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This article was originally published in issue #27
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Simon and Patrick’s Trek series guitars are a little different to many of the budget minded acoustics on the market in that, rather than being built in the Far East in order to save costs, they are built in their native Canada by the same team that builds the high end models but using bare-bones aesthetics and appointments. The idea is to produce a guitar with North American build quality and tone but at a price that is eminently affordable.
Available in three body sizes, Parlour, Dreadnought and Folk, the chaps from Simon and Patrick sent us a Dreadnought model to check out and the first thing that you notice when pulling the Trek SG out of the box is how unique these guitars look thanks to this simple, bare bones design. The guitars are constructed with a Solid Spruce top matched with Wild Cherry back and sides, constructed from a 3-way lamination of hardwoods. The finish is a light semi-gloss on the back and sides with the neck left almost bare for a ‘real wood’ feel. The wood is left unstained for a natural look with no binding or rosewood inlays to make the guitar look overly impressive and thus raise the cost. The guitar is actually very attractive in its bare bones splendour but owners will need to be careful as there is very little protecting it from the elements and it will inevitably become worn and require diligent cleaning to prevent discolouration and staining over time (maybe it's ideal for those who like the road-worn look? Ed)
The neck is constructed from Silver Leaf maple with a rosewood fretboard and is smooth as silk with a comfortable, if slightly larger than average, neck profile. A Graphtech nut and fully compensated saddle have been chosen for the Trek series and provide excellent intonation across the whole neck. As an optional extra the Natural SG series can be equipped with a Fishman IsysT preamp with a built in tuner, but our review model was without this feature.
Build quality is very good, as you’d expect from a Canadian made instrument, with flawless internal and external wood work, lovely fretwork and slightly rolled fret edges. Cost cutting has only been applied to visual appointments where some clever touches have been added, such as the burn stamped rosette around the sound hole. Internally the bracing is all beautifully done with no signs of sawdust or glue and with clean finishing.
The dreadnought is the largest body shape of the series but is very comfortable in terms of both body and neck size and shape. My only complaint with the guitar was that the action was set high for an acoustic with heavier strings and a slightly larger than average neck width. It’s highly likely that it was set differently on shipping but had moved in transit. However, the guitar was more than playable, especially in the lower registers and it would be very easy to adjust with the truss rod. Once again, a reminder to readers that one of the advantages of buying in person from a shop is that you can ask them to set a guitar up for your personal taste!
Tonally the Trek SG is a great performer with an impressively wide dynamic range and piano like tone that is very even across the whole instrument. There is nothing about the tone of this guitar that gives away its low price point and, had it been setup with a lower action it would’ve been an even more impressive to play both aurally and physically. Both the bottom and top end are rich and smooth as silk, with a very nice attack that translates well when miked-up. The guitar is loud, thanks to the body size, and projects well, even when played softly. For those requiring an pre-amp there is plenty of space internally to fit your own or, alternatively, you can choose the Fishman IsysT version.
For those looking into budget priced acoustics you could do an awful lot worse than check out this North American made series of guitars. Those more concerned with aesthetics may feel the need to look elsewhere as these really are ‘bare-bones’ guitars, but only in a visual sense, they are serious tonal performers with great workmanship and construction quality. Considering the price, the Trek series seems like something of a bargain!
Sadly, this model isn't available in its native North America, where the Trek series guitars have laminated cherry tops instead. However prices are lower there, so we suspect a Simon & Patrick alternative with a solid top is very likely to be available for similar money.