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Epi Archtop help!

New to archtop world and love the vibe and reputation of vintage Epis. I have $2k budget but can happily spend less. My question is: what model between Triumph, Blackstone, Broadway, or less expensive Zenith. All available ones on Reverb are 1950s and earlier.
Please help!!


  • Thanks so much! I may be too picky but prefer sunburst. The L7 seems too good to be true—no return policy,
  • MarkAMarkA Vermont✭✭✭ Holo Epiphany, French mystery, Gibson L-5
    Posts: 100
    Triumph and Broadway have bigger body (17 3/8 inch lower bout), Zenith and Blackstone about 1 inch smaller. The Zenith was made for a while with a black walnut back and sides (as was the Broadway in the 30's), they tend to be somewhat brighter than the maple guitars. The differences between a Triumph and Broadway are ornamentation. Good luck!
  • I'm so freaking confused now. Maybe I should go new. What are your thoughts on Loars?
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    edited April 2018 Posts: 212
    Just for context: I have a '46 Broadway, a Loar LH-600, and an Eastman AR-805CE. I also used to have a '45 L7, and I've played a lot of older and modern archtops.

    Among vintage Epis, the biggest differences among the all-carved 17" models (Deluxe, Broadway, Triumph) are cosmetic--the relatively plain Triumph was considered a working-player's guitar but otherwise completely pro-level. The prices I see for pre-1950 17-inchers rarely dip below $2K, while Eastmans (which are strongly influenced by Epi designs) can be found at or under $2K used--or, for the "Jim Fisch" 600-series, new. On the third hand, when you come across a really fine old Epi, it can be magical. (Dakota Dave Hull seems to find the great ones.)

    While I find the Loar to be a very good bang-for-the-buck guitar with a real traditional-archtop voice, the Eastman is a much more refined guitar and the one I play out on. I love the Broadway, but the Eastman (with its stock Kent Armstrong pickup and modern controls) is easier to wrangle in amplified settings.
  • I'm really after a Maybelle Carter/David Rawlings look and feel, so a real "electric" archtop isn't what I'm after. Weren't the older Eastman 805s non cutaway? I really want a non cutaway.

    Having to buy online with potential problems to deal with on vintage guitars is intimidating--tho I prefer vintage. The Loar would save me money and give me the look and feel, and hopefully, the sound.

    Do you have any experience with the Blackstone? There's a nice looking one on Reverb.
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 212
    All my archtops are carved/solid acoustics with floating pickups--only the Eastman came with one already installed. The Eastman site shows both 805 (16") and 610 (17") non-cutaway/no pickguard-and-pickup models. The 610 is interesting for its mahogany back and sides rather than the traditional maple.

    Good luck finding a vintage Epi Olympic (carved top, pressed back)--Rawlings' use of one has made them into the Guild M-20s of the archtop world. There are, however, not-dissimilar small old archtops around, such as the Gibson L50 that can be very satisfying.

    (BTW and FWIW, what I hear in Rawlings' tone is a healthy dose of the kind of nasality you hear in a resophonic--perhaps a function of small size and pressed mahogany back. Old 16" L5s tend to have quite a different kind of voice.)
  • Archtops have a carved top so their voices vary a lot even between the same model.

    If you are looking for a particular sound best to try in person first.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Many many thanks to this awesome Forum, especially @MarkA for his detailed advice and Michael for ultimately eloping me decide.

    I’ve got an Eastman 610 on order and am going to put on a K&K Pure Archtop pickup as well as a single coil floating one to accommodate the different styles my band plays.

    Recommendations on the floating pickup would be greatly appreciated!

    I’m also gonna put on a Frequensator tailpiece (or maybe a trapeze style.) I really dislike the wooden tailpieces. I know many folks think I might be crazy!

    Will post a pic and clip when it gets setup!

    Thanks again

    Ps Suggestions on good tailpiece brands, also please.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,707
    Cool sounds like fun. Def let us know how it goes!
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