Alun Lower gets double the fun with this compelling and smartly designed 12-string from Auden…
Auden is a force on the rise. Since the last guitar I reviewed from the up-and-coming guitar maker, the company has opened some seriously impressive new manufacturing premises that Auden suggests may now make them the largest guitar manufacturing facility in the UK. Additionally, Auden has acquired Gordon Smith electric guitars and forged a new partnership with Montoya classical guitars, expanding the company’s product catalogue considerably. In an industry where it’s often our electrified cousins that enjoy the lion’s share of the headiness, it’s great news all round for acoustic players far and wide. After all, who doesn’t enjoy having a few more quality choices available on their shopping list?
There’s no denying that Auden’s product range is fairly extensive, covering most niches and tastes that you could care to name. So after trying out baritones, parlours and all manner of other wonderful examples, it’s fair to say I’m pretty excited about getting to grips with this 12-string Colton – or it’s full name, Colton Full Body Cedar 12-String.
Out of the box, the Colton is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Auden – quality tonewoods, classy finishing and smart, modern design. Supporting the lovely cedar top are back and sides constructed from solid rosewood, finished in a beautiful gloss to really bring out the detail in the wood’s grain. Rosewood is one of those tonewoods that can look absolutely spectacular or remarkably dull depending on how you finish it, and the Colton is definitely the former. The cedar top’s reddish hue is a gorgeous too and serves as a charming complement to the rosewood rather than the crisp contrast of a spruce top. The multilayered binding and abalone rosette add further detailing to the top without distracting from the woods themselves, and a peek inside the body reveals the Auden logo burned into the binding.
In contrast to the body, the satin-finished mahogany neck is dovetailed neatly into place, and other than some minor finish build-up around the neck join, it is flawlessly implemented. The neck profile is comfy, full and well-rounded – a good all-rounder profile as many of Auden’s other guitars have been in my experience – appealing well enough to both modern and traditional players. Having said that, as with most 12-strings there is a fair bit to wrap your hand around, and those with smaller grasps might find themselves struggling a little. As always with such things, this is something you’ll have to test out yourself to be completely sure.
Elsewhere, the finish and fit of the frets is as immaculate as I have come to expect from Auden, and the ebony fingerboard makes for a sublime playing experience.
As with other guitars in the Auden family, the Colton comes fitted with a Schertler Lydia pickup system – a solid, dependable unit that has become almost synonymous with the Auden brand, and is particularly well-known for its eminently giggable sound. Honestly, it’s not the most advanced system on the planet but as an extra that doesn’t detract from the guitar’s acoustic performance and overall appearance, it certainly fits the bill.
I’m sure many of you out there will share the same opinion as me in that when trying out a guitar for the first time, there’s usually plenty of fun to be had in simply tapping the body at various points to check its reverberations and acoustic response. Just as you’d hope from a good quality all-solid acoustic there is indeed plenty to enjoy here – every knock ringing out a slightly different character and coaxing the strings into a lovely light hum, rich with harmonic overtones and shimmering 12-string tonality.
Performing that first strum is a wonderful moment on 12-string guitars too, and the most pleasing thing from the Colton on first listen is the fine-tuned balance between the strings. From the lowest notes to the sharpest high notes, everything rings out in equal volume and with crystal clarity. The Colton’s body shape is Auden’s take on a dreadnaught and as such provides all the necessary low end cloud one could desire, with a healthy smattering of mid-range to fill in the gaps. There’s plenty of volume on-tap too, making the Colton potentially quite an overpowering instrument depending on which other instruments you might be playing along with. It’s big, bold and just loves the sound of its own voice! There’s no danger of getting lost in the mix with this guitar, and that massive tone is bound to turn heads in any room. Spacious, enveloping and multi-textured, this 12-string’s tone is something to be admired. If you plan to try this in the shops and adore the way it looks, I’d be surprised if it takes you more than 60 seconds of play to make your decision.
I’ll admit to having some concerns about how the Lydia would handle a 12-string, as normally I find the system to be solid but not spectacular and haven’t had the opportunity to try one in this undoubtedly more challenging format. However, as soon as I plugged in I breathed a sigh of relief as I enjoyed a balanced, even sound that suits itself especially well to live performance. Through a gig and some effects pedals, the Lydia is an ideal partner, keeping everything crisp and defined even if the core tone isn’t the most natural or accurate reproduction. If you’re after top-drawer amplified or recorded tones then you want to consider picking up a good microphone – but then you may well have thought of that already anyway!
The Colton 12-string is another winner from Auden. How could it not be? As I mentioned earlier in the review, production is clearly a big factor in Auden’s success, and the sheer consistency of the instruments I’ve reviewed so far is testament to that. While we’re generally spoiled in the modern guitar industry, I’ve come across my fair share of build quality issues in my time and so this kind of quality in a relatively new company really is impressive – and I hope everyone at Auden takes great pride in that.
What the Colton offers is perhaps not the most sophisticated plugged-in performance, but instead an incredibly refined and well-engineered experience from just about every other angle. It looks and plays superbly, sounds wonderful and stands out with its own distinct identity, somehow never coming across as another “copycat” brand. This guitar feels like it was made and designed with love and attention, and as a guitarist there’s very little I find more compelling than that. If you haven’t already, go out and try an Auden today, whether it’s a 12-string, baritone or a regular ol’ six-string. You won’t regret it.
Model: Colton 12-String
Retail Price: £1,499
Body Size: Dreadnought
Made In: China, set up in the UK
Back and Sides: Solid Indian rosewood
Neck: African mahogany
Nut Width: 43mm
Scale Length: 650mm
Onboard Electronics: Schertler Lydia
Strings Fitted: High quality USA-made
Left Handers: N/A
Gig Bag/Case Included: Hard case
Acoustic test results
Pros: Well-engineered, modern, and a classy looker paired with great tones is a winning combination; and a hardcase with the RRP!
Cons: Perhaps a more versatile pickup, but that’s splitting hairs.
Overall: This is a great 12-string guitar from a brand with its own identity and voice – and one proud enough to sing from the rooftops with