Historical Hints (C.8): The Auditorium guitar

Jan 4, 2018

Historical Hints (C.8): The Auditorium guitar

In the year 2001 I heard for the first time about a new material called Nomex, and about its utilization in the double top, which is also called “sandwich”, to create a small air chamber between two fine glued sheets on both sides of the aforementioned material. It is widely known that fine tops provide a greater power of sound, but they are worn out in a few years and end up losing their sonority.

However, this new system with the utilization of Nomex provides substantial strength and enough steadiness to both fine tops attached to this material, in such a way that the sound does not lose power over time. Furthermore, as I have proved for myself the sound develops more and more as you use the instrument over the years.

How did we learn to work with Nomex to build guitar tops?

Through the American guitar maker Tom Blacksheer I knew that this material was discovered by the German guitar maker Gernot Wagner, I contacted him so that he could provide me with any information. Later, Gernot had the most generous gesture by coming to visit me in my workshop where he not only explained to us how to work with the Nomex to build tops but also made us a table to vacuum glue them. He was our guest for several days and it was a very much interesting and illustrative visit for us all since among guitar makers there are often exchanges that are enriching for both of us.

So, after testing several ways of applying this new system of construction of harmonic tops, we found the one we thought was the most adequate for our guitars, so the quality and characteristic Ramírez sound of our guitars should be respected, taking advantage of the benefits that result from its use.

Meanwhile, I had started to ask two of my main distributors, both guitarists, for their opinion about the double top with Nomex, and both showed a firm rejection arguing that it was used in cheap guitars – as far as they knew – to give them a greater power with no respect to the quality of sound. Similarly, in their opinion, it was a foreign body, artificial and in some way abominable from the point of view of tradition.

But I went on with my experiment without telling anyone because I understood quite well that if I told someone, prejudice would anticipate any objective analysis of the result.

The creation of our handmade guitar Auditorium

And it was proved to me that the contribution to the sound of our guitars was quite interesting: greater power, greater open sound and sustain and, something quite curious, a capacity to evolve more rapidly and a notable adaptation to the way the guitarist plays. I decided to call this guitar “Auditorium”.

I made several versions, and we took the ones that I thought were more interesting to the Conservatorio Superior de Música of Madrid, where we were lent a room to make a test with the help of several teachers, José Luis Rodrigo, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Pablo de la Cruz and some students.

We took them a Traditional, a normal Auditorium and an Auditorium with the chamber (in whose interior flap I had also placed the sheet of Nomex). It was an illustrative experience, and we could verify that the sound of the normal Auditorium was projected with total clearness to the last rows of the room, although in the first rows no substantial difference could be noticed. The Auditorium with the chamber had a greater power in a closed space, even the guitarist could perceive a greater sonority, but its projection weakened in further rows. We only took the Traditional guitar to compare the projection, and we could prove that the Auditorium had greater power.

I wrote to my reluctant distributors in order to offer them the new model, being very careful not to reveal to them that I had applied Nomex in the inner part of the top. And both of them loved it. Then I told them what my “secret” was about such a special guitar. And they accepted it, not without surprise, and they went on buying it.

Creating the Auditorium guitar for Manuel Babiloni with a double back made of Nomex

Sometime later (21- 9- 2012), I continued developing this model, searching for an even better result. I used the Spanish guitarist Manuel Babiloni as a guinea pig. He had already tried the Auditorium guitar, and he had made some recordings at varying distances to prove its great power. So, in view of the success, he decided to order an Auditorium guitar. At that time I had the project to make a test with the back, that is, placing also a double back with Nomex. And just as we were about to start constructing Babiloni’s guitar, it struck me to propose he make his guitar with a double back too. And he accepted the risk.

The reason to make this experiment with a double back was that, as it is known, if you remove the back from a guitar, its sound power is immense, but out of control. So if I constructed a guitar with a thin back and with an air chamber inside, I would probably increase its projection.

When the guitar was finished, Manuel came to collect it and from the very beginning, the difference could be felt in the regular Auditorium. Good things came later, because the more he was working with it, the greater was his enthusiasm because the evolution was according to his own words impressive (he used to call me frequently to keep me informed about his improvements).

The Guitar Auditorium Duo

To be honest, I did not construct any other guitar with a double back and a double top – that was called ‘Auditorium Duo’ – I got a little lost responding to the orders I had, overwhelmed by the long waiting list. In the meanwhile, I had thought about the next step, as soon as we could find room in our agenda, it would be to construct a guitar that would have a double top and double back as well as double sides also with Nomex.

And it was then that I realised that we hadn’t offered the Auditorium Duo to anyone yet, so in the winter of 2014-15 we constructed a guitar to be shown to more people, and I took it to the Guitar Festival of Rust, Austria, which was celebrated in March 2015.

There, Nicky, Vienna’s commercial took my guitars, so that they could be proved, and he was impressed by the great change the guitar went through in such a little time, and about the increase in its projection, that according to him, all those who played it felt filled by its sound. It is something that couldn’t be appreciated at the beginning.

This is a characteristic I have also observed in the Auditorium guitar, both in the regular and in the Duo, the thing is that it is not until it is played for some time that you don’t start to notice the characteristics that make it different from the Traditional one.

Nevertheless, and to be completely honest, I acknowledge my weakness for the Traditional guitar, it has a special charm due to its warmth and sweetness. And although it has always been clear to me that I will never sacrifice the quality in favour of power, one part of me believes that the increase in power can be a risk and that the intimacy in which we immerse when we hear the Traditional guitar can be lost.

The Guitar Auditorium Trio

We prove a new experiment and we saw what happens when we build the guitar with double sides with Nomex. It took me a long time to do the research and the result was splendid. In this case, I added to the double top and double floor, double sides. More than one guitarist has congratulated us, like David González who wrote me the letter that you can read below. It is a pity that my good friend Manuel Babiloni did not have time to try it.

Dear Amalia,

I cannot do other than convey my deepest admiration.

During the three weeks, I have been evaluating the Auditorio guitar you have left me as a deposit, and after more or less one hundred hours of use, I have gone through three stages:

First of all, I had the feeling I was riding a wild and powerful horse, unruly and elusive.

Secondly, I threw myself into prompting nuances and diverse tones, the balance of low-high (this is essential) and nobility of expression. Perform in a high tune without stridencies and without this annoying and dull ‘heavy’ sound so common in other guitars. With a challenging stubbornness, I was given bits.

And finally today, I’ve just realized I cannot get rid of it, due to its quick capacity to accommodate my demands and the extraordinary and wide dynamic range it provides and that can enhance my expressiveness. It seems to be defiant as if it were saying: ask for more things.

In short, I believe it is an extraordinary instrument.


Article written by Amalia Ramírez.

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