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This article was originally published in issue #44
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Seagull guitars began in 1982 when Robert Godin (of Godin guitars fame) first started to make acoustic guitars that would offer exceptional value for money – serious instruments that were within reach of ordinary musicians. Affordable, solid wood acoustics are a lot more common now than they were then but Seagull has a pretty unique claim to separate itself from the sea of other builders, in that its instruments are actually all build and finished in Canada, just like their high end Godin models. They are actually made in the small Canadian village of LaPatrie were half of the 475 strong population are guitar builders, so you know you’re getting some experienced and passionate people working on these instruments! Seagull sources all of its woods from sustainable resources, uses hydropower for its manufacturing facility and even offers a limited lifetime warranty for all of its guitars. So far, so very impressive, but what are the guitars like? We’ve reviewed the Peppino D’Agostino signature model in a previous issue and been very impressed but what of their even more affordable non-signature models? Seagull sent us an Artist Mosaic Element acoustic to review.
The Artist series sits at the top of the Seagull range, made from hand selected tonewoods and built by a select few luthiers to ensure the highest quality guitars that the brand produces. The Artist Mosaic is a professional acoustic with solid mahogany back and sides, a solid cedar top and a mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard and 21 frets. The body is a large, but not overly so, Dreadnought shape and finished in a semi-gloss coating that really accentuates the high quality grain of the woods on show. The guitar is classic looking in all senses except for the headstock and that may prove divisive for some players due to its tiny proportions, making the neck look larger and more intimidating than it actually is. This gives the guitar a slightly unbalanced look from body to head but it’s in no means an ugly design, just something most people will need to adjust to visually.
Small touches such as the beautifully executed and understated purfling and rosette designs, combined with the offset dots and Seagull inlay at the 12th fret, add to the feeling of quality on display here, matched well with the high quality tuners, nut and bridge. This is a guitar where no corners have been cut unnecessarily but, with the excellent included, soft/hard hybrid case factored in, it comes in at a higher price point than your average ‘budget-friendly’ acoustic so you’d expect higher quality, given that extra cost.
Our Mosaic model also features the excellent LR Baggs element pre-amp, mounted on the soundhole with a volume and tone control. It’s incredibly easy to use, passing the all-important ‘no need to read the manual’ test, and works very well to produce a realistic and natural acoustic response without the low end thump and breakup issues that can plague similar systems. The Artist Mosaic is also available without the pre-amp if you’d rather go all acoustic or fit your own after-market alternative.
The Artist Mosaic certainly feels like a professional instrument with its superb factory set-up and flawless finishing internally and externally. The action is low across the guitar’s range, although not overly so, allowing for easy playability without sacrificing tone or sustain. The neck profile is very comfortable with good string spacing for both chords and lead work and the larger Dreadnought body offers lots of volume and bottom end without becoming intimidating for smaller players. Fretwork and intonation are also excellent, easily matching guitars at significantly higher price points. You can really tell that this guitar has been manufactured with a care and attention to detail that can be found lacking on some other acoustics in this price point where visual flare tends to mask subtle flaws or shortcomings. The Artist Mosaic might not be the most visually outstanding guitar you’ll ever come across (it’s far from ugly of course) but, as far as bang for buck goes, it’s a real winner.
Tonally this is a superb guitar too. There is a level of detail and crispness to the Artist Mosaic that you normally associate with guitars from the big ‘T’ or ‘M’ brigade, with an authoritative low end thump and a very good dynamic range that makes you play more musically. Obviously this isn’t a $6,000, hand-made acoustic, so it’s not going to compete with the high end guitars from the biggest names on the block, however, at this price point it’s fantastic that you get a guitar that sounds and feels so good to play and comes this close to the far more expensive competition – closer than some competitors will find comfortable, in fact.
As I said earlier, affordable solid wood acoustics are all over the market place now, but Seagull has created something that actually comes very close to offering an affordable alternative to the mega-expensive high end acoustics that we all lust after but many of us just could never afford. If you want to get as close to one of these aspirational acoustics as you can, but without spending your life savings in the process, the Seagull Artist Mosaic is a very good alternative. When you factor in that reliable all-Canadian build, sustainable woods and lifetime warranty this becomes a very interesting proposition indeed.