NAGD: Maton SRS70C (Spruce top, Blackwood B&S)

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CryptidCryptid Frets: 28
edited January 10 in Acoustics
Picked this up, secondhand, from Guitarguitar in Birmingham yesterday:





I accompany (and co-lead) a local choir who do classic pop, soul, disco and funk. All strumming with hooks suggested; pretty much non-stop barre, jazz and cowboy chords for hours on end, whilst singing and leading. It can be tiring! 

I had a D28 which, although gorgeous, wasn't responsive enough for the quick, snappy muted rhythms. 
I've been using a Hummingbird lately - beautifully rich, much quicker attack. However, the Baggs VTC pickup sounds truly awful for strumming and picks up none of the fret/muted string noise needed to convey the groove and help keep the choir in time. Since I haven't really bonded with this guitar I didn't want to start messing around installing expensive after-market pickups.  

I went in looking for a nice dread with the following criteria:
  • The most natural plugged-in tone possible from the factory pickup. I've had it with the endless, agonising aftermarket pick-up rabbit hole!  All of my playing with the choir is plugged-in so this is the main priority, even over acoustic tone. 
  • Easy to play 
  • Responsive / quick attack
  • Long scale
I tried quite a few from all the big manufacturers. Some Taylors felt nice but the ES2 system wasn't cutting it for me. At all.
Takamine P3DC was a lovely guitar but still not the plugged-in sound I wanted. The only two in the shop which sounded right when strummed and amplified were the Aussies: Maton and Cole Clark. 

The Cole Clark (Fat Lady) sounded incredible amplified: airy and natural. The guitar itself, however, was uncomfortable and uninspiring to play, with an nasal acoustic tone I couldn't possibly live with. 

That left the Maton. I'd read about how dead their acoustic tone can be and thought that if they felt right and sounded great amplified, I wouldn't mind. I was pleasantly surprised when I picked it up! Not much sparkle or chime but incredibly resonant, wonderfully balanced, superb note clarity. A little dry maybe, but I found that actually suits the material I'd be playing on it. Being a fairly thick top, you'd expect to have drive it a little harder for a full sound. Yet it sounds great gently strummed with fingers or fingerpicked. Driving really hard with a pick, the tone gets fuller but with no growl or bark, retaining its clarity. 

Plugged it into Fishman Loudbox Mini (the amp I use) and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Simply the most natural amplified acoustic tone I've ever heard! The percussive mutes, string noise, fret noise (from a percussive slap) were all translated faithfully with the mic blended in. A bit of a honk at 1kHz but that was easily dialled out with the sweepable mid control on the preamp. The AP5 Pro pickup really is the best I've heard for a natural strummed sound (I've tried loads including the Trance Amulet). Whether I'll have to use a soundhole cover for louder gigs remains to be seen. No need for a separate preamp tho.  

A nice, round medium carve on the maple neck and a 44.1mm nut width make it a dream to play. Dark and waxy rosewood board looks and feels like a Braz. Fit and finish is flawless. Satin finish is a nice touch too (can be sweaty work with the choir). 

All in all, I'm extremely happy with my purchase and can't wait for our rehearsal tomorrow night. Feels like I found a good one. It really has ticked all the boxes and then some. I can't justify keeping the Hummingbird so keep an eye out in the classifieds soon. 
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Comments

  • bertiebertie Frets: 3070
    Cryptid said:
    Picked this up, secondhand, from Guitarguitar in Birmingham yesterday:


    The only two in the shop which sounded right when strummed and amplified were the Aussies: Maton and Cole Clark. 

    The Cole Clark (Fat Lady) sounded incredible amplified: airy and natural. The guitar itself, however, was uncomfortable and uninspiring to play, with an nasal acoustic tone I couldn't possibly live with. 
    pretty much my experience with CC, sounded "much better" amplified, but as you say, unplugged it was very........ meh, the neck and frets felt very cheap
    just because you don't, doesn't mean you can't
     just because you do, doesn't mean you should.
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  • danishbacondanishbacon Frets: 1994
    I’ve had a Maton with the AP5 system and echo the sentiments. 

