Luthier Bill Collings began building guitars in a spare bedroom in the 1970s, and in the decades since, his company has become known for offering contemporary interpretations of classic American guitars built in a small but high-tech shop. The company’s OM1 is a perfect example of a “workhorse” guitar that eschews unnecessary appointments or unusual woods and puts the focus entirely on playability and tone.
Our review instrument is the Pete Huttlinger signature model version of Collings’s OM1, closely based on the OM1 that has been the Nashville-based fingerstyle ace’s primary guitar for many years. Limited to a run of 50 guitars, this special edition will send $1,000 from each sale to Huttlinger’s medical fund (born with a congenital heart condition, the guitarist has recently been suffering serious health issues and associated costs). Other than featuring Huttlinger’s signature inlaid at the 12th fret, the guitar is identical to a standard cutaway OM1. Huttlinger owns both Sitka and Adirondack spruce versions, and the model can be built with either topwood.
Collings OMs come standard with a 1 11/16-inch nut width, but our review guitar was configured with the optional 1 3/4-inch nut. The guitar had a clean, elegant look, with a near-white Sitka spruce top (which is sure to darken with age). The back and sides were made from beautiful, moderately dark mahogany, trimmed with tortoise- style binding and a slim walnut back strip. The mahogany neck has a subtle V shape and a gloss lacquer finish, and the ebony fingerboard has simple dot markers. A look inside the guitar reveals standard scalloped X-bracing and perfectly meticulous construction.
Playing the guitar, we were greeted with a voice that was clear and articulate, with an underlying warmth. The bass notes are big and full, but without being muddy, while the trebles have a satisfying bite without being thin. Nygaard felt the guitar’s perfectly balanced tone would work well for any style, while Gerken and I were impressed with the guitar’s balance and consistency over its entire range. The combination of presence, a warm resonant sound, and both high headroom and excellent responsiveness to a light touch makes the Collings OM1 a superb choice for fingerstyle.
BODY: Solid Sitka spruce top; solid mahogany back and sides.
NECK: Bolt-on mahogany neck; ebony fingerboard and bridge; 25.5-inch scale; 1 3/4-inch nut width; 2 3/16-inch string spacing at the saddle; nickel Waverly tuners.