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  #1  
Old 11-16-2009, 09:28 PM
ro7939 ro7939 is offline
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Default Thorell "The Grand" olivewood from Zambia

One of my favorite flat tops was a Steve Klein L series Jumbo such as pictured here The Klein, played approximately 2000 at Klein’s Gallery in Sonoma CA (Klein Gallery here) had a price tag of about $25k USD.

The Klein had more authoritative bass and volume than anything else ever played. The surprise was its delicacy and harmonic beauty w/ fingerstyle technique. Till playing that Klein I thought it was impossible for one guitar to combine such performance attributes to that degree. Usually, of course, the greater the volume and bass authority the less nuanced is the harmonic texture. Playing a real Klein built by Steve is highly recommended if/when the chance arises (my understanding is some inferior Asian-sourced guitars bear his name).

The fingerstyle champion appears to be the OM (Orchestra Model) such as Eric Schoenberg has been building and perfecting for decades. It was heavenly hearing maestro Eric play one of his OMs at his wonderful don’t-miss boutique in Tiburon CA (Schoenberg store here). The OM is far smaller than the Klein and size is of course is directly related to bass and loudness. But what the OM gives up in bass and loudness it more than provides in pure overtone delicacy. In that regard it is surely competitive w/ the best if not outright unbeatable.

My new Ryan Thorell “The Grand” arrived a few weeks ago














Larger versions of above images plus 22 more here

It was ordered January ’09. I am honored to own Thorell’s first of this size/shape, called "The Grand". Its size is similar to a Martin M or 0000 and Taylor Grand Auditorium or Style 2. It falls between Thorell's Corina (Martin OM or 000) and Dreadnaught.

This is my favorite size and shape, feeling great while moving it around or playing seated or standing. The depth, curves, shape and proportions have a just-rightness about them, each curve blending seamlessly into the next. A Jumbo or Dreadnaught is too large for me even though I’m 6-3 235 lbs. I prefer The Grand’s tonal balance and overall sound compared to Dreads and Jumbos. Even the unobtainable Klein Jumbo, which sounded simply splendid, felt too large by comparison. All things being equal (obviously never the case between any two guitars) the larger size provides greater bass and volume when you dig into it compared to a 10-15% smaller Corina. I appreciate the role for the ubiquitous Dread but have lost interest in them after playing this Grand, which may be the perfect size for someone having just one guitar.

The sound of this Thorell “Grand” can well be described as a junior version of the Klein L series Jumbo described above. Going by aural memory the Grand has slightly less bass/volume potential but very similar overall tonal balance, delicacy and harmonic integrity/sweetness. Such is my infatuation that I’m ordering another Thorell Grand, the next having African Blackwood back/side set, which Ryan says is to Brazilian rosewood what Brazilian is to Indian rosewood:



A bonewood binding will brightly frame the dark African Blackwood. I'll get an image of the 10k year old Port Orford Cedar top wood next visit to the shop.

My two kopacts.

Besides Thorell’s unique performance and ultra high value, it was chosen over an R Taylor Style 1 because R Taylor offers only one bridge width; a wider bridge seemed mandatory w/ my 1-13/16" nut width.

This guitar will be played at a live vs. recorded demonstration at T.H.E. Show (audiophile equipment), Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (January 7-10, 2010). PM me if you'd like to see it.

Builder: Ryan Thorell, Hyrum, Utah, USA
Model: “The Grand” (similar size to Martin M, 0000, Taylor Grand Auditorium, Style 2)
S/N: 09-067

Waist: 9-7/8”
Scale: 25-1/2”
Length Total: 41”
Hole Diameter: 4”
Fingerboard: Ebony
Binding Neck: Ebony
Truss Rod: Adjustable
Rosette: Turquoise inlay
Frets Clear, Total: 14, 21
Binding Body: Quilted maple
Top: Adirondack (red) spruce
Headstock Brand Inlay: Abalone
String Spacing @ Bridge: 2-5/16”
Purfling: Ebony/mahogany/ebony
Nut Width, Material: 1-13/16”, bone
Bridge/Saddle Material: Ebony/bone
Length Body: 19-13/16” (Taylor GA is 20”)
Position Markers: hollow circles, binding only
Pickup: K & K Sound Systems “Pure Mini”, no controls
Headstock Laminate, Face, Back: Ebony, birdseye maple
Neck: Halved/inverted grain mahogany, black dyed boxwood stripe
Back/Side Set: Olivewood from Zambia, performance attributes of rosewood
Tuning Machines: Gotoh Delta Series 510 sealed, 1:21 ratio, gold finish w/ black heads
Body Depth @ Neck, End Pin: 3-7/8”, 4-1/2” (Martin M or 0000 is 4”, Taylor GA is 4-5/8”)
Width, Upper Bout, Lower Bout: 11-3/4”, 15-11/16” (Martin M and 0000, Taylor GA and Style 2 all 16”)

Cheers!
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Last edited by ro7939; 12-05-2009 at 12:53 PM.
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  #2  
Old 11-17-2009, 05:13 AM
cpabolting cpabolting is offline
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That looks like a real beauty!
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Olson Brazilian Dread #1325
Olson Brazilian SJ #1350
Olson Tiger Myrtle Dread #1355
Olson Brazilian Jumbo #1351
Olson 12-string Jumbo (one of only a few)
Martin D-42 Johnny Cash #51/200 (only 80 made)
And a few others

Quite a few limited edition and rare Martins
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  #3  
Old 11-17-2009, 10:06 AM
Martin_Nut Martin_Nut is offline
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Nice guitar - interesting to see Olivewood guitars popping up now and again. This one's a real beauty! Appreciate your words as well. Always difficult to characterize a guitar, and you've done an admirable job of it!

