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Gitane Signature models vs. boutique Selmacs

When you live in Texas, there ain't no way to "taste-test" a variety of gypsy guitars to know what's really what. I read about Duponts, Dell Artes and all the rest of the boutique guitars, but it's very hard to evaluate audio clips, due to mics and the multitude of variables. So, I must depend on the kindest of strangers for guidance............

My question:

I'm looking to get a 14 fret petite bouche guitar. If I "settle for" a Gitane Signature guitar like the DG-300, the Lulo, etc. what am I "really missing out on" in terms of tonal nirvana compared to a "real snob-appeal" gypsy guitar? I do own a Gitane DG-500, which I feel is a quality instrument, as far as, volume, and tone. Playability was poor right out of the box. I've also played a friend's Manouche Modele Jazz, but outside of that, my gyp-guitar experience is zippo.

Thanks mucho,


  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 456
    IMO, short of trading up to a Dupont or Favino, you will probably end up unhappy. If money is the issue, just get a 14 fret Gitane. The signature models have nicer appointments than the basic models, but are not Duponts or Favinos. Shelly Park, Michael Dunn and Dell Arte (John Kinnard) make some nice guitars, but they are not Duponts and Favinos either.

    My advice to folks who are ready to trade up from a Gitane is to save your money and buy a Dupont. Anything else and you will soon find yourself wanting to trade up again.

    To my ears, Dupont is the only maker who has truly captured the sound of the Selmer guitar. Favinos are different (but are quite cool) but rival even Selmer guitars for their sound in this genre. Everything else is just another guitar.

    My 2 cents. YMMV


    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • dlincolndlincoln DFW/TexasNew
    Posts: 13

    Thanks so much for chiming in. I'm open to the idea that a Dupont might really be "better". I'm just not sure what that really means. What would I notice being the improvement? Would the Dupont be louder, more dynamic, more nuance of tone, more _______? If we were talking archtop jazz guitars, old Strats, old Martins, etc. I could really grasp what nuances make for a "better" tone. It's just very difficult when you don't have hands-on experience.

  • fraterfrater Prodigy
    Posts: 763
    I don't think you can operatively describe that. If you listen to Fapy playing solo his Selmer here (at around 0:40):

    or here

    you'll have a good idea of what a ""better tone" is in GJ is, at least IMO.

    I'm not sure though there's any contemporary maker who has truly captured that...
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,992
    Hi Dave,

    I would second Marc's advice...the Gitanes can be pretty decent if you get them set up well (avoid the Lulo model though, it's the worst of the bunch). But if you stretch and get even more entry level hand made guitar then you're a lot better off.

    My top choices under $3000 would be:

    The MD-100s are normally $3k, this slightly used one is a steal at $2.5k!!

    Dupont's are great if you want a traditional Selmer type tone....not too much low end, some warm mids, and a crisp high end. Nice complexity as well. Also, Duponts are probably the easiest playing Gypsy guitars ever made...they sound great with fairly low action and 11 gauge strings.

    If you want more of a Favino tone (i.e. nasal, barky upper midrange and deep low end) the US made Hommage is an incredible value (one of our all time best selling models!):

    What you will notice if you compare the higher end Asian stuff with European or American guitars is:

    1) The handmade guitars generally have warmer, less raspy tone.

    2) Handmade guitars are a lot dryer in tone...meaning they don't sound as reverby and don't have much annoying overtone ringing (the Asian ones tend to be really, really wet sounding).

    3) The handmade stuff has a more punchy high end (the Gitanes tend to be overly bass heavy, sound a bit like flatops).

    4) The handmade guitars play perfectly out of the box and are capable of much more ergonomic setups then the Asian guitars. The Asian guitars tend to need a lot of setup work and very high action to sound any good. You can lower it, but then the tone really goes....

  • dlincolndlincoln DFW/TexasNew
    Posts: 13
    frater, thanks for the clips. The first seemed to be much better recorded, the second seemed to lack some clarity. Using the first as a reference, there is a certain "light but twangy" air to the sound, that is very musical. Maybe analogous to a good Strat, huh? It seemed to sound much less "honky" and "nasally" than some clips I've heard of other guitars......there again, what mic, what player, what room, etc. all factor in. Again, from the first to second clip, I couldn't have told you that they were the same guitar.

