The market for archtop hollowbody guitars with a street price under $2,000 is not particularly crowded, consisting mostly of instruments made by companies whose names start with the letter G (and a few Es and an I).
Fortunately, over the past few years the selection has expanded considerably, thanks to the resurrection of the legendary D’Angelico name. While the guitars are no longer made by an old Italian man in a tiny workshop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the D’Angelico guitars made today are true to the original models’ classy sense of style and sophisticated appeal.
Three new D’Angelico electric archtop hollowbody models—the EX-175, EX-Style B and EX-59—combine the upscale appearance of an original D’Angelico with expanded features and versatility that today’s players prefer. Best of all, they are affordable, and available without waiting months or years for delivery.
FEATURES The D’Angelico EX-175, EX-Style B and EX-59 are all part of the company’s imported Standard series. The EX-Style B is the most traditional model, inspired by the Style B guitars John D’Angelico made in the Thirties. It has a non-cutaway body with a spruce top, a floating mini-humbucker at the neck, volume and tone controls mounted on the floating pickguard, and a 20-fret neck with a 24 5/8–inch scale, a rosewood fretboard and large mother-of-pearl block inlays. D’Angelico’s signature art deco stair-step design motif, first introduced on D’Angelico guitars in the Forties, is prominent on the Grover Super Rotomatic tuners, the metal truss-rod cover, the pickguard and the gold-plated trapeze tailpiece.
The EX-59 is based on a unique 1959 D’Angelico guitar that was one of only a handful of true electric instruments John D’Angelico ever made. It has a single-cutaway body shape, a pair of P-90 pickups mounted to its laminated flame maple top (the original guitar had weaker P-90-style pickups made by Fransch/Franz, which also made pickups for Guild), master volume and tone controls, and a rotary three-position pickup selector. The laminated maple-and-walnut neck has a 25 1/2–inch scale and a rosewood fretboard with 22 jumbo frets and mother-of-pearl block inlays.
The EX-175 is an original new model that combines classic D’Angelico style with features that are ideal for modern electric players. It’s the only D’Angelico archtop model with a Bigsby B-30 vibrato tailpiece and a floating roller bridge, and it features a pair of Kent Armstrong humbucking pickups mounted to its carved, laminated spruce top along with individual volume and tone controls for each pickup. The three-piece maple/walnut/maple neck has a slim profile, a 25 1/2–inch scale and 22 jumbo frets. Whereas the previous two models have gold-plated hardware, the EX-175’s hardware is chrome plated. The Grover Super Rotomatic tuners, truss-rod cover and pickguard also feature the signature D’Angelico art deco stair-step motif.
PERFORMANCE John D’Angelico originally made guitars for guys with names like Vinnie, Frank, Joey or Tony, who played jazz in Manhattan, Long Island or Jersey Shore nightclubs for good fellas. But today’s D’Angelico guitars are much more versatile. If you’re a jazz purist who wants the original D’Angelico vibe, the EX-Style B is the way to go, delivering fat, punchy acoustic archtop tone that only gets bigger and more aggressive when the neck pickup is amplified. The non-cutaway body preserves the lowest bass frequencies, making the guitar sound quite rich and warm.
If your tastes lean more toward rockabilly or traditional electric blues, I highly recommend the EX-59. The P-90 pickups produce wonderful snappy attack and twang that sounds particularly rockin’ with a touch of overdrive and a generous dollop of reverb or slap-back echo. The compensated rosewood bridge enhances resonance and sustain, helping to make up for some of the acoustic attributes lost by mounting the pickups to the top.
The EX-175 is the most versatile guitar of the bunch, providing tones that are suitable for jazz, blues or rock. The Kent Armstrong humbuckers deliver warm, round tones with excellent clarity and articulation, thanks to the balance between crisp treble, voice-like mids and rich bass. The playability of all three models is outstanding, but the EX-175 has the edge for players used to thinner, faster neck profiles. And when it comes to looks, no other archtops in this price range can top the classy styling and meticulous attention to detail seen in these D’Angelico models.
LIST PRICE EX-59, $2,459.99; EX-175, $2,589.99; EX-Style B, $????
MANUFACTURER D’Angelico Guitars, dangelicoguitars.com
Original D’Angelico styling appointments include the pediment-and-cupola headstock design and the art deco stair-step motif of the truss-rod cover, tailpiece and pickguard.
The EX-Style B features a traditional jazz archop non-cutaway body design and floating neck pickup with controls mounted to the floating pickguard.
Inspired by a unique original 1959 custom D’Angelico, the EX-59 provides two P-90 pickups mounted to the laminated flame maple top.
The EX-175 offers a Bigsby B-30 vibrato, a roller bridge, two Kent Armstrong humbucking pickups, and an exceptionally slim and comfortable neck profile.
THE BOTTOM LINE The looks, vibe and spirit of D’Angelico archtop guitars are alive and well in these new models that offer an irresistible combination of affordability and versatility.