Sound — 9
The soundboard is very resonant, and I have owned the guitar for less than six months. I look forward to the guitar "opening up" with more play. The Larrivee L shape is an invention of Larrivee guitars. In some respects, it puts this guitar between a dreadnought and a parlour guitar: it sounds fantastic and sweet when finger picked, but still has some bassy roar when strummed. One could also say that this could be the child of a Taylor and Martin: it retains some bassy roar, but the treble is sweet without being strident. I think the best way to describe the tone of this guitar is "balanced", because the volume is very consistent from bass to treble. The rosewood is a great complement to the bright spruce top. It provides a very lush tone, taking the edge off of the highs and rounding out the lows with beautiful overtones. I do mostly fingerpicking (travis, celtic, etc.) with some strumming. It was hard for me to choose between this model, with the rosewood back and sides, and the same guitar with sapele back and sides. The sapele emphasized the fundamentals of a note, had less overtones, and sounded more bright (which could be ideal for fingerpicking). But the richness of the rosewood won out for me in the end. The pickup sounds good in this guitar, not too quacky for an under-saddle transducer. I don't use the pickup often, so I'll remain mostly silent on it here. This guitar sounds wonderful when down-tuned. I've tried Drop-D, DADGAD, open C and open D tunings in addition to standard tuning. I played every guitar in most local shops for over six months before I settled on this guitar: the tone is very sweet for the price tag, and I thought it sounded better (to my ears) than many more expensive models from better-known brands.
Overall Impression — 9
For the fingerpicking (and a little strumming) that I do, this guitar is great. It has the bass I want for strumming, but the sweet mids and trebles for fingerpicking. The L shape is also very comfortable to play. I can play for much longer than on my dreadnought without feeling discomfort in my shoulder. My take is that this is a wonderful guitar in the $1, 500 - $2, 000 CND range. Since Larivee is less well known than other brands, perhaps there is a good buyers' market for second-hand Larrivees. To my ears, it outplayed other good guitar brands (I originally thought I was looking for a Taylor until I found this beauty). Since I live in the Vancouver area, I also liked the idea of purchasing something made locally. I do wish they produced the LV (L shape with cutaway) without the electronics, as I would rather have purchased a pickup or microphone afterward that did not require the "barn door" to be cut into the side of the guitar. If the electronics are still going to come stock in the guitar, perhaps they could imitate Taylor and put tasteful little buttons on the side of the guitar, rather than an incongruous plastic pickup, eq, tuner & battery holder. If you are shopping for a guitar, but haven't tried a Larrivee, I strongly encourage you to play one. They don't have the market presence of the "big three" acoustic guitar companies, but in my view the high quality at the price point deserves greater recognition.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The neck feels solid and stiff. The guitar is heavier than I expected it to be, but this does not prevent it from being extremely resonant. I haven't owned the guitar long enough to comment on the finish. I don't use the strap buttons (it came with only the one on the lower bout). This guitar is ideal for a working guitarist because it does so many different genres well, and the balance between treble, mids and bass is so good that less eq-ing is required to get an appropriate tone. I think the bling-less look and the balanced tone make this ideal for recording.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action was quite low when it was set up at the factory, but without any fret buzz. I still haven't taken it in for another set-up. I don't like my action too low because I like to down-tune, and I use light strings. The construction is high-quality: no sharp fret ends, seeping glue, etc. The wood is absolutely gorgeous to the touch and sight.
Features — 9
The LV-03RE is the signature Larrivee "L" body. It has sloped shoulders and a tighter waist than a dreadnought, but the lower bout is still large enough to retain bass and volume. The "V" designation refers to a venetian cutaway to provide access to the upper frets. It has a solid Canadian sitka spruce top, and solid Indian Rosewood back and sides. The fretboard and bridge are ebony, and the single-piece, compound radius neck is mahogany. It has a hand-fit dovetail set neck. The neck is very thin, but less thin than the Taylors I have played. The body binding is maple. The LV has Larrivee's symmetrical parabolic X-bracing. It has a venetian cutaway that allows easy access all the way up to the 20th fret. It comes with a built-in active pickup, the L.R. Baggs Element Notch system (Single Source). The controls are built in as a "barn door", a hole in the side of the guitar. The pickup comes with a responsive three-slider eq system, battery life indicator, the "notch" system to eliminate hum and feedback at specific frequencies, and a tuner. It requires a 9-volt battery, which can be replaced through the "barn door", so the strings can stay on when the battery is changed. The tusq nut is 1.75 inches wide, which allows for more room for fingerpicking than a more narrow nut. Other features include: Rounded Larrivee Headstock, White Inlaid Larrivee Logo, Multi-Strip Inlaid Rosette, Ping Tuners w/ 18:1 Ratio, Ivoroid Fretboard Binding, Exclusive Beveled Tortis pickguard, Microdot Fretboard Markers. It has a matte finish, which I quite like, because it allows the quality of the wood to stand out, rather than a thick glossy finish. I purchased this guitar new from a guitar shop in Vancouver. It came with a hard-shell case (specially fitted for the guitar shape), a truss rod adjustment tool, and a couple of picks. I would rather that it did not come with electronics built in, so I could choose after-market electronics that did not need a "barn door" hole in the guitar. The Larrivee -03 series is known for having high-quality wood and construction without some of the bling associated with higher-end guitars (abalone, engraving, gold tuners, etc.).