1953 Epiphone Zenith Carved-Top Archtop Guitar

This '53 Zenith was made in the last years of the original Epiphone company. In '51 the company moved from New York to Philadelphia, so while this is not technically a New York guitar, it's built in the same, pre-Gibson-sale manner and sounds and feels like a '40s box.

It's a carved-top instrument with a ply-maple back and a 16 3/8" lower bout. As usual, the body shape has that curvy Epi look to it with the narrow waist that sits "just so" in the lap and lets it handle like a smaller guitar than it is. It has the typical Epiphone carved-top sound, too -- barky, loud, punchy as heck, and forceful. These are meant to cut through a band and they do. 

Players who like choppy trad-jazz backup will love the carrying-power of a guitar like this, though due to the higher-arch cut of the top and long 25 1/2" scale length, it's more "strident" and less mellow/velvety in the mids and lows than than a comparable 16" Gibson carved-top. The upper-mids and high-end rockets-out, though, so it makes a much better lead/fill instrument because of that. Chordal thumping is still excellent, though, so don't get me wrong -- you can hear how well it performs at a variety of approaches in the video clip.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, slight alteration/compensation adjustment of the bridge, cleaning, replacement tuner buttons, replacement heel cap, and setup.

Setup notes: the neck is straight, the truss rod works, there's good life left in the frets, and action is fast and spot-on with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret and lots of adjustment room at the bridge.

Scale length: 25 1/2"

Nut width: 1 5/8"

String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"

String spacing at bridge: 2 1/8"

Body length: 20 1/8"

Lower bout width: 16 3/8"

Side depth at endpin: 3 1/4" +arching

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: lightly-figured ply maple back, solid maple sides

Bracing type: tonebar

Fretboard: rosewood

Bridge: rosewood

Neck feel: medium C-shape, ~10" board radius

Neck wood: mahogany

Condition notes: It's crack-free and in overall great shape. However -- the pickguard is missing, the heel cap is replaced, the tuner buttons are replaced (with vintage ones of the same type), and the bridge saddle/topper is slightly-modified. The truss rod cover comes up with a piece of headstock veneer attached to it -- a non-issue but slightly funny. Osmosis! On the treble-waist-back there's a little binding that slightly overhangs the back edge from shrink -- not obvious or an issue, but there. The top of the guitar has a few long streaks in its finish that look like chemical spills. Considering their location, I almost wonder if it has something to do with pickguard outgassing disrupting it while the guitar was "sitting up" in a case. There's also some finish disruption and "shadow" on the top in front of the bridge from having to move the bridge for proper intonation. It'd been sitting in the same wrong place on the top for a very long time.

It comes with: a nice hard case.