As I started to dig in with some Freddie Green-approved chords, the guitar seemed to really find its voice, and I could hear some intriguing overtones depending on how I held it. In photos of many old-school jazz players, you can see they held the guitar at an angle, with the back being free and able to vibrate. By tilting the Dutchess just slightly, the sound opened up and seemed to breathe a lot more, perfect for holding down the rhythm chair in a big band. The tone became more focused with some added presence when I held the guitar more upright.

I wanted to test the different possibilities with an archtop guitar, so I followed the luthier’s request by testing out some altered tunings on the Dutchess. Starting with open D tuning, the guitar was very responsive and bright. Although the action wasn’t set up for it, even some bottleneck slide guitar sounded pretty good. When I dug in, I could get close to some Delta-inspired mojo, but it didn’t quite make me want to replace my acoustic guitar.

As I explored the Dutchess acoustically, it seemed to shine with short chord stabs and single-note lines. The single notes had a real bite to them and sustained for days. In a solo or duo situation, such enhanced sustain can really help carry things along and make playing ballads a lot more fun.

Plugged In
I tested the Dutchess with two amps, a Vox AGA70 and a Goodsell Valpreaux 21. The Vox amp took the existing acoustic tone of the guitar and gave it a little more presence. The treble really came to life, and I discovered I needed to handle single-note lines and chord stabs a little more delicately when plugged in.

When I plugged into the all-tube Valpreaux, the guitar still held firmly onto its acoustic tendencies across all six strings. The Bartolini pickup was really clear and precise— something I look for in any kind of acoustic or archtop pickup—and was a nice compliment to the natural sound coming from the guitar. Considering the different types of room and amp combinations players encounter, I think an added tone control would give this guitar some versatility. The tone was close to a Jim Hall-esque sound—much like his trio recordings from the mid ’60s—but didn’t quite get there. More of the acoustic sound came through than I usually prefer, but that could be adjusted depending on the situation.

The Verdict
The Dutchess is a great sounding, well made archtop that would excel at either your solo coffeehouse gig or in a small combo setting. The rock-solid construction and interesting twists on the traditional archtop design makes the Dutchess a strong contender for players who aren’t concerned about price and want to invest in a pro-level axe.

Buy if...
you want a custom high-end archtop that has a strong acoustic side.
Skip if...
you need to cover a lot of musical bases during a gig and can only bring one axe.

Street $6500 - Paul Hartmann Guitars - 845-229-9581