Spector’s NS Pulse I 4 and Markbass’ brand-new MB58R Series make for a quality pairing

When I was offered the chance to test drive a couple of cool new products from Spector Bass Guitars and Markbass, I grabbed it with both hands, of course.

Spector’s recent NS Pulse I Series is a couple of steps up from the company’s Legend and Performer ranges. It combines South Korean craftsmanship with a few upmarket features with a couple of very tasty and tactile sandblasted body finishes.

Italy’s Markbass is a bass amp maker known for its lightweight and compact amp heads and speaker cabinets. Markbass’ brand-new MB58R Series (the ”R” stands for ”Revolution”) is centred around a whole range of different speaker cabinets. These cabinets are built in a very unique way, which further helps cut down their weight, and also makes them almost fully recyclable.

Additionally Markbass has introduced a matching new version of their Little Mark amp head, called the Little Mark 58R. The Little Mark 58R sports an eco-friendly composite housing and a new control layout, making the amp even lighter in weight and easier to use.

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The Spector NS Pulse I 4 (current price in Finland: 1,149 €) uses Ned Steinberger’s (yes, he of headless bass fame) original, highly ergonomic curved body design. In the Pulse I Series’ case the body is made of highly figured ash.

The bolt-on neck – using six separate screws and washers – is a three-strip heat-treated maple affair. The Macassar ebony fretboard is home to 24 medium-sized frets.

The Pulse I Series comes in two sandblasted ash finishes:

Our review sample comes in a finish called charcoal grey, which combines a grey body with black wood grain. The second finish is called cinder red, and it sports a black body with red grain.

The headstock sports a matching ash veneer, the famous Stuart Spector Design inlay, and four modern black machine heads.

Spector’s chunky bridge is known as a sustain monster.

The Spector NS Pulse I 4 comes with an active PJ-set from EMG Pickups.

Spector’s Tone Pump Jr. preamp features two individual volume controls – one for each pickup – as well as boost-only controls for bass and treble EQ.

The NS Pulse I 4 is a lightweight bass that fits your body like the proverbial glove, thanks to its gentle body curvature and the additional ribcage chamfer.

The neck feels very slender and fast. The relatively thin, rounded neck profile, combined with the review sample’s excellent set-up, makes for an effortless playing feel. This is definitely a bass guitar that does not stand in your way.

The Spector’s acoustic tone is very woody with a nice bit of top-end sheen. The EMG pickups and Spector’s Tone Pump Jr. preamp offer an excellent range of bass sounds, covering the whole range of musical genres you’d normally play on an electric bass.

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The brand-new Markbass Little Mark 58R (current price in Finland: 612 €) is an eco-friendly, super-lightweight (only 2 kg) 500/300 watts amp head, made especially to complement the company’s MB58R range of speaker cabinets.

Although the Little Mark 58R retains all of the brilliant features of the regular Little Mark – like the four-band EQ with additional, footswitchable ”Mid-Scoop” feature and the ”Old School” control – the layout of the front and back panels has been changed for the 58R model.

All controls and in- and outputs – save for the speaker connectors – have been placed on the front panel for quick and easy access. This makes the front panel more ”busy”, but doesn’t make it feel crammed. Everything is easily accessible and logically placed.

The Little Mark 58R’s fan is more than quiet enough for serious studio use.

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The Markbass MB58 102P (top; 612 €) and MB58 102Pure (bottom; 716 €) share the same revolutionary cabinet construction, but differ in the detailed speaker specifications.

Markbass uses a recyclable and eco-friendly type of polystyrene as the basic material for all its MB58R cabinets.

Make no mistake, this isn’t your bog standard and easy-to-dent styrofoam, but rather something very sturdy, not unlike what the car industry uses to fill front and back bumpers.

The MB58R 102P is the most affordable 2 x 10″ cabinet, sporting a pair of ceramic magnet-driven speakers and a piezo tweeter. It weighs in at just a tad over 12 kilogrammes.

The MB58R 102Pure sports neodymium-powered speakers and a Hi-Fi tweeter. This cabinet weighs only 9.8 kilogrammes.

