Reply to Thread Bookmark Thread
Posts 1 to 25 of 25
  1. #1

    User Info Menu

    So I'm in the unlikely position of potentially being able to choose between a 2015 US and a 2021 Korean D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T.

    Note that the latter does not concern the revised 2021 version with spruce top, but the older model with flamed maple top.

    Unfortunately I cannot go and see them in person.

    From the pictures though there seems to be quite striking color difference between the two models, where the 2015 US has a more pale/yellowy tone, and the 2021 Korea a darker/light brown tone.

    However I am not sure whether this simply has to do with the fact that photos of both guitars have been taken under different light conditions.

    Another possibility is that there are indeed some notable color differences between different versions of this guitar, or simply that the color varies a lot per guitar.


    Any insight on the matter is greatly appreciated.

    Cheers!

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by bazz
    So I'm in the unlikely position of potentially being able to choose between a 2015 US and a 2021 Korean D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T.

    Note that the latter does not concern the revised 2021 version with spruce top, but the older model with flamed maple top.

    Unfortunately I cannot go and see them in person.

    From the pictures though there seems to be quite striking color difference between the two models, where the 2015 US has a more pale/yellowy tone, and the 2021 Korea a darker/light brown tone.

    However I am not sure whether this simply has to do with the fact that photos of both guitars have been taken under different light conditions.

    Another possibility is that there are indeed some notable color differences between different versions of this guitar, or simply that the color varies a lot per guitar.


    Any insight on the matter is greatly appreciated.

    Cheers!
    Could you post the pictures?

  4. #3
    I think they're both D'Angelico USA, the name of the parent corporation. And I think they're both made in Asia, and they're both quite different from one another. Most likely they were made in completely different facilities.
    I can only speak for the earlier model, of which I had one and sold a few, always excellent quality. That 2015 is hollow with a small bridge block that goes between the top area beneath the bridge and the back; this gave an acoustic quality to the sound with the feedback resistance of a heavier solid block instrument. The ones I dealt with had a deep blue/grey translucent finish that brought out the maple figure quite nicely.
    They only made these for two years I believe and they were fine instruments. I believe that guitar was designed by Bill Comins.
    Do you have some photos for comparison?

    Just looked up the D'Angelico PR sheet on the 2021. Looks like a re-issue of the once discontinued older model, with Duncan 59's in it. I can't speak for the construction or country of origin but it looks nice.
    Honestly they both look nice and really, the only way you'll know which speaks to you is to try them. Differences like pickup choice and neck feel are very personal and I do wonder how much help the opinions and prejudices of strangers on a forum can be.
    Would they be from a big box store that has a return policy?

  5. #4

    User Info Menu

    There are no US made D'Angelico EX-SS guitars. They're all Korean, as are all the "Deluxe" series models (the "Premier" ones are Indonesian). D'Angelico has moved production around to different factories in Korea and made slight changes in specs, but they're all essentially the same. There could be some differences in finish color, but the more significant difference is that somewhere in there (not sure what year) they switched from Kent Armstrong to Duncan pickups. If you have a preference between those two, it would be worthwhile to find out which pickups each has.

    John

  6. #5

    User Info Menu

    This would be the time to keep safe distance from the seller, who mislead the buyer saying a 2015 D'Angelico is US made.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Gabor
    This would be the time to keep safe distance from the seller, who mislead the buyer saying a 2015 D'Angelico is US made.
    You'd have to go back more than 60 years to find a D'Angelico that was made in America. You can tell them apart because:
    - They have lacquer finishes
    - They cost about $35,000 more
    :-)
    Color difference D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T US vs Korea?-screen-shot-2021-04-26-6-14-46-am-png
    Accept no substitutes

  8. #7

    User Info Menu

    There were US made D'Angelicos for a bit in 2015. Baker was building them for D'Angelico.

  9. #8

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by customxke
    There were US made D'Angelicos for a bit in 2015. Baker was building them for D'Angelico.
    Thx for this correction, my bad not knowing about it. However regarding the OP the price tag should be way different on the two...

