Brad on his VAD-04
I have had this guitar since 5th October 2017, since which time I have been ‘acclimatising’ it and, naturally, playing it to allow it to bed in. So far, I have not made any adjustment on the truss rod.
That last sentence may seem a bit odd when you consider that this is a guitar which folds at the 14th fret ….. I have left a pause there to allow any of those not familiar with the concept of a folding guitar – other than those guitars folded permanently by airport baggage handlers – to recover their composure. How can you have a truss rod on a guitar that folds at the neck? Well, it does.
I shall now take a few steps back and explain my purchase. I like to take a guitar with me on my travels, which is reasonably easy when driving in the UK and also on mainland Europe. However, travelling by aircraft introduces a different and horrifying thought to carriage of a full-size guitar by virtue of any such item being invariably consigned to checked baggage. Anyone who has seen cases being loaded in to the hold of an aircraft will understand my reluctance to have similar treatment meted out to a guitar. All that is summed up in a song by Tom Paxton, ‘Thank You Republic Airlines’. I digress.
During the past three summers I have opted for small ‘travel guitars’, starting with the very good Vintage Viator (review elsewhere on this website) but, due to arthritis affecting my left hand found using anything above the fifth fret severely cramped my hand and very much restricted playing. Just over 18 months ago I bought a Sigma TM15e which is slightly bigger than the Viator, though still gave me problems playing higher up the neck. I decided that I needed a full-size guitar to alleviate some of this problem. I knew about the Voyage Air Guitar instruments and made enquiry on the cost … just as we had the result of the referendum on membership of the European Union. The pound plunged so fast that calculating the cost became a daily exercise in finding out the true cost of that vote and, with regret, I had to decide the instrument was more than I could reasonably want to pay.
Time moved on and with some recovery of the pound (still volatile though), and some extra cash saved, I revived my interest and made further enquiry. There had been a price drop in the meantime in both the cost of the instrument and shipping charges. My enquiries were dealt with in a very helpful way and, clutching my credit card, I took the plunge and ordered the VAD-04 model – a full-size dreadnought. That was on 2nd October 2017 at around 18:45 BST and duly received said instrument on 5th October 2017 at around 10:15.
Whoops! I forgot to mention that the vendor is based in mid-California, USA, which is 8 hours behind British Summertime … and that was at the time they were experiencing severe fires in North California. That delivery time is what I call good customer service.
Now to the guitar itself. Unpacking was done with a great deal of trepidation, though unfounded. The guitar comes with its own padded bag – far better than any padded gig-bag I have experienced – and the packaging gave good protection, so any latent fears were proved unfounded. The guitar was folded, as would be expected, already strung, with the loose strings folded inside the sound hole, so all I had to do was unfold, lock the neck in place and play, again, with trepidation. I followed the clear instructions that came with the guitar and found I had a playable guitar. It did need retuning, though not by a lot. The temperature difference between California and here in the South East of England at that time was around 16C, so, not bad in need for slight retuning.
It is always difficult to decide on the sound of a new guitar until it has bedded in for a week or two. However, out of the bag this sounded very good (a slight understatement) with the standard D’Addario light strings, phosphor bronze, on it. After an hour or so (quite a big ‘so’) I thought it appropriate to let the guitar have a rest, but not by folding it back up into its case. The instructions are that when not needed for travelling treat as a normal guitar and place on a stand/hanger as you would do for other non-folding guitars.
As I write it is 13th November 2017, nearly five and a half weeks since I received the guitar, and the ‘bedding in’ process is going very well. The guitar has a very easy action and holds its tuning as well as any guitar I have had in my nearly 69 years, if not better. The tone very clear across the range from bass ‘E’ to as high as I can get on the 1st string – it is not a cutaway so only to 14th fret as a single note. The resonance from the guitar is excellent with a very clean sustain and great transmission through the guitar body. I timed a plucked open ‘A’ string as 42.3 seconds to total decay – it might have been longer as my hearing has obviously ‘decayed’ at my age.
It hasn’t cured my arthritis – no miracle cure was offered – but the action is just right for my hands and very comfortable. The guitar is surprisingly light and very well balanced with a strap on the heel button (really the neck locking screw) and the end button.
Do I have any negative comments? I can only compare with my Martin and say it doesn’t quite have the ‘boom’ of that, though must add that is a very, very subjective and hypercritical judgement. I use Elixir lights on my guitars and will change this guitar to them when change is necessary, which may give a much fairer judgment. I have to be fair and say that comment is meant only as a comparative rather than definitive one.
Overall I am delighted with the guitar. It is well constructed – ruggedness will only be judged by time on its travels – sounds better than many far more expensive guitars I have experienced and, not least, it looks, sounds and feels a quality instrument. It has travelled to Liverpool already, although I was unable to jam as much as I would have liked due to suffering from a typical autumnal cold – me, not the guitar.
Finally, I must give full credit to the quality of customer service afforded me by Voyage Air Guitar (Barney Leeson being my contact) which was very helpful, focused on me as the customer and not in the least pushing for a sale. Sadly, if you want one of these instruments you will have to import it from the USA, which means VAT, Import Duty and ‘Customs Clearance fees’ to be added – they are easy enough to work out – and, of course, currency conversion fees/charges by your bank. Nonetheless, I would say very much worth it.