I’ve been a fan of Ovation guitars ever since my guitar teacher brought one to one of my very first lessons way back in 1989. I was ten at the time, and even then I’d already been aware of the brand through Denny Laine’s Guitar Book. Laine was the guitarist in Paul McCartney & Wings, and his book featured a photo of Laine and Macca hanging out while Laine strummed a gorgeous Ovation Adamas (it’s on page 85 if you manage to track this rare 1979 book down). The company makes visually striking and sonically gorgeous instruments that are like nothing else out there.
The Standard Elite series is Ovation’s mid-priced line. The 2778AX features a hand-selected, deluxe AA solid spruce top with scalloped bracing and Ovation’s famous Contour Bowl composite body, which unites the back and sides as one single unit designed to maximise acoustic output while placing the guitar in the optimum position for ergonomic comfort. This is Ovation’s Deep Contour bowl, although other depths are available on various models. The bowl is made of Lyrachord composite, impregnated with glass microspheres. Cool, huh? Like the Adamas in Laine’s book, this model features a series of different sized sound holes surrounded by a rosette of various inlaid hardwoods. It’s an incredible look that feels like it has an authentic design pedigree, rather than the often more practical visuals of most guitars.
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The fretboard and bridge are rosewood, while the fretboard features a pearl dot/diamond inlay. The neck itself is a five piece mahogany/maple affair (with mahogany being by far the more dominant wood). The back of the neck is satin-finished, and the instrument’s scale length is 25 1/4″.
Ovation has always been known as a guitar that is optimised for onstage use, and the 2778AX features an Ovation OCP-1K pickup and the company’s OP-Pro preamp. The OP-Pro features a tuner, Pre EQ Shape button, gain control, and low/mid/high EQ sliders. It was designed in collaboration with two very well-known Ovation players, Al Di Meola and Melissa Etheridge. A foam core case is optional. According to the Ovation website, available colours are Black and New England Burst, but the one I reviewed was Cherry Burst. It looks really cool, adding a slight touch of traditionalism back into the look of the guitar compared to the more iconoclastic vibe of the sound holes and fretboard.
The 2778AX has a big, somewhat dark sound. It reminds me of a traditional jumbo acoustic – full bass, lower midrange emphasis, big projection and restrained treble – but with a more even attack. Chords seem to jump right out and hang in the air rather than fade away, while single notes sound big – real big. I would have no hesitation in playing this guitar in an auditorium setting or, at the other end of the spectrum, during a little cafe singer-songwriter gig, because either way it’s going to provide a full sound that will be heard in fine detail. It pushes out plenty of power when strummed, while fingerpicking is nice and loud too. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly who this guitar is for, because it can do so many things so well. And like all cutaway Ovations, upper fret access is great, which means you can get all the way up to the top of the neck and really hear what you’re playing.
The 2778AX is a big sounding guitar for players who really need to be heard. At the same time, its low-end voice is so full that it would work really well in a more supportive role too. Provided you’re into the Ovation – vibe like I am – this axe is well worthy of your consideration.
LINK: Ovation Guitars