Larrivee koa Parlor guitars

Started by Myopic Squirrel, March 31, 2024, 12:08:26 AM

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Currently interested in a 2001 P-01 koa B/S Sitka top parlor guitar. As a recent convert to mahogany, it's really become my favorite tonewood. How does mahogany compare to koa? I've read it starts out "bright" and then mellows with age - supposedly somewhere between mahogany and rosewood.

Appreciate any owners/players comments re: the sonic qualities. Thank you in advance.

Koa is a very interesting wood, and it's usually poorly described with the generic "between rosewood and mahogany". It has overtones in the higher registers which really come out when it's a top wood, not so much in the back. But, you still get a little of that distinctive koa sparkle. The mids aren't really heavy in overtones but they do have a vocal sort of quality to them.

 Koa varies a lot in density because it grows all over the island, and the upper mountain koa is very hard from growing in the cold and wind. That's the stuff that sometimes gets very "curly". It might also be darker, but not always. Regardless, I've found koa to develop in the low end, with use and with time. I have one guitar that, for the first several years, would sound anemic if it wasn't played all the time. Then, the bass came in an it's always very full and powerful. The brightness doesn't change, just our perception does as having more bass seems less bright to us.

 The vibration behavior is interesting in that it doesn't decay in a steady taper. It has a slow pulsing to it, like a soft delay. Very noticeable in the top, you may it may not hear it in the back.

I'm personally very fond of koa. It's sold on the gimmick of being Hawaiian, beautiful, and rare but it's value goes far beyond that. It's wonderfully musical.
D-09 Brazilian w/ Eagle inlay. D-02-12
Used to own and love; SD-50, J70 maple Mermaid, SD60sbt, D03R, LV03E.

Here is a portion of an old post of mine when the shop UnclRob managed just got the first batch of Larrivee Parlors back around 20 years ago:

"I played the  rosewood, mahogany, maple, koa and all koa parlors. Here's my take: the rosewood is too dark and gets boomy real fast as you increase your attack due to the compression of the small body, the mahogany is nicely balanced but I found a bit strident compared to the maple and koa spruce tops. The maple rings like a bell, is nicely balanced and atriculates well. The bottom has a bit treble sound, but on the smaller body it won't get mushy as you play harder. The flame on many of them are almost reserve grade IMO. The koa is bright on the top, almost like the maple but has a better bottom response like a mahogany and is also well balanced. The all Koa (my guitar) picks up a little more bottom and is not as bright on the top. It is well balanced though and sounds great fingerpicking with a light touch and starts sounding woody and dobro-like as you play harder and the body compresses. (too bad I don't play slide!) Mine has killer looking koa, but I seen the variations in the quality of the grain IMO... but I subsequenly had a chance to test run a walnut parlor and I found the sound to be killer. It has a great bottom response, yet is very balanced with a nice bright top which isn't too harsh."

That was a long time ago so they all should sound even better now.

 (Too bad I gave up my all Koa parlor for a CA Cargo, but I retired and was visiting all the National Parks out West and needed a travel guitar that could withstand the temperatures and the elements without self destructing)
Larrivee LC-10 Koa
Larrivee DV-10 Koa
Composite Acoustics Cargo
UnclRob's Parts Telecaster

Koamon, glad to hear your description of the maple - "rings like a bell, is nicely balanced, and articulates well" as I await a 2015 P-03QM. While unfamiliar with maple I've read that it is balanced. Also read mixed reports re: brightness. Hopefully not too bright, and if so possibly strings to tone it down.

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