The Mayfly is a hugely likeable little fingerpickin all-rounder that can come fitted with the pickup and preamp of your choice at a bargain price. Review by Jerry Uwins
Hudson is an acoustic name that has steadily been making inroads in the UK over the last couple of years by offering generous specifications at keen prices. The brand is owned by leading Welsh retailer Cranes, which distributes the line to other shops and also sells it through its own Cardiff and Swansea stores. Though Hudson guitars start from as little as £59, the main focus is on the upmarket Vintage Evolution Series and the slightly cheaper Lightning Trees. Both these series are made in the same Chinese factory as Guild‘s highly-regarded GAD acoustics.
The Mayfly parlour, from the Lightning Tree Series, has crept into the range more or less unannounced. It has in fact been around for a year or so, but only appeared on the Cranes website a few months ago. There is a more expensive counterpart – the gloss-sunburst Little Wing – within the Vintage Evolution range, but whereas that is slot-headed and has 12 frets to the body, the Mayfly is a 14-fretter with a regular spade peghead and natural satin finish.
It is important, firstly, to clarify our published price of £418. The Mayfly in its standard acoustic guise lists at only £229; the additional £189 allows for a B-Band A2.2 system which came fitted to our sample. Cranes often installs retrofit systems on customers’ new instruments, and B-Band is a preferred option, though other makes can be requested. More of the A2.2 shortly.
The Mayfly doesn’t seek to emulate a really diminutive example of the parlour genre. Instead, like the majority of such designs at this level of the market, it has an elegant 00-size body measuring just over 14" across the lower bouts, with a rim depth of 100mm. The top is made of warm-hued, quite wide-grained cedar, while the back and sides are mahogany. The front and back are both solid wood, and though the sides are laminated, we’re assured that they are genuine laminations – that is, all three plies are mahogany without some anonymous timber doing service inbetween.
Despite the basic Mayfly‘s modest price, the trim is tasteful and precisely applied. The body and rosewood fingerboard are both bound in maple, and the front’s herringbone purfling is repeated within the concentrically-ringed soundhole rosette. Maple is also used for the heel cap and a strip across the baseblock. Up along the fingerboard are decorative abalone markers – sort of 45-style – while the rosewood-faced headstock carries a set of nickel enclosed Kluson-style tuners with Waverly-shape buttons. They look the part, and work smoothly too. Another yesteryear touch is a diamond volute under the nut of the full-scale mahogany neck which, rather than the usual scarf-jointed affair, is a two-piece lengthwise combination, complete with a separate heel portion.
One oddity that struck me when I played a Little Wing some time back was that despite its vintage, fingerstyle-suggestive looks, the string spacing at the bridge was very cramped for picking. The Mayfly sidesteps that by having a regulation 55mm string spacing, so fingerstyle is comfortably catered for, but it’s strummable too. Width across the nut is a moderate 43mm, while the neck’s profile is fashioned to a fairly shallow ‘C’ which feels snug and slick, helped by an excellent set-up and nicely polished medium-thin fretting. Another nice detail is that the nut and the saddle are both bone, not synthetic.
B-Band’s A2.2 is a blender system comprising an undersaddle strip transducer (UST) and a soundboard transducer patch (AST) fixed to the underside of the bridge plate. Being a non-invasive system, the controls – Volume and Mix – are mounted under the bass side of the soundhole. The preamp box – with screwdriver-accessible trimpots to adjust the relative gain of each sound source – sits inside the back of the guitar, with the 9V battery housed in a velcro’d pouch on the heelblock. At one extreme of the Mix thumbwheel is UST signal only; at the other end it’s a 50/50 blend of UST and AST. Points in between gradually add a percentage of AST to the undersaddle signal in a crossover-mix kind of arrangement.
The guitar impresses in both its roles. The acoustic sound is resilient, dynamic and punchy enough to hold its own against larger folk-size instruments. The tone is both sweet-edged and attacking, with the cedar top contributing a fast, easy response and a pleasing injection of overall warmth and maturity. A hint of breathiness in the mids is appropriate to the guitar’s parlour influences.
The beauty of the B-Band when fired up is that it doesn’t sound like a blender system; there simply isn’t that constant concern one has with mic-based systems about spoiling things with too much mic. Instead the A2.2’s transducer-mix format behaves effectively like a smoothly graduated, naturally-voiced tone control. The timbre is tailored from bright and lightly percussive to moodier and mellow without ever losing note definition, wherever the thumbwheel is set. Our sample isn’t best served by a dominant bottom E string, but this output imbalance is rectifiable, and this is a very good, expressive system that both suits and exploits the Mayfly’s considerable sonic strengths.
Cranes has to have a winner in the Mayfly. As an acoustic parlour it's not alone in offering great budget value - see The Competition - but taking into account the basic price tag, excellent build quality and playability and enthusiastic size-belying performance, it has to be among the pick of the bunch. If you fork out extra for an electro option you're highly unlikely to be disappointed, especially if you plump for the fine-sounding A2.2. There again, I suspect the Mayfly will rise admirably to the occasion with any decent-quality system. Just take your pick and enjoy.