Fueled by reader requests for an overview of currently available small-body guitars, Acoustic Guitar invited manufacturers to send us samples of their small-body instruments with list prices between $500 and $1,000. We ended up with 11 guitars that are surprisingly diverse in sound and feel, some inspired by vintage instruments and others with more modern body and neck shapes, materials, and appointments. In checking out these guitars, I was assisted by Pete Madsen, a San Francisco Bay Area fingerstyle blues guitarist, teacher, and frequent Acoustic Guitar contributor. Here’s our review of the Seagull Maritime SWS Folk HG.
Seagull’s affordable steel-string flattop guitars have long been held in high regard, and the company’s “folk” size has been available in a variety of models for many years. The SWS Folk HG is part of Seagull’s Maritime series, which sits at the higher end of its line. The guitar has a distinctive appearance, with a 14 3/4-inch wide body shaped more like a classical guitar than most steel-strings and a narrow headstock that provides an almost straight string path from the nut to the tuning machines,leading to less of a chance of strings binding at the nut. Seagull used very nice looking materials on our review guitar, and its exterior fit and finish were excellent. The guitar had the widest neck (1.8 inches at the nut) of this group of instruments, which fingerstyle players and those with large hands will appreciate. With its flat oval shape and short scale, the neck also made it easy to play tricky chords and fingerings. Tonally, the guitar had a refreshing complexity, and Madsen noted that it didn’t become harsh when he dug in with a bit of force. The trebles had a lovely roundness to them, and overall, the guitar’s warm and dynamic sound would make it a great choice for players looking for a higher-end guitar performance on a budget.
SPECS: Solid spruce top. Solid mahogany back and sides. Three-piece mahogany bolt-on neck. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. X-bracing. 24.84-inch scale. 1.8-inch nut width. 2 5/32-inch string spacing at saddle. Enclosed chrome tuning machines. Cleartone phosphor bronze light-gauge strings. Made in Canada.
PRICE: $869 list/$699 street.
MAKER: Seagull Guitars: (514) 457-7977; seagullguitars.com
See all 11 Affordable Small-Body Flattops.