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This article was originally published in issue #16
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We make no secret of our admiration for Bill Collings and his Austin, Texas-based team of master guitar builders. Every Collings we've reviewed has been a masterpiece. But can the wizard cast the same spell every time? This time we gave an OM42 pure acoustic toRick Grahamand watched for the tell-tale signs.
Starting out in stringed instrument repair back in the mid '70s, Bill Collings' passion for engineering, music and musical instruments was deep rooted. After initially relocating and setting up shop in Austin, Texas, it didn't take long before the work quickly spread about the quality of his workmanship and meticulous attention to detail. The growing success of the company led Collings to expand the business to what it is today; a 22,000 square foot shop with over 50 employees. Indeed, in Issue 4, we sent our very own Stuart Bull down to the Collings factory to film a report on the magic that is being performed there - http://licklibrary.ceros.com/iguitarmag/iguitar-iguitar-magazine-iguitar-mag-digital-guita/issue4/page/168 Even though the business has continued to grow and expand, Bill Collings' commitment and passion seem undiminished which, no doubt, is why the company can count some of the highest profile artists among their roster. These include players like Keith Richards, Andy Summers and Brian May, as well as more unexpected users, such as world famous film producer/director Steven Spielberg.
We've looked at several Collings instruments in the past - including some of the the much-admired electrics - but this time we're going right back to a grass roots instrument with an all-acoustic OM42.
As many GI readers will know, in acoustic parlance, that 'OM' in the model name stands for 'Orchestra Model', a shape that has become one of the most popular amongst fingerstyle players since its inception, some 80 years ago. The top of choice for this guitar is Adirondack spruce, which is one of the stiffest tonewoods available. The back and sides are made from rosewood, which looked exquisite, but without doubt the most visually prominent feature of this guitar is the stunning inlay work. These are among many options you get when placing an order with Collings, which offers a full a la carte menu system from which you can choose. It's a daydreamer's delight! For the record, our review model was based on an OM3 but with various choices, which we've listed in the Tech Spec box below.
OK - time to open-up the deluxe hardshell case, which revealed what can only describe as one of the most beautiful looking instruments I have ever seen. Without question. It was one of those moments that truly left me speechless and I couldn't help but stare in admiration at the stunning 'Tree of Life' inlay covering the fretboard. This is craftsmanship of the absolutely highest quality.
Our review OM42 was also graced with a traditional 'Flowerpot' design on the headstock, as well as gold Waverly tuners (themselves one of many options on offer), but it was that simply stunning the 'Tree of Life' inlay adorning the fretboard that kept drawing my attention. An abalone rosette and 42-style purfling tied everything together beautifully.
Having spent an inordinate amount of time just looking at this instrument, I thought it best to do some playing. Starting out with some simple strummed chords, it was clear from the outset that this was far more than just a pretty - no, let's make that beautiful, guitar. The sound the OM42 produced was huge, despite the smaller OM shape and it had a tone to match. Moving on to some fingerpicking, each note seemed to blossom like a flower bud unfurling toward the sun, full to the brim with overtones (steady-on, old chap! - Ed). Basses were deep and the trebles brilliant, all the while complimenting one another beautifully. The Adirondack top offers very fast attack with every note having superb clarity and definition. Needless to say, the playability was perfect too. As we always say - check out the video!
Everything about the Collings OM42 is special. From the intricate inlays to the perfect playabilty and the truly jaw dropping tone, everything about this instrument spells workmanship of the highest quality. Although it isn't cheap by any means, this is an instrument that is worth owning at least once in your lifetime. A truly stunning musical instrument.
Editor's note - Rick Graham is currently accepting offers for his immortal soul so that he can buy one of these guitars. We have struggled hard to find a mark that makes any sense on our star rating system. A five star rating doesn't work because no guitar this expensive can really be called 'good value for money' - even if it is! In the end we concluded it is, simply, too good to be rated and that the price is irrelevant. There is no price that can be put on magic.