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David Munn Small Jumbo Acoustic Guitar Review

David Munn Small Jumbo Acoustic Guitar Review

An expertly crafted, comfortable, great-sounding small-bodied acoustic from Iowa

Iowa doesn’t get enough respect. Some of the coolest things ever have come from Iowa, like late James Gang and Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin, Templeton Rye whiskey, and, of course, Premier Guitar. You can add David Munn to that list, too. Munn joins a long list of outstanding Iowa luthiers who have been featured in these pages, including Kevin Pederson of Pederson Custom Guitars (formerly Abyss), classical builder John Dick, and David Flammang of Flammang Guitars. Munn started building guitars in 1978 and studied with American School of Lutherie founder Charles Fox, but supporting a family and working in a frustratingly small workshop space dictated that he take a break. In 2001, he was in a position to retool and expand his workshop, and that’s when he got serious about building guitars again.

Show Me the Munny
Our review guitar is hot off the workbench— brand-spanking new. It features a 25.4"-scale Manzer Wedge body, which is really exciting. The Wedge came about when Linda Manzer made a multinecked guitar for Pat Metheny and decided it would have to be narrower on the bass side (3 1/2" versus 4 1/2" on the treble side) so he could get an arm around it. Next thing you know, a lot of luthiers, including notables like Grit Laskin and Kevin Ryan, adopted the Wedge. It’s so much more comfortable to play, and it has no negative impact on tone or volume whatsoever.

The Small Jumbo’s body is padauk, a rather gorgeous striped red wood that’s a cousin to rosewood. The back is a three-piece with a curly maple center strip and some sweet marquetry diamonds in ebony. The top is nice Sitka spruce, with plenty of silking—it’s very shimmery and 3-D looking, and the glossy finish really makes it pop. The five-piece, mahogany- and-maple neck is comfortably chunky, with a round profile. It’s 1 3/4" at the nut, nice and wide, with no inlay on the fretboard except at the twelfth fret. The fretboard and bridge are Macassar ebony, and the peg head overlays (front and back) are made of luscious, chocolate-and-caramel-colored Madagascar rosewood. I love the gold Gotoh 510 tuners, which are sleek and very modern looking—and quite comfortable to use. They add another classic touch to this already beautiful guitar. The rosette and purfling are unique and elegant, and perfectly suited to the natural look and pleasing curves. Fit and finish seem to be as top notch as they can get, and everything is smooth and even and clean.

All That and More
I’m running out of ways to describe the sound of incredible guitars. I’ve used brilliant, rich, vibrant, lively, shimmering, and warm until I’m sick of those words. The problem is, you could combine any of those words in just about any order and you’d have the Munn. It’s brilliantly velvety. Shimmeringly warm. This guitar takes my breath away every time I pick it up. It has fantastic low end. There’s bass to burn, but it’s so clean—there’s not a bit of mud to be found. Even with a capo at the fifth and seventh frets, it rings gorgeously and the lows just keep rolling out. The mids are also clean, but there’s no brittleness, nothing boxy or off in the mids at all. You hear every note like it’s bathed in golden light. The highs, to quote David Letterman, “put me in the mind of faeries.” It’s very well balanced, and the lows, mids and highs work together even better as you dig in. Munn scallops his braces for less weight and freer movement of the top and back, and it seems to be working very well for him. When I sit on the couch with this guitar, the sound seems to wrap around me. And remember, this guitar is still wet behind the ears. I can only imagine how well it will sing a year from now.

A Pleasure to Play and Record The playing experience is equally satisfying. It’s perfectly comfortable, and the Wedge makes a real difference in the stress on the right shoulder. I have struggled for years with a rotator cuff injury that won’t ever quite heal, and the Wedge allows my shoulder to relax a little bit, letting me play longer and with less pain. My left hand loves the roundness of the neck, and the wide fretboard feels natural to me. From open strings to as far up the fretboard as you can get, the intonation is right on, and there are no funky frets that don’t sound the same as the ones around it. The action is easy out of the box, but I could see the action going lower yet, if necessary.

Recording the Munn was a delight. With one of my favorite mics, an sE Electronics sE3 small condenser, I captured a fantastically clean and warm sound. Complex and rich with overtones, the attack comes through punchy but pure, and you can feel the lows in your spine. It reminds me of the smooth, balanced, sparkling tone that the late M’cheál Ó Domhnaill got playing behind fiddler Kevin Burke, which caused me to fall in love with D–A–D–G–A–D. No wonder the Munn stole my heart.

The Final Mojo
The Munn Small Jumbo has the kind of tone that great guitar affairs are made of. The kind of tone that solo fingerstyle guitarists and singer-songwriters lust after in the studio and onstage. That’s what makes David Munn keep doing what he does. “I think the most rewarding part of the process is when I get to sit down and listen to one of my guitars being played by a good guitarist, who can really make the guitar sing.” And I’m sure that there are plenty of players out there who will be more than happy to oblige Mr. Munn, given the chance.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a six-string soul mate to help your heart sing onstage, in the studio, or on the couch.
Skip if...
you prefer to wait until demand is so high that Munn has to double his prices.

MSRP $3200 - David Munn Guitars -