The last few years have seen a glut of fine (but not "high end") acoustic guitars, priced between $700 and $1,250, hit the market. Now Parkwood have entered the midlevel fray with their own line of acoustics. And that, particularly for those players who've moved past the plywood stage but are unwilling to commit $3,000 to some American-made beauty of a guitar, is good news.
Parkwood's new 3 series—which includes three dreadnought models, two grand auditoriums, a grand concert and a jumbo—is available only at Guitar Center stores and through Musician's Friend (www.musiciansfriend.com). I tried out the Parkwood PW340FM jumbo, a rather spare-looking (or elegantly understated, depending on your perspective) instrument featuring small, white dot fretboard inlays, a simple concentric-ring rosette pattern, and an open-pore finish that retains the look, feel and sound of raw wood.
The guitar is constructed of high-quality materials such as solid Sitka spruce (top) and attractive solid flamed maple (back and sides). The clean lines of the Parkwood logo and the diamond-shaped headstock inlay, the ebonized wood Grover tuner buttons, and the binding surrounding the neck and the front and back edges of the body all add a touch of cosmetic class.
At 25.3 inches, the PW340FM's scale is just a shade shorter than that of the average jumbo guitar, making it easier to finger chords or play lines that require wide stretches of the hand. Intonation is surprisingly accurate, thanks primarily to the compensated synthetic bone saddle. The fretwork is about as fine as anything you'll find on big-name, U.S.-made models, with the medium-profile frets crowned and polished to a degree that makes playing up and down the rosewood fingerboard seem almost effortless.
Parkwood made an excellent decision when they chose maple for this guitar's back, sides and neck. Jumbo models, with their large and deep bodies, tend to sound exceptionally boomy, but thanks to the maple wood, the PW340FM delivers excellent treble response. Its tone is warm and attractive, with a huge-but-tight bass, round and woody midrange and crisp highs. Whether played fingerstyle or strummed, the guitar pumps out loud, commanding sound and can easily fill a large room, without amplification.
The open-pore finish on the PW340FM allows the top to vibrate freely, making the response exceptionally lively. Even a light touch will produce clear, resonant tones, and the guitar's dynamic range would be impressive even for an expensive instrument. This makes the PW340FM an excellent choice for fingerstyle players who want more bass than is typically delivered by a grand auditorium or even a dreadnought model. Some fingerstylists may find the 1 11/16-inch nut width a bit narrow, but players with smaller hands, or those accustomed to electric guitars, will be thankful for the slightly slimmer string spacing.
Many guitars that sell for about $1,000 are designed to seduce buyers with glossy finishes, fancy inlays and svelte bodies. Like the proverbial girl next door, the PW340FM has a great personality and will be there for you even after a hard day at the office. If you're looking for a loving, lifetime companion, this big baby is for you.