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Freshman Songwriter SONGOCRW

All-solid wood acoustic on a budget

Talk about covering all the bases. There are 13 models in Freshman's new Songwriter Series: dreadnoughts and OMs, including cutaway versions and left-handers, a 12-string dreadnought and a mini-dreadnought. We've been living with this OM cutaway electro for a while, and it's one of the cornerstones of the new range.

"The SONGOCRW sports a pretty conventional look, but its matt finish and mahogany binding create an artisan-style"

A friendly 14-fret cutaway with solid AA Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides, the SONGOCRW sports a pretty conventional look, but its matt finish and mahogany binding create an artisan-style, classy appearance that nods towards more costly USA brands such as Taylor and Larrivée's start-up models. But our OM was designed in Scotland and made, to a very good standard, in China.

All 13 of Freshman's new models feature scalloped X bracing, and - rare at these prices - bone nuts, along with more commonly-used synthetic compensated saddles. Good fretting and neck profile, plus a low, slinky setup, make for a good player, perhaps for someone with a slightly lighter touch.

At first, we were underwhelmed by the SONGOCRW's sound. However, a fresh set of strings and a lighter gauge - Rotosound TB11s - livened up the tone and sorted a couple of intonation anomalies. Some lube on the open-backed tuners made them smoother and more responsive.

There's a bright, contemporary voice to this guitar - if you hanker after earthy lows, you won't find them here. But the voicing is near-perfect in a band, for overdubbing on recordings or simply to support a solo voice.

The OM's clarity sits happily in a mix without muddying up the low-end, and there's a delicate, almost harp-like tonality when tuned low to DADGAD, capo'd at the fifth - it's chiming and very modern.

Although the custom AER pickup system bares the moniker 'Tube System', there are no valves; it's an under-saddle pickup with endpin jack and active preamp, developed for this range.

Plugged in, it's an impressive system that reproduces the guitar's unplugged tonality with clarity. There's just a soundhole volume control but no EQ, indicating the confidence in the pickup's sound.

If you want an all-solid wood guitar, with a price point reserved for instruments with a solid top but laminate back and sides, the Songwriter Series is well named and aimed. This OM is crisply made, stylish, playable and has a bright-voiced modern tonality and impressive electro performance.

That bright voice might be seen as lacking low-end, and it's not the most dynamic, but for the money, it's a tidy job, and if your budget is tight, it's worth checking out.

MusicRadar Note

4 / 5 Etoiles
On aime

Good value. Plays well, especially if you have a light touch. Sits well in a mix.

On regrette

Might sound a little bright for some.

Verdict

For the money, it's a tidy job, and if your budget is tight, it's worth checking out.

Top Material

Solid Sitka spruce with scalloped parabolic hybrid bracing

Fingerboard Material

Rosewood

Scale Length (mm)

650

No. of Frets

20

Hardware

Vintage-style open-backed tuners - gold-plated

Available Finish

Natural satin only

Scale Length (Inches)

25.6

Pickup Type

AER Tube System under-saddle/active preamp

Sides Material

Solid rosewood

Neck Material

Mahogany

Back Material

Solid rosewood

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