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Spectacular guitar! Looks like the Galaxy. Wonderfully original idea and amazing workmanship.  

Your guitar has been the star of every show I've been on here in New York and in Atlanta. Even the women at the Meredith Vieria show couldn't stop talking about it.

I have been a banjo player in every band I've ever been in. I impulsively bought your guitar for its beauty, but didn't think I would play it. It has opened a whole new chapter of music in my life. I not only play it every day, but have a regular jam every Wednesday night with a couple of other guitar players.

I'm ever appreciative of the joy your creation brings to me each day.

Elmo  http://www.drelmo.com/

I never once thought I'd be the proud owner of a custom anything guitar - let alone a Stehr. For years I've been in search of the perfect sound for me. And with the years, my standard of the 'perfect' sound would change too. But with every brand name guitar and a higher series model or the limited run models, I felt I was missing that 5%. When I first approached Joel, I wasn't sure I wanted to invest so much into something and someone I didn't know. But fast forward the wait, the build time, and delivery, I am so thankful that I did take that step. 
Working with Joel was a journey that was exciting and rewarding. Joel is more than a luthier with great reviews. He's my friend! 

When I first opened the case and saw the guitar, I was amazed at what I saw. I could not believe 'that' guitar was mine! The first few seconds of playing was like a grand piano surrounding me with deep basses, strong mids and clear trebles. Fast forward two months, and the sound and its beauty is only growing. I cannot believe how rich, clear and loud my Stehr is. The guitar sounds and feels like it will always be more than what I can offer as a player. But I love every curve and note it brings out. It's comfortable to play and the sustains last forever (at least until my fingers reach for another note). 

Thank you Joel for your masterpiece. And thank you again and again for your friendship. Looking forward to our future conversations, my friend. 

2014 GA 13-fret Madagascar Rosewood back and sides w/Carpathian Spruce top

Joseph Chang, WA


​Joel - One of my students/customers is Mike.  Over the weekend, he brought his Stehr in for a setup, which gave me a chance to try it out.

I can honestly tell you that, in my 45 years of playing, it's tone was in the top 3 of ALL the acoustic guitars I've ever played.  I told Mike that, in my opinion, the only guitars that I've played that sounded anywhere as good as his Stehr was an Olsen (previously owned by James Taylor) and a couple of Martins from the 50's.  On top of that, the aesthetics and workmanship of the instrument were absolutely breathtaking; my wife - who knows a beautiful guitar when she sees its - was amazed when I showed her your instrument.

Well done, sir… very well done!!!

Best Regards,
Joe Bivona, NY


As the proud new owner of this guitar let me say that Joel did an outstanding job and has far exceeded my expectations. I just received it today and have been absolutely stunned by the craftsmanship and tone of this wonderful instrument.​

David Kennedy, NC


Hi Joel,

I’ve only had my new guitar for a few weeks, but wanted to write to tell you how much I love playing it. And each time I do, I stop and think about how lucky I am to own it. It is beautiful to look at and a joy to listen to. The journey from our initial discussions, to your gathering of a pile of wood and to a stunning instrument in my living room was fantastic from start to finish. The creative process was a blast! I was amazed and grateful that you were so patient and encouraging during the design phase. As you know, I am more prone to simple boxes and angles, so you had to guide me a bit as we went with curves and other flowing lines. What’s really gratifying, in addition to how much I love it, is when I hear unsolicited comments like, “That is the nicest guitar I have ever seen!”, and “I don’t think I have ever seen a prettier fretboard.” In addition, you nailed the sound I was hoping to hear, which in itself is a leap of faith! It is rich, full, and as soft or as loud as I want it to be. And the sound changes a bit each day, just getting better and better in ways I really can’t put into words.  Simply…thank you for crafting such a fantastic instrument. I plan on enjoying it for many, many years.

