For some reason, it’s still lodged in many people’s minds that Larrivée’s production is based in Canada. That might have been true years ago when Jean Larrivée first set up shop in Toronto, subsequently relocating first to Victoria and then Vancouver during the 1980s and 90s.
These days, however, the company is based in Oxnard, California, Larrivée having finally closed down its Canadian operation for good back in 2013.
It’s also the case that perhaps Larrivée doesn’t spring immediately to mind when the topic of quality production-line acoustics is raised.
It’s true to say that Taylor and Martin are probably higher in the average acoustic player’s consciousness in this respect, but it would also be true to say that we’ve liked pretty much every Larrivée we’ve set eyes on since we can remember. And the brand hasn’t escaped the attention of players such as Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, John Sebastian and many others, either.
With a manifesto that includes the use of all FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accredited solid timbers, Larrivée tells us that, “Above all, our goal is ‘affordable luxury’ – we aim to put high-end guitars into the hands of all players. We don’t want to build the most guitars. We want to build the best.” As such, hopes are high for this OM cutaway and so let’s dive in for a closer look.
We’ll begin with a set of vital statistics: the OMV is very slightly wider and deeper than the benchmark Martin OM body size, but we’re talking only a few millimetres. It’s still very much in that ballpark and it’s a size that we’re very fond of here at Guitarist. At home on the sofa, sitting or standing on stage, it’s a comfortable fit. Sound-wise, the OM is an everyman, too, as it tends to have an even spread of basses and trebles and a focused, sweet tonal temperament.
Larrivée’s take on the humble OM finds us with a Canadian Sitka spruce top with African mahogany for the back and sides – and if you’re an OM purist and were expecting rosewood here instead, fear not as Larrivée offers the OMV-03R that fits that particular designation to the letter. It’s mahogany for the OMV’s dovetail-jointed neck, too, with an African ebony fingerboard that boasts synthetic pearl position markers.
We had to look twice at the size of the jumbo-ish nickel silver frets as they would seem to be more at home on an electric guitar – and one at the rock end of the music spectrum, too. Measuring in at 2.5mm wide and 1mm tall, they raised an eyebrow or two, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. We’ll see how they fare when we strike up a tune later on.
The OMV has a bone nut and saddle, the former measuring 43.3mm (1.75 inches), which is a good fit for fingerstylists and chordmongers alike. Other hardware includes Larrivée’s own standard 15:1 ratio tuners, a ‘tortis’ pickguard and an LR Baggs Anthem pickup system with controls mounted on the bass side of the instrument’s soundhole.
Feel & Sounds
Larrivée refers to the finish of the OMV-03 as ‘Satin’, which gives the guitar a gloriously ‘woody’ feel under the fingers. It’s not as open pore as we’ve seen on other instruments, which is probably due to a case of many coats of lacquer being built up over time in the workshop, but there definitely is a high feelgood factor while we’re holding the guitar.
Onto the neck and its profile is either a fairly slim U-shape or a very generous flat-bottomed C. Frankly, we’re undecided because there are elements of both here. However, it feels good in the hand, pepped along by that satin feel we’ve just mentioned.
What’s going on under the bonnet? We’re assured that what we have in this department is X-bracing plus a parabolic bracing pattern using European moon spruce – but you’re probably just as curious as we were at this point to know how the OMV sounds.
When you think of the average OM acoustic, you imagine sweet trebles with a focused bass and midrange – and that is certainly the case here. Move down a body size or two and you’re inviting boxiness and loss of bass response.
Move up towards the dreadnought or jumbo areas and you might find some lower midrange boom or even a little mud in the mids. The OM is, to our minds at least, that Goldilocks ideal of all body shapes. It lacks nothing, but it doesn’t need anything more, either.
The OMV is not the loudest guitar we’ve encountered, but there’s no brashness or harshness here, just a sort of refined sweetness and evenness of temperament. Chordal strumming emits a crystal-clear response with each note clearly defined. Switch on over to fingerstyle and here, too, the OM magic comes to our aid with some good definition and smoothness.
Plucked near the bridge things become suitably wiry and sinewy; move towards the neck and everything mellows out and becomes warmer. There is enough tonal variety available here to keep even the most discerning player happy.
The fret size we mentioned earlier doesn’t seem to affect much at all when the guitar is in our hands, whereas you might expect it to add something to the mix. Perhaps a player who is more used to playing classic-era Ibanez or Jackson fretboards and has an aversion to skinny frets might feel at home here, which can only be a good thing. In any case, we really didn’t bat an eye. We’re almost sorry we mentioned it!
The LR Baggs Anthem is a favourite pickup system for an acoustic guitar and, as we anticipated, doesn’t let the side down at all here. Put through our on-loan Da Capo 75 acoustic amp, the Larrivée literally becomes anything you want it to be.
With such a generously even acoustic palette to begin with you can build onto it virtually any sound you have in your head. Add a dash of reverb and you’re into an altogether new realm. All the silkiness and sweetness remains to the extent that we believe the Anthem is the perfect partner for the OMV and shows its best when amplified.
As you can probably tell, we were quite charmed by this Larrivée OMV-03, although it maybe just fell short in the wow factor department. We might say that it doesn’t have quite the girth or authority of a Martin with the same body size, either, but isn’t that a good thing in a way?
It means that this guitar has a character all its own and a blank canvas upon which you can create your own sonic personality. It’s a very well-built instrument from an established name in the industry with a price that is extremely competitive in today’s acoustic marketplace.
Larrivée’s “affordable luxury” motto certainly holds up here, and if you find yourself looking for a guitar that will do virtually anything you ask of it, we think you might find what you’re looking for with the OMV-03.
- PRICE: $2,748 / £2,428 (inc case)
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: OM cutaway
- TOP: Canadian Sitka spruce
- BACK/SIDES: African mahogany
- MAX RIM DEPTH: 107.9mm
- MAX BODY WIDTH: 387.3mm
- NECK: Mahogany
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- TUNERS: Larrivée standard 15:1 ratio
- NUT/WIDTH: Bone/44.3mm
- FINGERBOARD: African ebony
- FRETS: 20, medium jumbo
- BRIDGE/SPACING: African ebony with bone saddle/57.2mm
- ELECTRICS: LR Baggs Anthem
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.57/3.46
- OPTIONS: The OM is also available without the cutaway (OM-03 £1,899); various pickup options are available at an extra charge. See website for details
- RANGE OPTIONS: Larrivée’s 03 Series comprises a variety of body shapes, including the L-03 (£1,899), LV-03 (£2,299), D-03 (£1,899), J-03 (£2,199) & BT-03 (£2,279). See website for more info
- LEFT-HANDERS: Yes (no extra charge)
- FINISH: Satin natural (as reviewed)
- CONTACT: Larrivée