The Amati represents the pureness and magical quality that I have found in the old world of string instruments. The golden period of violin making was centered around balance, elegance, and perfect design. No extras, no fluff, just one of the finest examples of function and form in a harmonious relationship.
After the first conversation with Jim Swor, I knew that this was going to be an exceptional instrument. When I work with a client that is so positive, honest, and descriptive about their passions, it is impossible not to put this energy into the construction process. Each of my instruments has its own energy and unique voice. This initial drive of communicative energy is really the instrument’s birth. Its voice, in my opinion, starts before the materials come together.
I feel very fortunate to have had Jim write this review after receiving the Amati.
“If there is just one piece of advice I encourage you to take away, it is to place yourself in Danny’s hands. Trust him. Trust his knowledge, his skill, and his passion to deliver exactly what you desire in an instrument. Some people want certain kinds of wood, or so many “grains per inch”, or a particular kind of finish. Let it go. Share a lot with Danny about how you play, what appeals to you in a guitar, and he will bring it to life. I thought I wanted parallel bracing; he used X-bracing. I thought I wanted a guitar built for medium gauge strings; he built one optimized for light gauge strings. I thought I wanted French polishing, he used a different finish. He was right in all cases. He’s an artist and needs to explore – go along for the ride and you will not be disappointed.
The guitar is of course very new – I will update my impressions later as it ages and I have more time with it. Keep in mind too that my opinions are coming from the perspective of what I asked Danny to build: an exceptional acoustic archtop meant to be played primarily with a pick.
Playability. The 25″ scale length combined with light gauge round wound strings (.012 – .052) makes for an easy-to-play instrument. The action is set a bit high at the moment, giving the guitar room to settle, but not so high that it’s hard to play. It has a 1 3/4″ nut with a radiused fingerboard that a felt a tad wide initially but that feeling went away after just a few minutes of playing. I have medium-large hands and have no problems chording cleanly.
The profile of the neck had me worried at first. You played the guitar so you might recall that it’s sort of a D-profile on the thin side, more like an electric guitar. I’ve played mostly older Gibson archtops and similar guitars with thicker C-shaped necks, so I was worried about adjusting. This is another example of Danny knowing exactly what he is doing. The profile promotes good thumb position with very little pressure needed to fret cleanly. The result? I honestly love the neck and can play for long stretches with no left hand fatigue.
Sound. Oh man, what a beautifully balanced instrument! With a pick and not much effort it gives me a big round warm tone with lots of color that sounds to my ears like a cross between an amplified jazz box and a classical guitar. No stringy, boxy, strident, anemic acoustic archtop tone here! It has great dynamic range and top end. You would never guess it has 12’s on it. After it gets a couple of years of play it will be a monster. An interesting thing to note is that the guitar is very lively. Like a mandolin, if you keep the back of the guitar away from your stomach you can hear a difference in the character of the sound.
Vibe. It’s all very personal and Danny nailed it for me. I asked him for an organic look with no fingerboard blocks, no fancy binding, and in general no bling. I wanted it to shout out its purpose when I opened the case, encouraging me to pick it up and engage with it. He took that simple idea and created a guitar that I swear is living and breathing. It’s clearly an instrument that was made by hand, not a machine, and I love that look. I could not be more pleased.
Altogether – playability, sound, vibe – all I want to do is play. Even practice is fun.”
Tags: Amati, archtop, custom archtop, custom guitar, Guitar, handmade, Koentopp