Stonebridge OOM33SR Review

AG 231 March 2012 Cover

by Doug Young

With so many well-known guitar makers—from small independent luthiers to large manufacturers— offering instruments in the USA, it’s easy to overlook the fact that guitars are being built all over the world. Czech luthier Frantisek Furch has been building guitars for three decades, initially working in secret under Communist rule. Once he could work openly, starting in the early 1990s, Furch increased his staff and, having produced more than 150,000 guitars, he’s now one of Europe’s largest manufacturers. Furch guitars have been available under the Stonebridge name via a Canadian distributor for a few years (see our review of the Stonebridge G-23-CR in the April 2007 issue). Named for the Charles Bridge in Prague, Stonebridge offers an extensive line of guitars in a range of sizes from dreadnoughts to parlors, as well as mandolins. We took a look at a small-body 00 model, the OOM33SR, which is part of Stonebridge’s Bluegrass series.

Small Body, Big Feel

The OOM33SR has a 00-size body that measures 14 1/4-inches at the lower bout, a 12-fret neck, and a slotted headstock. But while traditional 00’s have a short scale, the Stonebridge has the 25.5-inch scale typically found on larger guitars. Combined with a 1 3/4-inch nut and 2 3/8-inch string spacing at the saddle, this gives the guitar the playability of a much larger instrument, while retaining the comfortable feel of a small-body guitar. The OOM33SR is constructed of solid wood, with a spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and ebony fingerboard, bridge, and headstock overlay. The body has a gloss lacquer finish, while the mahogany neck features a smooth-feeling satin finish. The saddle and nut are Tusq, and the headstock features open-back Gotoh vintage-style tuners. The guitar has fairly standard-looking X-bracing and appeared very neat and clean inside. The OOM33SR has a classy, uncluttered appearance, with its golden-hued top, simple herringbone purfling and rosette, and no pickguard.

The OOM33SR is predrilled with a large endpin hole, suitable for a pickup jack installation, and a chrome endpin plug was included in the case. Stonebridge also supplies a pair of extra bridge pins, some saddle shims, and several extra fret wires—an unusual and nice touch. One particularly intriguing feature of the OOM33SR is its artificially aged top. Stonebridge uses a patent-pending process, developed by a Swiss company, that uses micro-enzymes to eat the pulp out of wood and produces results that the company claims are equivalent to 80 years of normal aging. The process, which is also intended to make the guitar less susceptible to the negative effects of humidity changes, is an option on most Stonebridge guitars and is standard on some models, including the OOM33SR.

Vintage Tone

The OOM33SR produces a surprising amount of sound for its small body. While the bass response isn’t as deep as that of some larger guitars, it is sufficient for many applications, and the overall effect is balanced and full, with good sustain and a nice shimmer on the high end. It’s difficult to evaluate the effect of the aging process without knowing how the guitar would sound without it, but the guitar has a slightly dry and woody tone that reminds me of some vintage guitars. Twelve-fret guitars often exhibit a certain resonant midrange sound, probably due to the placement of the bridge lower on the body, and the OOM33SR has that quality as well. Although the guitar responded well to light fingerpicking, the spruce top had no problem with more aggressive playing, and strumming produced a nice crisp tone. On a bluesy piece in standard tuning, the guitar sounded excellent when I dug in and snapped bass strings.

The guitar was set up with moderately low action and light-gauge strings, and I found it comfortable to play. The 00 body size should appeal to players who prefer smaller guitars, but those who are used to an OM or grand auditorium-size instrument will hardly notice the smaller size, especially with the full scale length and 13/4-inch nut. The full scale length also allowed me to use lowered tunings with ease, and the guitar had excellent intonation, both in standard tuning and when dropped down as far as a low C tuning.

Versatile Small Body

With high-quality woods, top-notch construction, and an attractive set of features that combine the comfort of a smaller guitar with the neck geometry of a larger instrument, the OOM33SR should appeal to many different players. Although the guitar is part of Stonebridge’s Bluegrass series, the instrument isn’t limited to any particular style of music. Its voice should work well for accompanying a singer, in both strumming and fingerpicking styles, as well as solo work. With its easy playability, the classic look of a 12-fret slothead, and good sound, the OOM33SR is well worth checking out.

SPECS: 12-fret 00 body. Aged solid Sitka spruce top with X-bracing. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Honduras mahogany neck. Ebony headstock overlay, fingerboard, and bridge pins. Tusq nut and saddle. 25.5-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 3/8-inch string spacing at saddle. Satin lacquer-finished neck. Gloss lacquer-finished body. Gotoh open-back vintagestyle tuners. Light-gauge Elixir Nanoweb strings. Made in Czech Republic. Left-handed version available. Polished gloss body finish. Satin neck finish. Slotted headstock with nickel Waverly tuners. Light-gauge Martin Lifespan strings. Made in USA. Available in left-handed version.

PRICE: $3,599 list/$2,999 street.

MAKER: Stonebridge Guitars: (519) 513-2029 (Canada) or US Dealer Sales (773) 279-0965

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar March 2012

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