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Hand Made Guitars by Luthier Dan Koentopp

A Customer’s Review of an Amati (#072)

A wonderful testimonial from Phil D’Angelis, the owner of Amati #72:


I have been very privileged to be able to own more than a few archtops built for me by some of the most renowned luthiers in the US. I have played guitar for over 50 years and it has been a huge part of my life.

Several years ago, while preparing to offer one of my guitars for sale, in the process of researching what was on the market for sale and reading about luthiers that I was not familiar with, I came across some astonishingly beautiful photos of one of Danny’s guitars and some very complimentary reviews of his instruments. I had never heard of Danny and as luthiers go, he seemed pretty young, but I was intrigued. I watched a video he posted on his website and decided I had to call him. It turns out he relocated from Chicago to LA and coincidently I had to travel to LA the following week. I called him and we had a great conversation. Fortunately, he had recently built a guitar for himself, so there was an instrument I could demo (which isn’t typical with luthiers that have several year-long backlogs). I thought his guitars were priced on the “high side” for someone that I was not familiar with, but the photos of his guitars were some of the nicest I ever saw.

Now, I was NOT in the market for a new guitar. I had accumulated a lot of guitars over the past 15 years always hoping my next one would be the “one”. Within the prior year, I had received my latest archtop that I commissioned and was in love with it. It played beautifully and sounded great, but I was so captivated by the beauty and simplicity of the photos of Danny’s guitars and his very warm and articulate personality that I had to see one of his guitars in person.

That morning before I flew out to LA, I played my favorited guitar for an hour to really get the feel and sound imprinted in my mind so that when I played Dan’s guitar, I would hopefully not like it as much and would save myself a lot of money. Well, within the first few minutes of playing Dan’s Chicagoan, I knew this was the most beautiful, best acoustically sounding, and best playing guitar I ever touched. I didn’t want to put it down. Then he plugged it in to an old Roland Jazz Chorus amp and the guitar sounded equally good, maybe even better through the amp. Dan uses low wound Kent Armstrong humbuckers, (which I have on most of my archtops) and the guitar sounded fantastic amplified. Danny played the guitar so I could hear it from a different perspective. Danny is a very good player, which reinforced my opinion that if a builder is a good player, it really makes a difference in the outcome.



Now there was the issue of the 2-3 year wait time. I’m pretty old and waiting a few years again for another guitar didn’t sound very appealing. As I was playing this incredible instrument, I said to Dan, “I bet every one of your potential customers that plays this tries to talk you into selling it to them,” and he replied, “not really, I rarely meet anyone that orders guitars from me.” So, fortunately for me, I managed to persuade him to sell me the guitar, and because I loved it so much, I put down a deposit to get in the queue to have him build something else for me, not knowing which model it would be. I’d decide that when he was ready to start.

I sent Danny emails periodically telling him how much I loved the Chicagoan and always kept my eye out to see if any of his guitars came on the market. One day I got a call from Danny telling me a customer who bought the “sister” guitar to mine (Danny builds 2 archtops at a time), was interested in selling his Blue Line model and put me in touch with the guy. I ended up buying the guitar). The seller graciously gave me 24 hours to play it to see if I liked it and I called him after playing it for 5 minutes and said “SOLD”.

So now that I had a Chicagoan and Blue Line, I set my sights on his Amati model. We had several conversations and I honed in on my desires regarding wood species for the top, sides, back, fingerboard, tailpiece, nut width, neck thickness, scale length, fret wire, etc. using what I preferred the most between the Chicagoan and Blue Line specs.

Danny called me 8 months ago and told me he was ready to start. With Danny, the depth of his approach and how he articulates talking about the wood and how all the parts work together and his attention to detail in both explanation and workmanship are on a different level than anything I ever experienced in communicating with a builder. He’s really good to listening to what you want, but also steering you to what he knows will produce the best results. He is a true artist and as much as I’ve enjoyed working with all the builders I’ve ever ordered guitars from, my experience working with Danny is just on another level.

Danny and I had many conversations about what our common vision was for this guitar; particularly the finish. Since the aesthetic design of the Amati is similar to the violin/cello family, I wanted the finish to look more like those instruments (hand applied varnish and oil) as opposed to the typical archtop finish (sprayed lacquer and nitrocellulose). Danny started his career working as an apprentice to a violin/cello repairman and has spent a lot of his time with those type instruments, but told me he never did this type of finish on a guitar, but was very excited about going in that direction. I was nervous about spending a lot of money on a guitar and doing something “outside the box,” but thought Danny was the guy to take this risk with.

He sent photos almost every week showing the progression of his work and I was absolutely blown away with his attention to detail and perfectionism, including the hand-made tiny wood hooks lined with felt to secure the pickup/volume/tone pot wires so they don’t move inside the guitar (I’ve had issues with wires rattling in an archtop or two in the past).

Then once the “box” was completed and the neck attached, time to begin the finish. I sent Danny several photos of cellos and we agreed on one he would try to match. Over the course of several months of applying materials by hand, (showing me photos of the color slowly changing from raw spruce and maple to the desired color), he finally completed the process. I couldn’t be happier with the result.

I received the guitar and have a difficult time putting it down. It sounds more like an acoustic guitar even when amplified than the Chicagoan, which also sounds fantastic. The Amati was exactly what I was looking for; a spectacular archtop that is aesthetically stunning, has a beautiful “woody” tone that sounds incredible playing with or without an amp, and plays like a dream. For me, it’s the “perfect” archtop guitar.

Now, onto Danny’s “Electric” model.

Amati #072

For more specifications and photos click here 




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