by Marcos H. Bolaños
When discussing who is the greatest guitarist in the world, we all tend to have our favorites. But when it comes to acoustic guitar and finger-picking style, the name Tommy Emmanuel usually comes to everyone’s mind. So it’s not surprising that one of the best acoustic guitar players of all time and one of the finest guitar manufacturers in the world come together to develop a new instrument.
From such big names in the industry, we can only expect the very best. But does the C-03R TE deliver?
The story between Tommy Emmanuel and Jean Larrivée dates over two decades ago, when the Canadian manufacturer built a special custom guitar for the Australian prodigy: the C-10 12 Fret “Angel”. Over the years, this grand guitar has found its way on many of Emmanuel’s recordings right up to the latest album ‘The Best Of Tommy Songs,’ where we can hear it for example in the track ‘The Wide Ocean.’
The all-new C-03R-TE Custom designed by Larrivée and Emmanuel is a recreation of the C-10, or, as they like to refer to it: a tribute. Like the C-10, the most eye-catching element is its gorgeous Florentine Cutaway. Apart from its apparent aesthetic function, it also helps to reach the highest notes, which certainly comes handy in a 12-frets neck joint guitar.
The rest of the specifications are all top-notch, starting with a solid Sitka Spruce top over East Indian Rosewood solid back and sides. African ebony wood has been selected for the Headplate, Fingerboard, and Bridge, while the saddle and nut are made of bone. As usual, in most of Larrivée’s creations, the finishes are quite sober, as is clear in this particular model with the trademark natural satin finish.
Also, while the C-10 “Angel’ Headstock features abalone purfling and vintage fingerboard inlays and headstock, the C-03R-TE lives up to its sobriety using regular dot inlays and simple binding. Big, versatile sound. At first sight, the 12 Fret Neck design makes it especially appropriate for finger-picking styles, just as one might expect from a Tommy Emmanuel custom model. However, the sound is also surprisingly good when strumming.
The X-Brace bracing pattern plays a huge role, making the most of the Sitka Spruce top, evenly distributing the vibration across the soundboard, which results in an open, almost surrounding sound with a good deal of volume. This is probably the most delightful surprise when strumming on this guitar for the first time.
It is known that 12 fret guitars usually deliver a clear and well-balanced tone across the frequency range, making them ideal for finger-picking. And of course, the C-03R-TE is no exception. The bass response is outstandingly rounded and full but concise, the highs are very present but not harsh, and the middle frequencies are very rich in overtones. Overall, we are talking about a very well-balanced guitar, making it suitable for virtually any style.
On the other hand, the dynamic response that the X-bracing provides is exceptionally sensitive, making it not at all a guitar for beginners. It is indeed very responsive to a light touch played finger-style. Every single playing detail is carefully carried by the harmonic top, which exposes the little mistakes as well. Thus, we are talking about a very transparent guitar, which demands exceptional musical performance. I think it is clear that this instrument is aimed at professionals or, at least, not meant for beginners.
Great depth, rich overtones, well balanced. And we are talking here about a brand new guitar, right out of the box. It is almost ‘scary’ to think that this sound will improve since all solid-wood guitars tend to “open up” with time.
Lastly, the “lack” of frets is somehow overcome by the generous cutaway, which makes it also suitable for soloing. Even though its scale length is 25.5″, the 12 fret neck joint feels like a shorter scale. Players with smaller or weaker hands probably might find it hard to make bendings higher than a half step. Lowering the action here could be of great help since, as this instrument is optimized for finger-picking (for which is an absolute delight to play), the default one is perhaps a bit high for soloing.
Anyway, overall the neck shape and feel is amazing.
It is safe to affirm that the fruit of the collaboration between the prestigious brand Larrivée and Tommy Emmanuel is definitely not a disappointment. Larrivée, a company of Canadian origin but based in California, has put all its know-how and artisan spirit at the service of the Australian genius, and as a result of this collaboration, they have delivered an incredible sounding guitar, which, regardless of the focus on the finger-picking style, is fairly versatile.
So yes, in comparison to the original C-10, this tribute guitar might appear a bit sober aesthetically speaking, but hey, it also costs less. In brief, this is clearly a high-end, professional instrument for those finger-picking players who want to be able to play all kinds of styles and techniques, without compromising quality.