Last Updated on May 3, 2023 by GuitarsCamp
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In the world of acoustic guitars, a few names strike out at you right away. Names like Guild, Yamaha and Martin are sought after by musicians the world over. All have their pros and cons, but one brand comes to the forefront immediately, Ovation.
Ovation Guitar Company is a guitar manufacturing company based in Bloomfield, Connecticut. It is a holding of the Kaman Music Corporation. Founded in 1966 by Charles Kaman, the first Ovation guitar, the “Balladeer” was unveiled in February 1967.
The brand gained popularity all the way into the 1980’s when it was common to see Ovations on stage with well known artists whenever acoustic instruments were used. This was due to the ability to “cut through” other instruments, as well as the instruments’ tendency towards low feedback.
Charles Kaman was an aerodynamics and worked alongside helicopter great Igor Sikorsky. Kaman took the technology from building helicopter rotor blades and applied it to the guitar. The result was the use of synthetic plastics rather than wood for the sides and top as well as rounding the back as opposed to the flat backs of other guitars. This produced a unique and modern guitar that no other luthier has been able to replicate since.
The Ovation Guitar Company has also made bass guitars and solid body electrics, but the acoustic remains the staple of Ovation design and manufacturing focus.
Oddly enough, Kaman got into the luthier business after a tour of the CF Martin factory. He saw that the instruments made by Martin were assembled with hammers and glue. He saw a chance for improvement and offered to buy the company from Martin, who refused.
Kaman went about designing guitars with his new ideas and technology. A while later, he made his offer to Martin again, warning that he would enter the market as a major competitor if Martin refused this second offer. Martin refused, and the Ovation Guitar Company was born.
Ovation boasts numerous models and designs. This is punctuated by the early use of electronics like piezo pickups, preamps and integrated equalization. Many of the earlier models of Ovation acoustics are now collector’s items from a standpoint of obscurity.
The quality is definitely there in Ovation instruments. Most are acoustic/electric, but there are strictly acoustic models. The A/E models can be played as rigorously as solid body electrics, then mellow for an acoustic bridge without the need to switch guitars or use a “daisy” stand.
The tone of Ovation acoustics is unparalleled in the industry, and the design is almost indestructible. The most common damage reported is cracks in the top, usually from being dropped or bumped into. The life of an Ovation is literally in the hands of the owner.
There really is no best acoustic guitar. If you have your heart set on an Ovation guitar, go to a music store and play a couple of Ovations. See how they feel, play and sound. Play them acoustically. Plug it in and see how the pickup and equalizer sounds.
Then make your decision. There is no rush. Take your time and find the right Ovation for your needs.
For quality, tone, sound and versatility, Ovation is a good choice. Not necessarily the best choice for you, but a good starting point.