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  1. #1

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    For various reasons, I'm playing unplugged most of the time. I have a thinline (2"), carved-top, true hollowbody archtop, with two set-in pickups. It's plenty loud unplugged, but I'd like a fuller, richer, more complex sound. The obvious answer is a full-thickness, acoustic archtop, but I find a guitar of that size too awkward and uncomfortable to play. So I suppose I'll continue with a thinline.

    I'd be grateful for your thoughts on the following questions:

    1. How much are the two pickups on my guitar degrading its acoustic sound?

    2. Is there such thing as a thinline -- 2.5" thick or less, let's say -- acoustic archtop? (For these purposes, a guitar with a floating pickup would qualify as an acoustic; anything with a set-in pickup would not.)

    3. If there is no such thing, is that because such a thin body won't permit anything like a real acoustic archtop sound?

    4. Would a thinline with only a single set-in pickup sound appreciably better unplugged than my two-pickup thinline?

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Ray
    Last edited by raymoan; 01-21-2021 at 12:37 AM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2
    Would be grateful for the benefit of your knowledge and experience.

  4. #3

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    Gibson built a number of fully acoustic L-5CT models, typically 17" x 2 & 3/8" or 2.5"

    I've owned these:

    Thinline acoustic archtop?-gobel-1960-front-jpg

    Thinline acoustic archtop?-1994-gobel-front-jpg

    Thinline acoustic archtop?-front-2-jpg

    They can be pretty loud, but typically lack bass compared to the full-depth model.

    Danny W.

  5. #4

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    An Eastman T145 or T146 is generally pretty loud. The one I owned was louder than my flat-top acoustics. At 1.75" deep they don't have the bass or complex overtones of a full-depth model, but they have plenty of volume. Both have single set pickups, but the pickup near the neck doesn't affect the volume nearly as much as a bridge pickup, because the top doesn't vibrate that much near the neck, compared to the bridge. I've pretty much given up on full-depth guitars because they're uncomfortable for me as I age. I have a very nice Wu that has plenty of volume and a sweet voice, at ~2-3/8" deep. Wu makes some very, very nice guitars, but they're not often on the market, so you may have to make a custom order if you want one. I'm not selling mine.

  6. #5
    Wow, thank you for that, Danny -- they're gorgeous. Glad to know that they exist.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    An Eastman T145 or T146 is generally pretty loud. The one I owned was louder than my flat-top acoustics. At 1.75" deep they don't have the bass or complex overtones of a full-depth model, but they have plenty of volume. Both have single set pickups, but the pickup near the neck doesn't affect the volume nearly as much as a bridge pickup, because the top doesn't vibrate that much near the neck, compared to the bridge. I've pretty much given up on full-depth guitars because they're uncomfortable for me as I age. I have a very nice Wu that has plenty of volume and a sweet voice, at ~2-3/8" deep. Wu makes some very, very nice guitars, but they're not often on the market, so you may have to make a custom order if you want one. I'm not selling mine.
    Thanks for the description and analysis of the Eastman T146. It makes intuitive sense that the bridge pickup has more effect on the top's responsiveness. The Eastman AR503 and AR580 each have a single pickup and are said to be 2-9/16" thick. Something to look into maybe.

    I'm intrigued by the things I've read about the Wu guitars on the forum, and encouraged to hear about a 2-3/8" guitar with a nice acoustic sound.

  8. #7

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    Here's the great Steve Jordan playing an L-5CT:



    Danny W.

  9. #8

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    What is your current guitar, and what is your price range for the new one?

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W.
    Here's the great Steve Jordan playing an L-5CT:



    Danny W.
    Nice! Holding the guitar in that horizontal Freddie Green sort of way, the thickness wouldn't matter much ergonomically, which suggests that he simply preferred the sound of the L-5CT.

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    What is your current guitar, and what is your price range for the new one?
    Current guitar is an Eastman T146SMD, which I suspect is identical to the guitar described by sgosnell, with the exception of an added bridge pickup.

