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  1. #1

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    Hello all.
    I've been advised on the AGF to sign up and look around here. I checked the subforum rules and saw nothing that indicated one shouldn't post something like this as one's first message (but I still apologise for it).

    That said:

    I'm looking around for used archtops in the <1500€ class, intended for mostly fingerpicking and almost exclusively acoustic playing. I'll take a floating pickup for the in-case-I-might-join-a-band scenario though

    Thing is, I've never played archtops beyond a late 1940s low-end probably all-laminate German instrument ("Troubadour") in bad shape, which sounds just good enough to have given me the buy-a-better-one virus. I planned to go check out a good-looking Loar LH650 last week, but the owner decided to keep her after we finally had a meet set up, so I'm still none the wiser.

    I've located another one, with a less attractive back, higher asking price and even further away from me, so I'd have to buy it unseen. Not really comfortable with that as the seller doesn't play himself and QC on these is apparently a bit hit-and-miss. And I've begun to pick up on the fact that I might prefer an Eastman, probably an older AR805 that doesn't have the pickup and controls fixed to the top.

    Let me rephrase that: the Eastman is probably a safer bet to buy untried, both in terms of constant build quality but also in terms of acoustic sound and playability. It seems there's a better chance it'll sound good with my current string favourite (TI Plectrum AC111, which I use on my similar-sized mini-jumbo). Having said that, in a "blind" comparison of 2 otherwise identical sibling L5 copies by Cranmer Guitars I actually prefer the sound of the parallel-braced instrument...

    I've been looking for used AR805s. The *ce's that still have the floating pickup are either priced way too high (over 2000€) except one which is just within my budget but does have a nasty looking bit of damage to the back (could be more than just the finish) and is in Japan so I'd be looking at 350€ shipping.

    FWIW, I don't consider the non-cutaway Loars (LH600/700) because of their neck profile, but might consider the uncut AR805 as long as it doesn't have a fixed pickup (or pots in the top).

    I'd be grateful for pointers to sites or ads that I overlooked! I'm in France, so a buy inside the EU would be preferable for me.
    Last edited by RJVB; 12-10-2021 at 03:43 PM. Reason: Got one!

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  3. #2

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    I’ve owned the LH650. It’s a superior archtop if you change the pickup. I used a Bartolini 5J with excellent results. But they’ve become a tough find anymore because people are hanging on to them. Good luck with your search.

  4. #3

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    Just a thought, but, there are literally thousands of (mostly West German) acoustic archtops floating around Europe, made between the early 1950s and the late 1960s, that exactly fit your needs. Almost all of them can be purchased for well under your 1500€ budget, which provides plenty of wiggle room for refrets, neck resets, neck straightening and/or reshaping, hardware remediation and so forth. Most of them will have either laminated/pressed tops or solid/pressed spruce tops. Almost all of them have laminated backs. Some (mostly East German) often have carved tops and/or carved backs.

    If you do not want to do the legwork yourself, there are several excellent retailers in Europe who deal in such instruments, who would be happy to sell you an instrument that has already been fully renovated.
    Last edited by Hammertone; 11-12-2021 at 06:22 AM.

  5. #4

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    There’s a LH650 in Britain for $800. It’s on eBay USA

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop
    There’s a LH650 in Britain for $800. It’s on eBay USA
    For some reason I'm not getting the email notifications I should be getting from this forum, so I only saw your post now.

    Can't find the listing, annoyingly. If it's still up, could you send me the link via a personal message please?

    EDIT: are you certain it wasn't in the Netherlands? I know the one I just missed was (seller decided to keep her ... twice, but took a while to take down all listings he had made).

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    For some reason I'm not getting the email notifications I should be getting from this forum, so I only saw your post now.

    Can't find the listing, annoyingly. If it's still up, could you send me the link via a personal message please?

    EDIT: are you certain it wasn't in the Netherlands? I know the one I just missed was (seller decided to keep her ... twice, but took a while to take down all listings he had made).
    It was the Netherlands. The guitar looked brand new. Here's the link to the last auction ended 11/13.


    The Loar LH-650 all solid hand carved archtop / jazz guitar | eBay

    In my experience, these are sleeper guitars. But you've got to replace the original pickup for the guitar to truly come alive. Mine was one of the finest arch tops I've ever had. I was foolish to ever part with that guitar.
    Last edited by 2bornot2bop; 11-17-2021 at 02:20 PM.

