Ashland SF 70CE3TS

From the student line of Crafter Guitars, the Ashland SF 70CE3TS arrived with a pretty sunburst on the superbly polished spruce top. The ’burst goes nicely with its mahogany back, sides, and neck. The wow factor was enhanced by the gleaming, polished fretboard, adding up to an attractive visual presentation. Upon further inspection, however, some of the luster comes off, as file marks are clearly visible on the neck, the binding has a kink in it, and there’s orange peel on the headstock. Here’s the thing, though—the Ashland’s nice sound and easy playability made me instantly forgive these minor flaws. This guitar is just fun to play. The acoustic tone has a focused bottom and decent sparkle, although the mids exhibited a slight boxiness. It’s loud without being boomy and delivers good sustain. The relatively low action makes it easy to burn on the SF 70.

The electronics are simple but effective: an under-saddle pickup with a 3-band EQ, designed for Crafter by Shadow. The system is pleasantly voiced and sounded good right away when amplified. The lows were a bit murky so a little bit of the Bass slider went a long way for me. This guitar—like many acoustics with piezo systems—benefits from the notched mid/goosed treble EQ treatment and that’s how I ran it. The preamp has a Phase switch for feedback reduction, which is a good thing because this guitar seems to be more susceptible than some when it comes to howling. When a low string took off on me, I hit the Phase switch and that killed the feedback instantly. Shortly thereafter, however, high-pitched feedback crept in. Reversing the phase again got rid of that but then—you guessed it—the low feedback came back. Tweaking the EQ a bit helped and obviously this situation is not unique to Ashland. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, it’s easy to recommend the SF 70. [Crafter has announced plans to re-release the SF 70 under the Crafter Silver Series name and include a hardshell case and on-board tuner for the same street price of $299.]