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Guitar Woods

Aros

In the world of guitars and other musical instruments, its know the term Tonewood as those woods for musical instruments chosen  for its acoustic qualities. The type of wood or tonewood used in stringed instruments like classical guitars, flamenco guitars, acoustic guitars, violins, etc, directly influences the sound you want. Choosing the right tone wood will determine the final features and tone that the luthier wants to achieve.

We have made a selection of the most used woods for guitars. These woods are used for guitar tops, guitar back and sides, guitar necks, fingerboards and for the ornamentation and marquetry work on acoustic guitars. They come from all over the world from places like Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Romania, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, India and Indonesia among others.

Most of the woods used by spanish guitar manufacturers are select woods that have being maturating and drying slowly. That is one of the main, almost invisible difference between a real spanish guitar and their imitations.

 

Wood used for guitar soundboard


 

abeto-aleman

European Spruce (picea abies)

ORIGIN: Germany, Rumania
DESCRIPTION: White colour. Density 450 Kg / m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Good quality tops.
USE: Stringed instrument sound board, like guitar, violin and cello.

abeto-engelmann

Engelmann Spruce (picea engelmannii)

ORIGIN: Canada
DESCRIPTION: White colour. Density 350 – 410 Kg / m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Can stain easily, don’t store in humid place.
USE: Stringed instrument sound board.

abeto-sitka

Sitka Spruce (picea sitchensis)

ORIGIN: Canada
DESCRIPTION: Off white. Density 400 – 450 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Good size logs.
USE: Stringed instrument sound board, especially acoustic guitar.

cedro-rojo

Western Red Cedar (thuja plicata)

ORIGIN: Canada
DESCRIPTION: Orange / red colour. Density 350 – 400 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Nice sounding wood. Very stable.
USE: Guitar top

cedro-amarillo

Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis)

ORIGIN: Canada
DESCRIPTION: Yellow colour. Density 450 – 600 Kg/m3
USE: Top, back and sides

 

Wood used for guitar body, guitar neck,  fingerboard and other parts


 

arce

Maple (acer pseudoplatanus)

ORIGIN: Germany, Rumania
DESCRIPTION: White colour. Density 610 – 680 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Specially valued for its curl and other patterns like bird’s eye, quilt and spalt.
USE: Guitar backs & sides

bloodwood

Bloodwood (Pterocarpus Erinaceus)

ORIGIN: Brasil
DESCRIPTION: A bright, vivid red. Colour can darken to a darker brownish red over time with exposure to light and air. Density 1.195 Kg/m3.
USE: Guitar Back and sides

bubinga

Bubinga (guibourtia spp)

ORIGIN: Gabon
DESCRIPTION: Red colour. Density 700 – 900 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Can come in different grain patterns
USE: Guitar backs & sides

caoba

Mahogany (swietenia macrophylla)

ORIGIN: Brazil
DESCRIPTION: Brown to reddish colour.  Density 490 – 530 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Protected specie, under appendix II of CITES
USE: Acoustic guitar neck, back and sides

cedro-amarillo

Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis)

ORIGIN: Canada
DESCRIPTION: Yellow colour. Density 450 – 600 Kg/m3
USE: Top, back and sides

cedro-honduras-g

Honduras Cedar (cedrela odorata)

ORIGIN: Brazil
DESCRIPTION: Light Brown colour. Density 450 – 600 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Protected specie, under appendix III of CITES
USE: Classical guitar neck

cipres

Cypress (cupressus sempervirens)

ORIGIN: Spain
DESCRIPTION: White / Light yellow colour. Density 400 – 600 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Great response
USE: Flamenco guitar backs & sides

cocobolo

Cocobolo (dalbergia retusa)

ORIGIN: Mexico
DESCRIPTION: Red colour with dark grain. Density 990 – 1250 K
RECOMMENDATIONS: Considered as one of the substitutes to Brazilian Rosewood The oil it contains can cause problems when gluing
USE: Guitar backs & sides

cocobolo-nicaragua-g

Nicaraguan Cocobolo (dalbergia retusa)

