Canadian brand Seagull’s Maritime SWS series offers upmarket solid construction at temptingly affordable prices. Review by Tim Slater
Description: SG QI – Dreadnought electro. Made in Canada/Folk HG – Folk-sized electro. Made in China
Price: SG QI – £949 with onboard preamp; £849 w/o pickup Folk HG – £799 with preamp, £699 without.
Contact: 440 Distribution – 01132 589599 – www.440distribution.com
Being a committed acoustic guitarist doesn’t mean that one still shouldn’t keep a close eye on the purse strings, and with that in mind Seagull has developed the Maritime SWS range. SWS stands for ‘Solid Wood Series’, and the Maritimes share an all-solid construction with Seagull’s top-of-the-range Artist Series models. Seagull shares a lineage with fellow Canadian guitar brands Simon & Patrick and Godin, and the guitars evoke a powerful sense of old-school traditional values and skill which lends them a character that contrasts vividly with some of the more homogeneous Asian rivals.
The Maritime SWS series features three base models: the Rosewood SG QI Dreadnought and the Folk HG featured in this review, plus the SWS Mini-Jumbo HG. The SWS Dreadnought comes in five variants that offer cutaway and non-cutaway electro-acoustic versions with a choice of plain or sunburst finishes, plus an all-solid mahogany model.
Maritime SWS Rosewood SG QI
Let’s start with those acronyms. ‘SG’ stands for Semi-Gloss, an accurate description of the attractive finish that combines a satin smoothness with a slightly less muted, shiner surface. Seagull claims that the Semi-Gloss finish encourages the guitar’s natural resonance, and it should also offer slightly better resistance to knocks and scrapes than a standard thin satin lacquer. ‘QI’ designates that this is an electro-acoustic, with a Godin Quantum I onboard preamp that features a built-in digital tuner alongside a trio of rotary controls that adjust volume and the two-band EQ.
This guitar feels very sturdy; at a fraction over 2kg it doesn’t feel like the lightest acoustic guitar we’ve ever played but its convincing sense of roadworthiness should still appeal to the journeyman gigging guitarist. The all-solid construction combines solid rosewood back and sides with a solid spruce top which is ‘Select Pressure Tested’ – not ‘pressure treated’ or ‘preserved’ as some might assume… the term simply describes the method Seagull uses to grade and measure the stiffness of its spruce tops.
The Rosewood SG is a very handsome guitar, with the attractive spruce top and chocolatey dark brown rosewood back and sides neatly offset by cream edge binding and dark brown pinstriping. The herringbone rosette and faux tortoiseshell pickguard lend the guitar a traditional yet purposeful look, while herringbone binding is also used down the centre of the two-piece book-matched solid rosewood back, ably demonstrating the impressive standard of fit and finish throughout.
The one-piece mahogany neck features a standard glued-on dovetail joint at the 14th fret; sadly Seagull hasn’t chosen to include a strap button at the neck heel. The pointy, ultra-slim headstock has the visual effect of making the fingerboard look slightly wider than normal but in fact the 1.72″ nut is a nice medium choice. This neck still offers plenty of room for fingerstyle players to manoeuvre unhampered, and despite a few weeny areas where the frets could still do with a bit of tidying, the slim ‘C’ profile neck feels very comfortable. A set of high-quality gold-plated tuners with faux ivory buttons finish off the job.
The dreadnought is often unfairly pigeonholed as a flatpicker and general-purpose strummer rather than a first choice for virtuoso fingerpickers. However, the Rosewood SG QI highlights some of the classic flattop’s best features – projection and an even temperament, with a pleasing amount of delicacy and detail at the top end. Played with a capo at the second fret the usual sense of dreadnought ‘heaviness’ eases, the slight midrange scoop courtesy of the rosewood subtly emphasises the bass whilst goosing up the treble frequencies to deliver a lovely, sparkly zing. Strum hard, and this guitar barks crisply with an exciting edge.
The Godin QIT preamp is fairly basic as far as features go but it delivers an accurate reproduction of the guitar’s natural tone, although in use the rotary controls feel a bit thin and plasticky. The built-in tuner is a real boon but an anti-feedback notch filter would have been appreciated.
Maritime SWS Folk HG
The Folk HG features a solid spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides, all finished in a traditional high gloss. Like the SG QI it has a compensated Graphtech Tusq nut and saddle and the intonation does feel very stable. Our sample also has the optional Godin QIT preamp, and being folk-sized it’s noticeably smaller and nimbler than the dreadnought. The attention to detail remains impressive, although the spruce top has two inconsistent areas that are just tiny variations in the grain pattern. While some may favour a less austere guitar, the Folk HG has a real aura of quality – and it certainly looks very distinctive.
Compared to the Rosewood SG, the Folk HG’s solid mahogany back and sides lend the guitar a more percussive quality with a noticeable midrange presence and a less ‘scooped’ tone that makes the bass and treble slightly less prominent. Some may prefer this flatter response whilst others might find it less forgiving, but the brighter tone suits fingerpicking and flatpicking… basically any application where the guitar really needs to punch through the mix.
The amplified tone is again accurately reproduced and the Godin preamp’s two-band EQ is surprisingly versatile, offering enough range to render a flexible feel despite the lack of any dedicated anti-feedback. The system is easy to use although you need to balance the volume with EQ adjustment to nip any lurking feedback in the bud. The general performance is very good, with virtually no extraneous handling noise or interference.
The SWS Rosewood SG QI and Folk HG both reflect Seagull’s traditional feel. Though they avoid conspicuous bling, they more than compensate with convincing build quality and – especially in the dreadnought’s case – some mould-breaking tones. Both are tough, roadworthy and playable and offer very good value for money indeed.