Greetings fellow Selmerites, Macaferrians, and Manouchouers alike!!!
I have been playing an Altamira M30D for 6-7 years now, and I am saving up for my next guitar. The models I am eyeballing in the $2K range are the Stringphonic Basic and the Dupont Nomade. In the $3K range we have the Stringphonic Advanced and the Dupont MD100 or MDC100.
Would love to hear some opinions on these models vs each other ($2K vs $2K and $3K vs $3K). And also, for $2K vs $3K range, how much more "guitar" am I really getting for that extra $1K.
I have read and seen great things about the Stringponic, so I am leaning towards those. But I know Duponts are legendary and highly sough after for good reason.
I know all guitars sound and play different due to setup, construction, perception, etc. I don't expect a scientific diatribe on the subject. So all things being equal, I am just looking for some practical guidance before I make my decision. Thanks in advance.
Hmm, I don't know the Stringphonic. But if I you got the gypsy jazz bug and go for a 2000$ guitar now, you will probably want to upgrade again in a couple of years. So maybe consider being a little patient and go for the best guitar possible? I'm only saying this because it's what I should have done myself. But I never take my own advice.
I have a Dupont MD-100 and love it. It seems like a work of art compared to my Cigano GJ-10, which is a nice guitar for what it is. The Dupont has a great sound for "le pompe" and soloing. The only possible problem might be the volume, but that could be my technique or lack of. I haven't tried Stringphonic or many other high end guitars, not counting a Selmer at the Bay Area Gypsy Swing club. I'm sure I could loan my MD-100 to a top notch player for a gig or concert and it would handle it well. I'm curious to see how Stringphonic guitars hold their resell value.
You have to play the guitar and let your ears and hands decide, in my experience I have a Dupont MD 50 but recently acquired a Geronimo Mateos and I love it, is my main guitar, don’t get hung up in the idea Duponts are the best, yes they hold better their resale value but they aren’t the only guitars with good sound. If you are willing to spend 3k make sure to look at all the guitars at that price range.
Funnily enough, I went through something similiar recently. I made a quick video (although the tone isn't great) of my old Eastman DM2 vs a Django 503 Advanced that you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBgKn36h-CQ&t=1s
TL:DR - I personally feel you need to play anything before you buy, especially hitting that $1k and up range. The jump between $2k - $3k is about not outgrowing your guitar and wanting to sell it for something better down the line, as the $3k guitar has everything you personally are looking for.
I recently went to L.A. to try some guitars back-to-back, and spent 5 hours playing guitars before purchasing. I prefer darker tone, and went with a Stringphonic Favino copy after trying a range of guitars from ~$1k to ~$18k price tags. I tried the following guitars back-to-back, and recorded myself playing the same thing on each one to listen back to before settling on the Stringphonic:
First, old guitars do develop interesting characteristics that makes them sound unique. Totally depends if you like that or not. Second, guitars do sound different when playing vs recording... and sound different again when playing with others. I preferred the 1967 Favino while playing it (best tone, great playability). However, the 1977 Enrico Macias sounded the best on the recording, even though I didn't like the tone while playing it solo. Third, price reflects how well the guitar plays, it's condition, it's tone, potential longevity (old vs new, and building techniques that make it resistant to cave-in or humidity fluxuations), and it's pedigree. It's up to you what matters most. I went in not caring about brand name or condition as I wanted a guitar to play - not an investment I can resell if/when my tastes change. I focused on tone, playability, and longevity.
After trying all the guitars, my top 3 choices were the 2 vintage Favino's and the Stringphonic Favino Brazilian (to be fair, the top and sides are 40+ years old). The Stringphonic FV was the most surprising, as I had two identical models and one extremely similar (2 Brazilian made in the same year, and a non-Brazilian made in the same year). One of the Brazilian models and regular model sounded nearly identical, but the one I chose was much darker in tone. So big lesson: you need to physically play the guitars to make a decision even if you've played the same exact type of guitar before.
From the guitars I tried, the around ~$1500 - ~$2500 guitars all sounded good, but weren't amazing in any respect. It's like the 3 choice conundrum (Quality, Fast, Cheap). One sounded great, but felt not as easy to play. Another plays great, sounds good, but doesn't look the best. Anything that was ~$3000+ felt and played good, and it was just subjective on tone & potential longevity (got everything, but it's not cheap). However, just like you're outgrowing your Altamira... I feel that one would eventually outgrow a $2,000 guitar. In my opinion, that's what you're getting for the extra $1,000 - a guitar you feel you can grow with... not outgrown eventually.
