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I am in the process of purchasing a gipsy guitar and would appreciate an opinion on these two instruments that I have chosen.
I am not able to evaluate them as I am not familiar with gypsy manouche guitars.
A L T A M I R A
I'm not sure which D-hole version I tried (there's slight variations), but I was very impressed. I preferred the tone of it to the same level oval hole that I tried in the same sitting (though both were a great bargain)! For me, it played alright, but really nailed the tone. Keep in mind though, their D-holes are still long scale (body at 14th fret).
I've tried multiple SAGA at NAMM, and wasn't impressed with any of them - tone or play ability. However, their D-hole style was "shorter scale" if my memory serves (so the neck joins the body at the 12th fret). This means the frets are closer together which should in theory make the guitar easier to play.
If you're coming from electric guitar, either is going to feel a bit difficult to play at first. However, whichever one you get you should get the guitar setup by a reputable gypsy guitar luthier or technician. Neither SAGA nor Altamira setup their guitars from the factory, and getting a setup will make a world of difference.
My first gypsy jazz guitar was an Altamira M-01D (bought from Michael on site) and I am deeply satisfied with that purchase. I still use it on some gigs, even though I have other guitars now. But like Christopher said, mine reached its true top potential after a set-up with my local luthier ($50). I consider it an ideal starter guitar for gypsy jazz, with the added bonus of being quite gig-worthy years later. Altamiras also seem to hold their value well.
Depends on your budget and goals.
There is about $200 difference in the price for brand new. That could be spent on a complete setup with fret leveling, action & truss rod adjustment, which both guitars will need/ benefit from.
Also, if you plan to play lead guitar, the Altamira has a 14-fret long-scale which is better for lead (if your hands can adapt to the 670 mm scale). The Cigano is 12 frets-to-body and shorter 640 mm scale. Easier on the hands and sounds great for rhythm playing. You may find a used Cigano with case for even less money if you're patient & lucky.
Edit the Cigano GJ-15 has a neck that is 1-7/8" (48 mm) wide, whereas the Altamira is 1-3/4 (45 mm). You get used to the wider neck, but it's strange at first (unless you're coming from classical guitar)
Yes these are kind of apples vs oranges due to the scale length diff that Andrew mentioned.
Cigano GJ 10 would be a more useful comparison to consider vs an Altamira M01D
Thanks for the valuable advice
I ask for another opinion about the Gitane D-500 that I found used.
Mainly in addition to the quality of the instrument I would be interested in knowing among the three guitars,
the simplest in the approach, the one that is easier to play for someone who is not a gypsy guitarist but comes
from the electric guitar.
Ultimately the main problem is that these guitars are forced to buy on the net and therefore are not able to try them.
Gitane guitars tend to have necks pretty similar to an electric guitar. My all maple Gitane had a very thin electric guitar type neck on it. D500 not nearly as thin but would be a pretty good transition to GJ guitar, which tend to have big necks. It’s not as big as say, Altamira neck. That being said, the d500 neck is quite Wide. Similar to a classical guitar actually
I would still go with an Altamira. The main reason is that learning Gypsy Jazz is almost like relearning how to play guitar (theory approach, chordal shapes, right hand technique). It's going to be a struggle at first no matter the guitar. However, Altamira are steadily becoming the preferred "cheaper travel/gig guitars" as they do sound pretty great for the price - especially the model M.
Let's say you stick with Gypsy Jazz, and eventually buy a really nice luthier built guitar years down the road. You can still fall back on your Altamira for a cheap bar gig, local djam, or even take it on a plane and not be as worried about losing thousands of dollars.
I have a cigano GJ 15 and previously had a gitane D-500. As mentioned above the gitane has a wide neck, which I found uncomfortable. Mine also had a very wet ringy sound that didn't cut through the mix very well in a jam. I find the cigano has a bit of a harsh tone for other styles of music; however, it projects better, sounds more authentic than the gitane and was significantly cheaper.
That said, if you do have a little more $ an Eastman or a Altamira might be a better choice as I think you will see a big jump in quality for the extra cost.