It’s always fun to take a new acoustic or electric guitar and see if you can figure out how much it costs based purely on your first impression. I recently played this guessing game with Fender’s Grand Auditorium Series GA45SCE acoustic-electric ($999 retail/ $699 street). After placing it in the hands of several guitar-playing friends of mine, their main reaction to this guitar was, “Wow, it only costs how much?”
Perhaps they were thrown by the quality of the components, which include a solid select spruce top, and a solid rosewood back, laminated sides (all perfectly finished in gloss polyurethane), a mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard, and a rosewood bridge. The rosette and position markers are made of stunning abalone, and the fretboard and body are bound with faux tortoise shell—a classy touch. The black finished headstock facing creates a nice background for the gold-finished die cast Grover tuners and abalone logo. The fit and finish were excellent overall, and I spotted no excess glue on the bracing, and no sharp fret ends or finish rub-through.
The Korean-made GA45SCE’s comfy satin finished mahogany neck, accurately cut nut slots, and low bridge-saddle height makes for an almost effortless playing experience. Soloists will appreciate the deep cutaway, and the compensated bridge allows for in-tune chording past the 12th fret. The guitar sounds well balanced across the frequency spectrum, with a rich and mellow midrange and no tendency toward boominess.
The true test of any acoustic-electric guitar is whether it sounds as good amplified as it does unplugged, and with all of the EQ controls on the Fender/Fishman designed Classic 4 ACLR Pickup System set flat (i.e. no boost or cut), the GA45SCE’s tone remained full-bodied and musical through my Fender Twin Reverb. At club volume, I experienced no excessive feedback, and piezo pickup didn’t sound overly nasal or brittle. I also appreciated how the GA-45SCE remained full sounding and free of compression when strummed hard.
Besides being about as well built and sweet sounding as you could hope for in such an affordable instrument, the GA45SCE also has that certain something that compels you to pick it up and play. As I write this, one of my colleagues swears to having composed five songs on the GA45SCE within the last few hours. Any instrument that can summon the muse so effectively is truly a keeper.•