Antoria Florentine Les Paul
This guitar is described as 'Custom 74' in the importers' catalogue and as 'Memphis Original De-Luxe' in some price guides, and appears to be a copy of an equally exotic Gibson which I have not been fortunate enough to examine.
Whilst the title 'Custom' is following precisely in the tradition of well known American makes, I must view it with some reservation. At least one maker has used the term 'De-luxe' enthusiastically since the early days of electric guitars, more often to identify a particular styling than a level of quality. As a result, the term 'Custom' has been taken over to identify guitars of rather better quality and/or finish. Surely, a 'Custom' guitar should be one which has been specially built or modified to suit the needs of one particular musician? However, this is a criticism of the name, not the instrument.
The Antoria 2405, as you will see from the photograph, is an ornate and highly decorated form of Les Paul copy. With the exception of the bridge inserts, metal fittings are all gold plated or gold lacquered or both. (It is always difficult to be able to differentiate between them). The fingerboard is inlayed with attractive floral and abstract designs in real Mother of Pearl, which are not only well made, but firmly set in the rosewood fingerboard with what seems to be black epoxy cement. They are also absolutely level with the fingerboard surface and bright-polished. I must once again complain about fingerboards treated with black colouring matter to make them appear darker. It soon wears off in the most used places. Treatment with a penetrating oil is permanent, and looks better, but means that the fingerboard must be cleaned thoroughly after the frets have been polished.
The decoration on the head and body appears to be some form of natural shell similar to Abalone; it is not inlaid into the surface but cut to almost transparent thinness and laid between the wood and the lacquer film (This technique is derived from ancient Chinese and Japanese Lacquer-work and can be very effective if applied to a suitable background.) Unfortunately, cutting pearl very thin diminishes the colour and reflectance, and these inlays do not compare with the thicker ones in the fingerboard. In fairness, I doubt whether any difference would be noticeable on stage, where simple and beautiful guitars remain unnoticed, and this sort of large scale inlay work looks very attractive. All the decorative features on this guitar are a little exaggerated and it appears particularly suitable for public performances, under Theatre-lighting.
Mechanically, this instrument is very similar to the better sort of sunburst Les Paul copy, with the exceptions, that the bridge seems to allow slightly more adjustment to the inserts, and that the tuning machines combine the best features of enclosed low-ratio gears and metal "Tulip" buttons (which some people find easier to control). The fingerboard is bound with black and white stripes and the fretting is adequate except for 3 near the nut, which are too high under the bass side.
Lowest action for this Antoria 2405, is 1.6mm top and 2.mm bottom strings or 1.3mm top and 1.8mm bottom strings after adjusting the nut and lowering 3 frets on the bass side.
Other relevant mechanical points are: The neck is firmly glued into the body at the correct angle for this model.
The curved front of the body, in common with almost every Les Paul copy, is a hollow shell, built up underneath around bridge, pick-ups and neck joint. This may have more influence on the failure of most copies to feel or sound quite right, than any aspect of pick-up design. Sustaining properties appear to improve in proportion to the thoroughness of blocking underneath, and this sample is above average for the better copies. Some of the cheapest copies of this style are so badly assembled that they can actually suffer from acoustic feedback like a "semi".
The standard of electrical wiring is a little better than some originals, (which is no excuse for not screening the cover plate and cavity), but tone and volume knobs grate when turned (easily fixed). Was it really necessary to copy the erratic nature of the original's tone controls? (This is also easily fixed, and you would probably have the same trouble on a real one anyway.)
Conclusion: With the exception of 3 high frets, this is a nice "copy" guitar, with flamboyant decoration of a sort which shows up well on stage. The additional price above that of similar, undecorated instruments, is very reasonable. The "inlay" on the body should be improved.
Retail Price £123.60
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