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  1. #1

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    Anyone played both?

    Im looking for a new Archtop, thinking about a 17” Heritage

    heres my dilemma
    i can get a 1999 H-550 for around $2600 used

    I can use a discount and get an Eagle Classic for about $3800 new. If I use MusiciansFriend I get 8% in points, which I could use to get a Hiscox case for free (I use them for all my guitars)

    is the Eagle Classic worth the extra money?
    Which would you choose and why?

    my amp is a Sequel Tribute

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  3. #2

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    Keep an eye out for Classic is my vote. Big difference between these guitars.

  4. #3

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    The Eagles are all solid wood whereas the H models use laminated plates, AFAIK. Hence the price difference. The all-mahogany Eagle is the bargain of the bunch in my view, can be found for around 2 grand. The Classic is the Heritage take on the L5CES with less bling.
    For playing in a larger/louder band the lam-tops might have an advantage re feedback but their dynamic range and depth of tone is also significantly reduced with their heavier construction. It's not the lesser guitar, it just sounds quite different. Try before you buy ...

  5. #4

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    The H-550 is a fine instrument. The main difference is the body is made of laminate material. If you are playing in a band you may prefer that.

    Some don't like the Classic because the lack of inlays. I was one of those. But it didn't take long to get used to it.

    I did buy fretboard markers that really work well and are cheap yet durable. A set will last for years of play and are easy to remove and replace if you'd like.

    https://www.inlaystickers.com/collections/guitars

  6. #5

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    I used to own a H-550 back in the 1990s. Excellent guitar for playing in loud situations. Of the Eagles I've played over the years, most have fairly thin tops and backs. But these were floating pickup models,hence built to be acoustic first.

    Also another difference is the H-550 had a beefier neck profile as opposed to a thinner Eagle profile. Not sure if all H-550 models have that, but most Eagles as well as other Heritages have fairly thin to medium C profiles.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    I used to own a H-550 back in the 1990s. Excellent guitar for playing in loud situations. Of the Eagles I've played over the years, most have fairly thin tops and backs. But these were floating pickup models,hence built to be acoustic first.

    Also another difference is the H-550 had a beefier neck profile as opposed to a thinner Eagle profile. Not sure if all H-550 models have that, but most Eagles as well as other Heritages have fairly thin to medium C profiles.
    Heritage archtops are inconsistent in my experience. I've got 3 Eagles: one has a baseball bat thick neck that is thicker than my 1940s Epiphones, another has a thinner neck than a typical 1960 Les Paul, and the third has a medium C neck. All feel wonderful and there is no difficulty switching from one to the other.

  8. #7

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    All excellent comments about the differences between the H550 and Eagle (Classic). As a former owner of an H550 I'll add a couple more points.
    The laminate H550 has a relatively flat top and back and some have compared it's tone to Gibson's Tal Farlow, another laminate of similar overall dimensions. The carved wood Eagle has the more typical arched top and back.

  9. #8

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    I've owned a number of Heritage guitars 5 in total.Only the H-550 had a somewhat thicker neck profile. Also every Golden Eagle,Sweet 16, and H 575 I've ever tried had very slim neck shapes.
    I've only played one H-535 with a 59 shape neck of the many I tried as well.
    Who Knows maybe they just ship the skinny necks to Minnesota?

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    I've owned a number of Heritage guitars 5 in total.Only the H-550 had a somewhat thicker neck profile. Also every Golden Eagle,Sweet 16, and H 575 I've ever tried had very slim neck shapes.
    I've only played one H-535 with a 59 shape neck of the many I tried as well.
    Who Knows maybe they just ship the skinny necks to Minnesota?
    The neck thicknesses of Heritage guitars is more predictable now, and they are what I'd call medium C's. The early guitars did tend to have thin necks. But consider that until a few years ago Heritage built a high portion of its guitars with "custom" specs. Sometimes the buyer would specify the neck carve. Often the dealer would as a default for all guitars sent to his shop.

    Using the H-157 as an example, I have five of them. Two of them have a thinner neck. One has a 59 carve. Two have medium neck thicknesses.

    I have three Golden Eagles. One approaches a 59 C carve and two are medium, a C and a D. I know that at least two of them were ordered to those specs. I just don't know about the third.

