Spotlight on Epiphone’s Classic Archtops

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

When Epiphone moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1957 and became brothers-in-arms with their former chief rival Gibson, neither company could have imagined that over the next decade they would together make a series of instruments that today are regarded as some of the best electric guitars ever made.

Both companies already had a long reputation for making exquisite archtops and acoustic guitars. But in the late 50s, rock and roll had stormed through popular music and both Epiphone and Gibson were under pressure to introduce new designs and new sounds. The formal world that Gibson and Epiphone had grown up in had turned upside down. Artists that were once considered R&B like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles topped the pop charts and rural southern artists like Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins topped the country, pop, and R&B charts simultaneously.

So the arrival of Epiphone (and the new challenge of having two companies under one roof) really turned up the heat in the Kalamazoo factory. And almost as soon as Epiphone arrived in Michigan (just in time for a Midwest winter), Epiphone and Gibson designers found a compromise that drew on the history of both companies--the "Thinline" series, an archtop top guitar with a solid center block of mahogany down the middle along with the already classic format of two pickups with individual volume and tone controls.

The inspiration for the ES Thinline series had its roots in Les Paul's infamous "Log" guitar, which he built in the off hours at Epiphone's New York City factory just before the start of World War II in 1941. Les' "Log" was a 4" x 4" piece of pinewood attached to two (sawed off) sides of an archtop to give the guitar a "traditional" look. As usual, Les was inventing the future a decade before everyone else arrived at the same idea.

Today, the modern versions of two of the first Thinline guitars to hit the market--the Epiphone Dot (inspired by the ES-335) and the Epiphone Sheraton II --are played by pros in every genre and are regarded as the most versatile and beautiful instruments a guitar player could hope to own.

The Epiphone Dot and the Sheraton II have a lot in common as both offer players a truly complete experience in tone, feel, and a luxurious array of sounds for any musical occasion. Either one could easily be the only guitar you'll ever need (but certainly not the only one you’ll ever own). Let's talk a closer look at what makes them tick.

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The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Sheraton II is not only one of Epiphone's most famous electric archtops, it's also one of the House of Stathopoulo's most elegant. The Sheraton II's beautiful binding, historic Tree-of-Life headstock inlay, and gold hardware, instantly elevates the guitar (and its player!) to center stage.

For Epiphone designers of the late 50s who were eager to show that the House of Stathopoulo was alive and well, the original Sheraton was a radical new approach combining the power of a solidbody with the easy-to-carry feel of an archtop. In fact, the Sheraton was one of the first guitars Epiphone exhibited at the 1958 NAMM show to announce it was back in business. The original Sheraton combined the same feedback-resistant qualities of the ES-335 with historic Epiphone inlays and cosmetics. Today, the modern Sheraton II has many of the same features that made the original Sheraton a classic but with a few choice refinements. Epiphone devotee John Lee Hooker perhaps had the ultimate Sheraton II description when he called it an "out done 335."

The Sheraton II features a laminated maple body with a mahogany center block, just like vintage originals. The hard maple SlimTaper C profile neck is glued-in and set by hand and features a 24.75" scale with a 1.68" nut, 22 medium jumbo frets, a rosewood fingerboard with "Block and Triangle" Pearloid/Abalone fretboard inlays, and the historic Epiphone "Tree of Life" headstock inlay. For tuning, the Sheraton II features gold Grover™ Roto-matic 18:1 ratio machine heads.

The headstock, body, and neck has beautiful multiple binding. A gold Epiphone LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge provides steady intonation. While the original Sheraton featured a split-trapeze Frequensator™ tailpiece, the modern Sheraton-II features a gold StopBar tailpiece for improved sustain. The bound pickguard has a "tortoise" style look with a classic metal "E".

The Sheraton II also features high quality electronic parts including full-size, 1" 500K Ohm potentiometers, Epiphone's all-metal pickup selector switch, and a heavy-duty output jack.

The Epiphone Sheraton-II Gallery

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

Sheraton-II Specifications

 

Body Material: Laminated Maple
Top Material: Laminated Maple
Neck Material: Hard Maple
Neck Shape: SlimTaper™
Neck Joint: Glued-In, Set Neck
Scale Length: 24.75"
Fingerboard Material: Rosewood w/Block and Triangle Pearl and Abalone Inlays
Fingerboard Radius: 12"
Binding: Multi-Headstock, Multi-Neck, Multi-Body
Headstock: Large Clipped Ear w/Mother of Pearl "Vine" Inlay
Nut Width: 1.68"
Hardware: Gold
Machine Heads: Grover®
Neck Pickup: Alnico Classic™ Humbucker
Bridge Pickup: Alnico Classic™ Humbucker
Controls: 2-Volume, 2-Tone
Pickup Selector: 3-way Epiphone Toggle
Bridge: Epiphone LockTone™ Tune-o-matic
Tailpiece: Epiphone LockTone™ Stop Bar
Pickguard: Bound "Tortoise" Pickguard w/Metal "E"
Options: Left-Handed in Vintage Sunburst (VS), Hard Case
Warranty: Epiphone Limited Lifetime