On both cabinets the middle part of all four sides features a black carpet material. There are large side handles sunk into the cabinets, and both cabinets sport two sets of rubber feet – one set for vertical, and one for horizontal placement.

Both MB58R cabinets tested are rear-ported designs. The back panel comes with a pair of Speakon connectors, and three switches for tweeter attenuation.

In terms of their sound, both the 102P and 102Pure offer that famous Markbass punch, with only small details dividing them. The Markbass MB58R 102P is the slightly more aggressive cabinet of the pair, displaying a relatively neutral sound (in the best possible sense). The MB58R 102Pure retains all of the punch, but adds a more silky top end and more warmth in the low-mids.

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To paraphrase Carlos Santana, the hallmark of high-quality musical equipment is that it doesn’t give you any excuses. If your playing and/or your sound isn’t up to snuff, it isn’t down to your instrument or amp.

In this respect the Spector NS Pulse I 4, the Markbass Little Mark 58R, and the MB58R 102P and 102Pure cabinets pass this review with flying colours.

The Spector NS Pulse plays like a dream and offers a plethora of useable sounds. Paired with any of the two cabinets the Markbass Little Mark 58R offers a fantastic full-range bass sound with all EQ-settings (and the Old School control) in neutral. This means you can use the EQ to fine-tune your sound and/or to deal with problematic frequencies in a venue, and not for masking any possible inherent problems with your rig.

I had so much fun playing the Spector NS Pulse I 4 through the new Markbass rig, that I can only recommend you do the same.

Spector NS Pulse 4 & Markbass MB58R Series – Fingerstyle Demo

Here’s a short demo of the fingerstyle bass sound of a Spector NS Pulse 4 played through a Markbass Little Mark 58R into either a Markbass 58R 102 P cabinet or a Markbass 58R 102 Pure cabinet.
All EQ controls on the Little Mark head were set to neutral. The Old School feature was turned to 11 o’clock.
The demo is based on the ABBA classic ”Dancing Queen”.

Spector NS Pulse 4 Charcoal Grey
• Made in South Korea
• Swamp ash body
• Three-stripe roasted maple neck, bolt on
• Macassar ebony fretboard
• Active EMG PJ set
• Spector Tone Pump Jr preamp

Markbass Little Mark 58R
• Ultralight (2.2 kg) 500 W bass amplifier

Markbass 58R 102 P
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x ceramic speakers plus piezo tweeter

Markbass 58R 102 Pure
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x neodymium speakers plus Hi-Fi tweeter

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• Microphone used: Shure SM7B (mid-boost on)
• Preamp used: Cranborne Audio Camden EC2
• Audio interface used: Universal Audio Volt 2

Spector NS Pulse 4 & Markbass MB58R Series – Plectrum Demo

Here’s a short demo of the plectrum bass sound of a Spector NS Pulse 4 played through a Markbass Little Mark 58R into either a Markbass 58R 102 P cabinet or a Markbass 58R 102 Pure cabinet.
All EQ controls on the Little Mark head were set to neutral. The Old School feature was turned to 11 o’clock.
The demo is based on the Wings classic ”Silly Love Songs”.

Spector NS Pulse 4 Charcoal Grey
• Made in South Korea
• Swamp ash body
• Three-stripe roasted maple neck, bolt on
• Macassar ebony fretboard
• Active EMG PJ set
• Spector Tone Pump Jr preamp

Markbass Little Mark 58R
• Ultralight (2.2 kg) 500 W bass amplifier

Markbass 58R 102 P
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x ceramic speakers plus piezo tweeter

Markbass 58R 102 Pure
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x neodymium speakers plus Hi-Fi tweeter

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• Microphone used: Shure SM7B (mid-boost on)
• Preamp used: Cranborne Audio Camden EC2
• Audio interface used: Universal Audio Volt 2

Spector NS Pulse 4 & Markbass MB58R Series – Slap Demo

Here’s a short demo of the slap bass sound of a Spector NS Pulse 4 played through a Markbass Little Mark 58R into either a Markbass 58R 102 P cabinet or a Markbass 58R 102 Pure cabinet.
All EQ controls on the Little Mark head were set to neutral and the Old School feature was off.
The demo is based on the Level 42 classic ”Running in the Family”.

