A fresh a th look wi take unique way on cutang styli
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Our eyebrows zoomed skywards when we saw the angular Baden dreadnought, but the A-Style is a really appealing modern design. Jerry Uwins checks out the electro version
Price: £1299 incl. case Build: Solid cedar top, solid mahogany back and sides. Mahogany neck with 20-fret bound rosewood fingerboard. Rosewood bridge, bone nut and saddle, chrome diecast tuners, two strap buttons. Fishman Matrix undersaddle pickup; Fishman Ellipse Aura preamp with Volume, Pickup/ Image Blend, Image Select (14), Phase, Anti-feedback On/ Off and Measure, Bass Boost switch, battery holder
January 09 – Guitar & Bass
A-STYLE MAHOGANY ELLIPSE AURA Description: Auditorium-style cutaway electro-acoustic
A-style Mahogany Ellipse Aura
hen Baden acoustics had their European preview at last spring’s Frankfurt Musikmesse they were a talking point of the show, for three reasons. Firstly, the man behind the project, TJ Baden, had formerly been a long-serving, influential member of the team at Taylor, ending up as vicepresident of sales and marketing. Secondly, the guitars themselves presented a refreshing, modernist take on flat-top design. Reason three was mild surprise when Frankfurt-goers discovered that a range priced from near a grand and upwards was being sourced from Vietnam, a country not usually associated with building upmarket guitars. There is one shining exception, though: the highly-regarded Ayers factory, and this is where TJ set up his manufacturing base, following a period as consultant for the Australian-owned brand. The Badens are made there by a separate, dedicated team, overseen by French master luthiers. The instruments are claimed to be totally handcrafted, without using any CNC machinery. The Baden range is based around just two body styles: the D-Style dreadnought, whose angular profile bears resemblance not to a Martin or Gibson but, slightly bizarrely, to Martin’s little Backpacker; the other
Options: Acoustic A-Style Mahogany (£999). A-Styles, with spruce tops, also done with maple and rosewood back/sides, acoustic and electro, from £1499 to £1899. Prices inc. case Left-handers: Expected soon, to order, at no extra cost Finish: Gloss natural body, satin neck Scale length: 644mm/25.35"
The neck is made from one piece of mahogany and comes with a smooth set of fully-enclosed chrome tuners
The curvy, tastily-designed bridge has pins that are slightly slanted to give an even break-angle over the saddle
Badens are built in the Vietnamese Ayers factory by a separate, dedicated team, overseen by French master luthiers shape and the subject of this review is the A-Style auditorium, which incorporates a novel approach to providing cutaway access. Like the D-Styles, the A-Style is offered in a choice of body timbers, and our Mahogany Ellipse Aura is the cheapest electro variant, powered by Fishman’s eponymous soundhole-mounted blender preamp, as are all Baden electros. Whereas all other Badens, whether mahogany, maple or rosewood backed, employ spruce tops, the
A-Style Mahogany has a cedar front. Our sample’s warm-coloured example is high grade, with even grain and plenty of cross-silking. Body binding front and back is mahogany, which theoretically could look lost against the back and sides, but a thin light-wood coachlining sits between the binding and rims and the result – under the immaculately buffed high-gloss lacquering – is very smart indeed. The rosette around the soundhole circumference is also done in mahogany. Though the A-Style’s asymmetric body shape in effect provides a cutaway, it doesn’t do so in the conventional manner. It’s as if the treble-side upper bout has
Neck width: Nut 43mm 12th fret 54mm Depth of neck: First fret 21.5mm 9th fret 25mm String spacing: Nut 35mm Bridge 55mm Action as supplied: 12th fret treble 2.0mm 12th fret bass 2.3mm Max rim depth: 119mm Max body width: 400mm Fingerboard radius: 15" Weight: 2.0kg/4.4lb Contact: Arbiter Group 020 8207 7860 www.arbiter.co.uk
January 09 – Guitar & Bass
The Competition LARRIVEE LV-03E Satin-finish grand auditorium in all-solid spruce and sapele, with a fingerstyle-width neck and powered by a Baggs Element Notch system RRP: £1199 TAKAMINE TAN45C Supernatural Series mini-jumbo is gloss cedar/rosewood with solid top and back, and toting a CTP1 CoolTube preamp RRP: £999 TIMBERLINE T85AC-E Top-range, all-solid cedar/ rosewood auditorium with mahogany-bound abalone purfling. Price includes optional Baggs iMix Onboard system RRP: £1082 Note: All the above are cutaway; prices include case
