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Old 01-18-2019, 01:00 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Default Hit some music stores in Hobart, Tasmania today

This morning my wife and I got off our cruise ship in Hobart, capital of Tasmania, the island state south of the Australian mainland. Unlike every other place we’ve stopped up to this point, the dock in Hobart is right in the city center, instead of being off in an industrial district miles away somewhere.

So after a walking tour of the historical highlights of old Hobart (“This is where the convicts first came ashore.” “This where the convicts were flogged.” “This is where the convicts were hanged...”) I decided to walk around downtown Hobart on my own.

The first music store I found was Modern Musician. Nice store, good inventory of acoustic guitars, and a pleasant, helpful staff. They’re the Hobart dealers for Martin, Taylor, Gibson and Cole Clark guitars. They mostly had electric Gibsons with only one acoustic that I saw, a good-sounding J-35. But they had a good selection of Martins and an even better selection of Taylors. But the guitars I spent the most time playing were the Cole Clarks, which was because I had never seen so many in one spot before - there were at least nine or ten there, most with bunya pine tops and Queensland maple backs and sides. There were three with American western red cedar tops, including a short scale mini guitar, and they all sounded very good.

If I lived in Australia I would own at least one or two Cole Clarks. There were only a couple of them there that didn’t stir me: the others were great.

After I left Modern Musician I walked over to Elizabeth Street and started walking downhill toward the docks. The next music store was only a block or so away, a crammed little shop stuffed literally to the rafters called Solda’s Music. Used records and used guitars, with a few other instruments added for good measure, one of which was a maple Tacoma mandolin with a sunburst finish and built-in electronics.

I played it. That mandolin needs a setup and a fresh set of strings, but is actually a good value for anyone who wants to double on mandolin in a band setting: they’re asking $500 Australian for it, which is around $350 USD.

While I did play it and can vouch for its acoustic tone, I didn’t plug it in, so I can’t vouch for its electronics.

After leaving Solda’s Music I walked downhill another half block and went into McCann’s Music, which is the Maton dealer in Hobart. There were at least a dozen of them on the wall, which is by far and away the most Maton guitars I’ve ever seen in real life.

I played five: two dreadnoughts, a couple of OM-sized guitars and a jumbo.

The one I liked the best was an all-Tasmanian blackwood OM. It was quiet but had a nice, even tone. I also liked the jumbo, and if I had to pick one to use as a gigging guitar, the jumbo is the one I’d choose.

But I didn’t like ANY of the Matons as well as the Cole Clarks. I just found the Cole Clarks to be better-sounding all the way around: every Cole Clark that I tried was more musical-sounding than every Maton I tried.

So there’s no contest between them, so far as I’m concerned: of the two brands, I definitely prefer the Cole Clarks.

Anyway, now we’re back on the ship and under way for New Zealand. Goodbye, Tasmania! So long, Australia - it was fun!


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 01-18-2019, 07:37 AM
KenL KenL is offline
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Now there's a thread title you don't see every day!
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Old 01-18-2019, 07:46 AM
jweave69 jweave69 is offline
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And I'm excited about moving to PA and checking out stores there, but you've taken it to a whole new level! I hope I'm in a position to travel like that one day ! Enjoy your trip!
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Old 01-18-2019, 08:02 AM
SJ VanSandt SJ VanSandt is offline
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Thanks for the review, Wade. Sounds like an epic adventure! I'm happy to know that you liked the Cole Clarks - I do run across one now and again here in the lower 48 but I don't think I ever picked one up. I'll give the next one I encounter a try.
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Old 01-18-2019, 09:25 AM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is offline
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Great review, Wade. I did a double take on the title since I grew up near Hobart, Indiana. Sounds like a great trip and wonderful that you could get such an informative guitar tour in as well. May the rest of the journey be safe and musical!

Best,
Jayne
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Old 01-18-2019, 12:01 PM
zmf zmf is offline
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Thanks, Wade. Sounds like a great trip.

Had my heart set on fly fishing New Zealand, but now it's auditioning Cole Clarks in Hobart.
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Old 01-18-2019, 01:59 PM
drive-south drive-south is offline
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So where did you come ashore? Were you flogged?
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Old 01-18-2019, 02:39 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drive-south View Post
So where did you come ashore? Were you flogged?
Not this time....


whm
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Old 01-18-2019, 04:36 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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I had hoped to buy a Modern Musician or McCann’s Music tee shirt when I was in those stores, but neither had any. So I bought some smaller stuff at each place.

I bought a flatpick at Modern Music (hey, big spender!) but at McCann’s they had some of the new “reimagined” Schaller strap locks, including a set in their recently introduced “vintage copper” finish. I have a set of the Schaller mini tuners in that finish on special order from Allparts, so now I have the strap hardware to match.

