A svelte auditorium acoustic with German precision engineering… David Mead goes all Vorsprung durch Technik.
With an artist roster that includes Peter Finger, Ritchie Blackmore, Ulli Boegershausen and YouTube prodigy Sungha Jung, Lakewood guitars are certainly finding their place in today’s somewhat bustling acoustic marketplace. With over 20 years in the business, there’s a distinct waft of perfectionism to their product line – the sort of thing that only comes with experience and the simple art of listening to what contemporary musicians need to ply their trade. The A36-CP is a cute little auditorium model with a couple of interesting twists, so let’s get up close and personal..
To begin with, I understand that this particular model has been replaced in the standard Lakewood catalogue by the A36, which is exactly the same size and spec but without the cutaway. This model is still available, however, to special order and so if a cutaway is your cup of tea, fear not, you’re still being catered for within the range.
The A36-CP is a very sleek slot headed, twelve frets to the neck joint auditorium model with a European spruce top and Indian rosewood bindings. It looks like it’s rosewood that’s in use on the distinctive soundhole rosette, too, which has been combined with two rings of abalone to add a tasteful amount of bling to the otherwise understated livery of the instrument.
Back and sides are made from Cypress – a pale wood with a very even grain and a perfect companion for the spruce top in terms of hue. To be honest it’s a bit of a surprise to find this particular tonewood in use here as this is a material normally favoured by makers of flamenco guitars. These instruments are usually made from woods that can be worked quite thin – a feature of Cypress – which is, I’m told, an essential sonic ingredient of Spain’s indigenous guitar music. More recently, Cypress has given way to rosewood in the flamenco market, giving rise to dark backed guitars that have been dubbed “flamenco negra” to distinguish them from their paler forebears. So I’m guessing that Cypress is partly responsible for the tight, bright treble sound and fine articulation that you hear from flamenco players. Unusual to see it here, but welcome as I personally enjoy a tale with a twist to it!
The neck of the Lakewood is fashioned from a single piece of mahogany with a D contour that you might say is fairly chunky but not in the least obtrusive in the hand. Its matt finish somehow embellishes the feel-good factor here, too.
A fingerstyle friendly 46mm bone nut is to be found at the top of the ebony fretboard with ebony string pins and bridge at the other end. It’s a feature of twelve fret guitars – and some short scale instruments, too – that the bridge position is set at a wider point on the instrument’s lower bout which often results in a more boisterous lower end and bass response. It will be interesting to see how this combines with the Cypress wood to give the Lakewood its voice.
The A36 feels both very compact and somehow businesslike in the hand when you first pick it up. Our review sample has a low to medium action making fretting very comfortable and a 57mm string spacing at the bridge means that fingerstyle playing is an entirely uncluttered experience.
The sound is crisp and even across the range with a good set of dynamics as well. Heavy handedness is rewarded by strident tones with bags of volume and the more gentle opposite end of the spectrum reveals a sweetness reminiscent of a parlour guitar.
There is a little bit of compression in the trebles – you feel that there is more there fighting to get out – but this could be down to the newness of the woods or even the Cypress putting the brake on this end of the tonal palette. It will be interesting to see how this develops over time, but rest assured that there’s plenty of vibrant tone here already and, statistically speaking, things can only get better.
Onboard electronics are courtesy of the LR Baggs Anthem system which sees an internal microphone take on the upper frequency spectrum while the under saddle pick-up deals with the bass response. Preamp controls are neatly tucked away under the soundhole and include volume and mic/pick-up mix thumbwheels right under the player’s fingers.
When put through an amplifier the A36 retains every bit of its homegrown tone and the Baggs Anthem comes into its own with the mix control, allowing a great deal of variation between the solidity offered by the piezo and the airiness of the mic. It was very quick and simple to find a balance I was happy with and then all I had to think about was setting a comfortable volume so that I could get on with the all-important job of playing.
I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent with the A36 enormously. It has all the benefits of a small-bodied instrument – compactness, portability and ease of playing – with a robust tonal response that finds that exact centre spot between sweetness and dynamism. Its price tag will probably cause a sharp intake of breath for many but there is no doubt in my mind that this is a prestige instrument that would take pride of place in any collection.
Pros: A fiercely well-made instrument with a very sweet nature
Cons: A slight compression in the treble response
Overall: A cutaway auditorium with the authority of a fine hand made instrument and a voice that will mature wonderfully
Model: A-36 CP
Retail Price: £2,999
Body Size: Auditorium
Made In: Germany
Top: European spruce
Back and Sides: Cypress
Nut Width: 46mm
Scale Length: 650mm
Onboard Electronics: LR Baggs Anthem
Strings Fitted: 12 – 52
Left Handers: No
Gig Bag/Case Included: Lakewood Hiscox
Oasis Music UK