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Old 05-04-2020, 01:00 PM
LakewoodM32Fan LakewoodM32Fan is offline
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Default NGD: Santa Cruz OM Adi over EIR (also got to play Collings and Bourgeois!)

TL;DR: Traded in Taylor 914ce v-class + cash for a Santa Cruz OM Adi/EIR, don't regret the decision at all.
Warning, lengthy post below! No offense taken if you just look at this pic and realize I traded in the guitar in the left for the one in the middle, the right is still mine.


L to R: Taylor 914ce v-class (now the shop's), my new Santa Cruz OM Adi/EIR, my Lakewood M32

I meant to get this up sooner, but I've been enjoying the new SCGC OM so much I am now just getting around to it.

Set up a one-on-one by appointment audition this past Saturday. My local shop had a lot of Collings OMs that I liked, but no SCGC OMs and is not a Bourgeois dealer. I knew my next guitar was going to be a smaller OM body since I'm not a big guy and wanted a smaller guitar for the stable. This San Diego based dealer carried all three of the makers, and had OMs in each one (OM2HA and OM1AJL for Collings, OM Vintage and OMC Generation for Bourgeois, and the SCGC OM). To top it all off (inadvertent pun), these all had Adirondack tops. My GAs have Sitka and my D has Euro spruce. I was very eager to see what difference that wood would make on the sound (in addition to the body size and construction differences).

We agreed on the logistics, day/time, precautions we'd take (gloves, masks, physical distancing, hand washing, sanitizing sprays). Due to closure these models had been in storage and were untouched for weeks, but he was still going to do what he could to clean them.

As per my usual process, I brought the M32 and 914ce as my "reference tones". I was once burned by buying a guitar that sounded good in a room, without hearing what mine sounded like, only to bring it home and find my M32 was preferable to me in every way. But this wasn't going to be a "shootout". I knew I wanted a different sound in my OM. The Lakewood and Taylor are very similar in sound characteristics, and I wanted my OM to be a complimentary guitar, a tone that was sufficiently different from my existing cache.

I spent over 2 hours playing all of those guitars, and my own, going back and forth, chatting with the owner, who was extremely helpful and not at all pressuring. He was extremely knowledgeable with advice and telling me what he heard (which largely mirrored what I thought I was hearing but kept to myself so I could get his uncolored feedback).

All three makers make exceptional instruments. All of the OMs had similar-ish sound signatures (i.e. closer to a traditional sound than the Taylor/Lakewood more bright/forward tone) except the Julian Lage which was more bright/forward sounding than the other OMs, and maybe had a bit more emphasis on fundamental tones, and slightly less overtones. Had I played any one of those in isolation, I could have gone home a happy new owner with any of them.

Since I was able to play them against each other, there was one I kept gravitating to. Just something about the tone, it was exactly what in my head I was looking for. The neck (both the smoothness of the back, the shape, and the fret/fretboard setup) seemed to make chord changes easier and faster for me.

I realized the adage is true: at this level, you're comparing excellence. Now it's up to personal preference. And that one, for me, was the Santa Cruz. But it was also more than I wanted to spend. I asked the question I had no inkling (as of that morning) that I would even contemplate. "What kind of trade-in can I get for the 914?". He gave me a good trade-in value, especially considering I had gotten a discount from my friend who worked at Guitar Center, on top of a small discount for the SCGC OM. I admit, I'm not much of a haggler, but I did do my homework so I know he gave me a little bit of a break, but I'm sure others here will say I could have gotten more. He had been so helpful, genuinely friendly, and the furthest from a pressure-salesman tactic, that I made peace with the price.

I spent another 15 minutes going back and forth with my M32 and 914. It's funny but it wasn't until I was in that room that I critically compared the two back to back. At home, I would just pick up one or the other and that was my guitar for that particular session. I never realized how much they sounded alike. The M32 could get a little louder, and maybe had a bit more lush overtones than the 914, which was not as loud, maybe a little more even across the EQ spectrum, and had more controlled overtones. But they're essentially 95% similar in overall tonality. And I'm never selling the M32 (sentimental value, custom build, and has an attractive piece of Sitka on it that has aged fantastically in terms of tone and appearance).