  10. #9

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by customxke
    There were US made D'Angelicos for a bit in 2015. Baker was building them for D'Angelico.
    But not the model we're talking about. Victor Baker made carved-top full hollow bodies that were supposed to be replicas of original John D'Angelicos. There are no US-made EX (Excel) SS guitars. They're all Korean-made. There are also Premier SS guitars made in Indonesia.
    Last edited by John A.; 04-26-2021 at 11:12 AM.

  11. #10
    Come to think of it, when I was at the Montreal show a long time ago, I saw a (Triggs?) hand built New Yorker sized archtop, hand built with a D'Angelico name on the headstock. I remember thinking "Nice guitar, but it's not a John "D'Angelico" but it's sure trying to be" and it just seemed weird.
    AND it was way expensive. But that's what show stoppers are for. Sometimes you buy a guitar, sometimes you buy a name, but it's always possible to sell a legacy I suppose.

  12. #11

    User Info Menu

    Here is a quick rundown regarding D'Angelico guitars.

    After John D'Angelico died in the early 60's his name lived on in a string company and as that company was profitable, it was trademarked.

    In the late 80's to early 90's, Vestax in Japan began issuing pressed top, solid wood replicas for the market in Japan. Some of those guitars made their way into the USA. They were finely crafted Japanese guitars. These guitars are still being made and sold in Japan AFAIK. There were scattered unauthorized replicas made by a variety of US luthiers during this time.

    A decision was made in the early 90's to reissue USA made, hand carved D'Angelico archtops by GHS strings (the owner of the D'Angelico trademark). Several luthiers were involved in the 90's reissues (Gene Valdez, Michael Lewis, Jim Triggs, JP Moats and Marv Lamb (Heritage guitar founders/owners).

    The trademark was sold to the family that owns Arizona Iced Tea (The Ferolitos) and they have produced D'Angelico guitars in Korea and Indonesia that are mid grade/low grade guitars with laminate construction. They also continued the USA replica production with a variety of luthiers including Gene Baker and Victor Baker and others. Before Korean production began, the new D'Angelico guitar company imported the Japanese made guitars from Vestax and even had them produce some new designs including solidbody and semi hollow models.

    It is all a bit confusing. The history of this trademark is not fully documented yet. There are a couple of books about D'Angelico guitars (Acquired of the Angels and D'Angelico, What's in a name?). At some point another book will need to be written to quash the ongoing confusion.

  13. #12

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Here is a quick rundown regarding D'Angelico guitars.

    After John D'Angelico died in the early 60's his name lived on in a string company and as that company was profitable, it was trademarked.

    In the late 80's to early 90's, Vestax in Japan began issuing pressed top, solid wood replicas for the market in Japan. Some of those guitars made their way into the USA. They were finely crafted Japanese guitars. These guitars are still being made and sold in Japan AFAIK. There were scattered unauthorized replicas made by a variety of US luthiers during this time.

    A decision was made in the early 90's to reissue USA made, hand carved D'Angelico archtops by GHS strings (the owner of the D'Angelico trademark). Several luthiers were involved in the 90's reissues (Gene Valdez, Michael Lewis, Jim Triggs, JP Moats and Marv Lamb (Heritage guitar founders/owners).

    The trademark was sold to the family that owns Arizona Iced Tea (The Ferolitos) and they have produced D'Angelico guitars in Korea and Indonesia that are mid grade/low grade guitars with laminate construction. They also continued the USA replica production with a variety of luthiers including Gene Baker and Victor Baker and others. Before Korean production began, the new D'Angelico guitar company imported the Japanese made guitars from Vestax and even had them produce some new designs including solidbody and semi hollow models.

