Larrivee L-35 Reviews
This guitar was listed on ebay for a while, but I was naturally reluctant to spend this much money on a guitar without being able to test drive it. The fact that the seller was a second hand store did not help. It turned out the seller (a very nice guy, by the way) was in my local area, so I managed to play it prior to its purchase. The rest is history, as they say. I need to point out that I had been searching high and low for the once-in-a-lifetime classical guitar for a number of weeks, driving many miles and investing many weekends and nights in the process. I had played a good cross section of the usual suspects by the well known builders. As my maximum price bracket, which initially was at the $2000 - $2500 crept up with each passing audition, I was getting exhausted just thinking about hitting another store only to find that even at many thousands of dollars in purchase price, I felt like I was settling for something. I knew from the moment I played this guitar that it was the one for me.
- Flawless construction (more on this later) using a Sitka Spruce top, East Indian rosewood back/sides, mahogany neck, tight-grained and pitch black ebony fretboard, rosewood bridge and headstock overlay. Rosewood body binding. All solid wood construction, of course.
- Tone. This instrument begs to be played! Barely touch the trebles and marvel at the profusion of overtones that are sustained for what seems to be forever. Dig in and appreciate the ability of this guitar to produce an abundance of volume without breaking up. The tone is on the bright side for a classical guitar, just the way I like it. I find it is always possible to attenuate the brightness of a guitar via appropriate choice of strings, if really necessary - the opposite is rarely, if ever, the case. I have grown very suspicious of being told that an instrument has a "dark" or "mellow" sound. While this may indeed be a by design characteristic for some instruments, more often than not I find this to be a lame excuse for an instruments primary shortcomings in sound capabilities.
- Looks. Highly personal, of course. I really like the combination of bright toneboard and black-as-night-fingerboard. The soundhole rosette is non-traditional in that it is a pearl inlay, just as with Larrivee's streel string instruments. I personally favor the look of this style over some of the more traditional wood inlays. I have seen wood inlays on instruments costing the equivalent of the GDP of some small countries, that looked like an etch-a-sketch effort by a five year old armed with a dirt-brown crayon. Your mileage may vary.
- Inlaid micro dot fret marker on side of neck in the area of the 7th fret (all purists now gasp at the obvious violation of tradition). Have you ever seen the prized guitars of some world-renown concert guitarists "equipped" with makeshift fret markers? Yes, me too. Thank you Larrivee for breaking with tradition and making this one small concession, obviating the need to apply ghastly substances to the instrument's neck.
- 660mm scale. More headroom. Solid, resonant bass response. My fingers can easily handle the slightly larger scale, as I am mucking about on a bass guitar occasionally.
I should find something I dislike about this instrument, but I am still looking without success.
Trust me, I looked very hard for flaws at the time of purchase, thinking that something must certainly be amiss with this instrument. Why else would someone part with it and have it end up in a second hand store? I looked even harder since then. I prided myself on always being able to detect some kind of flaw with even the most prestigious and expensive instruments during my pre-purchase travels. This is the most flawless classical guitar I have ever encountered. Period.
I bought this guitar despite what appeared to be a large area of heavy finish wear on the top and sides where the right arm usually rests. I was willing to live with it. I was delighted to find that the wear turned out to be an accumulation of organic deposits on top of the finish. While stubborn, these were eventually removed with some naphta, a very soft flannel cloth and lots of carefully applied elbow grease, while holding my breath. The finish was pristine underneath! All other blemishes cleaned up likewise.
I checked the serial number with the good folks at Larrivee. It then became clear why this guitar was so extraordinarily well built. According to Larrivee the designation "35" is reserved for instruments that Jean Larrivee builds himself. Well, Jean, this guitar is truly a masterpiece and I am one very lucky person to be able to play it and to have found it.
I have come to realize that Larrivee classical guitars, while being responsible for Jean Larrivee's guitar building beginnings, are exceedingly difficult to find for purchase. I think I know why, now.Peter Iden
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