Finally, a last anecdote from Paul Mehling last time we were hanging out. He has a Dupont MD-50 (solid wood), a Dupont MD-50 Maple, and a Stringphonic Django 503 Advanced. He vastly prefers the solid wood Dupont over the Maple, and even though he's played it a whole bunch, he just doesn't like the tone nearly as much. The Dupont MD-50 sounds slightly better than his Stringphonic in my opinion. More midrange mojo, less balanced... but that's 30 years of gigging vs 2 years of gigging. Last time we played he said he wanted to do the next 30 years with the Stringphonic as his Dupont has really had a great run. That's part of spending the extra money, it's getting a quality guitar you can grow with, not outgrow.
You can talk yourself into all sorts of things by reading comments online but nothing is the same as trying the guitars yourself. A lot of the people talking up guitar brands have skin in the game, which doesn’t help (although all the main retailers are very decent people). The truth is - they are all good. I’ve never played a bad Selmer copy. Or to put it more accurately, I’ve never played one that I didn’t think was worth the money it was on the market for - even the cheap as chips Richwoods and Aeresi’s (sp?) are very good value for what they are. (Actually I did play a rubbish Busato once).
I’d like to suggest a different approach. Go to a luthier. The guitar will be a complete one-off, the woods unique, the build unique, the way it draws inspiration from the past and the present — all bespoke and one-of-a-kind. Plus you get to know the person who built it, and many luthiers offer free or low-cost servicing - so even better if you can get someone reasonably local. As it happens, you are about 600 miles from one of the best US luthiers Craig Bumgarner in Maryland. He sometimes has guitars in stock that will suit your budget, if not you can put a deposit down for a new build and that gives you a bit longer to stretch your budget a little.
My 2 cents is to definitely factor in having the guitar properly set up. Getting a good bridge fit and the frets/action dialed in will make a huge different in both playability and sound of any guitar. New mid-tier guitars can be really good value if properly worked on, and even vintage guitars need to be regularly adjusted to sound/play their best.
Sometimes, even having a fresh setup on a guitar you've owned for years can bring it back to life. I've owned several duponts, and my current md50e (that I swapped here for another dupont f-hole), had about 2mm of shims on the bridge, and fretwear. I had a new bridge made and fretwork, and it's like a new guitar.
I'm also a firm believer in not obsessing over tools too much...but finding the right tool, right now. as in, there is a used dupont nomade for sale on the forums here that is a good deal for an almost new guitar. Unless you're buying a vintage guitar either for the tone or collectability, most modern mid-tier guitars come and go...some cheap ones are great, some expensive ones can sound bad, etc. If you're not physically able to try out a guitar, I don't think you can go wrong with buying something in your price range from a reputable dealer and investing in having it set up properly. I've bought most of my first Gitane's from Michael back in the day and never regretted it.
While I can't speak to the Dupont MD 100 (though it looks to be a great guitar), I have played a Stringphonic 503 basic side by side with a Nomade and a Mateos Jazz B. I ultimately ended up with the Jazz B and don't regret it at all, but that was only after comparing them side by side.
I was really interested in the Stringphonic based on what I had read, but of the three it was very underwhelming. It had a wet sound without a lot of volume, and I didn't care for the feel or look of the finish. My choice between the Nomade and Mateos really came down to the Mateos being slightly better value IMO with the pickup and nicer hardware.
My head probably would have turned for a Dupont MD 100 depending on its sound and playability, or what I really kicked myself over missing out on, the Barault Studio, both being in the $3k price range. I really dig the non-gloss finish on these, which combined with their light weight really helps them sing. But alas, they weren't there when I visited Michael, which was probably the best for my bank account at the time.
I would give Michael a call and get his opinion as well. @matthewkanis is also selling a like-new Nomade on the forum for a killer price... I would be tempted to buy that if I was looking for a mid-price range guitar right now.
And also, for $2K vs $3K range, how much more "guitar" am I really getting for that extra $1K.
And in terms of this question, I might argue that you'll see a bigger improvement between the $1k vs $2k range than you would in the $2k vs $3k, but it really depends on what you're comparing, especially when you look at handmade models. Just by design, a Nomade will be a different feeling guitar compared to the MD100, but you might find a different guitar in the same range that you like more and decide not to spend $3k.
While I strongly second the advice to check out a Bumgarner guitar (I got mine second hand from him in the early spring), and not only is he a fantastic person, he makes tremendous guitars. I've never owned a guitar that made me stop looking at buying new ones. His did that for me.
But, buying used is always a good idea. Your money goes a lot further and if you do decide to sell, you're not going to get beat up quite so bad.
Indeed - Craig has a nice looking used guitar of his on his website now that is within budget.