Rising like a flat-top phoenix from the ashes of a venerable 1930s archtop brand, D’Angelico’s acoustic guitar line was first launched in 2015 and has proved so popular that it now accounts for nearly half of the company’s worldwide sales.
Upgraded for this year is the Excel Gramercy, D’Angelico’s elegant take on the grand auditorium design. Optically, this is not a demure guitar. The headstock remains true to the original D’Angelico aesthetic, but by the stoic standards of traditional acoustic guitar design, it’s alarmingly ornate. It does grow on you, though, despite the culture clash of New York Art Deco and Pennsylvanian functionality.
The Excel Gramercy features a solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped X-bracing, while the back and sides are laminated Macassar ebony. This is an increasingly popular wood choice which effectively bypasses any issues with the export of endangered species. It also looks damn good, with beautiful orange/black figuring which goes very nicely with the Vintage Sunburst finish on the soundboard.
Based around a 25-inch scale length – which is certainly becoming an accepted sweet spot choice between the Gibson and Martin benchmarks – and with a 16-inch lower bout, 4.74-inch body depth and Venetian cutaway, the Gramercy is light in weight, comfortable and well balanced.
D’Angelico describes the 14-fret mahogany neck as a slim C carve and it does feel comfortable and fast. The ebony fingerboard looks and feels good, too, however the playability is let down by some slightly sharp fretwork and the split-block acrylic pearl fretboard inlays have quite a lot of unsightly filler in some cases. The kerfing and bracing work inside the guitar is also a little haphazard, with some glue blobs and rough patches clearly visible. It’s nothing you couldn’t find on a 1930s Kalamazoo, though.
The Excel Gramercy arrives stage-ready with a Fishman Presys+ active pickup and preamp system – it’s a popular choice for guitars in this price bracket and features a dependable EQ, in-built tuner and notch, balance and phase knobs in a shoulder-mounted control panel.
The first strummed chords on the Excel Gramercy reveal a springy voice that is typical of Macassar ebony. It’s a lively, modern sound, bright but with a strong fundamental character, rather than a huge amount of overtones. The response is pretty quick, with the scalloped bracing no doubt playing a part. The dynamic range, typical for a Grand Auditorium, goes from whisper-quiet to muscular strumming without being overpowering.
Moving to a fingerpicking singer/songwriter approach brings out a gentle, expressive character that works well with vocals. The guitar’s propensity towards high end shimmer makes it a good choice for modern fingerstyle playing, especially when we drop it into DADGAD, where it remains clear and articulate throughout. Close chord voicings, tapping, slapped harmonics and other extended techniques all work remarkably well.
Art Deco stylings aside, from the nut down, the Excel Gramercy could easily have run the risk of being another generic Pacific Rim GA. However, the exotic choice of woods and open, scalloped braced voice help it stand out almost as much as its ostentatious headstock.
- PRICE £719 (inc. hard case)
- DESCRIPTION 6-string grand auditorium electro-acoustic guitar, made in Korea
- BUILD Solid Sitka spruce top, laminated Macassar ebony back and sides, scarf-jointed mahogany neck, ebony fretboard, cream plastic bindings, ebony bridge, bone nut and saddle, dual action truss-rod
- SCALE LENGTH 635mm/25”
- NECK WIDTH 42mm at nut, 54mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 20mm at first fret, 22mm at 7th fret
- STRING SPACING 35mm at nut, 54mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 2.7kg/5.6lb
- ELECTRONICS Fishman Presys+ active pickup and preamp system
- LEFT-HANDERS No
- FINISH Full gloss available in Auburn, Vintage Natural, and Vintage Sunburst (as reviewed)
- CONTACT dangelicoguitars.com
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