ORIGIN: Nicaragua
DESCRIPTION: Red / orange colour, black grains. Density 900 – 1200 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Similar to Mexican Cocobolo, but can present wilder grain patterns
USE: Guitar backs & sides

ebano

Ebony (diospyros ebenum)

ORIGIN: Cameroon, Nigeria
DESCRIPTION: Black colour. Density 1000 – 1275 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Considered the #1 fingerboard material because of its smooth feeling, durability and aesthetics. Can crack easily when atmospheric conditions change
USE: Stringed instrument fingerboard, Guitar bridge and head plate

ebano-madagascar

Madagascar Ebony (diospyros ebenum)

ORIGIN: Madagascar
DESCRIPTION: Black colour. Density 1050 – 1280 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: More stable than African ebony, turns better and doesn’t crack so easy.
USE: Stringed instrument fingerboard Guitar bridge and head plate

koa

Koa (acacia koa)

ORIGIN: Haway
DESCRIPTION: Different tones of brown. Density 720 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Specially valued when curly
USE: Guitar backs & sides, Ukulele body

mongoy

Ovangkol (guibourtia ehie)

ORIGIN: Gabon
DESCRIPTION: Different tones of green with marked grain. Density 725 – 820 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Similar to Rosewood but half the price
USE: Guitar backs & sides

nogal-americano

Black Walnut (juglans nigra)

ORIGIN: USA
DESCRIPTION: Dark brown. Density 550 – 660 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Affordable wood with good acoustics
USE: Guitar backs & sides

nogal-europeo

European Walnut (juglans regia)

ORIGIN: Spain
DESCRIPTION: Different tones of brown. Density 700 – 780 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Used very much in the past for classic guitar making
USE: Guitar backs & sides

palo-escrito

Palo Escrito (dalbergia palo-escrito)

ORIGIN: Mexico
DESCRIPTION: Red grain. Density 620 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Nice looking and attractive price
USE: Guitar backs & sides

palo-rojo-g

Padouk – Polo Rojo (pterocarpus tinctorius)

ORIGIN: Gabon
DESCRIPTION: Bright red. Density 825 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Very stable
USE: Guitar backs & sides

palo-santo-amazonas-g

Amazon Rosewood (dalbergia spruceana)

ORIGIN: Brasil
DESCRIPTION: Dark brown colour. Density 1100 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Great look and acoustic qualities
USE: Guitar backs & sides

palo-santo-honduras-g

Honduras Rosewood (dalbergia stevensonii)

ORIGIN: Guatemala
DESCRIPTION: Light brown colour. Density 1070 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Looks good and even better sound
USE: Guitar backs & sides

palo-santo-india-g

Indian Rosewood (dalbergia latifolia)

ORIGIN: India
DESCRIPTION: Range of colours that go from light brown to dark mauve. Density 870 – 900 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Extensively Used because of its great characteristics
USE: Guitar backs & sides, fingerboards, head plates and bridges.

palo-santo-madagascar

Madagascar Rosewood (dalbergia baronii)

ORIGIN: Madagascar
DESCRIPTION: Light to dark brown colour. Density 920 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Most similar wood to Brazilian Rosewood in looks. Presents spider webbing and dark grain.
USE: Guitar backs & sides

palo-violeta

Kingwood (dalbergia cearensis)

ORIGIN: Brazil
DESCRIPTION: Violet grain. Density 1020 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Nice sounding and looking wood
USE: Guitar fingerboard

pau-ferro

Santos Rosewood – Pau Ferro (caesalpinia ferrea)

ORIGIN: Brazil
DESCRIPTION: Various tones of brown. Density 940 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Low price but good looking. Can produce allergies
USE: Guitar backs & sides, fingerboard, bridge and head plate.

samanguila

African Mahogany – Samanguila (khaya ivorensis)

ORIGIN: Cameroon
DESCRIPTION: Light brown colour. Density 420 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Very similar to genuine mahogany
USE: Guitar neck, backs & sides

sapelly

Sapele – Sapelly (entandrophragma cylindricum)

ORIGIN: Gabon
DESCRIPTION: Brown colour. Density 560 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Good substitute to genuine Mahogany
USE: Guitar backs & sides

sicomoro-g

Sycamore – Sicomoro (acer pseudoplatanus)

