CHAPTER 9:  NEW ARCHTOPS FOR JAZZ (Mid-60s and through the 1970s.)

We have seen in an earlier chapter that whilst the first batch of Hӧfner thinline/semi-acoustic guitar models were being born in the 1960’s, at around the same time the Hӧfner Company reduced substantially the number of full-bodied archtop models that had been developed during the 1950’s. This did not mean however that Hӧfner intended abandoning archtop development. In 1969, Hӧfner un-veiled two new models, which were probably intended to eventually replace some of their remaining “traditional” archtops. These models were the Höfner 477 and the Hӧfner 471.


A New Guitar for the Working Player

1969 Hӧfner marketing image of the acoustic version of the 477 Model.

The 477 was a mid-range “working man’s” archtop, very much in the mould of the Hӧfner 457 and President models. It did however have a larger body than those two models with a 17” lower bout measurement and a slightly deeper body depth of 3¼” (80mm). Most noticeable was the Florentine body cutaway and the very slender and graceful F-shaped soundholes. A more fundamental design aspect however was the one-piece maple neck with an unusually small heel. A laminated spruce top and laminated flame maple back & sides made up the body. The Hӧfner bell-flower mother of pearl inlay on the headstock and triple-dot fret markers suggested a close affinity with the President model. The 477 was available in fully acoustic format or fitted with twin pickups, and a thinline electric version, designated as the 4577 (ii) also appeared at the same time in 1969.

Early 1970s Hӧfner 4577(ii) thinline archtop guitar.

The 477 appears to have been a good seller, as there are still plenty of examples about. Another indication of this popularity is that the model was kept in Hӧfner’s catalogue right up to 1995.

…….and one for the Showman.

The other guitar introduced with the 477 in 1969 did not have the same sales figures. The Hӧfner 471 was probably intended to be a future replacement for the Hӧfner 470. Its basic design was that of the 477, i.e. a large 17” body with slender F-holes, Florentine cutaway, and a one-piece maple neck with small heel. Its body depth however was even greater than the 477, being 3½” (90mm). The basic components of body and neck used in its construction were probably drawn from the 477 stock. Decoration on the guitar was impressive however, with the first appearance of a new “double fleur-de-lys” Hӧfner design, inlaid with mother of pearl, on the headstock, and split-block fret markers. Plenty of pearloid binding and multi-purfling was provided around the body, neck and soundholes, and all fittings including the beautifully engraved escutcheon tailpiece were gold plated. It really did look the business, but without the fussiness of the 470. This was intended to be a modern archtop guitar which would cater for a more sophisticated clientele perhaps than the more blatantly luxurious 470.

c1970 Hӧfner Model 471/T2, fitted with optional active electronics.

Just as with the 477, a thinline electric version with 50mm deep body was also offered with the designation of Model 4710.

Unfortunately, this guitar does not seem to have sold so well, perhaps understandably as in 1969 its list price was DM 1075 for the electric version, as compared to DM 421 for a 477/E2 and DM 860 for Hӧfner’s previous most expensive archtop, the 470/E2 model. However, the full-bodied guitar remained in the Hӧfner price lists until 1977 and the thinline until 1978.


Hӧfner’s First Archtop with a Floating Pickup

Setting a single pickup on the end of the fingerboard so that it “floats” above the guitar’s top or “table” seems like the obvious thing to do if one wishes to avoid effecting the resonance of the table by screwing the pickup directly onto it, and of course this is considered to be the correct thing to do these days when producing Jazz guitars. However, that was not always the case. Gibson’s archtops had led the way in electrifying archtops with pickups mounted directly onto the body top, and this practice was also adopted by other manufacturers including Hӧfner. “Floating” pickups had been available as accessories since the mid 1950’s, with in particular DeArmond supplying these in the US and the likes of Fuma/Hӧfner in Germany. The main emphasis back then however seems to have been for a simple and cheap method of amplifying the customer’s previously purchased acoustic instrument, rather than for the acoustic advantages gained in keeping the pickup unit off the table.

The first signs that Hӧfner were waking up to the advantages of floating pickups came in their introduction of such a factory equipped guitar in 1977. This model was designated the Hӧfner 478 E. It reverted back to being a Venetian cutaway large bodied guitar, with a conventional size neck heel. In fact, it would seem that Hӧfner were consciously doing everything to make this guitar as traditional and straight-forward as possible – the classic Jazz guitar.

Hӧfner marketing image of the 478E Model.

A fully acoustic version was also offered. Simple white binding was used throughout with block fret markers, and the comparatively simple double-diamond headstock inlay was one of Hӧfner’s smaller versions. The bridge was a traditional carved rosewood type, and the guitar was finished in a conservative brown-red-yellow sunburst. The only extravagance was the use of an escutcheon tailpiece, but that was only nickel plated and without any engraving.

However, the guitar only lasted for a year in the Hӧfner price list and does not appeared to have sold very well at all. Perhaps, it was too anonymous to attract the buyers? What we do know however is that Hӧfner withdrew it at the end of 1977, together with the 471, in order to make way for their new archtop flagship – the A2L model.

As a postscript though, a very small number of 478 bodies and necks seem to have been left over however, and these were eventually fitted with conventional twin pickup electrics fitted directly onto the body tops and then sold off as 4550/E2 model guitars in the late 1980s.

1988 Hӧfner 4550/E2



PROCEED TO CHAPTER 10: THE "PROFESSIONAL LINE" (1978 into the Early 1980's)


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