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Vintage vs. New Guiatrs

Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
I hunted around and was surprised not to find a post about this topic(perhaps I just missed it). I am curious to hear from players who own or have owned (or played) vintage gypsy guitars about what they like or dislike about them, how, if at all, the sound of vintage guitars might be different, care issues, etc. I currently have a Manouche Jazz and a DG-500. I am seriously thinking about buying a less expensive vintage axe, say under $5000, but I realize I can buy a fine modern instrument for that amount.

Vintage guitar prices keep going up, but some are still affordable. Yet it seems most players play newer guitars. I wonder why. I am a single malt and bourbon lover, and have had it demonstrated to me (most enjoyably, I might add!) that virtually any modern bourbon is better than any pre-WWII bourbon, because the craft of making it has improved so much. Is something similar true of gypsy guitars? Is a new Dupont, Park, Collins or other medium-to-high-end hand-made guitar (among others) usually better than an old di Mauro, Patenotte, or Castaluccia (for example)?

I played Alfonso Ponticelli's '40's(?) era Patenotte a couple of weeks ago and loved the feel and vibe of it, but noticed the sound was less rich than many other guitars I have heard. Still, I loved it. It had a voice unlike any other guitar I have personally heard. That got me seriously thinking about going vintage.

There is a vast store of experience and knowledge in this forum and I hope to learn from you. Am I better off staying modern? If I do shop for a vintage axe, what should I be looking/listening for. All my previous vintage experience is with electrics, so I fell ill-prepared for buying an accoustic. Any guidance, including brands to consider, will be appreciated.
I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.


  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    The hard thing about allot of vintage guitars is the playability. The tone in many cases is amazing but they are harder to play allot of the time. I have a friend that has a Selmer and after putting allot of work into it... and time it now plays like a modern guitar with the look, and tone of a vintage. It takes work when you go in on an older guitar. That being said when I owned a Patenotte it felt like a vintage guitar but was new. So it can come down to the guitar you buy.

    First off buy a guitar because you like the tone. If it's supper easy to play but sounds like crap it's not worth it. This goes for now guitars as well as vintage ones.

    Second think about how much work you might have to put into it to make it play the way you want. With new guitars this might be as simple as having the action adjusted. Look at the frets... Does it need a good fret level? New guitar or old it more then likely will need to be set up for the way you play.

    ...But the tone is the tone. Sure you might get a bit more volume from higher action but if the tone is weak there is little you can do for that. So go for tone over looks or set up.

    Vintage guitar pros:
    Most older guitars have a great neck
    Can sound very nice
    Look supper cool

    Might have poor repairs
    Might need work to play better

    New guitar prose:
    If you like the new look... They look great
    You get the experience of breaking in the guitar your self
    Can sound very nice

    It's not vintage
    Might need work to play it's best

    All in all it comes down to you as a player. What do you like? When it comes to Sel/Mac guitars at the $5000 range you have allot of really great guitars to pick from. If you can get a Dupont VR for that do it. That is an amazing guitar but there are many others that might suite you just as well. Think about what sort of tone you want. If your into the modern tone then don't get a vintage guitar. If your into the Trad. tone go vintage or find a builder like Dupont that has that tone nailed in a newer guitar. And just remember... It takes time to get a guitar set up the way you like it. It's not a one time thing. Many times it takes me months before I'm happy with a set up. And even then I might need to tweak it as the seasons change.

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,991
    Just get a Dupont VR, which is brand new but the woods are all 40 years old. Best of both worlds...

    Alex Simon has one for sale for $5K
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    I saw that Dupont VR, Michael, but those cracks on a guitar that new scared me a bit. When a guitar starts changing hands often, it makes you wonder what might be wrong.

    I'm going down to see Jaques at Gypsy Guitars when he gets back from France to try a few guitars out. I figure when I play them, it will be easier to decide. I'm just trying to get an idea of what to think about and look for when I get there.

    Josh, thanks for the insightful comments. BTW, I'll be ordering a bridge soon for the D-500. There has to be something that will give that guitar more treble! I'm hoping a new bridge will help.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • A.K. KibbenA.K. Kibben Tucson AZ USANew
    Posts: 217

    After you have played the guitars at Jacques, please let me, et al, know your impressions of the MD100, as well as the other new Duponts he has in stock... I am curious...
    It looks like I might be in Annopolis next month and I will definatly make the trek to Jacques for test drives...
    But in the mean time Michael and Josh hit the nail on the head...
    Play it and if you love it, buy it... Bottom line...
    I'm a firm believer that a proper set up especially a bridge effects not only the playability but the sound of many guitars...
    The Favino VR is hands down the best new guitar available, if it is in your price range, and justification of owning such a fine guitar.
    I regret to say I sure cannot afford one, however after playing a lot of Favino's old and new, it is my personal observation that the JP Favino's are the best... Dupont's, to my ears, are hit and miss. I think this is due to what Josh reffered to as a proper set up. Thats not to say that Duponts are not fine instruments or not set up right, just that a few I have played were not up to par. Set up (bridge) would cure many problems. I would love to own a Dupont as well as a JP Favino...
    I have used bridges from two luthiers and now have one on order from Josh for one of my guitars...
    I like his approach to detail and communication with his clients...
    I may order a Dupont bridge also and do a "blindfold test", but I dare to say I am sure I will be pleased with the outcome of Josh's skill and talents...
    Good luck in your quest...
    Let us know what you end up getting...


    I had first choice in buying Han's old J Favino from a friend, turned it down. No funds... Now one of Michaels friends in the NW owns it...
    Can't remember the number...Nolan wanted it to at one time...
    I'm just another wanna be gear head on the planet...
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