It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars. Care to join me?
Ovation is a relative newcomer to the guitar world. Founded in the mid-60s by Charles Kaman, who also founded a helicopter design company, Ovation has been on the leading edge of guitar design right from the beginning.
The first Ovation guitar was designed by a team of aerospace engineers who were also woodworking hobbyists. Charles Kaman had an idea to design a new guitar, one that would improve on the acoustics (no pun intended) of the traditional acoustic guitar by changing the materials used in its construction.
The first Ovation model, the Adamas, was based on the traditional dreadnought design, but used a thin synthetic material for the back. The problem was that the seams that joined the back to the sides were unstable and the prone to breaking and splitting. Back to the drawing board. The engineering team redesigned the guitar, proposing to change the dreadnought design to allow for a parabolic back. The result was a more stable seam and more volume than a traditional dreadnought guitar. Every Ovation guitar has this distinctive curved back, although later designs have endeavoured to incorporate more shallow “bowls” than the earlier designs.
If ever an acoustic guitar can be considered a space-age instrument the Ovation can. Drawing from materials being utilized in helicopter design, including the carbon fiber tops of the Adamas line of guitars, Ovation has utilized the latest in engineering and design to stay remain at the forefront of guitar design. Every aspect of the guitar has been scrutinized to increase volume and reduce feedback.
Take the sound hole, for example. The biggest challenge to amplifying a traditional acoustic guitar has been the tendency of the signal to feedback through the sound hole. On some models, Ovation has moved the sound hole from the center of the face to the upper left bout of the guitar. This offset helps to break the amplification loop that creates feedback in the first place.
But it goes beyond just the position of the sound hole. Take a closer look. That’s right. There isn’t just one hole, there are multiple holes. The overall area of the sound hole cluster is the same as the traditional, centered sound hole, but the multiple sound holes make for a stronger soundboard (the face of the guitar) which means the bracing can be lighter and the overall weight of the guitar can also be lighter. For players with neck and shoulder issues, this can definitely extend their play time.
Ovation was also one of the first guitar companies to incorporate on-board electronics into the guitar design, including a tuner. The advantage to a gigging musician is pretty obvious – more freedom to move about on stage and less cost. Ovation even incorporated an MP3 recorder into the guitar design. The Ovation iDEA Celebrity was introduced in 2008 and is no longer in production, done in by unfavourable reviews of the recorder interface and the difficulty of operation. You have to admire Ovation’s moxy, though.
As for me, count me a fan. Being made of composite materials, Ovations are less susceptible to the impact of temperature and humidity that can cause their wooden kindred to lose tuning. They also don’t require the amount of humidity control of a wooden acoustic guitar. I will always be a “purist,” but my Ovation is definitely my “workhorse” guitar.