Meet 5 Merida Acoustics

Started a little more than ten years ago, Mérida Extrema guitars have been selling well in Europe and Japan.
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Started a little more than ten years ago, Mérida Extrema guitars have been selling well in Europe and Japan. Recently, the China-manufactured line debuted in America, and the company opened a U.S. headquarters in Connecticut, where final quality control, inspection, and setup are done. Mérida offers a lot of different models in its Alcazaba, Cardenas, Diana, and Milagros series instruments, so it’s definitely worth a visit to the company’s website to see all the choices. We were sent five guitars—a steel-string from each of the four series, as well as a classical model—and all of them displayed beautiful craftsmanship, excellent finishes, and very good fretwork. In addition, all models felt comfortable, and were easy to play. Each guitar came in a hardshell case with a tasteful weave pattern, and a humidifier was included.

ALCAZABA A17-DCES

With its vine fretboard inlay, art-deco-like headstock, and spiral rosette, this dreadnought cutaway is very easy on the eyes. When strummed acoustically at low to medium volumes, the A17-DCES sounds warm with a subtle crispness in the midrange. Bash it like a rocker, however, and the mids became a bit too compressed and strident for my taste. Interestingly, this didn’t happen when I plugged into a Fender Acoustic SFX amp. The combination of the amp and the onboard Fishman/Mérida STD preamp really produced a beautiful tone with a fair amount of headroom. I’m almost tempted to say that the A17-DCES sounds better plugged in. Like all of the Mérida guitars we tested, the A17-DCES feels very nice to play, and the workmanship is impeccable.

CARDENAS C35-DCEH

I had rather the opposite experience of the Alcazaba when playing the Cardenas. This acoustic-electric dreadnought cutaway produces a warm, rich tone when played acoustically, and the sound retains those qualities when played soft, hard, and anywhere in between. It’s a solid and dynamically sensitive guitar. And yet, when I plugged into the Fender SFX amp, the electric sound turned out to be somewhat muddy. I tweaked practically every combination that the Fishman/Mérida Deluxe preamp would deliver, and while I was able to get a nice, usable tone, I felt I couldn’t truly capture the beauty of the unplugged sound. Remembering how the C35-DCEH was so hard to put down when I played acoustically, I’d definitely go for miking it when performing live. The C35-DCEH plays wonderfully, it’s well crafted, and it struts a very natural and unadorned look cosmetically.

DIANA DC15-BK

The DC15-BK nylon-string classical guitar is drop-dead stunning. The black body, rich-brown mahogany trim, and eye-catching mother-of-pearl rosette are simply gorgeous—so much so that it seems hard to believe this beauty goes for just $559 direct. It’s not just a pretty face, either. The DC15-BK possesses a stout, sensual low end and a wonderfully sweet midrange attack that’s never too edgy—even when you bear down with a fingernail or pick. It’s also a light, comfortable, and easy-to-play guitar, and the finish and woodwork are flawless.

DIANA DG15-FOGACES

Here’s another looker! I must admit that when I opened the case to the DG15-FOGACES, I was floored. Everything from the almost translucent tuning pegs to the eye-catching spalted ovangkol back and sides to the vibrant cedar top screams world-class beauty. But when I strummed a chord, I was truly lost. The tone of this grand-auditorium model is rich and animated, with balanced lows, taut mids, and shimmering highs. I noticed some added edginess to the tone when I played hard, and, here, the Fishman/Mérida Standard preamp seems very well matched, producing a nice, clear, and crisp sound through the Fender SFX amp. The DG15-FOGACES felt very good to play, and workmanship is superb

MILAGROS M15-D

This simple, yet sophisticated dreadnought was probably my favorite guitar from a timbral standpoint. The deep and rich lows, crisp mids, and welcoming highs (a nice ring with no bite) enticed me to keep playing the M15-D until I feared I would be trapped for hours under its sonic spell. The tone is truly unbelievable, and adjectives really can’t describe the joy I felt while playing the M15-D. While there’s no electronics on this model, I’d imagine you’d want to document its sound when performing live with a great microphone anyway. The absence of a cutaway was a small annoyance, and it otherwise played like a dream and exhibited no flaws in workmanship.

Alcazaba A17-DCES

PRICE $839 direct
NUT WIDTH 42mm
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.4" scale
FRETS 20 medium jumbo
TUNERS Der Jung
BODY Solid cedar top, rosewood back and sides
BRIDGE Graph Tech Black Tusq XL
WEIGHT 4.62 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP, .012-.052
PICKUP Fishman/Mérida Standard preamp
BUILT China
KUDOS Good value. Good tones—especially when plugged in.
CONCERNS Doesn’t love being played hard.

Cardenas C35-DCEH

PRICE $1,049 direct
NUT WIDTH 42mm
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOAR D Rosewood, 25.4" scale
FRETS 20 medium jumbo
TUNERS Grover
BODY Solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides
BRIDGE Graph Tech Black Tusq XL
WEIGHT 3.96 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP, .012-.052
PICKUP Fishman/Mérida Deluxe preamp
BUILT China
KUDOS Good value. Good sound.
CONCERNS Electrified tone not optimum.

Diana DC15-BK

PRICE $559 direct
NUT WIDTH 52mm
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOAR D Rosewood, 25.5" scale
FRETS 19 standard
TUNERS Der Jung Premium
BODY Solid cedar top, mahogany back and sides
BRIDGE Graph Tech Black Tusq XL
WEIGHT 3.38 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS Savarez Cristal Corum High Tension 500CJ
BUILT China
KUDOS Crazy good value. Stunner. Good sound.
CONCERNS None.

Diana DG15-FOGACES

PRICE $679 direct
NUT WIDTH 42mm
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.4" scale
FRETS 20 medium jumbo
TUNERS Der Jung
BODY Solid cedar, spalted ovangkol back and sides
BRIDGE Graph Tech Black Tusq XL
WEIGHT 4.38 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP, .012-.052
PICKUP Fishman/Mérida Standard preamp
BUILT China
KUDOS Good value. Gorgeous looks and sound.
CONCERNS Doesn’t love being played hard.

Milagros M15-D

PRICE $499 direct
NUT WIDTH 42mm
NECK Mahogany
FRETBOAR D Rosewood, 25.4" scale
FRETS 20 medium jumbo
TUNERS Grover
BODY Solid Sitka top, mahogany back and sides
BRIDGE Graph Tech Tusq
WEIGHT 4.26 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP, .012-.052
BUILT China
KUDOS Good value. Good sound.
CONCERNS None.
CONTACT meridaguitars.com

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