With its high-tech bowl of a body, the prototypical Ovation guitar is not exactly a celebration of tonewood. So, I was surprised to find this Ovation Celebrity Standard Plus CS24P-FKOA, had a soundboard of the loveliest koa. After putting the guitar through its paces, it is evident that the prized Hawaiian wood is a great companion for this instrument’s synthetic body, adding both visual and sonic warmth in a high-performance, but inexpensive instrument.
From Copters to Guitars
The first Ovation was born in 1966, when the engineer Charlie Kaman introduced a guitar with a parabolic back made from a glass-fiber material, patented as Lyrachord, which he had originally produced for helicopter parts. He found that the material enhanced the projection and sustain of a musical instrument. Kaman and his company would eventually help advance the amplification of acoustic guitars by incorporating undersaddle piezo pickups and, later, onboard preamps, equalizers, and tuners.
The country picker Glen Campbell was an early adopter of Ovation, and the company has enjoyed an impressive roster of endorsers. Yngwie Malmsteen, Al Di Meola, and Kaki King are among the players to rely on signature Ovation models to keep up with the demands of their highly pyrotechnical styles. But these instruments are not just for the extreme virtuoso. Ovation’s Celebrity Standard line, which includes this CS24P-FKOA, offers instruments accessible to any type of player.
Attractive Woods & Smart Bracing
Like all Ovation guitars, the Celebrity Standard Plus features the Lyrachord body (mid-depth on this example) with a smooth cutaway. The neck is made from nato, a common mahogany substitute that is widely available in Asia. Other guitars in this series have solid tops, but as solid koa would have been prohibitively expensive, a laminate was used for this soundboard. Rosewood makes an appearance for the fretboard, bridge, and headstock veneer.
The specimens used on the review model will please the connoisseur of tonewoods. The koa is dramatically figured, with a lot of wavy horizontal and vertical action and a nice range of colors, from pale brown to deep chocolate. On the fingerboard and bridge, the rosewood is homogeneously dark and evenly grained—not the streaky, light-brown wood often found on budget guitars.
Inside the guitar, the bracing is made from traditional spruce in a modified version of the scalloped-X pattern. In creating the bracing, Ovation worked through nine different patterns, shifting things a few millimeters in each design, to arrive at the configuration that provides the best clarity and projection in tandem with the rounded back.
Design & Build
The Celebrity Standard Plus is a handsome guitar, trimmed with simple appointments that don’t distract from the beauty of the woods. The fretboard has simple microdot markers; the neck and body are wrapped in a clean crème binding. An abalone rosette lends a touch of elegance, and the black-and-crème rings that surround it are echoed nicely in the soundboard’s purfling.
The guitar feels solid and is overall well built. Its frets are tidily crowned and polished, and the ABS nut and bridge saddle are cleanly notched. The soundboard has a buffed gloss finish that’s free from imperfections. There are, however, bits of sloppiness to be found, like rough binding on the fretboard where it meets the soundhole, and a hint of sawdust inside the bowl. But these details don’t have any impact on the instrument’s outstanding performance.
Excellent Playability & Versatility
With its thin C-shaped neck at a 25.25-inch scale and 1.6875-inch nut width, the Celebrity Standard Plus plays incredibly well right out of the box. Thanks to a silky low action, it’s comfortable to play barre chords and single-note lines for extended periods in all registers without experiencing any fret-hand discomfort. What’s more, string-bending is much easier on this guitar than on a standard steel-string acoustic. On the wound G string, I was able to bend notes as wide as a whole step with relative comfort.
A good dreadnought might encourage bluegrass runs, while an orchestra model begs for some fingerpicking in DADGAD. The overall sound of the Celebrity Standard Plus, on the other hand, might be best described as a blank slate. Its clear and balanced tone—with just a hint of unexpected warmth, likely owing to the koa top—is suitable for exploration in any style, from campfire-type strumming to fingerstyle blues. What’s more, the sound remains consistent in all registers—the timbral differences between, say, a fifth-fret D-major chord and one played at the tenth fret are much subtler than on most guitars. The guitar sounds as good in slackened tunings like open-D as it does in standard.
As with all of the guitars in Ovation’s Celebrity Standard series, this review model came with the company’s slimline pickup and OP-4BT preamp. The pickup sits under the saddle and the preamp and its battery compartment are mounted on the bass side of the bowl—not the most aesthetically appealing arrangement, but kind of hard to get around. Meanwhile, the guitar’s single, quarter-inch output jack is tucked away discretely on the back of the bowl.
The preamp includes an electronic tuner, a gain control, and sliders to control the bass, middle, and treble frequencies. It is a little hard to make out the indications on the tuner, which flash in red LED letters on a little screen, but it’s nice to have an onboard tuner nonetheless.
Played through a Fender Acoustasonic, with flat settings on both the guitar and amp, the Celebrity Standard Plus has a warm natural acoustic sound, without the boxy-sounding quality associated with many acoustic-electric guitars—a tone that works as a nice platform for more acoustic-electric textures and experimentation with digital effects.
Style, Durability & Affordability
Ovation’s Celebrity Standard Plus CS24P-FKOA is an excellent new guitar that plays easily and has a detailed, balanced sound. It’s suitable for many applications: A beginner can be proud to own this smart-looking instrument and grow into it as an intermediate player, while a seasoned musician can use this durable instrument in live settings or as a musical scratch pad—all for a song at less than $500.
BODY: Mid-depth cutaway body; figured koa top with natural gloss finish; Lyrachord back; scalloped-X bracing.
NECK: Nato neck with satin finish; rosewood fingerboard and bridge; 25.25-inch scal; 1.6875-inch nut width; chrome die-cast tuners.
OTHER: OP-4BT preamp with Ovation Slimline pickup; D’Addario EXP11 Coated 80/20 Bronze Light Acoustic (.012–.053) strings.
PRICE: $449 street
MADE IN: China