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Folks, I'll be honest: this guitar has us baffled. We like to think that we've seen it all here at Wildwood, but every once in awhile a guitar like this comes along and throws us for a loop. One of my colleagues picked it up off my bench and strummed a few Gs, Cs, and Ds, and his response captures this guitar's mysterious power perfectly:
"Is this guitar even real? HOW do they make guitars sound like this?!?"
I find myself asking the same question even after playing it for a good twenty minutes! Typically, the word "koa" conjures sunny images: a beach dotted with umbrellas, long-haired dudes surfing big waves, and palm trees. This all-koa H-12 from our esteemed colleagues at Froggy Bottom has that Hawaiian vibe, but it sounds more like Oahu at sunset than Oahu at midday. There's still enough brightness to hear everything clearly, but the light has a warm, burnt-orange tinge to it rather than the typical golden-yellow brightness we associate with smaller-bodied guitars. These sunset trebles illuminate a tropical paradise of rich, woody tone that has absolutely wowed the Wildwood staff, so let's take a closer look at why playing this Froggy Bottom feels like a mini-vacation.
Let's begin at the beginning with the attack! This guitar exhibits koa's characteristic responsiveness to such a degree that playing fast runs feels like blasting down a mountain road in a Ferrari. The timbre of the attack is woody and open-throated until you run out of headroom, at which point you can hear a faint, pleasingly tart bite in the top end.
Speaking of the treble frequencies, this H-12's highs are as sweet as mango juice! They have plenty of harmonic information, but "lush" isn't necessarily a word I'd use to describe their timbre. Perhaps the best way to describe their elusive quality is through metaphor. Imagine going snorkeling in a clear freshwater lake right around when the sun is starting to set. Hearing the high end of this guitar is like looking up at the sky through a pair of goggles from three feet below the waterline. Crystalline, yet dreamy. Clear yet mysterious.
The midrange has koa's signature woodiness, but on a much broader scale than normal. Every part of the midrange frequency spectrum presents itself in a way that's impossible to ignore, though the mids don't necessarily sound forceful. Picture a soft-spoken seven-foot tall bodybuilder that commands all your attention without ever raising his voice, and you'll get a rough idea of how this guitar's mellow, woody midrange still makes your eardrums stand at attention.
Finally, let's talk about the low-end, because it has the sort of timbre that you rarely hear. Because it's a Froggy Bottom, it has far more bass than a concert-bodied guitar should ever have, and I suspect that this is due to witchcraft of some sort. It's warm and chocolate-y, but what makes it special is how focused and articulate it is. How do you build guitars with this much clarity and richness? Perhaps the mystery is part of the fun!
All of this adds up to a guitar with a truly addictive sound. How addictive? Well, as I was fishing up this evaluation, another of my coworkers picked up this guitar and let a chord ring out. "Wow, this thing sustains FOREVER!" he said. I was a bit embarrassed, because I hadn't even tested its sustain because I could not stop playing a thousand notes a second with a stupid grin on my face! Maybe that's this serial's secret: it takes you on a tonal vacation and makes you forget all your worldly cares. The whole Wildwood staff loves this guitar, and we can't wait to see what new, exciting places its spectacular tone carries you off to.