Unlike some of the more iconic high-end guitar brands, The Loar tend to fall a little under the radar. However, they are well worth paying attention to, as this Chinese manufacturer focus on paying homage to and reviving instruments from the Golden Age of guitar (the 1920s and 1930s), which The Loar declare was ‘an age of outstanding craftsmanship and innovative design’.
And we’re inclined to agree – especially when you see something like the beautiful LH-700 Archtop, which comes in at just under $1500. It’s not cheap, but it’s not your everyday guitar. Time to find out what makes it so different, and whether it’s worth the cash.
As the name reveals, the LH-700 is an archtop guitar with a scale length of 24.75”, and features a solid top that’s hand-carved and hand-graduated from AAA-grade spruce. This top has no round sound hole – instead sporting two hand-carved F holes on either side of the bridge. Sticking with the high-quality wood theme, the back and sides of this guitar are made from solid AAA-grade flamed maple, with the entire body finished in a dark tobacco staining and hand-buffed nitrocellulose lacquer, which certainly helps achieve the vintage look and sound The Loar are going for.
There’s a highly-glossed single-piece figured maple neck with a vintage V profile, along with a bound ebony fretboard, 19 frets, and mother-of-pearl dot inlays. The craftsmanship is overall decent – it’s not quite comparable to the quality of a Taylor, Martin or even Takamine in this price range, and you may find a few little flaws here and there, but generally the guitar feels well-made.
This is a solely acoustic model, so there are no electronics to discuss. However the hardware is both quality and appropriate for the style. The elaborately decorated headstock features six gold Grover Sta-Tite open-geared tuners, with a smooth 18:1 gear ratio and butterbean style tuning keys. There’s a compensated adjustable ebony bridge, with a floating, trapeze-style tailpiece, and a standard bone nut. Finally, the guitar is shipped with a rugged hardshell archtop case with a plush interior, which is a welcome extra.
This archtop can really make itself heard – in fact, maybe a little too much! The solid woods are all excellent quality, and resonate extremely well, leading to a guitar that will cut through any mix with a sparkly voice – perfect for playing with groups and vocalists. The spruce leads to a mellow and balanced sound, but with plenty of brightness when needed, while the maple back and sides help project the tone clearly. A sweet sounding guitar, that’s hard to fault.
The LH-700 certainly won’t appeal to everybody, and The Loar have some catching up to do when it comes to quality control, but the timeless look and huge vintage sound combine to make this a very interesting guitar indeed. For jazz players with a penchant for 30s jazz in particular, this could well be your perfect guitar. The price is pretty high, but we feel that overall the LH-700 justifies it.