Smaller than a Martin OOO (or a Gibson J-45)

Martin OM/OOO Sized GuitarI’ve previously written about my preference for smaller sized guitars. One reason I like small guitars is I find them more comfortable to hold and play. Another reason is that I (and many others) prefer the sound of smaller sized acoustic guitars, particularly if you pick with your fingers instead of a flat pick or finger picks.

More guitar makers are now making smaller sized and affordable guitars. That’s good. I am going to review some of the guitars now available if you’re interested in small guitars. The criteria for inclusion is the width of the lower bout must be smaller than that of a Martin OOO/OM or a Gibson J-45 and the price must be between about $300 and $1000 (a few might be slightly over $1000). These are all steel stringed, flat top acoustic guitars and all have a full standard scale length. These are not short scaled instruments like the Baby Tayor or the Little Martin.

Before I start, what are the widths of Martin and Gibson Guitars? Here’s a table to refer to:

Make Model Lower Bout
Martin OOO 15
Martin OO 14.3125 14 5/16th inches
Martin O 13.5
Gibson J-45 16 Although the J-45 has a 16″ lower bout width, to be included in this survey the guitars must be narrower than 15″.
Gibson L-00 14.75
Gibson Nick Lucas 14.75 The significant difference from the L-00 model is a deeper body depth of 4.5″.

A logical place to start is with Martin and Gibson products which meet my criteria. Are there any? Not long ago you could buy a Martin OO-15 for under $1000, but not any more. However Martin and Epiphone (Gibson) each have a small body guitar that fits the criteria.

Martin 00X1AE Java Mahogany. $500.
This is a OO sized Martin guitar. It has a solid Sitka top and a 25.4 inch scale. Java Mahogany Pattern HPL back and sides and a Natural Stratabond neck. The  lower bout is 14.3125 inches.

Epiphone EL-00 Acoustic Guitar. $300.
I’ve featured this guitar before. It’s a great value for a small guitar with a solid spruce top. It is standard L-00 sized with a 14.75 inch lower bout width and a mahogany body.

Recording King Guitars

The most exciting new products in terms of affordable small body acoustic guitars are the models designed in association with Eric Schoenberg. Schoenberg believes that the perfect fingerstyle guitar would be a sized like a Martin OOO, OO or O but with only 12 frets clear of the body and a cutaway to compensate for the 12 frets clear design. At one time Martin produced some Schoenberg designed guitars that were along these lines. Eric also has produced his own guitars at his shop. But now Recording King has made these guitars affordable. Wonderful.

Recording King RP1-626-C Parlor Guitar with cutaway. $1000.
Engelmann spruce top with mahogany back and sides. This is a “O” sized guitar with a 25.4″ scale length.

Recording King RP1-626 Parlor Guitar. $900.
Essentially the same guitar as above but without the cutaway. Although I’m not going to list them here, Recording King also has OO and OOO sized guitars which are very nice. The RP2-626 models are OO sized instead of the smaller O sized guitars shown here.

Recording King Century Jubilee Troubadour Guitar. RNJ-25 $780 for all solid woods . RNJ-16 $465 for laminated back and sides but solid top. These are two more exciting guitars from Recording King. They are based on the Nick Lucas model and thus have L-00 dimensions but with a deep body.


Blueridge Guitars

Another company making affordable guitars of all sizes is Blueridge. Blueridge is part of the Saga Musical Instrument company who seem to specialize in importing nice quality instruments.

Blueridge BR-361 Parlour Guitar. $910.  A 12-fret O sized body with solid rosewood back and sides, solid spruce top, mahogany neck and slotted head. The width at the nut is 1 7/8″ and the lower bout is 13.74 inches.

Blueridge BR-341 Parlour Guitar. $821.
This is the same guitar as above except with solid mahogany back and sides instead of rosewood.

Seagull Guitars

Seagull Guitars is part of the Godin family of guitar companies. They make excellent, affordable guitars in Canada. I’ve described my Arts & Lutherie Ami Parlor guitar in previous posts. Arts and Lutherie is also part of the Godin family and many dimensions are the same throughout the products. Seagull has two sizes of guitar that fits my criteria.

Seagull Coastline Cedar Grand Guitar. $400.
Select pressure tested solid cedar top, wild cherry back and sides, 13 inch lower bout, 24.84 scale length, 1.72 inch nut width.

Seagull Folk Guitar. Seagull has at least 4 model series of Folk guitars. They all have the following dimensions: 14.76 inch lower bout, 1.8 inch nut width, 24.84 scale length.

Coastline Cedar Folk Guitar. $400.
Select Pressure Tested Solid Cedar, Wild Cherry back and sides, Silver Leaf Maple neck.

Performer Cutaway Folk Flame Maple QI. $690.
Select Pressure Tested Solid Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, QI electronics.

Maritime ‘SWS’ Folk High-Gloss. $700. Select Pressure Tested Solid Spruce top, Solid Mahogany back sides and neck.

Artist Mosaic CW Folk QII. About $900 to 1200.
Select Pressure Tested Solid Cedar, Solid Mahogany neck, back and sides, QII electronics.

Loar Guitars. Loar is a relatively new company. Most of their few products are very nice hollow body archtop acoustic and electric guitars that appeal to classic jazz lovers (me!). But they have one guitar that fits here.

The Loar LH-200 Small-Body Acoustic Guitar. $330
Solid spruce top; mahogany back, sides and neck; 25.5 inch scale length; lower bout 14.75 inches. This is another guitar based on the Nick Lucas specs and has a deep 4.25 inch deep body.

Summary 1

Make/Model Est $ Style or width Scale Top Back/Sides Cutaway Frets
Martin 00X1AE $500 OO 25.4″ Solid Sitka Spruce Java Mahogany Pattern HPL No 14
Epiphone EL-00 $300 L-00 24.75″ Solid Spruce Mahogany No 14
Recording King RP1-626C $1000 O 25.4″ Solid Engelmann Mahogany Yes 12
Recording King RP1-626 $900 O 25.4″ Solid Engelmann Mahogany No 12
Recording King RNJ-25 $780 Nick Lucas 24.75″ Solid Sitka Solid Maple No 14
Recording King RNJ-16 $465 Nick Lucas 24.75″ Solid Sitka Mahogany No 14
Blueridge BR-361 $910 O 24.6″ Solid Sitka Rosewood No 12
Blueridge BR-341 $821 O 24.6 Solid Sitka Mahogany No 12
Seagull Coastline Grand $400 13″ 24.84″ Solid Cedar Wild Cherry No 14
Seagull Coastline Folk $400 14.76″ 24.84″ Solid Cedar Wild Cherry No 14
Seagull Performer Cutaway Folk $690 14.76″ 24.84″ Solid Spruce Flame Maple Yes 14
Seagull Maritme Folk $700 14.76″ 24.84″ Solid Spruce Mahogany No 14
Seagull Artistic Mosaic Folk $1200 14.76″ 24.84″ Solid Cedar Mahogany No 14
Loar LH-200 $330 Nick Lucas 25.5″ Solid Spruce Mahogany No 14

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  1. Table notes: Prices are rounded estimates based on a survey of online merchants June 2011. Style refers Martin or Gibson model that the guitar is based on. The dimensions should be close to those in the previous table but these are not exact reproductions and the dimensions may be slightly different. Dimensions in table are those obtained from manufacturer’s website.

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