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The name D’Angelico is spoken in reverence, like the names of artistic masters such as Michelangelo, da Vinci and Stradivari. Luthier John D’Angelico and his apprentice, James D’Aquisto, made only 1,164 D’Angelico archtop guitars, and today original D’Angelico guitars command impressive prices on the vintage market.
John D’Angelico died in 1964, but during the late Eighties a Japanese company started to build new D’Angelico guitars in limited numbers, with meticulous attention to detail. A few years ago, guitar collector John Ferrolito Sr. purchased the D’Angelico brand with the intention of reviving it.
In addition to offering USA Masterbuilt reissues of original D’Angelico models, made in limited amounts by luthier Gene Baker, D’Angelico recently introduced a new line of affordable Standard Series guitars, which consist of an archtop hollowbody, a chambered solidbody and two semihollow models, including the double-cutaway EX-DC.
Although the EX-DC (Excel Double Cutaway) isn’t made by a little Italian-American man on New York’s Lower East Side, it offers attention to detail, craftsmanship, playability and aesthetics that are significantly better than most mass-produced guitars, especially in its price range. The EX-DC is a new model based on the classic double-cutaway semihollow design, featuring a laminated flame maple top and back surrounded by five-ply binding, a three-piece maple neck with a walnut center strip, a rosewood fretboard with large mother-of-pearl block inlays, and the ornate, signature D’Angelico headstock with Grover Super Rotomatic “stairstep” tuners. The stairstep motif is repeated in the beveled, mirror-polished truss-rod cover and pickguard shape, which are original D’Angelico trademarks, as well as the etched, art deco, three-line pattern on the control knobs.
All of the EX-DC’s hardware is gold plated, including the Tune-o-matic bridge, the stop tailpiece, the Switchcraft output jack and the covers for the Kent Armstrong humbucking pickups. In classic style, the control configuration consists of individual volume and tone knobs for the neck and bridge pickups, along with a three-position pickup-selector switch. The neck has a 24 3/4–inch scale, a shallow C-shaped profile, and 22 medium frets with slightly squared-off crowns. My test example came with a gorgeous brilliant-white finish, but D’Angelico also offers the EX-DC with cherry, vintage sunburst, and natural finishes that show off the figuring of the flamed maple.
Even before it was plugged in, the EX-DC sounded crisp, full and resonant, with ample natural sustain—all the qualities that a good semihollow guitar should possess but which are often lacking in examples in the EX-DC’s price range. The sound gets even better when the EX-DC is plugged in. The Kent Armstrong pickups deliver rich midrange, articulate attack and outstanding bass and treble detail that retains definition even through a high-gain amp. Rolling down the tone controls for either pickup softens the attack while enhancing the vocal quality of the midrange, without the usual mud and murk produced by lesser-quality capacitors. An incredibly versatile instrument, the EX-DC offers a wide range of tones that will please guitarists who play styles like blues, jazz or even hard rock.
The neck profile is very comfortable, walking a tightrope between vintage heft and modern shred slenderness, with a feel that many players will find just right. Even though the frets have a slightly flat profile, which gives the fingerboard “fretless wonder” playability, the intonation is impressive up and down the neck. The classic double-cutaway body shape and heel, which curves away from the neck starting at the 17th fret, makes it easy to play all the way up to the 22nd fret. Best of all, the EX-DC—especially my white-finish example—is a very classy-looking ax that is as visually appealing as it is sonically.
List Price $1,769
Manufacturer D’Angelico Guitars, dangelicoguitars.com
A pair of Kent Armstrong humbucking pickups and high-quality electronic components deliver a wide range of rich, soulful tones ideal for blues, jazz and hard rock.
Gold-plated hardware, five-ply binding and art deco aesthetics—particularly the classic D’Angelico headstock design—give the EX-DC the classy looks of a high-end guitar.
The Bottom Line
With its alluring combination of state-of-the-art electronics, classic D’Angelico styling, and the timeless, versatile appeal of a semihollow double-cutaway, the EX-DC is a worthy descendent of the D’Angelico namesake.