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#3069633 11/11/20 07:10 PM
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Paul K Offline OP
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Ladies and Gentlemen;
Gear Acquisition inquiry. I want an Ovation or Applause bowl back guitar. Local store has none to try out, so I'm likely to just bit the bullet on one I think I like and live with it.
My read on the data is that once you choose a bowl size and how fancy you want the eye candy to be, they're all about the same except for electronics. True or false?
If false, what should I look for?
If true, which electronics packages suck wind and which are the ones I should settle for?
Cheers,
Paul K


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Paul K #3069647 11/11/20 08:43 PM
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Welcome aboard Paul K! If I were looking, I would probably spend too much and buy the Glenn Cambell model. Not cheap about $1,000 +/-. I like the round sound hole and signature model like the old Balladeer model.. Many cheaper models of Ovation and even cheaper models of Applause are out there. I bought the Celebrity model for my daughter over 10 years ago and it's still hanging in there. I don't know enough about them to make any recommendations though. Good luck! thu

Last edited by Larryz; 11/11/20 08:44 PM.

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Paul K #3069669 11/11/20 09:55 PM
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@Paul K I once had two Ovation guitars, a deep bowl Balladeer, and a shallow bowl Celebrity. I definitely liked the deep bowl better. The shallow one used to slide off of my leg when sitting, so I had to wear a strap for that position, plus the Balladeer had had a better acoustic only tone. I liked the deep bowl Balladeer most. Since I only play solid body electric guitars I sold both of them because I never played them. (I did play them a lot when I was traveling on surf trips with my kids for many years, and the Balladeer worked well for many years on those trips). The Celebrity never got much use because I stopped traveling and when I am at home I only play solid body electric.


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Paul K #3069679 11/11/20 11:13 PM
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I’ve had a full-bowl Ovation Elite for something over 25 years. I do use it with a strap, because that bowl can be slick...and I’m somewhat round myself. wink

I’ve had the fortune to try other Ovations, and my take is this: the deeper the bowl, the better the acoustic tone. Plugged in, they all sound roughly the same to me.


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Paul K #3069705 11/12/20 03:43 AM
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I've owned a few Ovations and worked on many.
You haven't mentioned what purpose you have for using the Ovation.
Live work, studio, fun to have at home? Loud stage or quiet coffee shop situation?

As noted above, the deep bowlback sounds better acoustically. It will deliver howling low mid/bass feedback without mercy at high volumes on stage.
In contrast, the shallow bowl has a thin sound acoustically but can be turned up much louder. Both of them will sort of "roll away from you" due to the shape.

I will admit to not being familiar with current models, I'd have to play one to say much. A friend does own a Korean made deepbowl cutaway model, probably sort of middle of the line.
I would say it's main claim to fame is that it can withstand abuse, it sounds OK acoustically and plugged in but not great. I think it's a higher end Applause but not sure to be honest.

After installing 5 K&K Pro Mini pickups, it would take a lot to convince me that an undersaddle pickup can hold it's own against an under soundboard pickup. The K&K made my Rainsong OM1000 sound so much better electrically compared to the LR Baggs that came from the factory that I really regret not swapping it out years ago.

The tragic sleeper Ovation is the original Applause guitar - the one with the aluminum/high density foam neck and the aluminum fretboard with aluminum frets (part of the T shaped aluminum neck). I've had 2 of them and both times I got them for well under $100 at thrift stores. I bought them because they somehow sound unbelievably great. They are tragic because the aluminum frets are machined as part of the fretboard and once you've worn through the hardened upper layer of metal, they are doomed. At the time of release, Ovation had this plan for selling a replacement fretboard assembly so you just bought a new one instead of re-fretting the old one - which was toast. Truly some of the best sounding acoustic guitars I've owned, both sold to avoid the inevitable doom.

Currently I own a vintage Ovation Pathfinder 12 string guitar, my second one. The first one had a bit of a warp in the neck and the top but sounded great. This one needs a neck reset, which is generally considered to be impossible and I concur. I've established that I could get it to play well by re-fretting the gorgeous ebony fretboard with All Parts tallest frets - these are insanely tall, probably 1.6x (or more) taller than the tallest Jascar Super Jumbo or Dunlop 6100. Great guitar, solid spruce top, Schaller tuners, ebony fretboard and they sound great - don't all 12 strings sound great?

Take your time, shop around, surf the Ovation forums, keep an eye on craigslist. Ovation is truly an interesting and innovative company, Charles Kaman founded Kaman Industries (manufacturers of helicopter parts for the military), and later, Ovation guitars. Quartersawn Sitka Spruce was used to make helicopter blades, the strength to weight ratio is very high. It is also used to make guitar tops for the same reason - serendipitous.

