With handsome looks, a useful cutaway and impressive build quality, this all-laminated electro-acoustic would make a very useful stage guitar – and the price is tempting too. Review by Huw Price
Description: Auditorium sized electro-acoustic guitar. Made in China
Contact: Barnes & Mullins – 01691 652449 – lagguitars.com
France may not spring to mind as a hotbed of lutherie, but make no mistake, from Django’s favourite Selmers onwards there has been a long tradition of fine French guitar building. Former prog rocker Michel Chavarria started making guitars in the South of France back in 1981 and his company Lâg has become one of France’s highest-profile guitar manufacturers. Offering a wide range of both electrics and acoustics, Lâg epitomises the French approach with innovative features and some very distinctive styling.
The Tramontane T66ACE is an auditorium-sized acoustic from the ‘affordable’ end of Lâg’s product range, but there’s nothing in the appearance to betray this guitar’s budget status (then again, our experience suggests that there never is with this manufacturer). The fit and finish is impeccable, and the combination of a cutaway and onboard pickup system provides this guitar with plenty of bang for buck.
These days you can never be quite sure what you’re getting for your money in the world of acoustics, so we should point out that the T66ACE’s body is made from laminated woods. The visible surface of the top is straight-grained spruce, while mahogany is used for the back and sides.
The timber looks superb under a flawlessly-applied gloss finish and the black binding provides a crisp and contemporary look. The edges of the binding are rolled over, which achieves a smooth and comfortable feel. On close examination you’ll notice how the rounded edges make the transition to a square profile just prior to the neck joint area. It’s beautifully done and exemplifies Lâg’s attention to detail.
The contrasting black theme continues with the rosette. The Occitan cross inlay provides a neat cultural and geographical reference point and creates an interesting juxtaposition of medieval imagery and modern styling. Using an oval shape achieves a neat visual effect that enhances the body shape and everything hangs together nicely with the satin black diecast tuners, graphite nut, bridge pins and saddle. The saddle itself is compensated for intonation and formed from ‘black resin’.
In contrast to the body, the mahogany neck has a ‘French satin’ finish that feels smooth and fast. The neck itself has a stacked heel with Lâg’s signature distinctive squared-off shape and a scarfe-jointed headstock. The headstock has a mahogany overlay with a raised middle section and a Lâg logo that looks very slightly off-centre. The unbound fingerboard is rosewood and the rosewood bridge is shaped to echo the design of the headstock.
The electronics are described as having an undersaddle nanoflex piezo pickup. The control panel is side-mounted and the controls include Bass, Treble and Volume. There’s a sliding section to access a compartment for the disc-shaped battery and push button switches are provided for muting and phase reversal. A Low Battery indicator sits beneath a slider labelled Flat/Dynamics/Shape that acts as a midrange boost and cut control.
With its medium ‘C’ profile neck and low action the T66ACE is a very easy guitar to play. It feels like an acoustic should, but swapping over from electric doesn’t place any great demands in terms of altering your technique or playing style. String to string balance is fairly even and the basic tone has a poppy brightness with a fast and enthusiastic transient response.
Given its dimensions we found the T66ACE somewhat low in volume and low-end weight. The sound is enjoyable enough, but diehard acoustic players may feel that the T66ACE is a bit lacking in harmonic complexity, depth of tone and sheer heft. Basically it’s slightly underpowered and sonically two-dimensional. However that isn’t necessarily bad news when we’re dealing with an acoustic that’s primarily intended for on stage performance. If you want loud amplified acoustic sounds, using a solid wood tone machine can cause problems because willing resonance usually makes an instrument more prone to feedback – so the good news is that the T66ACE gets very loud indeed, and it has impressive feedback resistance.
The electrified tone is also very pleasing. As usual we zoned in on the Treble control to tame a little of the piezo’s natural brightness but the midrange and bass were full-bodied and powerful… in fact they were far more impressive in electric mode than acoustically. The onboard preamp also generates very high output levels, so this guitar is not fussy about preamps.
There are always compromises when you buy equipment from the ‘affordable’ end of the market. It’s all about drawing up a list of requirements and seeing which products in your price range tick the most boxes for you. If you prioritise acoustic sound quality and have little interest in amplification, then you will be able to buy all-solid wood guitars at around this price that sound sweeter than the T66ACE. On the other hand the boxes ticked by the T66ACE include great looks, fine build quality, easy playability, a high quality pickup system, excellent feedback rejection and a cutaway.