Hands-On Review:Silver Creek Acoustic Guitars
Serious guitars at relaxed prices
By Dan Day
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
Congratulations, you've passed the initiation and are now enrolled as a member of the Serious Guitarists' Club. You've persevered and endured the initial stages of playing the guitar. You started with your sister's funky old acoustic. You built up calluses on your fingertips by learning open chords on a neck with a nut so high even Rocky The Flying Squirrel would have trouble reaching it. You learned to play barre chords on a neck so bowed you could shoot arrows with it. But you stayed with it and now you're a Serious Guitarist. To reward yourself you're ready to step up to a better guitar—a Serious Guitar. You want a quality guitar, yet you aren't ready to pay top dollar for a famous-name instrument. How about a trip up Silver Creek?
Up on Silver Creek
Silver Creek instruments will appeal to players of Americana music. The instruments are straight-up acoustics intended for picking and strumming—for real people playing real music.
In a recent development, Silver Creek has introduced a quartet of new acoustic guitars—two auditorium size and two dreadnought. The aim here is obliterating a price barrier for a solid wood guitar. Years ago, a solid wood instrument at $300 was typically a dog. It sounded bad and played poorly. Now that you're a Serious Guitarist, you deserve better. Silver Creek guitars are made in China and reflect the high quality that country is capable of these days. Silver Creek has two layers of quality control. Guitars are QC'd at the factory and spot checked by the U.S. distributor.
Auditorium or dreadnought
The Silver Creek T-160 and T-170 might be described as auditorium, 000, or concert style/size, since there are no strict specifications that define these terms. The T-160 and T-170 have a 15-1/2" lower bout, something that's not consistent across brands in defining auditorum/000/concert sizes. Let's just say these guitars are smaller than dreadnoughts. Generally speaking, a smaller guitar produces a more balanced tone lending itself to lighter strumming and fingerstyle techniques, while the dreadnought is better suited for heavy rhythm or a player who takes lots of acoustic leads. The T-160 and T-170 carry starter-guitar price tags and are comfortable for female players or children.
Solid wood construction
There are two types of acoustic guitar tops: laminated or solid wood. A laminate top is stronger, less susceptible to humidity, and much less expensive to manufacture. The trade-off is tone. A laminate top will not get better with age, will not vibrate or resonate truly, and will not produce as fine a tone. Although subject to fluctuations in humidity, a solid piece of wood will get better with age. A solid top vibrates more cleanly and produces a better tone. Very few manufacturers make an auditorium with a solid top in this price range.
The T-160 has a solid spruce top with solid mahogany back and sides. The T-170 auditorium model has solid rosewood back and sides. The tonal difference resides in how these woods interact. Tonally, the solid spruce top is responsible for the bulk of the sound. It's the muscle, the volume knob. The back and sides are finesse, the EQ. Mahogany tends to take the sound of the spruce top and emphasize the upper mids and trebles to produce a wide-open, airy sound. Rosewood takes the spruce sound and emphasizes the low mids and bass to produce a rich, dark sound. Rosewood is warmer and richer; mahogany is brighter, airier. Guitarists use instruments with rosewood backs and sides to step out of the mix to play leads or melodies. On the other hand, mahogany provides a nice, very balanced rhythm sound.
A hallmark of 000, concert, and auditorium guitars is not only their smaller bodies but a shorter scale length that results in less tension on the strings. This makes it easier to bend notes and play more intimately and a little bit more expressively. On an acoustic it's difficult to achieve a full note bend, yet it's a little bit easier on a 000. The nut and fingerboard are slightly wider than on a dreadnought—good for players who employ complex fingerstyles and need a wider nut and neck to get between the strings, as opposed to a flatpicking guitarist.
We may take the dreadnought for granted because it's the acoustic that's most played and recorded. Silver Creek guitars are not intended to reinvent that storied dreadnought design but rather provide players with an affordable dreadnought-style instrument. Like the T-160, the D-160 dreadnought has a solid spruce top with mahogany back and sides. The D-170 has the spruce and rosewood construction. Both 170 models have the same headstock overlay with a Silver Creek logo and flower and vase inlay.
The Silver Creek D-160 and D-170 dreadnoughts are for players who are into heavy-duty strumming or flatpicking country folk, blues, rock and roll. The Swiss Army knife of the acoustic realm—the dreadnought can be played fingerstyle but compared to the auditorium, it sounds a little buried, subdued. You really have to drive its larger spruce top to hit the sweet spot. You can play the smaller, daintier Silver Creek T-160 and T-170 auditorium models delicately and they are in their zone. Conversely, if you lean into an auditorium with aggressive strumming and let it have it with the pick, the sound will crumble and become squashed. With the D-160 and D-170 dreadnoughts the opposite is true; you really need to get into it so they start to perform, and they don't really come alive until you start to lay into them with flatpicking and aggressive strumming techniques.
Features & Specs
- Auditorium (T-160/170) or square-shoulder dreadnought (D-160/170)
- Solid spruce top
- Solid mahogany (T/D 160) or solid rosewood (T/D 170) back and sides
- 1-5/8" (D-160/170) or 1-3/4" (T-160/170) nut width
- Rosewood fingerboard
- Mini dot fingerboard inlays
- Rosewood headstock overlay
- Silver Creek logo with decorative inlay (160) or flower & vase inlay (170) headstock inlay
- White binding with black/white purfling
- Ringed rosette
- Rosewood bridge
- Tortoiseshell pickguard
- Gloss finish
- Chrome tuners
- Width at upper bout: 11-3/8" (T-160/170) 11-9/16" (D-160/170)
- Width at lower bout: 15-1/4" (T-160/170) 15-5/8" (D-160/170)
- Maximum depth: 3-7/8" (T-160/170) 4-5/8" (D-160/170)