The Larrivee OM-03R : An Affordable Treasure
Oct 27, 2008
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Great construction, tone, sustain and overall playability.
Cons:None that are evident to me.... even after playing it for a month now.
The Bottom Line: An excellent, moderately priced, OM acoustic with qualities equal to much more expensive guitars. Satisfying to both player and listener.
Americans are drawn to big and bigger, but when it comes to acoustic guitars, biggest is not always best or most appropriate. The Larrivée OM 03R is a perfect example of there being no direct correlation between size and quality. Its qualities and virtues are a pleasure to extol.
The Dreadnought is the most popular size acoustic guitar sold in the United States. This may be because Americans like the rich, deep resonance and sustain of a large bodied guitar - or, it may be a reflection of the apparent reality that Americans seem perpetually attracted to things that are big. I own a couple of dreadnoughts (a Martin HD28 and a Blueridge BR180) and love them both. But sometimes, a smaller instrument like this Larrivée OM is a better choice.
OM size guitars are a bit smaller and preferred by many master guitarists, including Eric Clapton. Generally, their necks are a bit wider (1 12/16") than dreadnoughts (1 11/16") so the strings are just a tad further apart, making them somewhat better suited to finger picking. It is amazing how different a mere 1/16th of an inch can feel to the fretting fingers of a guitar player! Though the body is smaller, the scale length is a standard 25.5".
Good OMs, correctly set up, can be strummed or flat picked as well. I have recently tried then acquired the 'entry level' Larrivée OM 03R, a six steel string acoustic guitar made by the renowned Canadian guitar manufacturer that bears the name of its founder, Jean Larrivée.
Larrivée began the business to build quality classical (nylon string) instruments but as the company grew - staffed almost exclusively by highly skilled luthiers, their foray into steel acoustics was both inevitable and welcome. Each is made with the same care and attention as were the earlier classical models which are highly regarded and valued in the community of professional classical guitarists.
The construction of this Larrivée OM is superb. With back and sides of solid, beautifully (and unusually) dark toned Rosewood, a top of first-grade Canadian Sitka Spruce and an ebony fingerboard and bridge, the guitar is simply beautiful.
Unlike other OM acoustics (like the popular Guild GAD 30R) it is quite light and easy to handle. An additional note of interest is that Larrivée actually produces (selects, mills and finishes) the Sitka Spruce used by most major guitar makers for the tops of their instruments!
The lighter feel is perhaps due, in part, to the absence of the heavy layer of lacquer finish so popular with guitar makers these days - especially with guitars built in China - like the Guild GAD line and most Blueridge models. This Larrivée OM- 03R has an understated 'satin' finish which emphasizes the natural beauty of the top quality woods used in its manufacture.
It's weight, size and thin oval neck make it an easy guitar to play and complimented by a custom setup done, on request and at no extra charge by Jason at Notable Guitars.com (the unequaled home of best prices on Larrivée guitars) it is, hands-down, the most stress-free playing guitar I have ever owned. I asked to have the action set as low as possible (setting the strings as close down to the fret board as possible short of creating any buzzing - making it as easy as possible to play) and it arrived perfectly done out of the box.
I also paid a few dollars extra to upgrade the bridge pins to ebony with abalone dots and the standard saddle to a Larrivée compensated bone one. The first augmentation for primarily cosmetic purposes and the second exclusively for improved sound. The guitar comes from the factory with both nut and saddle made of "Tusc," a man made attempt at ivory-like qualities made of plastic. Tusc is better than ordinary plastic - but not as nice sounding, I feel, as old fashion bone or ivory.
Playability, however lovely notwithstanding, the truest test for any guitar is its sound. In this area as well, this Larrivée OM 03R is somewhat surprisingly delightful. Being smaller than the aforementioned dreadnought, one would reasonably expect a smaller sound. Less 'punch,' volume and sustain. The differences are remarkably slight.
The sound is honestly characterized as 'sweet' with clear and resonant highs, lows and mid-range tones. Each note is distinct and there is not the 'muddiness' of inadvertentkly blended tones and notes created by structural design imperfections found in many other mid-priced OMs.
Played in a group of other instruments, the Larrivée OM does not vanish into the background. Its voice is gently emphatic. Bare finger picked, it can be a meditatively quiet, peaceful and soothing experience for both player and listener(s.)
The tuners, closed ones by Larrivée, hold the strings in tune quite nicely and I found no flaws whatever in the assembly or finish. The micro-dots used as fret board markers take a little getting used to visually for those more accustomed to more emphatic dots or patterns. The bindings are light Maple and more like those of a violin than the more commonly used plastic (or "ivoroid") - even on many very expensive guitars. It is simply beautiful to look at and a joy to play.
In its price range (factory listed at over $1700, commonly available for $1150 - $1300 and sold by Notable Guitars for a good deal less than that including the free set up I mentioned AND shipping) this Larrivée OM is without equal. I would compare it quite favorably with guitars of its model and type costing 2-4 times more. All Larrivée guitars come with a lifetime guarantee on all materials and workmanship to the original owner and have an expected playability lifespan longer than my own.
The Larrivée OM 03R is also available with installed electronics (the OM 03RE) for slightly more and with mahogany rather than rosewood back and sides for a bit less (the OM 03.) For the rather slight difference in cost, the 03R rosewood has a significantly richer and warmer tone than it's lighter but still admirable mahogany relative.
If you are considering an OM steel string acoustic guitar, I encourage you to include this Larrivée OM 03R in your search. I think that as soon as you pick one up and play it you will experience something different from the more ubiquitous Gibsons and Martins for a price far less than either those or the popular 'boutique' brands like Santa Cruz.
The difference is quite wonderful, reasonably priced and fun to play. It isn't cheap - but a cheap guitar is neither a good investment nor a good idea for anyone serious about their playing. In it's price range, This Larrivée OM 03R beats out everything in its own price range and others somewhat more expensive like Martin or Taylor entry level OMs.
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