Don't ask me if the bowl backs look like helicopter cowlings, because, they do. Pretty sure they are custom designed for guitars but the material used is from aerospace industry. Cheers, Kuru


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Paul K #3069736 11/12/20 01:57 PM
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Thanks for the back story, Kuru.

Purpose: Loud and light guitar for busking and travel (I'm away from home about 6 nights a month) that is bullet-proof enough to sit in the car in the Georgia sun with the windows closed. (This week I glued the top back down on my ukulele!)
My dreadnought is bulky, and although it's loud it just doesn't carry when busking. I can't use an amp in this town for that sport. Indeed, asking for a guitar louder than a dreadnought is asking for unobtainium, so medium bowl depth is probably what will suit me the best. I'm attracted to the "Deep Contour" size bowl, but they only seem to be used on the models that are more pricey than what I'd want to keep in the hot-hot car. I always use a strap; I keep a strap permanently attached to all my guitars and basses. They're always there, and always the right length unless I'm wearing outdoor gear.
I mostly won't be plugging this one in, but it'll be plugged in enough that I want the electronics to be worth plugging in. Bonus for the on-board electronics having a tuner built in; older guitars tend to not have them.

I just put new strings on my dreadnought, and that was a move I should have done a long time ago. Indeed, all 12-strings sound great. Mine needs new strings. Maybe I'll do that and busk with it a couple times to gauge the reaction in the tip cup.

I have a friend with a Taylor Mini with K&K pickup; it's just stunning. I installed a K&K in my 12 string (yes, the bigger K&K made for 12's) and I must have done something wrong, as the guitar sounded like it had a blanket over the top...not what I was envisioning. I had previously installed a strip piezo under the bridge, and had to cut the bridge down afterwards to get appropriate string height; maybe I should take that legacy electrical bit out and fashion a new bridge for a better connection between the bridge plastic and the guitar?

Thanks all for chiming in.
Cheers
Paul K


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I've been playing Ovations since the mid-1970's, and my experience aligns with everyone here. Still, here are some tips from a long time playing, selling and working on Ovations.

Ovations have sometimes been described as "Acoustic Guitar for Electric Guitarists", and that's true to an extent. The shallow-bowl bodies are more comfortable for someone used to a thin solid-body Guitar, and the story is that Charlie Kaman designed the original Ovation neck after the contours of his favorite Stratocaster's neck.

Personally, I won't buy any Guitar I haven't held in my hands and played, but I'm lucky enough to live where there are a number of Music stores within easy driving distance. I can't recommend buying a used Ovation online, because they're not like other Guitars, in terms of care, and design-related issues. (See below . . .)

If you want to play Acoustic, get the deep bowl; the shallow-bowl Guitars are really best with Amplification. Find a strap that you like, and get used to wearing the strap even when you're sitting down to play.

If you're looking at one of the models with the sound holes on the epaulets, like the Elites, don't get one with the sound holes on the lower bout, above your knee; those lose a great deal of tone and volume, I've even seen some players stuffing that space with cloth, or taping those holes shut from the inside of the body, to fix the sound.

Don't just look at the name on the headstock, look inside the bowl at the label. Some years back, Ovation stopped putting the "Celebrity" name on the headstock, as it clearly had a negative impact on sales. (FWIW, "Celebrity" is Ovation's import live, much like Epiphone and Gibson.) All of their Ovation and Celebrity models say "Ovation" on the headstock, but the label inside tells you whether it's a U.S.-made Ovation or an import Celebrity. One clue is in the model number; most of the Celebrity models start with CC- . I haven't seen a new Applause model in some time?

Here's the kicker; Ovations are not like other Guitars in terms of care and maintenance. To start with, you'll want a good HSC and a humidifier for it, and being a round back Guitar, you'll need a fitted Ovation case. don't screw around trying to stuff towels or t-shirts into a normal Guitar case. (Yes, I've seen it done.) Because the tops are wood and the bodies are synthetic, the different parts don't respond to heat & humidity (or lack thereof) quite the same way. I've seen binding coming away from the tops, and tops separating from bodies on Ovations that weren't being played nor cared for. Even well cared-for Ovations are prone to cracks in the top, from the different rates of expansion and contraction over time. Another common issue is a certain amount of "bellying" under the bridge. I take my Ovation out when I'm playing it, and when I'm done, it goes right back in the case, every time.