Brought my guitar to a buddy’s office today. He started playing and said “I could sit and play this guitar all day.” And he kept commenting on the richness of the bass and how he feels it fits right in between the Martin and Taylor camps in terms of balance, meaning it is exceptionally well balanced (Martin being bass-biased and Taylor being treble-biased). It was really nice being out in front of the guitar for a while as well. It sounded really sweet. And, just as I wanted, it is very responsive when finger-plucked yet willing to roar when strummed with more gusto. I know you don’t need my continual affirmations, but I like hearing it when other people say such nice things, and I’m really happy to pass that along.

Mike Appollo, NY


I have had the last guitar you built for me on the "true tone" machine 2 different times, each time for a solid 7 days each. I "honest to God", believe it is the BEST sounding guitar I have ever heard. It surprises me to say that since the guitar is about as old as this past Thanksgiving. I am going down my guitar collection for insurance purposes and I have MANY guitars that have incredible sound, but the last BRW you made for me causes all the other hand made customs I own from other luthiers, my Larrivee's, Taylor's, Martin's (including my D-41) pale in comparison. I don't know if it is because I have run it so long on the true tone that it matured it's voice quicker, or it is just a special guitar, or both, but playing it again moments ago, leaves me in aye and proud of my investment.

Keith Youngren, WA


Hi Joel

Today, I purchased your stunning Auditorium guitar from Trevor at The Acoustic Music Co. in Brighton.

Thank you so much for making such a wonderful instrument. It's rare that a guitar looks, feels and sounds so good.

Over the last four years I have bought and traded in a number of fine guitars, some of them more expensive than the Auditorium. I've owned beautiful guitars, ones that felt great, ones that sounded fantastic but yours is the 'holy grail', a guitar that offers all of those attributes.

I look forward to many hours of happiness and to the guitar developing over time.

I'll record one of my songs and an instrumental piece soon and send them to you so you can hear the joy the guitar brings me.

Thank you Joel, you are a master of your craft.


Steve Leigh of Kitchen Sink Dramas (my band name)
Swindon, UK.

Hey Joel,

Charlie and I are getting a long very well. He's perfect!! Sounds incredible, easily the best guitar I've played. And nope, the neck is fine and so is the rest of the guitar. Absolutely loving him.

-Klara Soderberg, First Aid Kit, Sweden

Happy new year Joel. 
I just have to say I feel so privileged to have one of your guitars! Every time I open the case I can't get over how stunningly beautiful it is. The artistry and attention to detail are remarkable. The sound is opening up nicely. It really shines in open D tuning. The bass response is so full and rich. Yet the Macassar adds crispness as well. Beautiful action and comfy scale. All In all I'm so thrilled. I'm so glad to see your fame spread and wish you great success. Please use me as a reference any time 

-John Hoffmann, WA
The guitar arrived yesterday and boy is it stunning!! Joel, you have outdone yourself with this one. Excellent build quality and attention to detail!

-Henderson Nuuhiwa, HI

First of all, opening the case for the first time is a moment I will never forget. I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the guitar. I just sat there and stared at it almost moved to tears. I really could not believe how it struck me; simply amazing.

After an unusually long time, my wife and dad asked me if I was going to play it. I picked it up and the feel of the finish was mind blowing. It felt like glass in my hands. I was a bit afraid to hear it for the first time, I mean what if it didn't meet my expectations? Absolutely no problem in that department. The sound was amazing, I can't even begin to describe that first wave of sound that hit my ears. It was brilliant, loud and crisp all at the same time and I know that this is nothing compared to what it will sound like. This just made me more excited for what the future holds.

Honestly, thumbs up, way up. Way, way, way the hell up there.

By the way, the neck is amazing! It was really my only area of concern before receiving the guitar only because we really didn't talk about the neck much. The crazy thing about that is, I could imagine a more comfortable fit. 

-Nick Giaconia, TN

This guitar is so beautiful...I just keep staring at it.   Between the wood, your superb craftsmanship and the inlays, I really don't think I will ever see a guitar as beautiful as this...everything just fits together so beautifully!

