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Old 05-22-2020, 05:16 PM
LakewoodM32Fan LakewoodM32Fan is offline
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Default NGD: Huss & Dalton TD-R Custom (and the overly long story to go with it)

NGD: Huss & Dalton TD-R custom (+road trip to try Collings, Bourgeois SCGC)

TL;DR – After a full day road trip, auditioning ~8 dreadnoughts from Collings, Santa Cruz, Bourgeois and Huss & Dalton, I found my second “dream” guitar to complement my OM:
The Huss & Dalton TD-R custom (Thermo-cured Red Spruce over East Indian Rosewood)


Quick specs: Baked Adi over EIR, bone nut and cut-through saddle, ebony bridge and bound fretboard, glossy EIR headstock veneer, Herringbone purfling, ivoroid binding, Waverly 1129 vintage oval tuners, 1 23/32” nut width, 2 7/32” saddle spacing, 25.4” scale length.



Disclaimer: what follows is an overly long, drawn out post detailing the search and acquisition of this guitar. Proceed at your own peril.

It was only two weeks prior that I traded in my Taylor 914ce v-class for a Santa Cruz OM that was so superior to it in tone that it wasn’t even a tough decision. So why, if I found what seemed to me my dream guitar, would I buy another so quickly?

Simple: within my repertoire of songs that I play--and would like to learn--there are certain songs that are better served by the sheer room filling power of a dreadnought (referred to as “D” from now on) that not even the best OM can provide.

I already had a D, a Lakewood. I bought it because I love my first guitar, a Lakewood M32, so my first thought was “I want my M32 only louder”. Those who have owned Lakewood know that it very much has Taylor DNA. After I bought the OM, I realized that my tastes are gravitating towards the vintage tone, at least for songs and styles I play on a D. It wasn’t what the Lakewood was giving me. I wanted the boom, but with the retention of bass note articulation, the latter of which the D32 wasn’t capable of producing. I didn’t want to make a hasty decision, so I kept playing the D32 alongside the OM for a week. Over that time, my desire for a more vintage tone only grew.

I did some homework and contacted both my local dealer (where I bought the D32) and my next-city-over dealer where I had bought the OM. Since the D32 was a recent purchase, I confirmed that I would be getting a solid trade-in value for it at either place.

I set up two appointments and let them both know what I was wanting in terms of tone, volume and articulation. I knew I’d be looking at boutique builders, my Santa Cruz has spoiled me. The local dealer had many Collings D variants and one SCGC D/PW. The other dealer had a Bourgeois D-Vintage, SCGC Tony Rice, and told me “you should really try some H&Ds as well, I’ll bring out a couple.” I had never tried H&D, but I knew they had a loyal following here. In some respect that made me a little skeptical. Chalk it up to “Wariness of Internet Hype.” But he didn’t steer me wrong on the OM, so I owed it to him to at least give them a shot.

Going into the process, I knew I was going to end up with one of the Santa Cruz models, it was just a question of which one. After all, what I really wanted was my OM but louder and with more low-end boom. I arrived at my local dealer and couldn’t wait to dig into the D/PW. Yeah he had Collings, but I am not a huge fan of glossy necks. He led me to the room with the D/PW and I pulled out my trusty orange Tortex pick. It did not take me more than a few minutes to realize the D/PW was not at all what I wanted. It sounded much darker than what I was looking for. Well, I thought, let me avoid a 2-hour drive and try some of these Collings. The couple I picked up were, like the D/PW, on the darker side. All had EIR b/s and Sitka tops. None moved me to reach for my wallet.

Then on a whim I picked up what looked like a mahogany b/s Collings D. I admit I fall prey to the “mahogany guitars tend to cost less than EIR, so obviously they’re not as good” trap. This D1A was a revelation. It didn’t quite dig down as deep as I wanted, but literally everything else was spectacular. Sweet, articulate mids+highs without being too bright. It got plenty loud without ever breaking up. I told the owner that I was going to another shop but that if nothing there wowed me, I’d be coming back for this.

Before I left he put a Collings 002H in front of me. New finish smell coming out of it. The polar opposite of what I was looking for. It was everything I loved in my OM in a smaller body. A few minutes earlier we had been chatting about how I felt Adi tops were more articulate, had more clarity, than the Sitkas I’d been auditioning over the last few weeks. When he put that 00 in front of me he said “try this Sitka.” I had to admit to him that it was the best Sitka I’d ever played, and that I’d have to re-think my previous statement. Then he said “oh wait...” went to his computer, punched up the specs, and said “I was wrong, it’s Adi.” I peered into the soundhole. Sure enough: 002HA. Guess I passed the single- (or double-?) blind test.

