Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #14
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
We make no apologies for returning so soon to Stonebridge - the acoustic guitar maker from the Czech Republic, whose review debut in issue 10 left us seriously impressed, This time we borrowed two models from the Millennium range. Can Stonebridge keep up the pace? Rick Graham finds out.
Frantisek Furch began making high quality acoustic guitars and mandolins under his own name 'Furch' back in 1981. This was a brave move on Furch's part because of the strict laws enforced during the communist rule of Czechoslovakia during that time, but this wasn't to stop him from doing something he truly loved doing. With the eventual fall of the Soviet-style government, Furch was able to step up a gear and every year since seems to have seen the small company grow. If you want to read an inspiring story of triumph against the odds, I recommend the Furch.cz website's history section!
Furch? But isn't this a Stonebridge review? They are, in fact, one and the same. Furch guitars are sold as Stonebridge in the English speaking world, named for the famous Charles Bridge in Prague.
Success in Europe and Japan has now been followed by growing recognition in the UK and USA, where players are starting to realise the incredible quality of these instruments, as my colleague Tom Quayle found back in issue 10. And it's not just in the Quiet Room that these guitars are being applauded. Stonebridges are now finding their way into the hands of some of the words most accomplished and innovative players such as Antoine Dufour, Ewan Dobson and Eric Mongrain.
For this review we have two similar models: the GS-24-SF and the OM-24-SF cutaway, both of which form part of the Millennium range of instruments. Both guitars have exactly the same construction but with two main differences, one with a slightly different body shape and the other having a cutaway for higher fret access, starting at the 15 fret.
Looking at the construction, we have a solid Sitka spruce top paired with a rather stunning looking back and sides made with solid flamed maple and finished with a beautiful gloss 'vintage' finish. The wood of choice for the neck is mahogany upon which you'll find a solid ebony fingerboard with a classy looking and tidily finished padouk eye logo at the 12th fret. The scale length measures 650mm and has a total of 20 frets. The same, albeit slightly larger, padouk eye logo can also be found emblazoned across the centre of the Millennium style headstock which also bears Schaller Gold machine heads with ebony pins. The beautiful padouk binding finishes off what is a truly stunning looking instrument.
With mics in position (both review guitars were non-electric but the option for onboard pickups and pre-amps is available) I was ready and eager to put both of these beautiful instruments to the test. Starting with the GS shape guitar and playing some lightly strummed open chords gave rise to a beautiful tone with a wonderful shimmering quality bursting with harmonics. The bass register proved to be robust and full but all the time complementing, and never outweighing, the gorgeous treble register above it.
Playability on both these Stonebridges was superb. It was almost as if the guitars were playing themselves at times. Intonation was exceptionally good on both and the tone from both guitars was exemplary, the only discernible difference between the two being a little more volume, from the GS shape model. As I say in the video, these guitars really have to be heard in person to fully appreciate the fine workmanship and resulting tone they are able to produce. Special stuff indeed!
These instruments are without a doubt two of the finest guitars that I have had the pleasure of reviewing and although I have already made it clear how I feel about them, at the same time I feel that I haven't said enough. That, to me, has to be a sure-fire indication of a very special product. They aren't cheap but we still have no hesitation in awarding these two Stonebridges as high marks as we've awarded any acoustic guitar, because what you get for your money is way more than anyone has a right to expect. Even costly guitars can sometimes offer excellent value for money - and these certainly do.