While three of our four guitars are based to a greater or lesser extent on Martin's 000 design, Aria's AF35 pays the most obvious homage. Save for its longer OM-type 650mm scale length, the guitar's 15in-wide size and styling are similar, the latter exemplified not least by the Martin-style script logo on the spade peghead, which is also used on Aria's companion AD dreadnought series.
Cosmetics pretty much echo Martin's Style 28, which means such detailing as multi-ply white/black front binding and soundhole rosette, a wood-mosaic centre strip down the back, and conventional dot position markers along the unbound rosewood 'board.
Style 28 also means rosewood back and sides, though understandably at this price they're laminated, not solid timber. The spruce top is solid, of course, and a good-looking close-grained example it is. The rosewood's outer veneers are nicely chosen too, with predominately straight graining and a pleasing mid-brown hue. The body's gloss finish is very well buffed, with only the merest hint of lacquer build-up around the heel joint of the satin-finished neck: tidy workmanship.
Because of their picker-friendly nature, an increasing number of auditorium acoustics are being offered with wider fingerstyle necks. However, at this semi-budget level where the aim is to attract as many potential buyers as possible, manufacturers tend to play safe, and so we find that the Aria, like all our test guitars, has a regular-width neck with a nut span of around 43mm.
Fingerpickers shouldn't be put off, though: it feels sufficiently airy for those kind of workouts, even though string spacing at the bridge is a little less than the average 55mm. Another facet shared with its rivals is a quite shallow profile, meaning an easy strumming grip too. Fret dressing and set-up are very good, which is a notable feature, in fact, of all the reviewees.
SOUNDS: A common perception of folks is that they have a pretty weedy delivery, but that can't be levelled at this Aria. The voicing is quite robust for its size, and the dynamics are responsive. There's a hint of tonal hardness where, given the rosewood back and sides, there should perhaps be a warmer, sustaining richness, but generally the guitar performs well.