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Does Drilling and Cutting a Classical Guitar to fit Electronics Spoil its Sound?

Alhambra 9P Classical Guitar - cedar - Optional Fishman.

A customer of ours wanted a particular Alhambra 9P that he had played here but he also wanted a model with high quality fitted electronics. Now the 9P does not come as standard with electronics fitted and so the customer was faced with a dilemma: should he ask us to get Alhambra to fit electronics to a 9P from their stock cupboard – in which case it might not play as well or look as good as the one he had tried here – or should he have us send the guitar he had fallen for back to Spain for the electronics to be fitted and pay the extra shipping costs for this. In the end he was faithful to the guitar he had tried and stumped up the cost of shipping!

The guitar came back yesterday proudly sporting the Fishman Premium ProBlend electronics. Not long after Stephen Yates – a great guitarist and regular visitor here – dropped in for some strings. He saw the 9P and said something to the effect that cutting and drilling a good guitar was going to spoil the sound!!! Now this is a commonly held opinion and me, not being inclined to accept any orthodoxy, issued a challenge to Stephen. I got out the other 9P we had in stock with a cedar soundboard (but no electronics) and asked him to play them both to compare.

Stephen has never been known to refuse to play a guitar (or two) when he gets the chance and was up for the experiment. He played them both (without amplification) and I listened out front.

Now the experiment wasn’t scientific, and there were only two guitars involved; nevertheless the results were interesting.

  • The guitars did not have an identical sound but both were quite typical Alhambras in this price range – full-bodied Spanish sounding. 
  • We felt that the one with the electronics seemed to have a slightly fuller mid-range
  • We felt that the one without was, if anything, very slightly quieter overall
  • We could not say that the one with electronics was worse than the one without in any way
  • Overall, we felt that the slight differences between the two were as likely to be just the natural variation you get between any two guitars as they were to be caused by the fitting of the electronics.