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  1. #1

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    70s Aria Pro II PE 180-aria-pro-ii-pe-180-late-1970s-jpg

    I noticed this particular model receives a lot of love here. Well, as a matter of fact I owned one too long ago and I found some forgotten clips on my hard drive that some of the owners may dig. My wrist is in a splint and I should not play for 6 weeks says my hand surgeon. So I have nothing better to do than regurgitate old clips and talk about guitars (even the ones I no longer have apparently).

    I usually post clips in the Showcase section but this one is not about the playing (which is old).

    My PE 180 was a late 70s blonde one - the pic above was mine - and it looked really great. It had a super 400 style neck (big headstock) on an L5 like body. The neck was chubby. It did not sound anything like an L5 but still very good. More or less like a 175. Very classic. It was not built lightly and pretty heavy AFAIR.

    It was a great guitar that I sold for way too little money. But I had traded it against an old acoustic so got it for a bargain.

    Both being 17" laminate archtops with humbuckers, a comparison with the Tal Farlow comes to mind. Was it just as good? No, it wasn't IMHO. The Tal Farlow has more character sound wise (it actually has a Farlow vibe in it which is definitely not in my 175) and is of a higher quality overall (build is a bit lighter, better neck, better pups, much nicer woods etc.) but the PE 180 is still a fine guitar that really looks great.

    It's the one that got away ...

    The year was 2004. The clip was recorded with a webcam probably. Vid quality is horrible and there are software hick-ups in the audio. Youtube did not exist yet. Neither did JGBE.
    DB

    Last edited by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog; 07-16-2019 at 11:29 AM.

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  3. #2

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    That's a gorgeous PE-180. You correctly report that this instrument gets favorable attention here.

    I have one (albeit in Memphis EL-300 headstock form), Lawson Stone has one, 2bornot2bop owned one, and others, too.

    I play my version every day. You are correct that it is not quite the same as an L5CES in sound. It is a laminate-spruce top, after all. It does, however, feel a LOT like a Norlin-era L5CES. The neck carve, feel of the body, etc., feels like you are holding a 70s L5. It plays just like one, too.

    As far as sound goes, the "180" is a truly superior instrument. It is a marvelous 17" archtop guitar in its own right, with a great jazz vibe. I own some truly excellent carved body archtops. I wouldn't hesitate to put a "180" up against any of them. This is going to sound like heresy, but the "180" is actually superior to the ES-175s I have owned and have sampled.

    FWIW, it's my band's favorite for me to arrive at the gig with. Here's the PE-180 in Memphis EL-300 form:
    70s Aria Pro II PE 180-mewmphis-el300-jpg
    Last edited by Greentone; 07-16-2019 at 10:53 AM.

  4. #3

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    I happen to have 3 w slightly different cosmetics, one will be for sale soon, I only need one and a backup.
    I've been using one on our regular Friday night gig for 6 yrs now.

  5. #4

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    Wintermoon, which of these do you have?
    70s Aria Pro II PE 180-aria-pro-ii-l-1000-headstock_front-jpg70s Aria Pro II PE 180-aria-headstock-jpg70s Aria Pro II PE 180-pro-ii-180-headstock-jpg70s Aria Pro II PE 180-pe180-headstock-jpg70s Aria Pro II PE 180-aria-pro-ii-pe-180-head-jpg

  6. #5

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    GT,
    One is like the 3rd one pictured, another is just like it but w the Goya inlay, the other is like the 3rd pictured but w the Gibson "lawsuit" moustache top.

  7. #6

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    p.s. I've only seen 2 or 3 blondes like DB's old guitar, the vast majority were sunburst.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog View Post
    70s Aria Pro II PE 180-aria-pro-ii-pe-180-late-1970s-jpg

    I noticed this particular model receives a lot of love here. Well, as a matter of fact I owned one too long ago and I found some forgotten clips on my hard drive that some of the owners may dig. My wrist is in a splint and I should not play for 6 weeks says my hand surgeon. So I have nothing better to do than regurgitate old clips and talk about guitars (even the ones I no longer have apparently).

