A mid-priced take on a slotted-headstock, 12-fret dreadnought with big bass and a lot of class.
Solid build. Big bass response. Great finish. Easy-to-play neck.
Fourteen-fret dread fans may miss some sustain and high-end resonance.
Alvarez Masterworks MDR70ESB
Mid-priced acoustic guitars are a tricky proposition. The maker has the unenviable task of building a guitar that's affordable but upmarket enough in sound and playability to justify spending what's still a considerable chunk of change. That design directive generally means compromise at every turn. So, when I received the Alvarez Masterworks MDR70ESB, I thought a lot about what concessions Alvarez might have made. But sitting there in the case, everything about this guitar's looks belie its $999 street price. From its 12-fret neck, cool vintage sunburst, all-solid spruce and rosewood construction, slotted headstock, and hip 12th-fret inlay, the Alvarez sets up big expectations.
Big Guitar, Big Looks
The MDR70ESB is a formidable guitar with a big dreadnought body—15 7/8" across its lower bout and 5 7/8" deep—that feels sturdy but comfortable. The MDR70ESB features a solid AAA North American Sitka spruce top and solid rosewood back and sides. Alvarez's signature bridge looks like a wide, upside down "W," which I dig—it's distinctive without being too clever. A two-ring abalone and ABS rosette dress up the top, and, along with the high-gloss poly top, they give the guitar just enough visual pop. Just inside the soundhole are controls for an LR Baggs Element active system.
The MDR70ESB's mahogany neck features an Indian Laurel fretboard devoid of ornamentation except the 12th fret inlay, where the neck meets the body, which is a sharp touch. I can't help but get excited by the look of a slotted headstock. And paired with Alvarez's inlaid logo and open gear tuners, this one is exceptionally attractive and classy.
All About That Bass
Plucking the Alvarez, the guitar's resounding bass is immediately noticeable but not overbearing. It has a dry, balanced sound that offers plenty of note separation. Fingerpicking and arpeggiated picking are a pleasure, and any kind of percussive playing feels alive with so much plucky attack on tap. At times, that dryness is less of an asset, and some midrange and high frequencies can sound muted relative to the robust bass—a not-uncommon byproduct of 12-fret design. At times, this means the MDR70ESB sounds a little more akin to a small-bodied guitar with a lot of bass response. Fingerpicking players may love this tone profile (as well as the fingerstyle-friendly 1 3/4" nut width). Fans of big, D-28-style stumming tones may find it less attractive. Either way, the Alvarez's tone makeup is a very cool alternative to classic 14-fret dreadnought tones.
I can't help but get excited by the look of a slotted headstock. And paired with Alvarez's inlaid logo and open gear tuners, this one is exceptionally attractive and classy."
Moving around the neck, notes ring evenly and the action is smooth and pliable. Open position playing is comfortable and that even response makes for easy transitions up the neck, where a slinky feel makes for easy bending. There's plenty of room to navigate the entire fretboard with precision. While doing so, I found the satin-finished neck to feel a little anonymous, but that's a matter of preference and it certainly felt comfortable if not distinctive.
The MDR70ESB is a classy but understated instrument that represents a genuine alternative to classic, 14-fret dreadnought tone profiles. It shines in unexpected ways. And rather than providing lush pianistic arpeggios and rich, sustaining chords associated with 14-fret dreads, it's a dry, percussive guitar that delivers a lot of bass response and provides even, precise, and strong fundamental tones. It's also an easy-to-play instrument that is comfortable to hold. And thanks to discreetly situated onboard electronics, it's ready to gig—making the $999 street price feel a lot more like a value than a mid-price compromise.
- Alvarez ADA1965 Review - Premier Guitar ›
- Alvarez Delta00EDLX/SHB Review - Premier Guitar ›
- Alvarez Yairi's New Ultra-Thin Body - Premier Guitar ›
Which one do you prefer?
Rhett and Zach unpack the big news for secondhand guitar sellers and buyers: Sweetwater has launched their new Gear Exchange. How does it compare to Reverb, Craigslist, and Marketplace? To find out, Zach takes the site for a spin and buys a pedal. He calls the process both “very easy” and “normal.” They discuss the pros and cons of the various used-gear outlets and share tips for not getting got when buying gear. Plus, Zach grew a mustache, Mythos Pedals is moving, and he talks about his forthcoming line of Strat pickups inspired by Hendrix’s reverse-stagger setup.
Sweetwater vs. Reverb
Get 10% off from StewMac when you visit stewmac.com/dippedintone
The Royale was designed to deliver loud and vivid clean tone with a responsive, tactile low end.
Designed to offer massive headroom, the 50-watt Royale Head lets you indulge in smooth clean tones at even higher volumes on stage without any breakup. Select between class A and class AB modes, with its variable mode switch, so you can choose between gushing Supro tone or a punchier, tight midrange response.
Introducing the Royale Head & Extension Cabinet | Supro
The Royale 1x12 Extension Cabinet features the custom Supro BD12 high-power driver, offering the same mid-range punch and clean articulation as the Royale combo but with additional stage volume. More info: suprousa.com.
Royale Head | $1,499.99
Royale Cab | $669.99
D'Addario Foundation's education project sets out to help schools throughout the country and kicks off with an online auction.
The D’Addario Foundation will host a virtual auction from November 9 to November 30, 2022, with the overarching goal of raising $30,000 for the D'Addario Foundation’s Immersive Music Challenge.
Inspired by a new study published in the Journal of Youth Development, the D'Addario Foundation recently launched the Immersive Music Challenge. This ambitious project will help school districts and charter systems throughout the country boost academic achievement by implementing effective, multi-day-per-week music-based mentoring programs that include training, administration, and evaluation. The D’Addario Foundation has invested in an incredible team of consultants that include school superintendents, public health experts, and data analysts to ensure sound results. In addition, D’Addario is actively seeking corporate partners to support the establishment of these programs and champion their success.
Thanks to the generosity of D'Addario artists and industry partners including Gibson, PRS Guitars, D'Angelico, Taylor Guitars, and more, one-of-a-kind items & experiences are up for bidding. Some of the items include:
- Evans Drumhead signed by Anderson Paak
- ESP Mirage Deluxe '87 Signed by Bruce Kulick of KISS and Grand Funk Railroad
- Gibson Les Paul Custom electric guitar
- D'Addario bass string set signed by Bryan Beller of the Aristocrats
- PRS S2 McCarty 594 Singlecut
- Virtual Lesson with Marty Schwartz
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Xotic Effects unveils an updated version of their classic boost pedal.
Xotic’s RC Booster pedal is back to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The RC Booster’s original design was a customer favorite due to its versatile clean boost, active treble, bass, gain and volume controls. This classic reissue will join their regular pedal lineup permanently.
• Transparent boost pedal for electric guitar
• Up to 20dB of boost for adding volume or sending your amp into overdrive
• Treble and bass EQ controls with +/-15dB range for fine-tuning your sound
• True bypass switching removes the effect from your signal path when disengaged
• Powered via 9-volt battery or optional AC adapter (sold separately)
• 9-18 volts
The first 1000 pedals will contain a special limited edition packaging with special items and actual guitar picks from Andy Timmons, Paul Jackson Jr, Dean Brown, Kirk Fletcher, Allen Hinds, Chris Duarte, Scott Henderson, Oz Noy, Michael Thompson, Yuya Komoguchi, Toshi Yanagi.
RC Booster with limited edition packaging street price is $172.00. More info: xotic.us.