Other Guitars

NGD — string query

1

Epiphone's Masterbilt retro(-ish) archtops don't seem to have met with universal approval from the jazzy gang for various reasons. I fact I was told recently that they might be discontinued, perhaps to reappear as more historically correct instruments — no doubt at an appropriately higher price. I suspect that this is reason that many dealers, at least here in the UK, are knocking these things down at a much reduced price. So I bought one — a 17-inch roundhole archtop Deluxe in natural finish that three months ago had an £800-plus ticket on it but for which I paid just £349.

Oh I get that it has laminated back and sides and a pressed (not carved) top, but what do you expect at this price? And I don't mind that the onboard pickup system has a battery hatch and jack socket down by the strap button, because this thing is exactly what I need right now for the little jazzy/swingy trio side project we've got going. It does kerchunk-kerchunk rhythm and more normal acoustic stuff and I'm having great fun with it. The neck is a lovely beefy handful (but not too much), the fretting is good and the action low.

Now I'm wondering — what if I added the opportunity for some electric sounds by fitting a floating pickup (some sort of minihumbucker, maybe a Kent Armstrong) to the end of the fingerboard and ran it to a separate output jack fitted where the back strap button is?

Which brings me to the question of strings that will retain the existing amplified acoustic sound, but also give a decent account of themselves through an electric pickup. Any ideas — Monel? Half rounds?

2

Congrats Dave,great price too sir!

3

I wanted to like those when they came out because they look so cool. I played the f-hole version and thought it was ok, but it didn't look, play, or sound as nice as my Loar LH-300. But jeez you got a really good price on that so congrats on your new find! As far as a pickup. I did the same thing with my Loar. I ordered the Kent Armstrong Johnny Smith mini humbucker and had it mounted to the neck on either side just below the fret board so its floating. I had to mount a pickguardI but I guess you wouldn't have to worry about that so you'd just have to pick up some knobs and pots. I have D'Addario flatwound chromes on it and I'm pretty happy with the acoustic sound I get, but I almost always play it plugged in so I'm not concerned about that. Good luck, I'd love to see pics once you get the pickup on there.

4

Nick: I couldn't get very excited about the f-hole models -- sounded a bit thin to me, although it could have been the strings. And I wasn't really taken with the attempt at the old-school type of sunburst finish, which looked a bit faked on the guitars I tried, which is why I went for the natural finish.

5

I wanted to like those when they came out because they look so cool. I played the f-hole version and thought it was ok, but it didn't look, play, or sound as nice as my Loar LH-300. But jeez you got a really good price on that so congrats on your new find! As far as a pickup. I did the same thing with my Loar. I ordered the Kent Armstrong Johnny Smith mini humbucker and had it mounted to the neck on either side just below the fret board so its floating. I had to mount a pickguardI but I guess you wouldn't have to worry about that so you'd just have to pick up some knobs and pots. I have D'Addario flatwound chromes on it and I'm pretty happy with the acoustic sound I get, but I almost always play it plugged in so I'm not concerned about that. Good luck, I'd love to see pics once you get the pickup on there.

– Rockabilly_Nick

I recommend what I use Dave: D'Addario Flattop mediums. These are phosphor bronze and have the same warm brightness as round wounds but without the buzz and scratchiness. Archtops.com puts phosphor bronze (not the flattops though) on all the guitars it overhauls for sale.

I had originally put bronze strings on my '41 Synchro but they didn't have the warmth I wanted and were very 'noisy', over amplifying moving your fingers on the strings.

It's generally recommended for archtops that Medium gauge be used as their extra tension over Lights is required to correctly 'move' the top and give maximum performance.

6

Yeah you are correct about the f-hole version sounding thin. And also about the sunburst, it didn’t look very good in person. Glad to hear the round hole version sounds better and is doing what you want it to. This idea of yours sounds very cool. I wonder how it would sound on an amp with two inputs if you plugged in both output jacks?! Another string I’ve been meaning to try are La Bella strings. They seem to have a dedicated following and have a good description on their website about their different versions. And I second Windsor Dave’s recommendation on gauge. I usually play at least 12’s on my Loar, which is considered light to some hardcore jazz people but suits me just fine.

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Not yet, Nick. Funnily enough my friendly neighbourhood luthier suggested running the guitar's standard acoustic output through a character pedal (probably a Tech21 blonde or the much cheaper Joyo option) and just switching that in when I want an electric sound.

10

Nice when you have a good luthier who will suggest money saving options for you when they could be telling you about all this stuff you’ll have to buy and all this service that will need to be done. That’s a luthier worth throwing good money at when you DO need some work done!


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