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12-string recommendations?


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. . . Looking on Reverb' date=' I see several old Gibson 12-strings for under $1k.[/quote']

The key word there is "old." Those are from the mid 60's, which means 50+ years old. With a 12-string that old you're begging for issues. The cheapest one I'd come remotely close to recommending is a 12-string Songwriter Deluxe for $2K: https://reverb.com/item/18153269-gibson-songwriter-deluxe-12-string-2011-natural-gloss.

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If it helps, I've got an Ovation LEGEND 12-string that sounds really good.

 

It's in the queue for a setup, now that I've learned a bit more about how that works (thanks to Freeman)... but it plays pretty well off the shelf anyway. And it sounds really good (did I mention that?). Dunno what, if anything, Ovation makes now (got this one used several years ago) but the LEGEND line is a bolt-on neck, apparently unlike some of the other models with glued-on necks. Might be similar to the Elite models. Round soundhole, not the "buckshot" look. Old catalog suggests it was pretty expensive when new, in the $1800 range (MSRP) at the time, circa 2007 or so I think...

 

I'm not a fan of the round back; can't play the thing, even sitting down, without a strap.

 

Tried a guy's new Taylor 12-string recently. Don't know what model, but it was pretty grim... strings seemed to be about an inch and a half off the neck... so difficult to play I didn't even pay much attention to the sound.

 

A bud tells me his Alvarez 12-string is good, but I didn't see it/try it at the time... we got distracted jamming on other stuff...

 

I might mention that the Legend sounds really good. (I actually like the Legend sound better than what I get from my Ric 360/12... although that's an apples/oranges comparison.)

 

-D44

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Drummer44
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If it helps, I've got an Ovation LEGEND 12-string that sounds really good.

 

It's in the queue for a setup, now that I've learned a bit more about how that works (thanks to Freeman)... but it plays pretty well off the shelf anyway. And it sounds really good (did I mention that?). Dunno what, if anything, Ovation makes now (got this one used several years ago) but the LEGEND line is a bolt-on neck, apparently unlike some of the other models with glued-on necks. Might be similar to the Elite models. Round soundhole, not the "buckshot" look. Old catalog suggest it was pretty expensive when new, in the $1800 range (MSRP) at the time, circa 2007 or so I think...

 

I'm not a fan of the round back; can't play the thing, even sitting down, without a strap.

 

Yeah, they sound really nice once you learn to EQ them. I have a similar feeling about the larger bowls - the only one that feels right to me is the super-shallow bowl. Trouble is, they don't make a super-shallow 12 anymore.

 

Tried a guy's new Taylor 12-string recently. Don't know what model, but it was pretty grim... strings seemed to be about an inch and a half off the neck... so difficult to play I didn't even pay much attention to the sound.

 

I wonder about setups. I found the ones at GC were all over the map - including a $2,500 model that was truly unplayable - the strings were literally laying on the frets. How can ANY business have that sitting on the floor as a "high end" model? :facepalm:

 

 

I've just about given up on my desired price range. I can't find anything in stock anywhere to play that isn't either the low-range models or a lot more than I want to spend.

 

FWIW, I have zero interest in buying an instrument sight unseen. If' I can't go play it in a local store to see how it sounds and feels, I am not interested. "Local" for me includes Chicago, so it's not like I'm expecting the local reed-and-string shop to carry a wide range of guitars just for me to play.....:idk:

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Well, it looks like my shopping will be for a replacement 6, not a 12. I opened my case this morning to find this:

 

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","data-attachmentid":32494791}[/ATTACH]

 

The crack runs from bridge to binding, and is only on the seam anout 2/3 of the way. Looks terminal, and I guess after 35 years of heavy playing I got my money's worth out of it....but it still sucks.

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That is the classic low humidity winter top crack - unfortunately I get to fix a few each year. Usually it can be fixed, however I'm guessing that is an Ovation with the little holes in the upper bout and no sound hole - in that case it can't. Even if I could get inside to clamp and cleat it would be almost impossible to repair it cosmetically.

 

The guitar will probably still play and sound fine, but I'll bet you have other issues.

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That is the classic low humidity winter top crack - unfortunately I get to fix a few each year. Usually it can be fixed, however I'm guessing that is an Ovation with the little holes in the upper bout and no sound hole - in that case it can't. Even if I could get inside to clamp and cleat it would be almost impossible to repair it cosmetically.

