With Michael’s help, I’ve picked up a new Dell’ Arte Manouche Latcho Drom, and would like to offer a quick review to those who may be interested. I have the solid mahogany version: a laminated rosewood is also offered. This is a new line of Dell’ Arte Asian imports, and there doesn’t seem to be much information online about them. I can’t find any specs or description at all on the Dell’ Arte Web page.
Quick summary: I’m extremely pleased with the guitar, and if you’re in the market for something in the $1,000-$2,000 range, I think these models bear serious consideration.
I’m still fairly new to this style, and am exclusively focused on rhythm playing. For the last 18 months I’ve been playing a Manouche Guitars 12-fret D hole Orchestre model (confusing name similarity: that is the product line from the UK-based company, built in Korea). It too is a nice guitar, but as I’ve listened to more of the modern players, as well as the post-war Django sessions, I was starting to want to get into a drier, crisper, snappier sound. Although most of this definitely comes from the hands—better articulation, greater independence between the hands, precision control of muting, faster speed through the strings—I was starting to sense that a 14-fret oval hole model might help out if it could provide that mid-range percussive punch that is characteristic of the good instruments in this category.
The Dell’ Arte really delivers on this score. From the player’s side, it was immediately clear that I was getting that nasal mid-range boost that defines this style’s sound. From out front, that translates into a sharp, clean sound with a strong kick to the accents. The chord tones seem to project with great clarity while also delivering a solid percussive kick.
My main objective in buying this guitar was the right sound, but aesthetics are always a nice bonus. This model has a clean, classic look. The solid back is described as African Mahogany, and it has an appealing rich honey-brown hue, with some nicely figured darker streaks. The top is very straight-grained spruce. Both the top and the back carry a noticeable arch. Overall fit and finish are impressive; the guitar comes with a set of very smooth, open tuners that I believe are German in origin. Although I had some additional setup work done by a local expert in SelMacs, the bridge and overall setup right out of the box were more than serviceable. It’s taken to a setup height that is quite playable but that also projects extremely well.
Disclaimer: I certainly can’t claim to be an expert in SelMac guitars, and even here in the Bay Area it’s hard to find examples of all the different Gitane models on the market, much less compare several guitars of the same model. I contacted Michael thinking I’d be going with a Gitane DG-340, and he walked through the plusses and minuses of all the models he had on hand, including this one. With a 48-hour approval period, it was an easy decision to go for a tryout. Michael offers a great service, and I’m glad I’ve benefited from it again.