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Review

Faith Naked Neptune Baby Jumbo

Issue #16

How do you make a much-respected guitar more affordable without damaging the very things that have won it so much praise? Faith Guitars thinks it has found a way. Tim Slater took a deep breath, hoping he wouldn't be disappointed.

First, why 'naked'? Well, the Faith Naked Series takes its name from the bare fact that this particular branch of the Faith family is treated with two thin coats of satin lacquer instead of a traditional thick gloss finish. Fans of satin finishes claim that the thinner coat allows the guitar to resonate or 'breathe' better than its shiny gloss finished counterparts and while a satin finish can show the effects of wear and tear much quicker than gloss, many players still express a preference for satin's smooth tactile feel compared to gloss' rather sticky feel.

Having got that out of the way, there is a second dimension to Faith's 'naked' concept. Regular Quiet Room readers will know we have been consistently impressed with this brand of UK-designed, Indonesian-produced acoustics, which have won numerous awards and accolades since their launch. The one thing Faith has never done is stint on quality, but, even though they have offered excellent value for money, these are hard times more or less all over the world, and Faith has decided it needs to offer guitars to players who simply can't afford its top models. But how do you do that without compromising the very quality that has made Faith's reputation?

Faith has taken a minimalist approach. These Faith 'nakeds' are designed to offer premium tone woods and an all-solid construction at an affordable price by being made as plain and simple as they can be.

Despite its somewhat austere sounding MO, the The Naked Faith Neptune 'Baby Jumbo' is much more attractive up close than one might assume. The solid Engelmann spruce top even shows some subtle figuring in the grain and its soft creamy vanilla tone contrasts beautifully with the bold orange tint displayed by the solid mahogany back, sides and mahogany neck. The slim C profile neck is fixed in place with two 6mm bolts, with only the glue used to fix the upper part of the fingerboard where it rests against the spruce top. The bolt-on design, which is another of renowned designer Patrick Eggle's personal touches, still uses a traditional mortise and tenon join and in that respect it feels totally indistinguishable from a standard set neck. This design probably speeds up the manufacturing process whilst also being easier to repair in the event that a broken neck has to be reset.

Beneath the solid top, a traditional X bracing pattern features Patrick Eggle's distinctive tuning method with scalloping on the bass side ,while the treble side bracing remains plain. According to Eggle, he prefers this particular bracing design because he believes that it helps to give the guitar a cleaner tone with more headroom (thus reducing compression or distortion when the guitar is strummed or picked hard) whilst also boosting the instrument's overall definition.

Faith guitars rarely, if ever, disappoint and in practice the Naked Faith Baby Jumbo makes a good fist of capturing the fulsome warmth of a full-sized jumbo, whilst being fractionally smaller and easier to play. The neck is a shallow 'C' section that borders on an electric guitar type feel, at least in terms of its sleek and user-friendly nature. There is still plenty of meat for the player to wrap their hand around and it's pleasing to find that the tidy set-up includes uniformly smooth and neatly profiled fret ends. Jumbos - and by rote their Baby relatives - deserve their reputation as superb guitars for recording by virtue of their exceedingly well balanced tone. The Naked Faith Baby Jumbo duly displays the sonorous depth and evenness that Jumbos are renowned for but the Faith's treble and upper mids sound more nimble and articulate, suggesting that finger pickers and players who habitually use a flatpick should also get a real kick out of the Faith's strident shimmer.

The boldness does occasionally stray into rawness when the player really digs in but this is marginal compared to a generally outstanding performance. A slight edge is normal from a virtually box-fresh guitar. Serious playing time and the natural ageing process will both help to round off the brighter edges.

In a way, this guitar's unassuming appearance almost does it a disservice because its plain looks don't hint at the sonic delights within. However, once you get past that puritan image and actually play it, this guitar feels and sounds perfect for the improving intermediate guitarist, or a more experienced player looking for an affordable yet mature sounding guitar to keep around the house or recording studio. Give it a go and we reckon you'll have no problem keeping the Faith.

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Issue #53

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