GEAR EXPO SUMMER 2022: There’s often a misconception that the acoustic guitar sector is the most opposed to change, but just because you don’t see a bunch of sparkleburst finishes and active pickups, doesn’t mean there isn’t genuine progress being made.
Whether its offering Martin’s work with its heel-less Sure Align neck joints, Taylor’s V-class bracing or Riversong’s neck-thru builds – there’s a lot happening in the acoustic world right now.
Elsewhere, we’re seeing some great advances in production techniques and material selection, which mean that – if you’re fortunate enough to have some spare cash right now – you can get a lot of bang for your buck in 2022.
Martin D-28 Rich Robinson
The firm’s new Rich Robinson signature model is based on the 1954 D-28 handed down to the guitarist by his father and which was used to write every Black Crowes song.
It’s also significant for being the first time Martin has reproduced a visual and sonic representation of an artists’ own instrument. It uses East Indian rosewood on the back and sides, with a sitka spruce top, with a mahogany neck and ebony ‘board and bridge. It’s been aged and dinked to look as close to Robinson’s original as possible, with the exception of the softened wings on the bridge – a player-friendly touch requested by the man himself.
Taylor Grand Concert 722ce
The acoustic giant has updated its 700 series for 2022, introducing some stunning all-Koa builds, including this Grand Concert model.
Crafted from beautifully striped (and sustainable) ‘select-grade’ Hawaiian Koa, with an unobscured, thin ultra-matte finish that seals the wood but retains the texture of the grain and pores. There’s a paua shell rosette, mother of pearl inlays and it’s equipped with Taylor’s Expression System 2 preamp.
Harley Benton CLP-12SM BRS Solid Top
This small-bodied parlour model from Harley Benton offers remarkably good value for money, combining a solid sitka spruce top, African mahogany back and sides, plus a purple heart fingerboard and bridge.
What’s more there’s a (43mm) bone nut and saddle, with a few visual flourishes courtesy of the abalone rosette and inlays. There’s also a HB-03 piezo pickup system and preamp with built-in tuner.
Martin 000-16 StreetMaster
Something a little different from Martin – and certainly a world away from its diamond encrusted 2.5 millionth build. We love the artfully-distressed look of this 000-16, offering an Adirondack spruce top and East Indian rosewood back/sides.
The neck has a satin finish, which fits the aesthetic, but should still play very nicely. Inside, it’s got scalloped X-bracing, and a few (weathered) aesthetic flourishes come in the form of multi-ring rosette and Golden Age Relic nickel tuners.
Riversong Glennwood TS6 Limited Edition
Canadian luthier Riversong’s builds incorporate numerous innovative features, including an intriguing neck-thru build, which creates a resonance right through the body. It also allows the player to adjust intonation and string height by simply turning an Allen key.
Elsewhere, the Double Reaction bridge conducts sound to both sides of the top, increasing volume. Add to this a torrified Sitka spruce top, paired with solid wild cherry back and sides, Canadian walnut fingerboard and a Fishman Flex 2 preamp and pickup and it’s looking like a convincing package.
Takamine Limited 2022
£2,185 / $2,999
The Japanese acoustic specialist produces a limited edition model every year and 2022’s marks 60 years of the firm’s existence. The design has its roots in an older build from the Takamine archive and features a solid sitka spruce top with Hawaiian Koa on the back and sides.
There’s an ebony fingerboard, with a diamond abalone inlay on the 12th fret, alongside abalone purfling and rosette. Electronics are handled by a CTF-2N pickup and preamp system referencing Takamine’s FET-driven preamp, aka ‘the Brownie.’
Martin 000-18 Modern Deluxe
£3,500 / $3,599
One of seven new additions to Martin’s high-end Modern Deluxe series, this 000 acoustic has a solid sitka spruce top (treated with Martin’s Vintage Tone System ageing process), ebony fingerboard, and solid mahogany back, sides and neck.
It offers a 24.9” scale length and a nut width of 1.75” (44.45mm) and features a host of classy aesthetic touches, including rosewood binding, a 1930s-esque script logo, gold hardware and abalone dot markers. It’s a top notch build of understated elegance.
Taylor AD27E Flametop
The US acoustic giant has added some very worthy and useful guitars to its 2022 line-up but we have a hard time getting past this Flametop addition to the American Dream Series.
Maple is the order of the day, providing both the visual flair and a chunky tonal character. There’s a Big Leaf maple top, maple back and sides and hard rock maple neck – all put together in this Grand Pacific build with the firm’s acclaimed V-Class bracing.
Fender Paramount PD-220E Dreadnought
Fender is slowly and subtly building a highly convincing case for its acoustic instruments. The Paramount range offers excellent value for money, with solid tone woods, Fishman/Fender preamps some fine aesthetic flourishes thrown in at a highly-appealing price point.
This dreadnought is also available with a solid spruce top, but we love the vibe of this all-mahogany variant. It’s got an ovangkol bridge and ‘board, bone nut and saddle and is equipped with a Fender/Fishman Sonitone™ Plus pickup system. There’s even a hardcase included.
Martin SC-13E Special
The SC-13E is full of innovations. Firstly, it’s an offset acoustic and we don’t see those everyday. Secondly, it uses the firm’s Sure Align neck (a sort of clever concave-scooped dovetail joint), which removes the bulky heel and allows great access to the upper frets. Thirdly, it has an asymmetrical neck barrel, which (purposefully) twists to complement your positioning along the neck.
Materials-wise, you’ll find a Ziricote fine veneer back and sides, sitka spruce top, nickel open gear tuners and an LR Baggs Element pickup system.