Spector NS Pulse 4 Charcoal Grey
• Made in South Korea
• Swamp ash body
• Three-stripe roasted maple neck, bolt on
• Macassar ebony fretboard
• Active EMG PJ set
• Spector Tone Pump Jr preamp

Markbass Little Mark 58R
• Ultralight (2.2 kg) 500 W bass amplifier

Markbass 58R 102 P
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x ceramic speakers plus piezo tweeter

Markbass 58R 102 Pure
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x neodymium speakers plus Hi-Fi tweeter

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• Microphone used: Shure SM7B (mid-boost on)
• Preamp used: Cranborne Audio Camden EC2
• Audio interface used: Universal Audio Volt 2

Testipenkissä: Esteve Organic Eco-Series Jucar ja Segura

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Esteven uudet Segura- (vasemmalla) ja Jucar-mallit (oikealla)

Jostain syystä me kitaristit olemme yllättävän vanhanaikaisia, mitä tulee työkaluihimme sopiviin puulajeihin. Tämä perinnetietoisuus on erityisen totta, kun puhutaan kitaraperheen vanhimmasta jäsenestä – klassisesta kitarasta. Meidän silmissä ”kunnon klassisessa kitarassa” pitää olla Etelä-Amerikkalainen mahonki- tai ”espanjalainen” seetrikaula, eebenpuinen otelauta (ja talla), kuusi- tai seetrikansi, sekä sivut ja pohja ruusupuusta.

Valitettavasti osa näistä perinteisistä materiaaleista hupenevat kasvavalla vauhdilla, ja osa näistä puulajeista alkaa olla jopa uhattuna. Vaikka monet syyt tähän kehitykseen eivät ole kitarateollisuuden aiheuttamia, kitaristit loppujen lopuksi maksavat isomman hinnan harvinaisista puulajeista, ja esim. jonkun lajin CITES-merkintä tarkoittaa paperisotaa ulkomaihin suuntaaville keikkaileville muusikoille.

Onneksi monet kitaranvalmistajat ovat ottaneet muuttuneiden aikojen haasteet aktiivisesti vastaan. Jatkuvasti kasvava ryhmä brändejä tarjoaa nykyään klassisia kitaroita uusista, ei-uhatuista ja/tai kestävästi viljellyistä puulajeista.

Yksi todella hyvä esimerkki on perinteinen espanjalainen kitaranvalmistaja Guitarras Esteve. Firman upouuteen Organic Eco -sarjaan kuuluu kolme käsintehtyä klassista mallia, jotka on tehty perinteisin menetelmin yhtiön pajassa Valenciassa, ei-perinteisiä puulajeja käyttäen. Loppusilauksen uudelle mallistolle antaa Esteven uusi ympäristöystävällinen vesiohenteinen mattaviimeistely.

Meillä oli mahdollisuus testata kahta uutta Esteve-kitaraa:

Esteve Jucar (679 €) on kokopuisella kannella varustettu soitin, kun taas Esteve Segura -malli (895 €) on kokonaan kokopuusta veistetty klassinen kitara.

Esteve Jucar

Esteve Segura

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Ekologiseen teemaan sopivaksi Esteven Organic-uutuussoittimet on nimetty kolmen Valencian alueen läpi virtaavan joen mukaan.

Jucarin kokopuinen kansi on tehty seetristä, mikä on tämän mallin ainoa perinteinen puuvalinta.

Kaikukopan sivut ja pohja ovat metsälehmusta, joka on varsin yleinen puulaji Euroopassa. Koska luonnollisesti kermanvaalea koppa olisi ehkä näyttänyt liian erikoiselta, on Esteve Jucar -mallissa lehmusvaneri saanut ylleen pähkinäruskean petsauksen.

Kitaran kaula on veistetty okumesta, jota käytetään usein afrikkalaisen mahongin korvaajana.

Uusi Esteve Segura on seetrikannella varustettu kokonaan kokopuinen klassinen kitara muusikoille ystävällisellä hinnalla.

Seguran sivuihin ja pohjaan on käytetty ovangkolia, joka on afrikkalainen ruusupuun sukulainen.

