D’Angelico EX Series Style B review

If the name D’Angelico conjures up an image in your mind, it’s probably something like this. We take a closer look…

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This type of instrument epitomises the 1930s jazz aesthetic and recalls the birth of the electric guitar. The Korean factory has certainly nailed the classic sunburst; the amber centre is spot on! not too yellow, nor too orange, and there’s a smooth transition into a deep tobacco brown. The figured maple back and sides and spruce top are laminated, while the three-piece neck is a maple and rosewood sandwich with a black-stained rosewood ‘board.

The controls and `floating’ mini-humbucker are all mounted on the pickguard; with edging to match the multi-ply body binding, it could almost pass for celluloid. Factor in the gold-plated stairstep tailpiece, Grover Super Rotomatic tuners and skyscraper truss-rod cover, and the Style B makes a serious visual statement.

In use

At 17 inches across and three deep,I expected the Style B to be something of a handful, but the slim neck profile, 24.5-inch scale and low action keep things player-friendly.In essence, this is an acoustic guitar with a pickup rather than an electric semi, and as such it can be approached from two angles.

Acoustic mode impresses with a loud, bright and full-bodied tone combining sweet treble and sonorous bass with impressive sustain. It’s a far cry from the brash, cut-through-at-all-costs voice that characterises lesser archtops, confining them to chord-comping.

Refined and classy, it offers something refreshingly different to flat-tops that’s very responsive; you can explore different tones by using various plectrum gauges or your thumb. The stock roundwounds suit the guitar, producing an even tonal response, particularly with the tricky transition from wound G to plain B.

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The pickup does an adequate job of producing a clear and uncoloured signal, but heavy potting eliminates any acoustic character. Old-school guitars deserve valve amps, and after experimenting, I settled on a Fender Vibro Champ for authentic jazz tones. In contrast to jazzboxes such as the ES-175, best results hinge on balancing mic’d acoustic and amplified sounds, whether live or in the studio.

The acoustic side provides cut and definition, while the electric voice adds girth and bolsters bass. Using a small valve combo set on the edge of overdrive, without feedback, allows the Style B to push the amp into the kind of warm, dynamically driven overload heard on classic jazz recordings when soloists were digging in.

Rolling back the volume cleans things up, allowing more acoustic sound through and making the tone knob behave more like a `midrange prominence’ control. It’s big, clear, woody, and a far cry from the anodyne burble that often passes for jazz tone.

Dispensing with the negatives, the nut overhangs the headstock frontand the finish is a tad thick around the neck join. The guitar would benefit from light sanding to soften the top edges of the bridge and a pickup upgrade.

Though it appears niche, the Style B is versatile. Jazz is the obvious application, assuming you’re happy to solo below the 14th fret, but it can handle jump blues, western swing
and old-time country picking with equal aplomb.

Key Features

Description Archtopacoustic guitar with pickup. Manufactured in Korea
• Price $1,559
Build Laminated spruce top, laminated flame maple back and sides with three-piece maple/rosewood neck, 20-fret rosewood fingerboard with pearl block inlays, rosewood bridge, bone nut, die-cast Grover Super Rotomatic tuners
• Electrics Floatingmini humbucker
• Controls Volume and tone
• Left-handers No
• Finish Vintage Sunburst
• Scale length 622mm/24.5”
Neck width Nut: 42mm12th fret: 55mm
• Depth of neck First fret: 19mm12th fret: 21mm
• String spacing Nut: 35.5mmBridge: 54mm
• Weight 3.1kg/6.8lbs
• Contact Marshall Distribution UK, 01908 375411

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