Santa Cruz OM Grand Review

Posted by Doug Young

First introduced by Martin in 1929, the orchestra model (OM) guitar is a classic design that many consider the perfect steel-string guitar—rich and powerful, yet balanced. The shape is comfortable to hold, neither too big nor too small, and with a body depth that is easy to wrap your arms around. And yet OM players sometimes find themselves admiring the big low end of the dreadnought or the rich resonance of modern small jumbo guitars. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could combine all of these elements? That’s what the Santa Cruz Guitar Co. has in mind with its new OM Grand. The idea is not entirely new—for example, Martin offers a larger OM body size it calls the 0000—but Santa Cruz has put its own spin on the idea, using sustainably and responsibly harvested woods to create a vintage-style instrument imbued with Santa Cruz’s own unique character.

Enlarged OM Body

At first glance, the OM Grand looks like a typical OM. With its classic shape, slightly V-shape neck terminating in a volute at the squared-off headstock, herringbone purfling, zippered back stripe, teardrop pickguard, and Waverly tuners, you might not notice anything unusual about the guitar from across the room. In fact, even when holding the instrument, the extra 3/4 inches of width at the lower bout (16 inches versus the 15 1/4 inches of Santa Cruz’s standard OM models)is barely noticeable. But the result is a fairly significant increase in overall body volume compared to a standard OM.

Santa Cruz is known for high-quality construction and materials, and the OM Grand meets all expectations. The Sitka spruce top is perfectly matched with no runout and attractive and nearly uniform silking. The Indian rosewood back and sides are straight grained yet nicely figured, with a reddish hue. The body of the instrument is gloss-finished, while the neck is satin, producing a smooth, organic feel. The neck has a moderate V shape, in keeping with tradition. Neck shapes are personal, but I found the OM Grand’s neck to be very comfortable. The slightly triangular crown on the frets took a bit more time to get used to, but again are a matter of personal taste.

As expected of a guitar of this pedigree, there were simply no visual flaws, and attention to detail is evident everywhere, from the fine-grained wood to the intricately intonated bone saddle, clean ivoroid fingerboard binding, and smooth Waverly tuners. The instrument comes with a classy, rich dark brown custom case made for Santa Cruz by Ameritage.

Powerful, Balanced Sound

The goal of a making a larger OM is a bigger sound, and the OM Grand delivers admirably, with increased warmth and bass response. The voice is powerful and deep, blending the punch of an OM with the fatter sound of a small jumbo. If you’ve ever envied the low end of a dreadnought, the OM Grand delivers much of the bass and power, while still sounding balanced.

I spent most of my time with the guitar in standard tuning, and I was impressed by how the bass notes provided a strong foundation for basic Travis picking. I also liked the beefy sound of the treble strings. But the guitar handled D A D G A D and dropped-D equally well, and the added bass response enhanced the low D on some Celtic fingerstyle tunes, with no intonation problems playing higher up the neck. An unamplified café gig provided a good test of the extra volume provided by the OM Grand. In the past, I’ve found this particular room difficult to fill at times, playing totally acoustically, but the OM Grand was easily heard from the back of the room and held its own with another player’s larger-body guitar.

Most guitar designs involve some compromise. Do you want the balance and comfortable body size of an OM, the thunderous bass and volume of a dread, or the rich modern sound of a jumbo? The OM Grand strikes a great balance with elements of all three, and for those who want an OM that is louder and deeper, while still retaining the characteristic OM, look, feel, and sound, it is well worth checking out. 

SPECS:14-fret OM-shape jumbo body. Sitka spruce top. Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Bone nut and saddle. 25.375-inch scale 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 3/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Waverly nickel tuners. Elixir Nanoweb light-gauge strings. Made in USA. Left-handed version available.

PRICE:$4,950 list

MAKER: Santa Cruz Guitar Co.; (831) 425-0999; santacruzguitar.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar May 2013

See more Lucky 13: Thirteen Notable Guitars from 2013, Part 2 articles.

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