True Colours: Three Grand Auditorium models from the Czech Republic manufacturer’s catalogue
Three Grand Auditorium models from the Czech Republic manufacturer’s catalogue, with price points varying from entry level to top end. What’s the difference? Let’s find out…
After last month’s deep dive into the goings-on at Furch, which saw editor Jamie head off to Eastern Europe to visit the company’s workshops, we thought it would be a grand idea to supplement that feature with a look at a trio of the company’s guitars. The rumble that the Czech company began years ago when its instruments first began finding their way into the UK’s acoustic fraternity has since become something of a roar. We’ve had our eyes on Furch’s guitars for many moons and have taken every opportunity to pick one up whenever possible. Quality across the board has always been very high and remarkably consistent, and we’ve tipped them as a big- name-in-waiting in the acoustic world.
If you click over to the Furch website, you’ll see the catalogue is large and colourful – and quite literally so, as Furch names its ranges after colours. Thinking how to best present a cross-section of the wares it offers, we settled upon the idea of taking a single body shape – the Grand Auditorium – and looking at models from three different price-brackets. The Violet range is what Furch refers to as its most affordable and a good, no-frills entrée into the brand. The Yellow series sits in the middle, price-wise, and it’s here that the technological advances that Furch has made really begin to come to the fore. Lastly, we have a representative from the Red range that sees instruments at master- grade level, using premium body woods and luxury appointments. Why did we choose the Grand Auditorium body shape in particular? Well, this is one of the most popular body sizes among players and sits alongside the OM as being both a comfy chair-companion at home and a reliable buddy on stage. Despite the body size and shape being static across our three models, body woods and other furnishings differ, reflecting each guitar’s price tag.
So, let’s take a look at them one at a time, beginning with the Violet Gc-SM. Opening the Violet’s case, it’s obvious which end of the price-scale we’re witnessing. Finished in open pore – Furch tells us this is a “very thin layer of our varnish” – the Gc-SM is plain. That’s not a criticism. On the contrary, we’re thinking more basic and functional, as the workmanship looks tip-top from the start. In terms of timbers we have a Grade A Sitka spruce top backed with African mahogany; these are both very established woods that have been used on acoustic guitars for decades. The mahogany for the neck shares the same birthplace as the back and sides, and the fingerboard is ebony with no position markers (apart from along the neck’s edge) and, along with the black Tusq nut and string saddle, gives the guitar an almost monochrome appearance. It might be basic, but it’s a looker, put it that way. Also, along for the ride, is a pickup system – a side-mounted LR Baggs Stagepro Element, no less: the Violet is stage-ready fresh out of the box.
The next case is home to the Yellow Deluxe Gc-SR, the last two letters indicating a spruce top with rosewood back and sides. We reviewed a Grand Concert model from the Furch Yellow series back in issue 486, and were very impressed. That guitar scored 9/10 and inspired us to comment that it was, “a quality build with a distinctive, contemporary sound”. This Grand Auditorium has a Sitka top – this time a AAA Grade – with Indian rosewood back and sides, and boasts a full high-gloss finish and other upgraded refinements like Gotoh 510 tuners and pearl inlays. Apart from that, we have the same African mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard as before. Making their first appearance in the line there are 3D-printed side and back comfort- bevels – that’s one under the player’s right arm on the upper bout and a belly-cut like the ones you see on a Strat (only smaller). You’d have to go forensically deep to realise this isn’t wood, the 3D-printing process cutting costs and time at the workbench. It’s also worth mentioning that Furch will accommodate players who like either a thinner or fatter fretboard, on demand, in the upper reaches of the catalogue. Here we have what has become a new standard width of 45mm, but this model is also available with either 43mm or 48mm. You also get a hard case with this guitar. Sadly, the poor old Violet comes without either a hard case or a gigbag, both of which are available as extras.
Last, in our case-opening ceremony is the pièce de résistance, the Red Deluxe Gc-SR. The price here – around £4.4k, according to the Euro to Pound exchange rate at time of writing – indicates we are now entering the pro league and that is reflected with the onboard refinements. Check out the Roman numeral position markers on the figured ziricote fretboard, for instance. Then there’s the abalone trim and koa bevels, not to mention the koa rosette and ziricote bridge. All this aside, at its core, the Red has very similar body woods to the Yellow Deluxe, except that now we have master-grade Indian rosewood for the back and sides and similarly high-spec Sitka spruce for the top. It’s like we’ve moved beyond fifth gear and entered turbo overdrive in terms of materials. Can we expect Formula 1 performance from the Red Team? Let’s see.
Feel & Sounds
Before we reach the headier heights of the Yellow and Red members of the trio, we’ll return to the Violet and see what it has to say for itself. In fact, we were in for a pleasant surprise when we began to explore the Gc-SM’s charms. The open-pore finish feels good under the hands and the neck was especially welcoming. One thing we did notice – and this stands for all three models here – was a slight tendency towards neck- heaviness. It’s hard to tell if Furch’s clever CNR neck joint and reinforcement adds a shade of extra bulk but it’s not off-putting and after a short time we hardly noticed it, but it’s worthy of note all the same. Sound-wise the Violet was nothing short of delightful. Bright, airy and snappy in all the right places, it sings the song that contemporary players demand. There’s no need for fat midrange and boomy bass with modern PA systems – engineers will often reach for the EQ if they come across it in the studio or live stage anyway – and so what’s present here is optimal. The audio spectrum as a whole is represented well and we ended up spending more time with the Violet than we did with its companions. Factor in the LR Baggs pickup performing splendidly and we really felt this guitar represented the complete package. The other two models both come without pickups and Furch offers the choice between various LR Baggs systems, but this will, of course, add to the cost. Next in line, the Yellow gave us an audible upturn in terms of sound. Playability was enhanced with the side and back bevels and the high-gloss finish adds a touch of class. The sound is richer and more complex – undoubtedly due to the presence of rosewood as opposed to the Violet’s mahogany – although, if we were going to be picky we’d say the action was a smidge too high for our taste. This is possibly due to the fact that the Yellow has travelled across Europe to reach us and might have been slightly knocked off-kilter somewhere along the way. Its two travel companions are spot- on, action-wise.
Last, but certainly not least, the Red is every bit as luxurious in terms of sound as it is in appearance. Most remarkable is the sustain – chords seem to ring for ages and are more complex in overtones, those master-grade tonewoods singing in perfect harmony. It’s a comfortable ride, too, as the neck profile – described as a “Furch Soft V” – feels very accommodating in the hand.
Obviously, we were charmed by all three Furch acoustics here and comparing similar models across the range shows us clearly what upgrades – in terms of build and sound quality – we can expect as the price-point rises. As we’ve said, the Violet is a delight and coped admirably with every style we threw its way. It’s a guitar we’d be pleased to have with us on stage. The Yellow is richer and more complex tonally and the Red is everything you’d expect from a top-end instrument with a sumptuous sound and almost everlasting sustain. Can we pick a winner? Well, the Violet remained in our hearts long after the cases were closed. If you’re looking for a high- quality, top-spec instrument, immerse yourself in the different hues available from Furch – it’s a colour-rich experience.