    So, in a gypsy jam session, with a bunch of aces cranking it out, will the guy with the real-deal Selmer (Favano or Dupont) be killing the other, comparable player who is slinging a Gitane JJ? I'm talking tone, dynamics, volume and projection.

    Thanks for indulging me, guys.
  • FransFrans The Netherlands✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 53
    Hi Dave,

    If you have some spare time do a search for the clip of Joscho Stephan playing a "Cigano" unamplified and producing a tone, volume and dynamics which leaves most of us in the dust.
    For me the sound is 90 % dictated by the player, one nice experiment you can do is to play a phrase whith you regular pick on your # 1 guitar, then take an object in your right hand with some weight like a tangerine or small orange, then play the phrase again, you will perceive a significant change in volume and tone by just changing the weight of your right hand ( I think Aspen Pittman or some similar inventor/guitar-guru made a nice gadget out of this)
    My point is that there is no "super" guitar, I have played very expensive guitars by name builders which in my opinion were real "duds" and there are some which sound truly beautiful and this goes across the entire field, from the cheapest Asian to the most expensive vintage instruments.
    Try to listen to and play as many instruments as you can find, only then you will be able to discern between all the different guitars out there
    Anyway, my two cents, happy hunting

    kind regards
  • dlincolndlincoln DFW/TexasNew
    Posts: 13
    Frans, I agree with your observations. For better or worse, I'll probably sound like me playing a Dupont or a Gitane. Once again, these guitars just aren't anywhere to be found in Texas.
  • fraterfrater Prodigy
    Posts: 763
    You're welcome Dave, here's some other stuff you may find useful... but before: yes, mics, room and all the other factors are really there. For a long time I've been even thinking that the sound we hear in Django's records is so "round" because of the poor mics they used way back when... I must say that I'm now inclined to think the contrary: the roundness of Django' 503 is definitely the same that you can hear here:

    or here:

    Is that "mollesse" something that comes with aging? My two cents? No. The Selmers Django was playing were brand new and had it from the start.

    One must also note that in the above cases the guitars are in the hands of two masters of the rest stroke technique: a Selmer in the wrong hands would probably sound pretty deluding... IMO this is the case:

    ( ... re=related) .

    Finally : "will the guy with the real-deal Selmer (Favano or Dupont) be killing the other, comparable player who is slinging a Gitane JJ?".

    No, he would just sound better.
  • HereticHeretic In the Pond✭✭✭
    Posts: 230
    I know your dilemma well. If I had a abundance of money lying around, I'd get a better guitar. I do own a DG-300 JJ model, which I purchased from this site. It arrived in perfect condition, and Michael's prices are unbeatable.

    It's a very good instrument for the money, better than the other Gitanes I've tried. I have not tried the Dorado Schmitt model, and would love to own one.

    My guitar sounds good, and plays very well. It's also beautiful. Have you heard a recording of JJ playing his in concert? In this genre, the player has a great deal to do with how good these instruments sound. A respected player of this music tried and played my guitar, and pronounced it, "Gypsy, yes. It's good". Feeling elated, I thought the same of his bespoke Favino. Was his guitar better than mine? Of course it was.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited January 2009 Posts: 5,992
    dlincoln wrote:

    So, in a gypsy jam session, with a bunch of aces cranking it out, will the guy with the real-deal Selmer (Favano or Dupont) be killing the other, comparable player who is slinging a Gitane JJ? I'm talking tone, dynamics, volume and projection.

    Generally speaking, the better guitars do perform better in a jam. But there are many other variables to consider. Some Duponts are built for tone more then volume...especially the D holes. So you may have a Favino that has an incredible tone but is not really a campfire jam guitar because it doesn't cut as much.

    For lead volume, usually the 14 fret oval holes are the best. Ones with aged woods, like the Vieille Reserve are usually much brighter then guitars with green wood. So they cut much more...and of course the good vintage guitars are unbelievable in terms of volume. Old Jacques Favinos and Busatos are so much louder then anything else, they spank even the best Duponts in terms of volume. But unfortunately the aren't all like that and they are very hard to find.

    Also, it depends how you play. The guitar matters less for players like Tchavolo or Moreno who play with a very aggressive right hand. But guys like Bireli or Stochelo use a more subtle technique and need a more responsive guitar to be heard.

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