Kaulapuuksi on valittu tässä khaya ivorensis, toinen yleinen mahongin korvaaja Afrikasta.

Kuva: Guitarras Esteve

Kuten mainitsin jo jutun alussa, perinteestä poikkeavista puulajeista huolimatta, Organic Eco -kitaroiden perusrakenne on hyvinkin perinteinen. Aidossa espanjalaisessa kitarassa kaulaliitos on koko prosesssin alku ja keskipiste.

Kitaran kaulaa ei tässä menetelmässä liimata valmiin kopan erilliseen kaulablokkiin rakentamisen loppuvaiheessa, niin kuin monissa muissa akustisissa kitaroissa. Estevellä käytetään sen sijaan ns. espanjalaista korkoa (Spanish Heel), jossa koko kaikukoppa – sivut, pohja ja kansi – liimataan kiinni suoraan kaulaan, mikä mahdollistaa – ainakin teoriassa – paremman värähtelyjen siirron soittimen läpi.

Ehkä silmiinpistävä merkki Organic-sarjan erilaisuudesta on näiden soittimien erinäköiset otelaudat ja tallat. Eebenpuun tai ruusupuun sijasta Jucarissa ja Segurassa käytetään wengeä, joka on hyvin eloisia syykuvioita omaava afrikkalainen puulaji.

Esteve tekee tämän sarjan satulat ja tallaluut aidosta naudanluusta.

Nykyään nähdään monissa edullisissa klassisissa kitaroissa liimatarralla toteutettuja rosetteja. Näissä keskihintaisissa Esteveissä käytetään kuitenkin aitoja, erivärisistä puista kasattuja rosetteja.

Jucarissa löytyy vaaleampi versio…

…kun taas Seguran kaikuaukon koristus on hieman värikkäämpi.

Molempiin malleihin asennetaan tehtaalla laadukkaita Savarez-kieliä Ranskasta.

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Sekä Esteven Jucar- että Segura-mallissa löytyy satulan kohdalla muutamaa milliä perinteistä kapeampi kaulaprofiili. Paperilla muutos vaikuttaa hyvin pieneltä, mutta kapeampi kaula tuntuu selkeästi helpommalta soittaa. Kaulan profiili sinänsä pysyy kuitenkin vankasti perinteisenä – profiili on suhteellisen matala ja sen hartiat melko kulmikkaat.

Koska kaikki Organic-kitarat tehdään käsityönä, on selvää että yksilöiden välillä esiintyy pieniä eroavaisuuksia kaulojen tuntumissa ja soittimien säädöissä.

Testissä käyneen Esteve Jucarin kaula on hieman Seguran vastinetta matalampi. Kaula tuntuu myös pysyvän lähes samanpaksuisena koko matkan runkoa kohti.

Testiyksilön säädöt olivat suoraan paketista erittäin mukavat (basso-E: 3,1 mm; diskantti-e: 2,7 mm), ilman rajoitteita soittimen dynamiikalle taikka minkäänlaista räminää.

Jostain kumman syystä pidän Jucarin eloisesta, ruskeasta lehmusvanerikopasta pikkasen enemmän kuin Seguran vihertävästä, mutta kokopuisesta ovangkolista.

Esteve Jucarin ääni on iso ja selkeä, ja tarjolla on vaneripohjaiseksi klassiseksi kitaraksi yllättävän iso dynaaminen spektri. Alamidlessä on Jucarin soundissa pieni korostus, joka paksuntaa kitaran botnea oikein mukavalla tavalla.

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Testissä käyneen Esteve Seguran kaula taas alkaa jo yläsatulan kohdalla hivenen paksumpana, kun vertailee Jucariin. Kaulaan tulee myös hiukan enemmän paksuutta runkoa kohti mentäessä.

Myös Seguran säädöissä ei todellakaan ole valittamiseen varaa (basso-E: 3,7 mm; diskantti-e: 3,1 mm), minkä ansiosta soittaja pystyy hyödyntämään tämän kitaran suuria volyymi- ja dynamiikkavaroja sydämensä kyllyydestä.