Thanks so much for a great job. 

-Bob Singer, FL  http://yourperfectguitar.com/

Thank you for all the hard work you've done.  I am truly so grateful, playing your guitar is such a joy.  Looking forward to many more years of working together.  Now that I've played a Joel Stehr guitar I never want to go back.  You can quote me on that!

Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit, Sweden   http://www.thisisfirstaidkit.com/

Hey Joel,
...Not only is it stunningly beautiful but it sounds better than it looks. Uncanny for a new guitar. I can say that as I compared to my 1957 SJ and my 1940 D18. Can't wait until it really relaxes and opens up. I'll keep you posted but this guitar is a grand slam in all respects. Thanks for a fine end to a fun journey on #1. Ready to begin on #2...!

-L. Thornton, MS

Hello Joel,
I loved the guitar when I got it, but have learned to love and admire your work more every day. I primarily play banjo in my band, but this guitar has really jump started my interest in getting back into guitar.

-Dr. Elmo Shropeshire  (Wrote 'Grandma got ran over by a reindeer')

So I think you should be very proud to know....all my classical guys (both instructors and my ensemble partner, Mark...oh, and some random dude that was in the shop) LOVED the guitar. Everyone agrees that it's totally beautiful and all the detail (i.e. the maple that you used between the neck and fingerboard) is absolutely amazing. Also, the sound, tone, and volume is already top quality ....everyone agrees that it sounds better than my last guitar. Finally, it's pretty much unanimous that the neck shape and feel rocks! My ensemble instructor, David, asked if you're going to make more classicals? I forgot to give them your cards that are in my case but I will next time....I think Mark doesn't like his guitar now. Great job....everyone is jealous. Also, my main instructor William says I'm sounding much better too....I thank the guitar!!

Cheers man -I owe you a beer!
  - S. Carr, WA  
  Hi Joel,

Just a quick note to let you know that all is well. I let the case acclimate for an hour before opening her up, WOW!!!!

I am over the top impressed, there's so much to love about how she looks, but more importantly she feels perfect in my lap and I love the neck. I can thumb-wrap pain-free which is huge.

Right now I just can't stop looking at her. That shell turned out absolutely perfect, I love it. Please thank Joe for the great work on my behalf. You can still see other colors but it looks like warm antiquey gold. And the fist time I looked at that movingui back, it was like whoah i need to focus. It *does* look like it's moving.

Although she is stunningly beautiful, I'm most impressed with her voice and that neck is just so perfect. Truly plays like butter. I've only played like 5 minutes but it sounds absolutely wonderful so far. Single notes do indeed leap from this guitar. More on that later, I've already written a longer email than I planned. Just wanted to let you know that she arrived safely & I am ecstatic.
  - P. Garrow, FL  

  I have many guitars (an embarrasing amount :) and many Stehr guitars. They all have different sounds and I enjoy each one...but my 'perfect guitar' is a Stehr. You can see it under 'Grand Auditorium', with Peruvian Walnut (a deeper richer sound than American Walnuts) and a Sinker Redwood Top. Each string has the same volume, the sustain and overtones are incredible. This guitar has an wonderful 'ring' to it that I can't even describe. Of all my guitars, it's the one guitar I play every day. Thank you Joel!!!!!!!! P.S. He has more of that wood.
  - Bob Singer, FL  

  The guitar is fantastic. It is by far the best in the collection. It is really opening up nicely and sounds incredible.

The bigger thing for me is playability. I think we found “the” right combination of parameters that match a neck+fretboard to my hands and playing style. I am SO comfortable playing this thing, and I can go for hours with no fatigue.
  - L. Williams, NC  

  We are thrilled to be working with one of the best luthiers of the modern generation - Joel Stehr! Stehr embarked on his journey into lutherie in 2000, driven by a passion for the understated beauty and wonder of the vast world of wood and nature. Stehr attended the American School of Lutherie in Portland, OR under master luthier Charles Fox. Enlightened and motivated by his innovative techniques and ideas; Joel Stehr has gone on to build some of the finest hand-crafted instruments available.