    My pain tolerance tops out at about $1800.

  12. #11

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    The Ibanez AF guitars are about 2.75" thick at the rim
    I practice with one AF81 acoustically and its very comfortable

    (disclosure .... I have half stuffed it with soft foam which
    reduces the volume and the top end slightly ,
    but that's just my taste i like a very warm tone,
    eg Eastmans and Godins are too bright for me)

    They're inexpensive and and very well built ,
    just set it up with your preferred strings and required action
    and put a decent pu in the neck position
    and all is good ....

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    The Ibanez AF guitars are about 2.75" thick at the rim
    I practice with one AF81 acoustically and its very comfortable.
    It sounds to me like he wants a solid carved top(?)

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    It sounds to me like he wants a solid carved top(?)
    Yes, on the assumption that acoustic archtops typically have solid carved tops because a solid top produces a more pleasing acoustic sound.

  15. #14

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    I don't think you can go wrong with an Eastman, at least with a one-pickup model. I tend to avoid anything with a bridge pickup, because I prefer a more acoustic sound and I never use a bridge pickup for anything. Some people prefer having a bridge pickup because it dampens the vibrations of the top, giving a more electric sound. But if I wanted that, I would get a semi or something like that, with a laminated top. It's a matter of taste, and mine is not exactly the same as anyone else's.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by raymoan
    Yes, on the assumption that acoustic archtops typically have solid carved tops because a solid top produces a more pleasing acoustic sound.
    solid top ,
    oh ok , sorry dude !

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by raymoan
    For various reasons, I'm playing unplugged most of the time. I have a thinline (2"), carved-top, true hollowbody archtop, with two set-in pickups. It's plenty loud unplugged, but I'd like a fuller, richer, more complex sound. The obvious answer is a full-thickness, acoustic archtop, but I find a guitar of that size too awkward and uncomfortable to play. So I suppose I'll continue with a thinline.

    I'd be grateful for your thoughts on the following questions:

    1. How much are the two pickups on my guitar degrading its acoustic sound?

    2. Is there such thing as a thinline -- 2.5" thick or less, let's say -- acoustic archtop? (For these purposes, a guitar with a floating pickup would qualify as an acoustic; anything with a set-in pickup would not.)

    3. If there is no such thing, is that because such a thin body won't permit anything like a real acoustic archtop sound?

    4. Would a thinline with only a single set-in pickup sound appreciably better unplugged than my two-pickup thinline?

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Ray

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I don't think you can go wrong with an Eastman, at least with a one-pickup model. I tend to avoid anything with a bridge pickup, because I prefer a more acoustic sound and I never use a bridge pickup for anything. Some people prefer having a bridge pickup because it dampens the vibrations of the top, giving a more electric sound. But if I wanted that, I would get a semi or something like that, with a laminated top. It's a matter of taste, and mine is not exactly the same as anyone else's.
    Completely makes sense. I had an ES-335, which, in addition to weighing a ton and relentlessly trying to slip off my leg, had a very anemic unplugged sound (not its fault, obviously, not having been designed for that). Sounded pretty great for rock and blues, though.

    My interests and tastes having changed, I don't have any use for a bridge pickup, either.

  19. #18

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    You might also consider an Ibanez George Benson model (GB10). It has a smaller body and floating pickups.

  20. #19

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    Guild made some sort of acoustic thin line double cutaway back in the 1990s Even though it's a flat top it might do what you your looking for?

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by RobbieAG
    You might also consider an Ibanez George Benson model (GB10). It has a smaller body and floating pickups.
    Looks like a premium quality guitar. The body is indeed smaller than average at 14-3/4" wide, but at 3-3/8" it is not a thinline body. In any event, its list price of $3599.00 is one penny short of twice my budget. Thanks for the suggestion, though -- I enjoyed looking into it.

