Hands-On Review:Aria Parlor Guitars: AP-STD and AP-STD-II

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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, the AP STD and the AP STD-II. Both offer the same stunning sound and flawless workmanship, differing only slightly in their aesthetics and appeal.

Defining terms

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 the STD and the STD-II 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, the Aria STD and STD-II 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.

Different strokes

Of the two available Parlor models, the STD II is 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 the STD-II is 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 STD, 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 STD-II,  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 the Aria Parlor STD or STD-II. Order today from Musician's Friend and get our 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest Price Guarantees.