Review: McPherson Guitars Carbon Series

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Review: McPherson Guitars Carbon Series

Words by Will Brewster

McPherson Guitars | Expect to Pay A$4199-A$5799

The word ‘innovation’ might just be one of the most overused terms in the whole industry of marketing musical products.

Too few musical companies today are actually within the business of innovation – that is, taking something great and tweaking its design to make for a product that genuinely makes a splash on the market – and it’s arguable that the future of musical manufacturing is at risk due to so many heavyweight brands just playing it safe; waiting to safely clone the next big thing, rather than take the plunge of creating it for themselves.

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Without any doubts, however, McPherson Guitars can be safely considered as innovators. For over 30 years, the Wisconsin-based cohort has been making bespoke instruments that push boundaries, with the small family-owned company being responsible for some of the most dazzling designs of the modern era.

From the offset placement of their sound holes through to their proprietary bracing systems, cantilevered neck designs and beyond, McPherson is 100% dedicated to making products that stand out from the pack, and while their Custom wood builds are undoubtedly breathtaking in their own right, nothing exemplifies that dedication quite like the company’s Carbon Series.

Historically, carbon fibre instruments have been approached tentatively by many consumers, and there’s a fair reason for this. Many guitarists can prove to be a little traditionalist when it comes to selecting tonewoods or construction materials, and thus, it’s understandable for them to be wary about testing out new technologies that stray a little too far beyond familiarity for them.

However, there’s a myriad of reasons as to why carbon fibre can be the ideal choice for anyone seeking out a new instrument. For starters, carbon fibre is super durable and incredibly lightweight, making for a killer combination when applied to the construction of an acoustic instrument.

The Sable Carbon, which is the flagship model in the McPherson Carbon range, tips the scale at a seriously impressive 2.5kg; whereas its travel-sized sibling, the Touring Carbon, manages to scrape in at an astounding 1.9kg. For reference, that’s effectively half the weight of your average spruce-bodied dreadnaught, which makes the prospect of owning a carbon fibre guitar all the more tantalising for many a disgruntled singer-songwriter.

Another huge drawcard for carbon fibre is the fact that it’s totally resistant to heat and humidity. Whereas traditionally-constructed wood guitars are susceptible to going out of tune or having their intonation go out every time there’s a significant change in the temperature – which, let’s face it, is probably going to happen a little more regularly thanks to global warming – carbon fibre remains totally steadfast even under the most extreme of conditions, making sure there’s no risk of soundboard warping or longterm damage from humidity.

Considering the scorching heat and bone-dry humidity that much of Australia is subjected to on an ongoing annual basis, the notion of having a guitar that can withstand such harsh elements should be paramount for any bush-bound muso, and it’s here where the McPherson Carbon Series shines brightest. These guitars won’t ever warp, go out of tune or require a setup due to adverse heat or humidity, with the all-carbon construction of the range even negating the need for an adjustable truss rod.

Beyond being lightweight, sturdy and heat resistant, however, it’s important to recognise that at the end of the day, the McPherson Carbon Series is just an impeccably well-designed range of instruments. While their more abstract appointments may be a little alarming upon first impression, these guitars absolutely sing when in hand, delivering a tone that’s rich in character, nuance and sustain.

McPherson’s offset placement of the sound hole is a sheer stroke of genius, allowing for a much more resonant playing experience, while the ‘hovering’ fretboard of the cantilevered neck also assists in improving the overall vibration of the soundboard. McPherson also ship both the Sable and Touring Carbon models with two different saddle heights to allow for low and medium action setups, which is a nice touch for anyone looking to switch up their action without having to take out the file.

To make each guitar all the more versatile, the instruments in the McPherson Carbon range are factory fitted with an active L.R. Baggs Element pickup system, which also features a nifty feedback buster for when you’re dealing with gnarly PA systems. Each guitar is also shipped in a custom-fitted travel case courtesy of Reunion Blues, and comes with a very important cleaning cloth: as a material, carbon fibre is very prone to attracting fingerprints and little play marks, so the inclusion of a handy little wiping cloth is yet another killer gesture from the McPherson team.

Of course, carbon fibre instruments aren’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re serious about making an investment into a sustainably built, sturdy and lightweight instrument that sounds great and lasts a lifetime, you can’t look much further than McPherson’s Carbon Series.

These guitars are simply mind-boggling to play, and even though they are matched with a rather costly price-tag, it’s still incredibly good value for the quality of instrument that you’re getting. Innovation might not come easily for most companies, but for the crew at McPherson Guitars, creating such a forward-thinking and tonally supple instrument is nothing but a walk in the park.

Check out the Carbon Range on GSus4.