By Jack Zucker
The Aria PE 175 (Herb Ellis) was made during the '70s and '80s and '90s. The '70s and '80s versions where made in the highly regarded Matsumoko factory in Japan which made the Greco, Tokai and other copies of gibsons which many folks preferred to the originals. Later, these guitars were reissued and made in South Korea and were not very good so make sure you are buying a japanese model if you decide to venture into these waters. Sometime in the early '80s, Herb Ellis signed a contract with Aria and the guitar officially became his namesake model instrument and has his name inlaid on the fingerboard and initials on the pickguard.
In terms of tone, the guitar is 175esque in quality but it's got a bit more velvety top end and not quite as much acoustic resonance.
The amplified tone is extremely even and somewhat compressed, but in a good way. Because of this compression the guitar is very suitable for playing fast Bensony lines. And with the velvety top end, it's very rewarding to play octaves or block chords a la Wes Montgomery, more than would be the case with a Gibson 175. Even without the soundposts, it's slightly less prone to feedback.
I'm not sure how many of these were made but they seem to be somewhat rare. You typically see them selling for around $800-$1000 on ebay. Everyone I have played has had a flawless setup and like Ibanez, they seem to be made so well that it's rare to find one that has any issues with the neck or playability.
This guitar is easily as good as any of my top guitars and in fact, I prefer it to many of the solid top boutique guitars I have owned. It's got a more even tone, very mellow and has the warmth of the '60s jazz guitar records by Tal Farlow, Joe Pass, etc.