The first we have commissioned is an Auditorium built with an incredible Curly Redwood top and Zircote back and sides. We have all been drooling over this one since it made it's way to the shop; it just demands your attention. This is the guitar fingerstylists have sweet dreams about. The Curly Redwood top has gorgeous figuring, and lends to a exceptionally responsive, balanced tone. The overall tone is rich, warm, deep, and blooming - lending itself perfectly to fingerstyle or light strumming with rich overtones. The Zircote back has a complex and wild grain pattern, and adds to much of the richness and low-end this beauty brings.

Much of what makes this guitar so superb is the 13th fret neck joint and personal soundport. The neck joint combines a 12-fret's resonance and a 14-fret's access - giving you the best of both. The soundport on the side adds a rich, tonal experience normally reserved for the outward audience. All the subtle overtones and rich response works it's way right to your ears. As with all of Stehr's work, this piece is lends its appointments to the natural aesthetics of nature. The body is bound with Claro Walnut; including the beveled arm rest - which adds even more untroubled and comfortable playing. In short, you just won't be able to put it down! The top is appointed with Maple purfling and a Zircote rosette. The Zircote fingerboard is set with gold fretwire and appointed with an offset maple inlay.

We are just blown away with this piece, and can not wait for what Stehr has in store for us next! Don't take our word for it, come in and see for yourself!
  - Artisan Guitars, Nashville 


  Hey Joel, I just received the 000 at my door and to be honest, I think I may be putting up my 1996 Martin J40 (with bearclaw figuring) on Ebay because I like the sound of this thing even more. And when I first opened the case I was blown away by how stunning this guitar looks. I don't know if it was just a fluke (I certainly hope not), but this OM sounds louder and more articulate than the 10 year old J40. And the wood darkened to such beautiful colors I'm really blown away by it. The cutaway looks really sharp and everything between the tuners, the gold frets, and the dark ebony really ties this guitar together. If all your guitars play this well I can't see myself buying guitars from anywhere but you in the future. Thank you for a beautiful guitar
- Crosby Wilson, PA

  I have really taken the time to examine the guitar and man, you do fantastic work. The detail, the small things, like the bridge pin holes, and the koa heel cap, the purfling, the end wedge and the perfect joining of the woods, binding, etc., the sanded edge of the sound hole.. Everything just fits perfectly. Hats off to you Joel.
  - Russ Mason, NY

  Hi Joel - Man this is one perfect guitar. EVERYTHING is right - the neck, the feel, the sound. It is just so very comfortable to hold and to play. For it's young age, the sound is good and lively. The woods and workmanship are just perfect, and it's a bit lighter than the 000 Blake. I don't know how you got the longer scale to be so easy to play, but man I am never going back to 14 fret necks again. This is just IT. So beautiful and just right for me. You are a friend indeed and a great artist.
  - Russ Mason, NY; Guitar #2
  Thanks again Joel for this guitar, it's lively tone far outreaches any acoustic I have owned to date. I am also very impressed with your fine craftsmanship. Truly an impressive guitar!
  - Travis Barden, OR

  …..not only does it surpass my wildest expectations of beauty but it has that indistinguishable thump that I was searching for in the lower register. I realize that it is still in its infancy and that it will be a while until I hear its true voice, I am thrilled with where it is now and can only imagine my orgasmic pleasure of hearing its sound in the future. For now, 3 CHEERS for the man who took a very bizarre idea for a guitar and made it a work of art. Thanks a million times over...
  - Dwayne, TX


  I just finished a marathon session with my beloved guitar and I just wanted to write and thank you again and again, for such a beautiful instrument. A day does not go by that I do not 'k'vel' over the sound that comes from those strings. As a mediocre player it just makes me sound so much better than what I really am.
  - Dwayne, TX