been dropped down from the neck join, and closer examination reveals – in addition to super-clean internals – that the rim and kerfed linings on that side continue across the face of the neckblock, rather than simply butting up to it as would be standard procedure. Baden has also been liberal in his interpretation of what constitutes an auditorium. He has fashioned the rims to a near-dreadnought depth of 119mm that, allied to the 400mm-wide lower bouts, classifies the guitar as a mini-jumbo as far as soundbox volume is concerned. Sharp-eyed readers will notice a small, white triangular insert intersecting the soundhole perimeter just below the top of the fingerboard. This doesn’t serve any practical purpose: it’s a conceptual ‘keystone’, a kind of identity mark that apparently ties in with the company’s marketing and artist programmes. ‘It also points to the dovetail neck joint,’ says Baden, ‘creating the opportunity to have a discussion about handmade guitars.’ TJ Baden does live in, er, California. The A-Style’s 644mm-scale neck – satin-finished but assuming a slick, lowgloss sheen the more the guitar is played – is one-piece mahogany topped by a gloss rosewood headstock overlay and carrying a gently cambered, bound rosewood fingerboard with side-dot markers alone. A second strap button at the heel is standard issue on all Badens. One almost expects open-back tuners by default these days but Baden eschews the retro fad and fits a set of regular enclosed machines, an appropriate choice given the guitar’s non-vintage vibe. Having said that, the neck does have a quite traditional feel, with depth increasing to a fairly chunky 25mm as you approach the heel turn. Down from the dusty end, though, things are relatively shallow, and
Secret weapon: Fishman’s hidden Ellipse Aura lets you mix four digital microphone images with the undersaddle pickup
The eye-catching and unusual A-Style Mahogany is a beaut-sounding acoustic and a more than competent electro the neck proves fast and accommodating. A 43mm nut width and 55mm bridge string spacing offer both comfortable strumming and easy fingerpicking. The Ellipse Aura is a simplified, noneditable, non-invasive version of Fishman’s Onboard Aura, and provides four sound images blendable with the undersaddle Matrix pickup, with preset EQ apart from a bass-boost switch. There’s also phase reverse plus a switchable anti-feedback facility. Since this requires the offending frequency to be identified by activating a ‘Measure’ button it’s not something you want to be scrabbling around inside for mid-number, but rather during the soundcheck. That aside, the switches and sliders fall easily enough under a finger once you’ve remembered their location on the control panel, though bass boost on our sample was very stiff and switching it occasionally threatened to dislodge the preamp from its magnetic retaining plate.
Access all areas: the A-style’s heel and treble cutaway is one of the most refreshing designs we’ve seen in ages 80
January 09 – Guitar & Bass
This A-Style is a delight. The combination of cedar and mahogany – all solid, of course – works magnificently to deliver fast, responsive yet warm and fluid dynamics, while the deep body helps give the whole sound richness and a healthy projection, especially in the low end. Overlaying all this are clear, sweet-edged highs, a generous, thrummy sustain, and an all-embracing, easy-going suppleness. The Ellipse Aura interprets these traits very well via the undersaddle transducer,
and is essentially like playing the instrument unplugged, just much louder. The sound images – digitally-converted mic recordings of another A-Style Mahogany – bring useful added ambience to the party, though, as is invariably the case with blender systems, the most harmonious results are achieved with modest ratios of image to pickup. Indeed many players will probably be entirely happy with the performance of the bridge transducer on its own. I certainly am.
VERDICT Having been given a head start by its eye-catching and unusual cutaway design, the A-Style Mahogany goes on to triumph as a beaut-sounding acoustic and a more than competent electro. It’s a great all-purpose player too, backed by an impeccable standard of build and finishing that must surely dispel any lingering doubts that a Vietnamese maker might not be capable of delivering the high-quality goods. The Baden crew certainly are, and they have.
FINAL SCORE Build quality............................ 20/20 Playability................................18/20 Sound......................................19/20 Value for money........................ 17/20 Vibe.........................................18/20
Total.................................... 92% Good for... bonkingly good sounds in a minijumbo-sized format Look elsewhere... for a conventional cutaway or no cutaway at all
Guitar & Bass Magazine review of the Baden A style cedar/mahogany equipped with the Fishman Aura system. It won their prestigious Gear of th...