A fully acoustic, carved-top archtop guitar inspired by budget archtops of the 1930s and ’40s.
by Teja Gerken
July 08, 2019
Collings Guitars introduced the Waterloo brand several years ago, and its relatively affordable, vintage-inspired instruments have been impressing players ever since. After exploring a range of flattops inspired by old Stella, Oscar Schmidt, and Regal models, Waterloo has introduced an archtop guitar to its line of high-quality contemporary instruments based on what were originally budget guitars. Collings is not new to the archtop, of course, having long offered several archtop guitar models and a range of mandolins, and the company’s experience with archtop designs is evident in the Waterloo WL-AT. We recently had a chance to check out a sunburst version of the guitar, provided by Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California.
At just 14¹³/₁₆-inches across the lower bout, the WL-AT is one of the smaller archtops you’ll find, and its flat back, mahogany back and sides, and no-frills appointments hark back to the student models of the archtop’s glory years in the 1930s and ’40s. Like all Waterloos, the instrument benefits from Collings’ high-quality wood stash and refined manufacturing techniques, and its materials and craftsmanship are top-notch. The WL-AT has a solid, carved top with parallel bracing, ensuring an authentic vintage tone, and the guitar’s hardware includes an adjustable ebony bridge, a simple trapeze tailpiece, and open-back Golden Age Restoration tuning machines.
On swing rhythm chords, the WL-AT has a snappy attack and great volume, yet when I played it softly, the guitar had a quick responsive and a tonal sweetness that is not always present on archtops. The guitar came set up with light-gauge (.012–.053) strings and low action, which made it perfect for playing intricate chord melodies, but I suspect that raising the action would allow the tone to bloom even more, especially on a more aggressive attack.
Overall, the WL-AT is a great addition to the Waterloo line. Whether you’re looking for a guitar to use for early jazz styles or wish to add an archtop sound to another type of music, it is most definitely worth checking out.
SPECS: Archtop guitar with f-holes. Solid carved spruce top. Mahogany back and sides. Parallel bracing. Mahogany neck. Indian rosewood fingerboard. Adjustable two-piece ebony bridge. 24⅞-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Golden Age Restoration tuning machines. Custom trapeze tailpiece. Made in USA. $4,500 list. Waterlooguitars.com
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