Even weeks after receiving the freshly built Collings 001 14-Fret, its dueling scents of wood and nitrocellulose lacquer continue to delight as they waft around my house, causing me to pause wistfully from time to time to notice, “Oh, something smells nice,” before realizing that the guitar on the stand sitting next to me on the couch is the source of my olfactory happiness. Because I find guitars to be useful most any place, I’ve never been wild about the term “couch guitar.” But here is the Collings 001 14-Fret right by my sofa, waiting to be played in those rare moments when it’s not already in my hands.
The 001 14-Fret is Collings’ latest body style and, as the name indicates, is a 14-fret version of the 12-fret 00. It’s been seeing a lot of play time, not just because a shelter-in-place order means I’m housebound with my family, but because this is an extraordinarily well-made, excellent-playing guitar that seems able to uplift even the most basic fingerpicker—such as myself—and would clearly suit any player seeking well-rounded tone in a compact instrument.
Surprising Volume and Balance
Like all Collings guitars, the 001 14-fret is available in both standard and traditional packages, with a range of tonewood options. At $4,300, the entry price for the basic spruce-and-mahogany model (as reviewed) might be significant compared to the new and vintage 00-18-style guitars that inspired it. But that cost opens a door to an instrument built by a maker that has for decades been celebrated for making no compromises in materials, construction, setup, or tone.
With this new shape, inspired by the Martin 14-fret 00 with a 14-1/2-inch lower bout that first appeared in 1934, Collings aims to merge a warmer low midrange presence than is typical of a smaller body with the volume of a larger body, all in a very comfortable package. My time with the instrument confirms that Collings nailed this goal, but I’d add that the tone is remarkably balanced to my ears and feels very evenly spread between the lows, highs, and mids. It’s like a flat EQ on a quality preamp—just pure goodness that gives you room for expressive playing.
However surprising this grand concert guitar’s volume capability is—and it will be for those folks weaned on larger instruments—the 001 14-Fret did get a little lost with an upright bass and vocals on an acoustic gig at a busy restaurant in San Francisco. That said, a bandmate used it for part of the set, and it was a treat to be on the receiving end of the guitar while he played his favorite Mississippi John Hurt songs. It sure makes gratifying sounds while in the driver’s seat, but all of the 001’s good qualities shine even brighter from the audience’s perspective: Think warm midrange, thick and present bass, and a clear high-end that is excellent for strumming chords, playing single-note lines, and fingerpicking ragtime and open-tuned blues.
The shorter 24-7/8-inch scale also makes for easy bends and chording. I compared the 001 14-Fret to my similarly proportioned Waterloo WL-S, and while the ladder-braced Waterloo has a little more punch for uptempo chord comping, the Collings, with its scalloped prewar-style X-bracing, offers more detailed high-end dazzle and low-end thump.
Superlative Fit and Finish
I would be remiss not to mention the materials and construction, the fit and finish. As you would expect from a guitar in this price range, everything is exceptional from stem to stern. The Sitka spruce top has very tight grain and a tremendous amount of silking (medullary rays), something that folks will wax on about as a sign of quality, which gives the wood a captivating 3-D quality. The naturally dark ebony used for the bridge, headplate, and fingerboard is appealing and serves to highlight the wood’s grain variations. The neck has a slight V profile that gets a little sharper toward the higher regions, and it’s a real comfortable place for a fretting hand to navigate.
If you’re looking for a comfortable guitar that you can spend hours playing, and you are open to the surprising versatility and well-rounded tone of a 00, the Collings 001 14-Fret is well worth a test drive. It delivers irrefutably excellent materials and construction in a guitar that will never fail to impress in tone, looks, and feel.
BODY Sitka spruce top with prewar-style scalloped X-bracing; Honduran mahogany back and sides; tortoise binding with four-layer purfling; 1-style walnut back strip; tortoise pickguard; high-gloss nitrocellulose finish
NECK 24-7/8″-scale mahogany neck with modified V profile and adjustable truss rod; ebony fingerboard with mother-of-pearl position markers; 20 nickel-silver frets, 1-11/16″ nut width; nickel Waverly 16:1 tuners; ebony peghead overlay with mother-of-pearl Collings logo; high-gloss polyester resin finish
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MADE IN USA
PRICE $4,300 street
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
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