Purchased from: Sweetwater Sound
Features — 9
Made in Korea 12-string for Ovation. 20-frets. Neck is 1-13/16 at nut w/ Rosewood fretboard. The body is laminated spruce top, mahogany neck, and walnut bridge. The body is a deep-bowl, non-cutaway molded body from a fiberglass/epoxy compound, Kaman Music patented under the name "Lyramold." It has an active OP4B pickup/preamp system. Controls are rotary volume, and 3 sliders for lo, mid, and hi eq bands. Tuners are branded as Ovation but appear to be Grover or Gotoh clones. The price did not include a case, but that is not surprising for a guitar in the under $500 price range. Ovation, however, now offers a hybrid case (made by TKL) which provides adequate protection for anyone who is not a touring musician. Given that no other 12-string with a street price of less than $400 has as many features, this is an outstanding example in its range. Plus, as with all Ovations, it features a pinless bridge - a feature I prefer.
Sound — 10
I like to call my style "psychedelic country gospel" and this guitar is very well suited for it. The design and material used for the body give it a resonance [when played unplugged] which I have yet to find in any other guitar in its price range using traditional materials and design. The sound is very rich, featuring the chimey-ness associated with 12-strings, yet balanced so it doesn't sound muddy on the bottom, or trebly on the top. When plugged in, I have found the pre-amp to be quiet and by tweaking the EQ settings on the pre-amp (slight cut to the mid-range, with slight boosts to the hi and lo, makes it sound more "natural").
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Because this came through an internet dealer as a special order, it was not set up by the dealer. So it came with the factory set up - which I found to be perfect. No dead frets, no buzzing frets, and a very good action for chording, fingerpicking, and barre chords. Although the top is laminated, the factory did a very good job of making it appear to be bookmatched. I did not detect any flaws in the construction. Since the body is molded, and not joined pieces of wood held together by wood glue and kerfing strips, there are no joins to come loose there. Using a dental mirror, I could not find any indications of loose braces or poorly glued joins between the top and the bowl. The pickup controls are smooth and noiseless.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Although I have not played out with this yet, my past experience with Ovations is that these are built for gigging. The tuners appear to be top notch, and the strap buttons are solid. Twenty-five years ago I owned the predecessor model to this, the Applause AA-35, which was the acoustic-only version of this made back when Applause guitars featured an aluminum neck and fretboard. They are a workhorse guitar - designed to be played by musicians who lack the funds for more expensive guitars, while providing a sound which projects, while capable of great nuances in playing (which is probably why Ovations have been the acoustic guitar of choice for musicians such as Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin, and John Williams - for his fusion group, Skye).
Overall Impression — 10
This is a great match for the style of music I play since my style utilizes elements from folk, country, celtic, and eastern music. I've been playing guitar for over 40 years and 12-string for over 35 years. This is the third Ovation 12-string I've owned and the second from the Applause series - which should indicate my strong support for their guitars. I've owned over a half-dozen 12-strings in that time and played probably a few dozen more, ranging from top of the line models from Guild, Taylor, and Breedlove, intermediately priced models from Conn, Seagull, Alvarez, and Walden, to lower-priced models from Ibanez, Samick, Epiphone, Fender, and Yamaha. Of all the 12-strings I've owned in the past, the Applause I owned 25 years ago is the only one I've ever regretted parting with. This makes up for it. If this were lost or stolen, I would have to find the mangy animal and make him pay dearly for it. I have been informed that Ovation is discontinuing this line, which means they will no longer be offering models with a deep-bowl, non-cutaway body style as production model instruments.