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Old 02-19-2021, 04:11 AM
cbjanne cbjanne is offline
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Default NGD: Claxton Malabar, European spruce / maple. Photos + video.

Hi all,

I spent a good part of my last two years pursuing my dream guitar. After various adventures, part of which I've documented here, I ended up traveling to Santa Cruz, California to order a guitar from luthier Ed Claxton. The build thread is here:

I commissioned Ed's "00-and-a-half" Malabar model in European spruce/maple with Brazilian rosewood bridge, fretboard and ornaments. The guitar was completed in the summer, but we postponed shipping, hoping that the pandemic would ease off and I could travel to Santa Cruz to pick up the guitar and thank Ed in person. In November we abandoned this hope and decided to ship the guitar. It arrived on a dark stormy evening. I have never been as excited when opening a cardboard box. My heart was racing like I was running a marathon.

At first glance, it was apparent that the photos I had seen could not do justice to the beauty of the guitar. I just looked at the thing for many minutes before I could bring myself to tune it up and play. And from the first notes I knew that I had found a musical partner for life. It was what I had hoped for, except more than that. Though Ed's guitars are known to be very balanced instruments, not hitting the player in the head with enormous basses or tons of overtones, I fell in love with the tone instantly. This hasn't happened before. I purposefully delayed writing this post in order to be less honeymoon-phased.

First of all, the craftsmanship. The guitar is stunningly good-looking. The craftsmanship is just beautiful. The curves and shapes, the minimalist ornaments, the figures of the woods, everything is just right. Ed's French polished spirit varnish is easily the most visually pleasing finish I've seen, and it has a nice tactile feel to it, quite unlike a lacquer finish. It looks and feels organic, for lack of a better word. Shiny, but not overly so. The wood looks just as it should, without a mirror-like sheen. The woodwork is very precise, and at the same time it is apparent that the guitar is made by hand instead of machines.

Then, the playability. The neck feels just right for my hand. The profile is quite slim and extraordinarily comfortable. The 1 13/16" nut width gives some extra space compared to the usual 1 3/4", and I find it easier to play cleanly. I had a local luthier lower the action at the nut just a bit, and now the playability is as good as it gets for me. I'm friends with a fellow Claxton owner, who owns some very nice guitars, and he says the Claxton is the most intuitive guitar he's played. I couldn't agree more.

The guitar's tone is just what I longed after. The response is instant, the notes extremely clear. The voice is not the most complex one, and that is great -- I often feel that the ample overtones produced by an extremely resonant back wood can clutter up the midrange, which I don't particularly enjoy. The maple, on the other hand, brings a "neutral" clarity to the guitar, a quality that a capable player can use to great advantage in musical expression. I'm not there yet, but I'm more motivated than ever to practice! This guitar doesn't sound "like a grand piano", it sounds like a guitar, albeit a very good one. Additionally, the guitar's voice feels very enveloping, and the tone that I hear when playing is very much the same as I hear when someone else plays it. I mostly play fingerstyle with a quite light touch, and the guitar responds wonderfully. The tone is full at very low volumes, but can get quite loud too. I've tried strumming it as hard as I can, and while the tone is not at its best then, it doesn't "break up" either. For my dynamic range I couldn't ask for more.

Apart from how the guitar looks and sounds like, I think that the most important factor for me is the "feel" that I get from the guitar. I don't know if it's the great quality woods, the extremely thin finish or just the good karma from Ed's handiwork, but the guitar feels just as it should. This is difficult to elaborate on. Part of it is, I think, Ed's traditional building style -- the guitar is very light and uncomplicated, with everything resonating together as a whole. It is very unlike the Somogyi-style guitars I've played, where (I believe) the top and the back are the resonating elements and the sides, neck etc very rigid structures. With Ed's guitars I can feel the resonance in the neck too, which gives me a wonderful tactile feedback when playing. This, for me, is an important element in bonding with the guitar. When playing, it really feels like a part of me, instead of a separate entity. I understand that from a physics standpoint, having resonance elsewhere that the top and the back probably decreases the guitar's efficiency as an air pump, but then again, music is much more than the physics of it. This works for me.