I hit the road, knowing I had that Collings D1A to fall back on. The other dealer had the four guitars on the wall ready for me to try. He was on a video-call with a customer and playing a Furch for him, and apologized and said he’d be with me shortly. He pointed to the TD-R and said to play that one last, because he wanted to see what I thought of it.


L to R, SCGC Tony Rice, Bourgeois D-vintage, H&D D-RH, H&D TD-R (now mine!)

The Bourgeois was the first one I picked up. With a baked Adi top, I was looking forward to hearing what Dana & Co. were able to do with the wood. It was very near the tone that I was looking for. But something about the neck, fretboard or string spacing was not to my liking. My fingers weren’t finding the chords or notes as quickly as they had on the Collings, which was surprising since the glossy necks of the Collings tend to slow me down.

I moved to the Tony Rice. It was night-and-day difference from the D/PW. It had noticeably more pronounced mids and highs, and like the Bourgeois, closer to the tone I was looking for. Both had the low bass note articulation that I was after, and a decent amount of volume and low-end boom for a D.

By this time the owner had come back and watched me pick up the D-RH. After a couple of minutes of playing, I smiled and told him that I understood what the hype was about. The D-RH was perhaps just slightly behind the Bourgeois and the Santa Cruz in terms of what I was looking for, but was $1300 and $1700 cheaper, respectively. It was a bit brighter than the other two. The playability was more to my liking, it felt considerably easier to play for me than the Bourgeois, and tied with the SCGC.

It was time to try out the TD-R and then decide between whether I was going to go with the Tony Rice or, more likely, head back and get the D1A and learn to live with the glossy neck. While the D-RH was nice, I assumed the TD-R would only be marginally better than the D-RH.

The first open chord strums dropped my jaw in surprise. Boom. There it was. Along with low note articulation, without obscuring the rest of the sound spectrum. I launched into the same repertoire I’d been playing all day. I looked up at the owner. He knew he didn’t have to say a thing to try and convince me of its quality. I played that thing for twenty minutes. It was the sound in my head brought to life.

To make sure I wasn’t suffering from the recency effect, I cycled through the other three guitars again. My impressions hadn’t changed of the other three. They were all fine instruments. However, this TD-R was “the one for me” by a country mile.

I asked the owner if he'd play the same passages for me on all four guitars while I walked around and listened. And that was when I got my second shock. The other three sounded great, the TD-R surpassed them all. The TD-R seemed to project better at wider angles than the other three. As I walked left-to-right, that was the one guitar that seemed like it didn’t care at what angle you stood from the player, you were going to get an earful of sonic goodness. I took the guitar back and kept cycling between all four. It was always the TD-R that brought a smile to my face.

Just like with the OM from two weeks ago, I had found exactly the sound I was looking for. Somehow nearly two and a half hours had passed. We concluded our business and I hit the road. Stopped by my friend’s house on the way back (same as when I bought the OM). He said “you got another guitar? Why?” I simply pulled out the TD-R and proceeded to fill every nook and cranny of his large, high-ceilinged living room with musical glory. “Oh. Okay.”

My wallet says I’m done for a while. But in truth, the OM and TD-R don’t leave me wanting for more. Everything from quiet, intricate playing to loud, brash strumming, I now have covered. My sonic limitation has always been my skill, but now I have zero ability to place even a small percentage blame on not having the right instrument for the job. It’s telling that I meant to get this post out Sunday, but I’ve been too busy playing, and have slowly worked on this writeup before bedtime (when I’d be upsetting my neighbors if I were still cranking away on the TD-R).

If you made it this far, thanks! And I hope you enjoyed the read. I'm happy to answer any questions members may have!
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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),
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, K24ce 12-fret (all-Koa) & K14c (Baked Sitka/Koa)
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:03 PM
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lossforgain lossforgain is offline
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I love the story! The only downside is that now I want to play one, but I just bought two guitars, so that would be a baaaaaaaaad move, lol!
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:14 PM
dhockenbury dhockenbury is offline
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Congratulations and enjoy.
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:28 PM
loco gringo loco gringo is offline
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Them folks do make a mean dread over there in Ole Virginny.
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:53 PM
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Kh1967 Kh1967 is offline
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Great story. Thank you for sharing!

