A style-42 parlor built out of spectacular koa.
by Teja Gerken
February 18, 2019
Once seen as antiques that can’t compete with the sound of larger guitars, parlor guitars have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the last couple of decades. This has led to some differences of opinion about the definition of “parlor guitar,” and the term has been used to describe any small-body 12-fret and even early European classical guitars. But the term has its roots in early American guitars that were built from the mid- to late-1800s, most of which were smaller than Martin’s 0-size guitars. At this past January’s NAMM show, we were smitten with a Preston Thompson Size 2 Koa Deluxe (a parlor based on Martin’s size 2 body), and shortly afterward, we had a chance to check it out in the Peghead Nation video studio.
The Thompson Size 2 Koa Deluxe is built with spectacularly flamed koa top, back, and sides. This wood alone would create a distinctive instrument, but Thompson went further by giving the guitar style 42–inspired appointments. The guitar has abalone top purfling, abalone along the fingerboard extension, ivoroid binding, and an abalone “torch” on the slotted peghead. For the fingerboard position markers, Thompson chose a style-45 snowflake pattern. The guitar has a beautiful pyramid bridge, and is equipped with three-on-a-plate Waverly tuning machines.
Given its small body, short scale, and 12-fret neck, it’s no surprise that the guitar is very comfortable and easy to play. But it also delivers tonally, offering a remarkably balanced sound with a lightning-fast response and more volume than one might expect. With its precise note separation, it excels when played fingerstyle, but also has a great sound when gently strummed. Though the guitar’s upper and mid-range frequencies predominate, it never sounds too bright, and will most likely stand out on a recording in a dense mix of instruments.
With its gorgeous looks, first-rate craftsmanship, and refined tone, the Preston Thompson Size 2 Koa Deluxe is a very cool guitar with an unusual combination of design elements and features. It is a testament to the possibilities of the creative adaptation of classic instruments.
SPECS: 12-fret size-2 body. Flamed koa top, back, and sides. Adirondack spruce bracing. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and pyramid bridge. 24.9-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₁₆-inch string spacing at the saddle. Waverly tuning machines. Made in the USA. $8,215 as shown. Pktguitars.com
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