Handcrafted at Ovation’s newly reopened custom shop in New Hartford, Connecticut, the 50th Anniversary Limited-Edition Elite model is a joy to behold and to play.
The eye-catching gold-leaf epaulets, framing multiple soundholes and set against a slick black-gloss AAA solid bearclaw spruce top, signal the special status of this 14-fret beauty. To add comfort, the guitar’s hand-laid Lyrachord mid-contour body has been modified from the rounded backs of traditional Ovations—the mid-contour back is slightly flattened to rest easily against the player’s belly and the lower side also is leveled to sit comfortably on the thigh to enhance the playing experience. Its C-shaped curly maple neck and ten-inch-radius ebony fingerboard contribute to the guitar’s effortless playability—the back of the headstock is carved to cradle the thumb when you’re playing near the nut. The 12th fret is inlaid with the image of a phoenix to represent the rebirth of this iconic brand (see below).
These thoughtful build qualities are impressive. But the real pleasure of the 50th Anniversary Limited-Edition Elite is its sound. The guitar is equipped with the company’s proprietary OP Pro Studio preamp and OCP1 high-output pickup. Tuned to double-drop D (DADGBD), aka Neil Young’s modal tuning, and plugged into Henriksen’s diminutive The Bud combo amp, I get lost in a six-string reverie (call it noodling on steroids). The punchy bass, overall warmth, and infinite sustain range from a rich, full bottom to chiming trebles and produce a revelatory playing experience.
I switch to standard tuning to play the Doors’ raga-like “Indian Summer,” an old favorite, and Neil Young’s melancholy “Through My Sails,” the fussy D6 and D4 figures readily accessible and the hammer-ons and pull-offs easy to execute on the radiused neck. Bliss. I switch to a fingerpicked version of Cream’s take on Robert Johnson “Four Until Late” and Bob Dylan’s rag-inspired “Peggy Day.” The 1 11/16-inch-wide bone nut and string spacing overall is comfortable for fingerpicking, though I found the first string a tad too close to the edge of the fingerboard (not a deal breaker).
The sound is clean and balanced across the six strings. The frets are level and fret ends are unobtrusive.
A 12-fret slot-head version of this limited-edition Elite is also available. In the past months, Ovation has released 33 other new models, including an impressive AAA cedar-top 12-fret, slot-head Folklore model with1 ¾-inch wide nut ideally suited to fingerpicking.
Drum Workshop, which purchased and subsequently relaunched Ovation, has retained the venerable brand’s ’70s mojo while bringing it into themodern era.
At a Glance: Ovation 14-fret 50th Anniversary Limited-Edition Elite
AAA bearclaw spruce top with black-gloss finish
Hand-laid Lyrachord mid-contour body
Gold leaf epaulets
Black ABS body binding with gold-leaf metal purfling
Two-piece curly maple neck
10-inch-radius ebony fingerboard
22 accessible frets
EVO gold fretwire
12th fret phoenix inlay
1 11/16 bone nut
Scale: 25 1/4 inches
OP Pro Studio, OCP1 high-output pickup
$4,500 MSRP; $3,499 street
Made in the USA
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.