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 sample is a prototype.
The guitars are offered in two trim levels - Standard and Luxury - and the Matilda is the former, the only added-cost option being a three-tone sunburst top which adds £200 to the basic price. Standard trim includes black/white rosette rings and similar, ivoroid-bound purfling, an unbound fingerboard with ivoroid dot markers, and a spade peghead and belly bridge. These last two items can be changed, at no extra cost, to the curvy-top headstock and pyramid bar bridge which are normally part of the luxury spec.
You can also choose a sitka, Engelmann or cedar top, mahogany or rosewood back and sides, and rosewood or ebony fingerboard and bridge at no extra cost. Our Matilda's top is cedar, endowing a pinkier hue to the main sunburst area; the back and sides are mahogany, and the bridge and fingerboard are both rosewood.
The finish is all-gloss nitrocellulose and immaculately done. The 626mm-scale neck is one-piece mahogany, with a comfortable, rounded medium-depth profile with a hint of a trad feel without being chunky. The finely dressed medium-oval frets lend a Gibsonesque air; string spacing at the bridge is a regulation 55mm. Nut span on the new models is 44mm, but this prototype comes in a shade under that.
This isn't necessarily an archetypal J-style sound. Punch and projection are good with plenty of dynamics and a firm bottom end. The timbre, though, is quite bright with less warmth than you might associate with a Gibson, or our sample's cedar front. The sound can also be a tad barky when played hard, and strummers may wish for more suppleness. Pickers, however, will appreciate the well-defined crispness and balance.