2016 Toby Rzepka

Woods: dark, figured African blackwood back and sides; western red cedar top with lattice bracing. Honduran mahogany neck. Flamed maple insert along joining seam on back and butt, with corresponding maple binding.

Micscellany: 650mm scale, 52.5mm nut, 43.5mm string spacing at nut, 58mm at saddle. Sound port with magnetized cover. Hard shell case.

Condition: after hundreds of hours of spirited play, there is inevitably wear in the form of superficial nail marks on the top. Also a slight blemish on the treble side, where a cling on protector pulled a bit of the shellac off with it.  If the French polish were refreshed,  the top would appear as new.

Comment: this high energy guitar is in every respect a concert level guitar The dynamic range is broad, from a sweet rest stroke to a candy hard metallic bite. He describes this one on his web site as having a “huge sound with lush, dreamy overtones.” I agree. It is really loud but not brash. I played it briefly when it was new and now, after just over a year of five hours a day in the hands of a brilliant graduate student at a conservatory program, it is fully played in and softer around the edges.

Toby worked with Steve Connor for six years before opening his Portland, Maine shop. He said he has his own style of handling the details of design and construction, but that “my guitars have the DNA of a Connor, since he was the one who taught me.” Having played a number of Steve’s guitars, notably a cedar top I owned, I can say this is true. The pulse of bright energy that comes off the lattice braced top is most impressive. But what wins over folks who prefer the Connor/Rzepka design is the merging of power and nuance. This is one guitar that will deliver whatever you ask of it and are able to draw out of it.

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Price: $6295

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