A couple of months ago Larrivée threw down the value gauntlet and reintroduced a limited run of excellent, sub-Â£800 02-Series models. Now, the Canadian maker is presenting enticingly affordable (in high-end guitar terms at least) additions to its 03 Series, in the form of two 12-fret 000s that, again, are officially limited editions but which should remain in production as long as orders are forthcoming.
Requested specifically by the UK distributor to meet the growing demand for smaller-bodied acoustics, the all-solid 000-3 Ltd is available with either rosewood back and sides - reviewed here - or more expensive walnut. Both versions include a case.
The only similar 000s hitherto offered by Larrivée are the Traditional Series 000-50 and 000-60, both high-end models with prices to match, so near-replicating these at much lower cost, albeit with stripped-back specs, is significant.
Like its walnut counterpart, the 000-3R Ltd's body profile is not dissimilar to Martin's 12-fret 000 design, but is approximately a quarter-inch larger all round, giving, for example, a 15.25-inch lower-bout span. Maximum rim depth is a not ungenerous 110mm.
The guitar retains the Trad Series' enlarged soundhole (108mm diameter) with herringbone rosette, although the headstock - presumably for cost reasons - is a straightforward spade, not the slot-head variety of the originals. No matter: restringing is a lot less of a faff.
Die-cast tuners do an efficient job, even if a set of open-geared vintage-style tuners would have looked more the part.
Trim on the all-satin instrument is elegantly simple, embracing black/white purfled maple body binding, ivoroid neck binding and heel-cap, microdot position markers and a tortie teardrop pickguard. As on all Larrivées, the fingerboard and bridge are ebony, the latter an appropriately retro bar type.
Save for a slight (actually barely visible) wood dig on the Sitka spruce top - hard by the treble-side fingerboard binding - detailing and presentation are immaculate and the finish is super-smooth. A couple of dark grain streaks on the top arguably detract from the ultimate aesthetic, but the spruce is quite richly cross-silked, which indicates that it is a quality piece of timber.
Larrivée uses various neck configurations depending on model and body style, and it's no surprise to find that this 000's is aimed unequivocally at the picker. The full-scale, one-piece mahogany length is fashioned to a broad 46mm across the nut (allowing a spacious 40mm string spacing here); span at the octave neck join is nearly 58mm, and string spacing at the bridge is super-airy: just a gnat's under 60mm.
In absolute terms this all adds up to picking nirvana, but is undue bulk a resultant downside? Largely no, because the flattish-back 'C-cum-D' profile is relatively shallow at a little over 20mm under the first position, and the fingerboard's gentle 16-21-inch compound radius helps lend a very accurate, low-action feel all the way up the neck.
However, there's no denying that smaller-handed players will, beyond the first few frets, find things a bit of stretch. That goes with the territory, though, and in a purist fingerstyle context playability is a delight.
In an utterly complimentary sense - and probably thanks partly to the oversized soundhole and bridge location nearer the centre of the lower bout than on 14-fretters - the guitar responds like a 000 on steroids.
Its muscular delivery and dynamics wouldn't shame a decent dreadnought, yet importantly it retains the kind of fluid, picksome clarity you'd expect of its type. The tone, meanwhile, is warm and rich in the bass, balancing well against smoothly articulated highs. An aural joy.
The 000-3R Ltd is a shrewd debut. There are some cheaper 12-fretters around, and plenty from upmarket boutique makers, but at its price this Larrivée has precious few rivals. That not only marks it out for attention per se but, given the highly accomplished performance, also underlines what superb value it is.