Cervantes Milenia Concert Review

AG 227 November 2011 Cover

by Ruth Parry

Luthier and guitarist Alejandro Cervantes learned his craft from his father and is continuing a family tradition that began in 1955. Cervantes now lives in California, and he maintains workshops in San Diego as well as Tijuana, Mexico. Cervantes guitars have been available through a US dealer network for several years (we reviewed the Hauser PE model in July 2002), and we recently had a chance to check out the Model L Milenia from the company’s Concert series.

Handsome Woods, French Polish

Cervantes chose a handsome set of woods for the instrument we received for review, including an Engelmann spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, ebony fingerboard, Peruvian cedar neck, and cocobolo bridge. The guitar is well constructed and aesthetically pleasing. Modern lattice bracing on the top and ladder bracing on the back have been cleanly executed. In addition, the top has a beautiful French-polish finish (a $300 option) that has been well applied and highlights the detailing of the spruce.

The overall proportions are traditionally laid out for a classical guitar, with a 650 mm scale length and standard string spacing. The cleanly styled bridge has a 12-hole design for tying on the strings with a steep break-angle over a 1/8-inch-thick saddle. Braided edging is well applied to the tie block and ties in decoratively with the design elements of the rosette. Additional light wood edging at the binding of the back and sides (using sycamore, rosewood, and cocobolo) stands out against the Indian rosewood, with an understated decorative element at the bottom of the body, where all the corners are perfectly mitered to meet unbroken at 90-degree angles. The open-back tuning pegs are ornately designed and turn snugly and smoothly.

Full-Bodied, Muscular Tones

Overall, the Milenia is heavier than many other classical guitars, especially in the neck, which seemed a bit cumbersome when I first picked up the guitar. The guitar also came with fairly high action, which, combined with its chunky neck, required some effort to get used to. I prefer lower action, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Milenia’s rich tonal palette, no doubt a result of the higher action. Once I adjusted to the weight of the neck and its proportions, I was able to produce full-bodied notes with tremendous sustain and resonance. And the more I played, the richer it sounded. This may have been because I became more comfortable with the guitar’s setup or because the guitar opened up as I played it—probably a bit of both. I was also pleased that this rich tone remained round and full of life all the way up the neck, even past the 12th fret. The basses were strong and rich, the mids present, and the trebles supremely pleasing.

When I tried out some classical guitar repertoire on the Cervantes, mostly by Llobet, Sor, and Bogdanovic, the guitar really shone as a solo instrument, clearly happy in the environment for which it was intended. The guitar possesses good tonal balance overall, including the brightness of ponticelloand the rich tone of tasto.

In a Latin-jazz context, single-note lines were consistently rich and jazz harmonies sounded warm, although at times the midrange felt slightly muddy, mostly due to the incredible sustain the guitar produced. I also played the Cervantes in a Latin duo format with a bass player, who kept commenting on the rich tones coming from my guitar.

Studio Sonority

To see how the Milenia recorded, I was able to check it out in two different studio settings. In one, the guitar was recorded with a Shure small-diaphragm condenser microphone, and in the second, with a large-diaphragm AKG 3000 C. In both instances, the guitar performed beyond my expectations, highlighted by the effortless task of producing a beautiful tone and the playability in different neck positions. There were times when I had to consciously damp the strings, surprised by its longer than expected sustain.

Tonal Treasure

Cervantes guitars are known for their rich tone and strong sustain, and the Milenia is no exception. Its full, sonic voice will resonate with me long after it leaves my clutches. This guitar would definitely be an asset for any classical guitarist as well as a fingerstyle player interested in the warmer tones of a nylon-string. The high quality of construction and tonal depth makes the Cervantes a great value for the money.

SPECS: Solid Engelmann spruce top. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Lattice bracing. Ebony fingerboard. Peruvian cedar neck. Cocobolo bridge. 650 mm scale length. 52 mm nut width. 29/32-inch string spacing at the saddle. Der Jung tuners. French-polish top. Lacquer finish on back, sides, and neck. D’Addario EJ46 HT strings. Made in Mexico.

PRICE: $2,600 list/$2,295 street ($2,900 list/$2,595 street as reviewed, with French-polish top).

MAKER: Cervantes Guitars: (866) 673-3593; cervantesguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar November 2011

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