Alvarez Top Picks
Published on 21 October 2021
Looking for a new acoustic guitar?
Whilst there are many similar models out there, this is by no means a simple subject! You want something reliable, something that looks good, sounds good and offers value, regardless of its price. Fair enough, that what we always want, right? With that in mind, we thought we’d show you three models from Alvarez, a brand that has quite solidly impressed us over the last three or so years.
We’ve opted to shine a light on an affordable model (which is phenomenally popular), one more-pricey guitar and a top end model, too. Each guitar is designed for different markets, so there’s no real comparison here, but you’ll see, by reading through this blog, where the extra cost goes, should you decide to spend more. We think each of these Alvarez guitars is great, so let’s begin with the affordable model.
Alvarez Artist Series AF30ce
The most crowded part of the acoustic guitar market is definitely the sub-£300 electro acoustic section. This is where most ‘first upgrade’ guitars reside, the next, considered purchase after a beginner’s model.
Competition is fierce. Every major manufacturer wants you to pick them, from some of the biggest brands on the planet to less-well known specialists and dedicated acoustic names. It can be a complicated market to navigate, but the fact remains that no brand name or bright paint scheme can compete with a well-put together guitar, built with decent materials.
This is where the Alvarez AF30ce shines.
We’ve stocked Alvarez instruments for a number of years now, and we’ve been constantly impressed by not only their consistent quality, but their easy playability and considerable value. This first choice today encapsulates those points quite clearly.
As part of the Alvarez Artist Series (confusingly, none of them are ‘artist’ signature models, but never mind that), the AF30ce already comes with a good reputation. This series is known for its high spec, high price-to-performance ratio, and a few minutes spent with the AF30ce confirms this to be the case. It’s a ‘folk’ body, known to other manufacturers as an ‘OM’ style. Slightly smaller and shallower than a dreadnought, this shape is easier to handle and lighter on the bottom end, tone-wise. We’re fans of the folk-style, since there’s a good balance to the frequencies: nothing is too boomy, nor too ‘tinny’, as other smaller bodied guitars may be. It’s only marginally smaller, after all, it’s style very much a ‘full-size’ guitar, just slightly more manageable than other designs.
This one is made with a solid spruce top, in order to not only sound immediately better than plywood tops, but to ‘season’ and improve with age. This isn’t as unusual a find at this price point as it used to be, but the solid top has been coupled here with a very agreeable neck (with a semi-gloss finish for extra playability) and a decent pickup system that includes a built-in tuner! With the Alvarez AF30ce, you get a very useful, attractive and good sounding guitar, which will improve in tone the more you play it!
Our middle choice is a very handsome dreadnought for the discerning player who prizes subtle style with high quality and value. The Alvarez MD60EBG is from the company’s Masterworks stable, and offers a beautifully traditional take on the ‘flatpicking’ style of dreadnought used in Bluegrass. In reality, you can of course play anything at all on a dreadnought and have it excel: the large body is excellently resonant, with enough top end to allow fingerpicked parts to shine equally. As an all-rounder, it’s hard to beat.
Alvarez had gone for quality again with the tone woods. The body is Solid African Mahogany, and the top is AA Sitka Spruce. This combination adds clarity and sprightliness to the depth and projection of the design. Mahogany is great for fundamental notes, and choice Spruce is the perfect balancer. Bravo, Alvarez!
We love the tortoiseshell-coloured pickguard and multi-ply binding on the MD60EBG: it’s a subtle yet distinguished look, and one that definitely connotes the types of guitar you’d see being played in the Appalachians!
Alvarez Yairi JYM80
Our final choice for today is also our premium, top of the range model. You’ll notice a slight name change! Yes indeed, Alvarez-Yairi refers to the wonderful guitars hand-made in Japan by a team trained by the late master luthier Kazuo Yairi. Every Alvarez Yairi instrument, including the JYM80 we’re looking at here, has been hand-made by super-skilled luthiers in a small Japanese workshop. The quality level is incredible by any standards, but is particularly staggering given the asking price. Anyone shopping for a ‘guitar for life’ needs to give this brand some serious time.
We chose a Jumbo model from the Alvarez Yairi stable today, for sake of distinction from those we’ve checked out already. In truth, all of the Yairi-related guitars are pretty magnificent. Built using solid AAA Spruce for the top and solid flamed maple for the back and sides, Alvarez Yairi have ensured that the inherent largeness of the jumbo body design is tempered by the bright response of the chosen tone woods. Volume, projection, brightness and depth are all here for the taking, with a complex palette of tones that promise far more than just a great strum.
A ebony ‘direct coupled’ bridge, an innovation created by Yairi, ensures more energy transfer – and hence, more tone – from the strings to the soundboard and out into your ears. Ebony continues on the fingerboard, bringing smoothness of touch and an undeniably handsome look to the instrument. If you want a wonderfully resonant guitar that rings out like a grand piano, we suggest sitting down with the Alvarez Yairi JYM80 for a few minutes!
An Alvarez for Everybody
The Alvarez range is an extensive one indeed. There are travel guitars, quality nylon string models and a huge number of dreadnoughts, folk models and more. We’ve chosen these three today as a good cross-section of what’s available. We think these guitars are quite excellent, over-delivering on their considerable promises and making real dents in their respective markets.
Which will you choose for your next acoustic? As ever, our stores are stocked with instruments, and also with friendly experts ready and waiting to assist you. Choosing a new acoustic guitar should be lots of fun, whatever your budget is. We want you to share that happiness with us, so please do visit us at one of our stores or shop with us online, where you’ll find a full and comprehensive range of Alvarez guitars to suit every guitarist.