The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    So I keep reading that "since the original founders retired..." Heritage has backed away from carved tops. And it seems to be suggested by these posts (not necessarily here or "here alone" by any means) that the skill set on carving tops retired with them. Can I ask an outsider question: "Is this more than a rumor, "real news", or is it natural animosity from Gibson's failed (is it?) lawsuit... maybe even "planted buzz"? I mean... seriously... I'm much less interested in source (although that can color how much stock one puts in a thread) and/or their motivations than whether there's actually some company specific, authorized news that Heritage isn't producing carved tops any more.

    FWIW, the current web pages for Heritage's 575 ad specs don't mention a carved top, but the Eagle Classic does. I am aware that laminated tops can sound pretty good, too so it's not fatal by any means. I'm just trying to understand the products that Heritage offers. The company doesn't always give all that much on the specs on their guitars (dimensions) in all the gory detail that others do... so it's not as though there's a one source reference. And I've seen that the depth (width) between the tops can vary on Eagle models, too. Kind of seems a puzzle to me, and unlike some guitar companies, they're not as quick on email inquiries as others.

    Love to hear what anyone actually "knows" or has experience with. Why? Well... I keep reading that there is also a remarkable consistency in the voice of these guitars, and as I'm not after collectibility but playability and sound.... that's of interest. Might be an American made (not that I'm dogmatic about that - though I do have a US made toaster) candidate some day. Thanks!


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    There are quite a few Heritage fans here in these threads. And although they are more than capable of creating some really good instruments at times. I’m not a fan of most of them.
    From too thin of plates, and very bad aesthetics, as well as pencil thin neck shapes in general.

    Again these are the ones made by the old guard, not the current luthiers such as Pete Farmer. He seems to understand the shortcomings and is addressing the issues.
    My suggestion is with all of the great luthiers like Mark Campellone, Frans Elferink, etc who make great affordable Archtops, why bother?
    Again these are solely my opinion.

  4. #3

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    Eastman and Heritage have evolved their product strategies in the past few years, copying Gibson in some ways. In the case of Heritage, it was because of new ownership. They are both relying on reputations made building carved archtops, ramping up production of laminated and solid-bodied models, and ramping down production of carved top instruments. This makes excellent business sense, as laminated semies and solid-body guitars are significantly cheaper to make, generate higher margins, and have fewer warranty issues. Carved archtop guitars are tiny percentage of guitar sales in general, so this change in focus also allows these companies to sell a much greater volume of guitars to much larger market segments.

    The same is true of other companies. D'Angelico has done something generally similar - while not in the carved archtop marketplace in any significant way, they leveraged the reputation of John D'angelico, and built their business on inexpensive, mostly laminated archtop guitars. In the past few years, most of those archtops have disappeared, replaced by a lot of laminated semis, solid-body guitars, and flattops, that can be mass-marketed.

    In the higher-end archtop market niche, builders like Trenier and Roger Borys have leveraged their reputations to move toward laminate archtops, which are considerably easier and cheaper to make, and have much better margins.

    Heritage has rationalized and streamlined its carved archtop offerings to the models that probably have the most market appeal - the H-575 and the Eagle. Both are still being produced as part of their current standard line, althought I'm sure they represent a tiny percentage of production. The 575 was always a stripped out fully carved guitar with minimal decor.
    I suppose an email or call to Heritage would easily sort out the current H-575 specs. The fully-carved Eagle Classic has had all of the costly decor removed so that it can be offered at a decent market price and be far less time-consuming to make than was previously the case. Those who want the fizz can still get it, for more money, through the Custom Shop.

    I've never had any issues with the thicknesses of the carved archtop plates on Heritage guitars, but I have found very few of them with the bigger necks that I prefer. To each his own. Mine were all purchased used.

    Attached Images Attached Images Heritage Carved tops-heritage-x3-front_2328x-jpg Heritage Carved tops-heritage-x3-backs_2310x-jpg Heritage Carved tops-heritage-x3-headstocks_2306x-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 07-28-2022 at 11:22 PM.

  5. #4

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    Have owned a mid-90s 575.

