Review: D'Angelico Excel SS Shoreline and Excel DC Shoreline - GuitarPlayer.com

Review: D'Angelico Excel SS Shoreline and Excel DC Shoreline

As storied as is the name D’Angelico in the world of high-end custom archtop guitars, it’s been exciting to see both the brand and the art deco styling applied to several lines of more varied—and more affordable—models in recent years.
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As storied as is the name D’Angelico in the world of high-end custom archtop guitars, it’s been exciting to see both the brand and the art deco styling applied to several lines of more varied—and more affordable—models in recent years. New to the mid-priced Excel lineup, these Shoreline guitars are semi-acoustic thinlines in both single-and double-cutaway guise, each with full-on D’Angelico bling and some lively new color schemes. Both guitars were tested through custom tweed Deluxe and JTM45-style amps, with a selection of overdrive pedals.

EXCEL SS SHORELINE

Although the basic shape might hark back to several smaller-bodied archtops—Gibson’s ES-225 and ES-125 and Ibanez’s George Benson Signature model among them—D’Angelico’s new Excel SS Shoreline adds a mash-up of Manhattan jazz and Memphis rockabilly to create an unlikely mélange that works surprisingly well. Given the fancy empire headstock, pearl block markers, multi-ply binding, ebony knobs, bound tortoiseshell pickguard, and gold hardware—all compounded by a gloss Surf Green finish on this example—it’s a look that you really might have to own if you buy one. But make it your thing, and it’s a guitar that really cuts a stunning figure in a wide variety of genres, from post-bop to blues to psychobilly, with a stop at just about all stations in between.

The 15"-wide, 1.75"-deep body with single rounded cutaway has been crafted of the traditional semi-acoustic ingredients of laminated maple top, back, and sides and a solid center block. The glued-in neck is a three-piece maple construction with a lusciously dark rosewood fretboard and a genuine bone nut, all applied to a 25" scale length. Add a Bigsby vibrato with roller-saddle bridge for tuning stability, Grover Super Rotomatic tuners with stair-step buttons, and in-house P-90 pickups (7.73kΩ bridge, 7.64kΩ neck) with traditional four-knob wiring, and there’s a lot of potential attitude on tap. Worth noting above and beyond all the details, though, is how well they’re all brought together in an extremely well made guitar. Put simply, this is an impressive creation from all angles, and if the slim-C neck profile perhaps isn’t my personal favorite shape, it plays easily in all positions, and I can’t fault it in any way.

Amped up, these P-90s proved surprisingly clear and balanced, with less of the grit and punchy midrange grind that traditional P-90s tend to exhibit, making the SS Shoreline a little more of a blank canvas for whatever I wanted to throw at it. Country and rockabilly riffs were bright and articulate through a semi-driven amp, while cleaning up the amp a little and dialing down the neck pickup’s Tone knob a couple notches yielded some convincing Grant Green and Wes Montgomery tones. Overdrive from an Xotic BB Preamp kicked this platform into searing rock ’n’ roll, with a distinctive crystalline bite amid the dirt that helped individual notes ring through sweetly. Pushed a little harder, this guitar—although it doesn’t look the part—even sunk its teeth into some punk power-chord work with gusto. All in all, the Excel SS Shoreline is a cool and well-made guitar, and a great foundation for a wide range of both rootsy and raw genres.

EXCEL DC SHORELINE

The DC Shoreline translates much of what we’ve already seen in the SS Shoreline into a double-cutaway semi-hollow that clearly has some ES-335 DNA in its bloodline, although it’s somewhat altered shape also brings to mind other great double-cutaways from the past, like Guild’s Starfire and Yamaha’s SA-2000. The formula here runs right through to this one’s more traditional 24.75" scale length, and its body is a tad wider at 16” with a depth of 1.75", and the standard laminated-maple-plus-center-block construction. Cosmetics-wise, this DC is identical to the SS other than its deep-blue Indigo finish. Come to think of it, the hardware and electronics are all the same too, as is the slim-C neck profile, so they really are identically equipped other than in the basic specifications already detailed above.

It’s interesting, though, how the double-cutaway styling and slightly larger body want to point you in other directions, playing-wise. The DC Shoreline really covers extremely similar sonic territory, and is perhaps most differentiated by the fact that D’Angelico has loaded a relatively under-wound bridge pickup into this one (7.02kΩ compared to the neck’s 7.64kΩ). Whether it’s the styling or the brighter, more withdrawn bridge pickup, this guitar leans more toward warm, thick blues riffing in the neck position, and jangly Beatles licks in the bridge—both of which it does with aplomb—rather than the jazz-and-rockabilly dichotomy of its sibling. Its P-90s certainly imply a kinship to the Epiphone Casino (and the Gibson ES-330 along with it), although those were fully hollow thinline designs. The DC Shoreline’s solid center block encourages more sustain and clarity in this guitar than those classics generally deliver, while also making it less prone to feedback when you wind things up. Like the SS, the DC performs well through a good overdrive pedal, and similarly boasts an impressive lack of squeal at advanced volumes if you’re sensible about your proximity to the amp. Ultimately, it’s another cool, fun, and very well put-together guitar, with bags of retro-toned character.

SPECIFICATIONS

CONTACT Dangelicoguitars.com

EXCEL SS SHORELINE

PRICE $1,799 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Three-piece maple/walnut, 25" scale length
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Grover Super Rotomatic
BODY Laminated maple semi-hollow with solid center block
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic with roller saddles, Bigsby B-50 vibrato
PICKUPS Two proprietary P-90 single coils
CONTROLS Independent volume and tone for each pickup, three-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Angelico Electrozinc .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.9 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Impressive bling-inflected styling, good playability, and sounds that are easily turned to a wide variety of musical styles
CONCERNS None.

EXCEL DC SHORELINE

PRICE $1,799 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Three-piece maple/walnut, 24.75" scale length
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Grover Super Rotomatic
BODY Laminated maple semi-hollow with solid center block
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic with roller saddles, Bigsby B-50 vibrato
PICKUPS Two proprietary P-90 single-coils
CONTROLS Independent Volume and Tone for each pickup, 3-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Angelico Electrozinc .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.8 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Impressive bling-inflected styling, good playability, and sounds that are easily turned to a wide variety of musical styles.
CONCERNS Bridge pickup is a little underpowered.

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