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The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot

If you're looking for that classic "335" sound with a little less flash but all of the same tone, feel, and dependability, the Epiphone Dot, (a reference to its simple "Dot" fingerboard inlays), has been an Epiphone standby for decades. The Epiphone Dot caused a bit of a sensation when it was first released in the early 1990's since it was a both an affordable and great sounding alternative to hard-to-find vintage 335s. The Dot has all the sustain and resonance of a classic 335 semi-hollow but at a fraction of the cost. But most importantly, it has the 'sound' that launched 1,000 hits.

The Dot is constructed of premium laminated maple with a mahogany center block and a hand-fitted, glued-in 24.75" scale mahogany neck. The Dot also has a classic rosewood fingerboard with traditional "Dot" inlays, a 1.68" nut, a SlimTaper™ "D" profile, and the traditional Sloped Dovewing Epiphone headstock.

The Dot, like all Epiphones, features first class quality electronic parts including full-size 1" 500K Ohm potentiometers, Epiphone's all-metal pickup selector switch, and a heavy-duty output jack along with traditional Kalamazoo style TopHat knobs for volume and tone control for each pickup. The Dot also delivers Epiphone's all nickel hardware including premium 18:1 ratio Grover® machine heads for superior tuning stability and accuracy along with Epiphone's exclusive LockTone™ locking Tune-o-matic bridge and StopBar tailpiece for great sustain.

The Dot comes in four beautiful color finishes including Cherry (CH), Ebony (EB), Natural (NA), and Vintage Sunburst (VS). The left-handed model comes in Cherry. Over the decades, 335s fans have included Joe Bonamassa, Alvin Lee, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Warren Hayes, and Larry Carlton.

Both the Epiphone Dot and the Epiphone Sheraton II are powered by Epiphone's Alnico Classic pickups, some of the first pickups modified by Epiphone R&D Director Richard Akers, who helped design Epiphone's famous ProBucker™ humbuckers. Alnico Classics feature world famous Alnico magnets, the key to the classic humbucker pickup sound of the late 50s and 60s.

The difference in sound between 50s humbuckers and 60s humbuckers is subtle and was the result not of science, but of practicality. In the early '60s, the Kalamazoo factory formalized their winding process with new machines specifically made for what was then a new pickup, the "humbucker." Instead of winding until the bobbins "were full," the machines could now "count" the number of windings. Just like original 335s and Sheraton's, the Epiphone Dot and Sheraton II have totally unique tonal qualities compared to their solid body cousins thanks to the combination of their semi-acoustic design, the mahogany center block, and of course those Alnico pickups which combine the best qualities of first generation 50s humbuckers and the slightly sweeter humbucker pickups of the early 60s.

"There are certain aspects of the design that are critical to insuring a quality product," notes Akers. "It all starts with the dimensions of the bobbins. The shape and size of the bobbin are critical to how the pickup is going to respond. Today, we tool up our bobbins for our humbucker pickups to the exact dimensions of these classic Gibson pickups."

Today, the Sheraton II can be heard on stage with Alabama Shakes, Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, Tom Delong of Blink 182, Noel Gallagher, and Aarron Dessner of the National among many others.

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

The Epiphone Dot and Sheraton-II

DOT Specifications

 

Body Material: Laminated Maple
Top Material: Laminated Maple
Neck Material: Mahogany
Neck Shape: SlimTaper™
Neck Joint: Glued-In, Set Neck
Scale Length: 24.75"
Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
Fingerboard Radius: 12"
Nut Width: 1.68"
Hardware: Chrome
Machine Heads: Grover®
Neck Pickup: Alnico Classic™ Humbucker
Bridge Pickup: Alnico Classic™ Humbucker
Controls: 2-Volume, 2-Tone
Pickup Selector: 3-way Epiphone Toggle
Bridge: Epiphone LockTone™ Tune-o-matic
Tailpiece: Epiphone LockTone™ Stop Bar
Pickguard: 3-Ply, Black/White/Black
Options: Left-Handed in Cherry (CH), Hard Case
Warranty: Epiphone Limited Lifetime

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Epiphone will always be synonymous with quality archtops and the Dot and the Sheraton II have quietly become legends all on their own. Look at any group currently in the charts or on their way up and you'll likely find an Epiphone Dot or Sheraton II on stage.

Check out both and find the right sound and look for you at your favorite Authorized Epiphone dealer.