    The plates were made very thick, and as a consequence the guitar had less resonance than my laminate '59 VOS. Maybe other models are built lighter. It is not an acoustic archtop despite carved solid wood construction.

    The neck profile was slightly more manageable than the 59 though which is similar in thickness but probably has more shoulder. Both less comfy / slim than my Guild T-50.

  6. #5

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    FWIW, I had a bad experience and nasty exchange from Heritage about a twisted neck that they refused to acknowledge even after I sent the guitar to them, paying both ways. Never again. They are hacks who don't stand by their products. Once they sell it, they don't care about how bad it is.

  7. #6

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    The H-575: Mimi Fox, Alex Skolnick, and many others have done well with this instrument. The tops are not that thin in my experience.

    I have two. Both are parallel braced with two pickups. This one shows the internal construction.

    Heritage Carved tops-51638844400_fcd231ca73_c-jpgHeritage Carved tops-51637996621_0515be912e_c-jpgHeritage Carved tops-51638209558_5bf6329088_c-jpgHeritage Carved tops-51703454547_b1037649e3_c-jpgHeritage Carved tops-51703454502_8e59cf4908_c-jpg

    Heritages archtops are built one at a time. You can request certain specs. Buying used, you need to ask questions or, better yet, try it out first.

    I have had a twisted neck on a Gibson and a Heritage. Heritage took it back.

    Regarding neck thickness, which pops up all the time, there is a broad range that depends on how the guitar was ordered. The one I pictured has a thickness of a Gibson Lucille but a little more rounded.

    The 17" and 18" archtops can have thin tops, especially with the floating pickups. Those acoustic-built guitars are harder to carve and feedback more. But they are carved that way on purpose unless the order comes in for a thicker top.

  8. #7

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    Thanks for all of this. Think part of what you want IS an acoustic voice. Heritage had a custom offering of piezo bridge pickup and floating pickup I think in the no longer produced David Becker (name?) model. Suggests that at least someone thought it had a decent acoustic voice... but I'm not sure whether that was a 575 or Eagle model as a starting point.

    For my part, I guess I'm playing a short scale at the moment and looking down the road moving back up and perusing the candidates. Body size might be a thing. My guitars tend to be in the small 15-inch range lower bout width. My classical's about that but with a 4-inch depth. I'm sure a 16-inch wouldn't be a deal, but 17 is definitely (mentally at least) going to get noticed. I suspect this is a longer range project and not an impulse buy anyway... and inventory's kind of thin mostly anyway. Who knows, prices might soften in a year or so.

    Jads57: Appreciate the alternatives. Mark Campellone is a tad more expensive and in some cases double. Subjective wonder whether it sounds that much better?

    burchyk: Sounds like you approve 'cause you're definitely talking neck shapes and comfort not sound? Do I have that right?

    woodysound: Sorry about the bad experience. Bought new direct? and how recent?

    marty grass: Neck shape, thickness is a real thing. I'd have to check out the necks I like on my current stable. But would attest some horses don't come into the barn if the neck's uncomfortable. That said, every archtop neck feel tiny in my hand relative to a classical guitar neck! so I may be a poor reference point.

    Thanks again for the feedback.

  9. #8

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    Again the newer heritage guitars seem to be better designed and overall better guitars since Pete Farmer has taken over.
    My distaste for many of their guitars especially the Golden Eagles and other carved tops are as previously stated.

    Good luck in your search, and used Campellones, etc can be quite affordable.

  10. #9

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    My 2001 Heritage Johnny Smith is as good of a guitar as they come. I have said this before but will repeat. The thickness of the top cannot be assessed based on how thick the top is around the F hole. Carved top guitars made of spruce are graduated with thinnest part on each side of where the bridge sits on the top. Not directly where the bridge sits but maybe an inch to the outside toward the f holes. Some makers carve in such a way the f hole is a bit thicker at the edges. This is actually good gives better support and less chance for stress crack around f holes.

