Dave Kings latest models include a parlour, a slope dread and a 12-fret 000. How on earth has he managed to lop about two grand off the price? Review by Jerry Uwins
Leading UK luthier Dave King has long specialised in small-body acoustics. Now, however, he’s extended his horizons by launching a J-45-style slope dread, the Matilda, and a 12-fret 000, the Katrina – the first time he has made either of these body styles. There’s also the Louise, a parlour modelled on his own design.
This trio falls under the general umbrella of Dave King Acoustics; his pre-existing Parlour and concert-size Classic are now known as Signatures. One highly significant aspect of the newcomers is that they start around £2000 cheaper than his signature instruments. The savings have been achieved through greater use of templates, jigs and machinery, involving approximately 60 man-hours per instrument as opposed to 150 for his totally handworked signatures. Our Matilda and Katrina samples are both prototypes.
With a body profile based on a pre-war Martin 000, this 12-fretter’s timeless elegance is brought into higher relief by its luxury specification. The Engelmann spruce top – so richly cross-silked it looks almost quilted – carries a light amber ‘ageing’ toner; the rosette is abalone, the pickguard is tortie not black plastic.
Optional abalone top purfling ups the basic £2100 ticket by £250, but the finely crafted ebony pyramid bridge, the Hofner-like peghead and the ivoroid-bound ebony ‘board with abalone dots are all regular fare, as again is the superb all-gloss lacquer. Our sample’s back and sides are rosewood. Some might consider a spade headstock more in keeping with the guitar’s vintage influences: that’s fine, it’s your choice. Likewise, if you’d prefer a set of open-geared Waverlys to these diecast Schallers, no problem, just allow an extra £180.
The 645mm-scale neck, again one-piece mahogany, is a touch wider (44.5mm) at the nut, carries appropriately narrower fretting and is fashioned to a shallower profile than the dread’s. This slinkier grip sacrifices a little of the guitar’s otherwise strongly retro vibe, but it’s a fast, very keen player. Doubtless you could request a fuller profile if preferred.
The Katrina delivers an engaging 000-like fluidity and clarity, with a pleasing contribution of warmth from the rosewood and likely slightly mellower high-end overtones than if the top were sitka spruce. Volume is comfortably up to par for the body size, even if there is a hint that playing-in should unlock even more in the way of dynamic zest, which presently doesn’t so much feel tight as a shade underdeveloped as far as attack presence is concerned.
This new model, aside from offering greater choice, helps bring Dave King's guitars back within the reach of a wider audience, considering that his Signature guitars start not far south of four grand a pop these days. And don't imagine that the near-halving of prices has compromised essential quality. I don't think the sounds of this prototype is quite fully formed, but the standard of build, detailing and playability is as exactingly high as ever, and the way the specifications are structured means there's plenty of flexibility as to how your own instrument can be configured. All good news.