Cost: $275 new from Reverb
This guitar was generously lent for review by Alex from Orangewood Guitars.
Overview and Final Score: 8.0
The Oliver Mahogany Live is one of many fantastic and affordable acoustics from Orangewood Guitars. The grand concert sized body features a mahogany top, back, and sides and Fishman Sonitone pickups. The neck is also mahogany but with an Ovangkol fretboard and 20 comfortable frets. The Natural Satin finish is very eye catching, especially to fans of that aged, wooden look. Each guitar even comes with a pickguard that you can put on, just like a sticker, if you so choose. Overall, there is quite a bit to like about this guitar, especially for the price!
The regular acoustic sound on this guitar is great, definitely a step above other similarly priced acoustics, like my Yamaha F325D. The guitar’s grand concert design creates a full, balanced tone that easily fills small rooms and attracts ears. The mahogany wood also adds a certain bass-like quality to your playing, allowing for the snap of the high strings to nicely contrast the warmth and roundness of the low strings. Even without being plugged in, the guitar easily fills the room with rich harmonics that most guitars in this price range just can’t. To be fair, it is no Gibson Hummingbird in terms of creating a rich, full sound, but it is the best you can get sub-$300.
Once plugged in, the guitar starts to show just a bit more of its affordability. The Fishman Sonitone is a great, trusty pickup, but it just isn’t capable of capturing all that acoustic fullness due to its under-saddle position. The tone and volume knobs are also somewhat hard to reach, being located in the sound hole, making it more a chore to try to change them mid-song. Under-saddle, or piezo pickups, tend to pickup a bit more of the string’s vibrational energy, creating great output and sparkling cleans, but some of that lovely bass tone I mentioned above is cut off. Overall, it’s still phenomenal for the value and would be an excellent gigging instrument for any guitarist. But be warned, this guitar has A LOT of feedback when plugged in.
The playability was a lot better than I expected out of the box to be honest. The guitar came set up perfectly, and pretty much in tune even after transportation through a variety of climate conditions. Some of the frets were a bit rough, but the action was superb. Being that it’s a concert guitar, and not a cut-away style acoustic, many of the upper frets are a bit hard to reach. While this may be an issue for some guitarists, I would highly recommend this guitar to players who mainly stay between frets 0 and 15. For those who need more, there is also a cut-out Mahogany Live model named the “Morgan”.
Finish & Construction: 8
The construction on the guitar seems rock solid to me, the Fishman electronics didn’t create a lot of buzz or hum, just a ton of feedback when plugged into a variety of solid state and tube amplifiers. The input was in there pretty solidly, and I didn’t notice any cracking or noise when I tried to shake the wire and input housing around. Furthermore, the Natural Satin finish is fantastic, it feels strong and reliable, and gives the guitar a great looking, shiny wood finish. Some things have to be cheap on this guitar though, of course, and the tuners and frets needs some work. The tuners are a bit hard to turn, and generally seem to be cheap and prone to damage, but they do keep tune well!
This guitar is one of the best acoustic-electric guitars on the market for the money, hands down. For $275 you get a gig-ready guitar that is capable of beautiful sounds both plugged and un-plugged. Furthermore, the stunning finish helps the guitar stick out a bit from the crowd of cheap Yamaha, Epiphone, and Mitchell models. Even better, the guitar comes with a hefty, padded gig bag that seemingly kept the guitar in great shape through its transit to me. If you want a distinct acoustic-electric on a budget, this is the guitar for you.