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September 2014
more... 12-stringGearAcousticReviewsJune 2014BreedloveFenderMartinSeagull

Four Affordable 12-String Flattops Roundup

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Seagull Coastline S12 Cedar QI
When it comes to bang-for-the buck acoustics, Canada’s Seagull guitars (and guitars from Seagull’s Godin-built cousins Simon & Patrick and Arts & Lutherie) often top many people’s lists. Seagulls are famous for combining no-nonsense design and great woods, and delivering excellent sound and feel at affordable prices.

Essentially a 12-string version of Seagull’s popular S6, the Coastline S12 Cedar is a dreadnought built almost entirely with Canadian woods: A solid cedar top, wild cherry back and sides, and a silver leaf maple neck. Typical of most Seagulls, the guitar has a short, 24.84" scale and a tapered headstock that ensures an almost-straight string path from the nut to the tuning machines. With a satin finish and basic appointments, including a herringbone rosette and simple white binding on the body, the guitar has a very get-down-to-business vibe that’s honest, and seems to say, “Hey, I’m a tool for making music. Let’s get to work!”

Our review guitar included the optional EPM Quantum I electronics, which includes an under-saddle pickup and a side-mounted preamp with controls for volume, bass, treble, and a built-in chromatic tuner. The system is powered by a 9V battery concealed in a dedicated compartment just adjacent to the endpin-jack.

Our review Coastline S12 is set up for some of the easiest-playing action I’ve come across on a 12-string. Combined with the short scale, this makes exploring the rosewood fretboard a delight. Like most Seagulls, the Coastline S12’s neck profile feels a little wide and chunky, and the nut width of 1.9" is certainly on the wider side of the spectrum—even for a 12-string.

Ratings

Pros:
Great fingerstyle sound and easy playing setup. High-quality materials.

Cons:
Onboard tuner hard to read. Noisy electronics.

Tones:

Playability:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$629

Seagull Guitars Coastline S12 Cedar QI
seagullguitars.com

With its smooth-turning enclosed chrome tuning machines and carefully cut nut slots, the guitar was easy to tune, but I found the onboard tuner to be less helpful than it could be. The tiny display made it hard to see whether a string was going sharp or flat, and I had to strike the string more frequently than with most modern tuners to keep the display active. There’s also no “auto-off” function, and when I accidentally left the tuner’s button engaged, it drained the battery, leaving the entire system dead.

Cedar tops are known for quick response, and the Seagull Coastline S12 is no exception. It’s both dynamic and complex when played with a soft touch and invites fast fingerstyle work. In fact, I’d barely acquainted myself with the guitar before I dove into the up-tempo “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” and a Ralph Towner-inspired improvisation.

When I got out a pick to strum the guitar, I was reminded that great response in the low end can lead to some compromises in definition when using a heavy pick attack. Bashing out chords meant less coherent tone and some buzzing, and the Seagull’s low action emphasized the trade-off. Plugging into my AER Compact 60 amp emphasized the Seagull’s preference for a softer attack even further. In this context, I had difficulty achieving a natural sound with anything but the softest attack, and I also found that the EPM system was a bit noisier than most contemporary pickup systems, with a slight hiss audible at higher volumes.

I’m certain that slightly higher action would improve the Seagull’s amplified performance. And if amplification is a primary criterion in your 12-string search, you may consider getting a Seagull sans stock electronics and adding your own. But if your playing depends on touch sensitivity and slinky playability, this cedar-topped Seagull is a steal.

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