I just received my Dell'Arte Pigalle, and wanted to share a few quick thoughts on this guitar and see if anyone else has given the Pigalle a go. Tonight I'll get to play it in the band context, so this is merely first thoughts on solo noodling and the like. I don't claim to be a gypsy guitar expert, just an arts journalist who likes this stuff! Take, therefore, with several grains of salt if you're so inclined...
I played one of the prototypes at last year's Django in June here in Massachusetts, and I remember thinking it was extremely cool to have a top-notch Dell'Arte neck on a lower-end body. Unfortunately, the production version has a different neck. That one had a fairly chunky neck and very large frets, both of which I like. This one has a skinnier neck and medium-sized frets. Not what I expected, but I will say without reservation: This neck is fast! Right out of the gate, I found myself like a skier with newer, longer skis, overshooting everything. The guitar responds beautifully and loudly to even low-effort picking. It's a real pleasure to play, responsive and easy.
It also seems built for .10-gauge strings -- strung with my usual preference, Galli V27s, it lost volume and tone.
Now the not-as-good news: As one of my bandmates also noted, it does, in the end, sound more like a Gitane than a Dell'Arte. It's most noticeable to me in the high range, especially on the high E -- a Gitane-like, clacky brashness (brought out more by the .11s than the .10s --which reminds me -- it came with .10s with black wrappings -- what on earth is that? Dell'Arte John Jorgenson strings?). That sound is not as pronounced as on the Gitanes I've heard. The midrange is where it seems to excel -- the G and D strings have a woody, powerful midrange. The lower strings don't possess a great deal of bass, quite noticeable when playing chords.
For contrast's sake, there's Dennis' statement that the Pigalle is the best Dell'Arte he's heard! I respect his opinion, since he's heard, I am sure, many more of them than I have. But to my ears, my bandmate's Dell'Arte Dark Eyes possesses a more complex and pleasing tone.
The Gitane-like sound, given that the body is apparently made by Gitane (though I think it is not simply a DG-250 body -- anyone?), is clearly to be expected, but I'll admit I had high hopes that it might possess a bit more of that tasty Dell'Arte tone throughout its range (as I believe the prototype did, though it may be wishful thinking coloring what I heard a year ago!). To my ears, its sound seems to reflect precisely where it is priced -- clearly ahead of Gitanes, clearly behind high-end Dell'Artes and custom luthier jobs. I got it in order to have something that would help my playing while I spend a good while saving up for a Collins or something else in that price range. It will do that trick very well.
In the end, I think I got myself an extremely playable, pleasing guitar that I merely wish had a bit more tone than it quite delivers (at least in my less than virtuosic hands). It is, that said, an impressive value in a guitar that doesn't disappoint if you know what to expect.
Of course, I may play it with the band tonight and have to revise this whole thing!
This also raises a question: Is this guitar ahead of the Gitane John Jorgenson model? I played one recently, though with bronze strings, and quite liked it. So far, I like the Pigalle better. I'd love to hear opinions from anyone who's played both of these sort of "Mach 2" Gitane-based guitars.
I'd love to hear concurring or dissenting opinions on any of this!