    It’s not the most ‘refunded’ guitar but it’s well built, nice to play and has a nice acoustic tone (mine did at least). 

    I think an excellent value instrument. 

    Happy new guitar day!
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  • VimFuegoVimFuego Frets: 12164
    nice, I've never played a maton myself, but I've read/heard that they are about the best recording/performing live acoustic you can get, so should be ideal for what you need.

    I'm not locked in here with you, you are locked in here with me.

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  • CryptidCryptid Frets: 28
    @bertie The Cole Clark was really shocking. My beater, an old Taylor 110, feels and sounds like absolute luxury in comparison.

    @danishbacon Thanks! It feels like the perfect fit for it's intended use. I would've been happy buying one new, but this secondhand one was nicely played in, minty and £500 cheaper. 
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  • bertiebertie Frets: 3070
    edited January 10
    Cryptid said:
    @bertie The Cole Clark was really shocking. My beater, an old Taylor 110, feels and sounds like absolute luxury in comparison.

    it was a bit embarrassing actually, I was in the store, playing all the usual supects (Brook, Larrive, a Toon) then they handed me this CC, very excited as they'd just got them in................ it felt like playing a dead banjo, like a late 60s Eko that someone had filed the bridge saddle down,  and horrid frets.  Admittedly it sprang to life when plugged in, and the mixer pre-amp jobbie was very "unique"  -  but sprang to life as in,  it breathed a bit then sat down

    Mrs bert bought an old Applause   bowl-back for £35 from a charity shop that plays and feels 100 times better than that CC
    just because you don't, doesn't mean you can't
     just because you do, doesn't mean you should.
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  • MellishMellish Frets: 224
    This has opened my eyes. I planned a trip to GG to try a Cole Clark but I think you've put me off :) 
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  • bertiebertie Frets: 3070
    Mellish said:
    This has opened my eyes. I planned a trip to GG to try a Cole Clark but I think you've put me off :) 
    well they sell enough of em,  so dont let us old goats put you off  :)  it might be just up your avenue 
    just because you don't, doesn't mean you can't
     just because you do, doesn't mean you should.
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  • MellishMellish Frets: 224
    It was only going to be curiosity. I have an HD-28 and a OME five-string openback banjo. I'm extremely happy with both. Btw, another old goat here, too :) 
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  • TINMAN82TINMAN82 Frets: 1698
    edited January 10
    Good example of a situation where specific requirements mean trying in a shop is essential

    i attended a Tommy Emmanuel guitar camp once and had a chance to try several Matons- the good ones are fantastic  

    HNGD
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 1094
    Congratulations on a lovely instrument, @Cryptid I'm sure it will give you excellent service. 

    A few details about it which you may find interesting. Blackwood is a crisp and a little dry by nature ("Dry" is not a term I've ever heard applied to it before, but it fits exactly.)

    The neck is not maple, it is Queensland Maple, a tropical and subtropical evergreen rainforest species completely unrelated to the maples of the Northern Hemisphere and vaguely allied with lemons and oranges. It is by far the most popular neck timber in this part of the world. Maton use it for perhaps three-quarters of their models, and Cole Clark seldom use anything else. I shouldn't think it would be any cheaper than Blackwood (which is also used for necks) so I imagine it must be easier to work, or maybe it has some tonal advantage too subtle for me to hear. Even all-Blackwood guitar models often have Queensland Maple necks. (Next time I see the chap who fettles my guitars (and made one of them), I'll ask him. Six to one he'll say "You can use anything you like for a neck timber, so long as it's stable and not too heavy. It really doesn't make much difference." But I'll ask anyway.) Queensland Maple is also a common back and sides timber, producing a more rounded and balanced, less distinctive sound than Blackwood. Blackwood (as you have seen) has a stronger, more distinctive tone to it. 