That was something that I hadn’t expected to find in Tasmania, but I’m sure most people think of Anchorage as a backwater, too.


whm
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Old 01-18-2019, 05:43 PM
tippy5 tippy5 is offline
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What a nice report. Thanks Wade. Cole Clark it is. Beautiful country.
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Old 01-18-2019, 05:44 PM
tbeltrans tbeltrans is offline
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Good write-up, Wade. I have never played a Maton due to lack of stock around here. However, I wanted to mention that Fret Central in Minneapolis has a nice selection of Cole Clark guitars. I have not played one yet, since I tend to focus in on what I had in mind, which was the McPherson Touring honeycomb the last time around.

Tony
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Old 01-18-2019, 05:51 PM
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Brucebubs Brucebubs is offline
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Bought my 2012 Epiphone EJ-200 from Solda's in Hobart last year.
It was hanging on this back wall.

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Old 01-18-2019, 06:06 PM
Dru Edwards Dru Edwards is offline
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Wade, sounds like a great cruise in that part of the world. What are some of the other spots you visited (perhaps that's another thread).

Regarding the bunya pine tops ... I had to google bunya - it's an Australian pine. What kind of tonal properties did it have? I don't think I've ever seen a pine topped guitar before.
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Old 01-18-2019, 08:01 PM
rwmct rwmct is offline
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Very cool. I feel like I was there.
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Old 01-18-2019, 08:03 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Dru, you’re correct, listing the countries I’ve visited would take another thread. Another time, perhaps.

As for bunya pine as a top wood, on the Cole Clark guitars I’ve seen it on, it looks like exceptionally wide-grained spruce. I guess it sounds like spruce, too, but since the only guitars I’ve heard it on have been Cole Clarks I don’t have enough of a frame of reference to get any more nuanced in my description than that. If I could play some bunya pine-topped Martin D-18’s next to some regular spruce-topped D-18’s I could tell you more.


It seems likely to me that, just like Robert Godin designing the S6 Seagull, whoever’s behind the Cole Clark guitar designs figured out PRECISELY how to get the best possible performance out of some hitherto neglected local tonewoods. Nobody thought to pair western red cedar tops with laminated cherry backs and sides before Godin did, and so far as I’m aware no one was pairing bunya pine tops with Queensland maple backs and sides on factory-built guitars before the Cole Clark company came along.

There’s more to the guitars than just the Down Under tonewoods: Cole Clark guitars also feature CNC-carved bracing on the underside of the top that are carved out of the top itself, rather than glued on. There also seem to be some braces that are glued in, and the back braces are glued in.

Overall it’s kind of a brilliant design, and it’s nice to see true originality in guitar design being rewarded rather than punished in the marketplace. All of the Cole Clarks I’ve seen have had satin finishes and only one that I saw (an OM) had any sort of decoration to speak of, and even that was minimal, a bit of paua shell inlaid in the rosette.

But that might be because the store finds it easiest to sell the less expensive models. For all I know the company might make some lavishly fancy high end models, but I haven’t seen any.

Anyway, I really liked the sound of most of the Cole Clarks that I played, and admire them for daring to be different and choosing their own aesthetic approach rather than genuflecting at the altar of Martin or Gibson the way so many smaller guitar manufacturers tend to do. All of the Cole Clarks I played yesterday were versatile and handled being fingerpicked and flatpicked equally well, and all of them were surprisingly loud and projective, at least so far as I could tell without actually gigging with them.

They’re impressive guitars.

Back to Bruce: I didn’t know you had bought a guitar from Solda’s Music in Hobart, but given your bristling guitar arsenal it didn’t surprise me at all!

I can imagine the guitar stores all across Australia treating you the way Las Vegas gambling resorts treat their big spenders: when you fly into town they meet you at the airport with a limousine, take you in air conditioned comfort to your free penthouse suite, where there’s a bottle of champagne on ice and half a dozen high end guitars in stands arrayed in a semicircle:

“We took the liberty of bringing over some guitars we thought you might enjoy, Mr. Campbell. After you’ve rested a bit, I’ll be back with the limousine to take you to the store...”

It wouldn’t surprise me if, all across Australia, every music store employee is shown your picture and given these instructions: “If Bruce Campbell shows up, be VERY nice to the man!”

Moving on, this morning my wife and I and all of the other passengers went through New Zealand Customs, even though we’re out on the ocean far from land. We did the same thing heading into Iceland on our last cruise: doing it this way makes it much faster for us all to get off the ship once we make landfall.

Anyway, there was one New Zealand Customs officer in a blue uniform checking us through. Nice man. Later I saw him eating lunch and went up to him and asked:

“So, are you guys going to build a wall to keep the Australians out?”

He laughed and said: “No, no need - it’s too cold in our country for them!”


Wade Hampton Miller
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