GEAR EXPO 2023: New steel-strings from Yamaha, a limited edition from Takamine, a couple of legends from Martin, more American dreaming from Taylor, and probably the best high-end signature model this year. It can only be our roundup of the best acoustic guitars coming up for 2023.
The biggest names in acoustic guitars have some beautiful releases coming up this year, perhaps none more so than Epiphone's signature Chris Stapleton Frontier. But there are more attainable and affordable releases coming up too, with new models from Takamine, Yamaha and Seagull.
And, hey, if you do want to spend, Martin has you covered with two new – but older-looking – legendary editions and a stunning-looking new Builder's Edition.
Plenty to get your wallets ready for, as we gather up the best acoustic guitars coming up in 2023.
Yamaha MIJ FG9
First in our 'ones to watch' list is Yamaha new flagship FG9 acoustic guitar, a super classy dreadnought with a choice of two builds and, the company says, “the pinnacle” of its steel-string acoustic guitar know-how.
The FG9M pairs its solid Adirondack spruce top with mahogany back and sides, while the FG9R offers an Adirondack spruce and Indian rosewood cocktail. Both look sublime, redolent of the minimalist craft the brand has become renowned for.
The design is subtle and clean, with natural gloss nitrocellulose finish to let the wood shine, and a tortoiseshell pattern pickguard. That nitro should age nicely over time, as should the all-solid wood build.
Yamaha has tapered the edges on those Adirondack spruce tops, which it says provides “structural strength while also allowing the body to vibrate more efficiently”. As ever with dreadnought acoustic design, the secret lies in splitting the difference between articulation and power, and holding the both in equilibrium.
The one-piece mahogany neck has been redesigned with a high-precision bolt-on/glued-in hybrid construction to improve both body vibration and the maintenance of the instrument. It has been given a semi-gloss poly finish. Under the hood, the FG9 models feature scalloped X-pattern bracing.
Their scale lengths measure 25.56”, with both guitars measuring 44mm across the nut. Both saddle and nut are bone, while fingerboards and bridges are ebony. Yamaha has opted for a set of open-gear Gotoh SXN510 tuners in Cosmo Black for both models.
The FG9 ships in a hard-shell guitar case, and is strung up with a set of Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze Lights.
Both FG9 models are priced at £3,299. For more information and pics - including some of the tech-informed design process - head over to Yamaha.
Takamine is, without doubt, the undisputed specialist of the limited edition model. This year the Japanese brand has reached back into the archive for a special acoustic-electric guitar that celebrates the 30th anniversary of its Santa Fe model.
Like the Santa Fe, the LTD2023 is a cutaway acoustic, its NEX body shape is a Takamine original, and measures up as a scaled-down jumbo.
The LTD2023 has solid cedar on top, with a back and sides of oak. Tone-wise, Takamine tells us to expect it to be warm and balanced.
The ace in the hole, however, might just be the pickup and preamp system. Takamine has equipped the LTD2023 with a CTF-2N FET preamp based on the classic FET-driven “Brownie” preamps of the early ‘80s, which players such as Ry Cooder, James Taylor and Jackson Browne favoured for its “warm and natural saturation”.
Like the Brownie, the CTF-2N FET preamp is a three-slider design, but it’s also expanded upon. Mounted on the shoulder, it has sliders for Low, High, and Volume, a battery compartment, a simple push-button guitar tuner with LED screen, and a notch filter dial (0-5k) with a -6dB/-12dB push button.
The neck is mahogany. The fingerboard - which looks like ebony, though Takamine is yet to confirm this - has decorative inlays that are in keeping with the pattern around the rosette.
The Santa Fe is an an important model in the Takamine catalogue, but so too in luthiery. Takamine was an early adopter of CNC routers and laser-cutting machines in their production, and the first Santa Fe, the ESF93, was the product of this tech-driven approach to guitar making.
The LTD2023 has a Natural Gloss finish, with gold hardware and amber pearl key tuner buttons. There are no prices available just yet, but given that last year’s 60th Anniversary model, the LTD2022, was priced at $2,999, we might expect something north of this.
Martin D-28 and D-18 StreetLegend
Martin's D-28 and D-18 StreetLegend are the latest dreadnought acoustics in the company's 2023 line-up. Each features the company's added visual wear, to give them a lived-in feel to match the original vintage guitars they take their cues from. As Martin says, it's the kind of ageing, "that shows your music has an old soul like many of the fine instruments we’ve curated over the years".
The D-18 StreetLegend boasts a spruce top and satin-finished mahogany back and sides. The scalloped bracing gives it a fuller sound, according to Martin, and it also features open-gear aged tuners and a satin-aged pickguard. Of the two models it appears – at least from the photo (above) – to have that bit more added soul.
It retails for $2,399.
The D-28 StreetLegend also has that visual wear, albeit a little less so, with a satin-finished East Indian rosewood back and sides which, Martins says, deliver deep bass and rich overtones. There's non-scalloped bracing with a Forward Shifted X Brace pattern, a Dovetail neck joint, plus a mahogany neck. It also has the same open-gear aged tuners and a satin-aged pickguard as the D-18.
