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Old 12-04-2018, 04:42 PM
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Deft Tungsman Deft Tungsman is offline
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Default New Dream Guitar Day - Baranik Meridian!

Having thoroughly enjoyed her company these past few weeks, I offer some early impressions of my new Baranik Meridian.



Some of you may recognize this complete stunner that Mike originally built for our very own Justonwo, a fine gentleman whose great taste in guitars is rivaled only by the care with which he treats them.

(Build thread here : https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/...ranik+meridian)

Juston included in the price the custom-fit Hoffee case, with a thermally insulated Colorado case cover to boot. He also let me try out the other jewels in his collection, took me out to dinner and even trusted me to help mind the kids without making too much a spectacle of ourselves in public. What’s there not to love? ¡Hasta muy pronto, amigo!

Now, a glance at my signature may raise some eyebrows among those who hold objectivity sacred. Why waste time reading a review by some guy who’s just picked up his third Baranik, when he’ll do no more than trumpet his latest fling with more-of-the-same? I make no apologies for serial monogamy. Guitars are like partners, and in my Baraniks I’ve found partnerships that grow ever richer as the months and years pass. I’d even venture that, for the purposes of this review, my familiarity with Mike’s work gives me depth of field, a meaningful context for assessing different models by the same builder. All subjective, of course, nothing sacred here.

My Retreux Parlor and 00m never fail to amaze me whenever I take them out for a spin.



Each one brings a truckload of charm along for the ride, and there’s still plenty of road ahead. Notwithstanding that, ever since Aloha Koa came into my life in 2013, I have longed for a Meridian and lusted after Juston’s guitar above all others. I was smitten from the moment I first stumbled across a photograph way back when and have returned to sample the eye candy on countless occasions over the years, making this one a chart-topper in my never-ending guitar porn lurk-o-rama.

Yes, were I Ahab, this exemplar, Baranik #10-154, would be my Moby Dick.





As fortune would have it, an unexpected chain of events has brought her to these shores, through loss of neither life nor limb, no less, which leads me to conclude two things: a) hunting guitars is less hazardous than hunting whales, and b) I am one lucky geek.

So, after all the anticipation, how does the actual model hold up to the pictures? No contest, folks, reality wins hands down.

The guitar looks brand new. You heard right, brand new, not a single blemish on her. A nearly-white spruce top, jet-black cocobolo back and sides, burst-stained mahogany neck and spalted koa sapwood binding come together in one of the most elegant packages I’ve ever seen.




Mike executed his aesthetic for this guitar with woodworking skills that defy any common standard of precision. The detailing is much more elaborate than on Aloha Koa or Che Guerilla, yet it all remains carefully considered, understated, and stunningly beautiful. One can only wonder how many hours Mike spent designing and building this guitar (and how hard it must have been for Juston to let her go!)

The set up on this guitar is perfect. The action is both low enough for easy fretting and high enough to let the player really dig in with nary a buzz anywhere. Although I haven’t felt the need to touch it so far, the ultra-convenient adjustable neck mechanism means I’ll always be able to dial in the action to suit my personal tastes, which is one of the features I love about my Baranik 00m.




The neck carve suits me perfectly, the intonation is spot on all the way up the fretboard, and Mike’s asymmetrical body design guarantees a smooth ride for shoulders, arms and hands on either lap or strap. The spacious cutaway makes exploring the dusty end of the fingerboard a breeze.

This Meridian is a loud, powerful guitar with buckets of headroom. Drill it with a flatpick and it punches back with the muscle of a dreadnought. Single-note runs project like bullets with a strong fundamental that holds firm as notes decay. The guitar has a forward, sweetly balanced midrange of amazing clarity. What’s truly uncanny is how this instrument takes such crisp, distinct notes and melds them into creamy, balanced chords. For this player, strumming has rarely, if ever, been more gratifying.

Make no mistake, however, this Meridian is also a high-performance fingerstyle machine. Its dynamic range and punchy response allow for endless shades of expression. Balance across the strings is excellent. Of special note is the high E string: fat, clear and sweet, it shows none of the anemia or shrillness I’ve found with some longer-scale guitars I’ve owned. The bass is more focused and tight rather than the bold, warm, deep bottom end I’ve heard from the few Somogyi-influenced guitars I’ve sampled. The overtone content differs from what one would associate with the Goodall sound, where harmonic richness emerges shortly after initial attack, and everything swirls into a concert of wind chimes and waterfalls. With all three Baraniks, and especially with this Meridian, I hear a firm, focused fundamental that develops a warm, ever-transparent bloom. The overtones don’t crowd the audio spectrum and are more like a reverb effect you can adjust on the fly by varying your technique. Clarity and power are the first descriptors that spring to mind.

Over the past week I’ve been switching from the Meridian to the 00m and back, and all this to-ing and fro-ing has given me some context to re-discover just how amazing Che Guerilla is. It has all the things I like about Mike’s guitars: playability and responsiveness, clarity and warmth, ergonomics and style.



