What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Affordable Jazz Guitars #3

by Doc Dosco
http://www.docdosco.com

Affordable Jazz Guitars: D'Aspiranta

This week I am going to feature the D'Aspiranta - an unusual guitar to say the least. This guitar is a copy of the floating pick-up D'Aquisto New York model, and was made in Korea in limited quantities. The story I heard was that it was commissioned by a Doctor in Michigan, built in lots of 25 at time and sold off of Ebay for $795. If true, there aren't a lot of these around.

I liked the look of this guitar (it's a beauty to behold) and the fact it has a 1 3/4" end nut instead of 1 11/16". Personally I like the slightly wider neck. I have several guitars with a roomy 1 11/16" end nut, but several I have ended up selling (an Epiphone Sheraton II and a big fat Washburn jazz box) because the necks didn't widen out very much on these guitars and I didn't like the pencil neck feel of a narrow fretboard. The Washburn looked and sounded tremendous for a Korean made guitar but the neck was uncomfortable for me personally.

A D'Aspiranta came up for sale on Ebay several weeks ago. It had a reserve (meaning a certain price had to be met) and a 'buy it now' price of $699. In my experience, the reserve is 'usually' only slightly below the 'buy it now' price, so I contacted the seller and offered him $100 less than the 'buy it now' price. He claimed his reserve was $50 less. Not wanting to chance loosing in a bidding war, I offered him $700 total including the $50 shipping.

I now own a D'Aspiranta. It is a 17" blonde guitar with a laminate spruce top, quilted maple sides and back and a rosewood fretboard. When it came, the guitar was essentially brand new. It had that new guitar smell when I opened the case. Not a mark on it. The seller is a guitar collector and trader and bought it new last year off of Ebay. It seems that it was rarely played and it was certainly cared for extremely well. It came with new .012 Thomastik round wound strings and it sounded like a big fat Martin acoustic guitar when I first played it. It has tremendous acoustic qualities. I whipped a set of Thomastik flat wounds on it, and it still sounds great acoustically, however with the brilliance of the round wounds gone, it took on the wonderful smooth, woody quality of an expensive jazz guitar.

Now the pros and cons. Pros first. As an inexpensive jazz guitar it sounds really, really good. The floating pick-up is fairly hot and not the standard crappy Korean pick-up foisted on inexpensive jazz boxes. Apparently, it has extra winding to give it more punch. It has Grover Imperials, so the tuners are fine and it has a sporty wood pick guard with just a volume control. The feel and sound of this guitar is wonderful, and the looks are stunning.

However, there were a bunch of problems. The bridge is bloody awful. The tail piece is rosewood like the original D'Aquisto and looks nice, however the luthiers that did such a wonderful job building this guitar installed it a bit off center and it pulls the strings slightly away from the bridge to the tailpiece. It has some nasty 'sympathetic' buzzing' when you hit certain notes. Somewhere between the bridge, tailpiece and perhaps something else not secured properly, it rattles, or adds a 'zing' sounding harmonic to certain notes. When I fiddle with the bridge, the problem goes away. A small piece of 'something' fell out of the guitar, a little square with a clip on one side and sticky surface on the other. (perhaps meant to secure the wiring)

The neck had problems also. It wasn't adjusted and it buzzed like crazy in certain spots when I lowered the strings to my preferred 'low' height. I then discovered that the guitar had several 'high' frets. So, I tweaked the neck to find the optimal angle (which helped), but I know a fret job will be in order eventually. However, in the meantime, I used an old Ted Greene trick. I loosened all the strings, got a hammer (covered the end with a small cloth), braced the neck with telephone books and hammered down the offending frets, which weren't seated properly. This eliminated a lot of the worst fret buzzing.

I still need to take it to my guitar repair guy to the move the tailpiece, or if that fails, to replace it. I have ordered an ebony bridge, and that should also help. As I mentioned, it needs the frets dressed, but the problem is not as glaring now that I hammered on the frets. I figure that for the price, I can spend a bit making it right.

The bottom line is that I love the sound of this guitar. And, it feels great to play. So, even with all the problems, I am happy with it. So happy in fact that I checked Ebay the other day and found a sunburst D'Aspiranta being auctioned. It had no reserve or 'buy it now price' so I bid on it and wouldn't you know it, I won it at $409 plus shipping. It hasn't arrived yet, so I don't know if it is actually in 'mint' condition as advertised, and whether it has issues also, but it was a great deal for the price. So now (in theory) I have 2 of these.

If you can find one of these and don't mind investing a bit extra to replace the bridge (if it bothers you), and perhaps even having work done on the neck, it will give you a guitar that looks and sounds like a very expensive instrument and plays like a dream. It is not as bright as my Heritage with the carved spruce top, but it sounds tremendous - warm, rich tone, much clearer and more present than my laminate top Epiphone Emperor Regent.

The new price was $795 on Ebay when they were being sold there. There was no guitar dealer 'middleman' so it seems that this price translates to what regular dealer wholesale might normally be on this kind of imported guitar. (it even appears that they were being resold for much more in some places)

The used price now clocks in at around $700. The 'buy it now' prices I saw online were $699. Another blonde model came up for one day on Ebay and then disappeared immediately. Someone probably got it at the 'buy it now' price. There is one in the UK up for auction on Ebay as I write this, however the 'buy it now' price converts to $875 US. I snagged the Ebay pictures of that one and I have the pictures of other two I got from Ebay. (The blonde D'Aspiranta I have now I bought from a very cool guitar collector in Texas who I had a long 'guitar addict' conversation with).

At any rate, I have posted a page of photos of these 3 different D'Aspiranta guitars on my website as there is no manufacturer website to go to see this guitar.

http://docdosco.com/daspiranta.html

Harmony Central has some reviews and a lot more detailed information on the D'Aspiranta. Nine reviews in total under 2 categories. All positive. Most glowing:

http://www.harmony-central.com/Guitar/Data4/D_Aspiranta/Jazz_Guitar-1.html

http://www.harmony-central.com/Guitar/Data4/D_Aspiranta/17_Inch_Archtop-1.html

(or go to Harmony Central and type in D'Aspiranta)

All in all, this guitar is a treasure if you can find one. With a bit of work and some tender loving care, you should get a guitar that plays and sounds like a very expensive hand-made instrument at a fraction of the high-end price. You will just have to watch Ebay or places like gbase.com until one comes up for sale unless the original importer decides to commission another batch.

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc endorses Heritage Guitars and is featured artist on their website. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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