Andrew White’s Cybele 1013W, which takes its name from the Greek goddess of nature, seems like a study in contradictions. With its stylish profile, the guitar has a modern look, but when you dig into the instrument, it has the bark and growl of an old blues guitar. And it sounds a great deal louder than you’d expect from a small, narrow-waisted guitar. In other words, the Cybele is far from your standard-issue Far East–made import.
The Cybele was designed by Andrew White, a luthier known to experiment with body shapes, bracing patterns, and the like. The average cost of an instrument he builds in his West Virginia workshop is more than $10,000, but the 1013W, the manufacture of which White has entrusted to Artec Sound, a Korean guitar company, sells for a tenth of the price.
If the test model is any indication, Artec is doing good work under White’s direction. The all-solid-wood Cybele is a terrific-sounding instrument. It has a warm and rounded tone, nicely balanced between fundamentals and harmonics, and a lush natural reverb. The balance between registers is good, though the bass is just a little timid.
The guitar’s voice lends itself just as nicely to an old folk song, like Elizabeth Cotten’s signature number, “Freight Train,” (see the July 2017 issue) as it does to “Day and Age,” (transcribed in the April 2018 issue) by the contemporary jazz wizard Julian Lage. And it’s a good host to a range of nuances, like pick-hand articulations and harmonic choices. It takes well to a pick, too, responding with sweetness when strummed at a moderate volume and with punchiness when goaded with aggressive single-note lines.
Fingerstylists will be glad to know that the Cybele has a 1.75-inch nut, and fans of modern necks will feel at home on the instrument’s C-shaped profile, with a touch of meatiness. The guitar plays exceptionally well—the action is low and comfortable. But there’s a hint of jaggedness at the fret edges, and when I play the guitar with emphasis, there’s some fret buzzing, especially on the lower strings.
Aside from these anomalies, the guitar is well built, with a smoothly finished and buffed body, free from defects, and a clean interior space. The NuBone nut and saddle are precisely slotted, and all the binding and inlay work are cleanly articulated.
The Cybele, with its many wooden embellishments, is quite the looker. On the guitar’s body, curly maple binding lends a sharp contrast to the deep-brown rosewood back and sides, and the zebrawood-and-rosewood rosette cuts a fine figure around the soundhole.
The market for good acoustic guitars costing around a grand has gotten crowded, to say the least. But with its all-solid build, attractive sound, and responsiveness, Andrew White’s Cybele 1013W is a formidable contender.
14-fret body with Venetian cutaway
Solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped X bracing
Solid rosewood back and sides
Pau ferra bridge
Natural high-gloss finish
Pau ferra fingerboard
Artec SPH5 (optional)
EXTRAS Bone nut and saddle
D’Addario EXP16 strings (12–53)
Molded hardshell case
Made in Korea