Review: D’Angelico EX-DH Archtop Electric Guitar — Video


Last year, we took a look at several D’Angelico guitars that were ideal for rock, blues, funk, rockabilly and roots-rock guitarists.

However, the D’Angelico name is best known for some of the finest jazz archtops ever built, and the company is still a great place to start for anyone seeking a fine instrument for jazz.

D’Angelico’s current lineup includes several models that satisfy jazz purists who want an instrument that leans more toward acoustic-flavored tones, but the new EX-DH is an ideal choice for jazz players who want an archtop that performs as an electric instrument first and foremost.

Of course the EX-DH is much more than just a jazz guitar, and anyone looking for a truly electric archtop for almost any style of music will want to try it out.

FEATURES The EX-DH is the soul brother of D’Angelico’s previous EX-175 model, but it features different humbuckers and a signature stair-step trapeze tailpiece instead of a Bigsby. The EX-DH has a large single-cutaway body that is 16-inches wide and 2 3/4 inches deep. The back and sides are laminated maple, while the top is made from carved laminated spruce. The neck’s three-piece construction consists of a walnut center strip sandwiched on either side by maple, and it features a 25 1/2–inch scale, 22 medium jumbo frets, a slim C-shaped profile, and a rosewood fretboard with pearl block inlays.

Deluxe appointments abound on this model. The headstock features the classic fancy D’Angelico pediment-and-cupola design and pearl inlay with Excel written in script. Multilayer binding surrounds the top, back, fretboard, and headstock, while the f-holes feature single-layer binding. Multilayer binding even surrounds the tortoiseshell-color pickguard. D’Angelico’s signature art deco stair-step motif is featured throughout and is seen in the pickguard, mirror-like truss-rod cover, engraved trapeze tailpiece, and the buttons of the Grover Super Rotomatic tuners. All of the hardware is gold plated, including the floating Tune-o-matic-style bridge. The individual volume and tone control knobs for both of the full-size humbucking pickups may be made of plastic, but they are textured to resemble wood grain and sport a classy art deco three-stripe motif.

D’Angelico offers the EX-DH with either a vintage sunburst, natural or black finish. Our example had the black finish, which combined with the gold-plated hardware gave the guitar a very classy and stylish appearance befitting a high-quality instrument like this.

PERFORMANCE My first initial test of any electric guitar, whether it’s an archtop or solidbody, is to play it unplugged. The EX-DH passed this test very well, producing loud, assertive sound with sweet resonance. Those characteristics remained when the guitar was plugged in, but the humbuckers shaped the tone with fat midrange, warm bass and lively treble. The EX-DH’s electric tone is very well balanced and not the least bit muddy, unlike many jazz archtops. The bridge humbucker was initially a little weaker than the neck pickup, but all it needed was a quick height adjustment to bring it closer to the strings and match the output.

The EX-DH ships with round-wound strings, which are fine for most players and applications, but jazz players will want to try a set of flat-wounds to get dead-on classic jazz tones. Regardless of which strings are used, the EX-DH is impressively versatile and can rock as well as it can sing and swing. The attack is crisp and punchy, and with a little bit of overdrive it can howl and snarl with an assertive voice that is fully rock approved. While the full-size hollowbody design makes it difficult to avoid feedback with higher gain settings, the EX-DH can be pushed harder than most archtop electrics.

While the versatile tones of the EX-DH make it a keeper, the sexy feel of its neck keeps players coming back for more. The 25 1/2–inch scale adds to the guitar’s lively response and fast attack, but it feels as comfortable and easy to play as a shorter scale. The shallow C-shaped profile satisfies the tastes of modern players who prefer a faster playing neck, and the feel and finish of the medium-jumbo frets are simply immaculate. The EX-DH may be on the large side of the archtop hollowbody spectrum, but it doesn’t feel big—it just sounds that way.


MANUFACTURER D’Angelico Guitars,

With its 2 3/4-inch depth and 16-inch wide body, the EX-DH is a large archtop hollowbody electric

The single-cutaway design provides excellent access to the fretboard’s upper region.

The pair of humbucking pickups produces a wide variety of lively, vibrant tones with excellent attack and definition.

Upscale appointments abound, from the stair-step motif of the pickguard, truss-rod cover, tuner buttons and trapeze tailpiece to the gold-plated hardware.

THE BOTTOM LINE Whether you want a traditional electric hollowbody for jazz or you just dig the vibe of an archtop guitar, the D’Angelico EX-DH impresses with its versatile tone and immaculate playability.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.