A rather unique situation occured last weekend - some friends visited and brought along a pair of bouzoukis, which resulted in a rather high "bouzouki density" in my living room !
Present were: 1) a big 10-string Sobell, rebuilt to an 8-string, 2) a 10-string Joe Foley, 3) a 10-string Davy Stuart, 4) a 10-string Dubowski, 5) an 8-string, flat-top de Louter, 6) an 8-string carved-top de Louter and 7) an 8-string Tennessee (= Trinity College) bouzouki.
Of the instruments present, the Tennessee had the longest scale (680mm), followed by the Sobell and the flat-top de Louter (650mm) and the rest (Stuart, Foley, carved-top de Louter, Dubowski, all 635mm).
The Sobell is easily loudest - but the Stuart comes pretty close ! There is a big difference in character though, as the Stuart is a flat-top instrument, and also has a low D pair. The Sobell has a very "dense" sound, with lots of punch, while the Stuart has
more sustain and "rings" more.
Another one that scores well on volume is the flat-top de Louter. Not as powerful as the
Sobell, but it has a smaller body and for it's size it does quite well.
The Dubowski has a very rich sound, but is not as loud as it's big body suggests. This can probably be improved by slightly raising the action on the 2 lowest courses, which are a bit close to the frets now and can't be strummed really hard without rattling.
The carved-top de Louter is a bit of a disappointment. While it is loud, it has a thinnish, almost banjo-like character, lacking fullness. It is in fact beaten, both in volume and warmth of tone, by the cheap Tennessee bouzouki.
The Foley is also not doing really well. Our guess is that the bridge position on this one is really too far back to efficiently drive the top. Otherwise it feels and looks pretty good, though it's fairly heavy too compared to the others.
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