Are the Japanese- and Korean-made copies of John D’Angelico’s classic and obscenely expensive archtop guitars little more than exceptionally and passably tuxedo t-shirts [respectively] when compared to the tuxedo original? Probably, but with the average guitarist likely to never even see a real D’Angelico guitar in hir lifetime, much less play one — much less actually own one; the lower end of the market for guitars made by the master is approximately a decent-sized down-payment on a new house these days — these Asian-made copies are easily the next best thing.
They certainly have the D’Angelico look down, but do these guitars have the same sound and the feel as an original? Who knows? They players who would know aren’t telling, which I can understand; if you go to the trouble of buying and maintaining a tuxedo, you want nothing to do with some guy in a tuxedo t-shirt.
As part of the inevitable fetishization of the past that’s innate in the guitarist’s psyche — no innovation or simple change in a piece of gear’s production ever improves it, with the older product hailed as having a superior sound as soon as its replacement comes out — even the older Vestax Corp. of Japan D’Angelico copies are held up as vastly better than the recent Korean-made guitars. Are they? Maybe — again, how many players are in a position to take that Pepsi Challenge?
Vestax does have one clear advantage; they certainly weren’t shy about producing axes with a custom flavor, like this rosé-red New Yorker acoustic: