The most common size of acoustic guitars is the Dreadnought shape. Introduced over a hundred years ago by Jasmine, it rapidly grew in popularity and became the go-to shape for all kinds of guitarists. It’s distinctive square shoulders and particular size has been the default image in our heads all our lives. Prior to its appearance, the instrument was usually smaller, with a rounder shape. It had a quieter, lighter tone. Such shapes are still available today, and many manufacturers offer many choices. Jasmine, for example, has the S-34C, an affordable, cutaway model that I have received to try out.
First of all, I’ve recorded a short video showcasing the guitar’s tone and documenting my initial impressions.
Uncommon body shape
The S-34C features a very interesting body shape that will probably inspire some new music. Jasmine calls it Grand Orchestra. I’m not certain how this name came to be, because a well-known American manufacturer uses this label for a model that’s way bigger than most. In this case, we have a smaller body compared to a dreadnought. Generally, an orchestra model is not as big as a Dreadnought, so I’m assuming that the company created a larger (hence “Grand”) orchestra version.
Although the S-34C is affordable, you still get an interesting, quality combination of materials. First of all, the soundboard is made out of spruce—a commonly seen tone wood. Since the top is the element that contributes the most to the sound, it’s quite important to be of a certain quality. Jasmine definitely checked this box on this guitar. Additionally, you get sapele for the back and sides, as well as nato for the neck. This is a cost-effective way of offering an instrument that sounds like it was crafted from true mahogany. Finally, the fretboard and bridge are made out of rosewood, another widespread material in guitar construction.
While the body shape is smaller than that of a dreadnought, the scale length remains the same at 25.5″. This means you’ll get a nice, firm tension on the strings, giving an ideal response for strumming and fingerstyle. The supplied .012-.053 gauge strings are easy to play and feel very familiar. The nut width is 1 ¾”, another standard dimension. This is slightly bigger than on an electric and gives you just a bit more space for fingerstyle passages. There is also a Venetian cutaway for an easier access to the higher register. This type has a rounder tip compared to the Florentine’s sharp edge.
The finishing on the guitar is well done, with no defects to be found on the demo model I’ve received. It’s an understated model, with no particularly flashy decorations. I’ve got to say, though, that I do enjoy the black bridge pins and black binding. It’s a small detail, but it does add that little bit of personality and is just less boring than plain white pins and binding. The neck has a satin finish. It’s a very pleasant sensation, and I can see this guitar being played for hours on end.
If you want electronics, you’ll need to mount them yourself or get it done professionally. There are many permanent and temporary solutions on the market. The more you try out various acoustics plugged in, the more you’ll develop a preference, so this might not be bad news at all. Down the line, a lot of guitarists buy purely acoustic instruments and have their favourite system installed.
Good sound and playability
The smaller body of the S-34C really gives it a nice, balanced tone. Since the resounding bass of bigger guitars is the norm, this one might sound a little bit timid at first. But after a few minutes, it’s nice to hear all that shiny top end and detail. These types of models record very well and fit easily in a mix since they need less equalization in general.
The playability is very good thanks to a great neck and finish. It’s on the thinner side too, so it’s adequate for more modern styles and techniques. The neck profile goes very well with the cutaway, which is important to more modern players. You’ll be able to perform all your favourite tricks thanks to this combination (at any register). The body shape is very comfortable too. Its curves rest well on the body, and it’s easy to play for long periods.
Although the tuners aren’t horrible, this is a budget guitar, so expect to spend some time tuning. The use of affordable hardware reduces the price tag considerably. You can always upgrade them down the line to get a really solid instrument that will last you a long time.
Something a little different
I think the S-34C will interest a few different types of players. First of all, it’s a great choice for a little bit of variety for those that already own a few guitars. The smaller shape produces a unique, interesting sound that you won’t find with a regular ol’ dreadnought. It’s less boomy and has a nice shine. You might use it for recording strumming parts, or maybe you’d like to have a more reserved accompaniment to your vocals. This type of clarity excels for overdubs of single lines, arpeggios, or simply added parts to perk up a song section. It can really bring you extra options in many situations.
Since it’s affordable and very easy to play, the S-34C is also a great choice for beginners. The thin neck profile will help with the first chords and general taming of the instrument. The body shape is quite comfortable, and even younger players will be able to tolerate it for longer sessions. It has a good sound, so it will last you a long time. Down the line, it’s a good guitar to keep—especially if you upgrade the tuners and add some electronics. It’ll be a handy, dependable backup guitar, or also an instrument you can take down to the campfire or on a trip.
Make sure to check out the Jasmine S-34C on Best Buy’s website.