Guitar Reviews Blog

July 19 2018

Timberline T70 DC

While attending the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society's convention, I was able to try a number of guitars that wouldn't normally be available in the UK, a lot of which come from independent luthiers. One of the Standout guitars I played was a Dreadnought made by Chuck Thompson at Timberline guitars. Chuck is a regular at the CAAS convention, also being the photographer every year.

The guitar itself is a dreadnaught featuring a solid Sitka Spruce Top, Solid Silk Wood Back and Sides, Madagascan Ebony binding, bridge and fretboard, Abalone rosette and Mother of pearl inlays.

Playing the guitar reminds me very much of my own Martin D18, the neck has a very similar feel to it, the only difference being the gloss finish, not something I'm a personal fan of. One feature I like a lot, and one that's showing up on more acoustics these days is the tapered corner for the players right arm, after several hours of playing, it still feels very comfortable.

In terms of sound, it's excellent, despite being in a room full of hundreds of other guitarists playing and chatting, and having strings that had already been well run in, it still cut through and had a fat and rich sound with an even balance of wood and steel, once again, very reminiscent of a Martin. When playing it in the Chet Atkins thumb picking style, the bass had great punch to it, the high strings have a similar level of volume, meaning I had to dig in a little more with my fingers for the melodies to cut through. However, this evenness means this guitar really comes alive when you start flatpicking, I found myself playing this guitar in the Tony Rice style for hours and hours, it has so much power when you pick up a heavy pick and really give it some, both playing rhythm and lead, it keeps giving and sounds better the harder you play it

In terms of action, it's always hard to judge a guitar, as everyone likes it differently. For me, I felt the action was too high, especially after a number of hours playing it, but it's not a huge problem, most guitars out of the box have a slightly high action, and any serious guitarist will tell you soon after buying it, they'd take it to be set up how they like it. My one criticism of the guitar is that the fret markers were too small, especially on the side of the neck, the binding has a beautiful grain to it, but team that with small markers and a gloss finish reflecting the light, they easily became hard to find.

All in all though, I'd say this is a great guitar, and if you're looking for an alternative to a Martin, or want something as good on a lower budget, this is well worth thinking about, especially at the RRP of $1,599, which includes a case

Chuck can be contacted at chuck@pickchuck.com, you can find out more about this guitar and their other models at timberlineguitars.com

 


October 28 2016

Crafter FX 550 EQ

Mahogany neck, Plastic back & sides, Bubinga top, Indian Rosewood fingerboard & Bridge, Chrome Diecast tuners, LR Baggs/Crafter pickup.

Ovation started the idea of putting a plastic ‘bowlback’ on guitars back in the 60’s, the originals were made of fiberglass and were built with the sole intention of being less likely to feedback during live performances, and in recent years, Crafter have been doing the same. I used to own a Crafter mandolin with a plastic back, and have seen a lot of their guitars built in a similar way, but they also make standard acoustic guitars too.
I’ve played several Ovations as well as the more affordable versions by their budget company, Applause, and they all have the same problem, the backs are smooth and completely round, meaning sitting and playing, or even standing and playing becomes very tricky. I’m glad to see that Crafter have tackled this problem in their guitars, making the backs more of a square shape and adding some texture to the plastic, making it less likely to slip about while playing.
The strings on the model I’m currently playing are Martin 80/20 bronze, gauge 12-54. My first impressions, besides from the weight, (for a guitar with a considerable portion made of plastic, it is seriously heavy) were that like the Ovation guitars, the sound is thin with little low end. However, the harmonics in this guitar sing, they are easy to create and have tons of sustain, but at the same time lack the ‘umph’ that I so desire in an acoustic guitar, however I’m comparing it to a £2000 Maton, not to a guitar of similar build and price.
The Neck on this instrument is very smooth and made from a quality piece of Mahogany. It’s a two-piece design with the headstock glued on, but without decent lighting, it’s be hard to tell, it’s a very good join, especially for a guitar in this price range, I’ve owned guitars three times the price with less subtle joins.
It’s always hard to judge the action on guitars as it’s something most players like to have set up to work best with them. It’s quite high on this model but not impossible to play, far higher than I’d set it, but some guitars are nicer to play with a higher action, my Martin D18 has a high action but is nicer to play and sounds better than it did with a low action, and vice-versa on my Maton. As I say though, these variables that can be changed.
The pickup, as you’d expect from LR Baggs, is a high quality system, with some really unique features, looking at the detail they’ve put into the electronics and designing the guitar not to feedback when plugged in, makes it obvious that they’ve designed this instrument to be played onstage, The preamp includes some brilliant, yet simple ideas to make live performances easy, such as the Mute switch, allowing you to use the volume knob to control your level, but allowing you to mute the guitar without losing your place on the dial, and the ‘Scoop’ feature, allowing you to scoop out certain frequencies that are feeding back. Another feature I really love is the jack plug on this guitar, it’s a very simple plug such as one you’d find on an electric guitar, and is mounted in a similar place. Pretty much all electro-acoustic guitars these days have an endpin jack, something I’m not a fan of, I find them too awkward, what type of jack should I use? Angled or straight? If I hook it round the strap to reduce strain on the connection, I end up with a big loop of cable that looks bad, as well as wasting a decent measure of cable, and if I let it drop there’s a chance I’ll stand on the cable and do damage, either to the cable or to the jack. Endpin jacks are designed to keep an acoustic guitar looking like an acoustic guitar, whereas this isn’t trying to be something it isn’t, it is without a doubt a stage guitar. So once a again, it’s a simple idea with stacks of practicality
These guitars cost roughly £200 new, and can now be bought second hand for a reasonable price, I think as a guitar for someone new to playing open mics, this would be a great starting point, it feels very well built and a size and shape that is easy to work with and with a decent case, could easily have a life of being thrown around on trains and in pubs or other venues without sustaining breakages or too much damage, plus judging by the thickness of the finish, it’ll be seriously hard to scratch.
Overall I’ve going to give this instrument a 3/5 star, it’s a great guitar for the price, nice and comfortable to play, great pickup and the top wood is gorgeous, but if you’re a working musician or want an all-rounder to play at home acoustically, or maybe in the studio, I’d suggest looking elsewhere, but as an instrument for open mic newbies, it’ll serve you well.