Price paid: $ 499
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 10
Unplugged, this guitar can play any acoustic style, with the exception of classical. Get a nylon-string for that. I play mostly classic rock with a small amount of Folk and bluegrass, and some newer stuff. The sound this guitar makes can cover anything from the bluesy/folky acoustic lines in a Zeppelin song to the solo acoustic work of Elliott Smith to the acoustic stuff that Wilco plays. In Guitar Center, a guy was playing blues and jazz on it, it sounded great playing that style, too. It's a dreadnought, so it gives pretty good bottom end and midrange in addition to crystal clear highs. And that's just unplugged. I'm primarily a bassist, so I've been playing it at home through the only amp I have, which is a Hartke HA2500 bass amp head and a Hartke VX115 cab, which is a 15" primary woofer with a high frequency tweeter. According to the folks at guitar center, this is actually better sounding than playing it through an electric guitar amp, although not as good as playing it through an acoustic amp. Plugged in, the EQ and shape controls have a remarkable effect on the sound. Because it's a bass amp, I can get incredible lows when I turn the bass up on the guitar and on the amp. But I can also get amazingly crisp, bright sounds if I max out the treble and cut most of the bass just on the guitar, without changing anything on the amp. Overall, I'd say this is a very versatile instrument, especially plugged in. I haven't tried running it through any sort of effects pedal, but you could probably get great results there, too, because the tone controls allow you a wide range of sounds.
Overall Impression — 10
This guitar's a great match for me because of it's versatility, I play a lot of acoustic stuff and electric stuff, and this guitar can work well for both. It has a lot of great features for a reasonably low price. I've been playing for 3 years, I own a cheap Yamaha classical style guitar and a Peavey Milestone BXP 4-string J-bass, in addition to the Hartke amp I mentioned above. I would definitely buy this guitar again if stolen. I love the sound, both amplified and unplugged. My favorite feature is the onboard tuner, it's much faster to tune when practicing than to have to dig out a tuner. I also love the look and feel of it, totally classic. I compared this guitar to some of the acoustic-electric Taylor's, but those were, for the most part, out of my price range. No regrets as far as this guitar goes.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I plan to play this guitar live, plugged or unplugged, and I have no doubt that it will withstand live playing. Hardware is quite durable, the Grover tuners hold the strings in tune quite well. The gold strap buttons are excellent, on some acoustic guitars, they only put one on the lower bout, so you have to tie the other end of the strap to the headstock, which can make playing difficult because the balance feels off. Not so on this one, the strap button at the base of the neck makes for an extremely balanced and comfortable fit, and they're built to last. I would use this at a gig without backup, but with a spare set of strings handy, but that's something I do with any instrument. Finish looks quite durable, I've been playing like crazy at home, and I haven't seen any marks or scuffs at all.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I'm guessing that Guitar Center did their own set-up when the instrument came to them. When I played it in the store, the action was low, but without any fret buzz. No visible or audible flaws on the instrument at all. Finish is beautiful, hardware and electronics are completely solid.
Features — 10
Made in 2005 or 2006 in Korea. 20 standard frets, rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays at 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets. Solid Engelmann spruce top, multilaminate mahogany back and sides, high-gloss transparent finish, mahogany neck. Dreadnought cutaway-style body. Cream binding on body and neck, but not on headstock. Standard acoustic pin-and-socket bridge, with Advantage bridge pins. Fishman Sonicore Pickup with on-board SST Preamp. On-board chromatic tuner. Controls: 3-band EQ sliders (bass, middle, treble), rotary master volume control, phase switch (helps reduce feedback), tuner on/off (with tuner on, the preamp's output to the amplifier mutes for silent/quieter tuning). Balanced 1/4" and XLR output. Gold Grover tuners. Gold strap buttons located on the lower bout and at the base of the neck for a well-balanced and comfortable fit.