It's been 48 hours now and I don't regret leaving the 914 behind. 72 hours ago I would have thought this impossible. The SCGC (and the Collings and Bourgeois) really do have a quality difference to the big brands, even the best models of the bigs. Here are my initial thoughts with about 10 hours of play on the SCGC.
  1. Balanced sound. No one part of the frequency spectrum is overemphasized. But don't confuse balanced with boring, it's anything but.
  2. Surprising volume for it's size. I thought losing nearly a 1/4"-1/2" in depth, plus smaller lower bout, would make this much quieter. I can actually strum it hard and it doesn't break up at all, and can get nearly as loud as the Lakewood.
  3. Very articulate bass notes in comparison to the 914 and M32. The bass note clarity and separation is just more noticeable and pleasing.
  4. Fit and finish. The nitrocel gloss just seems more polished. Smoother. Like more time was taken to get it feeling almost glass smooth.
  5. The back of the neck. I know it's mahogany just like my others. But I don't know if it's stained, or just finished better. But it looks like high-end furniture grade. And it feels smoother while still being satin finished (the one thing I didn't like about Collings was the gloss neck).
  6. Ease of playability. I don't have big hands. But after playing it a while I became suspicious it might be a shorter scale because I felt it easier to fret certain shapes. I knew it wasn't 24.9" because that would have been very obvious. Checked the interwebs, turns out it's 25.35" and my other two are 25.5. Who knew that I could sense a difference of 0.15" spread out over 20 frets?
  7. It's nearly a pound lighter than the 914! Yes it's a smaller body, and yes it doesn't have electronics. But it's baffling to me how light it is every time I pick it up.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts (and pics) in the future.

My...I won't call them dislikes, but things I'll miss...
  1. Uppermost fret access. The 914 cutaway was great, but if I'm being honest, I play that high approximately 0.1% of the time. So I'll give up that 0.1% for the other 99.9%.
  2. This sounds stupid but...I'm hesitant to have a luthier install the second strap pin. Not that I'm afraid of devaluing it (I don't purchase guitars for resell, I purchase because I love the sound and want to play it). But the neck to body join is so beautifully shaped, it looks perfect. This is the first dovetail joint acoustic I've owned. Not sure if the neck join area is shaped like this due to that method, or if SCGC just gives it a beautiful aesthetic because it's in their company DNA, but I don't want to do anything to mar it.
  3. I now have a lot less abalone in my life. I wouldn't change this guitar's aesthetic, it's perfect in the classic look it's designed to emulate. But man the 914 was "bling city".

Phew! That's all for now, thanks for reading if you made it this far! Back to work, and then playing some more. I'll update more in the future with any new thoughts/experiences, as well as pics.
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Collings OM2H (Baked Sitka/EIR), Huss & Dalton TD-R (Baked Adi/EIR), Lakewood M32 (Sitka/EIR)
Martin D-18 MD (Baked Sitka/Mahogany), Santa Cruz OM (Adi/EIR) & OM/PW (Redwood/EIR),
Taylor Custom GA (Cedar/Cocobolo/Koa)
, K24ce 12-fret (all-Koa) & K14c (Baked Sitka/Koa)

Last edited by LakewoodM32Fan; 05-04-2020 at 06:45 PM. Reason: fixed typos...ugh
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  #2  
Old 05-04-2020, 01:46 PM
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brencat brencat is offline
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One of the best guitars I ever played was an Adi/EIR Santa Cruz OM at Rudy's in NYC 5 years ago. That thing was so loud you couldn't believe it. I wonder if I would like it as much today, now that I am mostly into bluegrass.

Anyway, Congrats and play her in good health!
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Old 05-04-2020, 02:02 PM
zmf zmf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LakewoodM32Fan View Post
I now have a lot less abalone in my life.
Seems like a reasonable tradeoff.

Enjoy!
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Old 05-04-2020, 02:43 PM
teleboli teleboli is offline
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Congrats and HNGD.

SCGC's are wonderful.
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Old 05-04-2020, 04:34 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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Congratulations! Santa Cruz makes a wonderful OM guitar!

- Glenn
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Old 05-04-2020, 05:43 PM
Dwight Dwight is offline
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My Santa Cruz OM/PW Rosewood/German is my current favorite. Congratulations on your new guitar!
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:10 PM
LakewoodM32Fan LakewoodM32Fan is offline
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Thank you all for the kind words! @brencat I agree that the OM can get surprisingly loud. It sounds fantastic everywhere from soft fingerpicking (admittedly not a strength of mine) to loud strumming. Percussive palm-muting also sounds great on it!

I'm afraid of the small-builder door I've just opened, in terms of future wallet pain. There really was something special to all of those OMs I demoed.

Oh, and here's a shot of where the neck joins the body, that I don't want to ruin the aesthetic and feel by putting in a strap pin. But I also don't like looping in at the headstock either.