 

The guitar will probably still play and sound fine, but I'll bet you have other issues.

 

Probably all correct, including the little secondary issues with the electronics and needing a fret job. All in all, trying to get everything done properly by the luthier whom I trust is going to be more than it's worth. I may eventually fix her up anyway for sentimental reasons, but I think that last weekend was her last gig.

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Yeah, they sound really nice once you learn to EQ them. I have a similar feeling about the larger bowls - the only one that feels right to me is the super-shallow bowl. Trouble is, they don't make a super-shallow 12 anymore.

 

I wonder about setups. I found the ones at GC were all over the map - including a $2,500 model that was truly unplayable - the strings were literally laying on the frets. How can ANY business have that sitting on the floor as a "high end" model? :facepalm:

 

I found even the super shallow bowl on models I've tried to be a lot of work, chasing the sucker around while trying to play it. The one I have is mid-depth, kinda deep for my puny physique but at least the size is still bearable (with a strap).

 

I get the feeling GC and Sam Ash and so forth don't really do any set-ups on any acoustic guitars; just show what's been delivered... take it or leave it. When I've asked GC guys about acoustic set-ups, the resulting discussions were nothing at all like the long talk I had with a local luthier (who happened to be a Kaman guy from way back) and then with Freeman afterwards (who took the trouble to 'splain all the stuff the local guy said).

 

I just happened across an old pic, circa '67, with me on stage using a nondescript acoustic-electric 12-string; I must have started with 12s maybe 3-4 years before that. Big bowl, traditional shape... can't remember if it had a cut-out or not, and that side isn't visible in the pic. I do remember that sucker took iron fingers to play... but I was stronger then.

 

-D44

Edited by Drummer44
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Probably all correct, including the little secondary issues with the electronics and needing a fret job. All in all, trying to get everything done properly by the luthier whom I trust is going to be more than it's worth. I may eventually fix her up anyway for sentimental reasons, but I think that last weekend was her last gig.

 

 

Too bad about the damage. Plus those extra issues be a lot to solve on an old piece... but I was just looking at that old parts catalog...

 

The top isn't listed as a separable part... but there's a "top and bowl assembly". I wonder if Ovation could do an "off with the old, on with the new" top and at the same time deal with electronics and frets. If they even still do repair work of various sorts.

 

Can't guess whether cost would be worth it.... but I'd guess if you like the sound and setup as is, a new top of the same material and (Adamas) design would maybe preserve that. First compare to the cost (including effort) of an exact replacement, I guess...

 

-D44

 

 

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Usually it can be fixed, however I'm guessing that is an Ovation with the little holes in the upper bout and no sound hole - in that case it can't. Even if I could get inside to clamp and cleat it would be almost impossible to repair it cosmetically.

 

FWIW, I just re-looked at pics from the the old catalog I have. One shows the "epaulets" are apparently not individual small holes, but rather a single separate piece (with small holes) that snaps into a (routed?) shape in the top.The "epaulets" are listed as separate pieces in the parts catalog. I didn't get a great feel for how big the larger single hole is, but it at least does look larger, and maybe affords better access than it would originally appear. There are (were?) also models with those "epaulets" on both upper and lower bouts -- looks like what Steinberger has -- so maybe that would make it even slightly easier to deal with internals somehow.

 

-D44

 

Edited by Drummer44
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Too bad about the damage. Plus those extra issues be a lot to solve on an old piece... but I was just looking at that old parts catalog...

 

The top isn't listed as a separable part... but there's a "top and bowl assembly". I wonder if Ovation could do an "off with the old, on with the new" top and at the same time deal with electronics and frets. If they even still do repair work of various sorts.

 

Can't guess whether cost would be worth it.... but I'd guess if you like the sound and setup as is, a new top of the same material and (Adamas) design would maybe preserve that. First compare to the cost (including effort) of an exact replacement, I guess...

 

-D44

 

 

Good thoughts - thanks.

 

My shopping trip yesterday showed me that a new replacement I would be happy with is going to cost more than I thought, so the likely cost of trying to get it fully restored is looking more reasonable in comparison. I can say, though, that the new parts for the "Elite" series are not the same as what was on mine. This is one of the very earliest super-shallow Elites from the '80s, when the series was intended as a spruce-top Adamas, not an entry-level bedroom beater. It's certainly worth calling them up, though, to see if they would have any interest in a restoration project.

