Reviews & Testimonials

Hands-On Review: VAD-06

Songwriter Series VAD-06 Dreadnought
A different breed of travel guitar
By Mike Fitch, Musician’s Friend Staff Writer

Creating an acoustic guitar that’s both truly satisfying to play and compact enough to be an easy traveling companion has until now proved to be a daunting challenge for guitar makers. Voyage-air Guitar has come up with an innovative approach to the problem, designing guitars so pleasurable to play that it’s easy to forget you’re playing a guitar that folds up for travel. It’s perhaps more accurate to say that Voyage-air makes high-end guitars with the added advantage of innovative folding necks that allow them to be carried in a compact backpack that fits in an overhead compartment or under your seat.

Up until now air travel with an acoustic guitar has meant either buying the instrument its own seat, checking it as baggage in a bulky ATA travel case, or settling for one of the short-scale guitars marketed specifically as travel instruments. These mini-instruments are great for keeping your chops in shape, but they don’t compare in projection or volume to a full-sized dreadnought or orchestral guitar; hence they are typically only used as practice instruments. They are woefully inadequate for jamming or performance use with musicians using full-sized instruments.

Enter world-class luthier and recognized guitar icon (the guys at Martin call him that) Harvey Leach, who was approached by a client requesting a full-sized, professional-grade acoustic guitar that would break down into a compact package for travel. After experimenting with detachable necks, Leach finally hit on an ingenious solution—a hinged joint that allows the neck to fold up without having to remove the strings. It’s a logical extension of the bolt-on neck, with the specialized hinge and knurled bolt providing a rock-solid connection to the guitar’s rosewood heel plate. Voyage-air Guitar now offers six instruments with this patented folding technology in a range of body styles and woods, including dreadnought, orchestral, and cutaway models. For this review I was sent the VAD-06, a spruce and mahogany dreadnought—one of the new and affordable Songwriter Series guitars that took home the “Best In Show” award at the 2009 Winter NAMM music industry tradeshow.

Know when to fold ’em

I unzipped the sturdy backpack style case, taking note of the straps that keep the guitar neck in place when folded and the thick padding that protects the guitar’s durable, high-gloss finish. I lifted the guitar out, admiring the broad expanse of solid Sitka spruce top and the tight grain of the mahogany back and sides. Unfolding the guitar for playing was intuitive and simple. It takes only seconds to move the neck into playing position and secure it with the threaded bolt that doubles as a strap button. Folding it back up is just as intuitive. Voyage-air has an excellent video demonstrating the process on its website.

I tuned the guitar up and strummed some chords. Full, deep sound filled the room, ranging from rich, piano-like lows and mids to sparkling high notes. The African mahogany neck’s slim profile was easy to get my hand around, and the ebony fingerboard with large frets made for pleasurable fingerpicking, with the hinged joint between the 13th and 14th frets all but imperceptible to the touch. Again, playing my VAD-06 was a lot like playing other high-end acoustics—such as my favorite Martin mahogany dread.

Another surprise came when I unfolded it the next day to find it still remarkably in tune, requiring just a few minor tweaks! I found it was fun to see the astonished looks on people’s faces when I unfolded it and started playing in tune.

Supporting cast

Along with their very high-quality folding hinge mechanism that comes with a lifetime guarantee, a number of other features help make these guitars world-class performers. A “captured nut” design has enclosed channels in place of the usual slots to keep the strings in place when the guitar is folded down. A fret in the zero position establishes the sound range of the open strings, a feature of many gypsy and European guitar designs resulting in near-perfect intonation. The compensated saddle lets you adjust the string action, if you like, though the default string height felt quite comfortable to me. Forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing is used in the body to enhance resonance and sustain.

A simple dark back strip; three-ring, white rosette inlay work; flared black pickguard; and six-ply white top binding accent the attractive look of the woods without overstatement. The streamlined, compact headstock design is reminiscent of an electric guitar and provides a comfortable balance. Truss rod access is easy, and die-cast chrome tuners provide sure, accurate tuning.

A portable tone-fest

The VAD-06 definitely won me over, but don’t just take my word for it. Top singer-songwriters including Brad Paisley, fingerpicker extraordinaire Thom Bresh, Chris Wallin, Lisa Carver, and others are big fans of Voyage-air guitars. Easier air travel is just one of the advantages offered by these instruments. Many have commented on the ease and convenience of the backpack case that lets you keep your hands free and eliminates the hand-strain of lugging around a conventional heavy guitar case. The Voyage-Air’s advantages aren’t limited to air travel. Players are finding them ideal for taking on foot, motorcycle, bicycle, and even on horseback! Now you can take a guitar with you on all your travels with no compromise in playability or tone.

Owner Testimonials

  • This is a beautiful sounding instrument. It has a distinct sound of its own and that in and of itself is extremely attractive. The finish and construction of the instrument is of a high standard. 

    Gerry G - VAD-04LH with a LR BAGGS Element VTC pickup

  • I have been a pro guitar tech for over 40 years now. I have a vaom-04 in my personal arsenal that I’ve had about 4 years. I absolutely love it. It’s been on several airlines in the overhead and on many trips by car. The gig bag is great too as it holds all the 04’s gear (soundhole pup, tuner, strings, picks, etc.) And also clothes and some suitcase items for an overnight. It’s like a piece of luggage that happens to have a guitar in it as well. Very cool! 

    Dean - VAOM-04

  • The action is the same as my Taylor 514 CE, so my practice is undisturbed on the road. The sound is also very good for the price. I think I have one of your less expensive models, but it sounds quite good. Thanks for making such a great guitar. 

    Jim N. - VAOM-02

  • I am extremely happy with the guitar. I can’t believe how good it sounds and its overall playability. The pick up you installed  is incredible . Amplified it sounds way better than my Takamine which was considerably more expensive.

    Phil C. - VAD-04 w/ Stage Pro Anthem

  • Unzip the case, unfold his Voyage-Air guitar, lock the neck in place...and then play the guitar without even retuning -- all in the matter of about two minutes! The guitar played in nearly perfect tuning and the tone was stunning. In that instant I was hooked. The timing of my discovery of the Voyage-Air guitar could not have been better. 

    Karl D. - VAOM-04LH

  • My first impressions are this is an excellent instrument, even compared to my Martin, with a good tone across the range. I have capo’d to the 7th fret and found the tuning remains accurate. I am amazed at how light it is, which will be a bonus when taking on plane trips.

     Brad C. - VAD-04

    FOR INTERNATIONAL ORDERS - The Grand Total is for the product and shipping only. This total does not reflect any additional import duties or taxes that may apply. Any import duties are paid upon delivery/pickup of the guitar and is the responsibility of the purchaser. Please refer to your country’s customs and import offices for the correct amounts and pertinent information. Note: Left handed guitars can take 5-7 days to ship. Pickup options can take 3-5 days to ship. Rush shipments are available, additional expedited shipping charges and handling fees will apply.