Having said all that, the better made, and thus more expensive models are more durable and forgiving. The newer Pre-amp systems are all pretty good, and they long ago eliminated the need to reach into the body to dig for the battery, so again, unless you're looking at the lowest-priced budget models, you're probably good to go.

This model looks good to me, in part because the real Koa top (as opposed to the cheaper Koa veneer) is likely to age nicely. Ovation Celebrity Standard Plus Figured Koa top From this, your next step up is likely the Balladeer at $1000; almost all of those Elite models have the worse-than-useless sound holes on the lower cutaway.


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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
I've been playing Ovations since the mid-1970's,

Because the tops are wood and the bodies are synthetic, the different parts don't respond to heat & humidity (or lack thereof) quite the same way. I've seen binding coming away from the tops, and tops separating from bodies on Ovations that weren't being played nor cared for. Even well cared-for Ovations are prone to cracks in the top, from the different rates of expansion and contraction over time. Another common issue is a certain amount of "bellying" under the bridge. I take my Ovation out when I'm playing it, and when I'm done, it goes right back in the case, every time.

.

Thanks for that very deep insight. The "care and feeding" part makes total sense, and may be a deal-killer for me, as the guitar will spend a lot of time in my car in the sun in Georgia with the windows closed!


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@ Paul, Any guitar will have issues if kept in a car with the windows rolled up in the hot sun. Definitely keep the guitar in a case and buy one of the humidity packs that just need a little water and are stored in the case. Consider cracking a window 1/8" and using a sun shield on the dash. Maybe a whole car cover would be a good way to go. You can also cover the case with a sleeping bag for insulation. Just a thought (as I'm not experienced with that hot Georgia sun!)... cool


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Paul K #3069763 11/12/20 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul K
Thanks for that very deep insight. The "care and feeding" part makes total sense, and may be a deal-killer for me, as the guitar will spend a lot of time in my car in the sun in Georgia with the windows closed!


I have 2 Rainsong guitars and used to own another one (the nylon string model, didn't care for the neck shape). Currently in possession and not going anywhere - OM-1000 and WS-3000 (12 string). We have fairly rapid changes in humidity up here in Northwest Washington. Both of these guitars have been very stable under any circumstance I expose them to, the 12 string stays in tune for weeks on end and any tuning adjustments are minor at best.

I was doing research years ago and there was a testimonial from an owner posted on the Rainsong website.

The owner described forgetting that he'd left his Rainsong in the case in the trunk of his car in Las Vegas on a 100+ degree day. Mid afternoon, he remembered it, got it and as he was going up the stairs in his apartment, the handle failed, the case fell open while tumbling down the stairs to the floor below and the guitar fell out of the case and tumbled with it.

He went down and picked up the guitar, which was hot. It was still in tune and played fine.

I've never subjected mine to that sort of abuse. On the other hand, a friend has a CA Cargo guitar which is also all composite and he's left it in his mobile home unattended and tuned to pitch many times. He lives in Arizona.
It's smaller, but sounds big and plays nice. There are other "plastic" guitars out there, shop around.

I agree with Winston on the tendency for there to be finish cracks in the tops on the Ovation guitars, it's very common and I've seen it many times. Look for one that has pearl dots on the bridge, these are used to cover up the heads of the bolts they use to provide alignment while clamping and to keep the bridge in place in the event of glue failure so they are more durable. That said, nothing is going to prevent the top from "bellying" if certain external conditions are met - heat is certainly a factor as all adhesives will eventually fail if sufficient heat is provided.If the glue on the braces that stabilize the flatness of the top softens in the heat with the strings pulling at pitch, guess what?

I would recommend more research, or as they say "Buy Once, Cry Once" and/or "Buy Nice or Buy Twice." Cheers, Kuru


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Paul K #3069767 11/12/20 04:35 PM
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Something to consider if you want to keep the cost down is the newer Martin guitars with the HPL bodies and the necks made of multiple strips of wood laminated together.
Despite the dislike from traditional Martin owners, they all seem to play pretty well and some of them sound good too.

Sort of a hybrid but I saw a used Martin with the HPL back and sides and laminate neck but a soldi spruce top and they were asking $350 for it because it was a bit worn and used looking.
That guitar sounded really nice and played well, I was tempted but I need another guitar like a hole in the head so somebody else got it.

You could surf the Used section of Guitar Center online and look for deals, there is always something on there.


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Paul K #3069829 11/12/20 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul K
Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
I've been playing Ovations since the mid-1970's,

Because the tops are wood and the bodies are synthetic, the different parts don't respond to heat & humidity (or lack thereof) quite the same way. I've seen binding coming away from the tops, and tops separating from bodies on Ovations that weren't being played nor cared for. Even well cared-for Ovations are prone to cracks in the top, from the different rates of expansion and contraction over time. Another common issue is a certain amount of "bellying" under the bridge. I take my Ovation out when I'm playing it, and when I'm done, it goes right back in the case, every time.

