When we think about guitars made in Spain we automatically think about flamenco guitars or classical guitars but there is another category of guitars that we tend to forget. Acoustic guitars or Folk guitars. Yes, the spanish guitar makers also make acoustic steel stringed guitars and they are awesome.
Imagine people who have produced probably the best classical and flamenco guitars in the world putting all that experience and expertise in making steel stringed guitars. Using those first class quality woods that they have been storing and drying for years for their classical staff in acoustic guitars. The result is no less than outstanding. They are very unique instruments with a detailed and superb craftmanship and a very warm and detailed sound.
Sound integrity and character are some of the characteristics of the sound of those acoustic guitars. The traditional spanish heel construction inherited from the traditional spanish guitar making is also applied in their acoustic guitars. That makes them unique and gives the that powerful and balanced sound. It is a more difficult construction technique, more time consuming and for instance more expensive to build but the spanish guitar makers believe so much in this constructing that they still applying it even in their acoustic guitars.
We want to offer you a series of reviews from independent people about some of the acoustic guitars made in Spain from manufactures like Alhambra guitars and Raimundo Guitars.
Alhambra W3 Acoustic Steel String Guitar
An uncommon fusion of dreadnought and Spanish elements in a rich-sounding, smooth-playing flattop
Reviewed by by Patrick Francis in ACOUSTIC GUITAR May 2007
Alhambra has been renowned for classical guitars since the company was born in Muro De Alcoy, Spain, in 1965. Today, the company offers a comprehensive line of instruments ranging from laminated, entry-level classicals to requintos and high-end, concert classicals?all made in the Spanish tradition defined by integral heel construction and fan bracing. More recently, Alhambra expanded its line to include steel-string guitars with the Steel-String Luthier Series, handmade guitars built with premium materials. The series includes auditorium, western (dreadnought), and jumbo bodies with optional cutaway and Fishman pickup.
The W-3 falls midway in the line of Alhambra?s dreadnought offerings, of which there are five: W-1 through W-4, and the top of the line, W-Luthier. With a solid German spruce top, solid East-Indian rosewood back and sides, and an ebony fretboard, the guitar adheres to a proven blueprint for an all-solid flattop guitar. The guitar?s most notable (and uncommon) construction elements are its Spanish heel construction?in which the sides are glued into slots in the integrated neck block and heel?and a backward-slanted, split saddle.
Flattop with a Spanish Accent
Although it has a dreadnought shape, the aesthetic sensibilities of this simple yet elegant guitar follow the stylistic example of the Granada school of lutherie?typified by simple appointments and spruce and rosewood constuction. The spruce top, bright and lacquer-finished in its natural color, contrasts nicely with an inlaid rosette of concentric wooden rings in various hues of brown, and a maple binding.
While essentially simple in design, the W-3 possesses an understated flair. An ebony bridge, with carved, elegant sloping curves, is a nice touch. Other noteworthy design details include fret markers offset toward the bass strings, and Alhambra?s curving, asymmetrical headstock, which is finished in black. The guitar?s designers have done a nice job marrying form and function. One cool detail is a built-in strap lock recessed into the heel of the guitar, along with the included hardware you?ll need to attach your guitar strap.
In terms of fit and finish, the workmanship that went into the W-3 is of very high quality.
Smooth player with an even voice
The W-3?s voice is lush and balanced, with plenty of sparkle on the high end, and bass that?s focused and clear without overpowering the higher registers. When played with a pick or fingerstyle at an average volume, the guitar?s response was quick and gratifying along the length of the neck and sustained nicely, although the fourth string lacked the focus of the fifth and sixth strings. Some players might prefer a tiny bit more oomph in the low end, though fingerpickers might actually prefer the clarity of the bass response of this ax over others with a lot of low end.
Players who like a flatter neck profile will like the feel of this neck, which is much more akin to a classical neck profile than to the average dreadnought. A more rounded, steel-string-like fretboard radius helps lend a more familiar feel for pickers accustomed to a traditional dreadnought.
Fingerpicking through the tune ?The Water Is Wide,? the melody sang clearly in the treble range, which was supported by a well-defined bass. While playing through an arrangement of ?Summertime,? and digging in for volume, I found the guitar could take just about anything I had to dish out; and strumming through the chords to ?Hey Joe? and ?Folsom Prison Blues? yielded shimmering, even tones from high to low. And while some might find the neck profile unusual, the guitar was easy to play in every style, though the action at the nut could have been set a bit lower at the factory.
In both construction and tonal quality, the W-3 makes a very satisfying package. With features like a Spanish heel and flat neck contour, it marks a successful attempt to fuse Spanish playability with steel-string flattop tone. The woods are beautiful, the joinery and finish are excellent, and the sound is complex and brilliant. If the W-3 we reviewed is typical of the steelstring guitars coming from the folks at Alhambra, there?s a solid new contender in the steel-string guitar market.