Played a Kingpin (single pickup, no cutaway) today at guitar store and it was certainly quieter than flat tops, but someone in a forum talked about ways to increase the volume. I noticed the wound strings were silver. Would phosphor bronze increase the volume? Someone else mentioned heavier strings. Another person changed the bridge to some type of Stewmac. Also considering getting the 5th Ave. acoustic and installing a floating pickup, because the Kingpin's is mounted on the surface.
Also looking at Gretsch G100CE. Any suggestions?
Also looking at Gretsch G100CE. Any suggestions?
Your average archtop is going to be quieter than a comparable flat top -- that's just how the things are. The exception's if you get something like a Gibson Super 400 or a vintage Stromberg, which can be 18" - 19" across (and go for tens of thousands of dollars).
Heavier strings will certainly help volume, and also give a much thicker tone. Most people would recommend .012 or .013 anyway, since you need the tension to keep the floating bridge in place. Phosphor bronzes have a very bright tone, so I doubt they'll be louder per se, but they might cut through better. Changing the bridge might help, but it probably won't make as dramatic difference as some people claim.
Anything screwed into the top will keep it from vibrating and reduce the volume considerably, so an acoustic with a floating pickup might be a good idea if you need unplugged volume.
Based on my experiences with those brands, I'd lean more towards the Gretsch; they've been doing it longer, and put a lot more attention into details than any of the Godin companies. That said, I haven't played either of those specific models myself.
Now you've really done it. Archtops are kind of my thing. In a big way.
First of all, if you're looking for either dread-level volume or sustain, you're looking in the wrong place. Your typical, standard-sized acoustic archtop is not designed for this. The bracing pattern does not particularly lend itself to volume or sustain, but clarity and attack. This is why they are best suited for jazz.
Second, the 5th Avenue Kingpin typically has little volume because of three factors: the laminated cherry top, the terrible bridge, and the usually over-tightened pickup mount.
The pressed laminated cherry top is not a booming soundboard. While I admit that Godin does laminates better than nearly any other company (I'm including all their child companies such as Seagull and S&P with them), the pressing of the top does NOTHING to encourage volume. In fact, I would say it woefully acts as a dampener for the entire guitar.
The bridge, thankfully, is replaceable. You could squeeze a little bit of brightness and volume out of a full-contact rosewood bridge with a bone saddle (yes, they make them), but the difference would be comparable to switching out a cheap plastic bridge for a bone one on an acoustic. It improves tone a great deal more than it does volume.
The pickup mount on the Kingpin is really torqued on there. Unfortunately, there's not much to do. Alleviating this problem for the unplugged volume would mean losing some tone when plugged in. Frankly, it's not worth it and I won't bother going into details on the process.
And now we come to Gretsch. Poor, poor Gretsch. The G100 Synchromatic is a pathetic excuse for an acoustic archtop. The laminate is of wretched quality, the pressed arching defeats any tone it could have, the bracing is typically misaligned, the tailpiece is too damn heavy, the bridge is poorly designed and can be summarized as "crap", and the neck plays very poorly. No archtop has disappointed me more than the G100.
One of the newcomers to the acoustic archtop scene is an import-based brand called "The Loar." As I have said numerous times, the geographic location in which a guitar is built has NOTHING to do with its quality. The guitars produced by The Loar prove my point. While built in China, they have rigorous standards and phenomenal quality control. They also offer easily the best value for your money out of anything on the acoustic archtop market.
For less than what you would pay for the Kingpin or the all-acoustic 5th Avenue, you get an actual carved, solid top made from reasonably good spruce. This improves volume beyond expectation. The laminate used for the maple back and sides is of ... pretty good quality. It's nearly Godin-quality laminate. The fretboard is setup extremely well, the finish is applied well, and if you're willing to shell out a little more you can get a great all-solid archtop.
I recommend you check them out when you can. They also make models installed with pickups, but I'm under the impression that they only come with cutaways.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the G100CE - eh? Sounds like a solid top will potentially be louder than a laminated top? I do like the Loar LH-350 cutaway...