On lähes uskomatonta, miten vapaasti nämä Estevet hengittävät. Veikkaisin että tämä on seuraus huolellisesta työnjäljestä, sekä Organic Eco -kitaroiden erittäin ohuesta viimeistelystä. Tämä kaksikko haluaa musisoida sinun kanssasi. Tässä ei tarvitse tehdä ylimääräistä työtä saadakseen kitarat soimaan.

On minusta aina hyvin opettavaista, kun voi vertailla kahta hyvinkin samantyyppistä soitinta. Kokopuisella kannella varustettu Jucar on kyllä todella hieno kitara, joka tarjoaa roimasti vastinetta rahallesi, mutta kokonaan kokopuusta veistetty Segura on soundiltaan ja dynamiikaltaan selvästi vielä pari askelta Jucaria edellä.

Esteve Segura -mallista löytyy iso ja dynaaminen soundi, hyvällä kokopuiselle klassiselle ominaisella laajennetulla bassotoistolla.

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Minusta on hieno nähdä miten luovasti tällainen perinteinen kitarabrändi kuin Esteve vastaa haasteeseen löytää uusia ja laadukkaita vaihtoehtoja perinteisille soittopuille.

Minun mielestäni firman uudet Organic Eco -sarjalaiset tarjoavat juuri sen oikean sekoituksen perinteistä espanjalaista kitaranrakentamista, ekologisesti kestäviä puulajeja ja nykyaikaisia, ympäristölle vaarattomia viimeistelyjä.

Esteve Jucar- ja Segura-mallit tuovat klassisia eko-kitaroita boutique- ja custom-pajoilta tavalliseen muusikon ulottuville. Ekologisen valinnan tekeminen kitaraostoksessa ei ole koskaan ollut niin helppo ja edullinen.

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Esteve Organic Eco-Series Jucar ja Segura

Ekologisesti kestävät klassiset kitarat

Esteve Jucar: 679 €

Esteve Segura: 895 €

Maahantuoja: Musiikki Silfverberg

Suuret kiitokset Vantaan Musiikille testisoittimien lainaamisesta!

Plussat (molemmat kitarat):

+ konsepti

+ materiaalit

+ työnjälki

+ soitettavuus

+ soundiSave

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Review: Esteve Organic Eco-Series Jucar & Segura

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The new Esteve Segura (left) and Jucar (right) models

Many of us guitarists are surprisingly old-fashioned, when it comes to the choices of timber used in our instruments. This is especially true for the oldest and most traditional of guitar instruments – the classical guitar. We tend to automatically associate South American mahogany and so-called ”Spanish” cedar necks, ebony fingerboards and bridges, spruce or cedar tops, and rosewood rims and backs with quality and traditional guitar-making.

Some of these legendary materials are becoming scarce, some even teetering on the brink of being seriously endangered. Even though the reasons for this are mostly not the fault of instrument makers, scarcity does raise material prices, and CITES inclusions make the exporting of and/or the travelling with such instruments a bureaucratic nightmare.

Luckily, an ever-increasing number of guitar manufacturers are reacting to these developments by introducing environmentally friendly alternatives using non-traditional wood species.

One very good example is the traditional Spanish guitar company Guitarras Esteve, whose brand-new Organic Eco-Series introduces three classical guitar models that are handcrafted using traditional methods in their Valencia workshop, but who feature innovative wood choices. The icing on the new series’ proverbial cake is Esteve’s new, environmentally friendly water-based open-pore finish.

That was more than reason enough for us at Kitarablogi.com to take two of the new Esteves for a spin. The Esteve Jucar (679 €) is a solid-top instrument, while the Esteve Segura (895 €) is an all-solid classical guitar.

Esteve Jucar

Esteve Segura

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Fitting the ecological theme, Esteve has chosen to name its three Organic models after three scenic rivers that run through Spain’s south-eastern parts, near the Valencia region.

The Jucar has a solid top made from cedar, which is one of the traditional features of the instrument.

The back and sides are made from small-leaved lime (tilia cordata), which is a tree that grows abundantly in most parts of Europe. To give the Esteve Jucar a traditional look the lime plywood has been dyed a rich brown hue.

The neck has been crafted from an African mahogany substitute called okoume, which is found increasingly in many new acoustic string instruments.

