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  1. #1

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    I've played a very wide range of very good archtops. I've owned all of them for at least a year and gigged them all quite a bit - some a great deal.

    gibson (super 400, L5CES, es150, es 175s - old, new replica and new standard - L4, es 125)
    sadowsky (LS17, Jim Hall)

    now I have a new Eagle Classic and a 2016 Sweet 16:

    .Two good things about Heritage guitars-img_6522-jpg
    Two good things about Heritage guitars-img_4620-jpg

    I want to keep this super-simple.

    Both these guitars are BY FAR the best playing instruments I've ever owned. That means that they have a super-responsive feel (both are solid and carved rather than laminated), lovely thick, rich sound - AND - they both handle feedback fabulously well. I've had laminates that handle nearly as well on the band-stand, but they all sounded dull and 'low-fi' compared to these guitars. I was totally committed to laminates for the longest time - but these solid-carved heritage guitars leave me uninterested in laminate instruments. (I have a fabulous 50's 125 and a terrific modern gibson 175 '54 replica with p-90s to compare them to.)

    Second and final point -

    they are both the nicest looking instruments I've ever owned too! as well as being an obsessive jazz-guitarist I seem to be an obsessive lover of archtop guitars (it freaks me out a bit actually). Well, these two heritage guitars deliver just as powerfully when it comes to how they look as when it comes to how they play.

    the antique natural sweet 16 has the best rims I've ever seen - and the colouring and pickguard and binding are just perfect

    the classic is very plain and economically finished (no swanky binding) - but the sunburst is the prettiest thing I've ever seen on any guitar. you would need to be an excellent photographer to capture its magic - but it just takes colouring to a whole new level. So - it seems to me - that the Classic beats the L5s I've seen on aesthetics because the sunburst is just so lovely. (it easily beats the new L5CES I had for a couple of years in terms of playability.)

    so there - thanks Heritage - its taken me nearly thirty years but I've finally found my instruments.... (the sweet 16 is even more amazing than the eagle classic - but you have to put a Kent Armstrong pickup on it.)

    my two points are

    1- they play better than anything I've used before
    2 - very happily (because I'm nuts about archtop aesthetics) they happen to be the prettiest too (mostly because of the sunburst which is a way bigger deal than you might think.)

    (I suppose I would not have written a thing like this were it not for the fact that Heritage guitars are seriously under-rated and obviously so much cheaper than similar Gibsons.)
    Attached Images Attached Images Two good things about Heritage guitars-img_5907-jpg Two good things about Heritage guitars-dsc_8760-1-jpg 
    Last edited by Groyniad; 05-16-2021 at 07:41 AM.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Beautiful guitars.

    I have to agree on 575 is absolutely the perfect jazz box for me.

  4. #3

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    You can't go wrong with a Heritage guitar.

  5. #4

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    My Wesmo type, mahogany back and sides, spruce topped Heritage Eagle has the most beautiful sunburst finish ever. And, the guitar is built like a tank, plays wonderfully, and sounds fantastic. Also, one of the best values for an equivalent type of guitar that I've seen.

  6. #5

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    The Sweet 16 is a very handsome guitar indeed, more pics please.

  7. #6

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    i really like that they are styled, "The Heritage." It's the truth. Congratulations, and play them in good health!

  8. #7

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    Truly underrated! That’s one beautiful burst!!! More Heritage love please.

    Two good things about Heritage guitars-2a7e0680-6dc6-4e39-bad0-2ede0eee60f2-jpg
    Last edited by 2bornot2bop; 05-16-2021 at 01:49 PM.

  9. #8

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    Happy that you are happy, Groyniad. The search for The One and The Other One is finally over for you.

    Play them in good health.

    'Twould be boring if we all liked the same things. There is something to be said for diversity of tastes.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky
    Happy that you are happy, Groyniad. The search for The One and The Other One is finally over for you.

    Play them in good health.

    'Twould be boring if we all liked the same things. There is something to be said for diversity of tastes.

    I wish I liked Heritage archtops as well as I like Gibson archtops. I would have saved considerable money if that was so.

    That said, I do like Heritage archtops, semi-hollows and solid bodies and I even like their headstock. Great guitars to be sure.

  11. #10

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    I have to agree that Heritage Guitars are really quite the guitars especially for the money. Like SS I happen to be very much a Gibson person but frankly you can do as well with a Heritage if not better in many respects. I think they along with Guild are the sleepy GIANTS in the guitar world. They are American Made and reasonable in most cases compared to what they compete against, and if taken care of you won't lose your shirt. I am contemplating a Heritage as I write this post. Lots of irons in the fire I have to be careful but my sense it move now because I don't think they will get cheaper and may bump up here in a bit. Look what happened with Gibson L5's over the past 18 months. I think they took a healthy move up in price.

  12. #11

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    So while agree those are some fine looking guitars, most Heritage Archtops I've played leave me unimpressed.
    I've only played one Sweet 16 that was superb sounding. All of the Golden Eagles and Super Eagles were very flat sounding and playing in my opinion.

