Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #20
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Long regarded as one of the USA's finest acoustic guitar makers, Santa Cruz makes its long overdue début in The Quiet Room. Rick Graham samples the beautiful Santa Cruz OM Grand.
Since its inception back in 1976, the Santa Cruz Guitar Company has become one of the leaders of a generation of American acoustic guitar makers. You'll find Santa Cruz guitars in the hands of some of the world's most respected players but you probably won't find them in every guitar shop. In fact you certainly won't as the company still only employs around a dozen highly skilled luthiers who, under the watchful eye of founder Richard Hoover, produce instruments of the highest quality. These are top price, top quality instruments - usually sold to professionals or experienced players who want an 'ultimate guitar' to add to their collection. To say we were keen to try one would be a huge understatement!
The model we were loaned was one of Santa Cruz's OM Grands - a relatively new design, which Richard Hoover describes as: "The most sophisticated sounding steel string guitar that modern luthiery has achieved." The design came about following the 2012 NAMM show in the USA, a long-time friend and dealer, Harry Tuft, asked Richard to build a guitar to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of his shop, The Denver Folklore Center. Tuft wanted a custom OM guitar with a larger body size for an increase in power and eventually the resulting style was added to the SCGC (Santa Cruz Guitar Company's) range of standard models.
Louder, as we all know, really isn't the same as 'better', and the OM Grand is said not just to have more volume, but also enhanced nuances in its sound, lending itself to fingerstyle work, enabling the player to be heard in a band but with no loss of tone or richness.
In terms of woods, the OM grand is pretty conventional - if you take into account that these are top class versions of conventional tonewoods, of course! So we find has a British Colombian Sitka spruce top, coupled with solid Indian rosewood back and sides, bound with Ivoroid. Needless to say, it's beautifully done, as is the herringbone purfling, which looks very classy indeed, as does the matching herringbone rosette. The wood of choice for the neck is mahogany attached to the body by a dovetail joint and the fretboard is made of ebony as is the bridge. The OM sports a 'solid square' headstock design, a volute at the rear and has a beautifully finished ebony overlay with the Santa Cruz Logo emblazoned in mother of pearl across the very top. Machine heads come in the form of open back, nickel Waverly tuners.
And how does it sound? I'm not going to beat around the bush here. The OM grand sounds quite simply stunning. Every note I played had a remarkable fullness, literally bursting with complex overtones. The instrument had a beautifully balanced sound between the bass and trebles too. Basses were always full, loud and clear while the trebles offered an impressive brightness and punch to the sound. They both complemented one another beautifully too as you can hear in the video when I play through a straight scale, transitioning between the basses and trebles.
As the dimensions for this guitar are slightly larger than you'd find on most OM models, there was more volume as a result. Playability was fantastic and overall the guitar was a truly inspiring instrument to play.
How well does it rate against some of the other top of the range guitars we've tried in the Quiet Room? Frankly, at this level it's all down to personal preference. This is an instrument for a connoisseur and the only things between guitars in this class aren't the things that afflict cheaper instruments - they are incredibly subtle matters of tone and feel and responsiveness - which is why you shouldn't buy a guitar like this through the mail! You need to sit and try several - even several samples of the same model - and decide for yourself which suits you best. All we can tell you is that the Santa Cruz OM grand is a superbly built guitar with a superb sound to match. It really is a very inspiring instrument to play and the slightly larger dimensions offer a little more volume than
you might expect from an OM type instrument. Fantastic work from Santa Cruz Guitar Company! Is it worth the asking price? Undoubtedly! A guitar like this will last a lifetime or more and will simply age and mature wonderfully. In fact, we'd even say that in its class it is great value for money.