Features : 10
I am reviewing the Ribbecke Guitar Corporation's brand new Halfling Jazz Guitar. My guitar is the first one produced (serial #A-1) and happens to be one of the limited edition artist series. The guitar sports all solid woods with a spruce top, flamed maple back and sides, and a 3 piece birdseye maple neck. It is a 17" wide and 2 7/8" deep. The guitar has a kasha style ebony bridge and hinged tailpiece...very cool. There is a special vine-o-life inlay on the fretboard. Apparently this was done for the first 3 halflings. The inlay quality is excellent. Tuners are non-locking Sperzel. The neck is the most comfortable neck I have ever played- somewhere between a C-shape and D-shape...more of a C-shape. It has a 1 3/4??? Nut Width, is 2.2??? at 14th Fret, and has a scale length of 25" with 22 frets. The guitar was made in 2006. It has a floating passive Bartolini pickup with a volume and tone control hidden under the ebony pickguard...very classy. These pickups are only available on the first couple batches of halflings and they are amazing- incredibly clear. It also has on offset soundhole. The features on this instrument are based on Tom Ribbecke's private practice guitars. They are typical of a super high-end archtop.
Sound : 10
The sound of a halfling is hard to describe because this is the first production guitar with a half archtop/half flattop design. Tom Ribbecke has a patent on the design. It has the treble of an archtop and the bass of a flattop. In other words there is a really nice sparkle on the trebles and an incredibly clear and deep fundamental bass tone. Very rich, very full tone. It's somewhere in-between an archtop and flattop. In my opinion it combines the best elements of both designs into one superior instrument. The bartolini pickup does an excellent job of transfering the great acoustic tone to the amp.
Action, Fit, & Finish : 10
The guitar was set up with perfect low action with 12-56 guage electric strings. Tom has said that the instrument can handle acoustic strings or electric strings and that this choice will further influence the bias towards archtop or acoustic. The guitar finish and setup is truly flawless. Excellent craftsmanship.
Reliability/Durability : 10
I've now been playing the guitar for a few months. Over this time, the guitar has remained in tune and is functioning perfectly. It already sounds great but it does feel like it will mature as it begins to open up. I've heard it takes at least 2 years for a guitar to really open up. I would depend on this guitar at the gig...no need for a backup.
Customer Support : 10
Tom Ribbecke's reputation as a luthier and businessman is stellar. I have had many conversations with Tom about these guitars. He is a true professional and always returns phone calls in a timely manner. His explanations and description of the halfling designs are what led me to take a chance on purchasing the first guitar without even hearing it. I'm not sure about the warranty on the guitar...never bothered to look and I'm not concerned.
Overall Rating : 10
I have been playing for about 20 years. I have been lucky enough to own many high end custom guitars (D'aquisto, American Archtop, Teufel, C.P. Thornton, etc.). This guitar ranks among the best. The seperation of notes is equal to the D'aquisto...you need to hear it to believe it. I actually prefer the Halfling to a traditional archtop for most styles of music. The guitar is more versatile. One thing I may like to see in the future is an option for a second pickup or the option to place the pickups in the top. Other than that this thing is a beast.