Congratulations on some lovely guitars...you done good!
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Old 05-22-2020, 07:31 PM
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Really great job on finding what suited you best. Playing in person is always preferred, and it must be so nice to have two great boutique dealers within 2 hours of each other that are willing to do private sales during this Covid lockdown.

I've been thinking about ordering another dread but frankly don't really have a good reason to do so, and then I realize I'll have to sell something I currently own (because of my self imposed limit) and I'm even less excited to pull the trigger. This is not a bad thing. Maybe it means I'm getting closer to contentment but the itch is always there.

That baked TDR looks awesome -- play her in good health!
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Old 05-22-2020, 07:51 PM
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martingitdave martingitdave is offline
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Those TD-Rs are top shelf dreadnoughts! I was looking for one before I found my Authentic.
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:05 PM
gregc gregc is offline
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Thanks for the great read! Enjoy your new guitar!
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:23 PM
Greyhound Greyhound is offline
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Great read! Where is this magical place you live with a choice of high end shops to visit. I love a road trip.
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:26 PM
LakewoodM32Fan LakewoodM32Fan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greyhound View Post
Great read! Where is this magical place you live with a choice of high end shops to visit. I love a road trip.
The magical land of Southern California. They don’t call it the city of dreams for nothing! Actually they don’t even call it the city of dreams at all.
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Collings OM2H (Baked Sitka/EIR), Huss & Dalton TD-R (Baked Adi/EIR), Lakewood M32 (Sitka/EIR)
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:34 PM
Matts67 Matts67 is offline
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Very cool story. My Adi-topped TD-R is overall the best sounding guitar I've played. It's just so versatile and the craftsmanship is top notch. Glad everything worked out and you found your dream guitar.
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:01 AM
LakewoodM32Fan LakewoodM32Fan is offline
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Thanks everyone! The fun part was how I posted that I was on my road trip here, and had a few people "virtually" following along as I tested locally, then headed down to the other shop.

One thing that both the OM and the TD-R have done for me is made me re-examine the aesthetics I'm looking for in a guitar. Back in the day, I was an abalone fan. The 914ce v-class I traded in had abalone in the rosette, around the entire soundboard, and it even went around the fretboard where it met the body.

The OM and TD-R are obviously very traditional in their aesthetic and my tastes have changed to be more appreciative of that.
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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 05-23-2020, 10:34 AM
dhockenbury dhockenbury is offline
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I think that quite a few here can relate to your first H&D moment, myself included.

The expression on someone’s face after having casually asked them to try that one out is priceless. Usually followed by many questions.

Special magic indeed.
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Old 05-23-2020, 02:18 PM
LakewoodM32Fan LakewoodM32Fan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhockenbury View Post
I think that quite a few here can relate to your first H&D moment, myself included.

The expression on someone’s face after having casually asked them to try that one out is priceless. Usually followed by many questions.

Special magic indeed.
I suppose it's because they're such a low-output shop, that they're not better known. They have only two California dealers (and for a state our size, that's a tiny presence).

H&D occupy this interesting space between the truly tiny makers (individual luthiers, or the father/son tandem at Goodall) and the boutique shops who make less than 1000 guitars a year. Having now extensively auditioned Collings, Bourgeois and Santa Cruz (and owning one), I feel confident in saying the H&Ds belong in that category in terms of quality...but at a significantly lower price point.

Here's a few more shots of the TD-R. One is a close-up of the top, I like the grain structure of the baked Adi, it's a visually appealing piece of wood (as well as spectacular sounding). The other is the back of their neck, which they stain like Santa Cruz does, but still maintain a matte finish. I think SCGC stains it even darker, but both give it that "fine furniture quality wood" look. And the last is the glossy EIR veneer on the headstock (nice touch to use the b/s wood for the veneer).
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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 05-23-2020, 02:24 PM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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Congratulations on your new Huss & Dalton TD-R--Enjoy! A mighty fine Red Spruce top on yours!

Recommendations: For your next guitar, check out both a Huss & Dalton DS (rosewood b&s) and the Huss & Dalton D-RH (which you may have tried given the photo?). I've owned both these models and regret trading them in on other guitars.
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