B&M Country Classic
This is one of a large range of guitars manufactured in Spain for Barnes and Mullins. Most of the models compare and compete favourably with Japanese guitars in the same price range.
Over the last few years I have watched the standard range of instruments improve, until they have a glossy finish rivaling any Japanese guitar. While I am sure this will benefit High Street shops, I feel that it is possible to take this process too far, and any further improvements to the finish should be directed inside the body. (In the review sample one of the back struts entirely misses its locating pocket in the back lining; fortunately, the non-cracking properties of the glue used makes this less serious).
The machine heads are probably Dutch and work well enough, although the holes in the head for the string rollers are erratic and too large. In theory, this imposes more strain on the machines and their mounting screws, but there is often enough slack in the bearings to allow the rollers to align themselves sensibly.
The nut is moulded plastic and has been designed to cause as little trouble as possible: it would obviously benefit from minor adjustment to the string slots before sale, but what medium-priced guitar wouldn't! The standard of fret positioning (accuracy of intonation) and fret fitting is particularly good, and exceptional for a guitar in this price range. The action as supplied is 3.1 mm top string and 3.6 bass string: These are good general-purpose figures for a nylon string guitar.
The body construction is a mixture of traditional and modern. It is very light and responsive, and the neck has the long internal "toes" which help tone quality in a lightly built instrument. Front, back and sides are of laminated construction, and the internal strutting appears to be some form of pine or spruce (little thought has been given to grain direction). The strutting around the bridge is simple, unorthodox and effective. Not surprisingly, it works like a cross between a Hauser and a Ramirez. The resulting tone and sensitivity brings me to the most important part of the review.
There seem to be two sorts of 'Spanish-style' classical guitars. The cheaper ones are like the guitars Spain has always exported in large quantities. At roughly the standard of a Student Ramirez, you get instruments designed for higher tension strings, and with the greater presence and dynamic range needed for the modern Classical guitar repertoire. (The cheaper ranges of guitars are not just inferior, they are generally a totally different animal). The B.M. Concert is obviously inferior to a Student Ramirez, but it is roughly the same sort of guitar and some teachers may wish to recommend it as a first guitar. It is also loud and penetrating enough to be audible in a school assembly, when fitted with half-dead strings, and played by damp and trembling fingers.
Retail Price £23.71
Review by Stephen Delft
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