From the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY BILL LEIGH
Chinese guitar maker Farida has been crafting instruments for four decades. Though the brand is fairly well established in Europe and Asia, Farida is a relative newcomer to the USA. Yet, the U.S. guitar-building tradition sits at the center of the company’s aesthetic. The mission of Farida’s Old Town series is to marry classic American designs with modern building techniques and playability. The company’s latest offerings are contemporary takes on a couple of wartime Gibson models. The OT-65 Wide VBS is clearly inspired by the popular Gibson J-45, a round-shouldered dreadnought that debuted in 1942. The more petite 00-size OT-25 NA takes after the lesser-known Gibson LG-3, which was also introduced that same year.
With its soft shoulders and wide lower bout, the OT-65’s profile mirrors the sensuous curves of a classic guitar. The more svelte upper bout meant the Farida felt comfortable on my lap, not at all bulky. The instrument’s solid Sitka spruce top features a warm, dark sunburst finish punctuated by tasteful ivoroid binding with a matching striped rosette. The solid mahogany back and sides have strikingly pronounced grain lines in handsome, dark caramel tones. The odd shape of the striped tortoiseshell pickguard exaggerates the guitar’s distinctive body contours. Though it adds to the body’s vintage vibe, it’s actually a departure from the classic teardrop shape.
The neck has a comfortably flat C shape, a modern touch that differs from the baseball-bat neck contour of many vintage guitars. The neck is made of nato and topped with a handsome pau ferro fingerboard with acrylic fret markers. The “Wide” designation refers to the neck’s ample 1-3/4-inch nut width, which provides generous string spacing for fingerstyle playing. For those who prefer less spaciousness, a narrower neck is an available option. The slim headstock has Farida’s classic-looking script logo with three-on-a-plate tuners.
Dreadnought guitars were named after powerful battleships, and with its warm, strong sound, the OT-65 certainly maintains the tradition. The guitar’s deep lows lend sonic gravitas while never overpowering an overall balanced sound. The Wide string-spacing makes the OT-65 a fingerstyle dream, while keeping things comfortable on the fretting hand. Plucked notes rang with warmth, clarity, and projection, and flatpicked single-notes cut through with ample treble bite. Strummed chords were warm, fat, and room filling. With a full 25-1/2-inch scale length and powerful bottom-end, tuning down to open D was a satisfying place to be on the OT-65.
The 00-sized Farida OT-25 NA takes its inspiration from a “Banner” era guitar, but it has many of the same appointments and options as its bigger brother, the OT-65. “NA” is for the Sitka spruce top’s natural finish, but the instrument is also available with the vintage sunburst “VBS” finish. Our tester had a 1-11/16-inch nut for narrower string-spacing, but it can also come with a more fingerstyle-friendly 1-3/4-inch nut and the Wide designation. The shorter body and neck accommodate a scale length of 24.7 inches.
Like its primary inspiration, the OT-25 has a natural spruce top, spruce X-bracing, and the gently curving shoulders that are an important part of the aesthetic. The grain of the mahogany sides and back shows through the gloss finish, and tasteful binding connects the major body pieces. Like the OT-65, the OT-25 has three-on-a-plate open-back tuners with ivoroid buttons. The headstock’s script logo nods to the wartime era vibe coming from these two guitars.
Despite its shorter scale, the nato neck didn’t feel particularly cramped, and notes sounded balanced across the pau ferro fingerboard. Set up with comfortably low action, the OT-25 was easy on my fretting hand, and not bad for fingerstyle, though the Wider string-spacing option would be a better choice for frequent fingerpickers. Strummed, the OT-25 sounded full and tonally even, though without the extended lows and exceptionally sparkly top end of the OT-65. Volume was neither modest nor mammoth, but the OT-25’s moderate muscle could hold its own during a two-guitar strumming session.
The OT-25 is a solid acoustic with great playability, and it’s nice to see a guitar builder draw inspiration from a lesser-known vintage instrument. However, the more distinctive voice of the larger OT-65 makes it stand out among vintage-inspired acoustics.
Farida OT-65 Wide VBS
BODY Round-shouldered dreadnought with 16-1/8″-wide lower bout, 4-3/16″ depth; solid Sitka spruce top with X-bracing; solid mahogany back and sides; ivoroid ABS plastic binding and rosette; tortoiseshell pickguard; gloss sunburst finish
NECK 25-1/2″-scale, 14-fret set nato neck; 1-3/4″-wide nut; pau ferro fingerboard with acrylic dot markers; vintage-style three-on-a-plate tuners with ivory buttons
OTHER Bone nut and compensated saddle; pau ferro bridge; D’Addario EJ-16 (.012–.053) phosphor bronze strings
MADE IN China
PRICE $774 (street)
Farida OT-25 NA
BODY 00-sized prewar shape, 14.25″-wide lower bout, 4.25″ depth; solid Sitka spruce top with X-bracing; solid mahogany back and sides; ivoroid ABS binding and rosette; tortoiseshell pickguard; gloss natural finish
NECK 24.7″-scale 14-fret set nato neck with adjustable truss rod; 1-11/16″-wide nut (also available with 1-3/4″ width); pau ferro fingerboard with acrylic dot markers; vintage-style three-on-a-plate tuners with ivory buttons
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OTHER Bone nut and compensated saddle; pau ferro bridge; D’Addario EJ-16 (.012–.053) phosphor bronze strings; also available in a sunburst finish
MADE IN China
PRICE $720 (street)
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
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