Sigma scores yet another hit with this all-solid mahogany beauty. Alun Lower investigates…
Not so long ago, I was lucky enough to review the Larrivee 000-03 Vintage for Acoustic – a guitar so utterly fantastic that I found myself trying to justify selling off every last one of my possessions to avoid having to send it back. So when the inevitable day came that I packed the guitar back off to go for photography, I actually felt a little bit relieved. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on the Sigma S000M-15. I often like to make my first impression for a review with as little information as possible, and before this guitar arrived I have to admit I was expecting a fairly standard, mostly laminate guitar. But, amazingly, Sigma has once again shown me just how exciting mid-range guitars can be and, at this price, it may just be too damn good to ignore.
Having got used to the idea of receiving a mostly laminate guitar to review, within a minute of opening the S000M-15’s case I just had to go and check the specification as the guitar was just ticking too many boxes. The guitar is unashamedly modest in its appearance, yet the elegant simplicity of its design suggests that there might be more than first meets the eye. The quality of the mahogany in particular struck me immediately and sure enough, it turns out that this guitar is in fact all-solid. Though even without the spec sheet to hand the lack of binding gives away the Sigma’s secret. While there are guitars in this price range boasting similar construction (Faith being a prime example), it’s still not exactly commonplace and it’s very encouraging to see.
The finish, too, is quietly impressive. It’s a fairly standard satin sheen, but applied extremely thinly and with great precision, so as to avoid any unsightly build-up around the neck joint or other parts of the guitar. It lets the lovely dark hues of the mahogany shine through with crisp detail and provides a subtle canvas for a few well-chosen flourishes, such as the abalone snowflake inlays on the dark ebony fingerboard, and an ever-tasteful rosewood layer on the face of the headstock. The lack of binding may open up the guitar to the possibility of some damage, but then a 000 is meant to be subtle, rustic and rootsy, so a few dings and scratches should build character over time.
The neck itself feels like a jack-of-all-trades in its carve and spacing, relishing in fingerpicking just as you would hope but also allowing for complex chord shapes and campfire strumming. The frets are impeccably polished and fitted, as I have naturally come to expect from Sigma at this point. The whole package just feels very complete and comfortable, with the only real downside being the lack of binding, making that mahogany top just a little bit more vulnerable to damage in the long run.
If the guitar itself wasn’t delightful enough already, Sigma has also seen fit to include a Fishman Sonitone undersaddle piezo pickup, with a discrete preamp tucked away under the soundhole. While in keeping with the guitar’s austere and vintage aesthetic, some players might prefer a more complex unit with extra controls and a tuner. Regardless, it’s a great extra that yet another notch of functionality to an already impressive instrument.
As you’d hope from an all-mahogany guitar, the S000M-15 roars with a punchy, mid-rich tone that spans the ages to cover all manner of different genres. The compact body aids this by adding punch and definition, resulting in a lively tone that just begs to be experimented with. It’s a natural lead instrument and while it may not be the most sophisticated tone, there is character abound that sits perfectly with the kind of rootsy Americana and folk blues that made these kinds of guitars so instantly recognisable.
Fingerpicking, in particular, is extremely rewarding, with the attack of your picking hand transforming the tone from warm, rounded and plummy to raunchy and crisp depending on your approach. As a big Robert Johnson fan I couldn’t wait to see how this guitar performed when coaxed into an open tuning. To my great delight, slide playing is an absolute dream, with the action staying perfectly comfortable and the tone reacting well to slides of all shapes, sizes and materials. My brass slide in particular opened up a lot of detail and metallic zing, making open G and DADGAD in particular a lot of fun to mess around with.
The plugged-in tone translates from the acoustic experience reasonably well, too. It’s unfussy and straightforward much in the same way as the guitar itself, and it’s that inherent simplicity running through the guitar as a whole that prevents that from becoming a downside in my eyes. This guitar was simply never meant to be the most complicated model in Sigma’s catalogue, and clogging that up with an intrusive and overly complex electronic system would have been a little pointless, truth be told. The basic tone itself is perfectly good enough for the type of music the S000M-15 was designed for, with the dreaded piezo quack very rarely coming into play.
Of all the Sigma guitars I’ve had the opportunity to play, none have bowled me over in quite the same way as the S000M-15. It’s a cracking guitar with bags of personality and none of the fuss. Having recently played the Larrivee 000-03 I mentioned earlier in the review I was a little concerned that I’d been spoiled by the finer things in life, but in reality this little guitar gets much closer than I thought it would to the magic that made that guitar so desirable. The level of finishing and care with the construction is absolutely impeccable, far greater than what I would have expected at this price.
There are some very minor quibbles such as the lack of binding and relatively simple electronics, but if you’re looking at this guitar with the same amount of excitement as I am then I doubt very much that those factors will ever come into play. Sigma has absolutely knocked the ball out of the park with this guitar, and fingerpickers with a love of mahogany instruments will be delighted with what’s on offer here. For just a smidge under 500 quid you get a cracking electro with guts and personality and even a good quality gig bag to keep it all in. There’s not an awful lot to dislike at all, and the only question it really raises is – can Sigma do any wrong?
Build quality: 4.5
Sound quality: 5
Value for money: 4.5
Pros: Bags of personality and great tone for that rustic sound
Cons: Lack of biding opens up to some potential damage
Overal: Great, authentic guitar at a cracking price point
Retail Price: £499
Body Size: 000
Made In: Korea
Back and Sides: Mahogany
Nut Width: 43mm
Scale Length: 645mm
Onboard Electronics: Fishman Sonitone
Strings Fitted: High quality USA-made
Gig Bag/Case Included: Padded gig bag