The 20CBLs Ion 301 preamp does a fine job in extending the sound palette, and for a two-band system its versatile
This is one of three 000-size Apollo 2s that come dressed in a colourful glossy coat – our model has a handsome deep blueburst with what appears to be a flame-maple top. In fact this is a photo-finish underneath which, we’re assured, sits a table of solid spruce. This is unusual, since the vast majority of similarly-priced electros with exotic-wood fronts employ laminate tops.
Like all Apollo 2s, the back and sides are laminated rosewood, and the cosmetic trim takes it into ‘deluxe’ territory. The binding, both around the body and up the neck, is maple, while the top’s purfling and rosette inlay are abalone. Maple is also used for a centre strip down the back. The fingerboard, again with nicely polished fretting, has snowflake markers rather than plain dots; gold Grover Rotomatics competently handle tuning duties. It’s a very tidy package, and the only oddity, or mistake, is the bridge saddle. Judging by its lateral contour it’s possibly been inserted the wrong way round, something which the action height – 2.5mm on both treble and bass side – bears out. This, of course, would be a cinch to rectify, and it doesn’t affect playability along a neck which is dimensionally more or less the same as the 1DC‘s.
The Ion 301 preamp occupies a similar, compact control plate to the 201 but ditches the Contour control, replacing it with rotaries for Bass and Treble. In other respects the system’s controls and features are identical to the 201, including the battery/input-socket housing.
As with the dreadnought, I’ve heard folks that are more up-front and richer-toned, but again like its stablemate, the 2OCBL‘s sound does possess very good balance and delivers flexibly within its own dynamic range. Save for a powered equilibrium thrown a mite out of kilter on our sample by slightly dominant B and bottom E strings, the Ion does a fine job. You now have graduated tonal control, and this extends the sound palette, not at the high end, which can be equally sparkling as the 201, but in the opposite direction. Rolling off the treble and boosting the warm bass really does serve up some very creditable, mellow jazzy tones. This is rewardingly versatile for a simple two-band system.
Freshman has quickly become a strong low-to-mid market brand, and these new Apollos should help maintain that position. They probably wont be top banana if youre looking for an out-and-out loud acoustic, be it dread or folk, but in an electro role they deliver the goods convincingly and for sensible money