Price paid: A$ 499
Purchased from: Music Planet
Features: Not sure on the year, made in Indonesia. Dreadnought cutaway. Solid sitka spruce top, laminate ovangkohl b/s. Rosewood fretboard and bridge. 20 frets, acrylic snowflake inlays. Abalone rosette sounds hole inlay. Gold Grover tuners. Clearwave 10 preamp (4 band active preamp w/ 4 band chromatic tuner, phase control). Store gave free Stagg softcase and strap. Very good features for price range. // 8
Sound: I tend to play pop punk, and alternative rock. This suites me well, as my band is starting to play more Acoustic covers and Acoustic versions of our originals. Having a solid spruce top, this is very responsive to my pick attack. I strum fairly hard, and the top compliments it clearly and loudly. It also has a decent single note picking tone, but may not suit finger pickers looking for a mellower sound (Cedar tops are better for that). The use of ovangkohl b/s is less common. It tends to be used as a cheap subsitute for rosewood, but it has a sound of its own. It is a nice midway between maple and rosewood. The combination makes a bright sound, but the dreadnought body adds a wonderful booming bass.
Plugged in it sounds fairly good. I haven't had a chance to compare it to higher end preamps and pickups (Fishman, LR Baggs, etc) but for the price I don't think you'll be disappointed. Mine had the Clearwave 10, but this model can also have the ETQ-2010. The store had a model with each, but the preamp wasn't working on the ETQ (Even though the tuner was). For this, I would have to recommend the model with the Clearwave (it's much more visually attractive as well) The Clearwave has bass, mids, treble, and presence (extreme treble) controls, as well as a phase. I don't have an Acoustic amp, but it worked okay with my Blackstar HT-5 10 combo if I tweak the EQ to eliminate feedback. It sounds good enough for a basic gig. // 8
Action, Fit & Finish: The guitar was set-up beautifully. There is some fret buzz, but I expected this as I prefer the lower action that my store uses. It feels much closer to my Epiphone Les Paul Standard, so when I first tried it I was shocked how easy and smooth I could play it. The wood looks absolutely beautiful. The whiter spruce isn't my preference but the other model that had my more desired looked had the faulty preamp. However it is bookmatched very well. The ovangkohl b/s is stunning, the wood is very 3 dimensional, and having a very rosewood-esque grain but more of a honey colour. There are very few blemishes, just a small one on the binding of the fretboard, in a very unnoticeable place. The gold Grovers have no oxidisation and are wonderful and tune as you would expect. The only annoying thing is that the jack/strap button is quite large and the strap was quite hard to put on, but it is very solid. // 9
Reliability & Durability: The guitar seems very solid, and from the knocks it had in its short time in my hands it hasn't received any dents. The preamp on THIS one seems trustworthy, however with the quality of the ETQ-2010 I can't give this a perfect score. The finish seems nice and solid, but still thin enough for the guitar to breathe and age. Although the strap button is big, it feels very solid, and I would happily gig with no backup (even if I had a backup). I would just make sure you know what preamp you're getting and make sure you're happy with it. // 7
Overall Impression: Overall, I love this guitar. It suits the songs I play on it. I have been playing for 6 years, and I also own and Epiphone Les Paul Standard, Blackstar HT-5 10 combo, and Boss OS-2 overdrive/distortion. I'm glad I asked to try it plugged in, otherwise I could have been stuck with a dud. If this were stolen or lost, I may buy it again but I would also look at the Greg Bennett D7CE or D8CE, which are both Cedar tops (a much more beautiful wood in my opinion), or perhaps a Walden or Crafter. I love it's response to my pick attack, which the Cedar tops lack. I just wish it had 2 strap buttons, so people at least had that option. I compared it to the D7CE, D8CE, and Walden G630CE. Whilst those guitars are also very wonderful, I think this guitar will suit me much better in the long run. Overall, I would say if you like it, buy it! // 9