Why the Collings OM2H is beloved by so many acoustic fingerstylists

Robert Earl Keen
Robert Earl Keen performs in Spicewood, Texas, with his well-worn Collings OM2H (Image credit: Gary Miller/WireImage)

Numerous talented guitar builders have called Texas home over the years.

Houston’s Robin Guitars offered various electric guitars until 2010. Austin’s Mark Erlewine has made custom instruments for Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Johnny Winter and distinguished non-Texans like Mark Knopfler and Paul McCartney. Mike Stevens (one of the founders of the Fender Custom Shop) also builds custom creations like his Les Plank, Slant and even Junior Brown’s famous Guit-Steel in his workshop in Alpine.

However, the biggest guitar-making success story in Texas is Austin’s Collings Guitars, which is best known for its finely crafted acoustic flattops but also offers solid, semi-hollow and hollow body electrics, acoustic jazz archtops and mandolins. By far the most popular Collings guitar is the OM2H, which has remained a best-seller since shortly after the model’s introduction in 1991. 

Based on Martin’s legendary OM orchestra model acoustic guitars from the Thirties “golden era,” the OM2H offers a refined design that stands on its own merits and is much more than an imitation of its initial inspiration.

Collings OM2H

(Image credit: Future)

The OM2H is constructed from carefully selected materials – Sitka spruce tops, East Indian rosewood backs and sides and Honduran mahogany necks – that are individually matched for each instrument to maximize its tonal performance. 

The neck is carved to a modified V profile that is more rounded and comfortable than vintage V-shaped necks, and immaculate fretwork combines dressing by hand and PLEK machine leveling. Pre-war-style scalloped X-bracing provides highly responsive dynamics, impressive volume projection and an ideal balance of focused bass, warm, harmonically rich mids and bell-like treble.

The OM2H’s supreme balanced tone has made it a popular choice for fingerstyle guitarists, but it performs equally well for rhythm strummers and single-note lead flatpickers. Its character can be sweet and sultry when played softly or rough and rambunctious with a rowdy approach. 

No surprise then that the Collings OM2H has found its way into the hands of a wide variety of players from Keen (Robert Earl, that is) to Keef (Mr. Richards of the Rolling Stones).

Other notable OM2H fans include Jeff Smallwood (multi-instrumentalist in Celine Dion’s band) and former American Idol contestant Jason Castro. There’s a very good chance that some fingerstyle specialist in your own neck of the woods plays a Collings OM2H as thousands have sold over the last three-plus decades.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.