Ferndale GA3-CE review: What is it?
The beginner acoustic guitar market is a dense forest of choices, with so many options that finding the right one can feel like a daunting task. With countless brands, models, and styles available, it's easy to get lost in the tangle of wood, acoustic guitar strings and promises of quality sound.
Luckily, we've discovered a relatively unknown brand dedicated to being a beacon in the wilderness, prioritising value for money and quality over flash in the pan trends - Ferndale Guitars.
Based in the UK and owned by music retail giant PMT, Ferndale promises to deliver the exceptional sound quality, craftsmanship and playability you'd expect from higher-end acoustic guitars, but at a much more reasonable price. Now, that's all well and good, but how do they hold up against the big-name brands that dominate this end of the market? Well, today we're going to find out.
For the purposes of this review, we were sent the Ferndale GA3-CE, a grand auditorium-sized electro-acoustic which features a solid mahogany top and sapele back and sides. As well as a pre-amp and pickup, a built-in chromatic tuner, rich rosewood fingerboard and bridge and a real bone nut complete its impressive spec sheet.
Ferndale GA3-CE review: Performance & verdict
Playability and overall build quality
The first thing that strikes you upon taking the Ferndale GA3-CE out of the box is just how well the guitar is finished. At just a smidge over £300, we'd forgive it for not being perfect, but in actuality, it was flawless. They were no dings or scratches to speak of, no poorly finished areas and the set-up was spot on.
Our review model features the prevalent grand auditorium-style body shape, which was every bit as comfortable as it looks. The slimmed-down body is easy to get your arm over, making it effortless to sit with for hours on end. At the same time, the upper-bout cutaway provides excellent access to the higher frets - not that many of us need the ability to reach those piercing high notes on an acoustic guitar.
The neck profile is relatively thin - perfect for newbies and young children - and each and every fret was perfectly seated, with no sharp edges or dead spots. Overall this guitar is comfortable, stylish and incredibly easy to play - so it gets a thumbs up for playability and design from us.
Yamaha FG-800: This is arguably the most popular beginner acoustic guitar ever and rightfully so. This Yamaha is well-built, easy to play and sounds superb - however, it doesn't have an onboard pickup.
Yamaha Storia I: The brilliantly stylish Yamaha Storia I is an excellent option for those looking for an electro-acoustic.
Fender CD-60S: For those seeking the mellow tone of mahogany, the Fender CD-60S is definitely one to consider. The thin neck is a breeze to play and the warm tone is incredibly inviting.
Okay, so the Ferndale GA3-CE certainly has the feel and build quality nailed, but how does it sound? Well, for the most part, the mahogany Ferndale sounds pretty good, if a little uninspiring.
For fingerpicking enthusiasts, there is plenty of high-end sparkle - more than we'd expect from a mahogany-topped guitar - but singer-songwriters, who love nothing more than belting out cowboy chords, will find the lack of low-end a little concerning.
For us, this flat-top lacks the depth of its stablemates, and that's hard to ignore. Now, don't get us wrong, we're not expecting the GA3-CE to produce the room-filling low-end of a Martin dreadnought, but we did expect it to keep pace with the likes of the Yamaha FG range, and while it gives it a good run for its money, it does fall a little short.
That said, using the onboard Belcat CADIC-1 pickup and pre-amp system yields pretty good results. Plugged into an amplifier or PA speaker, the guitar sounds bright and responsive, delivering a sound that's more than acceptable for an open mic night or any other acoustic performance, for that matter. We also very much appreciated the inclusion of extra tone-shaping and phase controls, which makes it straightforward to dial in the perfect live sound.
Overall we were very impressed with the Ferndale GA3-CE. This humble acoustic guitar more than delivers on playability and the finishing was spot on. However, tonally, we were expecting a little more from this guitar.
Now, don't get us wrong, it doesn't sound bad - far from it - but we were craving a little more in the way of bass frequencies. Unfortunately, for us, it's a little too bright and lacks the depth of some of its competitor's more well-known guitars.
Ferndale GA3-CE review: Hands-on demos
Ferndale GA3-CE review: Specifications
- Top: Solid Mahogany
- Back & Sides: Layered Mahogany
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- Fingerboard Radius: 16"
- Body Style: Grand Auditorium
- Scale Length: 25.5"
- Nut Width: 42mm
- Electronics: Belcat CADIC-1, 3-Band EQ with Tuner
- Tuners: Die-Cast
- Contact: Ferndale