You see what I'm talking about in terms of "high quality furniture look" to the mahogany in the neck, right? I'm sure it's varnish of some kind, though not gloss finish. But it's so meticulously applied, I love the look as opposed to the standard look where you can see the grain of the hog. Reminds me as a child of the old, antique furniture my parents would tell me was for "looking" not "sitting"
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Collings OM2H (Baked Sitka/EIR), Huss & Dalton TD-R (Baked Adi/EIR), Lakewood M32 (Sitka/EIR)
Martin D-18 MD (Baked Sitka/Mahogany), Santa Cruz OM (Adi/EIR) & OM/PW (Redwood/EIR),
Taylor Custom GA (Cedar/Cocobolo/Koa)
, K24ce 12-fret (all-Koa) & K14c (Baked Sitka/Koa)
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:17 PM
Dbone Dbone is offline
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You picked the right one to say goodbye to.

I’ve never had the great fortune to be in the presence of a Santa Cruz, but they sure look nice, and their reputation is definitely there. I only see one dealer in Canada, and it is nowhere near me.

For me the pricing on them sends my brain into “can’t compute territory”. We all have our mental limits on guitar purchases. For this reason I will have to live vicariously through you. Much cheaper that way Congrats!

Get some better/closer pics up if you can.
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LakewoodM32Fan View Post
@brencat I agree that the OM can get surprisingly loud. It sounds fantastic everywhere from soft fingerpicking (admittedly not a strength of mine) to loud strumming. Percussive palm-muting also sounds great on it!

I'm afraid of the small-builder door I've just opened, in terms of future wallet pain. There really was something special to all of those OMs I demoed.

Oh, and here's a shot of where the neck joins the body, that I don't want to ruin the aesthetic and feel by putting in a strap pin. But I also don't like looping in at the headstock either.

You see what I'm talking about in terms of "high quality furniture look" to the mahogany in the neck, right? I'm sure it's varnish of some kind, though not gloss finish. But it's so meticulously applied, I love the look as opposed to the standard look where you can see the grain of the hog. Reminds me as a child of the old, antique furniture my parents would tell me was for "looking" not "sitting"
I once owned a 2016 German/EIR OM. Very much identical to yours in looks. It was a gorgeous piece. I just never bonded with the tone longer term and in retrospect, it was not a good match for the music I play (mostly bluegrass when I’m not playing church masses). The OM/PW was a much better fit because of its more vintage sound and bass bias/scooped mids. The SC OM is more modern sounding, definitely louder, and probably more versatile overall.

Don’t dwell on the strap pin thing. Get it installed properly in the heel. I have a 000-18A with a gorgeous gloss neck and Brothers Music found a nice ebony strap pin that complements the overall aesthetic. I prefer dark strap pins as you notice them less, and you’d want that on your neck I think too.
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:25 PM
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Haasome Haasome is offline
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Beautiful guitar. I own a German/EIR SCGC OM and love it. You did good, enjoy.
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:32 PM
LakewoodM32Fan LakewoodM32Fan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dbone View Post
Get some better/closer pics up if you can.
Your wish is my command!
https://i.imgur.com/7CzQMLn.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/A6mJcwn.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/R2e5T1y.jpg
Here are some full sized shots, so I put them in as links so they don't mess with the forum software.

It's so tricky to get a good pic of the back without a ton of reflections due to the gloss. Sorry for the odd angle on the last photo.

Oh and that first photo also reminds me that I should mention this is one of the poshest cases I've ever seen!

Quote:
Originally Posted by brencat View Post
Don’t dwell on the strap pin thing. Get it installed properly in the heel. I have a 000-18A with a gorgeous gloss neck and Brothers Music found a nice ebony strap pin that complements the overall aesthetic. I prefer dark strap pins as you notice them less, and you’d want that on your neck I think too.
Excellent advice! I'll start looking around once the stay-at-home is relaxed. I know my local luthiers have good selection and highly skilled workers.
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Collings OM2H (Baked Sitka/EIR), Huss & Dalton TD-R (Baked Adi/EIR), Lakewood M32 (Sitka/EIR)
Martin D-18 MD (Baked Sitka/Mahogany), Santa Cruz OM (Adi/EIR) & OM/PW (Redwood/EIR),
Taylor Custom GA (Cedar/Cocobolo/Koa)
, K24ce 12-fret (all-Koa) & K14c (Baked Sitka/Koa)
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:41 PM
HOF dad HOF dad is offline
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thoroughly enjoyed your narrative....congrats on an amazing guitar!
it's gorgeous
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:54 PM
wisedennis wisedennis is offline
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Beautiful guitars on the wall!
Do you have any other guitars?
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:56 PM
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Kh1967 Kh1967 is offline
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Congratulations on a lovely guitar!
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Old 05-04-2020, 08:02 PM
paulzoom paulzoom is online now
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How would you compare the Santa Cruz to the Lakewood?
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