I’ve finally purchased the 16 inch archtop I’ve always wanted. Kinda.
Actually the guitar I’ve wanted for the longest time is a Gibson ES-175. I’ve lusted after many guitars over the years, not just the ES-175. But even while still in high school I was infatuated with this 16″ archtop. Although it’s associated with jazz guitar (many of my heroes such as Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass and others played one), I could picture myself playing rock on it back in high school. I was clearly a non-conformist even then.
Steve Howe (Yes and many other groups) is known for playing an ES-175 though that had no influence on me. ‘Little Charlie’ Baty who played an ES-175 for most of the time he and Rick Estrin led the blues band “Little Charlie & the Nightcats” did inspire me. He confirmed you could play blues as well as jazz on a hollow body. This isn’t really news since much of early rock was recorded on hollow bodies. Scotty Moore backed Elvis on a Gibson ES-295 which is essentially a gold top ES-175 with P90 pickups.
So I finally got an ES-175?
Are you crazy? Do you know how much those cost? No, I didn’t purchase an actual Gibson ES-175. I bought an Eastman AR371CE. It differs in a number of aspects from the Gibson. It has a wider neck with a 1 3/4″ nut width. It is slightly deeper (by about 1/4″) but most importantly compared to the standard ES-175 model currently sold by Gibson – it is much lighter in weight. It is made with a lighter maple laminate than currently in use by Gibson. Many are describing the top thickness as being similar to that used by Gibson in the 1950s on the ES-175. You can currently purchase a genuine Gibson ES-175 with the thinner top by getting one of their Memphis 1959 ES-175 Historic Re-issues. That will cost you over 5X what the Eastman cost.
One thing I feel I need to explain is why I am selling the archtop I’ve owned for years. The image below shows my two archtops in the foreground. The new Eastman is on the left. I’ll be trying to sell the Washburn on the right on Ebay soon.
The Washburn J6 is a wonderful guitar. It plays great. The pickups, though not replaced with more expensive pups as many guitarists do, sound really good to my ears. The guitar looks great, though it is obviously a urethane finish and not lacquer. The J6 is a dual pickup which should give it a slight advantage in terms of versatility.
So what are the differences between these guitars and why did I choose the Eastman over the Washburn?
The first and biggest reason is size. If you’ve read many of my blog articles here you know I prefer smaller sized guitars. dreadnoughts and 17″ archtops just don’t fit me. I find them uncomfortable to play for any length of time. I found the Washburn so uncomfortable that I didn’t play it anymore. This doesn’t mean you’d feel the same. The Washburn is about the same size as a Gibson L5 and plenty of guitarists are happy with that guitar or wish they owned one. It’s a personal thing. But big didn’t work for me.
If I could ignore the ergonomic size issue, the Washburn was really a nice guitar.
Not as nice as the Eastman. The AR371CE has been given great reviews by a number of publications (e.g., JazzTimes andPremierGuitar). Even though the Eastman has a laminated top, it still has a strong acoustic sound. The Washburn, though having a larger body, is not as loud acoustically, probably due to a thicker laminated top and heavier Urethane finish. The Eastman has a lacquer finish.
Another difference is scale length. It’s not something I have paid that much attention to in the past. I’ve got guitars with 24 3/4″, 25″, 25.4″ and 25.5″ scale length. But recently I’ve begun to notice that certain licks are easier on my 24.75″ scale length guitars. The Washburn has a 25.5″ scale same as a Gibson L5. The Eastman has a 24.75″ scale length the same as a Gibson ES-175. I think I like that better.
The nut width is also wider on the Eastman. I like that a lot. It’s one of the reasons I love my OM-28. My fingers enjoy having a bit more room.
The pickups used by Eastman on most of their archtops used to say they were Kent Armstrong pickups. They are no longer specified so maybe they are using other pickups. Whatever it is, it looks and sounds good. One of the things I like about this guitar as well as the Gibson ES-175 is the metal parts are nickel plated, not gold. The Washburn has gold plated pickups and metal parts. Gold does not wear well. You can search forums for Gibson Les Paul or other models that have gold parts and find people complaining about the finish. It doesn’t matter who makes the guitar or the pickups, gold parts do not age well. The pickups on the Washburn are one of the few items concerning the appearance that I didn’t like. Nickel is easier to maintain.
Overall, I am extremely happy with my new guitar. I’ve already played until my fingers hurt. That’s a good thing. That’s love.
|Item||AR371CE||Vintage or Reissue ES-175||New ES-175||J6|
|Top Wood||Thin 3 ply maple laminate||Thin 3 ply maple laminate||Thicker maple laminate, flamed maple top||Thicker laminate|
|Body Depth (side)||3 9/32”||3”||3”||3 5/8”|
|Lower Bout Width||16”||Original dimensions reported as 16 1/4”||16”||17”|
|Nut Width||1 3/4”||1 11/16”||1 11/16”||1 11/16”|
|Weight||Mine: 5.6 lbs||many close to 6 lbs, some as little as 5.6 lbs 1pu||Over 7 lbs||7.2 lbs|
|Bridge||Rosewood||Originally Rosewood||ABR||Tuneamatic style|
|Pickup(s)||Humbucker not specified (Kent Armstrong?)||Originally P90. Humbucker in 1957||57 Classic humbuckers||Washburn humbuckers|