I have played and reviewed many acoustic guitars over the years. Some high end (the Martin HD28,) the Larrivee OM-03R and 09 ,Larrivee P-03R and the Gibson Songwriter Studio Deluxe CE; some in the middle (the Taylor 355 12-string and the Guild GAD line); and others in the more affordable category (the Seagull Cedar Coastline Grand, the Simon and Patrick Vintage Burst HG and the Walden Grand Auditorium G570.) This is a review of the Canadian-made, inexpensive, nicely constructed and sweet sounding Art & Lutherie AMI Cedar Antique Burst Parlor steel string acoustic guitar. Comparing and contrasting the feel and sound of guitars is inevitable when you play as many and as much as I do. For example, the Martin HD28 and Gibson Hummingbird are compared and contrasted here.
This Art & Lutherie AMI is the newest addition to my guitar family and has a permanent home at my office where I use it to relax between appointments and to use as a therapeutic tool with people I see in my psychotherapy practice who play the guitar. It is perfectly suited for both purposes!
Art & Lutherie makes an extensive line of guitars including Dreadnoughts, Cutaways, specifically Folk style and these AMIs. The company is part of Godin Guitars of Canada which also manufactures guitars under the Godin, Seagull. Richmond, Simon and Patrick, Norman and Lapartrie brands. All are made in Canada, all are reasonable priced and all represent good value for the money ‘” especially for those interested in a well made, versatile but low priced guitar.
The Art & Lutherie line, specifically, is one of their less costly ones but you can’t tell so from the feel or sound of the instruments. The AMI guitar reviewed here compares quite favorably in many respects with the Larrivee P-03, the link to which is in the first paragraph of this review) for about one quarter of the cost.
The Art & Lutherie AMI line is available in four styles: Almond, Spruce, Nylon and the one reviewed here, the Cedar. Built according to specs used in turn of the century (early 20th century) small Parlor guitars, this AMI sports a solid, pressure treated Cedar top and sides and back made of pressed Wild Cherry wood. This is a type of material that is not solid wood (as is the case with the Larrivee) but is not a pressed board laminate as found in less well made inexpensive guitars.
The neck is a smooth and easy to play Silver Leaf Maple and the finish is a semi-gloss with a rather unique raised rosette ornamentation. There are Pearl dot markers along the Rosewood fingerboard. The scale length (the length of the fretted neck) is 24.84″. The closed and nicely tight tuning machines have a highly desirable 14:1 tuning ratio and Tusq is used for both the nut and saddle on each guitar. This is a man-made material that is superior, in sound impact, than less specialized plastics or bone.
The Parlor guitars are smaller than what you may be accustomed to seeing or playing. The Art & Lutherie AMIs have a nice narrow nut width of 1.72″, an Upper Bout of 9.28″, a Waist of a mere 7.35″ and a Lower Bout of 9.28″. The body depth is 4.2″.
On examination, all seams were tight, no excess glue was found in the interior nor were there any observable flaws in the construction. It looked perfect. I am glad to report that it plays and sounds as nicely as it looks with its darkened, classic, antique burst coloring.
The Feel and Sound
The AMI Cedar Antique Burst feels quite comfortable to hold. The neck is smooth and easy to finger and play and has a rather normal fingerboard radius of 16″ so it does not feel like one is playing a small instrument. The body is, of course, light and petite, making it particularly portable and a blessing for guitarists with small bodies and/or limited storage space!
The surprising thing about this guitar is that given its dimensions and price ( currently priced at just under $300. With a padded gig bag included) the sound is outstanding. The bass is resonant, the mid-tones well defined and emphatic and the high notes clear and with a ringing that is quite pleasing to the ear.
The sustain (the ability of the guitar to continue to vibrate and produce a sound after you have plucked or picked the string) is outstanding in an instrument of this class.
The design and construction respond well to both finger and flat picking and it projects a volume and depth of sound that is simply outstanding for a guitar at this price point and design.
If you are considering a small , steel string acoustic guitar that travels well, sounds great and holds the tuning remarkable well AND is quite lovely to look at, do not overlook the Art & Lutherie AMI Cedar Parlor guitar as a strong contended to get you just what you want at a price you can afford.
Further detail about this and other Art & Lutherie AMI guitars can be found on their own website at:http://www.artandlutherieguitars.com/ami.htm