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DI - recorded straight from guitar using an Asterope cable
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Acoustic - recorded with a Rode NT1-A mic about a foot from the f-holes
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Amplified - recorded with a Vox AGA70 through the Tube-Pre channel (all amp tone stack settings at noon) with a Shure SM57. An Asterope cable was used from the guitar to the amp.
Since opening his shop in 2006, Paul Hartmann has been creating both traditional archtops and solidbody electrics. Because he is a one-man shop, Hartmann doesn’t churn out many axes, which allows him to customize each one specifically for each customer. If you’re in the market for a one-of-a-kind instrument and aren’t worried too much about cost, the Dutchess might be right up your alley.
New York State of Mind
At first glance, the Dutchess—named after the county in New York where it is crafted— isn’t breaking any new ground when it comes to overall design, but really shows its unique side when you begin to look at the details. It sports American red flame maple back and sides, along with a bear claw American red spruce top, so you already know the guitar smells great. The lower bout measures a comfortable 17 ½”, and the top is braced using a single X method originally developed by Martin.
The three-piece maple neck has a mahogany center, for added support, along with a double-acting truss rod and Gretsch inspired fingernail-style fret markers. At 25”, the scale length feels just right, while the 12” fretboard radius makes the neck fast and smooth. Sliding up and down the neck, I noticed some of the edges of the fretwire were noticeably rough. To my hands, the fretboard feels a little wider than standard, which is great for fingerstylists, but might take some getting used to for flatpickers.
For electronics, there’s a floating Bartolini 5J pickup in the neck position and a very discreet volume control mounted on the pickguard. Hartmann took some inspiration from Gibson with the guitar’s adjustable 6-finger tailpiece, which looks similar to some late-model Howard Roberts Fusion III models. According to Hartmann, the individual fingers let you adjust each string’s intonation between the bridge and tailpiece.
Overall, the craftsmanship and design of the guitar was pretty solid. There weren’t any major flaws in the finish—which Hartmann outsources—and the guitar played well straight out of the box. For an instrument in this price range, I would expect nothing less.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the case—after the amazing flamed top—was that the guitar was set up with acoustic strings. Normally, even on acoustic/electric archtops, I tend to use electric strings, but when I began to strum the guitar, the acoustic strings really brought out the midrange frequencies and gave the tone some real projection, similar to a standard dreadnought. As I strummed full chords, the body vibrated with authority and provided good resonance and sustain.
When building this guitar, Hartmann’s benchmark for acoustic tone was his Brazilian rosewood Taylor 814ce. I didn’t have an 814ce handy, but I did compare it to a high-end Martin and the Dutchess made a respectable showing. Though the tone was a bit tighter than a dreadnought, the sound that leapt out of the f-holes was loud enough to cut through at a jam session.