All 3 are surprisingly good 🙂 (and what a relief!!). As my teachers puts it (who´s been trying all 3 of course) they are different guitars, with a different character, but he wouldn´t mind using any of the 3 in a live performance. That´s actually the plan, but more on this in a later post. According to him his Keller is again different, but really not any´better´, just different. At that level it becomes more a question of individual taste, whether you like the overall sound timber or not so much. It´s really not a question anymore of projection, sound or dynamic shortcomings etc.
For now one thing is sure. Luck had not much do do with it. And the playability and sound of the 3 instrument is among the best I´ve had the priviledge to discover. Recently played a Hanika Concert model (Really their high end model featuring a double top etc;) at Session in Frankfurt for about an hour, and I wouln´t swap it for any of my 3 guitars. Not because they are mine, but simply because I prefer their sound better. They also had 2 models from a lady luthier called Franziska Kössl which I also gave a long try….. and there again…. nothing to be jealous about.
Ok, I´ve got to but something straight here. What I am comparing is the sound quality and playability only. When it comes to the overall appearance and esthetical design, then Franziska´s guitars look a lot more refined than mine. You can tell that she has the woodworking experience to create absolutely beautiful and “perfect” to the last detail instruments. Mine are nice looking with some slight imperfections here and there. (imperfections you can actually see when looking close enough) For instance my shellac finish is improving now that I´ve done it 3 times, but it is still not perfect, and you see some imperfections if you know where to look. Specially at the less accessible areas where the fingerboard meets the top, or around the spanish heel and the sides, or around the bridge (since I glue the bridge on before finishing he instrument). LOL, they are not ugly either, but not as cleanly built as Franziska´s for sure. But since I´m not selling mine, and since the sound like playability come fitst on my priority list, that´s ok with me. I´m also only using handtools and not the best quality ones either, and that might have something to do with it as well. But I don´t care for now. I´m sure that once I´ll have built 20 or more that those aspects will improve as well. (If I ever make it to 20 that is 🙂 lets not forget that my end goal is NOT to build guitars, but to play guitar, even so I really like building them too, but it takes so much time, and always goes on the expense of valuable practice time…. (like is the making of this web site by the way 🙂 )
One thing is sure: I will never have to buy myself another guitar, and the initial investment of 3k plus the price of the wood for all 3 (about 800) is already amortized. If I´m not counting my time, then each of the 3 cost me all in all around 1k EUR (when equally amortizing the cost of the equipment between the 3), which is the price of an average factory built study guitar (so the mid range of the mid range)
With the last 2 I have reduced the mass of the tops progressively, and the difference is as expected. The blanko model has an average top thickness of 2mm with 1,6 at the sides of the lower bout. (I kept the prototype above 1,8 at its lowest spot) both have similar (as much as my little experience lets me judge these things) stiffness, so either the bracing is a little heavier, or the 2nd piece of spruce was stiffer in itself. Very responsive, even more than the prototype and a little fewer harmonics or overtones in the trebels, which makes for a little warmer sound. This is partly due to the fact that the back and sides are cypress, which is a softer wood that tends to absorb sound waves a little more than the very brittle indian rosewood. I kept the bracing design asymetrical and identical on all 3. If I change too many parameters, then it will be impossibel to determine which design change had which impact.
The bubinga (my third) on the other side shows the biggest difference conpared to the other 2.
First, it´s got a red cedar top. Secondly, I reduced the thickness of another ,2 mm. (I´m striving to approach the optimal target stiffness (and not thickness!!)..). Overall top thickness 1,9 with the lowest spot at the edge of the lower bout where it´s between 1,3 and 1,4. The stiffness from top to bottom was similar to the spruce tops before, and I kept a bridge patch and a ´correct´ center brace to gurantee integrity of the structure under string tension. (and so far it hasn´t imploded on me, and I cannot see any top deormation after 2 months…) so far so good.
Personally it has the sound timber I like the least. Even so 2 of my guitar enthusiasts and friends think it´s the best of all 3, but they don´t play classical repertoire, but more fingerstyle picking and rythm, and it is a very loud beast indeed, and it may fit their playing style better. I also noticed that it´s sound shaping range (the nuance in tone timber you should expect when attacking the strings at different areas – above the soundhole or ´near the bridge is not as broad or open compared to the other 2. It´s still pretty much there, but just not as Open. It proves harder to reach a mellower sound as things remain quite aggressive even when playing at the intersection of the fingeboard over the soundhole. This being said, I´ve got high tension Hannabach exclusive strings on her at the moment. For my liking these strings are maybe a little too strong for the very thin top. So I ordered a Labella low tension from their prof. series and another set of low tensions from Augustin – their black set. Once back home I´ll swap the strings on the blanko and bubinga to low tension to see what kind of difference this makes. I think they will fit the bubinga with its very thin cedar top much better, not so sure about the blanko…
As you see, the story is not over yet. Want to play these 3 for a while now, experiment with different kind of string brands and tensions to get a better feeling overall, and then the plan is to start building 2 more guitars around october november….