Bourgeois Guitars has a reputation for making some of the highest quality instruments on the market. The boutique company handcrafts roughly 500 guitars a year, retailing for an average of around $7,500 each. That’s why players will be excited to learn about the new Bourgeois Touchstone series, made up of two models—a dreadnought and an OM—that are priced at less than half that amount. Five additional models will be released in 2023, and eventually there will be a full line.
The Touchstone series is the result of a collaboration between Bourgeois and Eastman Music that began in the fall of 2019, when the two companies decided to create some new models together, with each taking part in the building process. The guitars’ tops are constructed and voiced at the Bourgeois workshop in Lewiston, Maine, then sent to Eastman’s factory in China, where luthiers complete the instruments to Bourgeois’ specifications. The finished guitars are then sent back to Bourgeois and set up alongside the company’s regular production models.
Having checked out a Touchstone OM Vintage/TS, I can say that this collaborative process has resulted in an excellent tradition-inspired guitar with a relatively affordable price.
The Touchstone OM Vintage/TS tips its hat to the prototypical orchestra model that C.F. Martin introduced in 1929—that company’s first steel-string with a 14-fret neck joint. The Touchstone’s all-solid construction includes an old-growth Alaskan Sitka spruce top with Adirondack spruce bracing, along with Indian rosewood back and sides. The guitar sports classic appointments like herringbone purfling, a black-and-white stripe rosette, and ivoroid bridge pins.
While the Touchstone OM has a standard scale length of 25.5 inches, the nut width is 1-23/32 inches, slightly narrower than the standard 1.75-inch width. The modern-feeling neck has a slim profile and a satin finish, making it easy to grip and slide up and down freely while playing. The review model came set up with medium action, which I found to be very comfortable.
As would be expected from Bourgeois, the overall build quality of the Touchstone is excellent. The guitar is relatively lightweight and has great intonation, and the Schaller GrandTune tuners are smooth and responsive. The fretwork is perfect, with no sharp edges along the sides of the fingerboard, and the body’s beautifully applied gloss urethane finish contributes to the guitar’s classy appearance and high-quality feel.
Like all good OMs, the Touchstone has an even balance from string to string, and strong projection; for a smaller-bodied guitar, it has great volume, without being overpowering. The bass response is more impressive than that of some of the dreadnoughts I’ve played recently, and the low end helps to produce layers of warm, resonant tones when strummed.
This impressive responsiveness extends itself past the low end and mids to the high end, which rings out amidst the other ranges whether you’re strumming, flatpicking melodies, or fingerpicking. When strummed, the guitar’s different frequencies complement each other beautifully—an effect that was especially noticeable when playing folkish tunes like Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” or the jazzier “Coyote” by Joni Mitchell.
One of my favorite flatpicking riffs is the main lick from Tommy Emmanuel’s “Flatt Did It,” and when I played it on the Touchstone, I was able to produce a strongly voiced melody that projected boldly without much effort. In terms of fingerpicking, the lower strings are bolstered by that same powerful low-end voice that is obvious when strumming. This is particularly helpful when playing songs like Mississippi John Hurt’s “Avalon Blues.”
Lately, I’ve been writing in alternate and open tunings, and the Touchstone OM resonates gorgeously in response to them. I tried the guitar in drop D, double drop D, DADGAD, and my favorite, C G C F C E. All these tunings sounded just as rich as when I played the guitar in standard tuning, thanks to its ebullient overtones, and there was no murkiness when I dropped the bottom four strings to C, G, C, and F.
The Bottom Line
The Bourgeois Touchstone OM Vintage/TS, which streets at just under $3,000, is a traditional-style orchestra model that gives players access to a beautiful vintage tone with excellent projection and tonal balance. Between its powerful voice, classy appearance, and relative affordability, the Touchstone is a prime choice for any guitarist looking for an OM that will make a strong impression on listeners.
BODY Alaskan Sitka spruce top; Adirondack spruce bracing; Indian rosewood back and sides; 2.2″ bone saddle; ebony bridge; ivoroid bridge pins; high-gloss urethane finish
NECK 14-fret mahogany; ebony fretboard; 25.5″ scale length; 1-23/32″ bone nut; Schaller GrandTune nickel tuners; satin urethane finish
OTHER Hardshell case; D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Light strings (.012–.053)
PRICE $2,969 street
MADE IN USA and China
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.