    One of my 555s has a thin neck, which was carved that way by request for Vince Lewis. WELCOME TO VINCE LEWIS.COM...!!! Vince Lewis Jazz Guitarist Another one is definitely a medium D. Another semi-hollow, a 530, is a medium C, which I know was custom ordered that way.

    I can contrast this group of guitars with my Gibson semi-hollows. These six guitars that I got from the Memphis plant in recent years have virtually the same neck carve. Two are Lucilles, three are 345s, and one is a 355. I would call them medium D's.

    I can conclude a few things based on my several decades of experience and discussion with Heritage builders. The necks did tend to be thinner until maybe 2000 or 2004, but the variation of the carves was significant and very often due to how the guitar was ordered. In the 2000s the default became beefier but still not cookie cutter. The man doing the carve and shaping has always had some leeway. That was true at 225 Parsons St. even in the 1960s and 1970s.

    I'm not sure what's a better way to go but tend to favor consistency and predictability. When I get a recent Gibson I can pretty well count on the feel of the neck, depending on the model. The same is true with Fender and G&L. But I don't find it to be a major issue personally.

    I have discussed neck thickness with some of the old timers at Heritage. I heard their opinions on the matter. Fat necks are heavier, can lead to neck dive and are harder to wrap the thumb around to fret notes. Thin necks are generally pretty stable and have an advantage in chord melody playing when that thumb may need to fret the D string at times. But players have preferences, and they try to oblige with them.

    Nowadays I don't think there is nearly as much custom work done there. The carves are pretty consistently mediums.

    This video will give you some insight into the mental processes of the Heritage luthiers. They are practical men, not theorists.


  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass
    The H-550 is a fine instrument. The main difference is the body is made of laminate material. If you are playing in a band you may prefer that.

    Some don't like the Classic because the lack of inlays. I was one of those. But it didn't take long to get used to it.

    I did buy fretboard markers that really work well and are cheap yet durable. A set will last for years of play and are easy to remove and replace if you'd like.

    Guitars
    i actually really like the lack of inlays, it’s kind of stealth/not flashy.
    what year is your classic?

    im leaning towards the classic because of the more predictable neck profile, warranty, and being able to collect points to get the flight case for free

    any other opinions of the classic would be greatly appreciated

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass
    The neck thicknesses of Heritage guitars is more predictable now, and they are what I'd call medium C's. The early guitars did tend to have thin necks. But consider that until a few years ago Heritage built a high portion of its guitars with "custom" specs. Sometimes the buyer would specify the neck carve. Often the dealer would as a default for all guitars sent to his shop.

    Using the H-157 as an example, I have five of them. Two of them have a thinner neck. One has a 59 carve. Two have medium neck thicknesses.

    I have three Golden Eagles. One approaches a 59 C carve and two are medium, a C and a D. I know that at least two of them were ordered to those specs. I just don't know about the third.

    One of my 555s has a thin neck, which was carved that way by request for Vince Lewis. WELCOME TO VINCE LEWIS.COM...!!! Vince Lewis Jazz Guitarist Another one is definitely a medium D. Another semi-hollow, a 530, is a medium C, which I know was custom ordered that way.

    I can contrast this group of guitars with my Gibson semi-hollows. These six guitars that I got from the Memphis plant in recent years have virtually the same neck carve. Two are Lucilles, three are 345s, and one is a 355. I would call them medium D's.

    I can conclude a few things based on my several decades of experience and discussion with Heritage builders. The necks did tend to be thinner until maybe 2000 or 2004, but the variation of the carves was significant and very often due to how the guitar was ordered. In the 2000s the default became beefier but still not cookie cutter. The man doing the carve and shaping has always had some leeway. That was true at 225 Parsons St. even in the 1960s and 1970s.

    I'm not sure what's a better way to go but tend to favor consistency and predictability. When I get a recent Gibson I can pretty well count on the feel of the neck, depending on the model. The same is true with Fender and G&L. But I don't find it to be a major issue personally.

