The D’Angelico Premier SS Stopbar comes from a long-established company that is not necessarily known to every guitarist. But D’Angelico is undoubtedly a legend of archtop construction, and musicians like Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Bucky Pizzarelli, Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, Chuck Wayne and many others made the brand a cult. Founder of the company was John D’Angelico, who saw in 1905 as the son of Italian immigrants in New York the light of day. At just nine, he trained as a violin and mandolin maker with his great-uncle Raphael Ciani and continued to run the company for a few years after his death. In 1932 he founded his own company “D’Angelico Guitars” on Kenmare Street 40 in Manhattan.Here, the Archtop guitars were crafted together with only two other employees by hand – more custom shop does not work. In the 1930s, he made an annual number of 35 instruments. John died in 1964 at the age of only 59, whereupon his colleague Jimmy D’Aquisto continued the legacy until his death. The last D’Aquisto guitar was completed in 1996 by John Monteleone, then the brand fell into a deep sleep until 2011. The new owners expanded the assortment with solidbody and acoustic guitars as well as electric basses and moved part of the production to the Far East.
Visually, the Premier SS Stopbar is reminiscent of a hybrid of Les Paul and ES 175, while its interior design resembles that of an ES 335. But let’s get to the facts. The Premier SS has a semi-acoustic electric guitar with sustain block. It is a solid block of wood, which runs from the neck to the body end the entire length of the body. On the block are mounted pickups, bridge and stop tailpiece. The two hollow carcase wings are not just attached side parts, but they affect the overall sound of the instrument. The sound of semi-acoustic guitars resembles that of solidbody guitar. It offers a slightly crisp attack and a bit less sustain, while the low-end comes a little less focused.
The top, back and sides of Premier SS Stopbar, manufactured in WMI’s Korean plant, are made of laminated maple. Cream-colored bindings protect the body edges from damage both at the front and at the back. The body has a thickness of about 46 mm outside and is slightly narrower near the neck-body-transition than at the end of the body. Both the ceiling and the floor are arched. The guitar has two F-holes, the lower part of which is mostly covered by a pickguard. The whole thing not only looks good, but offers the only way to get to the electronics inside. After all, there is no back electronics compartment known from a Les Paul. Incidentally, the whole thing is a nerve-wracking endeavor and requires a lot of tact.
The guitar is equipped with a set-in and easy-to-play maple neck. The fingerboard framed with a noble binding consists of ovangkol, which reminds of palisander with its sound characteristics. The 22 medium frets are on the whole well-made and trained, only the F in the first fret on the high E string brings a slight sitar effect. As with PRS guitars, the length of the scale is between Fender and Gibson. At 635 millimeters, the guitar offers a pronounced twang factor, which tends towards the sound of Gretsch. The neck shape is called C-Shape, which is rather a rich C, which is just playable for a die-hard C-profile lover like me.
The neck-body transition begins on the 14th fret. Then it gets uncomfortable, so that from the 19th fret vertical gripped licks can hardly be realized despite the flat 14-inch fretboard radius. But well, the guitar does not want to be a designated shredding monster where you can play Frank Gambale licks even in the highest registers. Rotomatic Stairstep mechanics from our own production are waiting at the headstock, which work cleanly and accurately and keep the guitar in perfect tune.