Applause AE 128

The Applause line is Kaman’s more moderately priced alternative to its legendary Ovation acoustics. Sitting atop a super-shallow synthetic bowl-shaped body, the AE 128’s honey burst spruce top yields a lovely hue with no sign of shoddy finishing. Unfortunately, the binding that surrounds the top has some weird lumps in places, and things get really sloppy where the binding on the treble side of the neck meets the body binding, as there’s a confluence of scuffs, excess glue, and general weirdness. The fret ends are clean, however, and the nut is cut very cleanly.
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As for playability, the AE 128 kills. The sleek neck, good setup, and shallow body easily yield the best upper-fret access of any guitar in this Roundup. Acoustically, the AE 128 hangs with the “all wood” full-bodied acoustic guitars amazingly well in spite its smaller body dimensions. Its tone is more pointed and focused and lacks some of the midrange richness of some of the other guitars, yet it’s still a lively and musical acoustic sound. But the Applause’s raison d’être is being amplified and to this end, I had somewhat mixed feelings. The string-to-string clarity is superb with each amp I ran it through, and coupled with the guitar’s outlandish playability, you really feel like your chops have been given a power boost. But with the guitar’s EQ set flat, the tones were, well, flat. Bumping up the Treble slider helped a bit, but then a harsh quackiness reared its ugly little head. After much tweaking—both from the amp’s EQ and the guitar’s—I was able to get closer to what I was looking for. But the fact is, even though the Applause isn’t as readily “acoustic” sounding when plugged in as some of the other guitars, its slim body makes the transition from electric to acoustic very easy for anyone not used to wrangling a full-size box on stage.