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  1. #1

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    I've been thinking about having a new archtop built, and thus pondering the ideal size. I'm torn between 16" and 17" for the lower bout. Does anyone have opinions about the relative merits of each? I don't think I've actually played a 17" instrument, but I've been thinking that it might give a little more volume. I don't know about the tone. I have an 18" beast, and I like it, but it's just too big to play every day. Opinions welcomed, whether or not I agree with all of them. Mark Campellone's opinion would be especially welcomed, because I know he has considerable experience in this area, but everyone feel free to chime in.

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  3. #2

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    If you are thinking about a laminate with built in PUPS, I do not think the tonal/volume difference will be heard on the gig. Go with whichever size is more comfortable to you. If you are talking about a carved guitar with a floater, go 17 inches (the advanced L-5 seems to have set a standard), unless you choose a builder that knows how to get the magic out of a 16 inch guitar, as Gibson did in the Lloyd Loar days (1920's).

    At 62, I am still about 6 feet tall (used to be 6'1") and I find all three sizes (16, 17 and 18) comfortable. That said, I use a strap or footstool with all three sizes as I find playing while leaning over can lead to back discomfort.

    FWIW, a friend has a 1928 L-5 (16 inch) that is the loudest archtop that I have ever heard (and with sweet tone to boot. That L-5 sounds better overall, just barely, than my three vintage D'Angelicos).

  4. #3

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    I like 16" -- comfortable, and (with the right builder!) great sound. Depth is another factor, as well..

    [So do tell: who are you talking to about building?? Curious minds must know!]

  5. #4

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    I'm thinking about another Wu, with a carved solid top. The one I have is a wonderful guitar, and I play it every day. I like the sound both acoustically and amplified. But it's not perfect. I ordered it with a 1.75" wide neck, and now I think that was not ideal. A narrower neck seems easier to play for chords, although the wider one works well for single note playing. And I don't use the cutaway area much, so I want to try a non-cut. It will definitely be a thinner model. My Epi 175 plays great, but the thicker body just isn't that comfortable for me these days. That's really the major defect of my 18" Wu, the 3.5" depth is just too much to be comfortable for very long. I think 2.5" - 2.75" is plenty of depth for me, and gives more than acceptable tone, at least for the ones I have. My Benedetto Bambinos and Wu are about the optimal depth for comfort. The Benedettos are smaller than I like at 15", though. I'm not completely sold on a Wu, though. Current conditions in China will almost certainly affect delivery times. I would love to try a Campellone, but the CFO would require extensive persuasion. She thinks I have too many guitars already, and doesn't seem to understand the nuances of different sizes and configurations. But that $500 blender she bought the other day to replace the previous model, just to turn vegetables into puree, was essential.

    But whatever the source and price, I'm interested in the differences between the two sizes. And whatever I buy, if I buy, a DeArmond Rhythm Chief will be going on it.

  6. #5

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    If you’re going with a thinner body, I would definitely recommend 17”. I love the sound of a great 16” guitar, but everyone I’ve played that was less than 3” thick was clearly lacking.

  7. #6

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    I have a 16" sort-of-gypsy-jazz guitar in mahogany/spruce from Yunzhi. It really does have a sweet sound and in terms of volume and complexity, it keeps up with all the 17" models. I also get the neck width thing. As long as the neck has the right profile (somehow Yunzhi and Wu got this perfect for my taste) I like the 43mm.

    Archtop size-imgp2924-jpg

  8. #7

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    I know Barker and Hollenbeck always said if a 17 inch was carved correct and an 18 inch, the 18 should have more volume. That would also go with a 16 inch compared to the 17. But frankly in the real world it does not always work that way unless the tightest of controls are done by the maker. I am a bit over 6'1 like SS I was 6'2 at one time and 58 years old. I find a 17 inch or an 18 comfortable to play but 16's cause me to hunch over the guitar to much and do not sit correct. For me the best size is and 18 inch it just sits very well on my lap and I have no issues.