The D-28 StreetLegend retails for slightly more, though, at $2,799.
You can get more info from the Martin website.
Taylor AD11e-SB, AD12e-SB & AD17e-SB
The Taylor American Dream series has consistently impressed us, and we are loving the vintage vibes of these three new additions with Sunburst Grand Theater, Grand Concert and a Grand Pacific-shape round-shoulder dreadnought acoustic guitars that should put a smile on the faces of J-45 fans.
Construction here is spruce top and walnut body, with either V- or C-Class bracing depending on the model. Necks are tropical mahogany with Eucalyptus fretboards.
They feature Satin Black tuners and include Taylor’s onboard ES2 electronics and a brown or grey AeroCase.
The AD11e-SB (above, $1,799) features the newer Taylor Grand Theater (GT) body shape, a downsized 24-1/8" scale that's unique to Taylor.
Because of the smaller size this has C-Class bracing (a variation on V-Class bracing) that enhances the low-end response and helps the AD11-e punch above its size.
The AD12e-SB ($1,999) is the first spruce-top Grand Concert to be added to the American Dream Series and features Taylor's V-Class bracing. Taylor says it's "perfect for fingerstyle guitarists, nimble flatpickers and recording applications".
Finally the AD17e-SB ($1,999) is Taylor’s Grand Pacific body shape - its take on a round-shoulder dreadnought ,and inspired by the tonality of classic acoustic recordings. It features a 25-1⁄2” scale length and Taylor calls it a "midrange powerhouse" – great for playing in the mix with other guitars then.
More info at Taylor Guitars.
Epiphone Chris Stapleton Frontier
Epiphone's stunning USA-made signature Chris Stapleton Frontier might just be the high-end acoustic guitar release of this year. There is no getting around it. The country superstar's Frontier is stunning, jawdropping, but has the price tag to match.
A limited edition model, with only 300 instruments being made at Gibson’s Bozeman facility in Montana, the Frontier is a cert to be a collector’s item, and looks every inch a guitar with songs in it.
Stapleton’s Epiphone guitar has a thermally aged Sitka Spruce top, finished in Frontier Burst, and spritzed with nitrocellulose lacquer so it will age like a fine burgundy. It has a back and sides of AA figured maple. There’s multi-ply binding on the top and back, single-ply binding on the neck. And just look at those twin pickguards, sitting either side of the soundhole engraved with Frontier lariat and cactus motif.
Under that Sitka spruce top we have scalloped X-bracing; all work that was done by hand. The neck is mahogany fashioned into a rounded C profile - plenty of support for those big open chords - and it’s topped with an Indian rosewood fingerboard, with MOP slotted rectangle inlays and 20 frets. The bridge is also carved from Indian rosewood, and has a traditional ‘belly-up’ design.
A 25.5" scale instrument, the Stapleton Frontier is equipped with a set of top-quality gold Gotoh Keystone tuners that will not only be strong and stable, but complement the dark tobacco and bourbon hues of the Frontier Burst finish nicely.
If you peer into the soundhole you’ll discover the discrete controls for a LR Baggs VTC pickup and preamp system, ideal for open-mic night, the Grand Ole Opry, or somewhere even more grand.
This is one you’d want to show off, and at £4,399 / $4,999, you’d want to take good care of it too. Just as well it ships with a hard-shell guitar case.
The Chris Stapleton Frontier is available now. See Epiphone for more details.
Seagull S6 Collection 1982
Slightly more attainable price wise than the Chris Stapleton Frontier, the new S6 Collection 1982 from Seagull Guitars celebrates over 40 years of its S6 acoustic guitar design. The model revisits the specs of the company’s long-running dreadnought, but revamps it with “the best features of Seagull guitars”, all while bringing the price tag below that of the original.
Built in Canada from sustainably sourced woods, the S6 Collection 1982 boasts a pretty tasty assortment of tone woods, including a solid cedar top, Canadian wild cherry back and sides, and a silver leaf maple neck – all of which promises a “bright, rich, warm, and balanced” tone.
The guitar is touting the S6’s original 24.84” scale length for its rosewood fingerboard, while further ’80s touches appear in the retro headstock and Seagull logo.
The S6 Collection 1982 is available to preorder now for $599. Check out Seagull Guitars for more.
Taylor 814ce Builder’s Edition
Finally in our acoustic roundup for 2023, those who rate the 814ce as being a pinnacle of acoustic-electric guitars will be lapping up this latest "next evolution" of the Taylor flagship model.
This stunning looking guitar boasts enough nods to the original to maintain its classic status, with design elements built-in to make its sound "an enticing blend of low-end warmth, treble-range clarity and remarkable power".
The guitar features an Adirondack spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, neo-tropical mahogany neck and a Crelicam ebony fretboard. The Rosewood helps give the guitar a "warm response and lush overtones", says Taylor, while that spruce top helps it attain "unmatched volume and power".
It's not cheap, of course. The Builder's Edition 814ce will set you back £4,499 but that does include a Taylor Deluxe Hardshell Brown Case. For more details, see Taylor Guitars.
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