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Top 10 Guitars | Gibson L-5 & D’Angelico New Yorker

Posted by Gillian Whitaker

This week brings a bonus blog to our series on top guitars. We couldn’t not include the Gibson L-5 and D’Angelico New Yorker, whose elegance, fine design and rich sound put them in a whole category of their own. So here they are, earning their place alongside our top 10.


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Gibson L-5 

In 1922, Gibson introduced the ‘Master Line Guitar L-5 Professional Grand Concert Model’. Priced at $275, this elegant, top-of-the-line model was by far Gibson’s most expensive guitar, and its revolutionary design represented the birth of the f-hole archtop jazz box.


Finished in a Cremona brown sunburst, the debut L-5 had a 16 1⁄4-in (41-cm) wide, 3 1⁄2-in (9-cm) deep body with an arched spruce top and birch back (replaced by maple in 1924); a maple neck with an ebony fingerboard; and a metal tailpiece, which added sustain. 

The First F-hole Guitar

The L-5 was the first guitar to feature violinstyle f-holes – as opposed to an oval soundhole – which provided a unique tonal response. With its huge, well-balanced sound, the L-5 was essentially America’s first orchestra guitar.

Then and Now

The L-5 has gone through numerous alterations – both cosmetic and structural – throughout the years, and remains one of the most revered jazz guitars. 

Guitar Specs

Construction: Arched spruce top, maple back and neck, ebony fingerboard

Characteristics: Classic jazz sound, pristine tone and excellent projection

Played by: Eddie Lang, Russell Malone, Wes Montgomery


Image of Gibson L-5 courtesy Gibson.com


D'Angelico New Yorker

In 1932 John D’Angelico set up shop in New York City, repairing stringed instruments. He also began building archtops that were patterned after Gibson’s L-5 before developing his own design. 

Iconic Design

D’Angelico became a pre-eminent jazz-guitar luthier, known for his craftsmanship; he hand-built more than 1,100 guitars. D’Angelico’s most identifiable design, the New Yorker, was introduced in the late 1930s. 

Handmade Detail

When Gibson unveiled its top-of-the-line Super 400 in 1934, D’Angelico followed suit with his New Yorker, an archtop with a body of the same spec, X-pattern bracing, and split-block fretboard inlays. D’Angelico’s handcrafted New Yorker received the sort of attention to detail unobtainable by a large manufacturer such as Gibson. 

Aesthetic Excellence

D'Angelico's guitars were breathtaking, both as musical instruments and as works of art. With its ornate, gold stairstep tailpiece, Art-Deco style inlay and fancy binding, the New Yorker ranks among the most beautiful guitars ever created. 

Guitar Specs

Construction: 18-in (45.7-cm) wide maple/spruce body, maple neck with ebony fretboard

Characteristics: Ornate, breathtaking design, big, refined sound

Played by: Freddie Green, Bucky Pizzarelli, Russell Malone

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Image of D’Angelico New Yorker courtesy guitars.com


If these beautiful guitars have inspired you to learn to play, take a look at our book How to Play Guitar (Pick Up & Play), available here. We also have some great foiled journals that feature similarly eye-catching guitars – such as these Gibson Les Paul designs in black or sunburst finish.



  • Visit the official Gibson website here and the official d'Angelico website here.
  • Learn a little about John D'Angelico here
  • For a brief exploration of f-hole guitars, see here.  

Topics: Flame Tree Music, Classic Guitars, Flame Tree Pro

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