    The necks are almost always 95% way too thin,as well as their tops and backs.
    I was more impressed with some Eastman Archtops than Heritages.
    And those follow the Benedetto design of thinner plates as well.

    I'm glad some of you have found your desired guitars and no disrespect to you.
    But I have yet to play any Heritage sans the one Sweet 16 that I would say competes with Gibson's from recent 20 year period.
    As well as the Boutique Luthiers mentioned. Campellone, Megas, Comins, Buscarino, Elferink,etc. These are way better instruments imo.

  13. #12

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    What is the market for Heritage these days? I have not been to many stores that offered them new, and have only seen (or played) a few used. They used to be quite a bit cheaper than similar Gibson guitars, but wonder if that is still the case?

    I can't imagine a solid top Heritage, assuming I could find one, would be cheap, especially since they aren't making any more of them right now.
    Last edited by Doctor Jeff; 05-16-2021 at 06:41 PM.

  14. #13

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    Two good things about Heritage guitars-img_6475-jpgTwo good things about Heritage guitars-img_6477-jpg

    This one happens to have a 50's style neck - which I like. The classic has a much more modern neck - which feels great too.
    The KA pickup was a revelation. So good that I have ordered the mounted versions for the classic.

    My L5 (about 2015?) could not stand up to long comparison with gibson laminates - (old and new 175s). It looked a million dollars - obviously. But this humble relatively cheap classic catches my eye even more because the sunburst is just so good.

    The same wonderful gibson laminates that led me to sell the L5 can't hold a candle to these solid carved heritage instruments. The presence or thickness I got out of the laminates - which gave them the edge over the L5 - is even more satisfying with these heritage - but they have a freshness and hi-fi clarity too.

    of course my L5 might have been a bit of a dud...I was not in a position to say. - and I may have been very lucky indeed with these two particular heritage instruments.

  15. #14

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    Heritage archtops are remarkable guitars.
    My Johnny Smiths were world class in every way.
    If I may, I’d like to add a third good thing about Heritage guitars.
    I love the natural wood pickguard that they put on their guitars.
    And Groyniad, you are right. The playability of my Heritage guitars were second to none.
    Joe D

  16. #15

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    The thing about Heritage, is that when you get a good one, it's a REALLY good one! I've played a ton of Heritage guitars over the years. Most were good. A couple were dogs that should never have left the factory. Several were extremely good. Those are the ones I bought and still have. The very best Heritage guitars I ever played were custom orders.

    Remember back in the early days of Heritage, they would build just about anything a customer or dealer asked for as long as it fit their general design requirements. And a few that didn't. The custom order instruments just seemed to have that special attention to detail that other run of the mill guitars didn't. Also, since custom or upgraded instrument requests were so prominent that the owner/builders rarely even documented them as such. The guitars all had a label stating the basic model. Not much more. Maybe the label had a few signatures by the owners. My one and only custom spec Heritage remains my all time favorite. Marv Lamb followed my requests and executed the perfect guitar...for me. It's my H-525 Custom. It can do no wrong. Recently I found another H-525, offered by a fellow forum member, and I bought it. I love it. But nothing comes close to my custom spec H-525. Even though there's a new crew in Kalamazoo (sounds like the title of a song), Heritage has amazing talent still building amazing guitars.

    The new owners seem committed to building a consistently high quality guitars. They've limited the model range, and charge a hefty premium for anything custom. It's great to see the brand offered by major retailers like Sweetwater, Musicians Friend, Chicago Music Exchange and many more. Likewise, its great to hear from a Heritage guitar owner so pleased with his guitars that he started a thread to sing its praises.

    @Groyniad, enjoy your beautiful Sweet 16 and Eagle Classic.
    Those are amazing archtops, hand built by an amazing crew...from Kalamazoo.

  17. #16

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    nice post Gitfiddler

    I have no history with Heritage - and (like everyone else) I have every reason to prefer Gibson because all my heroes play them.

    No sooner did I realise that this sweet 16 is the deal - I moved my amplifier on my marble patio with the guitar plugged into it and elevated on a stand and it crashed to the floor and the head joint snapped.

    I've never damaged a guitar before - not seriously.

    Turned out fine - because there was NO damage except the snap - and I was able to repair that perfectly with good glue and clamps.

    It is now fine - and since I won't ever sell it I figure I got away with it. the aesthetic damage is negligible - unlike a scratch on the top etc.

    it was a truly terrible moment. (I've kept the guitars safe in a house with two very small boys for years and years)
    Last edited by Groyniad; 05-18-2021 at 03:55 AM.

  18. #17

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    The necks are almost always 95% way too thin,as well as their tops and backs. - Jad57

    just a detail - the new eagle classic is easily the heaviest guitar I've ever used. so it must have a pretty thick top and back - it is superbly feedback resistant. (it does have a modern neck-carve)

  19. #18

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    @Groyniad~ I'm glad your Sweet 16 was repaired satisfactorily. I bet your heart stopped for a moment after seeing it lying face down on marble with its headstock broken. Yikes!

