A subtly luxurious, rock-steady, and stage-ready medium-sized flattop.
Northern Ireland’s George Lowden is the luthier behind some of the finest flattop steel-strings of the last 40 years. Lowdens have a signature voice, often described as complex, three-dimensional, and more diffuse than a typical American steel-string. Many important players have fallen for the Lowden sound, including Richard Thompson, fingerstylists Pierre Bensusan and Alex de Grassi, and Irish music legend Paul Brady.
Lowden Guitars has changed manufacturing facilities several times over the years, but the current shop, where Lowden and his small team build instruments largely by hand, is turning out the company’s best instruments yet. I’ve been a Lowden fan for many years and own a 1999 O10, so I was thrilled to check out one of the company’s latest models, the 32 SE Stage Edition.The F Evolves
As the name suggests, the 32 SE Stage Edition is built for live performance. Lowden’s other models are plenty happy onstage, but while many Lowden pickers use their instruments in solo, folk, or fingerstyle contexts, the 32 SE is conceived to work well where things get loud. It has a shallower body (ranging from 3" at the neck joint to 3 3/4" at the end-block) based on the company’s midsized F models. The neck is narrower (about 1 11/16" at the nut), with a slimmer profile than most other Lowdens. It’s also equipped with L.R. Baggs’ acclaimed Anthem electronics.
The 32 SE features a Sitka spruce top and East Indian rosewood back and sides. This is a common combination, but the wood on the review model made me take a step back. You will not come across a higher-quality spruce top—this one is even-grained, with beautiful medullary rays and an almost holographic sheen. The rosewood is stunning too, with a rich, dark color and cool grain variation. Like all Lowdens, the guitar has a five-piece neck (attached via dovetail joint) consisting of three mahogany sections and two strips of walnut (for increased stiffness and stability).
In a nod to Lowden’s love for classical guitars, the 32 SE’s fretboard and bridge are made from different woods: pitch-black ebony for the fretboard and rosewood for the bridge. The latter features a pinless design and Lowden’s two-piece bone saddle. The guitar’s body is bound with flamed maple, accented by three layers of purfling on the top. A single-ring abalone rosette adds a splash of color to an otherwise subdued and organic appearance. The clear plastic pickguard is nearly invisible.
The top is X-braced using Lowden’s typically narrow, tall, and tapered “dolphin” braces. Inside and out, the construction is astonishingly clean. Given the model’s stage-oriented name, I was surprised Lowden didn’t install a second strap button in addition to the endpin jack (though adding one is a simple procedure).Thin Body, Fat Voice
I’ve played many thin-bodied acoustic-electrics that sacrifice acoustic tone for of hassle-free amplified performance. However, my first timid strum established that this exceptional acoustic guitar will make you happy even if you never plug it in. The somewhat OM-like dimensions provide an OM-like character with great dynamics, sustain, and volume. There’s a little less bass than you’d get from a deeper body, though you never sense that there isn’t enough. The guitar has an easy feel, with low action and fluid playability everywhere along the neck. The relatively narrow nut definitely makes the guitar more appealing for flatpicking than complex fingerstyle work, though some players will find the neck comfortable for both. Anthemic Tones
I also tested the 32 SE’s Anthem electronics through an AER Compact 60 amp, and through an amp/P.A. combination (using a Headway EDB-1 preamp to split the signal) at a club gig where I played solo fingerstyle, and fingerstyle/flatpicked duets with another guitarist.
The Anthem system combines L.R. Baggs’ Element pickup and Tru-Mic internal microphone with a preamp module mounted inside the soundhole’s bass side. A built-in crossover dynamically assigns bass frequencies to the pickup and the high-end to the microphone. A blend control lets you mix mic/pickup signals, but even the all-mic setting uses some pickup signal to lend under-saddle push to feedback-prone bass frequencies. There’s a volume dial, plus phase-reverse pushbuttons.
Whether played through an amp or a P.A., the Baggs system provides an accurate representation of the guitar’s acoustic sound, capturing much of its complexity and dynamic range. For fingerstyle playing, I found that mixes with between 50% and 70% under-saddle pickup delivered the right combination of warmth and presence. True Mic-heavy settings, however, provided a much more natural attack when playing pickstyle. I encountered none of the feedback problems I’ve experienced with other guitars at the same club.The Verdict
The 32 SE Stage Edition is a fine high-end acoustic-electric for players willing to deviate from more common brands and styles. The thin body is comfortable and feedback resistant. Sure, you could add the same pickup system to other high-end acoustics and get great results. But for out-of-the-box performance, it’s hard to beat the 32 SE’s rarefied craftsmanship and quality.
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.