Larrivée Guitars Review: Pros and Cons

Review of Larrivee Guitars

In the 1950s a young teenage boy from Canada became enamored by the smooth licks of American guitarist Duane Eddy. He went to his local music shop and bought a cheap $18 guitar in an effort to learn Eddy’s style. Nobody knew at the time that this teenager, whose name was Jean Larrivée, would go on to become one of the most influential Canadian guitar makers, whose guitars would be valued at over 150x’s that of his first guitar.

In 2013, an American Canadian astronaut named Chris Hadfield floated through the International Space Station strumming the song Space Oddity on his parlor guitar. 25 million views later, the rest of the world was introduced to a guitar that Canada already knew to be great: Larrivée guitars.

If you’ve ever come across a Larrivée guitar, chances are you it made an impression on you. So much so that perhaps you’re looking to purchase one yourself – or at least find out what all the fuss is about surrounding this unique guitar.

In a market saturated by hundreds of tiny guitar-makers but dominated by only a handful, Larrivée has distinguished itself as a quality guitar that has been a workhorse of musicians across the globe for decades.

Introduction to Larrivée Guitars

The Larrivee OM-03 Acoustic GuitarPrior to 1960, the flat-top acoustic market was dominated by a single company: C.F. Martin. It was the best guitar available at the time and most any other acoustic guitar manufacturer just ended up copying the Martin signature style.

This was of no consequence to Canadian-born Jean Larrivée, who had begun to seriously study classical guitar instead of the popular steel-string guitar. His job as an auto mechanic provided an income but it wasn’t long before his passion for guitar turned into an interest to become a luthier.

Fortunately, a German luthier named Edgar Mönch had recently moved to Toronto and was willing to take on Jean as an apprentice to his classical guitar building. The apprentice relationship only lasted a short time but the impact has lasted decades.

As Jean began to test new shapes, bracings and construction methods, he found success by crossing elements of the popular Martin steel-string guitars with classical guitars methods he had learned from Mönch. To this day, the innovative symmetrical X bracing used on the soundboard is implemented on every Larrivée series except the “30.” It was an innovative process and a tradition that he would pass on for generations .

Larrivée guitars began in 1967 in the workshop of Jean’s small home and has grown to include manufacturing plants in Vancouver, Canada (now closed) and in Oxnard, California. While the company produces a limited number of mandolins and electric guitars, the bulk of its manufacturing is dedicated to its venerable acoustic guitars.

In 2013, the Canadian-born company was moved completely to the U.S. where all manufacture currently takes place.

The Larrivée Model Breakdown

Every guitar-maker has their own method of naming guitar models and each has its own quirks. Larrivée guitars are no different so before we dive into the pros and cons of the guitar, let’s take a look at the acoustic models they produce and how they designate them.

All Larrivée guitars begin with the body size indicated by a letter such as “D,” “L,” “LV,” “OM,” and is followed by a series number such as “03,” “04” and so on. Finally, a model can be modified with additional letters indicating electronics (“E”), different woods (i.e. “R” for Rosewood) or number of strings (“12” for a 12-string).

Examples of a Larrivée guitar model would be a “D-03,” an “L-03-12E” or an “OM-05” among others.

Below is a quick breakdown of the various body sizes and series models for reference:

Larrivee Body Type Larrivee Series Numbers
L Larrivée Body 03 Recording Series
D Dreadnaught Body 40 Legacy Series
OM Orchestra Model Body 04 Performer Series
LS Larrivée Small Body 05 Mahogany Select Series
P Parlor Body 09 Rosewood Artist Series
SD Slope Dreadnaught 10 Rosewood Deluxe Series
11 Fingerstyle Series
Add “V” Indicated cutaway 50 Mahogany Traditional Series
 Add “E”  Indicates electronics 60 Rosewood Traditional Series

For a more detailed look at what makes each model series different, see the Larrivee comparison chart here.

So with this as a reference, it’s easy to see that a Larrivée model “LV-10” is a Larrivee body guitar from the Rosewood Deluxe Series that includes a cutaway. The Larrivée “PV-09” is a Larrivée Parlor guitar body from the Rosewood Artist Series that includes a cutaway but no onboard electronics.

Larrivée Review | Pros & Cons

In my opinion, the most important aspects of any acoustic guitar are its tone, playability and projection. The aesthetics of a guitar are certainly note-worthy but tend to be more subjective in nature. It is with this framework in mind that I provide my review of theLarrivée guitar.

All it takes is a single strum on any Larrivée guitar to understand why so many people love Larrivée. I’m a huge fan of the guitar’s crisp tone complimented by its beautiful sustain. The solid wood construction of every Larrivée guitar makes itself known via the excellent projection that could fill a concert hall.

