Patrick Eggle's square-shoulder Skyland dreadnought is the latest of his instruments to be given a modest makeover in his pursuit of model rationalisation.
The main changes are twofold. Firstly, the Skyland previously carried a top of Adirondack, then later German spruce, whose premium status – especially the former's – was reflected in the instrument's all-up price.
The guitar now has a Sitka front, not implying any lessening of quality but simply because, says Patrick, very few customers were fussed about the type of spruce being used, or the supposed sonic benefits of German or Adirondack.
Offsetting the lower cost of the Sitka is the fact that the guitar now comes with a sunburst top, with the sapele back and sides stained to a mid reddy-brown to complement that. A natural finish version with uncoloured back and sides, at £500 less, can still be ordered, but it's the sunburst that's the off-the-shelf specification – and the one almost certain to attract the lion's share of interest.
"It passes every fingerstyle-friendly dreadnought test with flying colours."
Immaculately buffed to a concourse gloss lustre, the body is attractively bound with coachlined, figured myrtlewood, similar to that used on Eggle's slope-shoulder 12-fret Kanuga. The top purfling is herringbone, which looks great as the perimeter for the cherry-cum-honey bursting.
An abalone rosette and slotted-diamond pearl position markers continue to be standard fare, as does a thin lining of white fibre and Australian bloodwood along the ebony fingerboard and around the headstock, serving to give both a bound look without the added cost of actually applying binding.
As a consequence, the frets' tang ends remain visible. In the event that this bothers you aesthetically – unlikely, we reckon – you can opt for a fully bound 'board for an extra £200.
Our sample carries no bottom strap button, but one can be requested at no extra charge, as can a second one at the heel. One reason Patrick doesn't pre-fit a strap button is that, if a customer is ordering an instrument with an optional electro system, it is more efficient to drill the hole for the endpin socket from scratch than ream out an existing one.
Topped by a deliciously smooth set of chrome, 18:1 Gotoh 301 tuners with ivoroid buttons, the one-piece 644mm-scale mahogany neck is secured as usual by Patrick's Collings-style bolting system.
Like most of his other models, the neck is a semi-wide affair – 44.5mm across the nut, with 55mm string spacing at the bridge – accommodating easy, accurate fingerstyle without the counter penalty of a dauntingly broad span.
Allied to a quite shallow, flattish-back 'C' profile, it's a superbly comfortable, fast player, made all the slicker by the neck's slippery low-gloss patina and gentle bevelling along the edges of the fingerboard. Needless to say, the fretting is perfectly fitted, dressed and polished.
On some other Eggles this writer has reviewed, they've occasionally exhibited a slight new-guitar tightness that has required some playing-in. Not this Skyland: the dynamics are generous, supple and fully formed from the word go, and the sound is powerful and richly resonant.
Especially impressive is the bottom-end's bell-like warmth, providing the firmest underpinning anyone could wish for, but not skewing the overall cross-string balance in the process, or in any way muddying the sound, which is clear and pleasingly fluid with a brightish, yet smooth-edged, top-end.
If nothing else, the guitar's excellent performance dispels the notion that sapele, as a timber for back and sides, is inferior to mahogany. It's definitely not here.
Thanks to top-calibre craftsmanship and attention to detail, this revamped Skyland is yet another hit for Patrick Eggle and his team. It passes every fingerstyle-friendly dreadnought test with flying colours, is a joy to play and listen to, and presentation of the whole instrument not only looks the business but is faultless. Need we say more?