Thursday, 25 October 2012

Avalon Carl Verheyen Signature handmade double-cutaway acoustic guitar from Ireland

I don't really like acoustic guitars with cutaways. Although cutaways have been seen throughout the history of the guitar, the fact that this type of design seems to predominate on acoustics is a trend that has been developing for the last 20 or so years.

When I see an acoustic guitar with a cutaway I worry, because that usually suggests that it is an "electro-acoustic" which can often mean that the instrument is a compromise and therefore lacking in tone and any significant acoustic volume. OK, so I'm not talking about the big boys of the acoustic guitar world: Martin, Taylor, Gibson, Breedlove, Takamine, Ovation, etc, who all produce quality instruments (and most of whom have the good taste to produce a fair quantity of non-cutaway acoustic models); rather I am referring to the deluge of low to medium-priced instruments that are imported from the Far East. Some are excellent. Many are not.

What is the cutaway for anyway? Oh, sure, people will say "So you can play up at the top of the neck", but - honestly - how many actually do this when playing acoustic guitar. I certainly never have the need to play that high up the neck.

No, the real reason for the cutaway is to make the guitar look more like an electric and therefore to appeal more to electric players and people who think it looks cool. Well, as far as I am concerned it does NOT look cool. In my opinion, it spoils that classic acoustic guitar outline and makes the instrument look cheap.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us onto this Avalon Carl Verheyen Signature acoustic guitar which features not one, but a pair of cutaways. Avalon is NOT an el cheapo brand from the far east, I really must stress this. Rather, Avalon Guitars are high quality instruments handcrafted in Ireland using traditional methods, and have been produced by a team of skilled luthiers since the 1980s.

This double-cutaway acoustic has been built by Avalon for guitar virtuso Carl Verheyen (who probably DOES play right up at the top of the neck on acoustic), and the specs are as follows:
  • Back & Sides: Indian Rosewood
  • Soundboard: Sitka Spruce
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Bindings: Sycamore
  • Purflings: Rosewood / Sycamore
  • Rosette: Abalone / Rosewood / Sycamore
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Nut / Saddle: Bone (44mm)
  • Bracing System: AXE™
Despite my rant about acoustic guitars with cutaways, I rather like this double-cutaway acoustic. Visually, it still manages to maintain a classic outline; perhaps it's the symmetry that helps.

The list price for the Avalon Carl Verheyen Signature acoustic guitar is £3,860. However, the guitar pictured here is currently listed on eBay UK with a Buy It Now price of £1,400. That could be one hell of a bargain for someone looking for a high quality handmade acoustic guitar.

G L Wilson

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  1. I find myself disagreeing. I don't think that an acoustic guitar being electro acoustic makes it more likely to be rubbish, and I also often find the cutaway acoustic shape to be quite an elegant and attractive one. I rather like what Tanglewood calls the 'super folk' shape- curvy and smooth and I think its cutaway enhances it.
    Mind, I am a fan of non cut away acoustics too, but I do find myself often using higher up on the neck when playing blues and jazz solos.

  2. Electro-acoustic guitars are by definition a compromise. The tops are often much thicker and less resonant so as to reduce feedback, and body sizes are often cut down drastically for the same reason. Acoustically, they don't cut it as well as guitars designed purely as acoustic guitars.

    As for aesthetics, it's all personal opinion.

  3. I love Carl's playing. Really tasteful and expressive. Cool guy too.

  4. Hmmm... World's biggest and best acoustic manufacturers... What's left out? YAMAHA. I am never going to let these slightys go. You also left out maton, who make really really really REALLY good electro acoustics with in-house specified acoustic pickups. But they're not really international players in the market, so i'll let that go.

    But still, Yamahamake a decent 600$ (aud) acoustic. And some of their higher end china instruments (1000$ Aud) have interesting pickup systems. Forexample, one I tried out had the three knobs (vol, treb, bass) inserted into the upper bass bout, and they were retractable by pushing them down into the body whenever unused, and popping them back up when in use. This is a at least a way of getting rid of those awful sliders.

    And, they came in cutaway and non cutaway.

    Also, I do play high up the neck, but i'm using an old yamaha dreadnought non-cutaway, so I just stretch my fingers a little.

    Also, wish you were here, pink floyd, (why wouldn't you know) is played by David Gilmour high up the neck (during certain parts), but is played on a non cutaway Gibson j-200. Aestetics uncrompromised.

    1. Yes, and of course YAMAHA! Sorry, I just thought of a bunch of names off the top of my head. That list was not meant to be inclusive. And whilst Yamaha's electro-acoustic APX range are pretty damn good, they are no match for a proper full-bodied acoustic.

  5. I am shallow, I hate flat tops, reminds me of the most boring of guitar players (think the jerk in Animal House, and James Taylor) I know this is irrational, but it's all about aesthtics. Now I do love a nice Archtop, acoustic or electric, pioneer guitars looking for loudness and jazz. Plus they're not a rounded off, slab sided box.

    1. Hi Hemlut, that's not shallow at all - that's personal preference and not something you should apologise for.

      Now archtop jazz guitars - that's a whole different animal. And of course, I LOVE cutaways on an f-fole archtop guitar - very classy.

      Perhaps my aversion to cutaways on a (flat-top) acoustic is something to do with the aesthetics of a cutaway in proximity to a traditional round soundhole? Maybe, but I think at root it's more to do with the "marketing department" philosophy of "make it look more like an electric guitar, then they'll buy it".

    2. Helmut, I mean - sorry I mistyped your name there!

  6. I own soviet acoustic bass and it has double cutaway. The only need of this construction is to provide strength of neck-to-body (one bolt) join. And it is not a modern solution. It works on viola da gamba and still provides more longitudinal stiffness then traditional "all for volume" non-cutaway design. IMHO

  7. Soviet acoustic bass with a double cutaway? You don't mean a semi-acoustic?

    Would like to see photos!

    1. Not the best photos and not the best condition but it's acoustic with pre-war
      transversal bracing. Now I do some fretwork and already replace tuners with Gotoh (natives simply don't work as tuners)

      also Vladimir Vysotskiy nad one DC 7-str acoustic in 1970-71. I hope the luthier was the same ))



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