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This article was originally published in issue #35
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An electro-acoustic guitar with onboard FX? Lewis Turner checks out some completely different from one of Japan's longest established guitar brands.
Aria was established in Nagoya, Japan in 1956 by Shiro Arai, an accomplished Classical guitarist in his own right. Since then it has become one of the best known Japanese guitar brands and one that has never been shy to try something new. And 'something new' certainly describes the FET-01FX, which we have on review here, so be sure to check out the accompanying video to see and hear this guitar for yourself!
Aria's FET-01FX features a flamed maple top with a unique open-pore ash finish on the sides and back. This is a good looking instrument, with a top finish and attention to detail throughout. The 21 fret nato neck with rosewood fingerboard was a pleasure to play. At this price range we quite often find acoustic guitars with high action, fret buzzing and poor intonation, but I'm happy to report that there were no such problems with the Aria. The neck size was very similar to that of an electric guitar, making things very easy going, which is ideal if this instrument is for a beginner or younger player. Obviously, compromises have to be made to get instruments down to a desired price and the wood quality may not be the finest on the market, but for the price these are sensible choices and won't leave you disappointed.
Playing wise, all the notes rang clear, including individual notes in a chord, and nothing ever sounded muddy or lost in the mix. The guitar resonated well, generating good acoustic volume and dynamic range. The set-up on our sample was perfect (and surprisingly, that still isn't always the case on review instruments!) providing great tuning stability and intonation throughout. Likewise, the cutaway allowed ample access to the high end frets, making this a very easy guitar to play.
As I mentioned earlier, this is an electro-acoustic and comes with what Aria describes as its Aria AEQ-FX. This means that as well as the standard tuner, 3-band EQ, volume and phase control, it also features built in digital effects. You can choose varying levels of Reverb, Delay, Chorus and wide Chorus, or a combination of Reverb/Chorus, Delay/Chorus. This is a great feature that I have never seen on an acoustic before, and I'm happy to say it's not just a sales gimmick - the sounds are actually pretty good! OK, they aren’t up there with your finest boutique stomp box, but for a budget acoustic it's a great feature - they are very usable. There are two angles to this. In one sense it's a good way of introducing these tonal possibilities to the novice player, then again it makes for an acoustic that's really easy to turn up to a gig with, plug into a PA and have everything you need, already built-in.
Effects to one side, the actual pre-amp isn’t too bad, the sound quality when plugged in was fairly decent if a little thin, but there were no issues of feedback or over compression.
In conclusion, the Aria FET-01 FX is a very good entry-level electro acoustic. It's easy to play, with a solid acoustic tone and provides some decent effects. It's also a good looking instrument that comes in a variety of colours and that looks way more expensive than it is. If you are looking for a good sounding, easy to play acoustic guitar with some fun additions, you won’t go far wrong with this one.