Australian Guitar - - Top Shelf -

It’s no se­cret that Collings makes beau­ti­ful gui­tars in both the acous­tic and elec­tric spheres. Built in Austin, Texas, Collings in­stru­ments are highly prized for their build qual­ity, style, so­phis­ti­ca­tion and tone. you’ll find them in the hands of artists like Lyle Lovett, Emily Strayer, Bill Frisell, Zac Brown, Guthrie Trapp and count­less more.

The CJ-35 is Collings’ trib­ute to the pre-war era of Amer­i­can flat­top gui­tar mak­ing. Dur­ing this era, new in­stru­ments sur­faced which fea­tured brac­ing, changes to body di­men­sion and new ap­proaches to fret ac­cess, which could come to re­de­fine the acous­tic gui­tar from its smaller-bod­ied par­lour era.

The CJ-35 has a non-scal­loped brac­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion, fea­tur­ing three tone bars and a short 24 7/8” scale length. Collings says that this de­sign – which ad­mit­tedly di­verges a lit­tle from the gui­tars of the era it was in­spired by – was cho­sen be­cause it pro­vides a beau­ti­ful bal­ance of deep pi­ano-like bass and pow­er­ful, full-bod­ied highs com­pli­mented by a fo­cused dy­namic range for ex­cep­tion­ally even note pro­jec­tion.

The back and sides are made of solid ma­hogany and the top is made of German spruce, with a beau­ti­fully sub­tle grain that is served on a sil­ver plat­ter by the sun­burst fin­ish. The neck is ma­hogany with an African rose­wood fin­ger­board, and Collings hand-se­lects all of its woods at its shop to make sure the en­tire in­stru­ment is go­ing to ‘sing’ through care­fully-matched com­po­nents.

Part of the con­struc­tion process in­volves fin­ish­ing the body and neck sep­a­rately be­fore as­sem­bling them. This is a tra­di­tional Martin tech­nique that di­verges from how Gib­son does things, and there­fore, this con­struc­tion method serves as some­what of a bridge be­tween the Martin school of thought and a Gib­son-in­flu­enced de­sign. It looks neat. Collings metic­u­lously hand-sands be­tween coats, re­sult­ing in ni­tro­cel­lu­lose lac­quer fin­ishes that mea­sure be­tween .005 and .007 inches in fi­nal thick­ness. This max­imises the acous­tic re­sponse while still pro­tect­ing the wood and keep­ing your gui­tar look­ing beau­ti­ful.

The neck starts out quite round, but pro­gresses to a slight V shape as you head to­wards the higher frets. It’s very com­fort­able, and it nat­u­rally guides your hand pos­ture to the most er­gonomic po­si­tion pos­si­ble de­pend­ing on where you're placed on the neck.Œ

Son­i­cally, this is a very rich gui­tar. The shorter 24 7/8" scale length re­duces some of the high-end de­tail, but that doesn’t mean it’s a dark-sound­ing gui­tar: the tre­ble rounds off just enough to make it sound sweet rather than overly harsh. There’s also a rich­ness to the up­per midrange which re­ally al­lows sin­gle-note lines to sing, and puts some beef be­hind chord work. The low end is full but not overly boomy, so when you play full six-note chords, you’ll no­tice that they knit to­gether re­ally nat­u­rally, in­stead of the gui­tar putting un­due em­pha­sis on a par­tic­u­lar fre­quency range.Œ If you’re a fin­ger­picker, this gui­tar is a bril­liant choice. That even­ness of dy­namic range means ev­ery note will sing loud and clear while still hav­ing enough body and beef to sup­port the en­tire com­po­si­tion. If you’re a gui­tarist who ac­com­pa­nies a vo­cal­ist with no other in­stru­men­ta­tion, this in­stru­ment will feel like a full-range mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, rather than "just a gui­tar un­der the vo­cals". If you’re part of an en­sem­ble, it has enough fullness to find its own place in the mix, in­stead of get­ting lost amongst the lows and highs like many full-sized dread­naughts would. And if you’re a hard strum­mer, this gui­tar sounds bet­ter and bolder when you re­ally dig into it.

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