 

Like most players, I have some fairly specific specs in terms of neck, sound, playability, etc., and the basic entry-level boxes just don't do it for me. Interestingly, when I really started working my way through a bunch of guitars, the ones that seemed to get me to where I want to be all cost about the same, and it's almost exactly what the old one cost new, inflation adjusted (go figure). I was also very surprised at which guitars worked well for me - a Maton and a Breedlove came the closest to what I like.

 

There is some work ahead to figure out how to move forward. Thanks for the input, it's very helpful.

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FWIW, I just re-looked at pics from the the old catalog I have. One shows the "epaulets" are apparently not individual small holes, but rather a single separate piece (with small holes) that snaps into a (routed?) shape in the top.The "epaulets" are listed as separate pieces in the parts catalog. I didn't get a great feel for how big the larger single hole is, but it at least does look larger, and maybe affords better access than it would originally appear. There are (were?) also models with those "epaulets" on both upper and lower bouts -- looks like what Steinberger has -- so maybe that would make it even slightly easier to deal with internals somehow.

 

-D44

 

 

I happened to be reading a book on guitar technology last night and there was a picture of the back of some model of Ovation with a big circular cover in the center. It looked like it might be held on with a single screw in the middle. My guess is that it is access to the insides of a guitar for the electronics . It might be possible to do something like that which would allow the crack to be glued, clamped and cleated.

 

I've worked on a couple of Ovations with normal round sound holes - they are really not made for the kind of work that we often do (neck resets, bridge reglues). And it is almost impossible for me to repair finishes like I see on yours - I usually tell my customers that a repair will be structurally sound but might not be cosmetically perfect,

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I happened to be reading a book on guitar technology last night and there was a picture of the back of some model of Ovation with a big circular cover in the center. It looked like it might be held on with a single screw in the middle. My guess is that it is access to the insides of a guitar for the electronics . It might be possible to do something like that which would allow the crack to be glued, clamped and cleated.

 

Yes. The single screw is attached to a round 4-prong clamp that is loosely attached to the round plate with compressible foam. By loosening the screw, you let off the pressure on the clamp which allows you to slide the whole contraption to the side and open the access port. If you loosen it enough, you can wrangle the whole thing out, leaving a large round hole that would appear to be easy to work from.

 

And it is almost impossible for me to repair finishes like I see on yours - I usually tell my customers that a repair will be structurally sound but might not be cosmetically perfect,

 

That's what I would expect. Trying to re-do a complete finish would likely change the instrument fairly comprehensively.

Edited by SteinbergerHack
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If your guitar has that cover plate and it can be removed and if you can see the back of the top where the crack is, then my suggestion would be to glue it and stabilize from the inside and not worry about the appearance. If you can get the crack to open you can work some AR (Titebond) glue into it and glue some little cleats over the crack. You can also wick some water thin CA into the crack and then glue a support over it. I've had fairly good luck putting a piece of surgical gauze over a crack and wicking thin CA over the gauze.

 

If the finish really bugs you it is possible to wick some thin black CA from the outside of the top and scrape it back level, then spot sand up to a very fine grade and buff. In theory it works pretty good, it practice its hard to pull off.

 

The other problem, of course, is that the reason the guitar cracked is probably a dramatic decrease in humidity which has probably caused all sorts of other issues. I'm going to bet that the top has shrunk and is either flat or concave (which is what caused it to crack). That means the action has probably gone down and the guitar is buzzy. You might have some of the other symptoms of a dry guitar (sharp frets, wonky finish). Rehydrating will help some of it come back to normal - the frets may need some work however.

Edited by Freeman Keller
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The action moved, but mainly from the top bowing outward where it cracked, thus lifting the back of the bridge. I don't see any of the other humidity tell-tales, but that doesn't mean it wasn't the cause (and I suspect that it was - I live in Wisconsin in a 150 year old farmhouse, so winters are unavoidably dry).

 

I'll probably take it by Denny Rauen's shop and see what he says about it. Everything of mine he has touched has come back better than before, so I trust his judgment.

