Winner: Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop
The American Dream range was conceived by Taylor’s Andy Powers and Bob Taylor as a response to the disruption caused to their workflow and supply chain by COVID-19.
But like iconic Depression-era acoustics from Gibson and Martin, the AD17 offers something different to the standard recipe that is intensely compelling in its own right – there’s an abundance of sonic and aesthetic character on offer here and, perhaps most importantly, it’s tremendously fun to play.
McNally Guitars Presentation OM Celtic Ivy
Our review model is only the 45th full guitar that Ciaran McNally created under his own name, but you can hardly tell. The OM Celtic Ivy is a powerful and expressive instrument that blends modern and traditional elements, and on the basis of sound alone, represents exceptional value for money. At his current price-point, it would be no surprise to see Ciaran rising further up the ranks in the acoustic luthiery scene – we very much look forward to seeing what he does next.
Fender Acoustasonic Stratocaster
There’s a lot in Fender‘s acoustic-electric hybrid guitar to unpack. Over the past couple of decades, the guitar market has become haunted with the ghosts of well-meaning attempts to merge the acoustic and electric worlds. Few have had as much potential to endure as this. Arguably the Acoustasonic Stratocaster‘s proudest selling point is the sheer array of sonic options that are available, with 10 voices on tap that are modelled on acoustic and electric sounds – and you can even blend some of them together.
Atkin Guitars The Forty Seven
The Forty Seven is intoxicating on many levels. It captures the vibe and visual allure of its vintage inspiration but achieves fuller, more balanced and more musically versatile tonal qualities – much like spellbinding historic instruments, something about this Atkins guitar just draws us in and compels us to pick it up and play.
The tone combines classic and modern elements. On the vintage side, there’s warm and effusive woodiness, a rounded bass thump and the lingering ghostly harmonics that we listen for inside the body of old Gibson acoustics. On the contemporary side, we get extremely even string-to-string balance, volume aplenty and a tonal consistency across the fretboard that isn’t a given with vintage guitars.
Lowden F-35 Ebony & Sinker Redwood
For guitarists looking for a sophisticated and expressive instrument with a sparkling voice, this Lowden should be a strong contender. Sinker redwood’s vitreous nature can make for an extremely fast initial response but can also make instruments exceptionally sensitive to high-frequency noises, such as string and finger squeaks. This is certainly the case here, and it encourages the player to focus on accuracy, timbre and quality of attack.
This F-35 sounds full and rich even when played gently with bare fingers. Although a delicate redwood soundboard would not be our first choice for heavy strumming, the clear scratchplate provides some protection and, when digging in with a pick, another of the more readily identifiable aspects of redwood instruments comes into its own: no matter how heavy your attack, the guitar’s voice remains clear and precise.
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2020 categories here.