Now onto the main test – how does it sound for fingerpicking? Well to cut to the chase, I can’t believe how good this guitar sounds for fingerstyle. It’s so well balanced in terms of bass, mids, and treble it’s almost impossible to find any serious flaws. But I’ll try to anyway…
First off it’s very clear (more on that later). Break up isn’t a problem because it has more than enough punch and volume. The bass is prominent without overshadowing or muddying up the mids or treble – there’s absolutely no lack of clarity anywhere on the neck; each string has its own signature tone even when strummed hard (which is quite easy and comfortable btw). Each note rings out beautifully with every pluck/strum and its harmonics are so crisp.
Humidity is the enemy of tone for all wood instruments (strings lose their bright tone when exposed to dry air). And this guitar is no exception; it sounds best when humidity levels are elevated (my living room is usually around 40-60% humidity, which has drastically improved its sound compared to first opening it on a very dry day). Now before I go any further I’ll explain what clear means, because that’s something you won’t hear anyone else mention about acoustic guitars. It’s not muddy or overly bright – it’s just right in terms of clarity. Any more bass/treble would make fingerpicking too difficult IMO (too much sustain) but this guitar nails the perfect balance between both.
I admit the bass is a little boomy-sounding when fingerpicked hard, but most guitars with solid tops would suffer from this. In fact, if you fingerpick softly enough that problem disappears. If fingerpicking isn’t your thing then you could always remove the metal frets and go retro style with plastic ones (I’ve heard of people doing this to improve tone). The only way I can think of improving its sound for fingerpicking is by using a pickguard/piezo system which acts as an acoustic simulator. But really how much better can it get?
Next up is strumming. Let me just say strumming with a pick sounds great on this guitar – no surprise there considering it’s got a solid top. Its bright tone comes through loud and clear with every strum, so I think this guitar would be great for playing bluegrass or country on. But don’t expect it to sound like an electric – the bass is still prominent so it’s good for chord work but may sound thin on single-note runs (but that’s not really Gibson’s fault).
So overall I’m extremely happy with how it sounds; I couldn’t find any flaws at all (even after owning it for nearly 3 months). And if you’re looking for an instrument that can do both fingerpicking and strumming you won’t regret buying this one. It also makes me love my e-guitar less now because of how much better this sounds.
I should note that my first Alvarez acoustic guitar sounded terrible – it was a cheapie but still… However, I’ve heard other people’s reviews of Regent series guitars and they sound pretty good so it seems quality control is hit or miss with these guitars. As far as mine goes I can’t really complain although there are some minor problems, which brings me to the next section…
Construction Quality :
First off let me just say that there’s nothing better than seeing a perfectly made guitar from the inside out. And as far as craftsmanship goes, this guitar definitely deserves praise. It’s got great fretwork, nice inlays, a smooth finish on the back/sides (no scuffing when I rest my arm), smooth edges (no sharp fret ends or cutouts), and a well-seated bridge.
The only complaint I have about its construction quality is the tuners; they’re slightly difficult to turn, which makes fast changes difficult. And since it comes with thin strings you need to retune this thing quite often (which isn’t hard but still requires getting used to). Thankfully the good folks at Alvarez are kind enough to include a string winder so you won’t have any trouble in that department. However, unless your fingers are extremely strong you may find turning the pegs too much of a hassle – fortunately not an overwhelming amount because it will definitely loosen up over time. Another issue is that when I first received the guitar the tuning keys were a little too tight, but that was easily remedied by turning them loose with an Allen key.
It’s got a pretty wide neck (41mm at the nut) so if you have small hands this may be slightly uncomfortable for your liking. I’ve heard of people breaking their 3rd and 4th fingers when strumming because they couldn’t reach beyond fret 1 or 2 – it can definitely get frustrating. In fact, its width is borderline electric range but not quite there which means that quick chord changes will still be difficult especially past the 12th fret where it gets even wider. This is something to keep in mind before buying this instrument although most other players who play regularly shouldn’t have a problem.
I didn’t experience any significant problems with the guitar itself, but one word of caution is to be wary of the hardshell case. It’s got a good solid build so it should protect your prized possession from most impacts…but if you bump this against something don’t expect its plastic exterior to take the brunt of the blow – it will leave dents! So just keep that in mind when moving around or transporting your instrument.
Uh Oh, time for some nitpicking …
1) There’s an obvious difference between the top and sides. They’re both made out of laminates (plastic-looking stuff) so I’m guessing someone tried to cut corners by not veneering the inside of the instrument. It doesn’t look bad from a distance but when you get up close it’s definitely an eyesore because of how thin the layers are. The difference in thickness between the top and sides is also noticeable – which can be seen by holding this guitar in front of a bright light source. One solution to this problem would be to purchase a solid wood acoustic guitar, although they’re usually more expensive than their laminated counterparts.
2) On mine I found two slight imperfections on the back – one is right under where my armrests while playing and another a few centimeters away from it (I’m guessing someone dropped this during production). This isn’t too big a deal since it’s not really noticeable unless you shine a bright light on it. If you’re a perfectionist then this would not be an ideal instrument for you since these little flaws are bound to happen with budget guitars, but it certainly won’t take anything away from the sound quality.
3) Fret Ends: One thing I noticed is that all its frets have what looks like sharp ends sticking out from underneath them. It’s almost as if someone forgot to file down the fretboard before stringing up this guitar – so I had to do it myself. This is obviously not good because over time those edges will severely tear up your fingers if you don’t get rid of them by filing them off or sanding them flat (I recommend using a nail filer). Fortunately, this isn’t too difficult to fix but it can be slightly time-consuming (if you’ve got lots of frets to file off as I did).
4) Strings – this is more of a personal preference than anything else because the strings that initially come with the instrument aren’t bad at all. However, if you’re someone who likes to tinker around with your gear then feel free to switch these out for something else depending on how light/heavy you want your action. Although I think that’s just about it… other than those few things it’s an alright guitar for beginners and intermediate players looking for an upgrade from their starter instruments.
Finally…the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The sound quality is certainly better than most entry-level guitars but there is a notable difference between this model and others you’ll find on the market. It’s definitely an even-sounding guitar so no part of the spectrum stands out more than another which means it’s more suited for blending notes with other musicians rather than highlighting specific notes/chords. This is okay if you’re only playing by yourself or playing with someone else since it can be difficult to hear noticeable differences in sound when performing alone (compared to playing with multiple people).
Despite what I said earlier about not getting too close up to it, the body size isn’t that big so don’t expect any bass-like sounds from your fingers unless you adjust your technique accordingly. You’ll probably have better luck if you use the palm of your hand to strum along the strings because it’s easier to get a good bass response from it. But I would suggest using a pick for this guitar otherwise you’ll lose any definition when playing chords & lead notes.
Conclusion: This is an okay instrument if you’re looking to own a mid-range guitar without spending much money on one. It’s certainly not the best acoustic guitar out there but it’s certainly worth owning especially if you want something durable that sounds better than most entry-level guitars. However, if you are more of an advanced player then I would probably recommend choosing something else since this model is more suited for beginners/intermediates who are just starting out on their musical journey (no pun intended).