  8. #7

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    Yep, that's the one that I could have had coming my way if I had accepted the offer the seller made me after cancelling the sale once before. I still wasn't 100% certain I wanted to take the risk ordering it untried and by the time I was, he had decided once more to keep the instrument...

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    Yep, that's the one that I could have had coming my way if I had accepted the offer the seller made me after cancelling the sale once before. I still wasn't 100% certain I wanted to take the risk ordering it untried and by the time I was, he had decided once more to keep the instrument...
    That's a tough decision. But I've purchased some 100 arch tops buying each of them blind. Some LH650's had neck angle issues. But I ended up with two of them that didn't have any issues.

    The LH650 I first purchased was here on the forum. It was a rare blonde finish. I sold that guitar for a measly $950. The guitar was worth much more than that.

    Looking for used acoustic (+ electric) archtop - LH650 or AR805-file_zps785e6ae7-jpgLooking for used acoustic (+ electric) archtop - LH650 or AR805-file_zps782b24f0-jpgLooking for used acoustic (+ electric) archtop - LH650 or AR805-file_zps82e980f4-jpg

  10. #9

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    The brown saddle isn't original, right?

    I'm not just concerned with the variable Loar QC but it's also my 1st archtop (other than the old, beat-up Troubadour which I can't count). Since I'm not just intending to use it as a jazz box I have to base my decision purely on the impression given by a very small selection of YouTube videos.

    I might end up going for an Eastman AR805 despite the repeated remarks about them being bright (if not nasal) AND a lot more expensive (and I might actually prefer the parallel-braced sound)...

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    The brown saddle isn't original, right?

    I'm not just concerned with the variable Loar QC but it's also my 1st archtop (other than the old, beat-up Troubadour which I can't count). Since I'm not just intending to use it as a jazz box I have to base my decision purely on the impression given by a very small selection of YouTube videos.

    I might end up going for an Eastman AR805 despite the repeated remarks about them being bright (if not nasal) AND a lot more expensive (and I might actually prefer the parallel-braced sound)...
    Well, careful there, then, as the Eastman's are X braced. The Loars are Parallel.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    The brown saddle isn't original, right?

    I'm not just concerned with the variable Loar QC but it's also my 1st archtop (other than the old, beat-up Troubadour which I can't count). Since I'm not just intending to use it as a jazz box I have to base my decision purely on the impression given by a very small selection of YouTube videos.

    I might end up going for an Eastman AR805 despite the repeated remarks about them being bright (if not nasal) AND a lot more expensive (and I might actually prefer the parallel-braced sound)...
    No, the bridge was made from Cherry wood. It was one of the last bridges made by the luthier Bill Gagnon. That bridge truly enhanced that guitars performance, and it was custom fit to the top. The Eastman AR805 is a lot more money today. I've not seen them under $1500 today. But I've owned an 805, and it's not in the ball park of a LH605. Just my opinion.

  13. #12

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    Cherry wood, surprising choice for a bridge (not very hard if I'm not mistaken)

    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop
    But I've owned an 805, and it's not in the ball park of a LH605. Just my opinion.
    And by that I suppose you mean it's not in a higher ball park (maybe you had the one with the fixed pickup and controls coming through the top)?

    Strange that the Eastmans run so expensive; I've seen new ones advertised for more than certain luthier builds which I assume would sound a lot better (Elferink's prices start at 3700€ nowadays). Besides, I wouldn't be surprised if the Loar and Eastman archtops come out of the same workshop...

  14. #13

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    Damn, I'm really not having any luck in this endeavour. There was a beautiful AR805CE on Reverb, listed at 2500€ but with 2 open bids and apparently since 3 years. I had the thingy open to bid 1200€ while I tried to confirm for myself that it would indeed work for me. Now it's sold, and Reverb doesn't list the selling price (which I find quite wrong TBH, esp. if the winning bid was a lot lower or higher).

  15. #14

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    If you get a Loar expect to do some set up work.

    that said, my Loar is great. I love it.

