I decided to start a thread on Sadowsky Archtops, since I didn't see much activity in this forum. I know there are a lot of players out there that are curious about these instruments. My current Sadowsky collection includes a 2007 semi, a new SS-15 and a nylon. I will focus on the Semi and SS-15 in this thread.
My guitar inventory runs the gamut from Fenders, Gibsons, Heritage, Valley Arts, PRS to Baker, Benedetto & Sadowsky.
I've been playing guitar for well over 30 years. My first guitar was one I made in woodshop when I was in the 9th grade. After that, there was no turning back. Over the years, my main instrument of choice became a 335 type, for its' versatility. I enjoy jazz, fusion, blues and Bossa Nova. The 335 is an instrument that can cover all these genres nicely. My comments below are based on the 335 as my reference.
In a nutshell the semi can be summarized as an instrument that can go toe to toe with some of the best sounding 335s out there, new or old. It can also do a beautiful balanced electric jazz tone. The soundfiles in the Sadowsky site says it all for jazz and Bossa Nova type tones.
I'd like to share my personal insights on the Semi. Playing the instrument clean, the sound is very balanced from low "E" to high "E." The tone is rich and smooth. For a laminate top, the sonic feel is very light and airy. In comparison, my 335 is darker and heavier sounding. The physical weight of the Semi is also very light. I was pleasantly surprised at how resonant this guitar was, especially for a laminate top.
In OD, through an ODS type amp (Fuchs hand tuned ODS 100 and Brown Note D'Lite), the tones are amazingly good. What impressed the most was how good it was with light OD. You can really hear the woody warmth. The resonance and sustain was amazingly good. I can hear a definite improvement over my 335 in terms of resonance and sustain.
Every time I pick up the Semi, it's hard to put down. You just want to keep playing.
This is a brand new animal of a guitar. I bought it based solely on input from The Gearpage. First off, this is the most beautiful guitar I own. The Sienna Burst is gorgeous. This guitar looks like something out of the museum of modern art. When I opened the case, I was taken back at how stunning it looked. The fit and fitness was flawless. It had a very comfortable neck, very light in weight and very balanced in the playing position. The body dimensions are virtually identical to the Semi. The main difference is, the SS-15 is a true hollow-body and has a woodier tone. I was really surprised at the acoustic tone and volume unplugged. The tone response of this guitar is very quick. The amplified tone is very articulate. It is brighter sounding than a traditonal jazzbox and also not as deep. This is to be expected due to its' smaller and shallower footprint. Think of notes that are very clear, as opposed to slightly muddy... warm, woody and light in feel and you'll get an idea of what the SS-15 sounds like. This is a great instrument for playing Bossa Nova.
If you want a lighter alternate jazz sound from a traditional jazzbox the SS-15 may just be what the doctor ordered. I took it to a jam recently, the other guitar player couldn't put it down. Now he's suffering from an acute bout of G.A.S. for one!
I believe Roger will be officially adding this model as a product offering very soon. Keep your eyes and ears tuned!
I am a Sadowsky archtop fan myself. I currently own 3 Sadowsky models: a Jim Hall, a Semi Hollow, and an SS-15. Allen and I are fortunate enough to be in the very small club of people who have SS-15's as they are not yet officially available and you won't find them on the Sadowsky web site. We own 2 of a very limited run.
It's hard to follow up on Allen's review of the two models he has because his review is so thorough that there's little I can add.
I own a Jim Hall, which I found to be such a great guitar in so many respects, the perfect size, shape, feel, and tonal qualities, that I thought I'd round out my 'collection' simply by adding a Semi Hollow. So I headed down to the Sadowsky shop to pick one up. As usual, the Sadowsky crew were extraordinarily accommodating, and much to my surprise, they had three available for me to choose from, all beautiful.
But when I looked at the guitar wall, I spotted something I had not seen before. It was definitely one of the most aesthetically pleasing guitars I had ever seen. It was a work of art in my eyes, and resembled what you might expect of a very high end violin. Inquiring about it provided me with the information that it was a new model, the SS-15, which is, as Allen has said, sort of a hollow-body version of a Semi Hollow. Or, you can look at it as a slightly less deep version of a Jimmy Bruno.
I spent the next hour and a half A/B-ing it, with the help of the great musical ears of my wife, with the Semi Hollow. It became clear that they were both great sounding guitars but in different ways. To shorten a rather lengthy story, we found the SS-15 to be so resonant and warm both acoustically and plugged in, that I ended up taking one of those instead. I did acquire a Semi Hollow eventually, because I just had to have one, but in a completely different way. Another story for another day.
In having these guitars at home, I can't say that the SS-15 is more resonant or warmer than my Jim Hall. Probably the Jim Hall is the fuller-sounding guitar. It's bigger body would generally dictate that. But the SS-15 is the guitar I go to most for practice. It has a particular hard-to-explain appeal to me which is undeniable.
I am fortunate enough to have quite a collection of many fine guitars. I can tell you that it is hard to do better than a Sadowsky, no matter which model you choose.