Alhambra Crossover Css-3 CW A E5 review

Noted Spanish maker Alhambra takes its Crossover platform and gives it steel strings

  • £1634
  • $1989
A lot like a nylon string guitar... but with steel strings.

MusicRadar Verdict

This really blurs the line between steel and nylon camps and in this new steel-string incarnation produces a rather fine fingerstyle guitar.


  • +

    Compact design. Intimate acoustic tone. Powered performance.


  • -

    Very little aside from the string spacing.

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Previously we've looked at Alhambra's aptly titled Crossover guitar, a thinner-bodied cutaway-electro nylon designed to appeal to steel-string players wanting to taste the delights of nylon strings. Now the Spanish company has done a reversal and re-designed the Crossover to feature steel strings.

With a very similar specification and overall design, the steel string Crossover is remarkably similar to its nylon predecessor. So we get a slot-head 650mm scale, 12-fret-to-the body cutaway design - though here the rim depth is reduced from a little over 100mm to just 84mm, trimmer still as the sides slope into the heel.

At only 372mm (14.7-inches) across its lower bouts it's a compact, intimate-feeling instrument. While the nylon-string Crossover reduced the nut width to 48mm (less than a concert classical), that dimension is retained here making it, with the bridge spacing at 58mm, a very airy steel-string indeed.

The clean German spruce top features maple binding and a double black purfling; we have a tastefully unique visual thanks to the black-centred classical-style rosette and the maple 'V' inserts of the ebony bridge echoed by the same motif on the head.

Strangely, bearing in mind this ebony/spruce contrast, the head facing is rosewood, but that reflects the back and sides, nicely chocolate dark and again with maple binding and a simple maple back strip. Understated and classy.

Bracing wise we seem to have A-style main struts with numerous small cross braces and quite a substantially sized soundhole reinforcement.

What you can see, and also feel, however, is the excellent craftsmanship - all smooth edges and nice shaping. It's very tidily made.

Like the nylon Crossover, the fretboard is cambered, but the only position markers you'll find are four side dots, while the neck itself (which does have a truss rod) is made of mahogany with a central rosewood reinforcing stripe and a slightly flat-backed 'D' profile. This is nicely shaped and suggests a thumb-behind rather that thumb-around left-hand playing position. The frets are quite small and well fitted, but do lack a final bit of fettling.


Acoustically, the Crossover sounds a little delicate, with a subdued low-end that's warm, articulate and not overpowering in the least. There's softness to the midrange, which is in stark contrast to the bark of a bluesier-sounding parlour-style, and a silkiness to the highs that sounds matched and balanced.

Overall there's a depth and a resonance in the mid-range that's really appealing. Powered up, the very well-featured electro system gives you plenty of control and tonal options.

The onboard mic seems to work especially well within this platform and, combined with excellent antifeedback notch and phase switch, we found we could use more of the mic in the outputted signal than many larger guitars, where any hint of the mic in the output results in feedback. It's easy to push up the low end if you need to sculpt the mids and balance the highs - a strong performance.

Excellent craft and thoughtful design create a rather alluring instrument. Its intimate acoustic sound seems perfect for the reflective singer/songwriter or instrumentalist and we'd wager it will record extremely well.

The amp'd sound is also excellent, the mic especially usable within this relatively compact-depthed, small body guitar.

The wide string spacing, especially at the nut, isn't unique but it's far from the mainstream: a fingerstyle guitar for sure. But we can't help thinking a narrower nut width would broaden its appeal. It's definitely one to try and if that wide spacing suits you, this is one of those unique guitars for which you could very easily fall.

Dave Burrluck

Dave Burrluck is one of the world’s most experienced guitar journalists, who started writing back in the '80s for International Musician and Recording World, co-founded The Guitar Magazine and has been the Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist magazine for the past two decades. Along the way, Dave has been the sole author of The PRS Guitar Book and The Player's Guide to Guitar Maintenance as well as contributing to numerous other books on the electric guitar. Dave is an active gigging and recording musician and still finds time to make, repair and mod guitars, not least for Guitarist’s The Mod Squad.