ORIGIN: Germany
DESCRIPTION: White colour. Density 620 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Like Maple without the curl
USE: Guitar binding, backs & sides

sonokeling

Sonokeling (dalbergia latifolia)

ORIGIN: Indonesia
DESCRIPTION: Range of colours that go from light brown to dark mauve. Density 820 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Like wide grain Indian Rosewood
USE: Guitar backs & sides, fingerboards, head plates and bridges.

zebrano

Zebrano (microberlinia brazzavillensis)

ORIGIN: Gabon
DESCRIPTION: Light colour with dark grain. Density 550 Kg/m3
RECOMMENDATIONS: Interesting aesthetics
USE: Guitar backs & sides

ziricote-g

Ziricote (cordia dodecandra)

ORIGIN: Mexico
DESCRIPTION: Green colour with dark grain.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Very nice looking, cracks easily though.
USE: Guitar backs & sides

We have taken most of this information from Maderas Barber. One of the biggest suppliers of tone wood for the majority of the spanish guitar makers and other fine guitar makers around the world.

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Customized guitars – Raimundo 646 MIDI extra wide neck

Raimundo-646-MIDI-modified-5

One of the great things about working directly with the manufacturer is the possibility of customizing some standard models of guitars in order to adapt them to some special needs. This is the case of the Flamenco guitar Raimundo 646 MIDI that we have just received today for a client that 2 months ago asked for the possibility of ordering a model 646 MIDI with a neck of 62mm. This client have big hands and big fingers, and found quite difficult to perform well in a standard 50-52mm neck width flamenco guitar. He loved the Raimundo 646 MIDI and wandered if it was possible to order it with a wider neck. We asked the people at Raimundo and the said: No problem. In 8-10 weeks your client can have the guitar he wants. Just tell us the details of the modifications. 9 weeks later we have this adapted 646 MIDI with all the specifications of this wonderful guitars and the neck that our client wanted.

Compared to the standard model, the guitar is exactly the same in every aspect apart from the neck width, which it has being beautifully adapted to the standard body of the guitar in a very elegant way.

Raimundo-646-MIDI-modified-2

The RMC Polydrive System IV has being adapted to the guitar in the same way as usual, but with the new golden finnish, in stead of the previous black finish plate for the controls. I think that this new finish matches the guitar perfectly. The divided pickup and the six independent saddles where installed with the same perfect precision as we have encountered them in other units of the 646 MIDI.

Raimundo-646-MIDI-modified-3  Raimundo-646-MIDI-modified-6  Raimundo-646-MIDI-modified-7

The multi pin connector and the 1/4″ jack connector was positioned at the bottom of the guitar near the battery compartment. Nothing different from the standard model.

Raimundo-646-MIDI-modified-8

 

For all those who wonder if the bridge was modified, I say no. The client didn’t wanted the bridge modified so he could do the “rasgueos” as he was used to do them. Of course, we tried the guitar and we found it a bit estrange at first, but after few seconds, we discovered that the guitar was as comfortable to play as any other Raimundo flamenco guitar but with a wider neck. I have to say that not all manufacturers of spanish guitars are so open to make modifications to their standard models, but Raimundo is very open to do it. If you ever need some adaptation of a guitar that doesn’t require a total modification of the guitar, feel free to contact us

and we will give you a quotation and a deadline for it.

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Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series review. The new Crossover guitar from Alhambra

 

Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series

Alhambra guitars have introduced a few new models for 2015 under the common denomination of “S Series”. One of these newborn Alhambra guitars is the Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series, the entry-level model of the Crossover line of Alhambra. As the Alhambra CS3 CW, described in a previous review here, (also being upgraded this year) the ‘crossover‘ models of Alhambra, have adapted some dimensions of the instrument to better meet the needs of guitarists who are used to playing on electric or acoustic guitars (the neck, the body, …). Thus, the thickness of the handle has been reduced as well as the size of the body, which has in addition, the presence of a cutaway. In this way, the guitar still keeps, very convincingly, the sound of a nylon string guitar, but offers a modern “makeover”.

Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series 1

Even for an amateur guitarist, the very name ‘Alhambra’ is enough to evoke the image of Spain and its typical music. Of course, this is not enough to guarantee the quality of the guitars produced, but Alhambra has consistently demonstrated the qualities of the brand. From the most economic category to more expensive ones, customers always get great value for money, and the guitars are built to be played throughout a lifetime.

Alhambra crossover-cs-lr-cw-serie-s-marq

One immediately sees that this guitar was built with consciousness and attention to detail. All the components are in place, the frets finishing is neat, and guitar carries a number of fine features. For example, in the case of wooden fillets whose color contrasts nicely with the rest of the woods in the guitar: the Alhambra CS-CW LR S Series, ash fillets are highlighted by a small line of ebony. These are the delicate details that make a difference.

Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series 5

The traditional Spanish head has golden machine heads whose pegs are made of quality white plastic. This head is made of mahogany, like the rest of the neck, and it is covered with a small rosewood veneer. From a technical point of view, the neck is similar to that of the Alhambra 4P S: the actual neck is one piece and is glued to the heel and head ends. In short, a good old well-known, proven and well established Spanish guitar neck. The neck of the ‘cross-over’ model is clearly narrower than the one on the Alhambra 4P, and it tends to have a C profile other than the traditional D profile present in many classical guitars. None of those changes will encourage electric and acoustic guitarists to turn more readily to this guitar, but it will make a more comfortable and easier transition.  Indeed, such dimensions for the neck are much closer to those of their preferred instrument. In this way, Alhambra tackles one of the most delicate points (for electric guitar, of course) during the “transition” to a nylon stringed instrument.

Alhambra crossover-cs-lr-cw-serie-s-pont

If the neck of this ‘crossover‘ model is a little narrower than the 4P S, obviously, the fretboard is too. But the differences do not stop there. Unlike the flat fretboard of a traditional classical guitar, the fretboard in the “crossover” has a radius which is similar to the fretboards on electric and acoustic guitars. That will also please the acoustic and electric guitarist and it will also give a refreshing alternative to the most adventurous nylon guitarists. The fretboard in the Alhambra CS-CW LR S Line is made of carefully selected rosewood and as stated above, is impeccably finished with lovely and precise fretwork.

Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series 2

Essentially, the body materials are identical to those of the 4P S, except for the fillets and wood inlays which have already been described. So, rosewood for the back and sides, and a solid cedar soundboard. The sides, like the back of the guitar, are highlighted by a wooden fillet outline, which adorn the heel in the same way. With these details, this guitar has a classy look. In the body of the instrument, the user actually feels that the crossover is smaller than a normal classical guitar, although expressed in millimeters, the differences are minimal. The cutaway is an addition which many classical guitarists do not even want to hear about! But once again, for an electric guitarist, this is the most natural thing ever!

Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series 4

ERGONOMICS

This is obviously one of the most important subjects up for discussion, and depends entirely on everyone’s personal preferences. This ‘crossover‘ offers an alternative which many classical guitar builders have not, until now, wanted to offer as a solution. Designing a neck that is a little narrower and a fretboard a little more “readable”, has made for a more fearless transition for those guitarists who would fall back immediately on their usual instruments , without the presence of these “facilities”. The body shape of the cross-over is, from an objective point of view, ergonomically more refined than a typical classical guitar: it fits more comfortably against the body of the musician, and the cutaway provides a host of additional opportunities. But there will probably be few classical guitarists who admit that the cross-over is … “best” in this area, but here, only personal preferences and habits matter. The purists among classical guitarists will without doubt not be convinced by these transformations, but after all, they are not the intended target players.

Alhambra CS-LR CW S Series 3

THE SOUND

The first notes have a much fuller sound, with a nice balance between the bass and treble. The basses support the melody without covering other frequencies. The result is a sound picture full of warmth and well balanced. Compared to the 4P S, the LR CW CS-S Series has a sound that is a little brighter in the trebles, and the sound is a little clearer, without becoming fractious or sharp. The sustain is excellent, and it is quite suitable for playing solo parts. The bass strings support the melody without any problems, and well-balanced sound is present here too. There is not a single frequency range that dominates the others, and the guitar is very handy. Indeed, in sound, there is little or no difference with a “real” classical guitar.

