Auden Edgar Baritone & Marlow Parlour
Alun Lower jumps at the chance to test drive two very different guitars from impressive up-and-coming guitar maker Auden…
They say opposites attract, and that simply couldn’t be truer than with this exciting pair of guitars from Auden. If you happened to read my review of the superb Auden Chester back in issue 99, then you’ll already know that Auden has quickly established itself as a very exciting new guitar maker whose guitars are most definitely hitting all the right notes. The fact that the company has already seen fit to introduce a new baritone model shows a real hunger and ambition that is very infectious – so when I was presented with the opportunity to review said baritone along with a sweet little parlour, well… let’s just say that I didn’t have to be asked twice. As a reviewer, it’s wonderful to be able to try out such deeply contrasting instruments, so without any further ado, let’s get stuck into the action.
After my first experience with Auden a few short months ago, I opened the cases of these two guitars expecting to be suitably impressed by the construction quality once again. Sure enough, both the Edgar and Marlow are clearly made to very exacting standards, packing the kind of natural good looks that make your eyes light up every time you open the hardcase.
Starting with the Edgar baritone, the combination of cedar and rosewood is a wonderfully earthy colour palette that made a great impression on me with the Chester in my last review. Being a baritone, the body is always going to be on the large side – I get the feeling that a spruce top would have ended up being a large, pale expanse of fairly innocuous tonewood – an effect I’ve seen on a few jumbos in my time. Cedar definitely feels like the right choice – sitting nicely between the brightness and clarity of spruce and the darker, richer nature of mahogany-topped guitars. A decorative abalone rosette breaks up the look, with an ebony bridge and fingerboard offering further contrast.
The baritone body is indeed large, but the shape appears to have been well considered so as to maximise comfort as much as possible. After shifting around with your strumming arm to find your particular sweet spot the overall adjustment is pretty quick and easy to make, with overall reach and accessibility generally very good. By comparison the Marlow parlour’s spruce top suits its petite construction perfectly, warmed up nicely with a dark ebony rosette as opposed to the abalone of the Edgar. The overall vibe of the guitar is light, airy and effortlessly playable – you’ll hardly notice the guitar on your lap and can instead concentrate on getting everything right with your fretting hand.
Both guitars feature mahogany necks topped with ebony fingerboards, loaded with some exceptionally tidy and well-finished fretwork. Playability is a breeze on both examples – strings move freely across the metal and intonation is spot on across the entire length of the neck. Action is set nicely on both instruments also and there’s not a single hint of a buzz across either instrument’s range. This is the first time I’ve been able to compare the set-up across two of Auden’s guitars – the quality is excellent but what impresses me even more is the consistency. There are no blemishes to set these two apart – not a blob of glue, a sharp fret edge or single off note. Quality control at Auden HQ must be absolutely excellent if these two guitars are truly indicative of the company’s output as a whole – great stuff.
Another feature that is shared across the guitars is the inclusion of a Schertler Lydia pickup and preamp system, adding further versatility to these two instruments. Whether you want to hit the stage, relax in your living room or lay down tracks in a studio, the Edgar and Marlow are both ready to take you there.
Of course, good looks, extra features and consistency of construction count for little if the sound itself doesn’t excite your ears. Despite the almost uniform quality of construction shared by this pair of guitars, the tone is where they truly go off down their own wonderfully unique paths.
Starting this time with the Marlow parlour, there’s a lovely airy resonance to the guitar even as you lay your hands down on the strings and listen to the echo bouncing back from inside the body. Measuring a good 43mm at the nut and 57mm at the 20th fret, there’s plenty of room for fingerstyle play but not so much that it would inhibit playing with a pick if that’s your thing.
Having said that, fingers n’ thumbs are definitely the way to go if you want to coax the best tones from the Marlow. Low notes sound fuller but retain plenty of definition to make lower passages contrast and partner beautifully with the high end zing of the higher strings. The tone is one of real dynamics, with the spruce and rosewood combining nicely to offer the best of high and low. Interestingly, Auden also produce a mahogany version if you tend to prefer that particular tonewood’s mid-range honk and thickness. Whichever style you choose, the guitar is well suited to any fingerstyle-heavy genres like blues or folk in particular. Being a parlour, you naturally don’t get the sheer volume and projection and of a larger-bodied instrument but there’s certainly plenty of oomph there to get you heard in most situations.
The Edgar is a very different prospect altogether, as you’d expect. By default it’s tuned down to a lovely B-to-B baritone tuning that rings out with an astonishing level of clarity and presence. The sound itself is massive but somehow manages to keep much of the sharpness and definition of the Marlow’s diddy dimensions. Playing in baritone just adds so much of a different character to your playing and I’ll happily admit I lost several hours without even thinking thanks to experimenting with riffs old and new alike. The cedar top turns out to be an inspired choice, adding enough high-end to the tone to offer greater dynamics than a mahogany instrument but keeping away from the sometimes brittle qualities of a large-bodied, spruce-topped guitar. The rosewood then keeps the low-end as clear as a bell so a nice, bass-like snap to the lower strings.
Both guitars also put in a solid electro performance thanks to the quality Schertler system that Auden has put in place. If you read my previous Auden review then you’ll know pretty much what to expect here – while not the most stellar tone for recording direct, the Lydia is very good at providing an even, neutral and clear tone that translates very well to the live stage. Effects and amplification respond very well and the signal is easy to manipulate as you see fit with a bit of EQ applied. Just be careful not to set the gain too high, and invest in a decent microphone if you’re serious about recording your guitar.
So far I haven’t mentioned how much I like the fact that Auden has given its guitars real names, in most cases inspired by the very people responsible for their creation. It invokes a sense of personality and makes you feel like the makers of these guitars are connected to their craft by so much more than mere profit margins. Auden guitars are clearly a labour of love and these two guitars are a perfect example of that. They couldn’t be more opposite, yet they share the same core values and quality of construction so intrinsically and consistently that, as with many much bigger and more established names in the business, you can tell who made them without even reading the name on the headstock.
Their differences though must also be celebrated – the Marlow is a charming, lively and engaging little parlour that lives for snappy riffs, delicate fingerstyle passages and smokey blues licks. It’s addictive beyond description and a complete joy to play. Then you have the Edgar – a true gentle giant with a hulking frame but a versatile, sonorous voice that is enthrallingly beautiful with the potential to change your guitar playing forever. There’s nothing quite like playing a good baritone and if you’re tempted then you really ought to give the Edgar a try.
The only possible downside to these guitars is that the electro performance isn’t up there with the best – but there are plenty of alternatives in that department and you should only let that put you off if plugged-in tones and versatility are at the very top of your priorities list. For anyone else, these two guitars are simply too good to ignore.