I’ve wanted to update my article Smaller than an ES-175 for a while now. One reason I wanted to write an update is that I feel I should include 16 inch guitars such as the ES-175 as well as jazz guitars with smaller lower bouts. Another reason is that things change. Some of the guitars I originally mentioned are no longer being made. Finally, there are just so many small jazz guitars now, that I wanted to expand my coverage to include more guitars.
The problem I’ve had – the thing that has delayed me from writing an update – is there are so many guitars to cover I was overwhelmed and thus wrote nothing. But last week I realized I could break up the article into manageable chunks.
The criteria for inclusion of a guitar into the survey are:
- The lower bout of the guitar must be 16 inches or smaller. I might allow 16.25 inches but that’s it.
- The guitar must be a fully hollow body guitar.
- The guitar depth is a standard, full body depth and not a thinline body style.
- Both carved top and laminated top guitars are included, but only models that have electric pickups. Fully acoustic, non-electrified guitars may be nice but won’t be in this survey.
- The guitar must have a standard scale length meaning (approximately) between 24.75 and 25.5 inches, give or take a bit. Short scale models are not included.
- Models with Bigsby Vibratos or similar tail pieces are excluded.
- The guitar must be currently (or recently) available. Practically, this means the guitar is either listed on the manufacturer’s website or the guitar can be purchased from a major online retailer.
So here goes. Today, Benedetto Guitars.
Robert Benedetto began building guitars in 1968 and got his first major endorsement when he built a 7-string guitar for Bucky Pizzarelli in 1978. Since then he has made guitars for many other jazz guitar greats including Pat Matrino, Howard Alden, Frank Vignola, Jimmy Bruno, John Pizzarelli, Johnny Smith, and Kenny Burrell … and many others.
Needless to say, these are top line instruments and thus priced out of reach for many of us. That doesn’t mean we can’t admire, dream and appreciate these fine instruments – and maybe someday a few of us can own one.
Benedetto divides his current guitar models into the Professional Series which use laminated woods and are described as best for electric performance, and his Flagship Series which use solid carved woods and thus more acoustic.
The Bambino model is the smallest of Benedetto’s full scale small jazz guitars. It has a 14.5 inch lower bout and a 25 inch scale. The nut width is 1 11/16 inches. It has 2 Benedetto A-6 humbucker pickups. This guitar lists for $4000. The guitar is built from laminated maple. It has no sound holes. The cutaway is the pointy Florentine style.
There is one smaller jazz guitar from Benedetto, the Andy Elite. But it is a short scale instrument and therefore doesn’t meet the criteria I set out for this survey. Still, it is a nice small guitar with a 12 inch lower bout and a 23 inch scale.
A number of Benedetto models use a Deluxe designation for a fancier finish and an Elite designation for a the same model, but built from solid carved woods.
The Bambino Deluxe is also built entirely of laminated maple, but the top is flamed maple and the guitar includes sound openings. These are styled differently than the traditional “f” hole openings. It has 1 Benedetto A-6 Humbucker. The list price is $5000.
The Bambino Elite has a carved spruce top with a carved maple back and maple sides. It has 1 Benedetto B-6 Humbucker pickup. The list price is $14,200.
The next larger models from Benedetto are 16 inch wide guitars. The Bravo models come in the same three variations as the Bambino models.
The simplest Bravo model has a laminated spruce top and laminated flamed maple back. The sides are solid flamed maple. This has the nut width which is standard on most Benedetto models except the Bambino – it is the wider 1 3/4 inch width. It has 1 Bendetto A-6 humbucker pickup. List price is $4500. The Bravo models have Venetian cutaways (that’s the smooth rounded cutaway as opposed to the pointy Florentine cutaway)
The Bravo Deluxe is upgraded from the above by deluxe bindings and a B-6 pickup. It lists for $6000.
The Bravo Elite is made with a carved spruce top and carved maple back. The sides are solid maple. The list price is $14,800.
The last 16 inch guitar from Benedetto in this survey is the 16-B. The shape is a return to the original pattern Bob had used for the guitars he made for Bucky Pizzzarelli and others. It has a soft Venetian cutawy, deluxe bindings and solid woods. The top is carved American or European spruce (as opposed to select spruce on other models).
All of the Benedetto guitars are beautiful. If you visit his website you can not only see some great pictures of the guitars but hear sound samples to give you an idea of the different tones you get from various models.
|Model||Top, Back & Sides||Neck||Width||Depth||Nut width||Scale||Pickups|
|Bambino™||Laminated maple||Maple||14.5||2 1/4||1 11/16||25||2 H|
|Bambino Deluxe™||Laminated flamed maple; laminated maple||Maple||14.5||2 1/4||1 11/16||25||1 H|
|Bambino Elite™||Carved spruce top; maple||Maple||14.5||2 1/4||1 11/16||25||1 H|
|Bravo™||Laminate spruce; laminated flamed maple; flamed maple||Maple||16||2 1/2||1 3/4||25||1 H|
|Bravo Deluxe™||Laminate spruce; laminated flamed maple; flamed maple||Maple||16||2 1/2||1 3/4||25||1 H|
|Bravo Elite™||Carved spruce; carved maple; solid maple||Maple||16||2 1/2||1 3/4||25||1 H|
|16-B||Carved spruce; carved maple; carved maple||Maple||16||2 1/2||1 3/4||25||1 H|
Robert Benedetto not only makes great archtop guitars but has written a book for those who want to try to build one or maybe just want to understand what’s involved in making an archtop.