    They are running quite expensive these days I see. Eastmans are still pricier though. Depends what you want. Loar do vibey parallel braced archtops, with a brassy attack and not much sustain compared to a flat top. Eastman may be more appropriate for a modern player.

    that said with that guitar, a micro Manouche pick up and a Fender amp, I’d be perfectly happy playing a straightahead trio or duo gig.

  16. #15

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    It is my understanding that all archtops have a shorter sustain compared to flattops (roughly said inevitably because they convert more string energy to "loudness", leaving less for sustain). That said, the good Loars can clearly have enough sustain for what I plan to play. In fact, one of the things I like less in my jumbo is that it often has too much sustain for me, as if there's a cathedral inside

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    It is my understanding that all archtops have a shorter sustain compared to flattops (roughly said inevitably because they convert more string energy to "loudness", leaving less for sustain). That said, the good Loars can clearly have enough sustain for what I plan to play. In fact, one of the things I like less in my jumbo is that it often has too much sustain for me, as if there's a cathedral inside
    A lot depend on picking dynamic; the harder you hit, the less sustain you get.

    If I pick the Loar at medium dynamic it has plenty of sustain for chord melody
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    the neck profile puts a lot of players off though

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    A lot depend on picking dynamic; the harder you hit, the less sustain you get.
    That sounds counterintuitive (and physically implausible), but I may actually have observed the same thing on my flattop and resonator. I'd attribute that to a kind of saturation though.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    That sounds counterintuitive (and physically implausible), but I may actually have observed the same thing on my flattop and resonator. I'd attribute that to a kind of saturation though.
    Yeah, no idea how the physics works.

    The weird thing is even with amplification, I prefer less compression, even though you'd think I'd want more.

    I think picking softer flattens out the perceived decay curve. OTOH it's obviously less loud, but with the old archtops the whole thing was rhythm and chords, so a lot of attack and punch, maybe at the cost of sustain. Maybe different on the Eastmans? Don't know TBH.

  20. #19

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    Well, there is the good old psychophysics observation where a loud sound masks softer sounds for a short while, one of the earlier tricks used in lossy compression. Could be that's at play here; should be easy enough to verify with a scope.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    Well, there is the good old psychophysics observation where a loud sound masks softer sounds for a short while, one of the earlier tricks used in lossy compression. Could be that's at play here; should be easy enough to verify with a scope.
    Well, you get yer oscilloscope out if you want haha, ultimately music is perceived with the mark 1 ear hole

  22. #21

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    If you really want to split hairs (perception was my thing when still working as a scientist): I'd say perception is what happens before you can hear if a noise is music or not

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    If you really want to split hairs (perception was my thing when still working as a scientist): I'd say perception is what happens before you can hear if a noise is music or not
    whatever turns you on baby

    Tbh I’m happy with my entirely subjective ‘perceptions’, but what I’m saying is grounded in my playing this guitar for almost on a decade on gigs.

    The feel of the instrument is a lot of it really, what you hear out of a recording is different to the experience of playing it and hearing it for instance. It all contributes to your enjoyment of playing, or otherwise.

  24. #23

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    That said, it’s my ‘perception’ that this guitar (the Lh600) records very nicely;



    my favourite recorded tone so far; half guitar miced, half amp.

  25. #24

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    Another subjective perception I presume?

    BTW, is the balance between the guitar and the violin (or even the double bass) as you'd hear it live? I don't have any recent references but I'd expect to hear the guitar a bit better (if it tried to play louder, of course).

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by RJVB
    Another subjective perception I presume?

    BTW, is the balance between the guitar and the violin (or even the double bass) as you'd hear it live? I don't have any recent references but I'd expect to hear the guitar a bit better (if it tried to play louder, of course).
    It's a mixed album, so in no way represents live balance in a room.

    In practice there's so many variables. In a rehearsal room or in someone's house I can play the Loar acoustic without drums, or in a small trio with a little amplification, but in a live situation everything changes. Occasionally, it's viable, most often not. That's why getting a good pickup is so important. My practice room sound or recorded tone has nothing to do with my live sound.... this is the way it works as a gigging player.

    End of the day is a guitar is a guitar. Archtops offers more mid range cut and perhaps a little projection (that as the player you won't actually hear always because of the highly directional F-holes) at the expense of the extended bass of familiar dreadnought guitars, but it's still a guitar.