Artist Award Review

Brad Little

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I haven't seen a review in the acoustic section, haven't looked in the electric as I consider it an acoustic guitar.
How long have you owned the AA: 4 years
Year & specific model: 1975, natural finish
Purchased new or used: used
Price paid:$5000

Owners rate 1 (least appreciated) to 10 (most appreciated) in following categories with comments as desired:

Build quality-10
Looks-10
Projection-10 (I've been told and the one video I've seen confirms this)
Bass-8 (it's an archtop, bass not a big feature)
Mids-10 (it's an archtop, mids important)
Highs-8
Sustain-7 (good for an archtop)
Playability/comfort-10
Dependability-10
Fingerstyle-3
Flatpick-8
Strum-10

Condition (Mint/Excellent/Good/Fair/Poor): Excellent, bordering on mint

Favorite Strings (one selection only):Still undecided

Would you buy another if lost/sold: Not sure, depends on price and condition

Overall Assessment: It's an Artist Award, hard to find a factory built archtop any better, or even as good, IMHO.

Most Appreciated Characteristic: Playability
Least Appreciated: What's not to appreciate?
Favorite AA Story/Moment: Nothing specific, maybe the looks I get when I bring it to my Folk Society and people realize that it really is an acoustic instrument.

Other observations/comments: When I first got it and strung it up, it almost begged me to play swing rhythms. I've had a pile of archtops over the last 40 years, acoustic, electric, semi-acoustic, and none of them come close to this one.
 

guildman63

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Interesting question...acoustic or electric? While it is a great guitar unplugged, in which way do you typically use your AA, unplugged or plugged in? If I had one I suspect it would be almost always plugged in, but that's just me. I would love to get one, but it won't be any time soon. Enjoy your AA!
 

Brad Little

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Interesting question...acoustic or electric? While it is a great guitar unplugged, in which way do you typically use your AA, unplugged or plugged in?
I rarely play it plugged in, and the few times I have it's been through a PA rather than through a dedicated amp. I use it mostly as a rhythm guitar in swing type situations. I suppose if I were playing in strait ahead jazz I'd run it through an amp more often. So, I think of it just like I think of my flat tops with pickups, primarily an acoustic instrument with electric capability if needed.
Brad
 

banjomike

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I began playing folk music in the early 1960s. My first instrument, and my primary instrument for the next 20 years was the 5-string banjo.
I played it exclusively for 6 years, but during that time I learned a lot of guitar chords, as there were always 10 guitar players to 1 banjoist.
The guitar can do things a banjo can't. So I picked it up very gradually while serving in the Navy. It was then when I got a red-hot deal on a Martin D-28 from a music store that had just suffered a fire and was selling off every instrument in the store at giveaway prices.
The D-28 was untouched by the fire. I also purchased a Guild Mark 1 classic that had been lightly scorched and more heavily smoked by the fire. It cost less than $100, but it turned out to be and exceptionally good, if kind of ugly, instrument. The fire had tempered the wood, and it sounded like a vintage guitar.
(and stunk like it had been used as an ashtray.)

After I was discharged, I wanted to play professionally after seeing a lot of opportunities open up for me. I had to lighten up when I left the service, and the Guild was sold to a shipmate. I kept the Martin. When I went in to a local music store to buy some strings, I saw an Artist Award for the first time, and realized it was a guitar that could do everything I needed, but it was far too expensive for me then.

Afterward, I ignored arch tops for a long time. Around 1983, an old sheepherder who had heard about me looked me up and offered me his guitars for sale; both had been sitting in a closet unplayed for many decades.
I bought a 1939 L-7 Gibson from him, and my brother bought a wood-bodied National. Both were superb guitars once the dust was blown out of them, and the L-7 is still the best sounding arch top I've ever owned. I gave it to my youngest son, a good guitarist, and had it converted to a lefty for him. He loves it and I still miss it.
After the L-7, I slowly purchased some others. I own a 1929 Gibson L-5 that has been played to death and restored so much it's hard to tell what year it was actually made. It's a difficult guitar to play, and none of the restoration work was accurate, but it was all fine workmanship.
That one was swapped to me for a bill I was owed by a dealer. It wa not a big bill, but the guitar was un-saleable, so it was the best bargain I ever had. Those old 16" L-5s were the guitars that kicked off the entire arch top market, and they're good for just about everything a person wants to play.
Eventually, I also owned a 1951 Epiphone that was all played out, and another L-7 that turned out to be a disappointment.

But 60 years later, when a second AA came to a dealer friend, I could afford it. And I'm very happy I own it now.
Mine cost $4,000. The result of a 30-year friendship.

The thing about the AA that pleases me so much is it's tone. They're smoother sounding than most arch tops, with a better bass and lower midrange, and it has longer sustain. But it still has the crispness and bite of a good arch top.

My first attraction to them were the looks. They're fancy but reserved, except for the big bold peghead.

I agree with Brad's ratings. I found that my AA definitely sounds much better with round wound bronze acoustic strings than flatwounds, and I'm now using D'Darrio Nickel Bronze on it; they sound as good acoustically, and sound much more balanced when amped.

The AAs fingerboard is a little narrow for me, and took some getting used to, and it's quiet when played finger style, but still sounds marvelous. The action makes up for the narrowness- it's very easy on my hands.

Mine is a 1990. A lot of folks don't like the hum bucker, but I like it- the pickup retains the guitars acoustical qualities pretty well and doesn't overwhelm them. I did like the Fralin hum bucker that came on the second L-7. It was the only thing on that guitar I liked.

The guitar was almost never played, and over the years, the pickguard shrank and warped a little. That's a problem, as the warpage angles the pickup upward. So far, I've been able to twist the warp out with my hands, but it always comes back in time.

So eventually, I'm going to need it replaced. I welcome any suggestions as to another pickup, and a recommendation for the person who does that work well.
 
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