An Orchestra Model built with spectacular Brazilian rosewood.
by Teja Gerken
February 04, 2019
When the Santa Cruz Guitar Company began building OMs in the early 1980s, it was part of a small group of luthiers and manufacturers playing a major role in bringing back this classic Martin design, which Martin itself had stopped offering as a regular model in 1934 and wouldn’t re-introduce until the 1990s. Santa Cruz specializes in building custom guitars, and we recently had a chance to check out a stunning OM built with Brazilian rosewood and Adirondack spruce in the Peghead Nation video studio.
Vintage guitar aficionados know that Brazilian rosewood and Adirondack spruce were the woods used on original OM-28s, but in true Santa Cruz fashion, using the basic recipe doesn’t result in an exact copy. Details such as the multi-colored herringbone purfling (which Santa Cruz calls “S29”); a fingerboard without position markers other than the Santa Cruz logo at the 12th fret, the company’s original bridge shape, which includes a slightly back-angled saddle; and a Brazilian rosewood rosette provide a distinctive appearance without dominating the look of the guitar. By keeping the appointments relatively simple, the guitar’s woods are allowed to take center stage. The Brazilian rosewood (which Santa Cruz identifies as “Tier 1”) used for the back and sides is among the most stunning I’ve ever seen on a new guitar, with deep color, even grain, and perfect book-matching, recalling the woods used on the finest vintage guitars. The guitar’s Adirondack top is of equal quality, featuring incredibly even color, tighter and more even grain than is typically seen on contemporary Adirondack, and three-dimensional medullary rays. These top-shelf, premium woods add a significant upcharge to the OM model’s base price (which would include Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce), but the result is a truly spectacular combination of contemporary lutherie and vintage-grade materials.
Naturally, expectations run high when trying out a guitar of this caliber, and the Santa Cruz OM delivers in spades. The guitar offers the tonal balance, excellent dynamic range, punch, and response that OMs are known for, and it does so with an incredibly complex character. Of course, there are many alternatives to Brazilian rosewood, and Santa Cruz builds wonderful OMs from all kinds of woods, most of which cost considerably less than the old-growth Brazilian used on this instrument. But there is no question that it contributes greatly to the reverb-like sustain and rich overtones of the guitar.
SPECS: OM-size body. Adirondack spruce top and bracing. Old-growth Brazilian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fretboard and bridge. Hide glue construction. 25.375-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Waverly tuning machines with snakewood buttons. Made in USA. $23,960 (list, as shown); $7,475 OM base-price (list). santacruzguitar.com
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