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This article was originally published in issue #11
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Korea's Crafter has been one of the mainstays of mid-market acoustic guitars for several decades. Brand new to the range at this year's NAMM show was an unusual introduction - a hybrid travel acoustic, which also offers something for players who like a shorter scale. Michael Casswell took one of the first samples for a test drive.
Crafter has been with us since the early '70s, offering really usable, well made guitars at an affordable price that have carved-out a good chunk of the mid-market acoustic business. I have to confess that I'd never played one before this review, so really didn't know what to expect, but I have to say I came away really impressed by a model so new it isn't even featured on Crafter's own website yet!
I've been handed some travel guitars in the past and been left fairly cold by them. They serve a purpose, but are usually quite basic, designed partly with the idea of different world climates - beach parties and alcohol, ruck sacks and camp fires and the whole student 'year out, travel the world' vibe. But this Crafter Castaway is a whole different bag. For a start, before you even pick it up, it looks aesthetically great, and gives the appearance of a high end parlour guitar. It sort of plays visual tricks on you because it looks all there, but is smaller than you are used to.
This guitar came in a rather nice Crafter gig bag, which is included in the price. It was also in perfect tune, straight out of a box that had been kicked around in a delivery van for several hundred miles - which is always a good sign!
I got a really good feeling from the Castaway from the moment I extracted it from that gig bag. Before the cameras started whirring, I had a good noodle, pick and strum and everything I threw at this cute little guitar was handled really well and sounded surprisingly big and professional. On this version, there is no onboard pickup and pre-amp but Crafter is bringing out this guitar with an onboard system in September 2012 and the additional cost involved is very reasonable. If I was going to play live or use this for the studio, I would probably hold out for the electro-acoustic version. Then again, if I was off on an adventure to far off lands with a back pack and an itch to see what the meaning of life is, I would happily take this guitar as my travel companion!
Because the Castaway features a smaller scale, it has a nice string tension, making the strings stiff enough to really spank-out big strummy chords, yet soft enough to play Blues string bends, which gives a nice easy feel to whole thing. The sound is very good, projecting well. The action was low without any buzz or choking, the neck has a nice shape, feeling substantial but not big, the frets felt good with just the right height, in fact the whole thing was just great fun to play. There is also a nice arch to the mahogany back, to give more bottom end and volume to the obviously smaller body, which looks very tasteful and adds to the overall quality feel. Even the rosewood board looks like a nice dark quality piece of wood, set off by the dot abalone type inlays. It is hard to see where any compromise has been made to bring in a really nice instrument for a very reasonable retail price.
The one thing I had to quickly get used to was the slightly smaller string spacing, but after five minutes I didn't notice it at all. So this guitar can work on many levels. It is certainly good enough for professional use, giving a bluesy parlour type acoustic tone which is very cool. It could also be a great instrument for younger, smaller hands to learn on, helping create guitar gods of the future. Lastly, if you do need a travel guitar, then this would be a great friend to have around, as you travel the world, just you and a tent, enriching your soul and outlook on life. Personally I prefer big hotel rooms, hot showers, clean en-suite toilets and room service, with this guitar on hand and close to the TV remote, but each to their own.