Through over 50 years of guitar-building experience, Sonoma-based luthier Steve Klein has developed a reputation as one of the industry's more forward-thinking, creative minds. If you're lucky enough to land your name on his extensive waiting list, one of Klein's flat-top acoustic guitars could easily set you back in excess of $10k.
For a limited time, Klein's designs were hand-built by an elite team of master luthiers and craftsman from Japan's Kiso valley—an area with a 1,000-year tradition of woodworking and a long history of instrument building. While the construction of these premium guitars didn't last long, these Kiso Klein flat-tops remain much more readily available and affordable than Klein's custom-made instruments. For many players, they offer Klein's ingenious innovations at a much more accessible price point.
This Kiso Klein OMK-1 CD was built some time in the early 2000s, and it is an interesting take on an Orchestra Model that infuses radical, fresh ideas with time-tested designs. Its body shares similar geometry to a standard OM, but its lower bout measures 15-3/4" inches across—as wide as many dreadnoughts. Its overall body depth is 4", and its scale length is 25-3/8". Its bone nut measures 1-3/4", and its unique headstock (with ebony overlay and ebony underlay) sports Gold Gotoh tuners with Ebony buttons.
This OMK-1 features a Cedar top and East Indian Rosewood back and sides, which are beautifully accented by Koa binding all around the body and neck. Its intricate Koa/Abalone rosette and inlaid "Crane in flight" on the heel further establish an unmistakable and meticulous aesthetic.
There are four design elements of this Kiso Klein OMK-1 that are particularly fascinating:
- Its neck is bolted onto the body internally, so there is virtually no protruding neck heel. This allows for smooth access all the way to the end of the fingerboard.
- Its modified X-bracing employs Steve Klein's Kasha-inspired bracing techniques. Under the hood, you'll find a mixture of solid and laminate braces, each carefully hand-tuned to maximize the tonal potential of the top.
- Officially titled the "Removable Tail Block," there is a door at the guitar's end that allows you to access the neck joint and braces for adjustment. It also allows easy and removable pickup installation.
- Its solid rosewood bridge has a slightly oversized bone saddle and a unique system for holding the ball ends. The concept is intended to distribute the string tension more optimally, but we were worried it would be hard to restring. We were wrong—we were blown away by how easy and natural the restringing process was. It may be easier than some traditional pin bridges.
This 2000s Kiso Klein OMK-1 CD is in excellent condition all around. It has some bumps and bruises around the body (see photos), and there are two dings on either side of the neck joint. Two of the screws are missing from the Removable Tail Block, and it has some after-market pickguard film to protect the top area. It plays well with low action. Its tone is impressively versatile. It is warm, full-sounding, but nicely balanced across the register. It produces beautiful, bell-like subtlety with a light touch, but it is also ready to jump across the room when you dig in. Original TKL hardshell case included.