Fueled by reader requests for an overview of currently available small-body guitars, Acoustic Guitar invited manufacturers to send us samples of their small-body instruments with list prices between $500 and $1,000. We ended up with 11 guitars that are surprisingly diverse in sound and feel, some inspired by vintage instruments and others with more modern body and neck shapes, materials, and appointments. In checking out these guitars, I was assisted by Pete Madsen, a San Francisco Bay Area fingerstyle blues guitarist, teacher, and frequent Acoustic Guitar contributor.
Alvarez and its high-end division Alvarez-Yairi have long made instruments that combine the company’s contemporary aesthetics with 000-size body dimensions. With a width of 15¼ inches at the lower bout, the AF70 is slightly larger than a 000, and its 25-inch scale, slim neck, and narrow string spacing make for a very compact-feeling instrument. The quality of materials and craftsmanship on our review instrument are quite good overall, but the color and grain of the pieces of wood used for the neck, heel, and headstock showed significant variation, and there were blotches in the neck’s finish. Madsen thought that the neck dimensions would be ideal for a player with small hands, and he felt that the guitar’s percussive tonal character worked well for playing alternating-bass fingerpicking tunes. We agreed that the guitar had good volume for both strumming and fingerstyle playing, with a pleasant overall sound, even if a certain compressed quality was apparent in the bass at times. We also believed that the sonic string separation could have been better, which had a slightly mushy sound. But for less than $350, the guitar is a solid performer, and its easy playability would make it a good choice for students.
Solid Sitka spruce top. Laminated rosewood back and sides. Three-piece mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Scalloped X-bracing. 25-inch scale. 1 11/16-inch nut width. 2 1/8-inch string spacing at saddle. Enclosed chrome tuning machines. D’Addario EXP light-gauge strings. Made in China.
PRICE: $529 list/$329.99 street.
MAKER: Alvarez Guitars: (314) 727-1191; alvarezguitars.com.
See all 11 Affordable Small-Body Flattops.