In addition to being clean and crisp, it’s worth noting that the Larrivée offers a very balanced tone, meaning that its highs and lows are treated in equal regard throughout the final tone. Those critical of Taylor guitars for its preference to higher register tones or those critical of Martin for its preference of the lower register tones will find this quality of Larrivée guitars to be appealing.

Playing a Larrivee Acoustic Guitar

The solid wood used in the construction of a Larrivée guitar is also worth mentioning because not all wood is created equal. Jean Larrivée is known among luthier circles to have a keen eye for woods and he travels all over the world sourcing only the best. In fact, Larrivée has even become a major supplier of good Sitka spruce to other guitar manufacturers. The wood on a Larrivée guitar has a beautiful color in addition to an even grain that is a subtle reminder of the quality of the guitar.

In terms of playability, every Larrivée I’ve ever picked up easily compares with any Martin or Taylor I’ve played. Some people consider the neck to be a bit flat but I find the single-piece necks to be fun to play and easy to slide around. The standard 1 3/4″ nut width (for most Larrivee series guitars) is comfortable.

Larrivee 03 Series Acoustic GuitarIn terms of action, I think that at this price point it should go without saying that all Larrivée guitars come with extremely low action, making them a dream to play. You won’t be disappointed in this regard.

The biggest “pro” for the Larrivée guitar is that all of the above-mentioned qualities – qualities which set these guitars among the likes of Martin and Taylor – are often priced well below comparable acoustic guitars. Aside from the “wow” factor of a Larrivée, the “value” factor is the most cited benefit among owners of the guitar.

Although it’s hard to find many “cons” with a Larrivée guitar, I’ll take a moment to mention the one thing I find lacking: the guitar pickup. While Taylor Guitars has continually innovated with their “ES” Expression System, Larrivée is stuck still using an undersaddle L.R. Baggs pickup. It’s a good pickup, don’t get me wrong, but not one I’m keen to work with on stage. Despite the name “Stagepro Element,” this L.R. Baggs pickup doesn’t reproduce the beautiful sound of the Larrivée as much as I would like it to.

This one critique aside, there’s no doubt that Larrivée Guitars are some of the best value guitars you’ll find no matter what you compare it to.

Larrivee Guitars vs Taylor Guitars

Larrivee vs Taylor guitars

One of the most common questions I hear about Larrivée guitars is how they compare to a similarly-priced Taylor guitar. As the owner of a Taylor 310ce, I feel somewhat qualified to answer this question.

Both the Taylor and the Larrivée are constructed using some of the best woods available (both Bob Taylor and Jean Larrivée are sticklers for good wood) and the quality of construction is superb. Bob Taylor proved the value of quality construction when he produced the Taylor pallet guitar.

Whereas Taylor guitars are valued for their balanced midrange and gorgeous high notes, the Larrivée guitar finds a bit more balance in the lower register. Both guitars have crystal clear tone without the overpowering lower register of the Martin guitar.

The biggest difference between a Taylor acoustic guitar and a Larrivée acoustic guitar is in aesthetics and price. It’s hard to place my finger on exactly what makes the look of these guitars different, but each is recognizable in its own regard. I love the modern look of a Taylor guitar but fully appreciate the beauty of the Larrivée design. It’s all personal preference.

Once you find a comparable Larrivée and Taylor model – let’s say a Taylor guitars 300 series and a Larrivée 03 “Recording Series,” you’ll immediately notice that the Larrivée is hundreds of dollars cheaper than a Taylor. This is not an indication of lower quality, merely a recognition that the Taylor name is currently more valuable than Larrivée. So if brand isn’t an issue for you, Larrivée is certainly a better value for your money than Taylor.

Larrivée Parlor Guitar Review

Before I conclude this review of Larrivée, I’d like to make special mention of one of their most popular guitars: the Larrivée Parlor guitar.

The Larrivée Parlor guitar, which includes the P-03 Mahogany model, the P-09 Rosewood model and the PV-09 model with a cutaway, are a series of guitars that have effectively packed an amazing sound into a smaller-body. These parlor guitars have a somewhat elongated body, making them different in both tone and look from something like the Baby Taylor guitar.

Unlike most parlor guitars, the Larrivée Parlor guitars are American-made, all-solid wood guitars that boast a great Larrivée tone with a little less projection. The parlor has the same nut width (1 3/4″) as the full-size Larrivée guitars so the playability feels the same.

You won’t find any electronics on the Larrivée parlor guitar, although that’s a simple aftermarket addition if that’s a must-have feature.

Overall, this parlor guitar makes for an excellent songwriting guitar or even a beginner guitar, although the $1,000+ price tag might cause you to consider just purchasing a full-size guitar instead.

