Freshman guitars are making waves in the decent budget acoustic area, and now theyve added the temptation of Fishmans new Ion preamps. Review by Jerry Uwins
The Apollo 1s comprise just two models, one being this Martin-style cutaway dreadnought. It’s a smartly satin-lacquered instrument, with a solid sitka top partnered by laminated mahogany back and sides. Binding is white with herringbone purfling around the front and around the soundhole. The binding continues along the rosewood fingerboard, while the rosewood-overlaid headstock carries a decent set of gold diecast tuners with amber buttons. There’s some slight ridging where the binding meets the neck and the cutaway, but it’s nothing to get worked up about, and overall the detailing on this guitar is commendably neat.
The three-piece mahogany neck is mainstream in width and string spacing, with a regulation 55mm spacing at the bridge making it an accommodating all-rounder. The neck’s C-shaped profile becomes relatively deep at the higher positions, but the result gives a traditional feel, and it’s not too off-puttingly bulky. The fretting is well fitted and dressed, with no sharp ends.
The Ion 201 preamp incorporates an efficient auto-chromatic tuner, and it’s an uncomplicated unit. There’s a Volume, a phase switch and an EQ which simply comprises a Contour button, predictably delivering a sparklier smile-curve tonality when activated. Rather than the system exiting via an endpin, the input socket and battery housing are combined on a plate further round the rim.
Though not the punchiest dreadnought around, the 1DC has an enjoyably peppy sound with a balanced tone neutrally poised between bright and warm, with an easy sustain. The Ion system serves the guitar very well, and our sample’s inter-string balance is spot-on. You might occasionally miss not having variable EQ bands, but this system does sound inherently natural. Permutating the Contour and Phase settings will actually achieve a fair number of tonal variations, all of them eminently usable.
Freshman has quickly become a strong low-to-mid market brand, and these new Apollos should help maintain that position. They probably won't be top banana if you're 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.