Epiphone Dave Navarro Signature review

An agile electro-acoustic that combines graveyard glitz with rockstar hardware

  • £499
The crows-in-flight artwork lends the guitar a custom vibe.

MusicRadar Verdict

In terms of raw acoustic sound, the Navarro Signature adds up to slightly less than the sum of its parts.


  • +

    Lightning-quick playability. eSonic preamp tuner.


  • -

    Tone lacking in richness and charisma.

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Dave Navarro is one of those guys it would be easy to hate: devilishly handsome and a fiendish guitarist to boot, he's torn it up with some seriously bitchin' bands, including Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Now here's the child of his collaboration with Epiphone - a versatile acoustic with 'pro' touches that promise to make it more than a toy for wannabes.

"The first few strums reveal a light, rapid action and and a pleasant C-profile neck."

Whatever else it might be, the Epiphone Navarro model doesn't lack presence. The review model comes in a hard case so deep and robust you could rig it with a mast and sail the Atlantic.

Opening the coffin-like lid reveals a darkly luxurious axe; its hexagram fret markers, abalone inlay and roosting-crow artwork have an understated, graveyard cool that will definitely turn heads.

The first few strums reveal a light, rapid action and a pleasant, C-profile neck. The Navarro is made out of decent wood, with a solid sitka spruce top and mahogany back, and is loosely based on a Gibson Hummingbird. That's why it's all the more disappointing that the tone lacks the richness and sweetness you might expect.

The bell-like, sustaining bass is nice, but north of that is a noticeable hole in the mid range, while a clear but slightly antiseptic treble tops the sound off. The overall effect is modern, articulate and useable - if a trifle 'lite' on charisma.

Things are rosier on the hardware side. As well as genuine Grover machineheads, the Navarro boasts an eSonic preamp designed and made by pickup specialists Shadow. This has a master volume, simple bass and treble EQ, and a phase switch that helps to quickly suppress feedback during play.

There's also a Dynamics slider that alters the vibe of the tone from zesty and resonant to flat and focused. The built-in chromatic tuner is accurate and easy to use. Engaging the tuner mutes the output, so you can spare the audience your tune-up noises in between songs.

The Shadow Nanoflex pickup is intriguing, too, because it isn't the usual piezo unit. It's built around seven layers of what Shadow coyly calls "selected materials" located beneath the guitar's saddle. This arrangement is designed to capture more of the natural tone from the guitar's body as well as the strings.

Plugged in, the Navarro does in fact sound a little more detailed and airy than your average piezo-equipped plucker, which could give it a useful sonic edge in bar room gigs.

For the gigging rock guitarist, there's plenty to like here: the fast action and generous cutaway mean you can go from nought to Nuno in the twinkling of a diamond ear-stud, while features like the Nanoflex pickup and gig-friendly preamp promise a smooth ride onstage.

If you play in a metal or prog band and need an agile acoustic for mascara-melting ballads, this could be the axe for you - but it's not the answer tonehounds will be looking for, especially at just under 500 sheets.

Jamie Dickson

Jamie Dickson is Editor-in-Chief of Guitarist magazine, Britain's best-selling and longest-running monthly for guitar players. He started his career at the Daily Telegraph in London, where his first assignment was interviewing blue-eyed soul legend Robert Palmer, going on to become a full-time author on music, writing for benchmark references such as 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Dorling Kindersley's How To Play Guitar Step By Step. He joined Guitarist in 2011 and since then it has been his privilege to interview everyone from B.B. King to St. Vincent for Guitarist's readers, while sharing insights into scores of historic guitars, from Rory Gallagher's '61 Strat to the first Martin D-28 ever made.