LAG Guitars Tramontane Snakewood Series 701EDCE Dreadnought
By Chris Loeffler |
LAG Guitars Tramontane Snakewood Series 701EDCE Dreadnought- Quetzalcóatl Returns
By Chris Loeffler
Unlike the wild, wooly world of electric guitar bodies, acoustic guitars tend to stick closer to a standard design formula. Whereas an electric guitar relies on the pickup to create 90% of its tone, acoustic instruments require acoustic space to amplify and create the tone, meaning that there are relatively few ways to stray from the proven architecture without completely walking away from an acoustically correct instrument. As such, the shapes and woods used to create an acoustic guitar have been more or less codified as “the right way” to build a certain style. This makes for a bit of security for players insofar as they know what to expect when they pick up a new guitar, but it makes for a fairly homogeonous list from which you can choose.
Exotic tonewoods certainly make for flash, but the expense of these woods (especially figured) and the extra attention required in bookmatching quickly increases the cost (and, therefor, the price) of instruments to where they are financially unreachable for a player who just wants something that sounds great but looks different. LAG Guitars, one of France's premier distributed acoustic brands, came across a healthy stock of Mexican Snakewood and was inspired to create the limited run Tramontane Snakewood series.
The LAG Tramontane dreadnought features a solid AA Sitka spruce top, Mexican snakewood back and sides, and Khaya neck with a satin finish. The headstock, fingerboard, and bridge are constructed from deeply figured mozambica ebony that complements the Quetzalcóatl-themed rosette. Cosmetically, the figuring of the snakewood and mozambica ebony are deep and well-defined, with no aesthetic-breaking snarls in the wood. The binding is rounded, which caught me off guard at first and felt a little "off" until I played on it for a few minutes, after which it seemed perfectly natural. The neck is stained a black satin, which seemed a bit odd given the emphasis of wood appointments on the rest of the guitar, but does stick to the "dark" theme of the guitar's physical appearance and black graphite nut and saddle.
The LAG Tramontane benefits from an onboard Fishman Ink Preamp system, which proves a particularly good match for this guitar due to the sonic flexibility, EQ and phase controls. snooker pickup, chromatic tuner, and LED display.
The bracing is slightly modified to rebalance the guitar, with a bit less bracing contact at the bottom and beefed up bracing the top (near the neck) to balance out the guitar. The neck is bolt-on, giving a solid connection with the body that's complemented by the enhanced bracing.
To top off the visual flare, the included snakeskin-style case is visually impressive and striking without being gaudy.
A unique feature of the LAG Tramontane is the battery insert placement, which is at the bottom of the body to avoid the risk of bumping settings on the preamp when changing batteries. Both the input jack and the strap button are included in the same area, and LAG mercifully chose to keep them separate to avoid the undue stress that using an input jack as a strap button causes.
Features and hardwoods be damned, you say...how does it sound?
Acoustically, I found the Tramontane to be full-frequency and extremely balanced, without too much compression or bloom when strummed hard and yielding consistent projection across the fretboard. Compared to something like a D-28, the Tramontane Snakewood felt a bit tight and lacking in bite, but again, was balanced and well suited to strumming. Electronically, the Tramontane Snakewood really shined, and the slightly muted quality I noted in its acoustic presentation allowed for extremely loud amplification without feedback.
While not a limitation to functionality or tone, the figuring of the snakewood is likely to be a primary motivator in choosing the Snakewood, and the review unit I evaluated had about a 1/16"-1/8” mismatch in the book matching.
The LAG Guitars Tramontane Snakewood guitar stands out from the crowd of mid-priced guitars with its exotic woods and noir design aesthetics, without sacrificing sound or playability. While the Tramontane Snakewood has a fine acoustic tone, its construction and Fishman Ink preamp system make it shine most brightly when amplified...this guitar is a great choice for someone who wants to play something different-looking without breaking the bank.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.