I should preface this review by saying this is in part a review of the store itself but also of the instruments I tried whilst there.
Andertons is a large family run music store based in Guildford, Surrey and is one of those stores that seems to have been around forever. They have been in business for over 50 years. However unlike a lot of stores that have been going this long, Andertons is very firmly planted in the 21st century. It is a large, light modern store located on Woodbridge Road just a short walk from Guildford town centre.
I was there primarily to check out some guitars and spent a while browsing the acoustics first. There is a whole wall full of them as you enter the store plus another room to the right which is full of the higher end/higher price guitars. As I was browsing a young sales assistant approached and asked if I needed any help. He was polite and friendly but not pushy at all and was happy to leave me to browse when I said that is what I wanted to do.
Having finished checking out the acoustics…which I would come back to later I headed further into the store to take a look at the electric guitars. There appears to be an endless range of electrics and you could definitely lose an hour or so just looking never mind auditioning. They have some great guitars here from most brands including of course Chapman guitars (check out Chappers and the Captain videos on YouTube). If you have never tried a Chapman guitar I suggest you do so at the earliest opportunity. They are very well made and play superbly, plus they are not expensive with several models in the £450-£500 price range. I tried a few and could definitely have come away with at least two had the bank balance allowed
Of course there is also a full range of Fender, Gibson, Yamaha as well as guitars from the likes of Schecter, PRS, Line 6, Music Man and so on, it’s a long list! Suffice to say I am pretty sure if you come to Andertons looking to buy a guitar you definitely will not be disappointed.
From the electric guitars I moved onto the keyboards. Andertons stock a LOT of keyboards! There is a large room dedicated to them where you can find all the big names such as Roland, Yamaha, Nord and Korg as well as a selection of others such as Dave Smith Instruments, Elektron, Moog, Studio Electronics and Waldorf.
Next up I went into the Pro Audio area. This is where you will find all the controller keyboards and computer recording gear. Again there is a good selection from Native Instruments, Akai, IK Mulimedia, Nektar, Novation and many others. They also stock the Roli Seaboard range which I spent some time testing. The Roli has a silicone rubberised keybed, not traditional keys. This responds to touch in a way no other keyboard I have ever played can. It’s a lot of fun but you do need to modify your normal playing style quite markedly or you end up hitting a lot of duff notes and triggering sounds where you didn’t want them. Roli keyboards are also on the expensive side with the 49 note version I tried coming in at around £970! It’s certainly an interesting controller but not sure I would get on with it.
Part of the Pro Audio section is a room dedicated to studio monitors. I didn’t try any as I am very happy with my KRK Rokit RP5 G3’s but were I in the market for new monitors there was definitely no shortage of them to choose from.
Next to the Pro Audio section is a Drums room. I’m not a drummer and the idea of being one has never appealed to me but I could see there is a large selection of everything a drummer would need in this room. There is also a soundproof drum booth so you can bash away as much as you want without disturbing other customers.
I should mention there are a few soundproof booths around the store so no problems testing any instrument here. Also, thankfully there is none of that constant background music playing which is one of my pet hates in music stores so Andertons get top marks for that.
So getting back to the acoustics, which is what I actually came to look at. I was able to audition a couple of guitars in the quiet of the Gibson/Taylor room which is to the right as you enter the store. I have owned a Taylor myself and a friend has a Gibson AJ-45 so I wasn’t really that tempted to pick up any of these two grand plus guitars nice as they undoubtedly are.
The two guitars I was testing were the Dowina (pronounced Davina) Puella DCE and the Seagull S6 Original. Dowina have been around for many years but are probably not that well known in the UK. Andertons were the only stockists at time I visited but dv247.com in Romford have now become the main UK dealer and stock a wide range including the all solid construction Vintage and Master series. Dowina are based in Bratislava, Slovakia where they build all of their acoustic guitars by hand. The finish on all of them is superb and would definitely put many of the big names to shame.
The model I tested…the Puella, which I think means “young girl” in Slovak? is the entry to the range and is a dreadnought with Cutaway. It has a Solid Sitka Spruce top, Sapele back and sides (laminate), Nato neck and ebony fingerboard and bridge. It is also fitted with the Fishman Presys+ pickup system and for just £399 is a bit of a bargain. It also comes with a gig bag. It should be noted that Andertons has specified their own additions/upgrades to the Dowina guitars they stock so they may be slightly different to the ones on the makers website.
Soundwise the Dowina Puella is quite warm, very much like a mahogany guitar…thanks to the Sapele back and sides. Sapele shares a lot of the same characteristics of mahogany but there is also a brightness to these guitars thanks to the solid sitka spruce top. It reminded me a lot of some Breedlove acoustics such as the Passport series. It was also very easy to play. It has a very comfortable neck profile and I think this is going to become a very popular guitar, especially at this price.
Moving on to the Seagull S6 Original, which I think most guitarists will already be familiar with even if they have never owned one. Hand built in Canada, Seagull is a member of the Godin family and the S6 in is probably their most famous acoustic guitar. Personally I have never owned one but I had always wanted one since I first met Robert Godin at a guitar show in London back in 93..which if memory serves was the year the S6 was introduced?
I remember talking at length to Robert about how the guitar was built and in particular about that..some would say “odd looking” headstock. It is that shape for a reason. It allows the strings to run at an almost straight angle to the nut and so improves tuning stability.
Anyway, everything I had originally thought about the S6 proved to be correct. It sounded wonderful with it’s solid cedar top and cherry wood back and sides (laminate) and it played beautifully. My fingers positively danced across the rosewood fretboard. It was an absolute delight
The Seagull S6 was actually a used guitar but there wasn’t a mark on it and amazingly it was only £179.99 with gig bag! So no brainer there then. I had looked at the same guitar a few months earlier in GuitarGuitar in Epsom and it was £399 there. In fact it’s £399 everywhere so an S6 in mint condition for a smidgen under 180 notes was never going to pass me by!
I had gone out with the intention of buying a Dowina or possibly something else in that price range and came home with a guitar I have wanted for the last 24 years and now I have it and I didn’t even need to pay full price for it. Happy days. Oh and that stable tuning on the S6 is true. Fitted new strings when I got home and have only needed to adjust the tuning once since then. I should add that if the S6 were not there and at the bargain price that it was I definitely would have purchased the Dowina. That’s a LOT of guitar for the money and I reckon if your in the market for a mid priced Taylor do check out Dowina at the same time, you may be very pleasantly surprised!
All in all I would have no hesitation in recommending Andertons. It’s a fantastic store with friendly staff and a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. If you are in the area do drop in but be prepared to spend a few hours there! By the way Andertons itself has very limited parking at the front of the store for maybe three or four cars but there is parking nearby.. There are bays not far from the store but it’s my experience that they are usually full. Far better to use the multi storey at Leapale Lane which is about a 10 minute walk away or there is also a Waitrose close by which also has a large car park.
Andertons Music Company, St Vincent House,
58-59 Woodbridge Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4RF
Tel: +44 1483 456777 Fax: +44 1483 456722