The projection of the sound is excellent. If we play purely with our fingers, everything is already good, but once the attack is accentuated, either by the nails, or why not, a pick, the true character of the instrument is revealed. The ‘crossover’ feels particularly at ease with a pick, maybe it is the more “electric” model size that makes this happen?

Alhambra crossover-cs-lr-cw-serie-s-etiq

CONCLUSION

This guitar is not the first to fulfill the principle of ‘crossover‘ in Alhambra, but it’s still great to see a new model emerge. The idea behind the slight dimensional change is almost immediately on how we play. And from these minor changes, the effects are much more important than you might anticipate. I therefore appeal to all acoustic and electric guitar players who want to add an additional colour to their arsenal, but have always been put off by the classical guitar: now’s the time to grab your chance!

medidas-crossover-cs-lr-cw-serie-s

 

 

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2014 in review. Thank you for following us

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. We wish you a very happy new year 2015 and we promise to keep you updated with more news and reviews about the spanish classical guitars, flamenco guitars and acoustic guitars.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 46,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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New Ramirez RA and Ramirez RB from Ramirez Guitars

Ramirez RA Front

 

Ramirez RA

 

 

Ramirez RB Front

 

Ramirez RB

Jose Ramirez guitars, one of those mythical names whiting the spanish guitar manufacturers, have renovated the R line in their studio series guitars. With two new models, the Ramirez RA and the Ramirez RB. Two guitars with stunning design and great playability. The Ramirez RA and the Ramirez RB are the entry level models of the popular Ramirez Studio line. This series was designed by José Ramírez IV in 1991 and renewed by Amalia Ramírez in 2014 on its decoration and improved on its construction. These guitars are inspected, adjusted and certified by Ramírez.

Ramirez RA

Ramirez RA Close 1Ramirez RA Close 2

Ramirez RA Close 3Ramirez RA Close 4

 

Te Ramirez RA.the most affordable of the two models is available with Solid cedar top or solid spruce top. The back and sides are made from laminated indian rosewood and the fretboard is made of ebony. The main external difference with the previous model apart from the design in the rosette and the bridge is the adoption of rosewood for the body instead of mahogany, but according to Ramirez they have also made internal improvements in the bracing design.

Ramirez RB

Ramirez RB Close 2Ramirez RB Close 1

 

Ramirez RB Close 3Ramirez RB Close 5

 

The Ramirez RB has a body of solid indian rosewood combined with the choice of solid cedar cedar top or solid spruce top. The fretboard is also made of ebony and there is an ebony reinforcement strip on the neck too. The luxury black and gold tuners make a good impression of the headstock that in this case is darker than her sister the RA. The back of the guitar presents also a more elaborated wood decoration.

 

Both models can be ordered with or without electrification systems from Fishman, Roland,  Schertler or with MIDI pickup from RMC. The standard models come in 650mm scale length but they are also available in 635mm.

For prices and options visit www.guitarfromspain.com

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Fretboard Conditioning

Fretboard Portada

Do I need to condition the fretboard on my guitar?

Fretboards require regular cleaning and conditioning, otherwise, some pretty nasty things can happen to them. Conditioning the fretboard will keep it looking new and prevent a lot of problems as the guitar ages. Moisture is also very important and should be controlled in addition to regular cleaning and conditioning. Be careful not to substitute one for the other. They work hand-in-hand when preserving fine wood.

What kind of wood needs conditioning?

Fretboards come in a variety of woods. Ebony, Rosewood, Maple, Bacote, Pau Ferro or even Ziricote are just some of the woods used make fretboards. Some are very common, others are quite exotic.

Some have a finish over them, but most do not, particularly in classical guitars and flamenco guitars. Any guitar with an un-finished fretboard should be cleaned and conditioned regularly – at least every string change. Maple fretboards will often have a finish on them and won’t need any conditioning.

What happens if I don’t condition my fretboard?