    The bracing also matters as it can be thicker and not rounded off on the outside. Both Bill Barker and Bill Hollenbeck would actually contour the bracing after gluing in. The exposed side of the braces were rounded off and not flat as you see on Gibson and some Heritages. In fact part of tuning the top of the guitar included this carving of the braces after gluing them in. Tuning the top means different things to different makers. Some actually try to tune to a particular note. Hollenbeck never did that at all he tune dthe guitar to respond at the point the bridge contacts the top.

  11. #10

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    Do carved maple tops really have much in the way of acoustic voice?

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    Do carved maple tops really have much in the way of acoustic voice?
    depends on the thickness, which can vary greatly between the makers and models

  13. #12

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    I have an early 90s Sweet 16 which has a wonderful acoustic voice and a floating pickup for a great electric sound.

    The Sweet 16 has held up well with heavy playing in the super dry Arizona environment where humidity levels can get below 10%. It was my work horse before my bands found out I could play bass.

    If you want to play guitar, don't tell anyone you can play bass.

    I also had an early 90s Golden Eagle set up like an L5 Wes Montgomery. It was a great guitar, but I traded it. Now that I have a Gibson L5 I appreciate the Golden Eagle even more. I wish I had kept it.

    Overall, Gibson L5s appear to me to have much better craftsmanship and are more beautiful than my Golden Eagle. That said the Golden Eagle sounded great and was beautiful in its own way.

    It's not clear to me what Heritage plans to do with their classic archtop models, but they could be great guitars. I would like to see them available again even if only as a custom order.

  14. #13

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    Another GE and SE fan. I must have owned some 15 of them.

    I didn’t appreciate them at the time, because I thought $3k used archtop’s grew on trees, and didn’t realize that one day soon, those days would be gone! But thanks for the memories!

    Heritage Carved tops-ed9f2655-86c5-468d-b931-93caca9273f2-jpegHeritage Carved tops-33d29710-981f-4b9f-bd5d-e8af47532ee2-jpegHeritage Carved tops-7c786dd9-849e-4750-941c-21a4216b23ce-pngHeritage Carved tops-fa02ff01-b422-48fc-83ab-f647541383e7-jpegHeritage Carved tops-0631c687-7a02-4013-8595-9d80c58bc7cb-jpeg
    Attached Images Attached Images Heritage Carved tops-e57d6f75-6c80-4f31-83ba-6874eb549387-jpeg Heritage Carved tops-9e99a908-3937-477f-9d55-81867ae7a654-png Heritage Carved tops-11cbfe02-c3a9-4d90-b4cd-6cd3f35605bc-jpeg Heritage Carved tops-f49a74d6-07ce-4808-bd00-7d0e7c052fe9-jpeg Heritage Carved tops-49cef30e-d88c-4247-aa0a-e64459e61e38-jpeg 

  15. #14

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    Anyone considering purchasing a USED Heritage archtop should ask questions about the specific guitar under consideration. During the early days of Heritage many of their guitars were custom orders built to dealer or customer specs. Neck profiles varied widely, even though some did have thin 'C' shapes. Some had medium 'C' and thicker profiles. One must lay hands on any Heritage in my view, unless it is less than a few years old.

    I'm very fortunate to own this custom ordered '93 Golden Eagle that was tap tuned and included their premium wood option.

    Also, I stumbled upon this custom ordered H-575 that sports a medium 'C' shaped neck. It's the best sounding and playing H-575 I've ever touched.

    So, if the OP is considering a used Heritage, know that they vary widely due to so many custom versions made back before Bandlab took them over. And if anyone still wants a custom Heritage, they have a bespoke program that can build the Heritage of your dreams...only limited to the size of your wallet. :-)
    Last edited by Gitfiddler; 07-27-2022 at 05:13 PM.

  16. #15

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    My Heritage Eagle has a very full neck, the fattest neck of all guitars I ever owned. It has a bright and loud acoustic voice that amplifies very well with a KA floater. Top is carved very graduated, thin around the F holes and thicker in the middle.

    My 575 has what I would call a "shallow D" neck, it feels similar to the neck of the Japanese Ibanez GB10 I owned previously. I wouldn't call it "pencil thin". The top is also thinner near the F-holes but overall noticeably thicker than the Eagle. It can be surprisingly loud acoustically if you pick hard, but the sound is less complex than the Eagle, I prefer it amplified. Original PUs make it sound 175-ish, I currently have Benedetto B6's in it, which produces a very clear jazzy tone.

