Ben Morgan-Brown meets a strong contender from Alvarez
Alvarez Artist AG70 WCEAR
Music might travel very easily across the Atlantic but the instruments that its played on don’t always fare so well. Brands that are big in the UK aren’t always so successful in the USA and vice versa. Take Alvarez, for example. It has been around since the mid-1960s and is very popular in the USA, particularly through its association with the Japanese models made by the late K. Yairi, which were sold in the USA, though not the UK, as Alvarez-Yairi. For various reasons, Alvarez has never fared as well in the UK, which is a shame because when its guitars were reviewed they almost always fared well and those who bought them speak well of them. Recently, a change of distributor over this side of the pond means that Alvarez might be a bit more visible, though they still won’t be available in every music shop – you will have to look around if you want to try one. Will it be worth the effort? Very much so, is Ben Morgan-Brown’s conclusion following his review of the Artist AG70.
As you can see from our video, the AG70 is a very modern, clean-looking guitar with quite plain looks and a cutaway, plus the increasingly common arm rest bevel on the top which makes playing so much more comfortable.
This particular Alvarez comes with an A + grade solid Sitka spruce top, which looks very handsome on this Grand Auditorium sized body. How big is that? Think of something between a Dreadnought and a 000. The rest of the woods used are very conventional choices (and none the worse for that) comprising walnut for the back and sides with a mahogany neck and a rosewood fingerboard. The machine heads are a generic die cast type while the bridge is Alvarez’s own ‘Bi-Leve’ design, also in rosewood, Both the nut and saddle are bone.
It’s immediately obvious when you listen to our video that the Alvarez is as good sounding as it looks – bright but never tinny, with good bass and lower mids which neither boom nor dominate. It’s a versatile sound which would work well with a lot of styles and is always a pleasure to play, our sample having a pleasantly low action with an very playable C neck profile.
Arguably, the guitar’s weak spot, Ben felt, was the LR Baggs Element pickup and StagePro EQ/tuner. It’s not bad, but he felt that it wasn’t the most accurate acoustic sound he’d heard from an undersaddle pickup, though the EQ worked well enough. Price obviously comes into play here because LR Baggs makes some extremely good pickups but if Alvarez had chosen to fit one of those the guitar’s price would have nudged up quite considerably, so perhaps this is an acceptable compromise? In the end, only you can say.
That aside, this is a very well made guitar which is a delight to play. It sounds great acoustically with a good, bold, clean tone that would suit almost anyone, particularly if their tastes were at the modern end of the spectrum – real traditionalists might find other models more to their taste. All in all, we’d say this Alvarez is very good value and shows how these days you can get a very impressive guitar in this price range..
Alvarez Artist AG70 WCEAR £599
Reviews are recorded in a top quality studio with the finest equipment. To get the best from our reviews and really hear the instruments perform make sure you listen on good quality speakers or headphones!
Series: Alvarez Artist
Top Wood: Solid A+ Sitka Spruce
Back & Sides Wood: Walnut
Shape: Grand Auditorium w/ Armrest
Neck: Mahogany, 50/50 Semi gloss finish
Bracing System: FST2
Bridge: Bi-Level Rosewood
Inlays: Abalone & Mother of Pearl
Nut & Saddle: Real Bone
Tuner: Premium Die Cast
Strings: D’Addario EXP
Pickup / EQ: LR Baggs StagePro EQ and Element Pick Up