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December 2014
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Cole Clark Fat Lady 1AC Acoustic Guitar Review


She Sings
For being such a light-feeling guitar, the Fat Lady definitely sings like its name implies. This acoustic is truly remarkable for the ground it covers—everything from soft fingerpicking to good-time strumming comes through clearly and with a well-balanced tonal range. Everything seems to be in proportion here, from the guitar’s crisp highs to its full-but-not-overpowering bottom-end, and it really feels like each part of the instrument adds to the greater whole in just the right amount. The dreadnought body style and bracing give the sound depth and body; the Queensland maple body and neck provide shimmering highs; the Bunya top gives this guitar just the right amount of warmth (almost akin to a cedar-topped acoustic, without the mushiness at higher volumes or intensities). Perhaps even more impressive is the guitar’s responsiveness; despite its size, this Fat Lady is nimble, dynamic and brilliantly expressive at all points.

The Fat Lady’s electronics have been custom built by Cole Clark to compliment the guitar’s tonality, and I’m proud to report that they do a hell of a job. The system is comprised of six individual piezo sensors under the bridge and a Face Brace transducer with three sensors mounted under the soundboard. A unique Blend slider on the guitar’s preamp allows you to adjust the crossover point of where the guitar’s high-end frequencies are captured from—moving the slider away from you causes more of the bridge piezos’ high-end to be amplified; pulling the slider towards you causes the system to amplify more highend from the sensors. It’s a fairly ingenious and natural-sounding system that allows you to really dial in the nature of your high-end— the Face Brace provided the Fat Lady with a little more “airiness”—although playing through a Genz Benz Shenandoah Compak 300, I found the best sounds to be in the central range of the slider, drawing equally from both sources. The system does a great job of bringing out the warmth and clarity of the guitar, and the only time feedback was an issue was at high volumes with the Face Brace sensor fully engaged.

The preamp interface itself is fairly pedestrian, Blend function aside. It has a Volume slider, and a 3-band EQ allowing you to dial in your Highs, Mids and Lows. This was really the only place that I had any quibbles with the instrument— the labels for the sliders were damn near invisible in anything short of bright light, and the conspicuous lack of an on-board tuner seems like a major omission for such a welldesigned system.

In terms of playability, the Fat Lady is certainly playable, but you’ll likely want to spend a little time dialing it in for your tastes. The guitar comes strung with .012s and a medium setup (.078" on the treble side and .098” on the bass side), and the company’s website says, “It is fully expected that specific settings are the responsibility of the customer.” The 12" fingerboard radius, the medium C profile and 1 ¾" nut width make this guitar extremely comfortable to play (although smaller hands might struggle with lower position chording), while a Graphtech TUSQ nut and Grover Rotomatic tuners keep everything stable and in tune, no matter how heavy-handed you get.

The Final Mojo
It’s safe to say that Cole Clark Guitars is on to something here—the Fat Lady is one of the finest acoustics you’ll encounter in the sub-$2000 market, and the fact that it’s made of more sustainable varieties of wood is the cherry on top. It looks great, it plays great and it sounds even better—what more could you ask for?
Buy if...
you're looking for a bright, articulate acoustic you can feel good about.
Skip if...
you're a spruce fanatic.
Rating...
5.0 

MSRP $1540 - Cole Clark Guitars - coleclarkguitars.com