A highly innovative steel-string flattop built by luthier Kevin Corcoran.
by Teja Gerken
December 28, 2015
Boulder Creek Musical Instruments (named after the Northern California town of Boulder Creek where it was founded) is known for building guitars, basses, and ukuleles that break with tradition. The most distinctive feature of the company’s instruments is their unusual soundhole design, which includes a large soundport in the side of the body, facing the player, and either no soundhole in the top or a very small offset hole in the bass side of the upper bout. However, the feature that sets Boulder Creek instruments apart from other acoustic guitars is the company’s unique Suspended Bracing System (SBS). The SBS relies on two aluminum rods that run almost the entire length of the top and are connected near the end block, the neck block, and in the bridge area. Boulder Creek says that this stabilizes the top while allowing a lighter bracing pattern than would typically be required to withstand the torque produced by the strings, yielding a more flexible top with greater strength.
The majority of Boulder Creek guitars are manufactured in China, a relatively affordable line of instruments that have found many fans among guitarists looking for innovative instruments with a highly individual character. However, Boulder Creek is now also offering a line of USA Limited Edition guitars, of which only about 30 will be available annually. Built by Gilroy, California, luthier Kevin Corcoran, the highly customizable guitars use the SBS concept and are available in grand auditorium, OM, and 00 body sizes and a wide variety of tonewoods.
We had a chance to check out a 00-size USA Limited Edition guitar built with a spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides. Corcoran clearly knows his craft, as the guitar’s workmanship more than meets the standards set by today’s high-end builders, and he has taken Boulder Creek’s general concept and added further innovative elements. For example, while standard Boulder Creek guitars use plastic mounts to hold the SBS to the top, the USA Limited Edition gracefully integrates the aluminum rod into specially cut fittings in the wood X-bracing. The guitar also has a cantilevered, floating fingerboard extension, which frees the upper bout area of the top and allows greater access to the upper frets. Corcoran also designed the top with a slight arch, further adding stiffness without introducing weight. Another modern touch is his choice of open-back Sperzel tuning machines.
We found the 00 USA Limited Edition to have an extremely clear voice, with excellent definition, particularly in the midrange. The guitar was very balanced throughout, and it had a quick response to delicate playing styles. In this video, I played the guitar in D A D G A D tuning with some contemporary and traditional fingerstyle techniques, while Scott Nygaard played the instrument with a flatpick.
It’s great to see Boulder Creek getting into the high-end market, and players looking for a thoroughly modern steel-string would do well to check out the company’s USA Limited Edition line.
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