Hey guys its Brian from World Music Supply here again to bring you your usual dose of guitar and gear reviews. Up on the chopping block today, are three great guitars from our great friends over at Ovation. Ovation was started by one Charles Kaman, who made his living as an aerospace engineer with his company, Kaman Aircraft. He and his company were the first to develop a gas turbine helicopter, and the first electrically powered flying drone. However, after a less than perfect attempt to get into the commercial flight market, Charles decided they needed to diversify their production to things other than just aircraft, and aircraft technologies.
Truth be told, Charles always loved playing guitar, but with his life heading down the path of an aerospace engineer, a very well paying field, he decided to leave his childhood dreams of being a musician behind. However, he did have an old Martin D, which was in a state of disrepair, with a badly warped neck, and a sound board riddled with splits and cracks in several places. He attempted to have it fixed at the Martin factory, and noticed that they were constructing guitars the old fashioned way, doing everything from tying guitar bodies in twine to help hold them together, to attatching binding with clothes pins and glue. It was at this point that Charles realized with his knowledge of manufacturing and his understanding of resonance, built up from years of research into how helicopter blades twist, torque, and vibrate, he could construct a guitar in a much more modern way, and in a much more streamlined production process then even the greats were doing at the time.
So Charles Kaman set out, with a small team of aerospace engineers, many of whom did woodwork as a hobby, and decided to more or less reinvent the wheel. Using the many space aged polymers they had developed to construct helicopter blades, they were able to construct a guitar body that was far more resonant, and had far more projection, clarity and sustain then any other guitar on the market. They named this company Ovation, and their first guitar the balladeer, after a band, The Balladeers, who were a local folk group who received a regularly received a standing ovation for their performances, the name stuck, and since then, Ovation guitars has never stopped innovating the art of creating guitars. From being the first company to use Piezo electric pickups, to the first guitar preamps, to the first on-board tuner, Ovation has been a driving force in the creation of the modern acoustic-electric guitar.
So enough history class, lets move onto the play test. First up on the chopping block today is the CC24 Celebrity series mid bowl which is modeled on the Ovation Balladeer, a great starting point for anyone checking out Ovation guitars for the first time. The look of the Balladeer is far more traditional then say, the Adamas, with its space aged carbon fiber top, and twenty two tiny sound holes rather then the one big O sound hole we’re all used to. The guitar feels more or less like a typical dreadnaught, aside from the fact that the back and sides of the guitar are made from one large molded lyrachord bowl. The first time you pick up an Ovation, the back and sides are by far the most striking feature, as they are so very alien to any guitarist who has never played a guitar like this, as it feels more like a lute than a guitar. In truth though, these guitars all sound pretty much like a normal acoustic, just with a much more projection, and a slightly more even sound, with a more even distribution of highs and lows than on a typical acoustic.
The CC24 is no exception, acoustically speaking this is a fairly standard sounding guitar, and if you are just looking at it head on, it’s also a fairly standard looking guitar. It has a nice crisp high end, and seeings as its only a mid depth bowl, as opposed to a deep bowl, it has far more mid response than it does bass response. This is good for dubbing jangly rhythm parts where you don’t want to step on the toes of the bassist, and for adding more cut to an acoustic guitar part. But the truth about many Ovations is, that while they are great acoustics, they are made to be played on stage, that’s where their design really starts to make sense.
Plugging into a P.A, you quickly realize that these guitars are dead quiet on stage, even at high volumes you rarely have to worry about that pesky resonance induced feedback that tends to haunt acoustic guitars on stage. The tone of this acoustic guitar through any amplifier tends to be very true to the real sound of the guitar, without ever sounding like a tin can like some lower grade piezo pickups do. I was able to play big full bodied chords any where near the speaker, and once I had set the notch filter, I didn’t have to worry about feeding back, not even once. For a singer songwriter, this ability is a must, as often your singing is far more important than your guitar work, and having to worry about your guitar exploding mid song, you tend to be a little distracted from the overall message of the song. For lead work, this guitar has that famous lightning fast neck profile that made Ovation so famous among guitarists during the 80s, with its super low action, and its just thin enough neck profile, this guitar is a breeze to play.
Its tone was always full and meaty, but never so overpowering that it got in the way of my vocals, or anyone else in the band. If you are onstage a lot with an acoustic, you certainly cant go wrong with an ovation like this, and if you are playing at way high volumes, and you absolutely need a sound hole cover, this style of Ovation can still readily accept them. for its flexibility, its bold sound, and its classic, yet stylish looks, the CC24 easily earns itself a 9 out of 10. I give it that rating, because even though this guitar sounds great, it looks cool, and amplified its super easy to deal with, many players are still too conservative to get past that lyrachord bowl. Some people just want to live in a different decade sometimes, and while that’s fine and all, guitars like this deserve to be appreciated.
