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This article was originally published in issue #30
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Envisioned by Yvonne De Villiers, an accomplished stained glass artist, Luna guitars are designed to offer affordable, comfortable instruments with a unique artistic approach influenced by Yvonne’s architectural glass work. The highly distinctive guitars range from simple, traditional looking acoustics up to abalone endowed pieces resplendent with Dragons, Koi Carp and Butterflies. They're certainly no ordinary generic acoustics! Luna sent us two guitars to review, a Grand Auditorium model called the ‘Art Deco’ and a signature model made for Vicki Genfan, whom we featured in GI Issue 29.
Luna Artist Art Deco (see above image)
The Art Deco model is one of Luna’s more subtle, ‘artistic’ designs in a line-up featuring highly elaborate abalone and laser etched inlays. The body is a very comfortable Grand Auditorium size with solid mahogany back and sides matched with a solid spruce top bound with rosewood for a very classy looking finish. The neck is made from a single piece of mahogany with a rosewood fretboard and bridge with Luna opting for a sensible gloss finish top and satin finish for the back, sides and neck. The ‘Art Deco’ nature of the design is implemented with the lovely, Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired, fretboard inlays and rosette that give the guitar a definite 1920’s look that works extremely well with the otherwise plain design. The Luna headstock shape is also very attractive and works well with the body shape and size to give a very attractive overall appearance that should make the guitar stand out from the regular crowd in any guitar shop.
Luna has opted to include a B-Band T55 preamp on the Art Deco that offers a good deal of tonal shaping options thanks to a traditional 3-EQ plus a presence control and sweepable ‘notch’ filter to prevent feedback on stage. The T55 includes a fully chromatic tuner that works well for precise tuning, even with alternate tunings and has an easy to read LCD display that is well lit for dark stages. Luna also offers a USB output option for recording but this is an added extra for the Art Deco model and wasn’t a feature of our review model. As it must be at this price point these days, construction is flawless with nothing to complain about in any area of the design or finishing process. The guitar certainly feels like a more expensive model than the price would suggest.
Tonally the Art Deco is a very high quality performer for the modest asking price. The neck feels very comfortable and smooth with a very approachable shape for any hand size and a good factory set-up for chordal and lead work. The tone is very balanced acoustically with a decent amount of rich bottom end thanks to the choice of solid woods in the construction. Chords are very well represented and balanced across all six strings with no dead spots on the neck and a decent sustain across its entire range.
Plugged in, the T55 offers a good level of control over the tone and the body mounted pickup does a convincing job of maintaining the acoustic character of the sound and is a more than adequate choice for the Art Deco guitar.
Whilst not as impressive visually as some of the other guitars in the Luna range, the Art Deco represents a nice balance between the subtle and more ‘full on’ designs and is certainly a great sounding and feeling guitar for not a great deal of money. Well worth checking out.
Luna Vicki Genfan SG
Luna originally built a signature guitar for Vicki (check out her amazing playing in Issue 29 of the magazine http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk//launch.aspx?eid=71b7c053-b3fd-4c87-a773-23e085990f25&pnum=198 ) after seeing her in action in 2007 at the NAMM show. Her original guitar is a high end, US-made Luna designed and built by Gray Brochette with a Jumbo body, cocobolo back and sides, spruce top and laser etched ‘Om’ design on the sound board. In keeping with the Luna ethos of affordable guitars, they have now released a Chinese made Vicki Genfan model that has more ‘modest’ features but retains the original design ethic of the USA made guitar.
The Vicki Genfan SG is a unique, smaller body shape with a cutaway at the 17th fret for upper range access. The back and sides are made from rosewood with a solid spruce top adorned with the same ‘Om’ laser etched inlay as the US model and elaborate striped binding. The neck is mahogany with a dark, tightly grained rosewood fretboard sporting phases of the moon mother of pearl inlays matched with a rosewood bridge and gold coloured tuners, producing a subtle but highly attractive design.
Luna has opted for a gloss finish on the top and satin for the back, sides and neck producing a very comfortable guitar that should feel easy to play for both smaller and larger performers. Also included is a B-Band T-35 preamp that is pretty bare bones with just a 3-band EQ, phase switch and tuner but does a more than adequate job of shaping the tone as required, although the actual display can be a little hard to read in a darker setting.
As with the ‘Art Deco’ model we’ve reviewed along side this guitar, the construction on our sample model was flawless externally and internally, with a finish that feels far more expensive than the impressively low price would suggest. The guitar is very comfortable to play thanks to the friendly neck profile and width and upper fret access is superb thanks to the nicely executed cutaway. Tuning stability is good, thanks to the Grover tuners which are a requirement if, like Vicki, you are switching tunings all the time.
Acoustically this is a good sounding guitar with a balanced tonal range and a decent projection and sustain that will be of significant benefit if you are trying to emulate Vicki’s percussive style. For the price, Luna has done a decent job of reproducing the essence of Vicki’s tone in a more compact and affordable acoustic. Plugged in the pickup does a good enough job of reproducing the tone, if not being overly impressive, but, again, it is more than adequate for the price point.
If you are a fan of Vicki’s style this signature model will be a perfect entry point for a quality acoustic to take you on your playing journey, but since the guitar isn’t explicitly adorned with Vicki’s signature, the design may well appeal to other players too and the quality components and construction add up to a guitar that is great value at this price.
A Final Thought
One comment that seems to come up when discussing Luna guitars occasionally is a feeling some people have that they're 'for girls'. It's true that some of the more ornate designs don't exactly scream out 'death metal' but then, neither do some of the more exotically inlaid custom guitars you see in all sorts of hands. We've now had three Lunas pass through the Quiet Room and all three have impressed us. Electric guitarists used to slender necks and low actions often struggle with acoustic instruments. Well, these Lunas are pretty easy to play and if your set calls for you to put down a super-slim axe and switch to an acoustic without having to readjust your brain too much, then a Luna could be just the thing.