Price paid: $ 911.24
Purchased from: Buzz Music, Cairns, Queensland. Australia.
Sound — 10
Being solid timber, the volume is a little less than your standard laminated guitar, but this is soon adapted to by use of a slightly heavier pick & strumming technique. Because of this, the mid tones are crystal clear, and sustain in the top end is something you need to hear to believe. It rings quality through and through, and offers a full bass sound, at the same time giving a balanced bright sound from strings of the top end. It is certainly a Studio quality instrument, and if you are after and instrument you will not grow out of, with all the features offered by instruments 3 times it's value, Cole Clark's Fatlady series is for you. I know of one situation where a very well known brand guitar used in a recording studio was ditched in favour of the Fatlady, which should give you some idea of it's quality. This literally indicates that the song is not over until the Fatlady sings. The internally carved Front & Back are another example of Cole Clarks innovations. It is odd when you look through the Sound Hole and not see the use of reinforced slotted kirfing. Instead, the front and back are carved like that of a bowl, giving a nice thick outer edges for assembly, with nice resonance from the thinner centers of the timbers. As mentioned in the introduction, Cole Clark has incorporated another Patented feature. Along with the industry standard Piezo Bridge pickup, is their innovative "Face Brace" sensor, which literally picks up the tone of the wood, and can be balanced by use of a slide controller incorporated into their pick up EQ control panel. This is where the Cole Clark come into a class of their own. I have had 4 acoustic/electric guitars before this, and in all the 20 years of playing, I am yet to hear a better tone. Simple as that. In fact, this was the reason I purchased this guitar. Feedback squeals are a thing of the past. Piezo's alone can be dry, but, by slowly balancing the front brace sensor with the piezo sensor, it comes together as a rich, clear earthen tone.
Overall Impression — 10
My overall impression is that Cole Clark's are the Duck's Nut's. I love the spirit of this guitar, my previous guitars were mass produced, with the soul of a shoebox. Not so with the Fatlady. They each have a unique personality. If you are after a Studio quality instrument, at an affordable price, this is the guitar for you. I sincerely believe beginners would be best holding off, saving up a little more and purchasing themselves a Cole Clark product. You will certainly not out grow this guitar, once you have it, it is an instrument for life. While the Fatlady 1AC (cutaway & pickups) are a little beyond most budget guitarists in price (AU$1200), they do sell a model without the cutaway & pickup for around $AU700 and has all the other features I mentioned above. This is the first instrument I have owned that only needs tuning every 3 days or so, and even then, it is only marginally off key. That says it all really. My guitar shop is on a 2 month waiting list. In a few years, once the word gets around, Cole Clark's will be highly sort after, and the price will rise accordingly. They are a true investment that will increase in value. In closing, my advice to you is this: Get one while you can, and remember, "The show's not over, until the Fatlady sings."
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar will happily withstand the rigors of Live performances, and I have found it to be rock steady and reliable. The instrument rarely needs tuning, which is to be expected from a guitar of this value. Its ability to stay in tune is testament to the quality of workmanship and material. The hardware is professionally fitted, and I could see no reason why it would not last the life of the player (and longer). The strap buttons are fitted solidly, which is important with a guitar of this price. Certainly wouldn't like seeing it crash to the stage with crappy failed strap buttons, which will not be an issue with this instrument obviously. The finish is professional, and I could see no reason why it would need any attention in the future. So long as it was looked after by a caring owner (I always get in the habit of washing my hands before playing, and give it a once over with a warm moist cloth rinsed in mild soapy water, after each gig).
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Due to Cole Clarks high quality contols, and professional Luthiers, the guitar arrived in perfect condition, and could be played right out of the box (after tuning). Its setup was perfect, the action is as soft as cotton, and barre chords are a breeze. I could not help but wonder where I would be today if I learned on a Cole Clark, it is just a pleasure to play. It sits proudly on a stand in our family room/sun room with my other guitars, and is the rooms main feature. It is impossible to keep your eyes off it, and soon beckons to be played. I truly wish that all guitarists could get the joy I get from this instrument. I am like a new dad, and can not help but sing it's praises. The guitar contained no flaws, no misaligned bracing, no finish flaws, it has a perfectly fitted saddle, and had no loose controls or noisy/dry pickup selectors.
Features — 9
Beautifully handcrafted by Luthiers of a small company in Melbourne Australia, Cole Clark's Fatlady 1AC are constructed with solid carved AAA Bunya tops, and Queensland Maple sides and back (which is also internally carved) and Rosewood fingerboard, using AAA 100% Australian renewable timber. (Plantation Timber) of the highest standard. As the internal center of the front and back is carved in a bowl style configuration, no Kirfing is used to attach the sides to the back and front, which attributes to it's strength and light weight, giving it full tone. Only high end manufacturers used this method, until now. With Queensland maple necks which are integrated to the body during construction (not glued and bolted on at the end of construction), this is very similar constructions to Spanish guitars of early 1800's. This method has been dropped in modern times by many companies as it is a slower method of construction, and is not suited to mass production. Again, only a feature that true Luthiers can offer, and is a Patented Cole Clark feature. This wonderful instrument also offers dual pick ups, an under bridge Piezo, and a Patented face brace sensor, and 3 Band EQ. (see below). With chrome "Grover" tuning keys, and is factory strung with Elixir Custom Lites. For Maton fans, you may find it interesting to know that Brad Clark, Cole Clark's co-founder, worked with Maton for nearly 12 years, as Floor manager, designer, and finally Company President, prior to starting his own company. So, your instrument was more than likely made under his guidance. SO, rest assured, his instruments carry the same quality and beauty Maton is renowned for, plus several of his own innovations.