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This article was originally published in issue #50
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The Crafter FC550EQ/MS is an average acoustic, but a superb electro-acoustic guitar. If you are looking for a highly affordable, well made guitar and only really need plugged-in tone with modern, colourful looks, the FC550 would be a great choice.
Well built, good looking electro acoustic
Excellent LR Baggs pickup and pre-amp tone
Versatile tone shaping from the pre-amp
Great playability and comfort
Good value for money with the included gig bag
Not the greatest acoustic tone
Sometime what you want isn't an acoustic guitar that will record perfectly in a studio using a $mega-bucks condenser mic. What you want is an acoustic-electric for playing on stage. Tom Quayle tries Crafter's FC550EQ to see if it fits the bill.
The FC550EQ/MS is an affordable, Korean-made electro-acoustic from Crafter, based on its popular but now discontinued FX550EQ model. Whereas the FX550EQ had a fibreglass back and sides with a spruce top, the FC550EQ retains the shape and form factor of the FX, but is constructed from real wood throughout, for a more natural acoustic tone. Both guitars are designed to be electric instruments first and foremost, but the FC550EQ/MS is a much more traditional guitar in terms of the materials used in its construction.
Just like the FX, the FC550 is a small bodied, almost thin-line acoustic guitar with a bowled back and a brightly coloured stained finish that is very much in the electro-acoustic vein, rather than a more sedate looking traditional acoustic guitar. The plastic back and sides have been replaced with mahogany, with the back displaying a subtle bowled contour for comfort and added tonal punch. The FC receives a highly figured ash top and a mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard. The body and neck feature cream binding and you get a simple, yet attractive rosette for a bit of detail around the sound hole. The neck features some lovely offset dots that start at the top of the fretboard, moving to the lower part after the 12th fret. The entire body and neck are stained in an attractive deep blue/black burst that is very well executed and leans the guitar very much toward the Pop/Rock aesthetic, rather than the look of more reserved Blues or Folk style acoustics. The result is a good-looking guitar that won’t appeal to traditionalists but isn’t too over the top to scare away the average buyer.
To bolster its electro-acoustic credentials, Crafter have included a very nice LR Baggs Element pickup and their own LR-T FX pre-amp system, comprising a three band EQ, Presence and Phase controls, plus a high contrast LCD tuner and Volume control, mounted on the upper bout of the body as normal. The hardware feels great throughout, with high quality die-cast tuners and a well-cut nut and bridge/saddle, neither of which give the impression of corner cutting or cheapness. Build quality, fretwork and finishing are excellent throughout, especially when you consider that this very affordable price includes a perfectly usable, padded gig bag too.
The FC550 should appeal greatly to people looking for a smaller bodied acoustic, with a preference for comfort over acoustic tone. The Orchestra Cutaway body shape is exceptionally comfortable given its thinner profile and the neck is very friendly to those with smaller hands. Playability is excellent throughout the guitar’s range, with a low action, not compromised by any buzzes or dead spots at all. Tuning stability is also good, with easy, accurate tuning thanks to the onboard LCD display that is easy to read in both bright and dark lighting.
Tonally, the only slight disappointment of the FC550EQ/MS is the acoustic performance. The guitar has an inherently almost metallic sound to it, rather than a rich acoustic tone. The small body shape prevents it from being an authoritative performer with a lot of volume and projection but, since this guitar is obviously designed primarily as a ‘plugged-in’ guitar, these considerations are far from a deal breaker. You could describe the unplugged acoustic performance as adequate, but the electric sound is very good indeed, thanks to the superb LR Baggs Element pickup and decent pre-amp system. The somewhat metallic acoustic sound transforms into a rich electric tone that is much more natural and acoustic in nature than you might expect, with no quack or brittleness at all. The three band EQ is powerful and can take you from mid-scooped strumming tones to lovely, rich single note tones with ease. Dynamics are very well represented for a very musical playing experience that never gets in the way of artistic expression. The presence control is very subtle but allows you to cut a little more in a mix, whilst the phase button is as effective as any other at combatting feedback on stage.
The Crafter FC550EQ/MS is an average acoustic, but a superb electro-acoustic guitar. If you are looking for a highly affordable, well made guitar and only really need plugged-in tone with modern, colourful looks, the FC550 would be a great choice. Well worth checking out.