|Body And Neck:|
Back in 1932, when John D’Angelico opened his first guitar store in New York City’s Little Italy, he only produced around 35 instruments a year – reserved for a handful of lucky guitarists. Thankfully the D’Angelico brand dramatically increased their output over the following 80 years, which is great news for us players!
Since John D’Angelico’s passing in 1964, the company have continued to produce iconic electric, acoustic and bass guitars – some brand new designs and some reissues. And the Excel 63 – better known as the EX-63 – is one of the latter, modeled on the last guitar that John D’Angelico ever built. It clearly oozes history, so let’s find out if it warrants its place in our list of the best acoustic guitars under $1500.
The EX-63 is quite the extrovert! It features a large, non-cutaway archtop body, with a scale length of 25.5” and sports timeless vintage appeal. The top, which features scalloped X bracing, is crafted from spruce, while the back and sides are made from laminated flamed maple. The body comes in a choice of two shades – either natural or a very retro sunburst.
It’s a comfortable guitar to hold and very playable, mainly thanks to the slim C-shaped maple neck, which joins the guitar at the 14th fret. This features a rosewood fretboard, with 20 medium jumbo frets, and big mother-of-pearl block inlays. Combined with the elaborate ebony-veneered headstock and vintage-style hardware, which we’ll get onto in a second, this is one fine-looking guitar with superb detailing.
From the top of the guitar to the bottom, the EX-63 oozes historic charm. At the bottom of the guitar you’ll find the striking Art Deco-inspired ‘Stairstep’ tailpiece, along with a floating ebony bridge, while slightly obscuring the sound hole is D’Angelico’s signature raised tortoise Scalini pickguard. The quality hardware continues up to the headstock, where six uniquely styled Grover Imperial Super-Rotomatic tuners, which are super smooth to use and provide excellent tuning stability – complemented by a bone nut. The aluminum Skyscraper truss rod cover completes the look. As for extra essentials, the EX-63 comes shipped with D'Addario EXP-16 strings and a deluxe hardshell case.
The EX-63 is quality in sound as well as looks, and performs like a guitar in this price range should. It features the classic big archtop sound, with volume and resonance in abundance, and is crisp and clear whether you’re strumming or finger-picking. The spruce gives this model a well-balanced tone; bright and warm in equal measure, and is a good all-rounder for the majority of styles – folk, blues, fingerstyle, bluegrass and rock players would all find good use with this EX-63.
While it may not feel or sound exactly like an original Excel constructed by John D’Angelico himself, the EX-63 retains the charm of the original instrument very well. The elaborate look, intricate design, quality components, and excellent craftsmanship – not to mention such a sweet and vibrant tone – all combine to make this a vintage guitar with mass appeal.