Price paid: $ 1579
Purchased from: musiciansfriend.com
Features — 9
D'Angelico didn't cut any corners in creating one of the most well-rounded electric archtops I've ever handled. The pickups are Kent Armstrong humbuckers which, as I stated, are very warm. There is a Bigsby tremolo stock on this instrument, which really opens up the guitar for some creativity. There are a lot of bells and whistles, such as D'Angelico's super fancy headstocks - they are very distinctive with the word "Excel" inlayed with mother-of-pearl - as well as beautiful mother-of-pearl block inlays. The tuners are Grover Super Rotomatic "stairstep" tuners, and while they aren't locking tuners, they are very stable. If you noticed the "stairstep" in the tuners, that is a recurring theme with other features, as well as other models crafted by D'Angelico. On this guitar, you have the "stairstep" design on the tortoise-shell pickguard, as well as the truss rod cover. The body is seven ply, and is beautifully bound, as well as the fretboard. The hardware is all brushed chrome, and a "deluxe" hardshell case is included. The input and electronics are produced by Switchcraft USA. The fretboard is flat for an archtop, and the neck has a 25 1/2 inch scale. The neck is made from 2 pieces of hard maple with a walnut center, while the top and back of the body are laminated maple. The volume and tone knobs are ebony, which is a very classy touch. The EX-175 is made in Korea to D'Angelico's exacting specifications. No setup was needed when the guitar arrived from the FedEx truck.
Sound — 8
Acoustically, the sound was fuller than I expected considering the thin archtop body and the f holes, but the magic happened when I plugged the guitar in. I was new to Kent Armstrong pickups until I got my hands on a few D'Angelico guitars to try out. Each humbucker has its own volume and tone control, and there is also a 3 way toggle switch on the lower horn. I started off playing super clean and found the guitar was very reactive to the volume and string attack, thanks to good potentiometers and pickups. Turning up the gain, I noticed that the EX-175 fought off the feedback much longer than I expected from an archtop. With minimal knob-turning and amp-tweaking, I was able to get country cleans, growling rockabilly mids, and a good pop-punk tone as well. The Bigsby made creating some semi-psychedelic surf music easy as pie.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I can attest to one thing - D'Angelico likes to describe their guitars with words like elegance, and that is absolutely the word I would use to describe their guitars, including the EX-175. The EX-175 absolutely has a faux-retro look going on. The "stairstep" aesthetic took a minute to grow on me, but it didn't take more than a minute or two. I have the black model (the EX-175 also comes in natural and cherry) and the finish is immaculate and the binding is eye-catching against the black finish. The factory setup on the guitar is pretty much right on spot. The action is definitely usable, though some adjustment to taste might be needed. The neck is an ultra-slim taper, which is comfortable to play and much more like a conventional modern electric guitar than a traditional archtop.
Reliability & Durability — 9
D'Angelico has been making archtops since something like the 1930's, by John D'Angelico who was considered a master luthier and created some of the most sought after jazz archtops of the time. Since that time, the company's namesake has passed on but the company has remained in good hands and has continued to make quality instruments. I think D'Angelico has been around long enough to trust their rock solid reputation, and all of their instruments come with a nice hardshell case, so there should be no problems and I expect none.
Overall Impression — 8
I got my hands on these D'Angelico instruments on loan from the company for the purpose of these reviews. Honestly, they are some nice instruments that I wouldn't necessarily have picked up on my own, but I'm glad I've had the opportunity to play them. In addition to the EX-175, they've also loaned me the EX-SD, the EX-SS and the EX-59 which are 4 of their more popular instruments in the EX series. While D'Angelico has had a name in the world of jazz for quite a while, they aren't as well known in the realm of country and rock, which is truly a shame. If you want a nice instrument that isn't the same as what everybody else is playing, then it is worthwhile to check out D'Angelico's product lineup.