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Hands-On Review: Ovation Custom Legend C2079AX Guitar

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A classic acoustic-electric Ovation with a new low price

By Tom Foster
Harmony Central Contributor

Ovation Custom Legend C2079AX Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Ovation acoustic guitars are a great polarizer—many great artists swear by them, yet there are some guitarists, like myself, who initially couldn't look past the non-wood back. After all, how can a guitar with a composite back ever sound as good as a regular "all-wood" guitar? Then I received an Ovation Custom Legend C2079AX acoustic-electric guitar to review, and for me everything changed. The sound of this guitar is nothing short of amazing, and Ovation's new Custom Legend C2079AX makes the great Ovation sound available to even more guitarists through a significant price reduction.

A guitar with a past

The Custom Legend Ovation model has actually has been around since the '70s, when Ovation built the first one for Paul McCartney in 1976. The Custom Legend C2079AX continues this tradition. In order to make Custom Legends accessible to more players, Ovation's off-shore factory has been professionally retooled to create guitars that match the U.S.-made Custom Legends spec for spec. With a 25-year partnership between both factories, Ovation's new C2079AX guitars feature the same specs as the U.S.-made C2079AX-CCB guitars feature the same specs as the U.S.-made Custom Legends, but for a much lower price.

Oh, that rounded back

According to Ovation, their use of a rounded back makes sense in two ways—projection, and a reduction in moving parts. Think of the rounded back as an amphitheater, where all the sound is projected in one focused direction. Instead of bouncing around various wood surfaces, the sound from the string vibration and top-wood resonance hits the fiberglass-composite back surface which projects the sound out, so nothing gets lost.

The rounded back further improves the sound by reducing the number of moving parts. Every piece of wood on a traditional guitar vibrates, so when you add multiple wood types and surfaces, you run into the problem of various woods vibrating at different frequencies. This is not an issue with Ovation guitars, as the top soundboard is the only wood vibrating on the body of the instrument. No phase cancellation, no competing vibration surfaces—just solid, smooth guitar sound.

Behind the Ovation sound

Taking the Custom Legend out of the included hardshell case, I was surprised by how little tweaking I had to do to get a great amplified sound. Like many guitars, the Custom Legend has low, mid, and treble sliders to adjust the EQ that goes to your amp or PA. Yet Ovation went a step further and optimized the settings so that a flat EQ will immediately give you a big, full guitar sound.

Instead of third-party manufactured pickups and preamps, the Custom Legend uses Ovation's own OP Pro Studio preamp. The guitar also uses individual ceramic crystal pickups for each string, which are vibration—and not pressure—sensitive. The advantage here is that the guitar sounds equally loud up and down the fretboard. Whether I played a big open E in the first position, or moved the same chord higher up the neck, the sound stayed the same, with a great presence that cuts through in a live setting or in the studio.

In performance

To put the Custom Legend to the test, I took it to a gig where I was filling in playing acoustic guitar for a wedding band. The band focused on classic rock and countr y, especially Melissa Etheridge tunes where the acoustic guitar sound is critical. The Custom Legend rose to the task, cutting through the mix and punctuating every note with crystal clarity. I was particularly pleased with how tight and punchy the low end sounded—even when playing low barre chords, I could hear every note in the strums.

During a solo, I increased the Drive control on the preamp, which emphasizes the low-mids in a musical way. Using the Drive control really helped push my solo to the forefront and fattened up my single-note runs.

It's also worth noting that the Custom Legend is one beautiful guitar. The review model had a deep cherry stain, with real abalone inlays on the ebony fretboard, abalone headstock inlays, and a highly detailed abalone rosette around the soundhole. The five-piece maple and Honduran mahogany neck is a delight to play, with the cutaway making the upper frets of the guitar easily accessible for solos and upper chord work. The guitar definitely turned some heads, yet didn't "weigh in," literally: Even though our gig went into overtime, my back didn't complain, as the Custom Legend is light as a feather.

A game changer

If, like me, you never took the time to check out an Ovation guitar before, you owe it to yourself to try out the Ovation Custom Legend C2079AX. Its amazing sound is perfectly complemented by beautiful craftsmanship—qualities that will improve over time.

Features & Specs

  • Contour cutaway body
  • AAA-grade solid spruce
  • Scalloped X bracing
  • 25-1/4" scale length
  • Deluxe-grade ebony fretboard
  • Abalone dot/diamond inlays
  • Deluxe-grade ebony bridge
  • Center soundhole
  • Inlaid abalone oak leaf rosette
  • OP Pro Studio preamp with 1/4" and XLR outputs
  • Ovation OCP-1 pickup
  • Set Neck
  • Volume, Drive, Compressor, EQ (Low, Mid, Hi), Tuner

Tags: Acoustic Guitars

Comments  

# Jd Ozone 2014-05-10 13:12
Did not mention the new contour backs fit the player like a glove. Still roundish but made to fit body and not roll. So many people hated the real round back. They fixed this about 10 years ago. I use ovation exclusively for 125 shows a year in south florida. Granted mine are usa made, but I have played the new ax series and they are nice and cost way less...
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