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I happened to be reading a book on guitar technology last night and there was a picture of the back of some model of Ovation with a big circular cover in the center. It looked like it might be held on with a single screw in the middle. My guess is that it is access to the insides of a guitar for the electronics . It might be possible to do something like that which would allow the crack to be glued, clamped and cleated.

 

 

Yes. The single screw is attached to a round 4-prong clamp that is loosely attached to the round plate with compressible foam. By loosening the screw, you let off the pressure on the clamp which allows you to slide the whole contraption to the side and open the access port. If you loosen it enough, you can wrangle the whole thing out, leaving a large round hole that would appear to be easy to work from.

 

 

Seems like "an Ovation" isn't a single unique animal. Mine doesn't have that hole in the back and appears to be a bolt-on neck (as we discussed), whereas some apparently have a backdoor (so to speak) and some have a glued-on neck. Different tops and bowl shapes/depths, of course, but it hadn't been obvious (at least to me) that different models are constructed differently too.

 

I didn't know any of this stuff when I found mine. I only knew it had been expensive when new and had a good rep for sound. It was pretty ratty on the used rack in the GC, but showed promise... so we discussed it some... and they eventually allowed as how they'd part with it for a sum I could manage. New strings, pretty good. Whenever I get around to following through on the set-up discussion, I'm hoping even easier to play. In the meantime, It's probably about the best sounding guitar that I've got (from among Ric, Gibson, PRS... but all apples to oranges comparisons).

 

More recently I've come to suspect mine's been doctored a bit before I got it. No serial number on the neck, where it should be, makes me suspect the neck's been replaced somewhere along the line... Mine's also in a non-cataloged color (as far as I know), and I don't know what exactly to make of that...

 

-D44

Edited by Drummer44
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Seems like "an Ovation" isn't a single unique animal. Mine doesn't have that hole in the back and appears to be a bolt-on neck (as we discussed), whereas some apparently have a backdoor (so to speak) and some have a glued-on neck.

 

Right. The Adamas-style tops get the service port on the back, because they don't have a single large soundhole to work through.

 

In the meantime, It's probably about the best sounding guitar that I've got (from among Ric, Gibson, PRS... but all apples to oranges

comparisons).

 

Set up properly, they can sound very good, particularly amplified. Here's a quick direct-to-board recording that shows the sound of mine (pardon the weak playing....). No, it doesn't sound like an old Martin or J-200, but it sounds really good for certain things, IMO.

 

https://www.soundclick.com/html5/v4/...songID=4628171

 

Mine's also in a non-cataloged color (as far as I know), and I don't know what exactly to make of that...

 

It seems that they did a lot of small-batch builds back in the day. In fact, I believe that they at one time did an annual short run of oddballs that they called a "collector's series" or something like that. Just because it isn't in the catalog today doesn't mean it isn't a "real" instrument - and it might mean that it was one of their top-tier hand-built specials.

Edited by SteinbergerHack
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Right. The Adamas-style tops get the service port on the back, because they don't have a single large soundhole to work through.

 

Set up properly, they can sound very good, particularly amplified. Here's a quick direct-to-board recording that shows the sound of mine (pardon the weak playing....). No, it doesn't sound like an old Martin or J-200, but it sounds really good for certain things, IMO.

 

It seems that they did a lot of small-batch builds back in the day. In fact, I believe that they at one time did an annual short run of oddballs that they called a "collector's series" or something like that. Just because it isn't in the catalog today doesn't mean it isn't a "real" instrument - and it might mean that it was one of their top-tier hand-built specials.

 

 

Didn't know that about the Adamas style; don't think I've ever seen the back of one.

 

Sounds good; you're way better than I am. (Says the drummer.) :)

 

I'd like to think it's special -- compared to info available from the old 2007 catalog I found -- but I'd still have expected them to apply a serial number. I think. Still, I'm not complaining; it sounds good to me and suits the way I use it.

 

-D44

 

 

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Redux:

 

The general opinion is that my long-time main six-string is not repairable as I would like, so I went to do some shopping yesterday, and played a bunch of 12s and 6s to see what my options would be within a moderately limited budget.

 

12s - I played a Gibson Songwriter, Guild 1512, Taylor 752, Taylor K66, and a used Ovation Elite (and a bunch of others that didn't get anywhere close to consideration.

 

The Gibson I played is a well made guitar, but doesn't have the volume or sustain of others at the same price point. It is quite different from another of the same model that I played a few months ago, so there seems to be a lot of variance between examples. Not my favorite.