Larrivee P-03 Parlor Guitar

Larrivee Parlor guitar P-03

–>Check pricing on the Larrivee P-03 Parlor Guitar<–

Larrivee P-09 Parlor Guitar

Back and sides of the Larrivee Parlor guitar P-09

–>Check pricing on the Larrivee P-09 Parlor Guitar<–

Larrivee PV-09 Parlor Guitar

Cutaway from the Larrivee PV-09 Parlor Guitar

–>Check pricing on the Larrivee PV-09 Parlor Guitar<–


Conclusion: Is a Larrivée Worth the Price?

I’d like to echo the sentiments of most every Larrivée guitar owner before I conclude my review: the Larrivée is one of the best value guitars in the above $1,000 range.

If you’re looking to upgrade your guitar and you haven’t yet pledged allegiance to the likes of Martin, Taylor, or any of the other major manufacturers, Larrivée is well-worth your consideration. You’ll get just as much guitar with an equally beautiful tone for a price that is much lower than its competitors.

 

18 Responses to Larrivée Guitars Review: Pros and Cons

  1. Ray says:

    For your information, Chris Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut.

    • Josh Summers says:

      You are absolutely right! I knew that…not sure why I wrote it wrong. Thanks for the correction, Ray – I’ve noted it in the article above.

  2. Jim says:

    I think Josh nailed it with the “balanced tone comment” I also owned a Taylor 310ce which I loved but the sometimes harshness of the mid to high-end register, especially when played electrically always annoyed me.It was a heck of a guitar for strumming though. I now own a Larrivee’ L03 Custom with a cedar top and quilted mahogany back and sides. I payed $1200 for it which is more than I paid for my Taylor. In fairness the Taylor also had the original “Expression” pickup system which made it even more bang for the buck.The Larrivee’ came without the electronics so I was able to install an L.R.Bagss “Anthem SL” in it. That system uses the UST and their Lyric microphone and works beautifully to reproduce the acoustic tones of my guitar.
    I should also mention that the Larrivee’ is a striking in appearance guitar, representing itself as a much more expensive-looking than it is. instrument.

    • Josh Summers says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jim! I agree with you – the Larrivee has a very striking appearance that leaves an impression on anybody who sees it.

  3. Aidan says:

    I agree with Josh’s review. For the money, neither a Taylor or Martin can hang with a comparable Larrivee. I own a D03-R. I knew about Larrivee’s prior to purchase but spent many hours in the guitar shop playing lots of guitars, but focused on equivalent Martins and Taylors. As an aside I tried a few Seagulls and these guitars to me represent good quality if your budget puts a Larrivee out of reach. I personally find the Taylors tone not to my taste for what I play. Too much high end and no bottom at all. Maybe more suited to fingerstyle. There wasn’t much to choose between the Martin and Larrivee tone wise – balanced was a great descriptor in the article. Great bottom end in the Larrivee but a nice, clear high end with great projection. I actually liked the playability of the Larrivee a bit better than the Martin but in a shop this can be down to the factory setup and how much it has been bashed around in the shop. At the end of the day, the LV was about 25% cheaper than the Martin, and at least it’s equal. So home it came and I’ve loved it ever since. I’ve had it about 5 years now and it still plays and looks as new but might sound even better.

  4. Chris Dupre says:

    I’m a gigging professional performer in the Orlando, Florida area. I perform sometimes 5 days a week a s a solo acoustic player. These are the best guitars available if (like Josh said) you don’t get concerned about the aesthetic. (However Larrivee does create some beautiful inlaid models as well). Point is their less expensive models sound just as good as their super expensive models. I purchased a Taylor 300 series and gigged with it for 3 weeks and the thing frustrated me electronically. And here is where I disagree with Josh. I returned it and paid a little more for an LV-03 and loved it right from the first gig and on. And I just could not say enough about its performance and durability. I also recorded 2 albums with it and people have remarked about the sound of the guitar after hearing the album.

  5. Alan Manker says:

    I have a Larravee D-10, and one thing worthy of note is that even though it’s a dreadnought it responds beautifully when you’re Fingerpicking. An outstanding guitar top to bottom.

    • amy freund says:

      I have a d10 B which is brazilian rosewood.
      Do you have the same
      mine is in the $5000 range
      I was thinking about selling it but not sure.
      Any opinions

  6. Kyle says:

    I’m a new visitor to your site, and I must say I agree with most everything said here, including some of the differences of opinion. These are personal preferences. I’m fortunate to have Larrivee’s LV-10 45th Anniversary model, as well as Taylor’s 814ce Limited Edition L10. Both are awesome in their own rights, and satisfy my need to have options across the tone/balance spectrum. The price point on Larrivees is very hard to beat, and I’d put my LV-10 (it is stunning) up against any other, and I’ve had many Taylors, Martins and Larrivees (the C-10 perhaps my fave of all). None I would complain about or have issues with. Again, it’s usually down to personal preference. If I were new to guitars, or considering upgrading to a higher-end brand/model, I would STRONGLY give attention to Larrivee over all others if price was a factor, and even so if it wasn’t.

