Late 60's Aria Diamonds hollowbody
While Japan spent the sixties copying a lot of US and UK guitars they mainly concentrated on the "big brands" but every so often you come across a Japanese guitar that is so obviously influenced by other "big but smaller" US manufacturers made to fill a market spot for those cheaper US made guitars that were still dear in Japan.
This Aria Diamonds hollow body is SO Harmony Rocket in so many ways but construction is pure Matsumoku.
The body shape is pure H75 Double cutaway Harmony Rocket with however,H70 Meteor F holes, which is kinda cool. The body is a thinline laminated arch top and back with a small bridge support block with binding front and back and is well made, as Matsumoku made guitars were.
The neck is a bolt on three piece maple neck with a bound and block inlaid rosewood fretboard. This factory rarely used zero frets so this has the standard Gibson style nut. The headstock is laminated with the same red tortoiseshell celluloid material as the scratchplates and pickup surrounds, which looks great.
The pickups are typical Aria single coils as used in many solid and hollowbody Arias from around '67. They're a nice medium output, full response pickup and I personally love these single coils in everything I've ever heard them in. They were also installed in other Matsumoku made guitars at the time like Univox and Tempo.
The electrics are all original and are the standard two volume, two tone and three way pickup selector switch. The tone pots are reasonably non responsive but there's plenty of variation with both pickups and volume controls.
The vibrato is one of my favourite designs for an archtop (this was used on semi and solid bodies too) as it keeps the tone of a trapeze tailpiece but gives you the option of vibrato as well. It's definitely different to a Bigsby style tailpiece and while it looks a little .... clunky, it is well designed and made and works well.
The bridge is a typical adjustable six roller saddle bridge as used on many of these guitars but this one is fully floating on a hardwood base with felt. They're a well designed and made bridge and sound good.
The bolt on neck is different in design to the Harmony version with a long body tongue and metal four screw neck plate. It's solid and stable despite hanging out so far and gives access right the dusty end of the fretboard.
The tuners are original and work well. These "sealed gear" three in line tuners were used on many mid to higher level hollow bodies made by this factory and show just how well designed and made a lot of these guitars were for the price. This guitars is 50 years old and all original and plays and sounds great.
The finish on the back has started to check quite badly but is still (at the moment) all intact but the rest of the guitars finish is solid and it's a great "brown" sunburst, again mimicking that Harmony look. The neck has had some very slight delamination between the maple pieces on the headstock at some stage which has been solidly repaired. Matsumoku were famous for their timber quality and drying skills so while it is not common to see a repair like this, it does happen, especially after so many years.
This is a great hollowbody thinline and plays and sounds great. I've owned a bunch of Harmony (Rockets and Meteors) over the years and I'd personally take one of these any day, but then, I am biased to vintage Japanese guitars.