    The real meat is to carve the guitar to the best response depending on what the player likes. I like a nice volume guitar but I hate the loud ones that have excess highs and get just plinky (?) my own word. It is almost banjo like in response as the player goes into the higher fret registers especially on the treble strings. These to me are just loud but no character. My own 17 inch Barker from 1979 is a very responsive guitar and has volume but not the power of my 18 inch Hollenbeck, for some things this Barker shines better. These Barkers are not pinched at the waist as much as an L5 and feel better to hold. I have played L5s that sound as good but none that were over the top better.

    My 18 inch Campy is just absolutely in the middle for everything. It sounds very even and smooth and decent power but in the area of where one makes the money playing ( frets 3-10) the sound is nice for sure. My 18 inch Hollenbeck has more raw power and volume than the Campy but I cannot give the edge to either. Bill and Mark I both know and no rivalry I won't choose.

    One gripe with 16 inch guitars I have never heard one that had the bass response I happen to like. They just don't dig down in the lower end especially in about the 3rd position. This is where to me the 17 or 18 shines. I have played Loar L5's and early 16 inch ones and generally they are fantastic and loud for there smaller size. By far they are the cream of crop on 16 inch guitars. I think almost all over them I played have huge acoustic vibrating tops that make them super. What they don't have is the nice warm bass. The winner here in my case is my 49 D'a nothing quite tickles in the 3rd position like this guitar. I just put up a recording of this that captures it, I probably should post it but is is only a transcription playing of While We Were Young by Wes.

    I think you might like 17 and get the box thinner as rhythmman says.........maybe 2 3/4 inches striving for a bit thinner top should make the bass response better and going the other way on thicker it probably gets more highs. So we details when you order.

  9. #8

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    "I'm torn between 16" and 17" for the lower bout."
    Split the difference and go 16 1/2"!
    I use various sized carved acoustic archtops and each has a voice, including under 16", 16", 16 1/2", 17", 17 1/2", 18" and 18 1/2". All good. Here's a nice 16 1/2". These are very hand-made, all-carved, not hard to find and cheap in Europe, where most folks have no clue how good they are.


    Last edited by Hammertone; 02-19-2020 at 01:40 AM.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone
    Split the difference and go 16 1/2".
    I read this topic with interest, although I have no intention of buying back an archtop. I had 2, luthier, a Jacobacci laminated whole 'Gibson 175, a Legoubé sculpted 7 strings, it is 16.1/2' depth 7.3'

    today I'd prefer 18" and deeper, I guess for more bass. Anyway the maximum volume inside

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I've been thinking about having a new archtop built, and thus pondering the ideal size. I'm torn between 16" and 17" for the lower bout. Does anyone have opinions about the relative merits of each? I don't think I've actually played a 17" instrument, but I've been thinking that it might give a little more volume. I don't know about the tone. I have an 18" beast, and I like it, but it's just too big to play every day. Opinions welcomed, whether or not I agree with all of them. Mark Campellone's opinion would be especially welcomed, because I know he has considerable experience in this area, but everyone feel free to chime in.
    Generally speaking, a 17" body will offer deeper bass resonance than a 16" body - this doesn't necessarily mean greater overall volume, just broader response spectrum. Also, 16" guitars typically have stronger mid/low-mid resonance, and since we hear mids better than extreme high/low frequencies, a 16" guitar can sometimes sound louder than a 17" guitar. And of course, a 16" guitar offers greater comfort for average size players -

  12. #11

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    Thanks for all the comments. I'm still mulling things over, but I'm certainly leaning toward a 17" parallel braced noncut thinline. The nominal 16" I have is just a little small, causing me to bend over if I don't use the strap. I think 17" will approach the Goldilocks zone in size for me.

  13. #12

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    I had a telephone conversation with Roger Borys years ago, and he felt that a carved top archtop had to have a minimum of a 17" lower bout & 3" rim depth in order to sound full.
    His laminates, such as the B-120, are of course a different story typically being 16" X 2.75".