Up for sale, a 1976 Aria Pro II, model PE-180 in excellent condition and in perfect working order. Produced in the Matsumoku factory in Japan, this "lawsuit era" vintage archtop is one of a few highly collectible models produced to faithfully replicate the features and exquisite playability of Gibson's top tier Super 400 and L-5 CES models. There was no legal action taken against Aria for the PE-180 and similar tributes, and the guitar does have a few distinct cosmetic tweaks that distinguish it from a Gibson, with a level of quality and attention to detail that put it in a class all its own. The guitar boasts a Sitka spruce top, with a full 17" lower bout, maple back and sides, and an ornately inlaid ebony fretboard. The hardware and electronics are top notch, and the guitar is outfitted with its original pair of PAF style humbuckers that deliver an incredibly detailed and sweet tone. Currently strung with Thomastik Jazz Swing flatwound 12-50 strings, the guitar excels at reproducing complex Jazz voicings with clarity, focus, and harmonics that still cut through even with the more mellow tonalities of flats. Weighing 8lbs 6oz, this is a professional grade archtop that doesn't compromise quality and has the intuitive feel and exacting setup of your favorite USA made models.
The neck is constructed of three pieces of maple interspersed with walnut strips, and there's a bit of faint flame figuring in the maple as well. The profile is a full, well rounded C shape with generous shoulders and increased depth in the higher registers of the fretboard. The 20 fret ebony fretboard boasts multi-ply binding that covers the fret nibs in the traditional Gibson fashion. The fretboard is inlayed with the split pearloid blocks familiar to any Super 400 player, and the inlay work is exceptional. The original frets are intact and retain their full, original height, with modest wear down near the nut and light flattening of the fret crowns until roughly fret 6, with virtually no wear further up the neck. The instrument has solid intonation, and no buzzing or dead spots on the board, with plenty of fret life left for years of use. The original carved bone nut is present as well, with a width of 1 11/16". The headstock has multi-ply binding, an inlaid "Aria Pro II" logo, and unique mirror image diamond inlay. The stock Gotoh gold tuning machines are also intact and turn very smoothly, with a bit of light patina on the tuner buttons, but overall clean gold plating.
All of the electronics work as they should, with standard Volume/Tone knobs for each pickup coupled to a three-way pickup selector switch. The quality of this instrument is very evident in the finer touches and attention to detail on the hardware. The original carved ebony bridge base has the small pearloid snowflake inlays seen on vintage Gibsons, and the metal tailpiece is molded and etched in a nearly identical fashion to its Gibson counterpart as well. The bound tortoise pickguard is even crafted with the same material used on vintage Super 400s, and as a result, these guitars experience a bit of the "off gassing" seen on vintage Gibsons, wherein the material for the tortoise causes a bit of corrosion on the surrounding hardware. Thankfully the impact of the pickguard on the hardware is fairly minor on this example, but it just goes to show the lengths the craftsmen at Matsumoku went to in crafting an ideal, top shelf archtop. The body dimensions are also quite faithful, and the body measures 21" in length, 3 1/2" in depth, and has a full 17" lower bout. The instrument is also 100% original aside from a set of newer black witch hat knobs.
Cosmetically, there is very little wear on this instrument, and the guitar has its original reddish gold to deep brown sunburst finish across the top, sides and back. There is notable finish checking across the top, as well as some wear through the gold plating on the treble side of the pickup covers and the extremities of the tailpiece where the strings anchor. Naturally, there are a few tiny nicks and finish scratches expected on any 40 year old instrument, but overall this guitar is quite clean and has been very well cared for and sparingly played.
Comes with a modern hardshell case.