FolkRoots D Series vs FolkRoots H Series vs Folkcraft FSH Series vs Folkcraft Custom Series - Which to choose?
This is one of our most commonly-asked questions. Which one is best? Which one should I choose?
This is also a difficult-to-answer question. I'll provide some "what's different" and some "what each series is best at" answers, and let you make the "what's best?" decision.
FolkRoots D Series
This design goes back to Felton, California (which explains the "California body" description), to the late 1960s and early 1970s. It has seen a slew of improvements over the years, but the basic construction and design is fundamentally unchanged for over 50 years. The FolkRoots D Series dulcimers are 2 1/4" deep, and nearly 8" wide at the lower bout. This body gives the instrument a big, bold, boomy sound. The FolkRoots dulcimers are our loudest instruments, even louder than the Folkcraft Custom series, but they are not nearly as refined.
Think of the difference between my singing voice (accurate, pretty good tone, but I'm not a pro singer) and that of someone who sings for a living. The best singers have a wide dynamic range, with great control at all volumes and at all octaves.
The FolkRoots D Series is bigger, bolder, and boomier, but not as refined as the Folkcraft Custom Series. For playing in a jam, the FolkRoots D Series is the most powerful, and is a great choice.
FolkRoots H Series
The H Series is identical in tone to the D Series, but the H Series has two important upgrades: 1) a flat head is standard on the H Series; 2) an ebony fretboard veneer (which doesn't really affect the tone, but looks great, and is incredibly durable).
Folkcraft Custom Series
This has all the options you could want, and then some more. A slightly heavier construction, a different fretboard design (scallops underneath the fretboard, to lighten the fretboard's effect on the top of the dulcimer), another head choice (the very, very, very popular contemporary head, will all the tuners on the player side of the head), and a bunch more wood choices.
The Folkcraft Custom Series is available in both California and Kentucky bodies.
The Folkcraft Custom Series has the most refined and polished tone quality of any of our instruments, with a good balance between highs, mids, and lows. I play mostly Folkcraft Custom Series, as does most of our roster of endorsing artists.
Folkcraft FSH Series
This instrument line is the modern descendant of the original Folkcraft mountain dulcimer of the early 1970s. With a smaller body (our Kentucky body), and a sweet, delicate sound, this dulcimer is reminiscent of an instrument from the first half of the 1900s, made anywhere in the Ohio River valley.
With all the modern refinements, though - geared machine heads, frets that go all the way across the fretboard, perfect intonation - everything a modern player has come to expect from a quality instrument.
Which to choose?
It's a difficult decision for most people. I have two fancy Custom Series instruments (standard DAD/CGCI play every day. My baritone dulcimer is currently a FolkRoots design. If you want the prettiest tone, get the Folkcraft Custom Series. If you want the loudest sound, get one of the FolkRoots models.
You'll be happy with either.
If you're just getting into playing the mountain dulcimer, try the FolkRoots H Series. This instrument has the flat head (which I highly recommend) and the ebony fretboard veneer (which I also recommend). After you've played this for a year or two, and have developed an ear that can hear the subtle differences between one dulcimer and the next, we can work together to make the perfect Folkcraft Custom Series dulcimer that'll round out your dulcimer collection.