    The two archtops with pencil thin necks I tried so far were both made by Eastman, an 805 and 810. Those were thin, shallow necks similar to the ones on some "shredder" guitars. The tops were different animals altogether, much thinner overall and almost no graduation towards the middle, as if they were laminated. Very different sound too.

  17. #16

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    Funny I had totally different experience with several Eastmans I previously owned. 810CE, 805CE,803CE,JP 880, they all had quite substantial necks, and sounded quite good! Especially the 810CE acoustically as well. I did upgrade the pickup to a Ken Armstrong floater USA made.

    I guess we all have our likes and dislikes. I will say the Heritage shown in these threads look quite good. Maybe all the ones I played were just the bad ones? But I have played quite a few over the companies existence.

  18. #17

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    My brand new Eastman (FV-880ce) came with a Lollar Johnny Smith pickup, which is made in USA and there would be little reason to change it. Are there Eastmans that don't come with USA made pickups?


  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Funny I had totally different experience with several Eastmans I previously owned. 810CE, 805CE,803CE,JP 880, they all had quite substantial necks, and sounded quite good! Especially the 810CE acoustically as well. I did upgrade the pickup to a Ken Armstrong floater USA made.

    I guess we all have our likes and dislikes. I will say the Heritage shown in these threads look quite good. Maybe all the ones I played were just the bad ones? But I have played quite a few over the companies existence.
    Yes, they saved the bad ones for you. I never had a bad Heritage. Guess 15/15 was simply lucky.

  20. #19

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    Well they’re out there in great numbers and being 65 and owning way too many guitars including Gibson, Heritage, Eastman,Hamer, Fender, etc… I feel I’ve had enough experience as a pro musician to be able to discern what works for me.

    I will also add I never was a huge fan of the Norlin Gibson era instruments either. It’s not that they are inferior, but from aesthetics to being extremely heavy, to neck shapes,etc.
    Turns out many of these guys were the Heritage owners as well. Just not a fan of their luthier skills or design aesthetics.

    For me Jim Hutchins as well as Phillip Wharton produce some of the finest Archtops in Gibsons history. The proof is in the prices they still command on the used market. And again this is my opinion and taste, in guitars. I also love Mark Campellone, Bill Comins, John Buscarino, and some of Ted Megas guitars as well!

  21. #20

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    Looking at those luthiers on Reverb, that's quite a list. Mark Campellone as you note has a $ 3 bill guitar on the site, but the others are running 8 bills up to 10 and 20.<br>And at that point, I imagine we're really not comparing the same animals. More like a Strad vs. a Yamaha violin.<br><br>What interests me mostly is sound and playability. The two are related of course because the greater the playability, the better the produced sound should be. "Should" doesn't always happen of course. But there is an awful lot of attention paid to appearance. And woodworking craftsmanship - aside from the simple sound of the instrument - can provide a lot of curb "eye" appeal that has nothing to do with either playability or sound. And FWIW, I think you ARE speaking more about sound and playabiity than simply curb appeal... am I right? The tone wood sellers aren't fools and do know their best product... but at some point inevitably the combination of eye appeal AND sound in raw wood form doesn't remain a secret.... so prices respond, and I think it's harder to separate the two than we think.<br>The labor is the same for an ugly guitar as a nice one. So you spend a little more for nice, hand selected, figured woods. That's what folks do.<br><br>Classical guitars have a LOT of cedar instruments but I really don't see that at all with these archtops. Lots of Maple and Spruce. Spruce is amazing. Maple can be as well. I am partial to it FWIW. Tiger Maple especially. What I don't see is very many archtops with a floater pickup and a real acoustic voice. I would really really really expect the group of luthiers cited to have that voice ...otherwise, the price would be unrealistic. But then.... I'm not a collector in any way shape or form either. And&nbsp; good part of the market seems to be exactly that.<br><br>Anyway.... you guys ...thanks. I learn something with every tidbit. Still not rushing out for a new axe. More work on the chops.... less on gear solutions. But there may come a time.<br><br>

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by JWMandy
    What I don't see is very many archtops with a floater pickup and a real acoustic voice. I would really really really expect the group of luthiers cited to have that voice ...
    Uhhh… What? Huh? That's not what I see when I look at the world of archtop guitars in the last 50 or so years.