.

Thanks for that very deep insight. The "care and feeding" part makes total sense, and may be a deal-killer for me, as the guitar will spend a lot of time in my car in the sun in Georgia with the windows closed!

In that case, I would seriously recommend almost anything else! As Larryz points out, that's a rough environment for any Guitar, even a solid Maple plank; I'd be reluctant to leave a Squier Tele in a closed hot car during a Georgia Summer!

I have an ancient (late 80's) MIJ Alvarez Dreadnought, which was essentially a copy of some Martin model, I'm not sure which one? Solid top, laminate back & sides. It's been my Acoustic Jam Guitar for decades. I've hauled that thing up and down the East Coast, in almost every kind of weather, and it's all but indestructible. It also lives in a nice HSC, with two humidifiers (I keep two in all my Acoustic cases, one in all my solid body Electric cases).

Those laminate-neck Martins are more than affordable. The old Yamaha FG models were tough as nails, and I've seen some decent new Guilds for $400-500. More recent Alvarez models vary greatly - stay away from the cheapest "Regent" models, they're pure entry-level Guitars.

I have no experience with Graphite Guitars like Rainsong, but one of my Jam buddies has one, and swears by it; they're not cheap, by any means, however.


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Paul K #3069843 11/12/20 10:46 PM
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Have to say, I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I haven’t really had any of the upkeep issues WPS and others mentioned. But then again, we’re higher humidity and lower heat than where you are.

I do keep mine in its HSC, but I do that for ALL of my guitars that aren’t on display. (And since I rotate my display, all of my guitars have HSCs.)


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We have some good Samaritan laws in California when it comes to locking pets in cars on hot summer days to go shopping (not to mention human babies). The cops and/or a citizen will break your windows out to save pets/humans and you will get a citation. The reason is people do not calculate how hot it gets within a few minutes inside a car when temps are already in the 80's and 90's. Imagine how much heat your guitar is going to have to withstand (in the hot Georgia sun or anywhere else) during the summertime temps. I try to park under a shade tree on hot outside gigs and crack a window (and that's even if I'm taking my guitars with me LOL!). Get to the gig early if you can, so you can pick a good spot...I imagine guys in ice cold temps have similar issues. Humidity is a major factor when thinking about guitars, especially acoustic guitars... cool

Last edited by Larryz; 11/13/20 12:47 AM. Reason: sp.

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I get the drill: crack the windows, shades behind the windshield, etc. and hope for a tree. But honest, that's just a drop in the bucket. Hot is hot; 7:30am until 4:30pm. Guitar Center sent me a 20% off coupon, so a $300 Applause is $240 shipped....or I'll find a cheap used one and just treat it like a disposable guitar-- it'll last until it doesn't.

Wow! It would kill me to keep The Herd locked inside HSC's. They're all either on the wall or on a floor rack; Every one gets picked up a couple times a month!

So if I find a cheap Ovation that I don't mind treating as disposable: which electronics are good, which suck the wind?

Kuru: I wondered why those two extra dots are on some of the guitars I've looked at on-line. Very good to know.

I will, of course, enjoy the hunt.


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Paul, to my ears the B-Band undersaddle pickups are the least worst sounding by quite a bit.
That said, the Fishman stuff has gotten much better and I would have to compare the latest versions to really make a call.

As to the Ovation stuff, I would guess that all the Applause line uses the same pickup. My friend's was a few years old, it sounded thin, yet harsh to me.
I'm really not up on the latest.

You can't go wrong with the K&K but a bridge without pins is trickier for doing the install. Elderly Music sells them for around $100 but they are glued onto the top and extremely difficult to remove so not a good choice for a beater guitar.

Maybe a soundhole pickup and just connect it to the jack that is already there? If you get a passive one you won't need to fuss with a battery. You will need a tuner though. Skip the Snark, the Boss TU-12 is much better quality.
Soundhole pickups sound nice to me, maybe not quite as "acoustic" but good is good and they are never thin sounding.
If you decide to replace the guitar you can always just solder the undersaddle pickup back to the jack and sell the guitar for whatever it is worth after it's beating.

FWIW, I'd like a decent playing beater myself. The Rainsong set me back $900 used and I got a deal on it. Not something I'd leave in a car because I'd hate to have it stolen.
Maybe this is why God created banjos? They are pretty bulletproof and nobody wants a cheap banjo. Except maybe, me.