Getting off my soapbox and moving onto the next guitar however, we now get to enjoy the CC48 Celebrity Series Deluxe Shallow Bowl which is modeled on Ovations famous Adamas model with its 15 sound holes, all laying on top of the cool looking wood leaf epaulets, that are a hallmark of Ovations new age style. This sound hole arrangement was invented for the Adamas model, with its futuristic Carbon Fiber top, because the soundboard was designed to be so thin, and with so few bracings, that having a big O style soundhole would have compromised its integrity, in all actuality, according to Ovation, the first time they made one of these guitars out of wood, they weren’t sure if it would sound good at all.
But let me tell you that this guitar actually sounds amazing. Keeping in mind that this guitar features Ovations shallow bowl design, which was designed to appeal to electric guitarists, so they would feel more comfortable playing them on stage. This translates to an acoustic guitar which is only a little thicker than your average thinline tele, or semi hollow body guitar. So unamplified this guitar sounds rather thin, and has very little bass response. This doesn’t mean that its acoustic qualities are lost, the CC48 still has a rather even sounding voice with plenty of snappy high end, and some nice mid responce, and it’s still a perfectly good guitar for practicing by yourself or reinforcing a bass heavy guitar part on a recording.
Where this guitar shines however is amplified. Now granted, many Ovations shine in this category, but the fact that this guitar suddenly has the voice of a giant Dreadnaught when you plug it in, when unplugged it has the voice of a tiny acoustic, is a startling difference. Plugged in you have all of those cool tones that you get from a standard Celebrity series Ovation, with a big robust sound that, even though its fed through a piezo pickup, you still have a sound that remains true to the sound of the guitar, except in this case, you have a sound that is far more robust and bold than the actual tone of the guitar. Playing with a band this guitar had far more natural sustain than a typical acoustic, and its tone sat nicely in a band situation. It didn’t step on the bass players toes, or gunk up what the other guitarist was doing, and it never ate into the highs of the drummers cymbals. This guitar does its job well with a band, as it should, and it did a good job even when it was just my voice and the guitar alone, never once did it sound like someone playing an amplified acoustic, it just sounding like someone singing with an acoustic guitar, but louder.
The best part about the CC48, and for that matter the CC24 is you get technology that is literally space aged, with bodies that employ futuristic composites, and electronics that just twenty years ago would have cost you an arm and a leg. A guitar like the CC48 features a power and a boldness that judging by its actual acoustic tone, it just should not have, but at the end of the day, this guitars amplified tone easily puts it ahead of the curve, espesually in its price range, and for that fact alone, the CC48 wins itself a deserved 9 out of 10.
Last up in today’s round up, is the treasure of the Ovation family, by which I mean the 2081GT-5 Adamas II. The Adamas is what launched Ovation leaps and bounds above the rest of the acoustic guitar world, with original and clever ideas like using carbon fiber to make a top that is super strong, light weight, and super thin, meaning that you can use less bracing on the top which results in a guitar with more sustain, and more bass response. The deep contour bowl back is designed to not only be super comfortable, but also super loud acoustically. The electronics are second to none, with a sound that is full bodied, and as pure as can be to what this guitar truly sounds like. Not to mention the space aged appointments like laser cut hardwood epaulets, and a fingerboard made of resin injected walnut resulting in a fingerboard that is super hard like ebony, but featuring the beautiful wood grain of walnut.
unplugged this guitar is miles above the rest, with a tone that is purely acoustic, but with sustain almost double that of any other acoustic I have yet played. The tone was big, with tons of roaring bass, tons of spanky mids, and a wonderfully snappy and tangy high end. The action and feel of the neck make it feel more like your playing an electric, and the stunning intonation means that chords are never even slightly out as you move across the fingerboard. The tone did everything from work perfectly for solo fingerstyle pieces, right up to just straight strumming and supporting my voice as the chords rang out. Just like the others though, the real power of these guitars is revealed when you run them through a P.A or acoustic amp.
This guitar just did not stop, its tone amplified took all that was good about its acoustic voice, and turned it up to 11. suddenly its ability to fill up the sonic spectrum was pushed further, allowing me to sink back and mix well with a band if I wanted, or push out and cover the whole spectrum with just a lone guitar. Its sustain was made better still through an amplifier as its fundamental frequencies and harmonic tones all rang out long and true, with a tone that always stayed in acoustic territory, never sounding like an electric imitating an acoustic, always just an acoustic guitar…just louder. I now know why greats like Kaki King, Glen Campbell, Melissa Etheridge and Al Di Meola all choose Ovations as their main guitar, they just have a power and a sound that is uniquely their own, rather than inventing a great acoustic guitar, Ovation reinvented what it is that an acoustic guitar should be, and for that the fact that this guitar continues to do that still, the 2081GT-5 Adamas II gets a well deserved 10 out of 10.