Advancements in guitar technology are a mixed blessing. It seems like everything nowadays is being touted as new and improved, but with all the hype surrounding every new product, gadget, tweak and mod, it’s easy to lose track of the difference between novelty and innovation. Novelty is all the rage these days, and while there’s nothing wrong with novelty per se, it’s not necessarily the same thing as innovation. New does not automatically mean improved. Guys like me, always looking out for the new cool but saddled with real-world budgets, have had to learn to be hardnosed about telling the difference between new products that we can’t live without and those we can.
"The idea of a metal guitar struck me as an unusual but potentially ingenious approach to making a precision instrument. What would it sound like? How would it feel to play?"
It was the question of novelty versus innovation that prompted me to ask PG to let me take a run at the Etavonni (“innovate” spelled backwards) GT-1. Made almost entirely of aircraft grade, anodized aluminum and carbon fiber, the guitar looks like a solidbody Strat but is actually hollow. The idea of a metal guitar struck me as an unusual but potentially ingenious approach to making a precision instrument. What would it sound like? How would it feel to play?
Pronouncing the “good balanced tone” of a great wooden guitar a seldom-repeated accident, Etavonni claims that their scientific approach allows them to avoid all the “guessing” and “hoping” that goes into producing a great instrument. According to the website, the ported chambers in the guitar’s aluminum body are specially engineered and tuned to specific, sought-after frequencies; once enclosed by the carbon fiber panels, the air molecules inside these chambers are excited by string vibration in a precise and controlled way. After reading this, I’ll admit I was expecting to review a novelty – albeit an expensive novelty. For the most part, I was wrong. As a package, the Etavonni is probably best described as an intriguing mixture of technolgical prowess and stunning niche design.
Cool to the Touch
The GT-1 arrived in a Pro Stage Gear flight case/gig bag combo. The heavy-duty nylon gig bag nests comfortably inside a heavily padded, ATA approved, gunmetal gray flight case with recessed casters. Both are top quality, but as standard equipment this seems a little excessive. The flight case is exceedingly heavy to be practical for anything other than air travel, and with airlines now charging a premium for anything other than your carry-on, even that’s questionable. A more conventional hardshell case option would be welcome for those who want more protection than a gig bag but don’t want to hump a flight case from gig to gig.
The guitar itself has a unique, ultra-cool look that makes it exceedingly attractive – a combination of classic styling and chic, space-age touches. The carbon fiber front and back plates give the appearance of grey tweed under a mirror smooth polish. These cover the precision engineered tone chambers in the body, so they play an important part in the overall tone of the guitar – a genuine innovation. They also look great against the red satin finish of the aluminum body. Other small appointments, like the red truss rod cover against the carbon fiber headstock give the otherwise bold design an air of refinement. The 25.5" scale, double-cutaway body and 22-fret "C" shaped carbon fiber neck make the Etavonni look and feel very much like a standard Strat, but the metal construction allows it to be thinner (1.5”) than many guitars of this body type without any loss of tone or sustain. The GT-1 weighed in at 8.24 pounds, putting it firmly within Strat territory, a relief for those worried about lugging around aircraft aluminum for a set.
In addition to an ebony fretboard with flawlessly dressed jumbo frets, the Etavonni features Planet Waves auto-trim locking tuners, a chrome Hipshot bridge, two Seymour Duncan pickups – a Custom Custom humbucker at the bridge and a Hot Stack single-coil at the neck – with Volume and Tone controls and a 5- way pickup selector. Etavonni also offers an optional Wilkinson Gotoh tremolo.
Although it’s strangely cool to the touch, the Etavonni turns out to be an extremely playable, precision instrument that won’t leave you cold. The action and intonation are outstanding and the neck is comfortable, with a wide, modern style fretboard radius. The neck-body connection is solid enough to provide a remarkably crisp, clear attack andexceptional sustain, making it a real treat for vibrato playing. Chording, comping, single- note runs and screaming bends all went over equally well and the featherweight would make any gigging guitarist happy.
The sounds it made through my Vox Valvetronix put to rest any reservations I had about a metal guitar sounding lifeless and cold. Although the Etavonni is at its best when delivering the bright, punchy tones of rock and metal, the Hot Stack single-coil offered meaty enough mids and thick enough trebles to satisfy my blues jones. Although it’s not going to out-twang any Teles, it does a passable job at crossover country. To be honest, I was much more enthusiastic about the Hot Stack neck pickup, which was strong and sinewy – much like a boosted singlecoil – than the humbucker at the bridge, which sounded a little brittle to my ear.
The bigger problem was the noticeable difference in output between the two pickups. I got a bit frustrated playing the Etavonni at a recent gig when switching pickups kept pushing my amp out of its sweet spot. This kind of thing shouldn’t be an issue in a guitar at this price point. While I’m nitpicking, I should also mention a few other points: the pickup selector was a bit too tight for easy on-the-fly switching, and the Tone and Volume knobs turned a bit too freely. Worse, the nut is actually sharp enough to chafe your fingers. I never realized how often I ran my left hand past the nut until I played the Etavonni for a whole set.
On the positive side, the fact that it sounds so much like a traditional solidbody does not disguise one of the advantages of an all-metal guitar: an immunity to the temperature and humidity problems that often plague traditional instruments. I found myself wishing I had the GT-1 with me a few weeks ago when my band was playing
an outdoor show and the weather was so erratic I had to retune before each song.
The Final Mojo
All in all, the Etavonni has a cool look and a surprisingly natural sound and feel with an enhanced tonal consistency and stability. Its light weight belies a sturdiness that would make it a solid choice for any rock or metal player’s collection. Even with a few shortcomings, it holds promise. If the guys at Etavonni Instruments are serious about keeping their focus on innovation and they’re willing to build on their success by improving in a few areas, I have no doubt this guitar
will be well worth the high price tag.
you want something different, reliable and price is not an issue
you want a guitar that gives you the most bang for your buck
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