    Archtop guitars with a floating pickup and a "real" acoustic voice are available all over the place. From boutique luthiers, they're usually more common than archtop guitars with pickups routed into the top. Benedetto made his name on exactly those kinds of instruments. Many top-flight luthiers have followed in those footsteps either descending from Benedetto or descending from D'Aquisto/D'Angelico, primarily. Benedetto, Monteleone, Andersen, Trenier, our own Matt Cushman, Barker, Hollenbeck, etc. Or Ken Parker who is, no pun intended, carving his own path in the world of archtop guitars and creating some really interesting stuff.

    But, for the most part, that is not the classic sound of archtop jazz guitar. The classic sound is basically that of an L5 or an ES-175. Or, to my personal preference, the ES-350).

  23. #22

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    So Mark Campellone told me years back the only difference in his fancy more expensive Archtops is your paying for highly figured wood and ornamentation. The sound is basically the same in all similar sized guitars.

    Ive heard Benedetto same much the same thing as well. But people like pretty things and are willing to pay more for them!
    Campellones are built in the vintage Gibson tradition as well!

  24. #23

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    I put off owning a Heritage for many years. I'm not attracted to them as much as other makes and models. I usually find the binding in bad condition, even on newish examples. There are other reasons but those are two prominent examples of me.
    If it wasn't for needing one to complete an R&D project, based on Johnny Smiths, I likely wouldn't own one.

    Heritage 'The Rose' Johnny Smith's are extremely rare in the Uk, when one popped up for sale (96), I had to buy it. I did so expecting to return it within the 14 day cooling off period. Unfortunately or luckily for me, the guitar sounded fantastic.
    Having played all four Johny Smith models (and owning 3), I can say this one most meets the brief, in that it is a bebop sounding acoustic jazz guitar.

    The top plate is not as thin as you might think. The F-hole binding (on mine at least), is thinner than the wood it's glued to, giving a false impression of thinness.
    Having measured the entire thickness of the top using a special depth gauge; it is no thinner than the top on my Guild Benedetto Johnny Smith Award. The difference between the two is Heritage lost their bottle and put long cleats along the top and back centre seams. This is common but the Guild BJSA, does not have these cleats, as I'm sure Benedetto would never allow them. The benny is a far superior acoustic voice in comparison but that's another story.

    My over all my impression of Heritage, based on my limited experience, is that the quality control is not good and the luthiers aren't as confident in their designs, as other builders. I don't see why a top and back plate should have centre cleats. If someone has a good reason for them being included, I'd be interested to hear it.

    That being said, if I were doing a gig tomorrow, in which I wanted a balanced, creamy bebop tone, enveloped in beautiful woody acousticness (no such word), I would pick the Heritage JS.
    Last edited by ArchtopHeaven; 07-28-2022 at 03:09 AM.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Funny I had totally different experience with several Eastmans I previously owned. 810CE, 805CE,803CE,JP 880, they all had quite substantial necks, and sounded quite good! Especially the 810CE acoustically as well. I did upgrade the pickup to a Ken Armstrong floater USA made.

    I guess we all have our likes and dislikes. I will say the Heritage shown in these threads look quite good. Maybe all the ones I played were just the bad ones? But I have played quite a few over the companies existence.
    I think Eastman has evolved their designs over time just like Heritage. I have been trying to buy one for years but every time I try one, I end up walking away. They are very light builds and have their distinct tone and feel. For me, neck shape and something that happens with the tone of the wound strings as you go above the 12th fret just doesn’t work. I’m sure it can be a different experience for someone else.

  26. #25

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    About acoustic voice… keep in mind that the main feature with archtops is projection. Unfortunately for the players, because we don’t hear what the guitar is actually doing.

    Try having a friend play your guitar and stand a few meters away. I thought my 575 had no acoustic voice until I tried this, it’s actually very loud.