Cracked 2

All kinds of damage can occur when a fretboard is neglected. Here is a list of common ailments:

  • Cracks
  • Chipping
  • Loose frets
  • Discoloration
  • De-lamination
  • Loss of sustain
  • Premature ware

These problems occur particularly in the summer & winter. Many players don’t realize how the seasonal changes can affect their guitars. Any exposed (unfinished) wood is susceptible to the list above if not properly cleaned and conditioned.

How often do I condition my fretboard?

Every time you change your strings, you should clean & condition your fretboard. This will remove the dirt, sweat and grime that build up on the neck and around the frets. In addition, it will keep your fretboard looking brand new.

Moisture & Conditioning. What’s the difference?

Moisture or humidity is the amount of water in the air and within the cells of the wood. This is very important because it prevents some of the problems listed previously. Conditioning prevents the cells of the wood from becoming brittle, discolored and wearing prematurely. When the humidity fluctuates, the conditioner will help stabilize the wood and prevent cracking and loose frets.

How to condition the fretboard

Determine what the best conditioner is for your guitar. Many manufacturers have recommendations, but they all differ greatly. One of the most common conditioners to use for a healthy guitar fretboard is lemon oil. Lemon oil keeps a rosewood or mahogany fretboard looking and feeling new. Do not use any furniture lemon oil as it may contain unwanted additives.

dirtyboard01First clean the fretboard. Once you have decided to remove any or all of the strings, you then need to clean the fretboard by using several alcohol swabs.

Fretboard65LemonOil6554-11Fretboard Conditioning

One at a time, clean each section of the fretboard thoroughly getting any oil and grime off the board. Then using only lemon oil and a clean dry rag (like a kitchen or bath hand towel), apply to the fretboard generously and let it set for at least 60 seconds. Then using a dry part of the rag, rub the oil in and wipe clean until the oily feeling goes away.

Now you have a fretboard that looks and feels like new. Also you have a fretboard that is preserved for the next few months.

Thanks to John LeVan for the information that I borrowed from him.

 

 

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Alhambra Crossover CS3CW Review

alhambra CS3CW

In a previous post we tried to explain what crossover guitars are and we covered a general approach of the concept and purpose of those guitars. In this post we are going to present you a review from Guitarist magazine of the Alhambra CS3CW E5 Electro-acoustic Crossover nylon stringed guitar, a high quality spanish guitar that covers the gap between the acoustic guitar and the classical guitar. An instrument that once you try it, its difficult to forget.

Alhambra Crossover CS-3 CW E5

Is it a steel-string, is it a nylon? A confused acoustic…

Dave Burrluck (Guitarist) 

Alhambra guitars is a Spanish maker located in Muro de Alcoy, in the province of Alicante, that has been successfully making nylon string guitars for over 40 years. Along with its standard classical instruments, Alhambra is known for its electros like the Alhambra 5P CT.

And while some feature a slightly thinner-than-classical-standard neck width, to most electric players, and many steel-string players, the classical neck still feels massive and invariably has a flat fingerboard. The Crossover, however, is a full-depth cutaway released in 2007 that aims to bridge the gap between steel and nylon: a purpose-designed electro for those used to steel-strings.

Alhambra CSS3CW Front

Build

Visually it displays a strong steel-string vibe thanks to its natural finished spruce top which contrasts the dark chocolate-coloured rosewood back and sides. The white face is contrasted again by an ebony bridge with its maple ‘V’ inserts, which mirror the V-shaped, ‘A’ logo’d maple insert in the rosewood headstock facing – the inlaid rosette is suitably dark and gothic too.

Construction is very clean, the maple edge bindings and inner purflings are sharp.  The head and main shaft of the mahogany neck is one piece – with a central ebony strip for reinforcement, there’s no truss rod – while the heel is a separate piece and has quite a complex carve as it joins the cutaway body.

Alhambra CSS3CW Back

Internally you can see a fairly classic Spanish-style foot, kerfed mahogany linings top and bottom, mahogany back braces and spruce top strutting (and hidden standard seven fan braces). It all looks very clean and considered. The fretwire is cleanly installed on the radiused ebony fingerboard.

