Collings’ fascination with the ‘Golden’ era of fretted instruments again comes into play with the CJ35 acoustic guitar. The pre-war era flattop guitars between 1930-1942 saw innovations in bracing and changes in body sizes, adjustments to the then status quo that justify their standings in the guitar history books. Throw that influence in the mix with Collings’ high regard for quality instruments at either end of the price scale, and you’ve got one dynamic, well-crafted piece of gear made by one of the most meticulous brands in the business.
The resonance on this guitar needs to be experienced first hand – a rich and full-bodied tonality; words you’d expect from a sommelier over a guitar review, but the wine comparisons aren’t a far stretch. There is great depth in the sound produced from this guitar. The replicated pre-war x-brace configuration with three tone bars in the body can be high-fived for its punchy bottom end, balanced highs and warm, evenly spread output. The description offered on both the Gladesville Guitar Factory and Collings site compares these lush tones to ‘piano-like bass and powerful full-bodied highs’; there’s no better way to put it, it’s a tonal characteristic that is a standout and an ode to its historical influences.
Honduran mahogany lines the neck, the back and sides of the body, with its top capped off with a Sitka spruce. Nitrocellulose lacquer finish on the body aids in its acoustical response, and a high gloss polyester resin allows smooth sailing up and down the neck straight out of the box.
The 24 7/8 inch short scale neck limits safe passage past the 15th fret, but is of little worry or inconvenience. It handles lead playing with the same gusto and clarity as with open chord strum-along playing. In either mode, each string is voiced evenly, reiterating the ‘balanced’ aspect this guitar preaches all over. Its response to picking in particular has plenty of attack and sustain.
The Nickel Waverly with Ivoroid button tuners are as aesthetically pleasing as they are to operate – they’re smooth and precise in their movements and, as expected from a high end instrument, holds its tune.
The CJ35B could find home in practically any genre it’s thrown into, and shine bright with colour. Collings boast a fastidious approach to its selection of tonewoods and components, stating that its luthiers hand pick them with tonality in mind. It’s safe to say that this is a big factor in why the CJ35 sounds as good as it does, and Collings’ claim of it being their most versatile large-bodied guitar is right on the money.
Hits and Misses
Evenly distributed tone, but it’s the bottom end that sells.
The tigerstripe pickguard is a little cheesy.