 

The Ovation played very well, and was comfortable for me, though I generally do not prefer the deep bowl backs. Weak on the bottom end, but can sound very nice amplified with the right EQ setting (which I have no issue with, having played these things for years). Unamplified, it has all of the sparkle you want from a 12, but lacks depth, IMO Good for use in ensemble playing, but maybe not for solo work (unless you are covering a lot of Melissa Etheridge).

 

The Guild immediately showed the signature 12-string sound and volume - very, very nice. It hurt my hand to play, though - it just felt very, very stiff and the neck didn't suit me. It also did not have a cutaway or pickup, so I removed it from consideration. Wonderful sound, though.

 

Taylor 752CE - Great balanced, detailed sound, very comfortable to play, and louder that you would expect a small body to be. Easy to play, and I really like the wood binding and other craftsman-like details. This is a VERY nice guitar, and came very close to winning me over on the spot, until I played the other Taylor.

 

Taylor K66CE - Koa for a 12? Really? Yes, really. It works. A bit more focused, sharp sound than the 752. Every string is clear, well-defined, and there is tons of usable dynamic range. Larger body, louder, and a bit more effort required to play than the 752, but this thing won my heart.....unfortunately it also exceeded my budget. Time to bring in the wife for approval and/or a second opinion.....

 

The 6-strings and final verdict will follow shortly.

Edited by SteinbergerHack
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So, for the six strings, I played a number of various Taylors, a Breedlove Concerto E (myrtlewood), and a Maton Messiah EM100CE.

 

I found the majority of the Taylors to be a bit flabby in their sound, and just didn't have the clarity and distinction in attack that I like. My preference seems to generally go towards spruce/rosewood amd all of the attack that rosewood brings, and it seems that the lower end Taylors just don't execute this in the lower models.

 

The 814CE, though, is another story. It still has the stronger midrange that the other Taylors have, but the picking definition showed up when I grabbed the 814. It was a bit stiff to play, but I think a setup can sort that out. Not inexpensive, but this is a serious guitar.

 

The Breedlove played VERY smoothly and had a great tonal balance....but it just wasn't very strong. It would be a wonderful parlor guitar, but I can't see it holding up volume-wise an any group setting. Beatiful workmanship and wood, though, and it really sounded nice.

 

Then there is the Maton. This guitar gave me the precise sound that I hear in my head. Yes, THAT sound, and it felt as if it wanted to make the sounds I wanted before I even moved my fingers. Fantastic! Unfortunately, there is this issue of budget......and the question of whether I can really justify taking an instrument like the Maton (or the K66) into outdoor stages and tight orcheatra pits to get beat up...

 

In the end, I decided to go with the 814CE and the Ovation Elite 12. The total spend is less than either the K66 or the Maton alone, and I will have covered both instruments with very nice guitars, even if they weren't my absolute first choices.

 

Thoughts?

 

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. . . In the end, I decided to go with the 814CE and the Ovation Elite 12. The total spend is less than either the K66 or the Maton alone, and I will have covered both instruments with very nice guitars, even if they weren't my absolute first choices.

 

Thoughts?

Congratulations. Happy New Guitar Day for the Taylor and best of luck having the Ovation repaired. :thu:

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My thoughts will have to side with your ears and hands. You're the one in the pit and know just exactly what's needed to aurally punch through it. I've never even touched the guitars you chose (settled on), but I have played other Taylor 12s and Ovation 6s. Not terrible guitars, just not preferences.

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My thoughts will have to side with your ears and hands. You're the one in the pit and know just exactly what's needed to aurally punch through it. I've never even touched the guitars you chose (settled on), but I have played other Taylor 12s and Ovation 6s. Not terrible guitars, just not preferences.

 

Yes. The key for most of my gigs is having a very crisp attack, plenty of sustain, and a wide dynamic range. Interestingly, I was at a rehearsal this evening for a show that I am acting in, and one of the other actors commented on some specific part I played in another show that he really found impressive because of the way it cut through and "soared over the rest of the orchestra" (honestly, I didn't even remember the part he was talking about, but I guess it was ok?).

 

Anyway, I think that the Guild was also a very good-sounding guitar - I just couldn't make it work for me physically for some reason.

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