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Guild made some sort of acoustic thin line double cutaway back in the 1990s Even though it's a flat top it might do what you your looking for?
    Thanks for the suggestion, it's an interesting idea. A quick search turned up a single cutaway, called the Songbird, which is only 1-7/8" thick (and pretty affordable). A double cutaway turned up, too, but it was full thickness.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Guild made some sort of acoustic thin line double cutaway back in the 1990s Even though it's a flat top it might do what you your looking for?
    Quote Originally Posted by raymoan
    Thanks for the suggestion, it's an interesting idea. A quick search turned up a single cutaway, called the Songbird, which is only 1-7/8" thick (and pretty affordable). A double cutaway turned up, too, but it was full thickness.
    Guild Studio 24 Artist, designed by George Gruhn. According to my records I bought one from George in '86, sold it two years later to Tom Van Hoose. It was a very nice guitar with an outstanding neck shape that George told me he copied from a '63 Kessel. I had a '63 Kessel Custom and the Guild neck felt very similar. Although I liked it very much, I didn't have any particular use for it at the time. It did sound very much like the flattop it was and I don't think it would be a good substitute for an acoustic archtop.

    If I have a photo it's misfiled, but here's what Guild says about it:

    Guild Studio 24 - Westerly Guild Guitars

    Danny W.

  24. #23

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    I confess that this thread had me doing research before posting. For decades, my go-to guitar was a 1957 Gibson ES-225t. Trying to figure out the kind of sound you were looking for reminded me that I played this guitar mostly acoustically, because I was young, poor, and had an infant whose sleep would have been disturbed by amping it. Little did I realize what you're describing fits my experience to a "T."

    But - and I admit this is a big "but" - My playing acoustically wasn't for public performance. In fact, I still play acoustically a lot - even with electrics. These days, after adding an ES-335 to my collection, I wound up getting an Ibanez AG95QA, which plays the best of the three. Still, there is no mistaking (to me) that what I'm playing is a guitar designed to be played plugged in, and that's not what I'm doing. It almost startles me to hear the difference when I plug in!

    The ES-225 is 1.75" thick. As is the ES-335. By comparison, my Ibanez is 2.75" thick. My 225 is the single pickup model, which has the P-90 in an odd location; the 335 and the Ibanez have two, in the standard bridge and neck positions.

    I've likely not answered your question, but I still am not quite sure what sound you are seeking. I know that when I want the sound of an acoustic guitar, I play an acoustic. When I just want the "feel" of an unplugged hollowbody, then I have my choice. But they don't equal the sound of a pure acoustic.

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Just Fred
    I confess that this thread had me doing research before posting. For decades, my go-to guitar was a 1957 Gibson ES-225t. Trying to figure out the kind of sound you were looking for reminded me that I played this guitar mostly acoustically, because I was young, poor, and had an infant whose sleep would have been disturbed by amping it. Little did I realize what you're describing fits my experience to a "T."

    But - and I admit this is a big "but" - My playing acoustically wasn't for public performance. In fact, I still play acoustically a lot - even with electrics. These days, after adding an ES-335 to my collection, I wound up getting an Ibanez AG95QA, which plays the best of the three. Still, there is no mistaking (to me) that what I'm playing is a guitar designed to be played plugged in, and that's not what I'm doing. It almost startles me to hear the difference when I plug in!

    The ES-225 is 1.75" thick. As is the ES-335. By comparison, my Ibanez is 2.75" thick. My 225 is the single pickup model, which has the P-90 in an odd location; the 335 and the Ibanez have two, in the standard bridge and neck positions.

    I've likely not answered your question, but I still am not quite sure what sound you are seeking. I know that when I want the sound of an acoustic guitar, I play an acoustic. When I just want the "feel" of an unplugged hollowbody, then I have my choice. But they don't equal the sound of a pure acoustic.
    I started playing unplugged in consideration of my wife, and discovered that I actually preferred it. I don't have the vocabulary to describe it; it just feels right. What sound am I seeking? Ideally, I suppose, a full-sized acoustic archtop sound from a thinline. Since that's not possible, just the "fullest," "richest," most "complex" sound a thinline can offer.

