MI Pro analyses the higher end of the acoustic guitar market and finds some real beauties to recommend.
Entry-level models will do the numbers, but to attract the serious buyers, feed the desires of those who may not yet be able to afford them and add some gravitas and reputation to the shop, it’s important to have some acoustic eye candy on display. Our round up of acoustics over £500 lets you know what to look out for…
Fender’s Kingman USA Select 3TSB retails at £1,714.80 and features a dreadnought body shape with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides strengthened by forward shifting scalloped X bracing. The 20-fret maple neck is in a vintage V-shape with a rosewood fretboard and has the distinctive Stratocaster-style headstock. It also features a Fishman Sonitone pickup.
Yamaha’s A Series features new neck profiles, aesthetics and rich dynamic tones. The AC3R is a concert-size guitar with cutaway body. The top is solid sitka spruce with a solid rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard and it features an SRT system63 modelling preamp.
The firm has also developed SRT – a pickup and pre-amp system capable of delivering natural, studio-quality acoustic guitar tone. Sounds that were, until now, only attainable by professional recording engineers using expensive vintage microphones in world-class acoustic spaces can now be recreated by any player, on stage or in the studio (£848). All A Series guitars are supplied with Yamaha branded Hiscox cases.
The Arcos AD-3 dreadnought (£598.80) features Guild’s signature arched-back body design, with a solid Sitka spruce top, laminated mahogany sides and arched back. It also boasts a satin-finish mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard with larger medium jumbo frets for improved playability.
The koa rosette, pearl inlays and rosewood headcap plus features such as a bone nut and saddle, hand-rubbed satin finish, dual-action truss rod and bolt-on neck construction round it off. A Guild lightweight polyfoam case is also included.
The Patrick James Eggle designed Faith Guitars have become a staple in the mid-price acoustic guitar sector with their range of all-solid, quality instruments. There are four distinct series featuring a range of common shapes. The latest addition to the range is the Trembesi series. With solid Indonesian Trembesi on the back and sides, the resulting tone is brighter than mahogany yet a little more woody than rosewood.
The stand-out model in the range is the Neptune Cutaway Electro – FNCETB (£729) – combining modern looks with classic tonal warmth.
There are a number of models from Tanglewood in the £500-plus price range. The TSM 2 comes in a grand auditorium shape with a solid spruce top, mahogany neck, back and sides, rosewood veneer on the headstock and ebony fingerboard. It retails for around £1359.95.
In the Heritage range, the TW15H dreadnought is £699.95 for a spruce top with mahogany neck back and sides, along with ebony fingerboard. The TW45H SRE is spruce topped with rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard and a Fishman Sonitone EQ, retailing at £1119.95.
The Sundance range has the £699.95 Super Folk with all-mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, with a Fishman Presys Plus EQ fitted. The TW40D ANE has a spruce top, mahogany neck, back and sides, rosewood fingerboard and a Fishman Sonitine EQ system. It retails for around £569.95.
The Blueridge BR-162 OOO retails at around £749. It features a solid sitka spruce top with hand-carved parabolic top braces in an authentic forward X-pattern; solid Indian rosewood back and sides; herringbone top inlay and back centre stripe, 000 body style with a 12th-fret body joint; mahogany neck with adjustable truss rod, rosewood bridge, rosewood peghead overlay adorned with a unique mother-of-pearl and abalone and vintage-style 14:1 ratio nickel-plated open-back tuners with butterbean-style buttons.
The growing vine motif on the LTD2012 Michi is symbolic of the long and vital life of the Takamine Guitar company (apparently) and fits into its 50th Anniversary celebrations. It has a spruce top and solid rosewood back, plus a CTP-2 CoolTube preamp and palethetic pickup. The back and sides are rosewood and the neck is mahogany. It comes with a case and retails at £2518.80.
In addition, the firm’s T50th, launched to celebrate its anniversary, has a sika spruce soundboard, while the back and sides are solid cocobolo. The ‘growing vine’ motif is again evident all the way through this guitar and there are only 50 available worldwide, hence the retail price of £5542.80.
Walden guitars are made from ethically sourced, high-grade tonewoods following solid construction methods that have stood the test of time. The various models are split into five categories – Madera is the top of the range, all-solid, 100% certified FSC-Pure tonewoods line; SupraNatura has narrow profile necks and detailed, natural finishes; Concorda features solid woods, including stage bodies and comes in gloss finishes only; Natura have solid spruce or cedar soundboards and natural finishes and lastly, the Standard range is entry-level with both natural and gloss finishes available.
LAG acoustic guitars continue their ascension from relatively unknown only a few years ago to
now being a very serious contender in the mid-price sector.
Highlights are the cedar topped, satin finished T200JCE Jumbo electro (£510); the satin finished, cedar/rosewood dreadnought electro T300DCE (£605); and the gloss-finished, spruce/rosewood T400ACE auditorium electro (£669).