  I have owned many guitars from almost every major guitar manufacturer, many custom and some very special instruments; including a custom 31 year old Martin OM-45. In addition, I own a number of guitars from smaller luthiers. Joel's guitars are VERY special. I own three (a fourth to be delivered the in a few months) and more on order. Each guitar is unique, a Stehr guitar sounds like a piano (to me) with more resonance. When I play in song circles, people always have a double take and say "what are you playing?!". It is a wonderful instrument, I can't wait for my others to be delivered. I especially enjoy working with Joel, he is not afraid to experiment - take a chance - do something that hasn't been done before - and we are working on some pretty exciting instruments. Meeting Joel (sadly, not in person) certainly has been one of the highlights of my life.
  - Bob Singer, FL


You know me and words: they are always bouncing off the walls of my mind just waiting to be put on paper so that some prose or poetry can come to life. Yet I feel (almost) at a loss for words right now to express my thankfulness for the astoundingly beautiful instrument you have made for me. It is much more luscious up-close-and-personal than all the pictures hinted at. And the craftsmanship! Every detail is exquisite: the woods, the purflings, the inlays, the custom ebony tuners, the cut and comfort of the neck, the mitered joints, the glossy finish and every other facet of the guitar fit together in perfect aesthetic harmony.
Even better is its sound: the bass notes pop but don't overwhelm; the mid-ranges are subtle but not muddy; the trebles bright but not brassy. And this guitar is brand new. Given time its tone will mellow and sweeten even more.
So here's a loud "Huzzah!" for you Joel. Your guitars surpass the wildest dreams of those who commission you to build them! You are a truly a master at your craft.
  - Jim Salmon, NY 


  Miss Olive arrived this morning. It has exceeded my expectations completely. First and foremost, the sound...ah the sound...it's everything I wanted and more. The bass is not only really clean, but powerful. It's super powerful. It's surprises you when you play it that that much thump could come out of a "fingerstyle"guitar. The treble is bright and sings in the upper registers of the fretboard. The midrange sounds like it will open up the coming months as the guitar settles in, but right now is holding the mix together well. The tone is rich and balanced. For my playing style, where I do a mix of light bare finger melodies with some percussive chord work, the guitar is perfect. I can make it sound pretty and I can make it thump. You have outdone yourself. The workmanship is wonderful and it's evident that you take pride in your work. The setup is spot on and the frets are dressed nicely. Overall, I'm elated with the whole experience. I would order another instrument from you in a heartbeat. I say this will all sincerity, having owned and played some very nice guitars, you are truly gifted as a luthier and are just beginning to express your potential. This guitar is wonderful in so many ways, and I can only imagine what the future holds. Whatever it is, I want some of it, so I'll be getting another spot on the list!

Thank you Joel...I'll be in touch.
  - Justin Bowles, FL


  "I'm excited to report I had the privilege of playing one of your guitars today. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. The sinker redwood top was just beautiful and I loved the tone. It was the first time I've played a sinker top and it was so cool. It had a really neat depth to the grain. I was really impressed by the bass response and punchy tone. I think the sound port added so much to the instruments presence (I'm a big sound port fan). I really like your headstock logo and the neck profile was very comfortable. The setup was spot on and the guitar practically played itself. I've admired your talent from the pictures and it was great to admire it in person. Well done, sir!"
  - Danny Combs, TN  

  Joel, The guitar has arrived in our home, and I wanted to thank you very much for this piece of impeccable craftsmanship. It is a gorgeous guitar. I gave it time to wake up after the transport and when I started playing it, I found the sound wonderful. Granted, I have not played any handcrafted guitar before, but the projection and clarity of the sound in my ears is outstanding. Action is fantastic!
  -K. Braun, NY  

  Yes she arrived after lunch today. Its quite the beauty and my first impression of the sound is "exquisite". I didn't get to play her much in the office, and I haven't brought her home yet (I'll do that tomorrow), but I like the low end resonance on this baby, and the way the whole guitar vibrates against my body. Way cool, and its the sound I was definitely hoping for... The harmonics from string to string ring like a bell and it has a nice sustain.
  -H. Nuuhiwa, HI  