The next looks to be another winner - good luck and keep us in the loop!
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Old 11-17-2009, 01:13 PM
ro7939 ro7939 is offline
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This forum is a mixed blessing. On the one hand you get to learn about so many great guitars you'd not otherwise know about. On the other hand, you end up wanting so many of them to play in your own home!

Life is just grand (no pun intended)!
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Old 11-18-2009, 03:42 PM
Taylorplayer Taylorplayer is offline
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An instrument of that caliber exceeds my ability to find the right words to describe it. Truly a breathtaking looking build. Great pictures -- thanks for sharing those with us.

All the best,
Taylorplayer
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Old 11-18-2009, 07:14 PM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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Very pretty guitar.
Seems like there are lots of great builders out there today building many gorgeous guitars.

You mention Kline.
I had the chance to play a couple of Kleins at his shop in Sonoma several years back.
Nicely built.
I don't recall being bowled over by them at the time.
I believe one of them was built with the Kasha bracing system.

Actually, that was where I first had the opportunity to play a Petros guitar.
There was an Olson in shop at that time too.
Now I DO remember those guitars.
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Last edited by Jeff M; 11-18-2009 at 07:54 PM.
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Old 11-27-2009, 05:06 PM
ro7939 ro7939 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff M View Post
Very pretty guitar.
Seems like there are lots of great builders out there today building many gorgeous guitars.

You mention Kline.
I had the chance to play a couple of Kleins at his shop in Sonoma several years back.
Nicely built.
I don't recall being bowled over by them at the time.
I believe one of them was built with the Kasha bracing system.

Actually, that was where I first had the opportunity to play a Petros guitar.
There was an Olson in shop at that time too.
Now I DO remember those guitars.
The Klein I played was priced over $20k and sounded magnificent, looking like this used jumbo Klein, $24k, previously owned by Andy Summers of the Police. Listen for yourself to a sweet little purist recording of that exact guitar for sale (link at dealer's website above). Ryan Thorell explained some Kleins were Asian sourced and he has played some mediocre sounding Kleins, apparently like the one you played.

I saw Thorell's first production guitar last week; unstringed/sound unknown...looked OK but suffice to say its cosmetics were far short of his current work.

Also last week while visiting Ryan I played his personal '77 Martin D28. Not bad, average range of performance for a D28. Without knowing its identity, Ryan then handed me another much smaller guitar, which upon first strum was alive in harmonic richness and even played louder and w/ far greater power in the bass range. The D28 sounded anemic by comparison.

I quickly blurted to Ryan, oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about. This was the rare pleasure of playing one of Frank Vignola's actual guitars, a Thorell Corina (Martin OM or 000 size) Adirondack/mahogany, sunburst back. Frank has been playing it w/ David Grisman. Frank told Ryan this Thorell Corina, fresh out of the box, blew away his '37 Martin D18. It's decades since I played a pre-war D18, but there are good reasons to agree w/ Frank's opinion, besides the simple fact that it's Frank Vignola. A Thorell mahogany Dreadnaught first stringed 30 minutes before I played it sounded sweet enough to make me sign a check on the spot for the axe described in this thread.

The really strange, unbelievable thing about dealing w/ Ryan is he is thirty years old and has no business at that age having his ability, talent, skill set and artistic taste.

Yesterday I commissioned two more guitars, another "The Grand" (Port Orford Cedar, African blackwood) and an electric bass that may well set a new benchmark (hybrid solid/hollow body, redwood burl top, walnut back, birdseye maple neck, proprietary on-the-fly adjustment feature) for that genre.
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1999 Gibson J45
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1939 Martin O-16

Last edited by ro7939; 11-27-2009 at 06:51 PM.
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Old 11-27-2009, 06:44 PM
pmorr000 pmorr000 is offline
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This is a great looking guitar. Did you provide the wood, or did the builder?
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Old 11-27-2009, 07:11 PM
ro7939 ro7939 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmorr000 View Post
This is a great looking guitar. Did you provide the wood, or did the builder?
I first become familiar w/ the general audible differences between mahogany and rosewood only ten to fifteen years ago. By no stretch of the imagination would I know the difference between a dud tonewood set and a tonewood set at the top one tenth percentile in sweetness, presence, volume and bass power.

The short answer is Ryan is my source for all things guitar, especially the wood. Ryan showed me a certificate from his commercial wood supplier claiming that carbon dating of the Port Orford Cedar for the top of my next flat top is X (IIRC 10) thousand years old.

Electronics may be an exception. My decades of experience as an audiophile and DIY builder may provide an upgrade for the potentiometers (plastic conductive elements) and wiring for the forthcoming electric bass. Treating the pots w/ Caig Pro Gold provides easily audible benefits. A can costs $15 but it lasts about a decade and you'd pay 10x that much after hearing it. Treat every pot in your guitar and amp, all jacks/plugs including the AC outlet/plug. Use a rag to catch excess and overspray. Avoid overspray on finished surfaces. Used for decades w/ no negative results. NOT subtle; strap the seat belt of your playing chair to prevent injury.
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1999 Gibson J45
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1939 Martin O-16

Last edited by ro7939; 11-27-2009 at 07:41 PM.
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