D’Angelico EX-59 – Review Demo
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Between the 1930s and the ’60s, in a tiny shop on New York’s Lower East Side, luthier John D’Angelico made roughly three-dozen archtops per year. They are extraordinary instruments. And with their sensual curves and art-deco embellishments they’re also some of the most artistically built guitars ever. D’Angelico’s legendary instruments have been compared to Stradivarius violins and were even the centerpiece of an exhibit several years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Perhaps surprisingly, D’Angelicos were originally made on a custom basis for working players, and were even relatively affordable. Now, collectors shell out tens of thousands of dollars for a specimen, so they’re not exactly within reach of the working musician. But the D’Angelico name has been revived in a line of considerably less expensive guitars and basses that bear the luthier’s inspiration. To learn more about this new line, we played the EX-59, a P-90-equipped hollowbody patterned after one D’Angelico built in 1959.
Gleaming with gold hardware, our test EX-59 looked as if it were just strung up on D’Angelico’s workbench. The guitar has the luthier’s trademark staircase tailpiece, and the scroll headstock boasts ornate mother-of-pearl inlay work, a skyscraper-shaped steel truss-rod cover, and stair-step Grover Super Rotomatic tuners. The two pickups are controlled with a standard 3-way switch, and there are master tone and volume knobs.
The single-cutaway fully hollowbody EX-59 is 3″ deep. The top, back, and sides are all made from laminated maple, and on the back and top, a book-matched outer ply features impressive curly figuring. The maple neck incorporates a walnut center stripe for strength and stability, and the handsome fretboard and bridge are made of dark rosewood.
Our EX-59 is impeccably built. The 22 jumbo frets set along the 25.5″ scale neck are smoothly crowned and polished, the nut is perfectly notched, and so are the saddles on the bridge. The lovely faded cherry sunburst pattern smartly complements the gold hardware, and the finish, if just a little thick, is rubbed to a flawless gloss. The f-holes are smoothly shaped and bound, and the inlay work looks immaculate. (For D’Angelico purists it might be a little too perfect—the originals have a lot of “charming” design anomalies.)
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