  Why didn't I have you build this thing sooner!!!!!! It is amazing, it does exactly what I hoped it would, plenty of bass with those beautiful extra high strings to set it off. I played it unplugged, I played it plugged in, I played it with a cut capo, everything I played sounded great. It has a beautiful tone, it is very easy to play (action is great) and what a big sound (especially with the sound port). I know that the Spalted Maple was one of your earlier guitars but compared to this one .....well let's just say you've come a long way. One funny coincidence that I discovered, the eight string appears to be (going by the serial number) your 26th guitar, the Cornerstone Genesis that I had built last year was Peter's 26th guitar.....
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful journey and an absolutely amazing instrument. It is such a joy to play. I'll talk to you more later.
Thank you my friend,
  -Steve Kenny, AR  

I wanted to get back to you, as I received my new guitar today. After viewing this guitar in person, I can't help but think what a true artist you are, with skills that go far beyond the time you have dedicated to being a guitar builder. Your attention to detail is impeccable, and the way you brought the whole project together as a finished product, just about leaves me speechless. (just about)
You told me the guitar's sound or voice might be limited as a "new born" and will develop over the next 60 to 90 days. You honestly set my expectations pretty low regarding it's initial tonal quality. Once I tuned it up and started to hit a couple of chords I became equally thrilled with the sound it produced. If I should expect to get a much better sound out it over the next 60 to 90 days, I am sure my satisfaction in this investment, will be over the top. Thanks again for building me a guitar that will stand out in my collection, one that I am truly proud of.
  -Keith Youngren, WA  

  Hi Joel,
I've had some more time with the guitar and it is truly spectacular. So balanced and warm. It will be very easy to record, I am sure. And louder than almost every other guitar I've had.
  -Mike Froelich, PA  

That about covers it. Sound is fantastic. I appreciate you sending it tuned to DADGAD – nice touch ;-) It held its tune through shipping pretty well. Needed only a little bit of adjusting – mostly on that God-forsaken 2nd string which is the bane of DADGAD/Open G anyway. The bass notes are very articulate and pronounced. The sound port lets me enjoy a tone that is far more like what a listener hears. That’s really nice, since I spend a lot of playing time playing for ME as the audience anyway. The guitar is noticeably smaller than my GAs but not by a ton – as we both expected. It sounds much bigger than it is. It is VERY comfortable. The size and armrest have a lot to do with that. String spacing and nut width is very similar to my Taylors. No issues AT ALL with needing do adjust. Neck is not nearly as fat, which is BETTER for me. I can wrap my thumb on occasion without going numb. I can also play longer on this neck. Left hand is much more comfortable. And I won’t go into how it looks. My students and guitar-playing friends are just going to melt. I am going to spend much of my day tomorrow oscillating between playing it and just staring.
Your cards will go quickly. And I will start saving my pennies. I will want another.
  -Laird Williams, NC  

Am I happy? Does the sun rise in the east and set in the west :-)...yup, I am a happy camper.
The sound (tone, complexity and volume) rivals the Orca, which to me is interesting because the Orca is a larger guitar - although it doesn't have the depth that the Baby Mac does. And the burl markers and rosette really came out great. The looks and the sound is the amazing. You've set another high bar for us to exceed.
  -Henderson Nuuhiwa, HI  

  This is my first custom-built guitar and I can tell that it’s certainly worth going through the build process with a luthier like Joel Stehr.
This guitar has a very unique sound and a personality of her own – everything that she has from sonic characteristics, balance, sustain, warmth to aesthetically-pleasing appointments contributes to this perception. Even the shape is comfortable and sexy.
I can see how this guitar is going to grow on me and for a good reason – it truly is a special instrument.
  -Michael Cozma, Canada