    Sounds like you've found guitars that meet all your needs.

  26. #25

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    Circa 1970 Guild CA100. Carved top and the rims are less than 3 inches IIRC. Most came with dearmonds. Not hard to find at 1500--1800 dollars. TBH the acoustic sound is not the best.

  27. #26

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    I have a Levin 335 acoustic archtop (nothing in common with a Gibson ES335), I haven't measured the rim depth but it's under 3'', lower bout is just over 16". Strange construction, has a single parallel braced carved top ala Stromberg but has laminated back/sides. Acoustic sound isn't bad - surprisingly loud - it lacks bass compared to something with a deeper body. They're not particularly collectable so they're good value. Cool feature is the neck is actually bolted on (but looks like a normal set neck) - neck resets can be done easier if required.

  28. #27

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    I've been practicing in silent mode but plugged in using headphones into my Roland Cube 60. Works very well and doesn't disturb anyone.

  29. #28
    The number and variety of guitars in the world is astounding, as is the knowledge of guitars on display in this forum. The old saying, "There's somebody out there for everyone," isn't necessarily true, but there probably is a guitar out there for everyone.
    Last edited by raymoan; 01-22-2021 at 11:59 AM.

  30. #29

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    Something to consider -- the depth of the guitar at the rims is not necessarily a good indicator of how thick the guitar actually is. You also have to factor in the how much the back and topped are arched. There are some nominally 3" guitars that are comparable to nominally thinner guitars, and some nominally 2.5" guitars that feel much thicker than that. So don't necessarily limit your search by dimensions. With that in mind, I'd suggest looking at a Godin 5th Ave Kingpin. The rims are 3", but the back is almost flat, and the top less arched than a typical archtop. I find it almost as comfortable to play as my thinline, and very noticeably thinner than my other nominally 3" archtop. It has an excellent unplugged sound, much fuller than any fully hollow thinline I've encountered. And they're cheap and easy to re-sell, so a low-risk experiment.

    Here's a (sloppy, alas) sample.



    John

  31. #30

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    I'm not really sure if this one might do the trick for you, as it's "only a plywood guitar", but it checks at least some of the boxes (fully hollowbody, floating pickup, thinner body), and I really love mine:
    Harley Benton Custom Line Manhattan Standard

    Thinline acoustic archtop?-harley-benton-custom-line-manhattan-standard-73945-jpg

    I wrote about mine here when I got it new.

    Paul

  32. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    Something to consider -- the depth of the guitar at the rims is not necessarily a good indicator of how thick the guitar actually is. You also have to factor in the how much the back and topped are arched. There are some nominally 3" guitars that are comparable to nominally thinner guitars, and some nominally 2.5" guitars that feel much thicker than that. So don't necessarily limit your search by dimensions. With that in mind, I'd suggest looking at a Godin 5th Ave Kingpin. The rims are 3", but the back is almost flat, and the top less arched than a typical archtop. I find it almost as comfortable to play as my thinline, and very noticeably thinner than my other nominally 3" archtop. It has an excellent unplugged sound, much fuller than any fully hollow thinline I've encountered. And they're cheap and easy to re-sell, so a low-risk experiment.

    Here's a (sloppy, alas) sample.



    John
    Good point about nominal vs. effective thickness.

    Thanks for the sound demo. Enjoyed your playing!

  33. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Webby
    I'm not really sure if this one might do the trick for you, as it's "only a plywood guitar", but it checks at least some of the boxes (fully hollowbody, floating pickup, thinner body), and I really love mine:
    Harley Benton Custom Line Manhattan Standard

    Thinline acoustic archtop?-harley-benton-custom-line-manhattan-standard-73945-jpg

    I wrote about mine here when I got it new.

    Paul
    Can't beat the price, that's for sure, if you can find one in the U.S.

    Really enjoyed your playing in the clip on your original thread.