The D’Angelico story begins with the New York–based luthier John D’Angelico handcrafting archtops for jazz musicians, from the 1930s until his death, in 1964. As D’Angelico only built 1,164 guitars, the cost of obtaining an original has become prohibitive to most players, but the brand’s resurrection once again brings new models into the hands of working musicians. The modern D’Angelico line, which debuted in 2011, has made a departure by introducing solidbody electrics and flattop acoustics. I auditioned one of the latest offerings—the Premier Tammany LS, an entry-level acoustic-electric OM—and found it to be a whole lot of guitar for the money.
The most striking aspect of the Premier Tammany LS is its ornate, old-school headstock, based on D’Angelico’s original pattern. The tuners are chrome and molded in D’Angelico’s distinctive stairstep shape, complemented by an aluminum skyscraper truss-rod cover. This fancy design is contrasted by a plain-grained mahogany neck and body, whose natural satin finish lends an unassuming quality.
The body is tastefully ornamented with black binding and black-and-cream purfling and three-ring rosette. The bridge is torrefied merbau (a hardwood from Southeast Asia), and is in yet another stairstep shape—a subtle touch, as the dark color blends in with the mahogany soundboard—with the bridge pins following its contour. All told, the Premier Tammany LS looks not quite like any other steel-string on the market.
Just from the neatly composed vintage look, you can almost feel the tone of the guitar before playing it. Laminated construction generally gets a bad rap, but the guitar sounds very good. It’s warm with a touch of bright—the low end is nicely rounded out without drowning out the highs or the mids. The overall even balance is inviting to a variety of styles.
But the most impressive thing about the guitar is that it gives off overtones across the fretboard. It’s especially hot around the frets 7–9 on the top three strings in a way that really grabs your ear when you play—fingerpicking in that spot brings out a shining, beautiful ring. The reaction isn’t as strong on the lower end of the guitar, but you get a resonance that matches that range; at the base of the neck, you’ll hear what I can only describe as a dull roar.
The body truly behaves like a small amplifier. It’s kind to gentle fingerpicking and seems to favor bluesy tones, classical, and jazz approaches. Strumming, whether open or barred, can be just as soft or as punchy as you would like, with that rounded-out low end heard without bowling you over.
The Tammany LS’s D’Angelico-branded onboard preamp/tuner is located on the top side of the guitar above the soundhole, with pots for bass, mid, treble, and volume, and small buttons to toggle the tuner on and off or switch in or out of phase. The tuner features a small LCD screen, and behind the interface is a blue light that shines around the edges of the pots. There’s also a small dot that lights up if the battery is running low.
I played the guitar through my Roland Cube Street EX and found that the electronics add great fidelity to the acoustic sound. Adjustments to the frequency pots are accurate and sensitive, and you can turn it up without risking distorting the signal. The only drawback is that even with the treble set at the center, you can hear a very slight clicking as you fret the strings. It helps to keep the treble at that setting and turn up the bass and mid to mask it, but it’s still detectable.
To the Point
For $300 street, D’Angelico’s Premier Tammany LS is a quality guitar that delivers across all ranges and has good built-in electronics. It somehow manages to be warm and bright at the same time, where the low and high ends play well together without one drowning the other out. It’s definitely a good value for a student or working musician on a meager budget.
BODY: OM shape; laminated mahogany top with scalloped X bracing; laminated mahogany back and sides; torrefied merbau bridge; PPS saddle; satin finish
NECK: 20-fret mahogany neck with dual-action truss rod; torrefied merbau fretboard with acrylic pearl dot inlays; 25.5″ scale length; stairstep wave chrome tuners; 1-11/16″ PPS nut; satin finish
OTHER: D’Angelico MG-30 onboard preamp/tuner
MADE IN: Indonesia
PRICE: $299.99 street
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