I have been enjoying my Applause AA-21 Acoustic guitar. Made by Ovation, Applause is their “budget” line. Actually, to be fair, I’m delighted with it. I’m looking forward to putting a mic near the neck pointing at the sound hole and seeing how this sounds in a recording – with and without a plug in the sound hole for comparison.
There’s nothing “budget” about the build or sound of this guitar – great projection, very rounded remarkably “live” tone. Like all Ovation products, it’s deep rounded-belly body made of Lyrachord (TM) (a plastic-or-resin/fibre composite as far as I can figure out) that allows for sound to resonate within the body cavity in ways that a wood guitar with its more-or-less parallel front/back can’t match.
The AA-21 is a full-size dreadnought style with the full deep-belly back, so it has both commanding bass and very sparkling highs, and the mids are not scooped out in any way… I’m just delighted with it all around, and it’s putting me in mind to sell my 12-string Epiphone..
The neck is straight, the action is good, and to my ear so many years later, this sounds very much like what I remember my friend Dave’s Ovation sounded like back when we were teens. I think he bought one of the earliest generation Ovations, and I always remembered the “liveness” and overall richness of that guitar’s sound.
While researching whether to get this or not, I stumbled across the following web page on great-value inexpensive acoustic guitars – check it out for some others to compare. Guitar Site: The Cheap Acoustic Guitars That We Recommend
If I had one complaint, the nut feels slightly narrow for my fat fingertips (it’s very much like an electric guitar neck) – but it is a 1-3/4″ nut, so probably I just need to improve my fretting technique to ensure I’m not damping adjacent strings. The second issue is endemic to this shape of body – when playing standing up, it’s going to roll around its belly so the angle of the face of it may vary when its suspended from a strap. That’s just the nature of the bowl shape. A regular flat-backed wood back guitar will lie flat against the stomach; the Ovation/Applause bowl shaped roundback will rock and take different attitudes against the stomach.
It takes some getting used to, but considering the sparkling tone and huge sound of this great guitar, it’s more than worth a few moments accommodation.
My understanding is that unlike the Ovation equivalents, these Applause guitars have laminated tops rather than solid tops, but some recent studies seem to show that a good laminate top can actually draw away less energy from the vibration of the strings than a solid top, providing perhaps a slightly different sound but without compromising tone and sustain.
Mine is black – I would have preferred a lacquered wood top, but at the price I paid I feel I don’t have the right to say another word on that, and I actually love the look and shine of the black by now… My motto: Live and learn and keep the mind open to new things at all times.
Whatever the actual construction details are, this guitar is one amazing value for the price (I got mine used for a very reasonable price – practically untouched too, so it’s as close as possible to right out of the box).
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a great sounding straight-up acoustic guitar (no pickups, no cutaway shoulder) you could do dramatically worse than the Applause AA-21 or its siblings. Try one, I’m sure you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.