Pros: good balance between punchiness and liquidity
Cons: not as loud as some mahogany dreadnoughts
The Larrivee D-05 has been a favorite of mine for several years. It is a mahogany dreadnought guitar with a solid spruce top, an ebony fingerboard, and an abalone rosette around the soundhole. As with most Larrivee guitars, it has a clear pickguard, giving it a clean and very attractive appearance.
The playability of the Larrivee D-05 is excellent, though it is not quite as "fast" as a Taylor 510, another favorite mahogany dreadnought of mine. The neck feels subjectively a bit thicker than the Taylor's, and the action (easily adjustable by the truss rod) tends to be factory set a little higher. But the ebony fingerboard compares in quality to the Taylor's, and the overall feel is of a well-constructed, solid instrument. Fingerboard width at the nut is 1 11/16", which is typical for contemporary dreadnought guitars.
What sets the D-05 apart from the field, for me, is the sound. The Larrivee sound is mellower and more liquid than that of most mahogany dreadnoughts, and it is those qualities that draw me back to the D-05 whenever I encounter one.
When I pick up a Larrivee D-05, the first things I generally notice are the amazing liquidity, the good intonation, and the fact that the guitar initially sounds a bit bright. The liquidity ties in with something I've called a "churchy" quality in previous reviews. With Larrivees in general, and the D-05 in particular, notes don't jump out at you, as they do with many Martin and Tacoma guitars. Rather, it's as if the notes take time to build. There's a subtlety and delicacy to the sound that I really enjoy. The sound of the D-05 is more punchy and "dreadnoughty" than that of the Larrivee L-05 or my little Larrivee LS-05, but it is still liquid and churchy compared to most dreadnoughts.
Good intonation is also very important to me, and Larrivee D-05s generally excel in this area. Chords sound really "in tune" with the D-05, and when I play up the neck, there are no unpleasant surprises. This is true whether I play in standard or alternative tunings.
I mentioned that the Larrivee D-05 initially sounds a bit bright, but its brightness is very different from the brightness of most Taylor guitars. In fact, D-05's high notes actually tend to sound almost a bit rounded, like those of a classical guitar. But the overall frequency response is still tipped up a bit toward the treble. Taylors, by contrast (compare the Larrivee D-05 with the sapele Taylor 310, mahogany 510, and ovangkol Taylor 410), sound a bit "jinglier"
The Larrivee D-05 shares with the Taylor 510 a high degree of responsiveness. You can play soft and get good tone. The same is true with Santa Cruz's dreadnought guitars, but Santa Cruz guitars are substantially more expensive than Larrivees. Martins, and especially Martin's mahogany dreadnought guitars, are a little "deader" (less responsive)and not nearly as liquid. On the other hand, Martin's mahogany dreadnoughts are a bit woodier sounding and perhaps more "authentic," which might be attractive if you're a traditional bluegrass musician.
Still, if I were looking for an under-$1500 solid mahogany dreadnought, my choice would be between the Larrivee D-05 and the Taylor 510. There is some instrument-to-instrument variability with both guitars, so you should probably play several of each and pick the instrument that suits you best.
Some of the D-05's additional specs are as follows (taken from Larrivee's website):
Single Piece Mahogany Neck (S. American)
Multi Layer Maple Body Binding
Dovetail Neck Joint
Mother of Pearl Headstock Logo
Sterling Silver Headstock Border
Ping Tuners (18:1 Ratio)
Ivroid Fretboard Binding
Microdot Fretboard Inlays
Ebony Bridge Pins w/ Abalone Center
Outfitted with Elixir Nanoweb Light Gauge Strings
Will Handle Medium Gauge Strings
Limited Lifetime Warranty
Lower Bout: 16"
Upper Bout: 11.875"
Scale Length: 25.5"
Gloss UV Polyester Body/Satin Urethane Neck
TUSQ Nut & Saddle by Graphtech
The list price of the D-05 (without electronics) is $1749, but you should be able to get one for about $1250. A hard case, polishing cloth and truss rod wrench are included in the price. If you want electronics (it's called the D-05E), add about $250 to the price. I recently played a D-05E through a high quality system, and the sound was awesome, comparable to the best Taylor acoustic-electrics I've played.
Overall, an excellent guitar in either version, especially for the price.