Bookmark Thread
Posts 1 to 19 of 19
  1. #1

    User Info Menu

    Anybody in the UK play one of these German guitars? They seem fairly priced and the 15"/16" basic 'Ballade' carved models are what I'm interested in. Like Rob and others, after mixed experiences with Gibsons, I'm inclined to favour a European maker. I saw one of his basic laminate models on Uk ebay a little while ago, but more interested in an acoustic model really.
    Last edited by bananafist; 05-04-2015 at 05:59 AM.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

    User Info Menu

    Welsh Jazz guitarist, Trefor Owen played a Sonntag guitar for many years, but currently he seems to play his Mapson guitar.

  4. #3

    User Info Menu

    Yes, a Google search showed two Sonntags owned by him for sale here a few years back, before I was aware of this forum.

  5. #4

    User Info Menu

    Stefan Sonntag is one of the best Luthiers in Germany, also worth checking out is Joe Striebel...

  6. #5
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by bananafist
    Anybody in the UK play one of these German guitars?
    I do (Augusta) - love it!

  7. #6

    User Info Menu

    I've played 2 of them and they were both outstanding.

  8. #7

    User Info Menu

    I'm so lucky to own a 17'' Augusta by Stefan Sonntag (with a floating Häusel HB).
    For me it's the one guitar, that I will never sell.
    Beautiful acoustic and amplified tone (pickup: floating Häusel HB).

    If you would like to try/play one of his guitars:
    November 4th 2017 he will exhibit @ the Archtop Forum in Kandel, Germany or on one of the workshops, he organizes, where he alway brings a few of his guitars like the one next week in Italy.

  9. #8

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by redwater
    Stefan Sonntag is one of the best Luthiers in Germany, also worth checking out is Joe Striebel...

    I have a strong opinion about whether I would prefer Stefan's or Joe's guitars.
    Not being the biggest fan of the newer Gibson archtops I can see why pro players like Lorenzo Petrocca (lorenzo petrocca jazz guitar ) have returned to playing Gibsons, after some experience with one of these custom guitars.

  10. #9

    User Info Menu

    There are so many great luthiers including ones building fine carved archtops to choose from nowadays. But aside from asthetic and 15"-18" size, it seems to come down to traditional (Gibson Epiphone) thicker tops and backs vs. more modern (Benedetto) thinner top and backs.
    For me I chose Frans Elferink to build one his smaller Tonemaster X braced 16.5" x 2&1/2 to 3" depth. I requested a thicker wood like a Johnny Smith/L-5C type of construction. I'm sure many luthiers will accomodate their customers wishes in this regard!

  11. #10

    User Info Menu

    I have played Bruce Forman's Sontag (he and I recorded a demo together using acoustic guitars and he played his Sontag without amplification). It is a great guitar. (Bruce plays the J16H Ballade)

    I have also played a Sontag owned by my friend Robin Nolan (A great Gypsy Jazz guitarist) It too is a great guitar. (Robin plays the J17H Standard)

    Sontag is a gifted luthier.

  12. #11

    User Info Menu

    Sonntag's guitar making is under the local radar since 1997, when he had exactly two archtop models to offer, the 16" and the 17" model (noted prices still in Deutsche Mark). No doubts here that he's able to make a great archtop.

    Sonntag guitars?-dscf1424b-jpg

    Unfortunately, the recording quality is quite low on the clips with Bruce and Sonntag guitars taken at guitar clinics. That's why some feel generally reluctant to rely on recordings when it comes to the quality assessment of acoustic archtop guitars. Maybe some others can get an impression:

    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 04-27-2017 at 08:12 PM.

  13. #12

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Fret
    Unfortunately, the recording quality is quite low on the clips with Bruce and Sonntag guitars taken at guitar clinics.
    Have a look (ear) here... 1. part just acoustic sound:

    another clip by Andreas Schulz:

  14. #13

    User Info Menu

    Thanks, Rainer!

    The clips with Bruce taken by Sonntag and the recordings by Andreas Schulz show the whole internet dilemma: the first generally lack of recording quality; the latter - to my ears - seem to be heavily processed.

    Some prefer to be chary: since 2005 Andreas Schulz is the chief editor of the magazine "Akustik Gitarre", the "largest magazine in Europe for all topics relating to acoustic stringed instruments" (AKUSTIK GITARRE ). In other words, this means he and his comrade-in-arms do live on the reporting on guitar brands and related gear, on presenting guitars on workshops, etc..
    I guess you know what this could mean in the background. Many years ago, when I still followed some of these magazines, it was already apparent to me that most if not all of them tend to be dyed by their own interest and that hardly ever a product was ever more seriously criticized, not even in single points. Some of them commentators even lack the deeper knowledge of details, for instance, when you ask them about guitar finishing techniques and their huge influence on acoustic sound.

