Gear Of The Year 2016 – Best Acoustic Guitar

Small, parlour-sized bodies, slot headstocks and Depression Era cosmetics have been major trends in the acoustic guitar world during the last 12 months and show no sign of going away any time soon. Likewise torrefaction.

There’s a pleasing simplicity about our five finalists, and the winner is an instrument that the whole G&B team still swoon over…

Winner – Martin 00-17S

• Price £1,795
• First reviewed Vol 28 No 02
• Contact Westside Distribution on 0141 248 4812 or www.martinguitar.com

Huw Price: “Most electric guitars can produce passable results with a decent amp or stompbox, but an acoustic guitar either grabs you or not – and if it doesn’t there’s not much you can do about it.

I immediately liked the Martin 00-17S, and before long I was besotted with it. There are things that I like and dislike about traditional mid-sized Martins. For instance, the touch sensitivity combined with airy, almost delicate treble inspires me to play fingerstyle, but I generally crave more guts and woody fullness in the midrange.

In other words, my ideal medium-bodied Martin would be one that has a bit of Gibson L-00 or J-45 thrown into the mix, and that pretty much describes the sonic character of the Martin 00-17S.

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The fact that Martin made it drop-dead gorgeous with slope shoulders, an antique sunburst and wonderful open-geared Golden Age tuners adds to the allure.

The 24 7/8” scale length and slim neck contribute to the easy-playing feel and the string-to-string balance can make some of us sound like better acoustic players than we really are. If you like rootsy acoustic tone and enjoy playing with open tunings, capos and bottlenecks, the 00-17S cannot be faulted.”

Highly Commended – Taylor 510E

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• Price £2,401
• First reviewed Vol 28 No 01
• Contact Big Fish Studios on 01206 382224 or www.taylorguitars.com

This slot-headstock electro is a bluegrass natural and any basslines you pick out balance superbly with strummed chords. It’s also tremendous fun for banging out rockabilly rhythms and R&B grooves.

Tap the bridge with your finger and you’ll feel a really strong kick-back – this means that very little energy is required to get the soundboard moving, making it a remarkably adept fingerpicker.

Highly Commended – Epiphone Masterbilt Olympic

epiphone-olympic-masterbilt
• Price £499
• First reviewed Vol 28 No 01
• Contact Gibson Europe www.epiphone.com

After a hiatus of about 70 years, 2016 saw Epiphone get back in the quality acoustic-archtop business.

They may look like relics of the Jazz Age, but the Masterbilt Century models combine deference to the past with modern convenience: the most affordable of the bunch was our favourite.

Highly Commended – Larrivée P-03Z

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• Price £1,079
• First reviewed Vol 27 No 10
• Contact Sound Technology on 01462 480000 or www.soundtech.co.uk

Zebrano is a lovely timber with an olive or pale coffee hue and dark brown grain lines.
Reputed to lie between rosewood and mahogany on the tonal spectrum, here, on this Californian parlour guitar, it helps squeeze as much sound as possible from its 24-inch scale.

Highly Commended – Andrew White Cybele 100J Jatoba

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• Price £279
• First reviewed Vol 27 No 10
• Contact The North American Guitar on 0207 835 5597 or www.andrewwhiteguitars.com

West Virginia-based luthier Andrew White’s Production Series contains this all-solid acoustic made from Brazilian cherry.

Huw Price said: “The quality of the build is as good as it gets at this price point, and it’s always intriguing to hear new tones from unfamiliar timber.”

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