Crafter TE 6MH/BR Review
When South Korean Hyun Kwon Park started handcrafting guitars in his basement in the early 1970s, he could scarcely have imagined that he would one day preside over one of the worldâ€™s leading manufacturers of smartly priced guitars. Four decades later, Crafter Guitars offers a comprehensive line of acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars, basses, and mandolins, with a range of options when it comes to tonewoods and cosmetics. Crafter recently introduced its first all-mahogany guitar, the TE6MH/BR, to commemorate the companyâ€™s 40th anniversary, and we put this attractive orchestra-size cutaway guitar to its paces.
Fit and Finish
The solid soundboard as well as the back, sides, and neck of the TE6MH/BR are all made from mahogany, a wood that has been used instead of rosewood on buildersâ€™ less expensive instruments. The mahogany on the TE6MH/BR has a warm reddish-brown hue and uniform grain throughout, complemented nicely by a rosewood fingerboard and bridge that are close in shade to the dark grains of the mahogany.
The TE6MH/BR is tastefully decorated, with ivoroid binding around the neck and body and an ivoroid heel cap. The top is trimmed at the edges with a five-ply black-crĂ¨me motif, which is echoed in the soundhole rosette. Traditional pearl dot markers are found on the fingerboard and the headstock is emblazoned with a Crafter logo, along with a simplified version of the more ornate torch inlay found on deluxe old guitarsâ€”a motif that would be more attractive if rendered in pearl, but it is understandable that Crafter would go with the more cost-conscious option here.
Craftsmanship on the TE6MH/BR is very good for a guitar in its price range. The 21 frets are cleanly seated and polished (thereâ€™s just a hint of roughness where they align with the neck binding), and the nut and saddle slots have been notched with precision. All of the guitarâ€™s bindings are perfectly flush with the body and the satin finish has a consistent feel throughout. Overall, the innards are tidy, with a hint of glue here and there that can be forgiven on such an affordable instrument.
Feel and Sound
When I removed the TE6MH/BR from its gig bag, I was pleased to find that the guitar sits nicely on the lap and is well balanced. Its C-shape neck is comfortable to grip, the smooth action set agreeably low at the factory. There are no dead areas on the neck; all the notes ring faithfully, even in the uppermost regions proximal to the Venetian cutaway.
While orchestra-size guitars were designed to replace banjos as strummed instruments in big jazz bands in the 1930s, these days they tend to be more associated with fingerpicking, so in assessing the TE6MH/BR I first tried some Travis-style picking on basic open chords. Initially my picking hand felt a little crampedâ€”the nut width on this guitar is 1 11/16-inches, compared to 1 3/4 on a typical vintage orchestra guitarâ€”but I quickly grew accustomed to the smaller quarters.
The sound that emanated from the guitar was sweet and slightly mellow and well-balanced between the bass and treble registers. This was also the case for chord-melody style fingerpicking with some more sophisticated harmonies up and down the neck. The individual notes of each chord had great separation and clarity.
Fingerpicking so often goes hand in hand with alternate tunings, so I played around with the machine heads and found that while the guitar retains its handsome sound in configurations like open D, open G, and D A D G A D, things get a tad murky, though still workable, when the sixth string is tuned as low as C.
Grabbing a plectrum, I tried some basic boom-chuck accompaniment and found that the guitar responded agreeably, with good projection and just enough low-end thump. It even worked well for some jazz accompanimentâ€”Freddie Greenâ€“style strumming as well as a walking bass line punctuated with chordal stabs.
Single-note lines in the manner of Jerry Garcia and in a pseudo-bluegrass vein also sounded great on this guitar. The middle register was throaty; the bass notes were robust and their treble counterparts clear. Thanks to the neck profile and action, it was easy to zip around when articulating these kinds of phrases.
The TE6MH/BR comes complete with a Crafter CR-T GV preamp, with an LCD chromatic tuner, along with the companyâ€™s Full Spectrum undersaddle pickup. Powered by a nine-volt battery situated at the endpin, the preamp controls include volume, bass, middle, and treble sliders that travel between â€“12dB and + 12dB, as well as a button for inverting the phase.
Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amplifier, the TE6MH/BRâ€™s electronics make only a minimal amount of noise. As it did unplugged, the guitar sounds warm and balanced, though with just a hint of stridency. This isnâ€™t all that problematic, because this coloration would be masked by, say, the other instruments in a live band context.
With its excellent playability, warm sonorous voice that lends itself to a variety of situations, and convenient electronics package, the Crafter TE6MH/BR is a respectable modern take on a traditional orchestra guitar, putting a solid-topped mahogany instrument within reach of guitarists without extravagant means.
SPECS: Orchestra-size body. Solid mahogany top. Mahogany back, sides, and neck. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Scalloped X bracing. 25.5-inch scale. 1 11/16-inch nut width. 2 3/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Satin finish. Deluxe chrome 18:1 tuners. Crafter CR-T GV preamp with LCD chromatic tuner. Crafter Full Spectrum pickup. Dâ€™Addario EXP16 strings. Made in Korea.
PRICE: $749 list/$499 street.
MAKER: Crafter Guitars: (804) 798-2006; crafterusa.com.
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar June 2012