Magazine: Akustik Gitarre 01/2021 | Author: Jens Hausmann
Christian Stoll offers an impressive spectrum of the most diverse designs. His guitar building fathoms his own style between tradition and contemporary style. We review a scaled-down custom model of his popular Ambition Fingerstyle.
This Ambition Fingerstyle Custom was built as a parallel instrument to a customer order. A 630 mm scale length was ordered with a correspondingly smaller body and without the regular slotted headstock. What at first glance looks like a dreadnought with a classical guitar waist, actually amounts to approximately OM volume.
Especially with smaller models, the optimal bridge position is essential. Christian Stoll places the neck almost exactly in the middle between the sides and the sound hole by placing the transition on the 13th fret - this also makes it easier to reach the higher registers even without a cutaway. For comparison, the bridge of American OM models divides the surface about a third below the sound hole.
Stoll Guitars only uses solid woods. The standard model comes with Rosewood, while the tonewood selection of this custom guitar has other special features: For one thing, the body is made of Laurel, whose very attractive grain looks like a mixture of Rosewood and Walnut. In terms of sound, Laurel is also said to be close to Rosewood with a lively richness of brilliant overtones. This harmonises wonderfully with the also not so often used Lutz Spruce as top wood. Similar to Sitka Spruce, it tends a little more towards Adirondack in tone separation and clear trebles. The medium jumbo frets are particularly pleasing, including fretboard extension, 20 in number.
The material and construction of the neck are clearly inspired by classical lutherie: Spanish Cedar with an Ebony fingerboard was used. Stoll also makes steel-string guitars with Spanish heel construction, where the top is glued to the neck in the first step and then the body with sides and back is built, instead of making the body and neck separately and assembling them at the end. This promotes sustain and better vibration behaviour as a whole in the finished instrument. The truss rod is accessible from the sound hole. The lower string tension due to the shorter scale length also favours the balance between stability and vibrancy in favour of the sound behaviour. The instrument is equipped with its own X-bracing optimised for fingerstyle, and the pre-tension induced by the arched top and back supports fast response even more.Sustainability and the avoidance of plastic are part of the Stoll philosophy; this is consistently implemented with decorative maple purfling on the top and body as well as Ebony for bridge pins and machine head buttons on the smooth-running, gold-plated Gotoh 510 machine heads. The nut and bridge inlay are of course made of bone. This approach is continued with the wafer-thin, silk-gloss nitrocellulose finish. All in all, the flawless workmanship down to the last detail suggests lovingly executed and expert craftsmanship. The design is rounded off by the mother-of-pearl rosette and the S-logo on the Ebony headstock; discreet dots for orientation on the fingerboard are only needed on the sides.
Handling and Sound
What immediately pleases is the outstanding playability: optimally tuned for effortless fingerstyle playing, the string action is also high enough for dynamic attack. The neck has the optimal nut width of 45 millimetres, the strings are light Elixir Nanoweb 0.11; nevertheless, the sound is rich and solid.
The response and sensitivity are absolutely inspiring; even the smallest variations in attack are easily reproduced in a wealth of tone colours and rich dynamics. This allows nuances that one is more accustomed to with classical guitars. The balance between an elegantly present fundamental tone with fresh overtones on the one hand and a singing treble with solid, supporting highs in melody playing and warm, dry basses on the other hand is excellently achieved.
Even if you approach the scaled-down dreadnought with a plectrum, it attests to this when it comes to flat picking for song accompaniment with a percussive-direct and slightly woody sound, asserts itself potently on single-note lines and generally reacts extremely musically. Bluegrass friends and power strummers would, of course, be better off with larger instruments and a longer scale for tougher tone, more pressure and volume.
When you hear the term custom, you might think of unattainably exquisite instruments, but Christian Stoll actually always works at custom shop level, because apart from small series, the design, materials and construction are usually personalised directly to the customer. Even though our test instrument may seem special in its features, it shows just how precisely you can have your dream guitar tailored.
With the scaled-down Ambition Fingerstyle Custom model with the neck transition set at 13th fret, Christian Stoll gives an excellent business card in terms of his craftsmanship and competence. Anyone looking for a fingerstyle steelstring and possibly even coming from classical guitar should consider a personal visit to Stoll's workshop.
|Guitar tested:||Ambition Fingerstyle 13-frets|
|Download PDF (german):||Testbericht Akustik Gitarre 01-21 Stoll Ambition Fingerstyle 13 Bund Laurel|
|More:||Ambition Fingerstyle Standard
aspects of neck transition