    It is all a bit confusing. The history of this trademark is not fully documented yet. There are a couple of books about D'Angelico guitars (Acquired of the Angels and D'Angelico, What's in a name?). At some point another book will need to be written to quash the ongoing confusion.
    At some point I stumbled on documents from a lawsuit by D'Angelico (Ferolito, Jr.; couldn't find them online just now) against Vestax (or maybe another corporate name that owns it, I forget) to stop Vestax from using D'Angelico branding/trademarks. The documents laid out the history of the brand from John D through the various owners and detailed who made what. It was pretty interesting. IIRC, Vestax started making guitars under license from GHS (not Ferolito, Sr.), though I could be remembering this wrong. Another wrinkle to the ownership is that John Ferolito, Sr. (Arizona Iced Tea) sold the company to his son John Ferolito, Jr. Sr had started and stopped the company 2 or three times (I have an EX DC from his initial run), and couldn't really keep it going (perhaps because he was embroiled in litigation for many years with his former Arizona partner). The big expansion we've seen over the last few years came when the son took over, who has also taken it even further conceptually from original D'Angelico guitars.

  14. #13

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    At some point I stumbled on documents from a lawsuit by D'Angelico (Ferolito, Jr.; couldn't find them online just now) against Vestax (or maybe another corporate name that owns it, I forget) to stop Vestax from using D'Angelico branding/trademarks. The documents laid out the history of the brand from John D through the various owners and detailed who made what. It was pretty interesting. IIRC, Vestax started making guitars under license from GHS (not Ferolito, Sr.), though I could be remembering this wrong. Another wrinkle to the ownership is that John Ferolito, Sr. (Arizona Iced Tea) sold the company to his son John Ferolito, Jr. Sr had started and stopped the company 2 or three times (I have an EX DC from his initial run), and couldn't really keep it going (perhaps because he was embroiled in litigation for many years with his former Arizona partner). The big expansion we've seen over the last few years came when the son took over, who has also taken it even further conceptually from original D'Angelico guitars.
    IIRC, GHS licensed the Vestax imports by giving Ferolito Sr. the license to import them. But I believe that the Japanese replicas had been made for awhile before that. I am surmising that once the Ferolitos saw the profit potential from that first enterprise with the brand, they pursued buying the name.

    I remember reading that a lawsuit existed between Vestax and the Ferolitos. Here is a summary of that:

    http://www.fujimarks.jp/english/pdf/sp01_047.pdf

    I own three original D'Angelicos and one of the 90's USA made replicas. I had two of the Korean made guitars from the first run. Neither of the Korean made guitars met my standards for a "keeper", but I do admit that they were well made guitars.

  15. #14

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    IIRC, GHS licensed the Vestax imports by giving Ferolito Sr. the license to import them. But I believe that the Japanese replicas had been made for awhile before that. I am surmising that once the Ferolitos saw the profit potential from that first enterprise with the brand, they pursued buying the name.

    I remember reading that a lawsuit existed between Vestax and the Ferolitos. Here is a summary of that:

    http://www.fujimarks.jp/english/pdf/sp01_047.pdf
    If I'm reading this correctly, this was actually Vestax suing D'Angelico (Ferolito, Jr.) in Japan because D'Angelico had sent cease and desist letters to Terada (the actual guitar maker in Japan), and European importers/sellers. So I got who sued whom backwards, but otherwise this looks like the same facts I had seen before. The key piece is someone who didn't own the rights to the D'Angelico name in the first place licensed them to Vestax. IIRC, you (?) had recounted some stories here about the chicanery involved in D'Aquisto losing out on the rights to the D'Angelico name. It appears that the chicanery continued. I'm not sure about Ferolito's motives -- I vaguely remember seeing somewhere that Ferolito Sr. saw it as more of a hobby and distraction from the Iced Tea business (which had turned into Jarndyce and Jarndyce), and that Jr. took it more seriously as a business, but the idea that one or the other of recognized the value of the name as the basis for a company producing new models based on the Vestax models makes sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    I own three original D'Angelicos and one of the 90's USA made replicas. I had two of the Korean made guitars from the first run. Neither of the Korean made guitars met my standards for a "keeper", but I do admit that they were well made guitars.
    Having low standards has opened up the field of guitar ownership considerably to me ;-)

