Whether we are aware of it or not, we guitarists are addicted to the mysteries of tonewoods. What makes an acoustic guitar sound good? That might well be a combination of things, but it's always the wood we think of first.
And yet, there are no rules when it comes to tonewoods and tone, nothing hard and fast we can hold onto. Instead we have likely characteristics observed from the experience of playing guitars that sound great because they have nailed the mysterious recipe – the right materials, the right build – and have done so regardless of the price tag.
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You might look at the asking price and think that 200 bucks defines the CD-60S All-Mahogany as an entry-level guitar, and you would be correct; it is indeed among the cheapest acoustics in Fender’s Classic Design series. But look beyond the price, because this is very much an acoustic that challenges any low expectations you might have of a budget instrument.
The mahogany is very easy on the eye, even if its high-gloss poly finish is a little high-rent for that Delta porch, Depression-era vibe. But it’s when you pick up the CD-60S All-Mahogany and strum a few chords that you really get an idea of its potential. This is very much a new breed of beginner's guitar.
It was not that long ago when the beginner's guitar was something of a rite of passage through the feared Valley Of The High Action. Necks were fat, the action high, and the strings shredded fingers. Fender says no to that, putting together a very approachable instrument that’s ideal for young players fretting their first chords.
Out of the box, the intonation is bang on, the action is low and and the feel slick, but not so low as make us wary of alternate tunings. Tuning down a half-step, we found no unwanted fret buzz. This is a good sign (As a beginner, it’s well worth trying a lower tuning to achieve a heavier bottom-end and a string tension that's slinky and easy on the fingers).
When we tuned down to DADGAD – a great alternative tuning that you’ll find on songs such as Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir – there was a little buzz, but nothing untoward. And we’re pleased to discover Fender’s tuners offer a smooth performance when making such adjustments.
Where this dread’ gets you, though, is with the tones. The midrange character you would expect of mahogany is present, adding some meat to a brightness that we would ordinarily associate with spruce tops (remember what we said: there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to tonewoods).
The result is an acoustic guitar that is genuinely inspiring to play with a chime that adds life to chord work.
Young players are still growing, so it is worth bearing in mind that the CD-60S is a larger-bodied dreadnought. Is it the best place to start for the youngsters? They’ll get no trouble from Fender’s Easy-to-play neck profile, and the rolled fingerboard edges make for a very comfortable experience for the fretting hand.
And all things considered, there are satisfying gains to be had from playing a deeper-bodied design.
With the CD-60S, the bass notes ring out strong and defined, but unlike some dreads, the lows are not boomy, and they are complemented by a top end brightness offering potential for fingerpickers. While some might find the 43mm nut width a little cramped for fingerstyle, smaller hands will love it.
Is the term ‘beginner instrument’ still fit for purpose? Manufacturers are getting more out of tonewoods at a lower cost to players, and the CD-60S is proof positive that the trend is going in the right direction.
After all, why should players new to the instrument have to settle for just okay at a time in their guitar playing journey when they need to be comfortable and inspired? But there’s no reason why the CD-60S wouldn’t be a sound choice for anyone looking for a playable budget dreadnought with some very respectable tones.
MusicRadar verdict: Marrying a solid mahogany top with laminated mahogany on the back and sides, the CD-60S is a very attractive beginner's dreadnought with a bright, articulate and well-balanced voice.