A powerful small-body built with Sitka spruce and Indian rosewood.
by Teja Gerken
April 08, 2019
Last year, Lowden Guitars started offering a 12-fret version of its small-body S model, adding a new voice to the Northern Ireland–based company’s already extensive lineup. A few months ago, we checked out one of the earliest 12-fret S-models to come out of the Lowden shop, a walnut and cedar S-35 12-Fret, and found that moving the bridge closer into the lower bout resulted in a richer tone with a more robust bass response. Recently we had a chance to demo a cutaway model of the 12-Fret built with Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce. This instrument was displayed at the 2019 Winter NAMM show and came to us courtesy of Gryphon Stringed Instruments.
Lowden guitars are well-known for a clean aesthetic that puts high-quality woods and superb craftsmanship ahead of flashy appointments. And while 35-level Lowdens are available in many wood combinations, the S-35C 12-Fret shows how beautiful relatively common woods such as Sitka spruce and Indian rosewood can be. The spruce on this guitar has ultra-straight, tight grain and even coloring, and the rosewood displays a dark chocolate hue and attractive grain patterns. The guitar has Lowden’s superstiff five-piece neck as well as its pinless bridge/split-saddle combination. The plain, classical-style fingerboard and wood binding lend a subtle sophistication, and an abalone rosette delivers a touch of color.
As I observed with the 12-fret S I demoed before, the guitar is incredibly easy to play and offers a highly complex tonality that is bigger than the instrument’s small body size would suggest. But what really knocked me out about the guitar was its sustain, which is so resonant that it almost feels as if the notes get a turbo boost after the initial attack. This makes the guitar perfect for playing ballads, but the guitar also has plenty of spunk and volume, and sounds equally great on more dynamic material. The inclusion of a cutaway provides easy access to at least the 15th fret, eliminating one of the worries that some players have about playing a 12-fret guitar.
Without question, the Lowden S-35C 12-Fret is a highly sophisticated guitar that packs a punch despite its compact dimensions. Whether you’re looking for a powerful small-body, an easy-to-play tone machine, or are smitten by Lowden’s no-nonsense aesthetic, this is a guitar that demands to be checked out.
SPECS: S-size body with cutaway and 12-fret neck. Sitka spruce top. Indian rosewood back and sides. Five-piece mahogany and rosewood neck. Ebony fingerboard. Rosewood bridge with split saddles. 630 mm. (24⁵¹/₆₄-inch scale. 45-mm. nut width. Gotoh 510 tuning machines. Made in Northern Ireland. $5,670 street. Lowdenguitars.com
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