Fortunately, I am partway through putting one together. Different than guitar but it keeps your fingers in shape and maybe it doesn't need an amp - they are pretty loud.


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Originally Posted by Paul K
I get the drill: crack the windows, shades behind the windshield, etc. and hope for a tree. But honest, that's just a drop in the bucket. Hot is hot; 7:30am until 4:30pm. Guitar Center sent me a 20% off coupon, so a $300 Applause is $240 shipped....or I'll find a cheap used one and just treat it like a disposable guitar-- it'll last until it doesn't.

Wow! It would kill me to keep The Herd locked inside HSC's. They're all either on the wall or on a floor rack; Every one gets picked up a couple times a month!

So if I find a cheap Ovation that I don't mind treating as disposable: which electronics are good, which suck the wind?

.

You might want to take a look at the Yamaha APX600. $299 at Musicans Friend. Gets good reviews both acoustic and electric. I would not discount the under saddle piezo pickups. I have 4 acoustics that use them and they sound very good plugged in.

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/gui...37000002000?cntry=us&source=3WWRWXMP



Ps. I know it's not an Ovation Applause but suggesting it anyway...Good luck! cool

Last edited by Larryz; 11/13/20 03:28 PM. Reason: ps.

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Originally Posted by Paul K
....or I'll find a cheap used one and just treat it like a disposable guitar-- it'll last until it doesn't.

This should fill the bill - U.S.-made(?) Applause Guitar with a decent Barcus-Berry pickup added in, $150 + tax & shipping. Used Applause @GC

I'll keep looking - I've had VERY good luck scavenging for pedals in GC' Used Gear Listings, I'm happy to do some vicarious shopping on your behalf.

One thing that's helped me - I'll often call the store where the used item is, and ask someone there to look at it and give me their evaluation. One store's "Excellent" condition is another's "Good" and there can be a very big difference.


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. . . and here's a slightly different model, with a case, $200. Not having to hunt down a case will save you time and money, and it'll help keep the Guitar safe during shipping. Given a choice between the guitar with the B-B pickup for $150, and a Guitar in a case for $200, I'd go for the Guitar with the Case. It's VERY easy to swap out modern Ovation electronics, pretty much a drop-in solution, if you decide you want to do that.

Used Applasue AE-128 w/case

Once again, I'd call the store to make sure the case is a fitted Ovation HSC. Sometimes, GC will list a chipboard (cardboard) case as a "case", if that's what came in with the Guitar.


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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
. . . and here's a slightly different model, with a case, $200. Not having to hunt down a case will save you time and money, and it'll help keep the Guitar safe during shipping. Given a choice between the guitar with the B-B pickup for $150, and a Guitar in a case for $200, I'd go for the Guitar with the Case. It's VERY easy to swap out modern Ovation electronics, pretty much a drop-in solution, if you decide you want to do that.

Used Applasue AE-128 w/case

Once again, I'd call the store to make sure the case is a fitted Ovation HSC. Sometimes, GC will list a chipboard (cardboard) case as a "case", if that's what came in with the Guitar.


Looks good. Agree it's best to call the store. Experience has me recommending asking for the manager.
I called a GC back east about a Gibson Les Paul studio and asked whoever answered the phone if there were any signs of a headstock repair since I would not accept the guitar if the headstock had been broken.
They told me it looked fine.

When it got to our GC, I told my sales rep before we opened the box that I'd called and they said no headstock break. We opened it up, repaired headstock break. I got a refund on the spot, would rather not waste anybody's resources shipping things that I don't want but not much I could do about it. Maybe the manager would have spotted it so do ask for them. If they are not available, leave a message to have them call you.


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Paul K Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
This should fill the bill - U.S.-made(?) Applause Guitar with a decent Barcus-Berry pickup added in, $150 + tax & shipping. Used Applause @GC

.

That appears to be one of the metal neck ones that Kuru spoke about earlier, 1970's. They apparently didn't come with active electronics then, hence the Barcus Berry pickup.


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Paul K #3069986 11/13/20 10:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul K
Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
This should fill the bill - U.S.-made(?) Applause Guitar with a decent Barcus-Berry pickup added in, $150 + tax & shipping. Used Applause @GC

.

That appears to be one of the metal neck ones that Kuru spoke about earlier, 1970's. They apparently didn't come with active electronics then, hence the Barcus Berry pickup.

The fret ends go over the binding so it might not be the aluminum one. They didn't make it for long before they realized their mistake.

Neither of mine had binding or a cutaway. Call GC and speak to the manager, that could be a score.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...

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