What is an Alvarez Masterworks Guitar?
Published on 11 December 2023
Alvarez are a brand you’ll probably be aware of, if you’re a regular to guitarguitar. We’ve been fans for years, mainly because they make guitars that are easy to sell due to being consistently ‘best in class’. Indeed, it’s difficult to compete with their value and innovation, particularly in the areas where it counts the most: with the timbers and construction.
We’re constantly impressed, and that’s why today I’d like to go a little bit deeper into the Masterworks series. If you’ve ever wondered what this sub brand is all about, this is the blog for you!
The first thing to know about Alvarez Masterwork guitars is that they are made from all-solid timbers. The top, back and sides are all quality tonewoods, which will vibrate and resonate more freely than laminated construction.
Solid timbers immediately sound better, and will actually improve in tone as the instrument ‘seasons’. This means, the more you play the guitar, the better sounding it gets. That’s a pretty significant factor to bear in mind when choosing your next acoustic guitar.
Talking about timber, the actual quality of some of these woods is impressive, particularly when you factor in the cost of the guitar. Take the Alvarez MD70EBG, for example. It uses that world-famous combination of spruce and rosewood to deliver a timeless, perfect dreadnought tone, and the spruce is actually AAA grade Sitka spruce! This is a timber normally reserved for much more expensive guitars. It’s a great thing to see such quality included at this price point.
The Alvarez Masterworks range takes advantage of the company’s unceasing appetite for innovation. Some of this comes from the mind of early collaborator Kasuo Yairi, who developed new concepts such as the bi-level bridge, which exerts more tension over the saddles, creating a more energetic, better sound.
Certain models have arm rests sculpted into their bodies, a beautiful and practical addition which is often created with a luxurious timber such as ebony. Back bevels are also carved into some Masterworks guitars, allowing for even more comfort.
As you’ll have noticed, these innovations are all very player-centric: they improve the experience of using the instrument, and aren’t merely decorative. That said, since all Alvarez Masterwork guitars use high grade timbers and beautiful finishes, the guitars are stunning to look at.
Speaking of finishes, many of these guitars feature a 50/50 semi gloss finish on the neck, another innovation designed to subtly allow the player’s hand to more freely glide up and down the neck.
Finally, the inner bracing is something that has been continually refined, too. The current FS6 bracing uses a forward shifted design that puts the traditional ‘X’- shaped brace closer to the soundhole, thereby increasing the freedom of vibration within the soundboard. For guitarists, this means a more open, lively tone with greater dynamic space. In other words, it sounds great and your performances will have more expressions and emotion!
Alvarez Masterworks vs Alvarez Artist
Both are made in China and inspected/set up in St Louis, Missouri. Both feature innovations like the bi-lvel bridge and both use good quality LR Baggs pickup systems (though not necessarily the same systems).
The big difference, therefore, is in those solid timbers. The Artist Series have solid tops, which is the industry standard compromise to create a great sounding guitar at a cut-down price. As we know, the top, or soundboard, is the part that does most of the ‘heavy lifting’ when it comes to tone creation. Everything plays its part - don’t get me wrong - but the soundboard is the most significant factor. A solid top will sound better than a plywood top, and a solid top will season and improve in tone throughout its life.
We’ve covered this already, but since Alvarez Masterworks guitars are built from completely solid wood, the stuff I just said about the solid top will all apply, but even more so. When a guitar is all-solid, everything vibrates more, which gives you a richer, more dynamic and responsive sound.
On top of that, the wood itself is of a higher grade, quite obviously so in some cases. AAA Sitka Spruce is one of the all-time best timbers for soundboards, so its appearance on some of these Masterworks instruments is seriously impressive.
For me, Alvarez Masterworks guitars are like premium guitars that cost ‘player guitar’ money. By that I mean that you can enjoy all of the top tonewoods, the thoughtful R&D and the top grade hardware and construction, but without having to pay many thousands of pounds as you’d do with the big brands. Undoubtedly, Alvarez has an underdog status that will appeal to many a musician, not least because it’s a refreshing thing to pay sensible amounts of cash and get something back that’s great.
Moreover, there’s less of the ‘these are really good for the money’ opinion here than just straight up ‘these are really good’, without even bringing their ultra-competitive pricing into the conversation.
Professional, Solid Wood Guitars
Alvarez Masterworks guitars are gig-ready, pro-level instruments that use better quality timbers alongside innovative research and design-led build & quality control. This all translates as a line of guitars hitting the hangars of your local guitarguitar that punch firmly above their weight class.
It’s not exactly a trade secret that loads of players love a dreadnought that’s made with a solid spruce top and body made from solid rosewood. It’s a classic thing, and these days, most brands will offer something like this. I’d say to try a few examples - including one that’s beyond what you’re budgeting for and one far below - and see how the Alvarez compares? For this particular requirement (spruce and rosewood in a dreadnought), it would be the MD70EBG that you’d want to select, but the principle remains the same across the ranges.
Pro players who are looking for top quality instruments that can hack it on the road already know the value in Alvarez masterwork guitars.
Who Might Play an Alvarez Masterworks Guitar?
Who else might play an Alvarez Masterworks guitar? These people spring to mind:
- Regularly gigging players who want reliable, good quality gear
- Pro players with museum-piece guitars at home and don’t want to risk them on the road
- Intermediate players looking to purchase an instrument that’s a proper step up in terms of quality.
- Pro players on a budget, who don’t need the ‘name’ but won’t compromise on sound or build
- Giggers who need an additional guitar for an altered tuning/specific song/whatever.
- A hobbyist who wants the biggest price/performance differential that exists.
- A player who wants to sound like a million bucks but who might not have a million bucks!
- Any musician looking for tone, performance and quality first.
These are just some of the people who will gravitate towards the Alvarez Masterworks series. If any of those reasons resonate with you, then it sounds to me like you might appreciate a good, long play on a selection of Alvarez Masterworks guitars. Browse our full selection online, and then get yourself into your nearest guitarguitar as soon as you can. You pick out the models you want to try, and we’ll get the kettle on.