Features: The Freshman guitar company is still fairly new to the luthier world but that doesn't mean their products are terrible due to a lack of time spent in the industry. Freshman has been showered in awards in recent years for their guitar products, the Cedar Creek range being among these with Acoustic magazine awarding the FA400FCE with a score of 96%, the highest rating they have ever bestowed upon an electro acoustic guitar. Now we look at the FA400GACE, a guitar from the same award winning series.
The FA400GACE is a Grand Auditorium sized guitar that features an all solid wood design, which really opens up overtime (I have owned mine for nearly three years and the sound only seems to be getting better). The sides are made from Indian rosewood and the top from AAA grade Engelmann spruce which provides a very bright and powerful tone with brilliant response making this guitar ideal for finger style guitar players. The guitar itself lacks a lot of aesthetics apart from the Venetian cutaway which makes it look very plain, the rosette is made from a very dull looking piece of mahogany, the binding is made from single strips of Canadian maple and the pick guard is simply a deep red piece of plastic which altogether provides very little for the eye.
The guitar is however covered completely in gloss which aids in bringing back some visual aid to the guitars presence. The neck is mahogany and very thin, reminiscent of a typical electric guitars neck. The headstock is fashioned with very tasteful gold Grover tuners with black pegs and a very subtle Freshman logo in abalone. The FA400GACE uses a Schertler bluestick pickup with a battery life of 1000 hours when plugged in, this however I had to have repaired after a year of playing due to the jack falling loose from the bottom of the guitar. The guitar comes with a Freshman hard case, which after three years has gotten very tatty and has damage to the latches although I hardly use the case. // 8
Sound: I personally play a lot of finger style guitar and as stated earlier I find it brilliant for this style. Recently I have been playing more percussive styles such as Andy Mckee, Maneli Jamal and Antoine Dufour but I find the guitar is far to delicate for this style of guitar as I found I very easily scratch the guitar and sometimes feel as though I am damaging the pick up by hitting the soundboard. The guitar itself is very crisp and bright, if not a little to loud on the treble end. The guitar is perfectly capable of holding different tunings and rarely falls out of tune even with lower tunings such as open B. When plugged into an amp (I use a Marshall AS50D), the Schertler pickup accurately portrays the acoustic sound through a piezo pickup under the saddle without it sounding anything like an electric guitar, the guitar however does provide a lot of feedback in a band environment. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: The guitar from day one I found had an amazing smooth feel on the neck something that I felt was lacking on other more expensive models such as Martin. The neck itself feels very thin which provides very smooth an easy transitions between notes. The action was very low and was again very comfortable to play. The guitar although looked very plain initially was stylishly pieced together and to date I have had no problem with the body/neck of the guitar. The pickup is the only feature I have had any problems with and this was unfortunately in the first year of purchase and required me to pay 30 to get it repaired as it began to pry away from the innards of the guitar, but as I rarely play plugged in this was not a major problem for me. // 9
Reliability & Durability: The guitar has withstood many hours of live play and has even battled the elements with a fair few hours of outdoor gigs and to my knowledge it still appears as fresh as the day I bought it. This is my primary guitar and although I do own others I have often gigged with just this guitar which requires me to tune up/down onstage for different songs and has never given me any hassle to date. The finish is very reliable, if not just a pain to clean sometimes I just wouldn't recommend playing percussively on the body if you do not wish to damage it. // 8
Overall Impression: When looking to buy a new guitar I had tried several higher end guitars before finally purchasing the Freshman, brands such as Martin, Taylor and Takamine. My reasoning behind purchasing the FA400GACE was because it had all of the features of a higher end guitar such as Taylor and Martin but at a fraction of the price. The Taylor 714CE for example is a beautiful guitar and retails for over 2000 but when compared to the Freshman's price of 750, I can't help but feel I'm paying the extra 1250+ merely for the Taylor name. Before purchasing I would recommend comparing the FA400GACE to higher end models just so you realize what I did.
If this guitar was ever damaged beyond repair or stolen, I would definitely purchase a new one as it is ideal for my finger style playing. // 9