Playing the 00m is a very different experience from sitting down with the Meridian, however. First off, the short scale and 13th fret neck join make for a cozier feel, even though the two boxes are nearly identical in size. Because there is a lot more give to the strings, the guitar has a spongier response that invites delicate fingerstyle passages and funky blues runs in equal measure. Although it has a lot less bass than the larger Meridian, it sounds more open and less mid-focused overall. While the 00m can certainly hang with a flatpick, it can neither match the larger guitar’s cannon-like delivery, nor produce the same creamy-smooth strummed chords. One noteworthy plus is that the 00m delivers a wider range of nuances as your picking hand moves from bridge toward soundhole and beyond, perhaps because the bridge is placed nearer the top’s sweet spot.

My ears have me thinking that Che Guerilla sounds “woodier” than the Meridian, whatever that means. Is it due to the Carpathian spruce soundboard? Or the higuerilla back and sides? That sweet-spot bridge placement, perhaps? I cannot say, but it’s probably all of the above and more. Be that as it may, the 00m feels more forgiving and sounds softer. If the Meridian is the tuxedo in my wardrobe, then the 00m is my comfy old camo jumpsuit.

I’ve also taken out the Retreux Parlor (my silk pajamas?) to further my comparisons, and I can confirm what I’d suspected before getting the Meridian. The difference between Aloha Koa and Che Guerilla is not nearly as great as that between the latter and Tuxedo Bolo.

This may seem strange when you consider that the larger guitars are almost exactly the same size, whereas the Parlor is much smaller. It’s less surprising when you consider that Aloha Koa and Che Guerilla share the same short scale length (24.5”). In fact, since I acquired the 00m three years ago, I’ve often felt as if it were the same guitar as the Parlor, only bigger. There’s more depth and power, for sure, but the guitar feels and responds a lot like its pipsqueak sibling.



The Meridian is more like the sophisticated older cousin. The longer scale length drives the Colorado Blue Spruce top with greater power. This is my first experience with Mike’s signature soundboard wood, and I’m thrilled not only with its headroom but also with its clarity. There’s an extra half-inch in the lower bout compared to the 00m, leaving plenty of air for the low end to churn into a hearty rumble when pushed hard. Compared to the short-scale Baraniks, the Meridian feels like it comes with an extra gear (or three). As my right hand grows more familiar with this guitar’s dynamic response, I’m also discovering the magic that lies at the pianissimo end of the spectrum. The most delicate touch produces notes with lovely, clear sustain that blend together in balance. No doubt about it, a guitar this responsive is bound to make me a better player!



In conclusion I’d just like to say how lucky I am to welcome this guitar to the fold. It’s an exciting, bold flavor of Baranik, indeed. Call me a fanboy, but there’s no denying that Mike builds superb instruments. From day one, Aloha Koa has been a total mind-blower. After a couple of years with Mike’s smallest guitar, I decided to offload two excellent but neglected Goodalls to get my Baranik 00m, an instrument that not only augments the heartbreaking sweetness of the Parlor with greater volume and low-end presence, but also sports significant aesthetic and ergonomic upgrades, such as the headstock inlay, the scoop cutaway and the adjustable cantilevered neck. Judging from how much I've been enjoying enjoying myself lately, this new Meridian promises to be just as compelling as her two stablemates!

Last edited by Deft Tungsman; 12-06-2018 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 12-04-2018, 04:45 PM
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Here are some crappy iPhone pictures of the Paris branch of the Baranik family. I've had to give them names to keep everyone straight.

From left to right, Che Guerilla, Tuxedo Bolo Blue and Aloha Koa (actually, Mike named the Parlor):








Last edited by Deft Tungsman; 12-06-2018 at 03:07 AM.
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Old 12-04-2018, 06:07 PM
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Sounds about right to me. Congratulations on the Meridian.

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Old 12-04-2018, 11:04 PM
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It was awesome to meet you and hang out with you. My kids had a great time and it was good to practice my Spanish. I'm so pleased the guitar found such a good home. ¡Hasta muy pronto!
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Old 12-05-2018, 12:33 AM
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Ive played that one, loved it, amazing, congrats....!
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Old 12-05-2018, 01:33 AM
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Absolutely stunning! The sharp contrast between the binding and back & sides is very dramatic. I also love all the little details: the curve of the Florentine cutaway, the heel cap, the neck burst, the headstock, the tuner buttons. I can see why this was your Moby Dick.

Great writing btw
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Old 12-05-2018, 03:22 AM
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Great post DT, and congratulations again from the Australian division of the Baranik fan club. I will certainly re-read your thread as I contemplate my next build. Couple of other comments:

The full tone at even the softest volumes is one thing that I love about Mike’s guitars. You can play as quietly (or as hard) as you like and lose nothing.

