Luna Guitars has long been known as much for affordability as for the floral motifs on many of its soundboards. So, when I unzip Luna’s new Art Recorder steel-string from its gig bag, I’m surprised to find that the top is plain spruce, and that the guitar has only the barest ornamental work. And while I learn that the instrument’s street price—around $400—is similarly minimal—the guitar is made entirely from solid tonewoods, unlike many instruments at this price point. I’m already impressed, and I haven’t even played it.
A Fine Voice
Right out of the box, it’s apparent that the Art Recorder is a very nice-sounding guitar. Its intonation is spot-on, and there are no dead spots on the neck, nor any unwanted buzzing sounds. Overall, it’s warm and mellow, owing likely to the mahogany back and sides, and the balance between registers is good. The trebles are clear and strong and the mids punchy; the bass is certainly adequate, though it could be just a bit more assertive.
As befits an instrument that’s designed for use in the studio, the guitar responds well to a range of techniques and repertoire. When I strum basic cowboy chords and complex jazz voicings alike, it has a nice, uncluttered sound that will sit well in a mix. It’s satisfying to play single-note blues and jazz lines on the instrument, which has an impressive resonance and natural reverb.
The Art Recorder sounds good in nonstandard tunings like DADGAD and open G, and the Gotoh-style machines make it easy to move between tunings. While the nut is relatively narrow at 1 11/16 inches, the guitar feels great to fingerpick. It’s plenty responsive to pick-hand finger placement and velocity, and the notes of arpeggiated chords ring together beautifully, without any cloudiness.
The guitar’s fine sound is matched by its outstanding playability. A slender C-shaped neck and low action make it easy on the fret hand, and the neck’s relative narrowness helps when it comes to chord shapes involving fretting with the thumb. Players with small hands should love the neck profile, but many with larger mitts will find it agreeable as well. Plus, the neck’s satin finish cuts down on fret-hand drag when shifting positions.
Smartly Designed and Built
In place of Luna’s trademark flourishes, the Art Recorder mostly sports subtle, traditional appointments like herringbone-patterned rosette and purfling work, black body binding ,and a rosewood headstock veneer. On the fretboard, moon-phase inlays offer a signature detail, as does the headstock’s unusually shaped crown.
The guitar’s build quality is quite high, especially considering the price. Its fretwork is perfect, smoothly polished and free from jaggedness. There are no defects in the finish, even in the tricky-to-work spots, like the neck-to-body junction. And inside the guitar, things are also spick and span. It’s almost boring how clean the guitar is.
You won’t find electronics on the Art Recorder, but anyone looking for a good option for recording with a microphone should definitely check out this smart and affordable player. It might also be the perfect guitar for a beginning or intermediate player—an instrument free from bells and whistles, whose smooth playability and winning sound will make learning enjoyable.
At a Glance:: Luna Art Recorder
BODY Non-cutaway concert size; solid spruce top; solid mahogany back and sides; natural satin finish
NECK Mahogany neck; rosewood fretboard; 25.5-inch scale length; 1 11/16-inch nut; sealed die-cast tuners; natural satin finish
EXTRAS D’Addario EXP 16 strings (.012-.053). Optional padded gig bag
PRICE $598.50 list/$399 street
Made in China
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.