    I usually post clips in the Showcase section but this one is not about the playing (which is old).

    My PE 180 was a late 70s blonde one - the pic above was mine - and it looked really great. It had a super 400 style neck (big headstock) on an L5 like body. The neck was chubby. It did not sound anything like an L5 but still very good. More or less like a 175. Very classic. It was not built lightly and pretty heavy AFAIR.

    It was a great guitar that I sold for way too little money. But I had traded it against an old acoustic so got it for a bargain.

    Both being 17" laminate archtops with humbuckers, a comparison with the Tal Farlow comes to mind. Was it just as good? No, it wasn't IMHO. The Tal Farlow has more character sound wise (it actually has a Farlow vibe in it which is definitely not in my 175) and is of a higher quality overall (build is a bit lighter, better neck, better pups, much nicer woods etc.) but the PE 180 is still a fine guitar that really looks great.

    It's the one that got away ...

    The year was 2004. The clip was recorded with a webcam probably. Vid quality is horrible and there are software hick-ups in the audio. Youtube did not exist yet. Neither did JGBE.
    DB

    I agree they're excellent laminate guitars. the extra weight of a heavy guitar never bothered me, I'm kind of used to them after all these yrs. They're not in the same league soundwise as a good vintage L-5 or Super 400 but they're not carved top lacquer finished instruments either, so really not a fair comparison. But they're great for what they are. I needed a good guitar to use on close quartered bar gigs and got my first PE-180 locally from the daughter of the orig owner in a flea market parking lot - s
    he previously had it on ebay and the buyer flaked out, so she had a price in mind which I initially agreed to w/out seeing it in person, but it was played to death, frets worn down to the nubs and the neck looked like a rollercoaster it was so screwed up, so I walked away from it. But as she was getting in her car I turned around and called out a lower price than what she was asking to offset some of the refret/neck work, cause it had such a great vibe/mojo and she agreed, she just wanted to get rid of her dads old guitars, she probably would've accepted 1/2 of what she was asking. Then I took a chance on a young up and coming local luthier/repairman and he got the neck straight and playing like butter, have no idea how, but it's been my main 'laminate bar gig instrument' going on 7 yrs now, my old '69 L-5 CES has covered the rest of my gigs since the beginning of time.
    This has been mentioned here many times, but those old Matsumoko guitars are some of the best playing electrics I've ever had, Greentone and Lawson know this among others here. Way more consistent than Gibsons and I'm a huge vintage Gibson fanboy and am fortunate to own many excellent examples. But those old Japanese guitars just seem to have consistently perfect size/shaped necks and the mounting angles are consistently good as well, bridge height is usually tall. Plus they're not shaped too thin or thick, Gibsons are all over the map depending on era and carver. These old 17" Aria/Gibson copies have been climbing in price over the last few yrs and aren't easy to find either. They were already quite expensive when originally in production in the 70's-80s iirc.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    These old 17" Aria/Gibson copies have been climbing in price over the last few years and aren't easy to find either. .
    Yes, but the prices for these are all over the place. I just saw a few in the 2500-3000 realm. That is ridiculous. I mean, I got my Tal cheaper than that and I do think a Tal is a nicer guitar. In addition, I do hate the consistent but false sales rep "better than the original" or "truthful replica" for guitars like that. You cannot compare a PE 180 with a Super 400 or L5 specs wise.

    Same for the Ibanez L5s and Johnny Smiths of that era. I owned a 1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith once too.

    But for a more reasonable price the PE 180 is a great guitar.

    DB

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog View Post
    Yes, but the prices for these are all over the place. I just saw a few in the 2500-3000 realm. That is ridiculous. I mean, I got my Tal cheaper than that and I do think a Tal is a nicer guitar. In addition, I do hate the consistent but false sales rep "better than the original" or "truthful replica" for guitars like that. You cannot compare a PE 180 with a Super 400 or L5 specs wise.