  7. Barry says:

    I own a Martin (DX-1), Larrivee (LV03-RE) and Taylor (310-CE), and they are all wonderful guitars. I agree with everyone that the tone of the Larrivee is probably the best balance, but the “playability” of the Taylor can’t be matched by either my Martin or my Larrivee. How Taylor achieves such fantastic neck action I don’t know, but both my 6 string and my 12 string (Jumbo 355) Taylors almost play themselves. They are different, but my “favorite” one is always the one I have just finished playing. I tend to use the Taylor a bit more for recording stuff, but the Larrivee and Martin are also used in this area. Regardless of which one a new buyer selects, they won’t be disappointed.

  8. Jp says:

    I bought my Parlor in 1999. I stay on the road 11 months a year pipelining and wouldn’t think about leaving it behind. BTW. It’s one of the first issued serial# 032999

  9. mxf339 says:

    I recently acquired two used Larrivee’ OO O3, both with walnut back and sides, one with an Italian Spruce top and one with a Western Cedar top. I also have a Martin 000 15 (custom). I can’t really say which I love more. The Larrivees are 12 fretters, but all play very well. I mostly fingerpick, not much strumming.

  10. […] order to make a fair comparison, however, let’s look at the Taylor GS Mini and the Larrivee Parlor guitar for an example. Both have a roughly 24″ scale length and look smaller than a full-sized […]

  11. Jules Victor says:

    I’m a “student” level acoustic guitar player. I own a 60’s Maton and a 90’s Yamaha solid top. All fine guitars in there own way. Good necks and they stay in tune. I recently restrung them and then played the 2 guitars and compared them to a recently bought Larrivee D-03R . Same 2 songs ABC’d with fingers then plectrum. ( sorry neighbours ).The difference was amazing. The tone; rich & beautiful, fuller but not brash. Balanced sound between the strings. Minor chords sounder “sweeter” and cowboys chords have never sounded so good. The neck is comfortable with some “meat”to it and the frets smooth and no buzzing.Finish is lovely in satin with beautiful grain and the scratchplate a nice touch in faux tortoise and headstock and logo understated but classy Everyone should own a Larrivee or at least try one, borrow one but don’t steal one ’cause you will break their heart. Now a Larrivee parlor might be on the wish list for Xmas.

  12. Jeffery says:

    I’m going for the Larrivee P-10 Custom used but in Mint Condition $1800 and change, After watching and listening to video after video and reading review after review I feel I’m ready to dive in and make this purchase, actually I may be trading a 2013 Gibson Memphis Custom Shop 59′ reissue ES-330 for the aforementioned Larrivee parlor P-10 Custom. From all my research What stood out the most for me at least was the Larrivee parlors Volume & Projection it’s simply unbelievable! I would even close my eyes and listen expecting that when I re-open them I would see a full sized Martin or Gibson, I can’t get over it! and the inlays and attention to detail was 2nd to none! and I mean that! At 62 years young I can attest that Izvestia had some of the finest guitars available, Gibson Hummingbirds, Martin 000-28 EC model, Fenders, Guilds, I’ve played em all…for me this Parlor guitar has everything and more than I could ever expect or ask for in a guitar bar none…perfect for ease of play, projection, songwriting, recording, it just has it!
    Respectfully,
    Merry Christmas!
    Jeffery S Mercer
    Mentor,Oh

  13. robert says:

    I like many of you have had some great guitars a martian d76 Taylor 310ce a gallerger (doc Watson)and won a koa macphearson a early sigma I used to try out many different pick ups on .a sunrise and pre amp are on it now .I use Newman mics and record theses instruments with much expertise .when you record a l_30 made by this company it simply shines .we no longer are talking about how a guitar sounds by it self…they all sound good…but what if you need to record this sound…you will no hear what a Mic hears well two of them and then we add the pickup..wow there is now a major difference ..the L 30 maybe the best sounding guitar in the world to record..it is beautiful.

  14. Jeff says:

    Amen, and Amen!

  15. mark says:

    I bought my first Larrivee, February, 2016. It was one of those “this guitar is speaking to me, and I must own it!” things. It’s an L-03 Custom with a 1 11/16 nut, 40 style neck and head stock with open tunners. The tone of this guitar is intoxicating.

    Now an OM-40R Legacy Series has been speaking to me recently and I recently ordered a 50th Anniversary model…

    Be careful! Larrivee guitars are addictive.

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