The Esteve Segura is a very competitively-priced, all-solid classical guitar, which is also built with a cedar top.

The Segura’s back and sides are made from ovangkol, an African relative of rosewood. The neck has been carved from khaya, another proven alternative to genuine mahogany.

Photo courtesy of Guitarras Esteve.

As already mentioned in the introduction, the basic construction of the Organic Eco-Series follows Spanish guitar-making tradition, by making the neck joint the pivotal point of the whole building process.

The guitar’s neck isn’t glued into a neck block inside the glued body, almost at the end of the building process, like you see in many other acoustic guitars. Instead Esteve apply the Spanish Heel construction technique that glues the whole soundbox – top, back and rims – straight to the neck itself for superior vibrational transfer.

The most obvious sign that the Organic Series is using non-standard wood types is the look of the bridges and fingerboards. Instead of ebony or rosewood, both the Jucar and the Segura use wenge, a very hard and very lively looking African wood.

Esteve uses genuine bovine bone for the nuts and bridge saddles on both guitars.

While many entry-level nylon-string guitars these days sport stuck-on rosette decals, the soundholes on these mid-priced Esteves are adorned with genuine coloured wood inlays.

Here’s the rosette on the Jucar…

…and this is what the Segura’s rosette looks like.

Both models come factory-equipped with high-quality Savarez strings from France.

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The Esteve Jucar and Segura both feature necks whose nut width has been toned down by a couple of millimetres. This might not seem much, but it makes the instruments noticeably easier to play. The neck profile, on the other hand, stays traditional, which means rather flat and slightly angular.

The amount of handwork going into the Organic guitars is noticeable in subtle individual differences in the feel of the necks, and in the set-up of the guitars.

Our review sample of the Esteve Jucar has a slightly flatter neck than the Segura. The neck also gains only a very little thickness going up towards the body.

The set-up is very comfortable (low E: 3.1 mm; high e: 2.7 mm), while offering a wide dynamic range without any fret buzz.

For some strange reason I prefer the lively look and brown hue of the Jucar’s lime body over the slight greenish tint of the all-solid ovangkol found on the Segura.

The Esteve Jucar has a clear and loud voice, and it offers a surprising amount of dynamic range for a classical guitar with plywood rims and back. There’s a slight, but very pleasant, low-mid bump that nicely fills out the Jucar’s bottom range.

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The neck on our sample of the Esteve Segura starts out with a tad more thickness at the nut, compared to the Jucar. It also gains a slight bit of additional girth on its way towards the neck heel.

The Segura’s set-up is also excellent (low E: 3.7 mm; high e: 3.1 mm), making it possible to take full advantage of the instrument’s wide dynamic range without any annoying fret buzz.

I just love the way both of these Esteves seem to breathe. This is quite likely the combination of quality workmanship and the new ecologically sound, ultra-thin finish. These new Organic Eco-guitars seem to want to make music with you willingly, you never get a sense that you have to fight and conquer the guitar.

It is always very educational, when you get to compare very similarly built guitars. The solid-top Jucar is a great guitar, offering exceptional value for the money, but the all-solid Segura clearly takes things up one notch further.

The Esteve Segura displays a big and dynamic sound, with the added volume and expanded low end that only a well-made all-solid classical guitar can offer.

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It is great to see such a traditional guitar maker as Esteve take on the challenge to come up with high-quality alternatives to long-established wood choices.

In my view the new Organic Eco-Series models feature the right combination of traditional Spanish luthiery, ecologically-sustainable wood choices and modern non-hazardous finishes.

The Esteve Jucar and Segura take eco-friendly guitar-making out of the realm of the boutique builder or custom shop, making such instruments affordable to a much wider clientele, without compromising their playability or sound one iota.

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Esteve Organic Eco-Series Jucar & Segura

Ecologically sustainable classical guitars

Esteve Jucar, current price in Finland: 679 €

Esteve Segura, current price in Finland: 895 €

Finnish Distributor: Musiikki Silfverberg

A big thank you to Vantaan Musiikki for the kind loan of the review instruments!

Pros (both models):

+ concept

+ materials

+ workmanship

+ playability

+ soundSave

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