Ovation DJA34 Bone Yard
Don't get us wrong: we've always got time for a 'textbook' acoustic guitar. But just sometimes, you do find yourself wishing the repetition of all those natural spruce tops would be broken by a model with a graphic of a half-cut olive/devil stripper dancing on a pile of scorched human skulls. Call off the search.
The Ovation DJA34 Bone Yard is part of Ovation's Demented Series, created alongside DJ Ashba (who, despite his initials, is not a vinyl-scratcher but the latest guitarist for Guns N' Roses).]
"Plugged in, the DJA34 will be whatever you want it to be, from a lazy strummer to a brittle lead machine."
It has undeniable visual clout, but its performance could be more contentious, due to the love-it/hate-it bowl body that's been Ovation's calling card since 1966.
Bowlbacks are a breed apart. By equipping the Bone Yard with a mid-depth body and cutaway spruce top, Ovation has improved the 'lap-slide' factor and limited access that used to make this format so infuriating, but it remains a bulky beast that works best on a strap.
It's a little frustrating to see cosmetics valued above playability on the rosewood fretboard - the 'tapered' effect means we've only got a measly 18 frets on the low string - and it has to be said that our review Bone Yard makes fretting notes over a long practice session feel like hard work. This is most likely due to our review guitar's action, but it's worth noting for acoustic first-timers.
Tone is the divisive factor when it comes to Ovations. First off, don't let the Bone Yard's lack of a central soundhole fool you into thinking it hasn't got power: there's plenty of body space, and a room-filling sonic kick even before the amp gets involved.
Bowlback naysayers complain Lyrachord doesn't have the warmth of, say, solid mahogany, and they're right: it's a bit more glassy, a bit more high-endy, altogether less organic than the traditional format. That's not a bad thing, because it gives keen definition to finger-picked runs that might otherwise turn soupy, but digging in with a pick can push the shimmer too far.
Still, that's what the preamp is there for. The piezo pickup is faithful, but with a three-band EQ, you can sculpt the tone to your taste, ironing out some of the high end and fattening the bass until you've achieved a genuinely mellow voice.
On every level, it's fair to say the Bone Yard isn't for everyone. We think the finish is cool; others may find it embarrassing. We got on pretty well with the physical performance; others might find it a challenge.
Similarly, while the raw, jangle-tastic tone appeals to us, it will sound a little jarring to some ears. But here's the point: once this guitar is plugged in, it will be whatever you want it to be, from a lazy strummer to a brittle Django Reinhardt lead machine.
Keen tone. Interesting finish. Unique vibe.
It's hefty and not as warm as wood.
By no means a done deal, but with a price tag of £350, it's certainly worthy of investigation - and given the limited run, you'll need to move fast.
Bone Yard (3 other finishes available also, see website for details)
Mid-depth cutaway bowl and spruce top
No. of Frets
OP4BT preamp: 3-band EQ, Gain, Tuner