Review: Thalia Capo

 

I was sitting at my desk the other day when a co-worker, also a guitar player, came over to show me the new capo he got for Christmas. A capo is generally not a piece of gear that you go out of your way to show off to somebody, but this was a Thalia capo, and I was immediately impressed by the appearance and the solid feel of the item. Needless to say, it didn't take me long to go and order one.

I ordered directly through the Thalia Capos site, where you can choose from a wide variety of metal finish / inlay combinations. I opted for the chrome with Hawaiian Koa. Since I knew I'd be using this with my ukuleles, I also ordered the XL rubber tuning set, which has a lower profile for use with thinner necked guitars and ukuleles.

 

What's In The Box, And Initial Impressions

You get a lot in the package. First and foremost was the capo itself in a protective hard plastic case, along with a quick start guide and some marketing materials, including a sample Thalia brand wood pick. Also included was two sets of tuners, one made of Teflon and the other of rubber. Each set includes 7 tuners that can be switched to and from the capo so that you can custom fit your instruments.

The XL rubber fretpad tuning kit came with its own separate bag:

The capo itself is of course the main focus here. Like I said above, the style I ordered was chrome with a koa inlay. The koa is very attractive and especially complements my ukuleles, which are either acacia or koa themselves.

The capo has some decent weight to it (3.25 ounces, according to the Thalia site), much more so than any other capo I've used, and feels hefty and solid.

The first thing I tested was the spring action on the capo, to see how it would be attached to the guitar neck. It has a lot of tension in order to get a tight fit, so it takes a good squeeze to release.

However, it's easier to operate when you grip it from the other side, so that the part of the capo that holds down the strings is rested against your index finger, and the spring clip part is resting against your thumb. Setting it on the neck of the guitar or other stringed instrument is pretty easy, as is moving it from one fret to another to change key. I was able to do this in about 2 seconds.

The capo looks quite nice on my guitar, from the front and the back.

On the ukuleles, it was obviously bigger horizontally than it needed to be. I ended up switching it around so that I could minimize the amount it was sticking out on the side where my hand needed clearance. Guitar capos are difficult in general on the ukulele for me, since it's difficult to hit some of the chords with the big capo in the way.

Although the Thalia was no exception, it was less obstructionist than the other spring loaded guitar capo I own. I was able to play the ukulele just fine, but on a few chords I moved my wrist a little farther than I ordinarily would have.

A big selling point of the Thalia capos are that they are customizable to the instrument that you're using. The instructions come with a handy chart that list some of the common guitar brands and the optimal fretpad for each. My main guitar is a Martin steel string, so I opted for a Teflon 16 fretpad.

In the case of the ukulele, I was glad I had gotten the low profile set - with the Martin fretpad in place, it wouldn't even clip on the neck of the ukulele. My classical guitar also has a low profile neck, but because there are so many options for fretpads there is no problem using the same capo for all the different stringed instruments I own.

Switching out the fretpad is easy - you just apply pressure on the front of the pad and push it out with your finger, doing the opposite to push in the replacement pad.

 

Performance

The Thalia site contends that a "one size fits all" capo can pull strings out of tune because if there is an improper fit some of the strings will be pulled down with more tension than others.  I have certainly run into this problem on my Martin, especially noticing that the low E and to some extent the low A string appear to be a little sharper as I move up the fretboard. Generally I account for this by doing some tuning after setting the capo (and then of course retuning once I take it off).

During my initial tests with the Thalia capo, this problem didn't seem to occur - moving up to the fifth fret I didn't need to do any tweaking to get my strings back in tune. So that was a pleasant upgrade from my existing capo, and will be especially nice the next time I play live.

Like I mentioned above, the capo also worked well for my ukulele with the correct fretpad in place.

The Teflon material is more prone to slippage than the rubber fretpads. This was noted in the user manual, so I tried bumping it with my hand and sure enough caused it to nudge out of place. However, it didn't knock it enough to lose the tuning. If this became a problem it would likely be best to just stick with the rubber pads, especially when doing a live show.

Switching the capo between frets or up behind the nut was quite quick once I figured out how to grip it, and is a one-handed operation.

 

The Elephant In The Room

The Thalia capo performs well and looks marvelous. However, I assume that the big question for any musician reading this is, "is it really worth $70 (and up!) for something I can get by with for under $20?" Well, budget is really up to you. Here are a few arguments I can make:

  • Having used the capo for a little while now, I really do buy into the fact that the ability to customize the fretpad to the instrument yields better performance than a stock capo. This can save time and frustration, and also can save you from having to have multiple capos about.
  • It looks great. Especially if you're out playing a live gig, it's a special touch to have on your instrument.
  • The way it's priced lands it smack dab into gift territory. If you have a loved one who doesn't have any idea what to get you for the holidays or your birthday, here's something to recommend.

 

Conclusion

While it's a pricey venture, I'd definitely recommend adding a Thalia capo to your endless list of desired musical gear. It really does perform quite well with the right fret pad installed, it's well built and easy to use, and it looks great on your instrument.