The Acoustic Chronicles: The Search Begins

So…after roughly 15 years of service, I have sold Nancy, my steel-string acoustic. (She went to a good home.) This was the guitar I played in Forrest Strangers, all through college, and well, up until this summer, when i had Greg give it a new nut and a full inspection. But it’s time to upgrade–Nancy was an exceptional value for a cheapie guitar, and I know more now. It’s time to go big.

So…armed with some money I’ve set aside from freelance writing and band gigs, I am officially shopping for what we’re calling an “heirloom acoustic”–something that will appreciate in both tone and value as it ages, but something that fits me. I think finding the right acoustic is a lot harder than finding the right electric; if my collection says anything, it proves that I find a wide variety of electrics to be “right.” But as I get older, I have gotten snobbier about guitars. I get super picky about neck shapes and tuners and bass response and stuff like that. This one is for life. It’s gotta be better than nice; it’s gotta be The One.

I have small hands and I don’t know if I need a ton of volume, so big jumbos and dreadnoughts are not preferred, but I’m playing them anyway. I think I want a concert or a OOO or something rounded like that (and I have a thinline already). I like the warmth of mahogany, which is usually considered a less desirable wood than rosewood for acoustic back and sides, but it sounds right to my ear. I would like a cutaway, I would like on-board electrics, I would like something US- or Euro-made, and I would like some fancy inlay stuff to prove to the world that I spent too much. 🙂 But the sound and feel are all that really matter.

I have tried a friend’s Martin HD-28 and, while it sounded nice, it didn’t seem to fit me, either stylistically or physically. It felt and sounded bigger than I feel comfortable with, like I couldn’t control it. And another friend’s Ovation looked totally my style–blue flames with a metallic style!–but the unamplified tone was, as usual with Ovations, anemic. So that’s a good place to start, the two extremes–total classic wood and totally radical plastic.

I played a really nice rosewood/spruce Guild D-55 today, which surprised me (great neck, nice tone), whereas the Richie Havens D-40 (mahogany/spruce) sounded good and a little more mellow, but I hated the neck. And the front-runner on paper is the Gibson J160E (yes, John Lennon’s). That’s mahogany with spruce, on-board pickup, and of course that classic Beatleness–I know how this sounds recorded. I just haven’t played it. Last Beatle holy grail I chased–the Rick 325–I hated when I tried. Maybe this will be the same thing?

Any other acoustic nerds out there, hit me with your knowledge and advice. And yes, Taylor is on the list! Which model has what I want?

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