Hands-On Review:Aria Parlor Guitars: AP-STD and AP-STD-II
Small bodies, big tone
By Jon Chappell
Senior Editor Harmony Central
Aria has been making acoustic guitars since the 1950s and are renowned for their excellent build quality and superb fit and finish. The company has always managed to price their instruments competitively too, offering great value for expertly crafted, moderately priced guitars. The new Parlor series honors that tradition by presenting two gorgeous models, theand the . Both offer the same stunning sound and flawless workmanship, differing only slightly in their aesthetics and appeal.
The parlor guitar is, historically, a smaller-bodied instrument, meant to be played in more intimate settings. The parlor body style is more closely related to the traditional guitar shapes of the models referred to by various manufacturers as "orchestra," "grand auditorium," and "grand concert" in contrast to the bigger (and, in my opinion, less guitar-like) dreadnought and jumbo shapes.
Actually, when compared with these other guitars, the Aria Parlors don't really look that small. For one thing, the scale length is a standard 25-1/2" so the strings retain good tension and the same-size frets feel as immediately familiar to your left hand as those used on more common models. You can easily employ dropped and alternate tunings on these guitars without the strings becoming flabby or uncontrollable.
The common touch
Both theand the feature the same smaller-bodied, slim shape that is reminiscent of the parlor guitars of yore, making them very comfortable to play. Either of these would be an excellent choice for children, women, and men of smaller stature or with small hands, but they are also very accommodating for average-sized adult men, too. Because Aria's Parlors feature 14 frets above the body and a standard scale length, you lose nothing in playability when compared to a more conventionally sized guitar. What is different is that the slightly smaller body produces a full sound at lower volumes. You don't need to smack these instruments very hard to get their tops moving and the tone singing.
Both guitars feature an ornate (yet tasteful) floral inlay pattern on the headstock. Both share the same construction with a solid top (red cedar or spruce), a mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, and laminated mahogany back and sides. I like this combination of solid and laminate construction; the solid top is where the tone comes from, and the back and sides are merely there to support the top, provide structural rigidity, and bounce the sound in the box back through the top. For these purposes, laminate construction is just as strong as a solid wood, if not stronger, and it's a lot cheaper. Aria strikes the perfect blend of quality and economics here.
If you're recording, a parlor is an excellent choice because you don't need to worry about cutting through the band to be heard. (Before microphones and onboard pickups, the only way to make a guitar louder on the bandstand was to make it bigger.) Having said that, theand project extremely well. I was pleasantly surprised at that initial moment when I took them out of the case. I strummed them simply to check their tuning after shipping and was shocked by how loud they were. Playing them in rehearsal, performance, and recording settings proved how versatile they were: they produced a balanced, full sound when I banged on them onstage, and they recorded sweetly when close-miked and played gently, the chiming highs singing through.
Of the two available Parlor models, theis Aria's more traditional, or historical, version, featuring a slotted headstock, a solid spruce top in natural or brown burst finishes, and a classic circular rosette design. Despite having a slotted headstock, the neck joins the body at the 14th fret, not at the 12th, as many slotted instruments do. This makes the guitar's upper frets more accessible, allowing you to play a full octave.
The neck and body are bound in white with the body featuring a thin, 3-ply scheme. The rosewood bridge on theis a compact rectangle that supports a compensated saddle and has white bridge pins with black center dots. I like the look of this guitar: it's classic-looking but not dull, and the rosette has an understated elegance to it with a colorful but subtle abalone-like material in the center ring.
If your tastes run a little more toward the modern side, you will love the, Aria's more au courant take on the parlor model. The headstock is solid—as are most headstocks on today's acoustics—which puts the tuners on the back and the string posts sticking through the top, where they facilitate quick string changes. The most striking aspect of the STD initially, though, is its top—a solid red cedar in a gorgeous, aged honey-brown finish. Complementing the top are the similarly colored neck and body binding, including the neck heel cap (a nice touch!). The rosette doesn't have the multi-ply approach of the , opting instead for a wider-banded single circle featuring wood inlay in an almost Southwestern pattern. It is a lovely design—modern yet tasteful, and well-coordinated aesthetically with the other appointments on the STD.
Both of my review models exhibited impeccable fit and finish, with well-dressed frets, flawless cosmetics, and perfect intonation. They were ready to perform and record right out of the box. Their crystalline sound is rich and full, and its balanced tone and sparkly high end make it a fingerpicker's delight, as well as a versatile recording and performing guitar for the stage or studio. Plus, it's just so darn comfortable that it will make a great choice for those intimate, late-night moments when you just want to curl up with a musical companion to play softly without compromising your tone. These guitars may have smaller bodies, but they have big tone and grand style.
Features & Specs
- Solid spruce or red cedar top
- Mahogany back and sides
- Mahogany neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
- 25-1/2" (648 mm) scale length
- Rosewood bridge
- Chrome hardware
For a smaller-bodied guitar with great tone, distinctive good looks, and a great price, check out theor . Order today from Musician's Friend and get our 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.