It’s hard to beat the tonal warmth of a good arch-top! The way they feel & resonate on the stage helps to strengthen the connection between player & instrument. But arch-tops are challenging instruments to amplify. Here’s the scoop from my experience of playing arch-tops for the last 40 + years. The amps I’ve listed are selected based on a clean sound without effects. If you’re using a processed sound you have many more options. I’ve probably left a few out but these come to mind.
Fender Twin Reverb (65’ Reissue) & Fender Super Reverb (65’ Reissue)
Pretty hard to beat one of these as far as tone, clarity & presence / volume go. (The Twin outshines the Super for volume) They have been around for decades & serve as the benchmark for many of the newer amps. I’ve used both extensively & have watched George Benson, Kenny Burrell, & many more with Twins back in the day. If you’re playing the Festival / Concert circuit, a Twin is one of the most readily available & safest requests as they are generally consistent however ask for the 65’ re-issue! – There have been many versions over the years that don’t sound nearly as good. P.S. Have a good dolly, strong back, or Roadie to move it around!
Roland Jazz Chorus
A powerful alternative to the Twin but not as warm in my opinion. (Just as heavy as the Twin)
Polytone Mini Brute
A darker sound but much more portable. A favorite for Joe Pass, Jim Hall types.
Fender Princeton Chorus (2 x 10”)
I’m not sure if these are still in production as It’s hard to keep up with all of the new models that Fender puts out, but I had one back in the 90’s & recorded with it. Great sound & portable but short of power if you’re depending on it exclusively in louder situations. You can pick-up a used one of these on E-Bay or Craigslist for a couple hundred dollars. A steal!!
Boutique Jazz Amps = $$$$
Acoustic Image & Fender Jazz Master Ultralight:
These are both amazing sounding heads. When used in conjunction with a Raezer’s Edge Cabinet the tone is amazing. The Acoustic Image is more powerful but the Fender sounds more like a Fender Tube amp. Unfortunately the Fender has been discontinued. It was provided with a companion cabinet that was panned by most reviewers. The Fender is rated @ 250 watts @ 2 ohms. Trouble is the world is running @ 8 ohms. The solution is the Raezer’s Edge Twin 8 cabinet. (@ 4 ohms = 125 watts)
Henrickson Jazz Kat & AER
These are very popular as well and are a single unit so easier to setup.
The AER is about the size of a lunchbox! Not as warm of a sound in my opinion but incredibly present & loud! All have line-outs & are much more portable. Bring your checkbook & credit Card as most of these rigs are in the $1,000 plus range.
Many modern players use effects/pedal boards to “Model” their own sound. They depend less on the inherent quality of sound generated by the amp. As an old school guy, I like to just plug in my guitar & play, the fewer the knobs the better!
Dan’s Arch-Top Rigs:
Mellow Jazz Gig: Gibson L-5 with Fender JazzMaster Ultralight Head & Raezer’s Edge Twin 8 Cabinet.
Funky Jazz Gig or Light R&B:
• Same rig above with a line out to PA.
• L-5 with my Twin.
I recently discovered that using my Twin Cabinet with the Fender JazzMaster Ultralight Head provides awesome sound & volume with zero feedback! (unplug the twin speakers in back & leave the amp off. You’ll need a female x female ¼” adapter to connect to the Ultralight)
Full on Funk, Blues or R&B: Why fight it? – I’ll use the Twin & my ES-335, drink a couple of beers & have some fun!
Hope this article contains some useful information for you. Please leave a comment on the Everything Guitar page & share your solutions!