A guitar recently played by country boy Albert Lee finds its way into the hands of resolute townie David Mead…
There’s a bit of a story to this guitar. Apparently, when Albert Lee flew to the UK for his 70th birthday concerts at Cadogan Hall in London this March he didn’t want to bring an acoustic guitar with him and so Huss & Dalton lent him this one for the evening and fitted a pickup especially for the occasion. The concerts, which were held over two nights, were filmed for a forthcoming documentary – and so when it’s released the chances are that you’ll see this very instrument take to the stage in the hands of a seasoned master!
Needless to say, the reason why this particular model was chosen is that Albert has exactly the same model at home. He also has an H&D MJ, but didn’t want to risk altering the tone by having a pickup fitted to it for the concert. So this guitar stepped up to the mark as an able understudy and I’m sitting here wishing it could play some of Albert’s lines back to me.
In any case, the T-0014 is an OO model acoustic and displays the very trim measurements associated with that well-established body size. It’s also a shorter scale instrument, with a scale length of 632.5mm or around 24.8 inches in old money.
This all adds up to a very petite looking guitar – and so let’s find out what’s going on under the bonnet.
The top wood is Sitka spruce, the grain of which is all but hidden under the dense finish. But the little bit that I can see where the sunburst centre sits around the bridge reveals a very tidy looking piece of timber. Far easier to see is the East Indian rosewood on the back and sides with its characteristic straight grain and dark brown hue well on display. The plastic bindings have been very neatly applied – they’re a sort of dark mock tortoise-shell and they blend into the overall darkness of the top and sides really well.
It’s Indian rosewood once again for the heel cap at the base of the neck and, just above it off centre and to the left is a second strap peg. I don’t know whether this is fitted to the model as standard or whether it was put on for Albert. It’s difficult to tell, but it has the air of a retrofit to my eyes, put it that way!
The neck is made form mahogany with a very soft V profile to it – it’s certainly something you can feel, rather than see – and the neck terminates at the vintage style headstock which is adorned with Waverly open back tuners.
To the front of the headstock, there’s an Indian rosewood veneer with the very subtle – understated, even – Huss & Dalton logo inlaid in pearl. Heading back down the neck, we find a Gaboon ebony fingerboard with subtle pearl position markers inlaid neatly in the appropriate places.
There’s a tortoise-shell pick guard to the edge of the rosette and a Gaboon ebony bridge with bone saddle and ebony bridge pins.
H&D has fitted an L R Baggs pickup system fitted to this guitar that doesn’t come as standard on this model, but which was fitted especially for Albert’s birthday gig. It looks like the Anthem pickup, but it’s hard to tell as obviously I can’t get inside the guitar to check. So, while I’m not necessarily going to include it in the review – after all, the price is for this model without any electronics fitted – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if curiosity gets the better of me and I put it through an amp by the time we reach the end of the next paragraph or two…
The H&D is certainly a comfortable guitar to sit and play; that gentle V to the neck profile really does feel good in the hand. I noticed within a few chords that the string gauge seems quite light – again, this is possibly Albert Lee’s choice of gauge, I can’t be sure – but I’d be tempted to upgrade them a little. There’s a sign inside the guitar recommending the use of light gauge strings, but these feel like .011s to me and I think the guitar would benefit from a set of .012s to bring out some robustness to the tone.
Not that there’s anything lacking in the tonal stakes here already. Once again, I find myself surprised at the amount of good, useful volume coming out of a modestly sized instrument. Chords are very clean and well balanced with bags of tone and fingerstyle results in clearly defined notes with an excellent balance between treble and bass.
I do wonder about the pickup, though. Luckily, I happen to be sitting within a few feet of an AER amp and so, just for the craic, let’s plug the T-0014 in and see what happens.
I must say that the LR Baggs system preserves the tonal characteristics of this guitar admirably. Wonderful separation and loads of tonal variety on offer, despite there being only the two rotary controls, one for volume and one for the blend between pickup and internal mic. So the H&D wins both acoustically and electronically.
Priced around £3.5k without a pickup, this guitar is obviously aimed at the serious enthusiast. But for that money, you’re getting a great deal of useable tone and dynamics built in to a superbly crafted instrument. This particular price point is in a neck of the woods that is arguably dominated by brands like Martin, Taylor, Lowden and so on, but I think Huss & Dalton is creating a niche for themselves as this guitar doesn’t necessarily sound similar to any of the aforementioned giants. It has a voice and character of its own and isn’t that what it should be all about?
Pros: Very well crafted instrument with a good set of tones
Cons: Personally, I’d push the string gauge up and fit a pick-up!
Overall: A guitar from a company rapidly making a name for itself in today’s marketplace – great tone and superb craftsmanship
Manufacturer: Huss & Dalton
Retail Price: £3,499 (without pickup)
Body Size: 00
Made In: USA
Top: Sitka spruce
Back and Sides: East Indian rosewood
Fingerboard: Gaboon ebony
Tuners: Waverly open back
Nut Width: 43mm
Scale Length: 632.4mm
Onboard Electronics: LR Baggs (optional)
Strings Fitted: D’Addario
Left Handers: Yes – no extra charge
Gig Bag/Case Included: TKL H&D branded tweed case