Founded in 1932, John D’Angelico’s eponymous company began by producing exquisitely crafted hand-made archtops from his workshop in Little Italy, New York. Reborn under new ownership in 2011, today the historic brand offers a varied selection of guitars inspired by those original D’Angelico instruments, with production mainly taking place in Asia.
With lashings of Art Deco style, the Excel SS looks every bit the classic D’Angelico, but under the hood it’s no pure jazzer. Equipped with a pair of Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers that can be coil-split via push/pull tone knobs, it also features gold hardware, which includes a set of Grover Super Rotomatic tuners, as well as mother-of-pearl inlay work, multi-ply bindings, ebony control knobs, an ivoroid-tipped three-position switch, and twin volume knobs.
The neck pickup never sacrifices articulation or nuance, and maintains a clear front to the notes at all times. While the in-between tones are also strong, especially when one or both pickups is coil-split, using the bridge on its own reveals the instrument’s secret weapon, the diamond-encrusted switchblade beneath its fancy fur coat.
In our review of the Excel SS, we said: “While its pedigree would suggest an instrument purely for jazz lovers, the Excel SS is capable of much more. From thick fusion distortion and skinny funk to math-rock modular effect textures and indie chime, the Excel SS loves it all.”
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