Review of Stapleton Guitars® BERTHA™ Orchestra
I’ve owned a Rosewood BERTHA from Stapleton Guitars for around 6 months now. This is a solid Rosewood back and sides OOO shaped guitar with a solid Cedar top. Coming from a background in Dreadnought guitars, I was seeking something a little more tonally balanced, mainly for fingerstyle guitar. I spotted the Stapleton guitars online and a business trip to the South Island meant I could pop in and these guitars out.
From the moment I tried out the 3 BERTA’s Roman had at that time I knew I had to have one! It was an instant decision, such was the quality of the sound and build! The hardest part was deciding between the Mahogany, Walnut, and Rosewood models that he had available. What sold me on this guitar beyond anything else was the quality of the tone when I first played it. The tone is very clear but very evenly balanced right across the 6 strings. Amazing deep bass through to crystal clear treble, with superb resonance and sustain.
The other thing that still amazes me is that for a smaller bodied guitar it has such impressive volume. Compared to a Dreadnought, the smaller body is very comfortable to play, sitting very nicely in your lap or when using a strap over your shoulder. Whilst the guitar can be strummed to good effect, it lends itself perfectly to fingerstyle guitar. It picks up all nuances in your playing and is therefore a very rewarding guitar to play. Don't be fooled by the size, the volume is right up there with Dreadnought guitars (using Martin and Taylor Dreadnoughts as a comparative reference). This volume enables the player to use dynamics very effectively for better expression. It's a guitar you just want to play any chance you get and not put it down!
The build quality is very good. This is not a mass-produced guitar and it shows. Care and attention has been put into the construction. High quality parts are used throughout, from the Graphtech tuners right down to the Tusq nut, saddle, and end pins. The Jescar stainless frets he uses have a very smooth feel, some of the nicest I’ve ever used. The guitar came with Elixir strings which lasted a long time. However, once they wore out I changed these for Martin SP Phosphor bronze and for my taste the sound improved and I much prefer the feel of them. I’ll try DR Sunbeams next. The BERTHA didn’t come with a pickguard but when I asked Roman about this he offered to create one and send it up to me with instructions on how to install it. This is great service, and an advantage of dealing with a luthier who resides here in Aotearoa.
Aesthetically, these guitars are very attractive. The natural wood grains are on full display and the finishing is great. The wood binding is a lovely touch compared to the plastic used on mass produced guitars.
6 months on and I am still thrilled with this guitar with no regrets. It has played in nicely and improved in sound, something you expect from a solid wood instrument. I’ve owned some great acoustic guitars from renowned North American guitar makers but I like this little BERTHA the most. This Stapleton guitar is right up there and surpasses them on many levels. I’m planning to sell one of my other guitars to fund buying a larger bodied Stapleton guitar, such is the regard I hold these instruments in. Finally, Stapleton guitars represent fantastic value and I would encourage guitarists to try them out if you are seeking a very high quality instrument.
John, Wellington New Zealand