Another break from tradition, though hardly radical, are the side-only dots at the third, fifth, seventh and ninth frets and the neck joins at the 12th so position orientation should be easy enough.

While the scale is fairly standard at 650mm things are slightly narrower than usual, in Spanish terms, at the nut which is just over 48mm wide (as opposed to 50-52mm or more) and a gnat’s under 60mm at the 12th. Yet at 20.4mm at the first fret, and 25mm at the 10th, you’ll not feel the neck is over large. The shape is quite flat-backed with square shoulders and we have to say the neck is very comfortable and easy – especially compared to a quality concert classical.

alhambra crossover cs3cw Cutaway Back

You can order the Crossover with various Fishman preamps to manipulate the undersaddle piezo. The E5 system here is one of the Fishman‘s top-end Prefix Premium Blend and includes both under-saddle piezo pickup and a separate gooseneck mic that is installed on the bass side shoulder. The two pickups meet up on the pretty complex control panel that flips out for swift battery changes and also access to a mono/stereo switch.

alhambra crossover cs3cw-e5-controls

The preamp’s controls are well laid out but with white legends on a light grey fascia the contrast is low and in low lighting, compounded by the sheen of the facia, it’s very difficult to read. But the spec is high with slider controls for mic/piezo balance, frequency (10khz-250k), and treble, contour and bass with a range of +/- 17db (all centre notched). While the treble and bass frequencies are fixed, the contour affects whatever frequency you’ve set with the frequency slider.

A pair of push buttons engage the phase switch for feedback rejection and the onboard tuner that is easier to see and very accurate. Finally, two rotary controls affect overall volume – very nicely placed at the top corner and with a very tactile rubber knob – and the notch filter which ranges from off to 300Hz and removes a very narrow band for feedback rejection. A red LED battery indicator completes the fulsome spec.

Alhambra crossover-css3-marq

Strung with Alhambra-branded D’Addario extra high tension strings, the supplied set-up is also lower than a standard classical (3.5mm bass, 2.2mm treble). But although the saddle noticeably leans back in its slot, there’s no actual compensation, especially for the thick G (unwound) string that proves a little sharp. That aside, the combination of the neck shape, fingerboard radius and cutaway make the Crossover a fluid player.

The tuners seem a little spongy, but once new strings settle in, tuning is stable.

Sounds

Factor in this guitar’s cutaway and there’s an impressive robustness and depth to the acoustic tone. Yes, it sounds a little tight, yet the dynamic range is acceptable.

Yet it’s the amplified sound that we’re primarily interested in and that’s where, along with fairly effortless playability, the Crossover scores.

Amplified nylons can be surprisingly bright and brittle and there’s some of that here, but with careful EQ’ing it avoids sounding too thin and plastic-y: in fact there’s a richness and plumbiness to the tone that keeps us playing this one. The mic adds a diffused, less direct sound, but keeping it under control especially in a live environment, isn’t easy.

That said, with nylon strings the onboard tuner is a Godsend – particularly as it can be used unplugged.

Alhambra crossover-css3-pont

Bearing in mind the base price of this guitar, it’s very well made, sharp and clean. The cutaway might well limit it’s acoustic volume but it’s enough for small room ensemble use. Amplified it performs to a high standard and the easy playability makes it hard to return to a larger-necked traditional classical.

The E5 electronics package adds considerably to the price but even with the E2 system  you’d be purchasing a lot of guitar. But the dual-pickup Fishman system fitted here – despite the excellent onboard tuner – might be too much for more general use. By design the Crossover should appeal to anyone working in a jazz, Latin or pop field that wants to add some nylon magic – one we’d recommend you try.

Alhambra CS3CWE2 Cedar

The options

This review covers the spruce top version of the Alhambra CS3CW but there is also a cedar top version of the guitar that you can order for the same price at www.guitarfromspain.com. The electro version of this guitar comes with the Fishman Matrix Pro-Blend (E2) as the standard option but you can also order it with the mentioned Fishman Premium Blend (E5). The Matrix Pro-Blend (E2) also combines a piezo pickup and microphone at a more affordable price with brilliant results.

Fishman-Pro-Blend    Fishman-Premium

 

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