The X-155 Deserves It's Praise, But Make Sure Which X-155 You Buy
Nov 10, 2006 (Updated Nov 10, 2006)
Review by ahand
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Excellent value for the price
Cons:The sound does have a specific range, and the
pickups can vary
The Bottom Line: If you can find one, and are looking for a jazzbox,
you can't do better for 400.00 or less.
Again we encounter a DeArmond guitar with excellent word of mouth, and a price way below it's actual cost. In other words, a true bargain. This was originally a guitar in the 600-800 street price range when the company was still under the Guild umbrella, and when Fender took over, dumped the remaining guitars for as low as 250.00 in some cases.
Recommend this product?
What it did, and this isn't as well known, was take a reasonably well respected guitar (that was in fact taking some flak for being a Korean made guitar) and make it a word of mouth legend. To this day, it's hard to find one under 400.00.
Since that is it's current time-tested market value, I'll review it as a 400.00 Korean import jazz guitar that's still available (which it is, there's plenty out there floating around).
The key thing to watch out for, though, is that not all the X-155's have the same high end DeArmond pickups. Many have humbucker style PUPS that sound a lot thinner unless you have a good amp. Also, some have put aftermarket humbuckers in to get that fatter Wes Montgomery sound.
While it can leave virtually all of the other 400.00 jazzboxes in it's dust, it's clearly not superior to the Epiphone Joe Pass, a used Epi Emperor Regent, or even an upgraded Hohner HS-40 (if you use P90s or Duncan '59's to upgrade). The reason is simple, it was originally in that price range to begin with.
This isn't just a judgement call, I owned one for two years along side of my Joe Pass, Hohner, and the other gaggle of guitars that clutter my space.
However, those three above (even the Hohner when upgraded) are in the 600.00 range new, and the X-155 clearly can beat those in price (given the condition is mint). The construction is as fine as either the Joe Pass or Regent, and it's finish is beautiful. It has a excellent neck, very suitable for jazz, and the hardware is superior to any 400.00 box on the market.
I do agree with the other reviewer on this guitar in one major respect. It does sound close enough to a Gibson ES-335 to make it a real find if you like that sound. The sound is silky and pure, and can be made fatter if need by a simple adjustment of your amp.
I should add, needing to adjust your amp doesn't make a guitar a disgrace or a failure, it's just the simple use of a basic tool that all musicians should be familar with.
It's natural jazz sound can be best described as being between an ES-335, and that thinner, smooth sound attained by such artists as Barney Kessel. Rough up the sound a hair, and the sounds of the immortal Gabor Gzabo or even Kenny Burrell are possible. Also, it's acoustic tone is very fine.
It was never a bad jazz guitar when it was originally introduced at 600.00, but it was one of the earlier Korean boxes and didn't get the same acceptance that later brands like Ibanez got essentially doing the same thing.
DeArmond also made a very nice SG copy (you can tell which one, it only came in black) at 600.00 (now around 200.00) that wasn't wildly popular, but anyone who played one loved it. Both were excellent values, but were in a competitive bracket, and faced a lot of that early prejudice about Korean boxes (which now seems silly given that a lot of production has moved to China to make guitars even cheaper).
Although it's been often said that Fender ruined the DeArmond brand by trying to fold it into the Squire line (some later X-155's were in fact re-labled as Squires), the disappearance of the DeArmond name was probably the best thing that ever happened to the brand.
Put the guitar on the market, and you'll probably get what you paid for it, something that can't be said for virtually any modern Korean guitar) as this brand hasn't depreciated much from it's cut-out price).
The X-155 was intended to be a high quality "entry level" jazzbox for the Guild company, much like Gretsch Historic Series that also failed. However, like the Gretsch, the failure of the brand and subsequent popularity in the used guitar market, seems to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
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