TK O'Brien, or Walter Messick feedback on sound/voice.
General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
Now, here is something I can weigh in on. I have a TK O'Brien and Walter Messick. Tk O'Briens come in a variety of wood combos, as do Walter's. My TK is walnut with a butternut or poplar top (no one seems to agree on what it is). I bought it used,and I was told that it was one of the few good TK's out there. I have never touched another one, so I am not sure on that. It sounds fine enough to me (not perfect, but fine enough).
What I don't like on the TK O'Brien is the wider fretboard, the moveable bridge (which always seems to get knocked off when I am pulling the thing out of its case when I don't have time to fiddle with it), and the ugly closed tuners that don't work so accurately. I'd prefer open tuners, but maybe TKs have them now, IDK.
The Walter one is a maple teardrop. It is beautiful with clear notes. Not so loud though, which is good for me. It really has a sweet sound with some nice resonance, though the bass response is a bit mild, which might just be the nature of maple (I suppose trying a heavier gauge string might bass it up a bit, if I were so inclined). The down side to his were fret buzz when I swtiched to DAD tuning and pretty high action, which makes the first fret tiring to deal with.Walter plays noter style, so that might be the reason for that combo of problems in my case (if you are a notrer player,then no problem for you, I would imagine). Also, I don't use four strings,so when I take off the extra melody string, the distance between the three strings is not equal, which I find annoying. Minor difference and minor quibble, I admit, and it is common to many dulcimers when dropping the extra melody string. Others might not even notice.
I also like the look of the staytite tuners, but they are a pain to work with. I mean I can fidget with them at home satisfactorily, but I wouldn't want to deal with them in a class or at club or at a jam when things are slightly more rushed. I will eventually take his dulcimer to a local dulcimer "doctor," and have the action lowered, new nuts and bridge put in and cut to handle 3 strings equally, and swap the tuners for the geared type used on scroll head McSpaddens. I use the TK for strumming, and the Walter, as is now, for flat picking. I will eventually sell or give away the TK when I find my perfect workhorse dulcimer but I'll keep the Warren because it is such a beauty and has a very nice and distinctive sound. I use it much more at home than the TK.
As a final note on sound, my TK (remember it is walnut with poplar or butternut top) is more guitar like in sound. Walter's is more traditional dulcimer sounding, in the nice way. Neither is as loud or as twangy (for lack of a better word) as a McSpadden, which are like, to use an electric guitar comparison, the Telecasters of the dulcimer world to me. (I am a Fender Mustang and Jaguar man in that world!)
Oh, by the way, the Walter is a bit shorter than the TK. I think the TK is a 28" string length and Walter's a 26" anyway, that sort of difference if such things matter to you. I prefer the shorter string length myself, despite having big hands. Just so much easier to deal with (ditto on my guitar choice - short scale all the way!)
I notice that you last posted at the end of November, so perhaps you have already made your switch. If so, what do you think?
updated by @nikolas4squid: 01/18/16 10:09:15PM