Leading UK luthier Dave King has long specialised in small-body acoustics. Now, however, he's extended his horizons by launching a J-45-style slope dread, the Matilda, and a 12-fret 000, the Katrina - the first time he has made either of these body styles. There's also the Louise, a parlour modelled on his own design.
This trio falls under the general umbrella of Dave King Acoustics; his pre-existing Parlour and concert-size Classic are now known as Signatures. One highly significant aspect of the newcomers is that they start around £2000 cheaper than his signature instruments. The savings have been achieved through greater use of templates, jigs and machinery, involving approximately 60 man-hours per instrument as opposed to 150 for his totally handworked signatures. Our Matilda and Katrina samples are both prototypes.
With a body profile based on a pre-war Martin 000, this 12-fretter's timeless elegance is brought into higher relief by its luxury specification. The Engelmann spruce top - so richly cross-silked it looks almost quilted - carries a light amber ‘ageing' toner; the rosette is abalone, the pickguard is tortie not black plastic.
Optional abalone top purfling ups the basic £2100 ticket by £250, but the finely crafted ebony pyramid bridge, the Hofner-like peghead and the ivoroid-bound ebony ‘board with abalone dots are all regular fare, as again is the superb all-gloss lacquer. Our sample's back and sides are rosewood. Some might consider a spade headstock more in keeping with the guitar's vintage influences: that's fine, it's your choice. Likewise, if you'd prefer a set of open-geared Waverlys to these diecast Schallers, no problem, just allow an extra £180.
The 645mm-scale neck, again one-piece mahogany, is a touch wider (44.5mm) at the nut, carries appropriately narrower fretting and is fashioned to a shallower profile than the dread's. This slinkier grip sacrifices a little of the guitar's otherwise strongly retro vibe, but it's a fast, very keen player. Doubtless you could request a fuller profile if preferred.
The Katrina delivers an engaging 000-like fluidity and clarity, with a pleasing contribution of warmth from the rosewood and likely slightly mellower high-end overtones than if the top were sitka spruce. Volume is comfortably up to par for the body size, even if there is a hint that playing-in should unlock even more in the way of dynamic zest, which presently doesn't so much feel tight as a shade underdeveloped as far as attack presence is concerned.