Here's some photos of the guitar. Another new family member stars in one of them. I also recorded a video of me playing a fingerstyle song with the guitar. The recording chain is a stereo SDC pair running into an Apogee Duet preamp. No eq, compression or effects. My music room is very dull-sounding, and I don't think that the guitar's full potential can be heard here. I wish I could record it in a properly treated room in the future.

Last edited by cbjanne; 02-19-2021 at 04:21 AM. Reason: Added a photo
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Old 02-19-2021, 05:35 AM
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iim7V7IM7 iim7V7IM7 is offline
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Flattops by:
Bashkin | Blanchard | Brondel | Buscarino | Chasson | Franklin | Klepper | Sexauer
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Old 02-19-2021, 05:40 AM
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Mr. Paul Mr. Paul is offline
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This is a real stunner!
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Old 02-19-2021, 08:46 AM
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justonwo justonwo is offline
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Very nice!
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Old 02-19-2021, 09:01 AM
steveh steveh is offline
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Very, very sweet indeed.

I have said many times on this forum that I have never played a Claxton that was anything short of stellar, and the best I have played was a Malabar that belonged to a friend.

They are real "do everything" guitars, and they do it real well. IMHO he's a relative bargain when you see what other luthiers of his calibre are charging...and there aren't many in that club!

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Old 02-19-2021, 09:29 AM
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Guitars44me Guitars44me is online now
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Smile Lovely

What a beauty! And the guitar is nice too... hahaha

Your daughter sure seems to be enjoying it in the pic! Very nice playing, and the instrument sounds as wonderful as it looks.

Congratulations and ENJOY!!!

3 beloved John Kinnaird Customs. (I owned 6)
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Old 02-19-2021, 12:16 PM
Vaillant75 Vaillant75 is offline
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I've long waited for that post since I saw the build thread. The guitar looks exquisite and the tone is really sophisticated. Nice nuanced playing also, you're already exploiting its dynamic range with great effect.

I have played Marc's (deft) Claxton a few times already, even having it for 2 weeks when we swapped guitars, and I've automatically connected with it. Intuitive is the right word, everything feels "right". I hope you guys can meet one day and write poems in the glory of Ed

Don't hesitate to post recordings, it's always appreciated to hear the guitar over time.

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Old 02-19-2021, 12:24 PM
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Doug Young Doug Young is offline
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Congratulations! Ed's Malabar' are special, and you're making this one sound terrific.
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Old 02-19-2021, 02:18 PM
MThomson MThomson is offline
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Congratulations and thanks for sharing. The guitar is beautiful and did great in your hands. But the picture of you with your daughter outshines every other thing in this page. May you have many happy musical memories as she grows up.
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Old 02-19-2021, 04:41 PM
Ovation1 Ovation1 is offline
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Great tone and playing, thanks for posting!
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Old 02-19-2021, 05:57 PM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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My daughter appreciates the tone on my guitars, and she's turning 16, so your little girl will have a wonderful time experiencing the marvels of Claxton music. It's great you found a partner instrument after an extended search.
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Old 02-19-2021, 07:08 PM
Carey Carey is offline
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That's a lovely guitar- proportions, decoration, execution.
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Old 02-19-2021, 08:25 PM
RHayes RHayes is offline
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Pure guitar, can't help but like it.
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Old 02-19-2021, 09:27 PM
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ChuckS ChuckS is online now
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Lovely, the playing and the guitar.

2012 Carruth 12-fret 000 in Pernambuco and Adi
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Old 02-19-2021, 10:01 PM
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Ukulele_Eddie Ukulele_Eddie is offline
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Wonderful sounding and looking guitar! Congrats on such a great result from your journey.

And the picture of your "new family member" with the incredible smile is absolutely priceless.
12-fret Small Body Addict & Sucker for Exquisite Craftsmanship
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