Like the recent Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top acoustic guitar, the new Vintage Historic Series borrows elements from the pre-war-era US acoustics - Stellas, Kays, Silvertones and the like - sold through mail-order catalogues.
These instruments, which often featured satin finishes, slotted headstocks and a decent tone, got the guitar on its metaphorical feet in rural America, and helped to obliterate the then dominance of the banjo. Phew...
The Historic Series consists of three models: the parlour-size VE880 (great for fingerpicking); the Orchestra-bodied VE440 (best for loud strumming); and the classic dreadnought VE660, the tonal all-rounder, which we've chosen for this review. Despite differing body dimensions, all three are similarly spec'd.
"Kicking off, you get a solid spruce top capping the laminate mahogany back and sides"
Kicking off, you get a solid spruce top capping the laminate mahogany back and sides. Like those old catalogue guitars, the top features a satin Sunburst finish while the finish on the back and sides has been sunk into the grain. The retro aesthetic is sealed by some ivory white plastic binding.
The chubby C profile mahogany neck has a rosewood fingerboard, 20 highly polished medium frets, a retro-looking slotted headstock and a set of vintage-style open-gear machineheads with butterbean buttons. Incidentally, the fretwork here is excellent. There are no sharp ends, dead spots or buzzing to spoil your fun.
This electro-acoustic guitar also comes equipped with a discreet Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and an Acoustic Matrix VT preamp. The preamp's volume and tone controls nestle inside the soundhole below the low E string.
It takes a while for a new solid- top acoustic to loosen up and reveal its true tone and so, off the shelf, our VE660 pumps out bags of treble response mixed with some brash-sounding midrange when strummed with a pick.
"Predictably, the Fishman setup is the bee's knees"
As expected, the bass response is a bit shy, but will improve with time. That's a safe prediction given the tonewoods used here, and the guitar's voice mellows considerably, anyway, when you ditch the little plastic triangle and fingerpick.
Plug the VE660 into an amp, and you can sweeten the pickup's output with the preamp's tone control and EQ knobs on your amp. Predictably, this Fishman setup is the bee's knees, and the controls are within easy reach.
The Vintage Historic Series boasts great playability and build quality, bags of tonal potential and a gig-ready pickup system - all wrapped in a distinctive old-school persona that will help them stand out from the rank and file acoustics at your local guitar emporium... where guitars still outnumber the banjos, thank goodness.