Posted by Adam Perlmutter
Despite its modest looks, this new Collings makes a strong first impression. A lovely little songbird, the 01 12-Fret is easy to play, responding to the lightest touch with a voice that’s sweet and complex. And its aroma—freshly sanded wood and lacquer—is absolutely intoxicating. It’s difficult to put this guitar down.
Collings has consistently hit the mark with its superlative interpretations of classic flattop acoustics—and more recently, archtops, electrics, mandolins, and ukuleles. The 01 12-Fret is among the smallest of the Austin, Texas, company’s full-size guitars, a loving tribute to the 0-size parlor guitars Martin introduced in the 1850s, long before larger instruments such as the orchestra and dreadnought took over.
Narrow but Deep-Sounding
The 01 12-Fret is a narrow instrument, only 13.5 inches wide, but doesn’t feel particularly small when played. It has a short-scale neck (247/8 inches) but a wide nut (113/16 inches), and a compound, 14- to 26-inch radius. The neck is ample but not overly cumbersome, and has a slight V profile that splits the difference between the vintage and the modern. Though I prefer narrower and smaller necks, the 01 12-Fret’s neck feels comfortable and requires no adjustment in my technique.
A guitar like this begs to be fingerpicked and responds well to music of all types. Old-timey styles like country-blues and ragtime are a natural fit, as the guitar, although new, seems to have a mature sound. A pair of Duke Ellington pieces, “(In My) Solitude” and “Single Petal of a Rose,” work out nicely on the 01 12-Fret, which has a nice, even tone. When I play some nylon-string arrangements of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, they shine on this steel-string. Improvisations in tunings like DADGAD and open G also fare well, though the sound loses a touch of its robustness when tuned to open C. All of the tunings are easy to get into, thanks to the guitar’s open-geared Waverly tuners.
When strummed with a pick, the 01 12-Fret doesn’t have the brawniness of a larger guitar like a dreadnought, but it does have a good amount of bass response for its size. What’s more, given the excellent balance between registers, this instrument would no doubt make a smart choice for the recording guitarist.
The basic 01 12-Fret comes standard with a Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides, all solid. But it can be custom ordered with other tonewoods. Some 01 12-Frets advertised online come with enticing combinations of Adirondack spruce and birdseye maple, German spruce and koa, and all-koa, among other offerings.
The 01 designation indicates that this guitar has a minimum of cosmetic embellishments. Still, it’s a looker. All of the woods are beautiful; the spruce is tightly grained and has a reddish hue, while the straight-grained mahogany has a warm, earthen coloration and a hint of figuring when viewed at certain angles. As on a vintage guitar, the body’s tortoise binding adds a subtle shimmer to the edges.
Like all Collings guitars I’ve seen or played, the 01 12-Fret is impeccably built from stem to stern. Unlike a mid-19th-century guitar, designed for lower-tension strings, this one is made to withstand the additional force of steel strings. Yet it’s featherweight, at about 3.5 pounds. The nickel-silver frets are perfectly smooth, as is the high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish, which happens to be largely immune to fingerprints. Inside the guitar, things are also tip-top, with the scalloped bracing and the kerfing perfectly sanded and glued without a hint of sloppiness.
Collings has produced another winning guitar in the 01 12-Fret—an instrument that captures the essence of its early predecessors while being updated for the modern player with a fully adjustable truss rod and other constructional aspects. It’s not cheap, and you can still find some 1800s-period Martin parlor guitars with Brazilian rosewood backs and sides for about the same price. But a player looking for a contemporary parlor guitar would be remiss in not checking out this fine instrument.
AT A GLANCE
Collings 01 12-Fret
Select Sitka spruce top
Mahogany back and sides
High-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish
24 7/8-inch scale length
1 13/16-inch nut width
Nickel Waverly tuners
D’Addario EJ16 phosphor bronze strings (.012–.053)
Collings Deluxe hardshell case by TKL
Limited lifetime warranty
$5,250 list/$4,725 street
Made in the United States