    I got to know Stefan Sonntag as an aspiring young luthier in 1997 and a good guy, I wish him the very best and I can only recommend his guitars. However, in the meantime, I've been learning myself, by the help of violin makers and unselfish buddies, what "the sound of the luxury class" and "the maximum acoustic sound" really means (quotes from: Video-Tests > 4-13: Stefan Sonntag J17X|Standard Archtop-Jazzgitarre - ), respective many of the factors and details important for yielding such a sound, when it comes to acoustic archtop guitars.
    One thing is certain: in terms of pure marketing qualities so essential in the internet age, among the few smaller German custom makers (custom 'with limitations'), Stefan Sonntag is undoubtedly A grade.

    I hope this thread will not end, like some others, in personal revilement, just because someone is outspoken when it comes to archtop guitar making. Though it's ok, if this happens. It's just the internet, the illusion of a reliable source of information; in other words, the boost of one-sided opinion due to market power. In this respect, and though I'm anything but a power, I am asking you to look at my remarks as well!

    Oh, that burden of the incommunicable!
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 04-28-2017 at 07:38 AM.

  15. #14

    User Info Menu


    and thank you for your detailed answer.

    I agree to many of your Question Marks regarding the objectivity on the net.

    On the other hand I got to know Andreas as a teacher on a guitar workshop in Italy.
    He is not only a professional and reliable teacher, but a very kind and honest person.
    That's why I believe, he would never fake any of his material.
    But that's of course just my personal view.

    Greez, Rainer

  16. #15

    User Info Menu

    I have never had the chance to play one of Stefan Sonntags guitars, but I certainly do like the aestetics of them. A few years ago I considered ordering a J17 Electra from him but ended up with ordering a P-350 from Tom Painter instead because it was plywood which was what I was really after - and the price of the Painter mached my financial capabilities at the time better. However, this thread spurred me to visit Sonntag's web site again, and I feel the itch once more. (Now, look what you've done! )

  17. #16

    User Info Menu

    Thanks for all the responses, guys. My impression, reinforced by others expressed above, is that he is one of the genuine guys who builds beautiful archtops which sound good, too, for a fair price. When I initiated this thread I was thinking in terms of a 16" archtop, with a 1 3/4" nut (an essential for me) that had a pleasing acoustic sound - not necessarily a 'Gibson' sound.
    Since then, two things have occurred, 1) I acquired, almost be chance, a Gibson built 1937/38 Recording King M4 archtop in very good condition, very similar to this one,
    1937 Gibson Recording King 1123 M-4 Acoustic Guitar | Folkway Music, Vintage and New Guitars, Guelph and Waterloo, Ontario Canada and 2) more recently, the worsened arthritis in my left hand, particularly the thumb, severely limits my playing time.
    Sorry no photos of my guitar, camera is defunct and my phone photos are cr*p.
    The M4 has a five piece straight neck, nice low action and has the brighter, older, sound I was looking for to use in an acoustic trio. Sadly, because of the hand problems I can't play it as much or as often as I'd like, but it is a very pretty guitar and I enjoy looking at it too! I sometimes ponder on when and where, and by whom, it has been played over the intervening years - if only they could speak!
    For the present any possible future acquisitions are on hold, but ya never know.

  18. #17

    User Info Menu

    Contrary to what I wrote here some time ago, I've sold my 17'' Sonntag Augusta Archtop.
    But only because she was too big for me and I wanted a piezo option.

    So some time ago I ordered a 16'' Sonntag (model: Brigit) with a Tom Holmes Humbucker and a Piezo bridge.
    In addition, the Fishman power chip was installed to be able to adjust all the sound options directly on the guitar.
    2 additional 3-way switches allow to change the humbucker sound (split, parallel, serial) and to switch the pickup systems (only HB - HB & Piezo - only Piezo).

    I'm really happy with what I got in March.
    Regarding acoustic and electric tones all I was hoping for.

    Photos are not really good + some dust involved :-)

    Sonntag guitars?-00-jpgSonntag guitars?-01-jpgSonntag guitars?-02-jpgSonntag guitars?-03-jpgSonntag guitars?-04-jpgSonntag guitars?-05-jpgSonntag guitars?-06-jpg

  19. #18

    User Info Menu

    Sonntag guitars?-img_20230610_124340-jpg J18 Augusta here. Only change I'd make would be to substitute a (floating) humbucker.

  20. #19

    User Info Menu

    I play with a duo partner who has been playing a custom designed 7 string small Sonntag (more or less his own design), which became his main instrument since he had it. Altough Stefan initially tried to dissuade him on his request for a laminated top, the guitar turned out to be very good sounding - with the laminated top. I think one can't go wrong ordering one of Stefan Sonntags high quality guitars.