Through over 50 years of guitar-building experience, luthier Tom Ribbecke has developed a reputation as one of the masters of the Archtop Guitar. In 2003, Ribbecke introduced the Halfling—a 17" archtop that employed X-bracing inspired by flat-top guitars. The result is a big archtop sound that remains nicely balanced and is not lacking in articulation and dynamic range.
For a limited time, Ribbecke's designs were hand-built by an elite team of master luthiers and craftsman from Japan's Kiso valley—an area with a 1,000-year tradition of woodworking and a long history of instrument building. While the construction of these premium guitars didn't last long, these Kiso Ribbecke archtops remain much more readily available and affordable than Ribbecke's custom-made instruments. For many players, they offer Ribbecke's ingenious innovations at a much more accessible price point.
This 2008 Kiso Ribbecke KR-1 is a fantastically versatile archtop guitar that relies on Ribbecke's combination of the 17" body and X-bracing. it features a carved Spruce top and gorgeous Flamed Maple back and sides. As to be expected from Kiso, its attention to detail is on a very high level—high-end appointments abound. Hand-carved fittings keep it playing and sounding as it should, too. It features a floating Kent Armstrong PAF pickup with discreet volume and tone controls mounted to the pickguard. Like many Ribbecke custom designs, its scale length is 25-1/4".
Its tone is powerful and robust, but not lacking in subtlety. It holds its own as an acoustic instrument, and when plugged in, it retains all of those beautiful dynamic qualities. Interestingly, the depth of the neck does not taper very much—instead it remains fairly consistent all the way up to the heel. This allows you to move very quickly up and down the neck. Jazz players will find this particularly advantageous when comping chord voicings around the fingerboard.
This 2008 Kiso Ribbecke KR-1 shows minimal signs of playwear (see photos), and it is in excellent condition all around. There is a slight separation where the neck heel meets the back (just enough to see light coming through), but because this is a bolt-on neck design, the separation is purely cosmetic and the neck joint remains stable. Original hardshell case included.