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Santa Cruz H13
 
This deep-body 13-fret small-body has become a Santa Cruz classic.
June 26, 2024
 

Inspired by a relatively obscure vintage guitar, Santa Cruz Guitar’s H13 has become one of the company’s most distinctive models and has inspired several variations as well. I’ve played many H13s over the years, most recently the Happy Traum Signature Model HT/13, so when Santa Cruz asked me whether I wanted to check out a completely stock, non-custom H13, I gladly accepted the offer. In this video, I demo the instrument in the Peghead Nation studio.

The original design for the H13 came about in 1978, when local Santa Cruz, California–area musician, luthier, and instrument repair specialist Paul Hostetter approached the company about building a guitar loosely based on a vintage Gibson Nick Lucas Special he owned. Rather than asking for a replica, Paul wanted a guitar with a similar body, which had 00-size dimensions, but with a greater depth. Like some Nick Lucas Gibsons, the resulting guitar included a 13-fret neck joint, which put the bridge in the most effective area of the lower bout. The guitar was a great success, with a rich sound and powerful voice, but selling a small-body guitar with a 13-fret neck was difficult in the late 1970s, when dreadnoughts dominated the market, so Santa Cruz morphed the original H13 into its standard H model, which has a 14-fret neck joint and a slightly shallower body (which meant they could use a standard case size). The original 13-fret version of the guitar was revived in the early 2000s, and today it’s one of the most popular instruments in the Santa Cruz catalog (for a fascinating look at the model’s history, check out Paul Hostetter’s own account).

Like all current standard H13 models, the guitar Santa Cruz sent us was built with a Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides. It has a gorgeous sunburst finish, slotted peghead, plain (no inlay) fingerboard, OM-style pickguard, and pyramid bridge. The guitar’s “S29” purfling is a herringbone variation created specifically for this model (though it’s now an option on other Santa Cruz models), and it’s complemented by ivoroid binding on the body and neck. Naturally, the guitar exhibits impeccable craftsmanship and the woods are of a very high quality. 

Besides the 13-fret neck joint, the most distinguishing feature of the H13 is its relatively deep body, which measures about 4⅝ inches at the lower bout. Combined with the guitar’s long scale, this yields a more powerful voice than you might believe is possible, given the instrument’s dimensions. I found the guitar to be a wonderful fingerstyle guitar that works well in situations where a bit of assertiveness is needed. The guitar is balanced throughout its tonal spectrum and, overall, it just sounds bigger than guitars with a similar size. The H13 is also a capable strumming partner; again offering a powerful character, great volume, and wonderful detail and tonal complexity. 

The Santa Cruz H13 is a very cool and individualistic guitar. Players looking for a medium-size instrument that combines classic Gibson elements with a modern vibe and the elevated level of workmanship Santa Cruz offers would do well to check it out. And if the stock version isn’t exactly to your liking, Santa Cruz has a long list of custom options, some of which come at no extra cost!

SPECS: Santa Cruz H13 body. Sitka spruce top. Mahogany back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fretboard and bridge. 25.375-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Waverly tuning machines. Made in USA. $8,960. santacruzguitar.com

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    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
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