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 sample is a prototype.
The guitars are offered in two trim levels – Standard and Luxury – and the Matilda is the former, the only added-cost option being a three-tone sunburst top which adds £200 to the basic price. Standard trim includes black/white rosette rings and similar, ivoroid-bound purfling, an unbound fingerboard with ivoroid dot markers, and a spade peghead and belly bridge. These last two items can be changed, at no extra cost, to the curvy-top headstock and pyramid bar bridge which are normally part of the luxury spec.
You can also choose a sitka, Engelmann or cedar top, mahogany or rosewood back and sides, and rosewood or ebony fingerboard and bridge at no extra cost. Our Matilda‘s top is cedar, endowing a pinkier hue to the main sunburst area; the back and sides are mahogany, and the bridge and fingerboard are both rosewood.
The finish is all-gloss nitrocellulose and immaculately done. The 626mm-scale neck is one-piece mahogany, with a comfortable, rounded medium-depth profile with a hint of a trad feel without being chunky. The finely dressed medium-oval frets lend a Gibsonesque air; string spacing at the bridge is a regulation 55mm. Nut span on the new models is 44mm, but this prototype comes in a shade under that.
This isn’t necessarily an archetypal J-style sound. Punch and projection are good with plenty of dynamics and a firm bottom end. The timbre, though, is quite bright with less warmth than you might associate with a Gibson, or our sample’s cedar front. The sound can also be a tad barky when played hard, and strummers may wish for more suppleness. Pickers, however, will appreciate the well-defined crispness and balance.
This new model, aside from offering greater choice, help 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.