The Ovation family’s composite roundback design has always been a polarizing point: It can be quite comfortable, but it can also lead to awkward instrument movement during play. Even so, the Chinese-made AE44II-VV is one of those bargain flattops that’ll force longtime players to rethink their snobby, dismissive attitudes.

The AE44II’s spruce top features an understatedly rustic “vintage varnish” finish and impeccable construction. The neck’s slight-V profile and semi-gloss finish are super comfy, as are the uniformly beveled fret ends and rounded nut edges. Meanwhile, the medium-depth bowl features top-edge electronics with a remarkably easy-to-use tuner, a volume knob, and bass, mid, and treble sliders.

Acoustically, the AE44II has all the hallmarks of the Ovation brand: a balanced sound great for strumming, along with amenability to nuances of gently fingerpicked passages. The bass response won’t threaten nearby dreadnoughts’ egos, but it’s still respectable. Plugged in, the Applause confronts challenges similar to other affordable, single-element piezo systems: Sounds are a little nasal, bright, and bass-heavy with sliders at their midpoints, but boosting mids a bit and reducing treble and bass a tad yields impressively usable tones—especially considering the price point.

Test gear: QSC K Series powered PA speaker

Fingerstyle Through Royer R - 121 Mic

Ratings

Pros:
Super-solid build and setup. Clean, even, wonderfully intonated tones up and down the fretboard. Fantastic deal.

Cons:
Roundback design can be tricky to wrangle. Quacky piezo tones under heavy attack.

Street:
$299

Ovation Applause Elite AE44II-VV
ovationguitars.com

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