    By the way...Heritage named that model "Sweet 16" because after designing and building it, they loved its 'sweet' sound. I do not know which of the Heritage owner-builders named it, but that's the story I was told. Based on your comments about your Sweetie, I think they were correct.

  20. #19

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    25-30 years ago, there was a store in Manassas, VA, that was a Heritage dealer. When I used to hang out there, I was super impressed with the Eagle Classic, the Sweet 16, the Golden Eagle, and--especially--the Johnny Smith "the Rose."

    Those guitars were simply sensational. I thought the standout, though, of the bunch--all things considered--was the Eagle Classic. It had humble appointments, but it was a fully carved 17" archtop with Gibson DNA that featured a great finish. It sounded fantastic and played like an instrument dropped out of the heavens.

    I always thought it would be "MY" Heritage. Later on, however, I ended up buying a Super Eagle from Patrick Amato, one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet on this forum (may he rest in peace). Patrick, who had a sizeable personal collection of Heritage archtops, really worked with me before I settled in on the Super Eagle that I bought from him. He was willing to sell me any of several of his very nice Heritages.

    Groyniad, do enjoy your brace of Heritage archtops.

  21. #20

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    Heritage necks can be thin, fat or in between. The older ones tended to be thinner, but it all depended on how they were ordered.

    I have a small collection. One of them is a definite 59 LP carve. A few of them are slightly thinner, much like a Gibson Lucille. Two of them are thin-ish, like a Gibson early 60s. The three ghost built Gretsches made by Heritage are just like the later Lucilles, as they were ordered to be.

    My point is that it is difficult to generalize about Heritage guitars. They started as a semi-custom shop. They had some standard models but customers and dealers had their particular preferences. For example, Jay Wolfe had at least some of the archtops he ordered be sprayed sparsely with lacquer. Jimmy Wallace had certain specs on his solid bodies. Some dealers had archtop carving preferences. Many, many guitars were built with specific neck specs. Some people photocopied their left hands and asked for appropriate neck carving. I know some preferred asymmetrical neck carves.

    There were generic built instruments, particularly going to Asia, but I've seen racks ready for shipping in which a large number of guitars had idiosyncratic specs.

    If I asked the Gibson Custom Shop to make a cross braced L-5 with a 3" depth, a thinner top, a medium D carve neck and cloud inlays, what are the odds I get it for 25% higher than the usual L-5? Add to that order that I want P-90s, quilted maple and a 1 3/4" nut. Heritage did those one offs all the time.

    Here are two examples that illustrate my point.

    This is a standard H-157 with abalone inlays, a belly cut, and three way mini-toggles for coil split and phase reversal. I changed this to P-Rails so that up is P-90-ish, middle is humbucker, and down is rail.

    Two good things about Heritage guitars-20200616_210944_resized-jpgTwo good things about Heritage guitars-2020-04-08_21-21-06-jpg

    This one is a H-530 that is 3" deep, has humbuckers, deluxe binding, an ebony board, block inlays, gold appointments and a mahogany pickguard, all custom features.

    Two good things about Heritage guitars-28577634_10155478965327239_181166307439155166_n-jpgTwo good things about Heritage guitars-img_0135-jpgTwo good things about Heritage guitars-img_1565-jpg

    Nowadays, Heritage doesn't do these custom builds all the time. But they did them routinely up until about 2015.

    So it's hard to generalize about Heritage builds. The most unifying concept about their products is that they built what to customer and dealer asked for. Without specific instructions the older necks tended to be thinner, it's true.
    Last edited by Marty Grass; 05-18-2021 at 07:21 AM.

  22. #21

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    What I dislike about Heritage guitars is there are not enough of them for sale over here in Europe!

  23. #22

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    Two good things about Heritage guitars-img_6489-jpg

    they're just spot on

    I have a pair of black KA 12 pole pickups arriving soon to put into the classic. The stock pickups are fab - but the KA's are going to be even better.
    I'm so lucky to have both - but my goodness it has taken a long time to get to this point.
    Last edited by Groyniad; 05-18-2021 at 06:39 AM.

  24. #23

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    Two good things about Heritage guitars-img_6493-jpg

    maybe get a sense of the sunburst here - its a half decent camera and the light is good

    this is a very heavy guitar - top looks pretty thick?

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray175
    What I dislike about Heritage guitars is there are not enough of them for sale over here in Europe!
    There's a sweet 16 NOS in a shop in France - has just the best can find it on reverb I think. (they will come down in price a bit I think)

    Thomann stock them now - and maybe the oddly named - 'The fellowship of the acoustic'

    I think Thomann say they can get you new Heritage archtops....even if they don't have them in stock.

  26. #25

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    Another good thing about Heritage... Gibson went corporate leaving Heritage as the real Gibson.

    If I were to buy a pricey guitar Gibson would not get any consideration, Heritage would though.