  16. #15

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    If I'm reading this correctly, this was actually Vestax suing D'Angelico (Ferolito, Jr.) in Japan because D'Angelico had sent cease and desist letters to Terada (the actual guitar maker in Japan), and European importers/sellers. So I got who sued whom backwards, but otherwise this looks like the same facts I had seen before. The key piece is someone who didn't own the rights to the D'Angelico name in the first place licensed them to Vestax. IIRC, you (?) had recounted some stories here about the chicanery involved in D'Aquisto losing out on the rights to the D'Angelico name. It appears that the chicanery continued. I'm not sure about Ferolito's motives -- I vaguely remember seeing somewhere that Ferolito Sr. saw it as more of a hobby and distraction from the Iced Tea business (which had turned into Jarndyce and Jarndyce), and that Jr. took it more seriously as a business, but the idea that one or the other of recognized the value of the name as the basis for a company producing new models based on the Vestax models makes sense.

    Having low standards has opened up the field of guitar ownership considerably to me ;-)
    Yes, Jimmy D"Aquisto was cheated out of the ownership of the D'Angelico name by a New York attorney who provided the funds to purchase the D'Angelico brand from John D'Angelico's family.

    It seems that GHS Strings (who purchased the name from that attorney) went through some reorganizations that nullified the Vestax deal with GHS, so the Ferolitos now own the brand (Vestax may have some "prior use" rights in Japan that might permit continued production in Japan only. I am unsure about whether Japanese production is still happening). IIRC, Jimmy D'Aquisto's son has had some difficulties regarding the D'Aquisto brand.

    Guild, Epiphone, Stromberg, D'Angelico, Gretsch and D'Aquisto guitars have all become guitar brands with Asian made production. Fender has permitted Japanese production and both Fender and Martin have Mexican production of their guitars. Gibson is the last "major USA guitar brand" holdout with only USA production. I wonder when we will see Asian made guitars with Gibson on the headstock (other than the "Chibson" counterfeits that are in circulation as we speak)?

  17. #16

    User Info Menu

    Orville resurrected?

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    I wonder when we will see Asian made guitars with Gibson on the headstock (other than the "Chibson" counterfeits that are in circulation as we speak)?
    They were clever in separating the names, so they could take the Epiphone name, which they bought, and dump all the Asian products in that one box. Nice too, because they could create an Asian brand that could use Gibson designs and components without any kind of legal issues.

    Martin did that with Sigma, creating a line of overseas or non USA guitars but keeping the "purity" of the Martin name in Nazareth. But that was short lived.

  19. #18

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    They were clever in separating the names, so they could take the Epiphone name, which they bought, and dump all the Asian products in that one box. Nice too, because they could create an Asian brand that could use Gibson designs and components without any kind of legal issues.

    Martin did that with Sigma, creating a line of overseas or non USA guitars but keeping the "purity" of the Martin name in Nazareth. But that was short lived.
    Gibson first used Epiphone as an alternate US brand then it became their "Asian made" brand. Martin followed suit with Sigma, Guild with Madeira, Ovation with Applause and Fender did so with Squier. Gibson moved Epiphone production to Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia and for a time had "Orville by Gibson" coming out of Japan.

    These days guitar brands are all over the map. Literally.

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Gibson first used Epiphone as an alternate US brand then it became their "Asian made" brand. .
    This is what's known as the "Bridesmaid strategy" where a bride will choose absurdly hideous, impractical, unelegant and ultimately extortionately expensive bridesmaids dresses (that THEY have to buy out of their own pockets)...JUST so the bride looks better by comparison.
    Gibson's number one foil for decades was Epiphone. Many artists saw them as peers at the top of the game and many offerings in their lines had parallel counterparts (Howard Roberts, 17" flagships, etc) and when Gibson bought Epiphone (and many of their workers left and formed Guild in Westerly), the Gibson "bride" turned Epiphone into a second rate low grade shadow of the Great Gibson guitars.
    One reason Gibson is seen as great, they ate their enemies and destroyed their prestige.