    Same for the Ibanez L5s and Johnny Smiths of that era. I owned a 1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith once too.

    But for a more reasonable price the PE 180 is a great guitar.

    DB
    I can't comment on the Tal, but I agree on the other points. I'm crazy about my PE180 with the 70's looking sunburst. Indeed, the L5ces is a finer guitar, and the Epiphone Elitist Broadway was also finer, both being solid-top instruments. Still, the PE180 punches way above its class and the stock pickups I think are strikingly good. I agree the "just as good, half the price" PR copy is inaccurate. This guitar doesn't need hype, just solid exposure, and people who know a great archtop guitar will spot it immediately.

    Many do come with truss rods maxed out, so like any guitar "of a certain age" one should exercise due diligence. I continue to love mine, and love the laminate sound with the big L5 body and long scale. I probably have a Tal in my future but for now when I want a big-bodied, sophisticated but still punchy sound, I reach for the PE180. Kind of like an ES175 that has gone to the gym!
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  11. #10

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    Lovely instrument, great playing. I hope your arm heals soon and without issues!
    Best regards, k

  12. #11

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    Let me echo citizen74's sentiment. Speedy recovery. Keep playing.

  13. #12

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    I've got the Epi version of the PE-180 - the Epi Emperor F in blonde from 1983

    I traded a 70's Greco ES-175 copy for it - the Emperor was a massive step up in feel, looks and tone.
    I'd rather have this Epi than a Gibson ES-175 for example, as I prefer the long scale and 17'' body
    It has a fairly thick neck profile - suits this style of guitar in my opinion.

    Mine needed no work whatsoever
    I can get the action incredibly low with no buzzing

    I swapped out the humbuckers (which were actually seriously nice) with some humbucker sized Dynasonic pickups made by Gabojo pickups in Greece. The idea was getting the Billy Bean sound - which it nails!
    Also I put on a wooden saddle as I really don't like the tuneomatic bridges. They just buzz and rattle too much while killing the tone of the guitar.

    This is how it looked when I brought it home.

    70s Aria Pro II PE 180-epi-emperor-jpg

  14. #13

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    listen to that tone - in DB's hands!



    Last edited by 2bornot2bop; 07-20-2019 at 08:19 PM.
    "You've got to be in the sun to feel the sun. It's that way with music too." - Sidney Bechet

  15. #14

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    What a gorgeous guitar! I have a PE-175 Herb Ellis and I adore it. Can only imagine the PE-180 is just as wonderful.
    On the Turntable: Steve Reich - Phases (box set), Fred Frith Guitar Quartet - Ayaya Moses
    Guitar:
    Fender AVRI '59 w/ TI Swing 11s and Tyson Tone pickups
    Through: Polytone Mini Brute II

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmpmcdermott View Post
    What a gorgeous guitar! I have a PE-175 Herb Ellis and I adore it. Can only imagine the PE-180 is just as wonderful.
    What are the basic differences between the two? How do they compare in playability and tone?

  17. #16

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    The 180 is a 17" wide 25.5" scale length laminate body while the 175 is 16" wide and 24.75 scale length, like a Gibson ES-175

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil59 View Post
    What are the basic differences between the two? How do they compare in playability and tone?
    There are people in this thread who could answer that better than I could. For what it’s worth, the PE-175 was Aria Pro’s version of the ES-175, generally speaking (though it’s not a direct copy).

    Herb Ellis had a signature PE-175 model with them when he stopped playing his Gibson in the late 70s. That’s the one that I have.
    On the Turntable: Steve Reich - Phases (box set), Fred Frith Guitar Quartet - Ayaya Moses
    Guitar:
    Fender AVRI '59 w/ TI Swing 11s and Tyson Tone pickups
    Through: Polytone Mini Brute II