Ben Morgan-Brown tries a very different kind of acoustic guitar
Ovation was responsible for a revolution in the acoustic guitar – its use of ‘Lyrachord’ plastic bowlbacks and the fitment of undersaddle bridge pickups liberated acoustic guitar players from the limitations of having to use the feedback plagued soundhole pickups of the era, or standing in front of a microphone. Take a look at videos from the 1970s and you can see the impact – suddenly these new US-made guitars were everywhere, freeing players to move around and perform more like their electrified brethren.
There were purists who said that an Ovation didn’t sound much like a Martin or a Gibson of the era, and they were right, but a lot of players liked the sound, loved the playability and Ovation constantly worked at its instruments, eventually producing some very high class sounding models as well as the more ‘cooking’ variety seen on stages the world over.
In time, the development of easily fitted undersaddle piezo pickups and the realisation they needed to make their own guitars more player-friendly, led Ovation’s rivals to capture much of the ground back and the company’s fortunes faded more that a little. Now, however, Ovation has a relatively new owner (the prestigious US firm DW Drums) and is undergoing a new lease of life with the promise of good things to come.
The Ovation we were sent to try is different in many ways from anything we have seen before at AR. To start with, the Sitka spruce top has been finished in a relentless black finish so that you might think it isn’t made of wood at all (in fact, Ovation says it is AA grade solid Sitka). It also is completely free of CITES restrictions, with the top being mated to a Lyrachord back, a maple neck with a wenge fretboard and a walnut bridge. However, probably the biggest difference of all is that it is designed to be tuned down to D. Quite a number of players like to do this but it can cause problems with a guitar that hasn’t been designed to cope with the resulting lower string tension. The result here, however, is a baritone experience from a guitar that doesn’t feel it is fitted with elastic bands instead of strings.
Ben was pleasantly surprised by this Ovation. He liked the neck a lot and didn’t find the guitar slipped from his lap when played seated (a common complaint in the past) thanks the the maker having made the underside of the guitar non-slip.
Soundwise the Ovation was a mixed bag. It doesn’t have a single centre soundhole which may be why Ben found the guitar sounded better to the player than it did on our recording, where some of the bass response seemed to have got lost in transit. Similarly, the undersaddle Ovation pickup was a bit ‘quacky’, not horribly so, but probably making this more the sort of guitar you would use in a band context than as a solo instrument.
Well made, great to play, with an interesting sound in tuned down mode, the Ovation has one other thing really going for it – it looks mean! If you are looking to make a statement (again perhaps in a band context) you could hardly do better than one of these. It also comes at a very fair price, we felt.
Definitely a guitar for the individualist who wants to look and sound different, the Ovation Elite TX D Scale is a far cry from the ubiquitous Dreadnoughts on the market and begs to be tried.
Ovation Elite TX D Scale acoustic-electric £679
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Ovation Elite TX D Scale acoustic-electric
Solid AA-Grade Sitka Spruce top; scalloped X-bracing
Multi soundhole (bass side)
Mid-depth Lyrachord GS body
Maple neck, thin profile
Wenge fingerboard, Walnut bridge
Total length 111 cm, scale 720 mm, nut width 42.8 mm
Diecast Ovation machine heads, black
OCP-1K pickup, OP-Pro preamp with tuner
Strings ex factory: ADAMAS NUOVA COATED Phosphor-Bronze 1818NU Light .012-.053, 7