An exquisite small-body steel-string with a body made from fiddleback mahogany.
by Teja Gerken
April 10, 2017
Luthier George Lowden has designed some of the most original steel-string guitars of the last 40 years. He pioneered the use of cedar tops, pinless bridges, and two-piece saddles, and also came up with his own body shapes, a distinctive aesthetic, and a signature guitar tone. While Lowden has been no stranger to experimenting with designs and woods, the new S-35M is the first model that his company has offered with a hardwood top. We had a chance to check out one of the new guitars before it was sent to The Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney, Texas.
The S-35M is built on Lowden’s S-body platform, which was the smallest model the company offered until last year’s introduction of the Wee Lowden. Opening the S-35M’s Hiscox case, it was impossible to not be in awe: The fiddleback mahogany used for the top, back, and sides of the guitar’s body is stunning in its rich color and figure, and Lowden’s semi-satin finish only enhanced the natural beauty. As is the case with most Lowdens, the appointments on the S-35M are kept to a minimum, with only an abalone rosette, wooden (rosewood/mahogany/maple) purfling, and maple strips along the sides of the fretboard complementing the classy set of materials. The guitar has Lowden’s five piece neck made out of mahogany with rosewood reinforcement strips, and it uses a set of open-back Robson tuning machines. Our demo guitar included an optional LR Baggs Anthem electronics package.
The S-35M was an incredibly fun guitar to play. It offered the slightly diffused and highly complex tonality that Lowdens are known for, but the mahogany top seemed to add a bit of sustain, leading to a sound that felt thick, balanced, and incredibly rich. The guitar excelled when played fingerstyle, but it also had a great voice when played with a pick. In this video, Peghead Nation’s Teja Gerken and Scott Nygaard demonstrate the instrument played in a variety of styles.
Plugging the S-35M into a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp made it clear why Lowden chose the LR Baggs Anthem system as its default pickup option. Consisting of a undersaddle pickup and a Tru-Mic internal microphone (mounted to the bridge plate), the Anthem uses a clever preamp with a sophisticated crossover circuit that makes use of the best qualities of the pickup and the internal microphone. A soundhole-mounted control unit allows easy adjustments of volume, pickup/mic blend, and phase. In the S-35M, the Anthem was able to transmit the guitar’s complex acoustic character with great detail, and it should serve anyone who needs to amplify on stage or in the studio.
Overall, the S-35M is a wonderful guitar. Players who are already fans of Lowden guitars will take delight in a new variation of the company’s signature tone, and those who are new to the brand just may end up being smitten when playing this latest offering from the workshop of George Lowden and his crew.
SPECS: S-size body. Fiddleback mahogany top, back, and sides. Five-piece mahogany and rosewood neck. Ebony fingerboard. Rosewood bridge with split saddles. 630 mm. (24 ⁵¹/₆₄-inch scale. 45-mm. nut width. Open-gear Robson tuning machines. Made in Northern Ireland. Starting at $6420 list ($7005 with Robson tuners, as reviewed). Lowdenguitars.com
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