The Holiday Gear Guide 2016

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Holiday Gear Guide


(Street: $1,299) 

If you’ve wondered how Richie Sambora got that guitar sound on “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” or exactly what Don Felder is playing on the iconic “Hotel California” intro, then you need to check out a 12-string, and Ovation’s C2059AXP acoustic-electric 12-string is a good choice. This guitar totally fits the stereotype of what a 12-string is supposed to sound like, namely, big and orchestral, both acoustically and when plugged into an amp.

Playing a 12-string can take some chops because of the unevenness of the different string gauges, but the good action and setup of the C2059AXP go a long way in making it easier. This cutaway-body guitar has great uniform action and intonation all the way up its 20-fret neck, and it’s gorgeous to boot, with abalone inlay and a classy ebony pinless bridge. It has a top of quilted maple veneer over AAA spruce, and a back made of Ovation’s patented Lyrachord, the glass filament material that made Ovation an innovator in the field. This is a really sweet guitar at a great price.

Holiday Gear Guide


(Street: $399.99)

The FS850 is part of Yamaha’s popular FS acoustic series, and the guitar’s “warm and woody” sound, as Yamaha describes it, comes from the use of mahogany not only for the back and sides, but for the top as well. And the sound is indeed as advertised, balanced and comfortable without any harsh overtones or sonic surprises. This concert guitar, with a smaller body than a Dreadnought, has a new (to Yamaha) scalloped bracing pattern that contributes to a little more punch in the lower and mid-range frequencies without losing the crisp highs.   

This is a good singer-songwriter instrument, an expressive smaller guitar that especially shines when used for rhythm and fingerstyle playing. The neck is made of nato, a wood of Central and South America, and it has a rosewood fingerboard. The bridge and headstock overlay are also rosewood, and the tuning machines are sealed chrome. With a tortoise-pattern pickguard and an abalone ring inlay around the soundhole that really complements the mahogany top, the FS850 looks as good as it sounds.

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