  21. #20

    User Info Menu

    Modern D'Angelico Masterbuilt series is made in the US. Expensive. Copies of original D'Angelico models.

    Best Excel SS model is probably the NY-SS Vestax version made in Japan though I've personally not handled one. My Korean Excel SS is a very good guitar in spite of the faux art deco appointments. Would not hesitate to grab one of these used as a work horse (with the Duncan pickup). D'Angelico models are all over the map and who knows what will be available in the future.
    Last edited by Spook410; 04-27-2021 at 01:51 AM.

  22. #21

    User Info Menu

    Back to the OP...

    D'Angelico U.S. actually nearly copied the MIJ NY-SS in an early version of the EX-SS but I guess it didn't last long due to value engineering.

    It differed from the NY-SS only in the maple top in the EX-SS vs. the Spruce top NY-SS, and the EX-SS did not have the "diamond" inside the trapeze TP which was not there in the Korean builds.

    Of its similarities on the early EX-SS had the same MOP split markers, (later EX-SS versions mostly had solid markers, some split) ebony Fingerboard (later used a variety of woods but NOT ebony) and the diamond shaped MOP inlay in the back of the head.

    Compared to the newer EX-SS, the older model center block has a darker grainy wood and weighs 6 ounces less. Both are slightly neck heavy and sound is VERY different between them, neither "better" just different. Also I never bothered to pull the pups out of either of mine.

    Playability on single cut semi hollows is really nice, much like any fully hollow. It surprises me that so many players go for DC semi's who also prefer single cut full hollow models.

    Sort of like guys who ride American motorcycles invariably drive Asian cars. Go figure.

    PS, I'm the opposite I drive a American truck and ride a Japanese crotch rocket.

  23. #22

    User Info Menu

    Gary, I am an exception to your obsevation. Harleys for the two wheelers . Buick for the Sedan. Chevy for the truck.

    And Gibson for the guitars.

  24. #23
    First of all, my apologies for not reacting sooner, it seems that I did not get any notifications on the lively debate!

    For reference, here are the pictures: First the supposed US, and second the Korean.

    Color difference D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T US vs Korea?-dijkman-jpegColor difference D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T US vs Korea?-thomann-jpeg

    In the meantime I got in touch with D'Angelico.

    They told me that all Excel SSs are made in Korea. I mistakenly assumed that the serial number US stood for United States. However, I now assume that US probably stands for Unsung.. The second picture had W in its serial number, which I assume is World Music.

    As for the color difference: They were able to tell me that indeed there are color differences between the different editions. Moreover, they confirmed that the way the picture was taken would have a large impact on the appearance.

    The matter turned out to be even more complicated, as the second picture was not the guitar that would be shipped (i.e. they had a batch).

    Meanwhile, I found the pictures of these editions on the D'Angelico website.
    Color difference D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T US vs Korea?-daessnatgtpo-b-png Color difference D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T US vs Korea?-daessnatgtcbe-b-png

    Both first pictures (i.e. the one with the wall background, and the one from their website) had the aluminium colored truss rod cover, and the second pictures had the gold colored one.

    As such, it seemed there indeed were large variations between the guitars (even within the same edition) and their pictures.

    In the end the matter was simplified due to the price difference, and I pulled the trigger!

    Color difference D'Angelico Excel SS Natural Stairstep T US vs Korea?-ngd-jpeg

    Even with the picture that I took, I feel that color is a bit more golden than yellow in real life.

    Having said that, I feel that the picture from their own website most closely resembles the end product.

    Thank you all for your valuable insight!

  25. #24
    Enjoy it!

  26. #25

    User Info Menu

    Sweet!

    Thanks for the history lesson on D'Angelico guys. Only slightly less complicated than the history of Fleetwood Mac.

    Employed about as many lawyers I would guess.