A powerful 12-string from California’s custom guitar specialists.
by Teja Gerken
December 09, 2019
After more than 40 years in the business, the Santa Cruz Guitar Company is one of the most established and respected custom guitar manufacturers in the world. Santa Cruz guitars are enjoyed by a significant number of players, but even though the company has offered a 12-string option for many of its models since its beginnings, I’ve only come across a handful of them. So when the company offered to send us a 12-string version of its OM Grand, I was thrilled to get a chance to spend some time with it.
Aptly named, the Santa Cruz OM Grand’s body is an enlarged version of an OM’s 000-size body, with a width of 16 inches, making it similar to what other manufacturers call M-size or 0000. Our demo guitar was built with the model’s standard Indian rosewood back and sides, but it had an old-growth bear-claw Sitka spruce top instead of the standard European spruce. Known for being extra stiff, a bear-claw top is a great choice for a 12-string, and the top on this guitar was spectacular. The instrument’s appointments are clearly vintage inspired, with Santa Cruz’s S29 herringbone purfling, ivoroid binding and rosette, a small OM pickguard, and a squared-off peghead that has been enlarged to provide room for a set of 12 chrome Gotoh 510 tuners. Though fundamentally Martin-like in its appearance, I also detected a vintage Stella 12-string vibe.
Playing the OM Grand 12-string was incredibly satisfying. Strung with light-gauge strings and tuned to standard pitch, the guitar had great range and complexity when played fingerstyle, and the harder I dug in, the more powerful it became. And when played with a pick it had a thick, rich tone with great volume. Given the guitar’s full-sounding low-end, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like tuned down, and while I stopped short of restringing it with heavier strings, I did try it in CFCFAC (open G tuned down one step) tuning, which rewarded me with a serious rumble on some Leo Kottke–inspired fingerpicking.
The Santa Cruz OM Grand 12-string is a killer guitar. Santa Cruz may not be the first name you associate with 12-string guitars, but the company clearly has a solid ability to modify its designs to accommodate twice the number of strings (the 12-string option is available on several of its body styles). Anyone in the market for a high-end 12-string ought to give close consideration to the California maker’s instruments!
SPECS: OM Grand body. Old-growth bear-claw Sitka spruce top. Hide-glued Adirondack spruce X-bracing. Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fretboard and bridge. 25.375-inch scale. 1⅞-inch nut width. Chrome Gotoh 510 tuning machines. Made in USA. $9,675 list. santacruzguitar.com
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