    (Is "Queensland Maple" a stupid name for a timber that is not even remotely related to maple, and completely different tonally? Sure it is, but we seem to be stuck with it.)

    The SRS series are the cheapest models Maton make other than the fairly uncommon S60, which is essentially an SRS60  with no electronics. There is no harm in that! I own and am very fond of an SRS60C; it sits in my little collection alongside guitars that cost two and three times as much, and it gives me just as much pleasure as any of them. (In fact it is the only one I have just  at the moment: I'm interstate for a month and of my seven, this is the only guitar that is (a) cheap enough not to make me worry about something bad happening and (b) versatile enough to happily play any style on. It's a gem.

    I've never yet played a Maton I didn't like unless we count the little short scale Mini Matons. (But I never like any short scale guitar, I've played minis of many brands and didn't care for any of them.)

    Cole Clark guitars, on the other hand, are a very different thing. They vary enormously. I guess I've played about 30. Of those about 10 were quite unpleasant to my ear (never anything wrong with the setups,  they are always easy to play, they just made sounds I did not care for), another 10 were pretty forgettable, five or six in the quite nice to very nice range, and two were among the best  dozen guitars I've ever played of any brand. (In fact I bought one of them, and still regret not buying the other one.)

    Where Maton have a house sound and stick to it (yes your Blackwood SRS70 doesn't sound like a Queensland Maple EBG808TE doesn't sound like a rosewood Messiah - but they all sound like Matons) Cole Clark guitars vary enormously. This is just what Cole Clark does. You have to try lots of them to find the one that's right for you - and not everybody agrees as to what constitutes a "good" one, of course. If the one you played had a "nasal" tone, I'd hazard a guess that it had a Bunya top: "nasal" is a good term for the Bunya sound. I like it, but only for certain songs. Spruce and cedar are more all-round versatile.

    I would have long since decided that Cole Clark was not for me if I hadn't had the opportunity to play a lot of different ones. Most strike me as sounding a bit dead. I can see why people like that (I can imagine it being the perfect base for a big amplified sound)  but as an acoustic-only player it's not my thing at all. 

    I agree about the Fat Lady bodies. (Why do they feel bulky and a bit awkward where an apparently similar SRS-60 doesn't?) Even so I bought a Fat Lady 12-string in Bunya over Blackwood a year ago, and enjoy playing it. I'd probably have got a Maton or Taylor 12 if anyone had had stock back them, but I don't regret the purchase. Next week when I get home, I'll put the two dreadnoughts side by side and see if I can figure out why the Fat Lady feels so different to the SRS60. Off the top of my head I would have said they were the same size, and almost the same shape. Let's see what the tape measure has to say. By the way, the smaller Cole Clark Angel body style is much nicer. And for what it's worth, my Angel III is the only guitar I've never had set up or adjusted in any way: it is perfect exactly as it left the factory. All I've done is change the strings from time to time.
     
    You will find that the SRS70 is very robust, Cryptid. It is designed for hard work and ideal for your purpose. Enjoy!
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  • TINMAN82TINMAN82 Frets: 1698
    @Tannin do neck profiles vary much on Matons? I briefly owned an SRS808 but found the neck painfully thin (in depth). I’d be interested in something like the Joe Robinson sig if it had a fuller neck.
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 1094
    I think they are all the same, @TINMAN82, but I could be wrong. I know they have have had different shapes in the past but I think all current models are identical (other than the 12-strings, of course, and anything out of the custom shop).

    (I'm not a good person to answer questions about neck profiles because I barely notice them unless they are extremely fat or ultra-thin. Off the top of my head I'd have said Maton neck profiles were similar to those of other popular makes like Guild,  Martin, Takamine and Gibson, which probably just goes to show how little I notice them.)
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