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This article was originally published in issue #36
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George Lowden started building guitars in the early 1970s in Northern Ireland. Since that time he has gone on to produce some of the most revered acoustic guitars in the world, played by the biggest innovators and stylists in the acoustic world such as Thomas Leeb, Jon Gomm, Pierre Bensusan and Alex de Grassi. Lowden guitars are known for their incredible, master grade tone woods and stunning, yet subtly understated, good looks and it’s no understatement to say that George produces some of the best guitars in the world today. The Lowden F50C is no exception to this and we were lucky enough to have a fan fretted version sent to Guitar Interactive for us to review.
The F50 is a large bodied acoustic available with a range of tops, back and sides to suit each customer’s needs both tonally and aesthetically. Our F50C model was supplied with a Master Grade Red cedar top and Master Grade East Indian rosewood back and sides. The neck is a five-piece mahogany and rosewood construction with a book matched front and back for the headstock and Gotoh 510 tuners for tuning stability and accuracy. Needless to say, you get a wide range of prestige tonewoods to choose from when you buy one of these fabulous looking guitars. These are just the ones used on our sample. Your choice will affect the tone and response of an F50 but our example will be a reasonable guide to what to expect. Again, when you are dealing with a maker like Lowden, you can expect a lot of help and advice if you're lucky enough to be able to make such a choice!
The feature that will excite particular interest is that our sample came with the option of fan fretting. This distinctive looking design endows the bass register with a longer scale length than the treble register and it is more than just an interesting visual touch. George Lowden describes the change as the difference between an upright piano and a grand piano, where the extra string length of the grand piano’s bass register gives a far tighter and richer bass response and the shorter upper register strings allow for a smoother and more bell like treble tone. This is true for guitars as well as pianos and it is immediately obvious when you pick your first few notes on the F50C-FF. The effect is very pronounced and the richness in tone leaves you wondering why all guitars are not constructed this way.
Scale length and fretting aside, the very first thing that strikes you when you lift the F50 out of its supplied Hiscox Artist case is just how beautiful it is. The rosewood back and sides are simply some of the most luxurious pieces of wood you’ll ever see on a guitar with a grain that resembles melting chocolate, with the deepest browns and blacks that look good enough to dive into. The cedar top is equally beautiful in a more subtle way and is lifted by some lovely touches such as the flame maple bevel, abalone and flame maple rosette and the stunning bridge design with offset bridge pins to match the fanned scale lengths. The fretboard is extended on the treble end up to 22 frets and is finished with binding all the way round and some of the best fretwork you’ll ever see on any guitar. It all adds up to a design that is simply as good as it gets in the acoustic world and crosses the divide between classic and modern appointments expertly.
The F50C is a very comfortable guitar given its large body shape, with an extremely approachable neck profile that will feel good for the majority of hand sizes. On first sight, you may feel that the fan fret design might inhibit your playing somewhat but it feels totally natural and the tonal benefits are just too good to miss out on, so don’t et the unconventional appearance put you off trying this design.
Overall, the construction and finishing on our review Lowden is of the highest quality you’ll find in this business. Master craftsmen produce every guitar, with an eye for detail that makes this feel like a work of art as much as a musical instrument. Of course you could buy a decent car for the price of one of these guitars but at this quality level, who cares how much it costs? You are truly getting what you pay for as this kind of instrument can never come cheap and is simply not aimed at the hobby guitar player. It's a lifetime's investment for a guitar player who wants the finest money can buy.
Tonally the F50C-FF is one of the best and most consistent sounding acoustics this reviewer has ever played with a deep and rich bass that really fulfils that cliché of a piano like crispness in the bottom end. Across the whole range of the instrument you get an even, silky tone and attack that is just pure pleasure to play and experience. It doesn’t take much imagination to ponder how wonderful this guitar would sound miked up in a great studio with a solo player who could do justice to the incredible sound. The F50C is also very versatile and would suit all manner of players from those requiring a great strumming guitar with the ultimate tone and even response to the modern technical soloist who performs with a percussive approach and multiple tunings.
This is the kind of guitar that you fall totally in love with and then spend a huge amount of time trying to justify how you can get the money together without risking your relationship and mortgage. It simply doesn’t get better than this for acoustic guitars and if you can afford it then you will have a guitar that will last you the rest of your life and will be the envy of everyone who sees/hears you with it.