    I have discussed neck thickness with some of the old timers at Heritage. I heard their opinions on the matter. Fat necks are heavier, can lead to neck dive and are harder to wrap the thumb around to fret notes. Thin necks are generally pretty stable and have an advantage in chord melody playing when that thumb may need to fret the D string at times. But players have preferences, and they try to oblige with them.

    Nowadays I don't think there is nearly as much custom work done there. The carves are pretty consistently mediums.

    This video will give you some insight into the mental processes of the Heritage luthiers. They are practical men, not theorists.

    I recall my 1990's Blonde Heritage Golden Eagle (sold, sadly, long ago and grieved over ever since!) had something closer to the Epiphone neck-slim but not skinny. It was actually ideal for me. I loved that guitar and have often wondered where it ended up. Had to sell on eBay to cover a massively over-run credit card bill. Don't even know who bought it.

  13. #12

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    I was never impressed with Heritage overall. I always felt they lacked the refinement of the better Gibson models. I found they where short sided in aesthetic,hardware, and overall feel.

    Many here will defend them to their last breath,LOL! But the old guys who ran the company were the Norlin Gibson era guys,and I didn't like that era much either.
    It's not that they couldn't produce good guitars. It just seem they were set in their ways and extremely hard to get what you asked for.

    Now this was in the 1990s, and to their credit they finally became better about that. But too late for me, especially when Gibson was making great guitars again.
    I have seen some beautiful Heritage instruments here. But nothing as nice as the James Hutchins, Phillip Whorton era Archtops from Gibson.
    Again this just my opinion and like I said a couple guys here will berate me for this.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    I was never impressed with Heritage overall. I always felt they lacked the refinement of the better Gibson models. I found they where short sided in aesthetic,hardware, and overall feel.

    Many here will defend them to their last breath,LOL! But the old guys who ran the company were the Norlin Gibson era guys,and I didn't like that era much either.
    It's not that they couldn't produce good guitars. It just seem they were set in their ways and extremely hard to get what you asked for.

    Now this was in the 1990s, and to their credit they finally became better about that. But too late for me, especially when Gibson was making great guitars again.
    I have seen some beautiful Heritage instruments here. But nothing as nice as the James Hutchins, Phillip Whorton era Archtops from Gibson.
    Again this just my opinion and like I said a couple guys here will berate me for this.
    @jads57...No disrespect intended, but if you held and played this '93 Golden Eagle, I assure you, it would change your view of the ex-Norlin builders who became Heritage owners and builders.

    This archtop has swayed many a former critic. If you are ever in the S.F. Bay Area after this awful pandemic has passed, you are invited for an in-hand test drive.


  15. #14

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    Thanks so much for the invite. This is exactly the model Golden Eagle I've played many of. No disrespect either, and I'm really glad it works for you.
    And to Norlin Era luthiers credit, they build some of the best sounding Johnny Smith guitars ever.

    But as I've said before, these all have had thinner tops and backs as well as pencil thin necks. I really prefer thicker tops and backs of the Gibson J.S. model and a fuller neck profile.
    Mike Elliott former Gibson clinician use to play these when they first came out. Unfortunately due to his heavy string choice, he would end up stressing the top just after a year or so. So he would always sell them after a short time.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    I was never impressed with Heritage overall. I always felt they lacked the refinement of the better Gibson models. I found they where short sided in aesthetic,hardware, and overall feel.

    Many here will defend them to their last breath,LOL! But the old guys who ran the company were the Norlin Gibson era guys,and I didn't like that era much either.
    It's not that they couldn't produce good guitars. It just seem they were set in their ways and extremely hard to get what you asked for.

    Now this was in the 1990s, and to their credit they finally became better about that. But too late for me, especially when Gibson was making great guitars again.
    I have seen some beautiful Heritage instruments here. But nothing as nice as the James Hutchins, Phillip Whorton era Archtops from Gibson.
    Again this just my opinion and like I said a couple guys here will berate me for this.
    The Heritage original builders were definitely pre-Norlin in their roots and worked shoulder to shoulder with Jim Hutchins.

    Having said that, I have yet to play a bad, even mediocre, Hutch Custom Shop guitar.

    Here's a well thought out retro example.




    Here's my only remaining Hutch. I don't know why he built it except because it just needed to be built as a statement!

