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.