Price paid: $ 495
Purchased from: Zager
Features — 10
The Zager parlor guitar that I own just rolled off Denny Zager's work bench. I waited perhaps 3 months while he caught up on his orders. It is, after all, a hand-made in the U.S.A. custom guitar, which makes the price even more incredible. With a 12-fret-to-the-body neck (a 23.5 scale), it is really designed for smaller players, and I originally bought it for my wife, who is the real guitarist in the family, even though I have been playing for 45 years. With an all solid mahogany top, back, sides (no laminate), and neck, hand-carved nut and Tusq saddle, high gloss finish, rosewood fretboard and bridge, and abalone rosette, one would expect to pay top dollar. The hard shell case is extra.
Sound — 10
With a parlor size body, I did not expect the deepness of the bass, remarkable resonance, and long sustain that this guitar has. I did get the strong mid-range, which is what I expected from an all solid mahogany guitar, and there is enough sparkle and ring to the treble to suit the Hawaiian slack key that I play. Dropped down in tuning to an open G taropatch, all of that resonance is really impressive and belies the actual size of the guitar. In fact, I think that the bass response is a bit stronger than my koa/sitka spruce top Taylor, which makes it nothing short of amazing.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Now, in terms of action and fit, well this is how Denny Zager made his reputation as a luthier. It's called an EZ Play guitar precisely because Denny pays such close attention to setting up his guitars to perfection. The action is perfect throughout the neck with not a buzz to be heard. The mahogany shimmers beneath the finish, and the finish is flawless. Clearly, Denny Zager believes in quality control even in this small model. Denny hand files all the frets and takes care of details so that there is nothing to criticize in this area. I have never bought a guitar where that was the case. Even the Taylors that I've had needed a set-up, but this Zager came already perfectly set-up. Even the tuners were smooth.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Although I only just took shipment of this guitar a couple of days ago, I am confident that this is a guitar that is performance worthy. It is solid throughout and a real beauty. The high gloss finish is not only beautiful to look at, but it is also more protective than the satin finish that I normally prefer. And the finish clearly does not interfere with the vibration of the top, as the guitar has resonance out the wazoo. I don't play with a pick, so the fact that this guitar comes without a pickguard is a real plus, allowing the top to vibrate without restriction. I suspect that is one reason for the marvelous tone and deepness of the bass in spite of the relatively small size.
Overall Impression — 10
Though I bought this for my wife, I have inherited it because the guitar she was playing is just a bit thinner and better suited to her size, making me the real winner here. While Zager's selling point is the set-up and playability, I have to say that the tone is the real prize. We have Taylors (612CE, 514C, 314CE, two GS Minis), Martin SP00016, and have had Guilds, Ovations, and numerous others, but this Zager has become my new favorite. I thought that my koa Taylor was the dream guitar, but I now have a second dream.