    Heritage - H-550 vs Eagle Classic?-37523560311_3b5fe0c72e_c-jpg

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Thanks so much for the invite. This is exactly the model Golden Eagle I've played many of. No disrespect either, and I'm really glad it works for you.
    And to Norlin Era luthiers credit, they build some of the best sounding Johnny Smith guitars ever.

    But as I've said before, these all have had thinner tops and backs as well as pencil thin necks. I really prefer thicker tops and backs of the Gibson J.S. model and a fuller neck profile.
    Mike Elliott former Gibson clinician use to play these when they first came out. Unfortunately due to his heavy string choice, he would end up stressing the top just after a year or so. So he would always sell them after a short time.
    If I remember Mike played a Gibson Super V when I saw him and he used like .16-.60 strings. Frankly those guitars should have helded up with no issue that seems a bit strange to me. Gibson's tops were always thicker than Barker and his guitars held up fine never saw a tops stressed. I could see maybe using like a bass size string but I sure would think they should not be caving in. Also if he ended up selling those guitars I hope the buyer knew the reason. It is possible to make a guitar to delicate certainly but even a thinner top with correct bracing hopefully would hold up but of course Gibson could not do what individual makers would do to compensate, or at least did not

  18. #17

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    Crazy how the Heritage Guitars have gone up in price over the past 10 years... I couldn't sell this guitar for more than $2,400 in late 2010. I didn't pay much more than that from Artisan Guitars (great shop) used, which I though was a great deal. Best looking Heritage I have ever seen. Played great, just moved a lot of instruments at the time including a couple Benedetto Bravos and other electrics. Yes, there are times I wish I still had this guitar... especially since buying another would be much more these days.

    Heritage - H-550 vs Eagle Classic?-heritage-golden-eagle-jpg

  19. #18

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    And I couldn't sell my house for what I had in it back then. Late 2010 was pretty much the bottom of the housing recession in the US. A lot of luxury items and collectibles took a hit in that time frame. It was a great time to buy up things for pennies on the dollar, if you had money.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine
    And I couldn't sell my house for what I had in it back then. Late 2010 was pretty much the bottom of the housing recession in the US. A lot of luxury items and collectibles took a hit in that time frame. It was a great time to buy up things for pennies on the dollar, if you had money.
    not necessarily for guitars... example.. same shop a week later sold a used L5 Wes for around $7k.

  21. #20

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    An that Wes today is not worth any more money.

  22. #21
    I’ve finally sold a few items, and I have an amp to return to the dealer tomorrow, so it looks like I am closer to making a decision on this

    for anyone with the (newer) eagle classic, can it do a typical fat bebop type tone?
    part of me is leaning towards the cheaper laminate because I associate them with being a bit darker which I like. But when I listen to Rich Seversons clips the Eagle sounds like it can do a darker tone

    any more opinions of the newer eagles are greatly appreciated

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by tfling
    I’ve finally sold a few items, and I have an amp to return to the dealer tomorrow, so it looks like I am closer to making a decision on this

    for anyone with the (newer) eagle classic, can it do a typical fat bebop type tone?
    part of me is leaning towards the cheaper laminate because I associate them with being a bit darker which I like. But when I listen to Rich Seversons clips the Eagle sounds like it can do a darker tone

    any more opinions of the newer eagles are greatly appreciated
    Every guitar Rich Severon plays sounds like him. He’s very very experienced so his signature sound comes through in each of his demos. I’d not purchase the laminate.

  24. #23

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    The laminate is a great choice! You save money and can play at much louder band levels without feedback issues. If you go with the Classic it w/o t have much more acoustic volume since it has 2 Humbuckers built in.
    It will translate to a bit more airiness,but the trade off is feedback at louder levels.

    Also the neck shape on the 550 is probably a bit more Med/Large as opposed to Thin and Skinny on the Classic. But have them measure specs for you on both!

  25. #24

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    I’m beyond hope all I come up with is one of each.

    I have a Golden Eagle and have come close to buying a 550.

    Really apples and oranges, for me anyway.

    Good luck.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by 73Fender
    I’m beyond hope all I come up with is one of each.
    And there is the definitive answer.

    Buy both and send the one you don't like as much to me for off-site secure storage.