Stefan Schertler began producing pickups and transducers for acoustic instruments in the early '80s. Following nearly 30 years of continuing research and development, his comparatively small range of innovative products are fast becoming viewed as a point of reference for acoustic amplification.
As an indication of how far he's come, you can now order your new acoustic from such prestigious brands as Gibson, Martin and Santa Cruz with the option of Schertler's Bluestick pickup loaded onboard. Famous users of Schertler's amplifiers include Preston Reed and John Jorgenson.
However, in November 2007 – in association with the respected Italian luthier Claudio Pagelli – Schertler launched a range of steel- and nylon-string acoustics.
Aimed squarely at semi-professional gigging acoustic players, the new guitars are not adaptations of existing models, but a new design from the top down. The vision was to combine the highly acclaimed Dual pickup technology with high quality design and manufacture.
Pagelli's design is certainly striking. The Concert Stage's sweeping curves are slightly offset which, when added to the chrome machineheads and crisp, clean finish, gives a rather space-age and futuristic feel. With its tight waist and raised rosewood soundhole border, the Concert Stage is reminiscent of Yamaha's CPX range, which also shouts contemporary styling.
We particularly like the high-quality matt finish used for the back, sides and neck, while the Alpine Swiss spruce top is treated to more protective gloss. A highly resonant cut of Indian rosewood has a two-piece mahogany neck fitted to it, and the open headstock is reinforced with a 3mm thick slice of ebony to its face, which houses the Schertler logo.
Many of the guitar's parts (tuners, onboard electronics and soundboard) originate from Switzerland, but the build and assembly is carried out in Korea. The finish is generally of a good standard although there are some cutting and finishing flaws to the nut around the string channels.
The onboard electronics consist of two distinct pickup systems – a high-quality dynamic microphone or bug and an undersaddle Bluestick transducer. This undersaddle element of the guitar's pickup system is not a piezo, nor does it possess any piezo-like components or technology.
Although seated in the same position as a regular piezo, the ultra thin hollow chamber houses an electrostatic microphone so, rather than amplifying the vibration of the strings, it actually amplifies the produced sound.
Both paths can be mixed using the blend knob on the control panel, which also houses knobs for bass, mid, treble and volume. In use, we find the rotary controls a little fiddly to start with, but like the fact that they are centre indented – a nice touch for tweaking things on a dimly lit stage.
As its name would suggest, this guitar has been made to be played and enjoyed amplified onstage. Its unplugged tone is good, but if you don't plug this baby in then you're missing out on its real potential.
Starting with the bass, mid and treble flat and the blend at 12 o'clock, the tone is robust and packs loads of clout. Roll off the mids and you begin to warm things up a little, take out of the blend some of the undersaddle transducer and things get even more mellow.
Pushing the bias to the undersaddle with very little mids produces an excellent tone for chord work. Dial back in the mids and some treble with the blend bias to the bug and you have a perfect tone for fingerstyle and soloing. What's impressive about the Dual system is the clarity and precision with which it goes about its work.
The variations on offer are virtually endless and they're all augmented by the fact that every control does what it should do – a science that is not easy to master when dealing with the dynamics of an acoustic guitar.
The Concert Stage is a fantastic electro, and if your budget is around £1,000, then we'd recommend a test drive. The finish and build quality is good, but it's the Schertler pickup wizardry that'll have people in the audience wondering what you've got onboard.