Woodiness of tone? My two Baraniks are the same model and both have Italian spruce tops so I get a good idea of the colour that comes from having different back and sides. I get that woodiness from my walnut guitar whereas the African Blackwood one is dark and creamy.

Your comment about neck length and string tension reminds me that I have strung my two Baraniks differently – Newtone Heritage on the walnut one and I am using Newtone 80/20s on the ABW one. Just seems to work well. Are you using the same strings on all of yours?

Col
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Old 12-05-2018, 04:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Conquistador View Post
Sounds about right to me. Congratulations on the Meridian.

Steve
You know what I'm talking about, señor!

Quote:
Originally Posted by justonwo View Post
It was awesome to meet you and hang out with you. My kids had a great time and it was good to practice my Spanish. I'm so pleased the guitar found such a good home. ¡Hasta muy pronto!
Looking forward to our next visit, dude. Till then, have fun with your new toys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diamondave View Post
Ive played that one, loved it, amazing, congrats....!
Thanks, DD. It's truly a dream guitar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erithon View Post
Absolutely stunning! The sharp contrast between the binding and back & sides is very dramatic. I also love all the little details: the curve of the Florentine cutaway, the heel cap, the neck burst, the headstock, the tuner buttons. I can see why this was your Moby Dick.

Great writing btw
Thanks, Erithon. (I'm impressed that you made it to the end of my lengthy screed.) I cannot over-emphasize how talented Mike Baranik is. If you ever get a chance to sample his wares, be prepared to open your pocketbook.
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Old 12-05-2018, 04:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colins View Post
Great post DT, and congratulations again from the Australian division of the Baranik fan club. I will certainly re-read your thread as I contemplate my next build. Couple of other comments:

The full tone at even the softest volumes is one thing that I love about Mike’s guitars. You can play as quietly (or as hard) as you like and lose nothing.

Woodiness of tone? My two Baraniks are the same model and both have Italian spruce tops so I get a good idea of the colour that comes from having different back and sides. I get that woodiness from my walnut guitar whereas the African Blackwood one is dark and creamy.

Your comment about neck length and string tension reminds me that I have strung my two Baraniks differently – Newtone Heritage on the walnut one and I am using Newtone 80/20s on the ABW one. Just seems to work well. Are you using the same strings on all of yours?

Col
Hey there, Colin! Aren't we the lucky ones with more than one Baranik in the house? Your comments on woody walnut vs. ABW confirm what I hear with my guitars. I use the same strings on all my acoustics, Elixir PB Lights. I've avoided going down the rabbit hole of trying out and comparing different strings. I've got enough option anxiety as it is.

Have you narrowed down any of the details of your next build with Mike? Still going for a PXd? I played Juston's (now matthew's?) PX, albeit very briefly. Just to confirm the importance of scale length, I'll say that the PX is to the Meridian what the Retreux is to the 00m, a smaller version of a similar guitar. Now that I've experienced the difference, I'm totally stoked to have access to two different scale lengths. For variety's sake, you may want to give at least as much consideration to scale length as to the woods you select.
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Old 12-05-2018, 07:00 AM
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I bought Juston's PX, so now I am also a multi-Baranik family. Will post shortly.
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Old 12-05-2018, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by matthewpartrick View Post
I bought Juston's PX, so now I am also a multi-Baranik family. Will post shortly.

Killer score, man! Hope you're enjoying the ride so far. Looking forward to hearing about your experience.
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Old 12-05-2018, 09:43 AM
Jamiejoon Jamiejoon is offline
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Congratulations! Wonderful description of your guitar, and what an awesome set of cocobolo.
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Old 12-05-2018, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Jamiejoon View Post
Congratulations! Wonderful description of your guitar, and what an awesome set of cocobolo.
Thanks!

Here's a shot of the cocobolo in light bright enough to show the grain:



As you can see from the perfectly straight grain, Mike and Juston chose primo quarter-sawn timber for this build. The color is so homogeneous, the guitar looks like it's been painted a deep dark chocolate. Mike's finish allows you to see the grain underneath, but only under certain lighting conditions. Discreet elegance at its finest.

Last edited by Deft Tungsman; 07-05-2019 at 03:15 AM.
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:10 AM
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Nice post. Awesome axe! And fine writing too!!!

"I was smitten from the moment I first stumbled across a photograph way back when and have returned to sample the eye candy on countless occasions over the years, making this one a chart-topper in my never-ending guitar porn lurk-o-rama."

I know the feeling for sure. Most of us do...

Cheers

Paul
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deft Tungsman View Post
Thanks!

Here's a shot of the cocobolo in light bright enough to show the grain:



As you can see from the perfectly straight grain, Mike and Jason chose primo quarter-sawn timber for this build. The color is so homogeneous, the guitar looks like it's been painted a deep dark chocolate. Mike's finish allows you to see the grain underneath, but only under certain lighting conditions. Discreet elegance at its finest.
Fantastic. I cannot imagine a better set of cocobolo. As they say here in California, you are stoked!
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