Vintage's top of the range acoustics feature solid wood construction. The all-acoustic V1700 (£629) and 12-string version (£689) are super jumbos available in natural or vintage sunburst, and feature solid spruce tops and solid Canadian flame maple backs and sides. The V1800N parlour (£599) features a solid spruce top and solid rosewood back and sides.
Meanwhile, certain Vintage acoustics feature top quality Fishman preamps and pickups. These include the VEC1400 (£529) and 12-string (£549), with its solid spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides, the VEC1500 (£629 – solid German spruce top, solid Indian rosewood back and sides), and the VEC1900 (£599) 'Sweetwater', with solid German spruce top and solid lacewood back and sides.
Finally, the 12-string version of the MIA Award-winning Gordon Giltrap signature acoustic – Acoustic Guitar Of The Year 2011 – is around £529.
Ozark has a line of resonator guitars designed for a range of styles – blues, rock or country.
The 3515BE (£705) features a solid brass nickel-plated body with decorative engraving, as well as block abalone and mother of pearl inlay on the fingerboard. The 3616 (£833) Deluxe 'biscuit' resonator has a bronze-coated brass body engraved with a decorative Hawaiian scene. It has a mahogany neck and slotted headstock.
100 years after the launch of the Titanic, a Belfast company has designed a range of limited edition guitars to celebrate the milestone. Launching at NAMM, Titanic Guitars features eight custom models (four acoustic and four electric), each limited to 100 pieces. Every guitar features select wood such as mahogany or rosewood, a custom made hard-shell case, a limited edition engraved G7th capo, plus a numbered certificate of authenticity.
The Liverpool Concert is £899 with solid mahogany back and sides, with a solid mahogany top. Other models include the Belfast Goliath (jumbo), Southampton Parlour and New York Dreadnought. Prices range from £899 to £1179.
The ROS 616 is a vintage style all solid mahogany model with 12 fret body join and slotted headstock for around £640. Also available is the ROS 627, which has a solid spruce top and rosewood back and sides for £760. Both models feature scalloped bracing and 1-13/16” nut width.
The ECR3-N Solitaire model is a true dreadnought featuring cedar top, mahogany back, rosewood fingerboard and mahogany neck. The bracing system features suspended aluminium tone bars similar to the material used in wind chimes. By repositioning the sound hole to the side of the guitars, these bars vibrate much more than wood bracing and transfer the vibration from the bridge area to the other contact points of the soundboard to create better tone and increased sustain. It is equipped with a built in tuner and full EQ and retails for £745.
The Road Series from Martin was re-introduced last year with the DRS-1, a guitar with all solid sapele (Martin’s eco friendly alternative to mahogany) construction dreadnought with built in Fishman Sonitone pickup for £709. The 2012 NAMM show will also introduce the DRS-2, a solid sitka spruce top model.
Another main focus for Martin has been expanding its Performing Artist series. There are three body shapes in each series – dreadnought, grand auditorium and OM – electro acoustic live performance models with slim fast neck profiles and some of Fishman’s Aura pickup technology on board many in the range (the 1, 2 and 3 series). The Aura system can emulate different body shapes and styles and have built-in tuning and feedback suppression. Prices range from £1,199 (4 Series) to £2,899 (1 Series).
The Larrivée -02 Series is a limited edition run of all-solid wood acoustics retail at around £799. Available in three body shapes – Larrivée (L-02), Dreadnought (D-02) and OM (OM-02), the -02 Series is built in the same Canadian factory as the Larrivée -03 models. The all solid wood construction features solid Canadian sitka spruce tops and solid African sapele back and sides.
The specifications of the -02 Series include a hand-fit dove-tail neck joint, three-piece mahogany neck, Canadian Maple body binding, multi-strip rosette, symmetrical X-bracing, rounded Larrivée headstock with rosewood overlay, chrome tuners (18:1 ratio) and traditional Larrivée tortoise style pickguard. All -02 models also ship with a Larrivée hard-shell case.
Distributed by Active Music, the Ortega range offers high-quality classical models. Retailing at £999, the Jade NY has an engelmann spruce top with rosewood back and mahogany neck. The fretboard is ebony and it features a Fishman Clasica Blend pick-up system. It comes with a gig-bag and strap.
Barnes & Mullins (Lag, Faith) – 01691 668310
Fender (Guild, Takamine) – 01342 331700
Gremlin – 01903 203044
IBD (Titanic) – 02890 480802
JHS (Vintage) – 0113 286 5381
Korg (Walden) – 01908 304601
Larrivée (Sound Technology) – 01462 480000
Tanglewood – 01937 841122
Stentor (Ozark) – 01737 240226
Summerfield (Boulder Creek) – 0191 414 9000
Westside (Martin, Recording King) – 0141 248 4812
Yamaha – 01908 366700
Active Music (Ortega) – 0208 693 5678