1960s Supreme (Harptone/Standel) A-6N Dreadnought Guitar

Update 2016: This guitar now has a K&K pickup installed and comes with a a hard case. Update #2 2016: A comment left clarified many details about this instrument so I've updated the information per the help (thanks)! This guitar comes with a hard, vintage case.

Supreme guitars (like this one) are directly related (same products) to the US-made Harptone/Standel line which ran from 1965 and into the 70s. The Supreme guitars were made only in 65 and 66. Harptone guitars were made in Newark, New Jersey and the lead builders were ex-Guild employees. That's no surprise as this has features similar to Guilds: lightweight build and thin solid spruce top, arched laminate back, solid sides, and a feature similar to their 12-strings -- a neck with two truss rods. On a six string that means super stable.

This guitar also features a few other interesting quirks: a Gibson-ish shorter 24 5/8" scale length, adjustable saddle, and a thin satin finish. The nut width is 1 3/4" and the neck is quite quick and has a flattish radius to the board and a non-bulky C profile to the rear (like, hah hah, a Guild). These features add up to a sort-of "Gibson" experience in terms of tone and playability, though the slightly wider string spacing makes complex chords a little more convenient. Tonally this sounds like a superb Gibson Hummingbird or other square-shouldered Gibson that was built "right." It has that big, warm, open and airy bottom end and a nice "diggy" top end (rather than apathetic). I think you can hear all of this in the soundclip.

This guitar has no cracks and is very clean aside from typical finish weatherchecking/finish cracking on the back and sides. It'd seen some playwear (on the frets) but was handled nicely over its playing life.

My work included a fret level/dress, light cleaning, and modification of the adjustable saddle for better intonation. More on that in a bit.

The big truss rod cover hides two truss rods (both functional). The neck, of course, is perfectly straight. The zero fret is also a nice addition -- as it was installed at the same height as the other frets and works as a "perfectly adjusted" nut. I'm a big fan of zero frets when they're done correctly as they ease setup work tremendously.

The board is a flatter-radius Brazilian rosewood one and has pearl dots and medium frets.

The look is a vaguely 60s-ized "style 18" look. Don't you love that spongey-moon pickguard?

This adjustable saddle originally had a plastic saddle slotted in the middle of it, but the bridge placement was a little off from the factory so I recut the metal adjustable unit into a compensated saddle itself, moving the breaking point of the strings back by 1/16" or so to let it play in tune up the neck. Having an adjustable saddle is a nice thing for a working musician as setup can be dialed-in on the fly.

Both the top and back are bound. This back is a press-arched, laminate mahogany piece. The sides are solid mahogany, though. Generally -- just like on a Guild -- you get a bit more punch with the arched back.

The flattened heel is always nice in my book. It makes upper-fret access just that much easier.

Apparently there are only a handful of "Supreme" guitars and the A-6N model isn't a known thing -- not surprising as there are so few Supremes, anyhow.


Sparky Sparks said...

Hi. Nice write up. Some of the info is off or incorrect. Here are the corrections in order.
Harptone began building guitars in 1965. The Supreme line is basically the Harptone line but only a half dozen examples are known. So the total model line and number of units is unknown. Supremes were built in 1965 and 66 Some of the guitars have a Sam Ash label in them and others do not. Looks like a Guild. You bet.

I compared a D25 with the a half dozen drednoight Harptones/ Standels and found the D25 to have a deeper low end. Both are boomie. The Harptones have a tighter balance of sound with a focus on the mid range and warm highs.

Eric Clapton, Donovan, and Paul Simon did not play or own a Harptone. Tom Evans and Bob Purvis played the George Harrison L12-NC given to George by Pete Drake in a effort by Harptone to gain more exposure. George gave Bob the 12 string. It's now in a private collection. Pete was also given one and it's on display at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. George's other Harptone, A L6-NC was the guitar used at the concert for Bangladesh,(If not for you w/ Bob Dylan and My sweet Lord), and is now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City.
Paul Simon teamed up with the DooWoop group The Harptones for a concert (tour?) and someone misconstrued the info into him owning a Harptone.

Harptone did loan guitars to Harrison while he was in New York but did not support the concert for Bangladesh in any way.

Sam Koontz was a builder of Arch top jazz guitars. He also build a few acoustics and two known triple neck electrics. His output under his own name is around 200 units.
Harptone- 65/66 Supreme. 67/68 Standel acoustics and simi hollow body electric guitars and basses. apx. 300 built under the Standel logo. 67/75 Harptone acoustics with one year, 68 limited production of the electrics from leftover stock. 72 A limited run of 200 dreadnought for Conn guitars.s 100 each, 6 and 12 strings. 75 Harptone sold to 3 nephews of Dave Sturgall,(Grammer Guitars), and built by the Diamond-S Musical Co. until 81. 82 or 3 Larry Sturgell orders 3 prototypes and 50 guitars built by Yamiki/ Diaon. All 50 were stolen and only one has surfaced.

Sparky Sparks said...

Pretty cool mod to the adjustable nut.