The Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE: A Fine Hybrid Guitar
There are acoustic guitars and electric ones. Then, there are the acoustic-electrics. The Gibson Songwriter is one of the best of that breed.
- A Delightfully Surprising Musical Experience
- Construction and Appearance
- The Electronics
- Playability and Sound
- The Bottom Line
A Delightfully Surprising Musical Experience
Once a staunch player of only acoustic guitars, the Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE has brought me around to realizing that there is an acoustic-electric instrument which sacrifices nothing in being playable either way. An old bias dies thanks to the Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE.
I have played guitar for about forty-five years now. Not remarkably well (as anyone who has ever listened to my posted audio songs knows) but well enough to enjoy myself and to entertain others. I have always eschewed electric guitars and the hybrids known as "acoustic-electrics." I recently added a Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE to my otherwise completely acoustic stable of eight guitars and have been marvelously delighted with what I have discovered.
For those unfamiliar with guitar terminology, the CE in the name of the model indicates that it is a cutaway (C) design where the body of the guitar has been shaped differently from the standard classic acoustic shape to allow for easier hand and finger access to the higher frets; Those up the neck and closer to the sound hole, and is playable electrically (E.) The Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE seems to have successfully captured the best of both worlds - A first quality acoustic six-string guitar with built-in electronics allowing it to be played with amplification by simply plugging a (removable) cable into an amplifier. I did not think it possible!
Built by Gibson at its facility in Bozeman, Montana, the Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE is an extremely nicely and carefully constructed, beautiful to look at and marvelously easy to play. The sound is truly outstanding played either with it plugged in or as a straight acoustic instrument. Here are some of the specifics that contribute to an instrument that is up to professional performance standards and is also enjoyable for guitar addicted amateurs like myself.
Construction and Appearance
The Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio is hand-made using all top quality woods. The top is Sitka spruce, the neck mahogany, slim and easy to handle and the back and sides of the body are or beautifully matched and polished solid Indian rosewood. The finger board is highly polished and smooth ebony ornamented with the famous and somewhat emphatic Gibson Mother of Pearl split trapezoid inlays. The bindings (The edging where the surfaces are joined) are of triple ply, hyper-strengthened, white material. The abalone rosette inlay (the ornamentation around the sound hole) is striking and there is a classic Herringbone strip down the middle of the back.
The Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE bears the classic Gibson logo and famous full-crown inlay design on the headstock in Mother of Pearl and has Gibson's readily recognizable tortoise shell pick guard installed on each one. The tuners are top quality Grover gold kidney style and adjust effortlessly.
The internal arched and scalloped bracing is Gibson's own design focuses the sound toward the sound hole and makes it, in and of itself, an impressive acoustic speaker of its own.
The overall assembly is flawless, the seams clean and the overall appearance, one that I would characterize as elegantly understated. Just sitting on its stand, it has the presence of a luthier's work of art.
Mine came set up with low action as is my preference and with medium gauge strings which I may decide to change out for light weight ones over time to make long-term playing a tad more comfortable.
The entire product is finished off with a beautifully hand-rubbed nitrocellulose finish on all outer surfaces.
This Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE has reshaped their standard square shoulder dreadnought (D) design in two ways. There is the CE configuration and then the fact that the body is slimmer and easier to handle than a traditionally sized dreadnought guitar. The Songwriter series also has a model built in standard Gibson square shouldered dreadnought shape for those who would prefer it.
A Fishman Prefix Plus-T Acoustic Pickup System electronic system is installed but seems to not detract at all from the smoothness and resonance of the acoustic sound of the guitar when it is played without amplification. These top quality electronics allow for a much broader spectrum of playability than can be expected in either a full acoustic or completely electric guitar.
The electronic controls are mounted in the top of the side nearest the player's eyes and include an electronic tuner, and controls for volume, a four-way equalizer for fine tuning the sound you want, as well as controls for frequency response and a 'notch' adjustment that manages feedback form the amplifier so as not to distort the sound. Uniquely, the controls also include one called "phase" which provides an entirely alternate style of tonality.
For a formerly exclusively acoustic guitarist, there is a certain but not complex learning curve involved in learning to use the electronics to achieve the sound you want for a particular style or piece.
Playability and Sound
No guitar is ever any better than the way it plays sounds. It is probably easier to produce a nice looking guitar than it is to make one that plays with ease and sounds the way you really want it to each and every time you pick it up. Somehow, Gibson, which has been building guitars in the United States for over 100 years (since 1890) has managed to achieve both in this Deluxe Studio Songwriter.
The action is smooth and easy, the tuners are tight and it holds tuning exceedingly well and like most other Gibson acoustics, it is 'voiced' by design, to create a sound that is equally impressive played alone or as an accompaniment to the human voice. The design of the neck and the extraordinary quality of the ebony used on the fingerboard make this Gibson Songwriter CE among the smoothest and easiest to play guitars I have ever handles.
In all ranges, bass, mid-range and treble, the sounds are pure and true. The sustain, amplified or not, is rich and remarkable.
I could not help but compare it to my favorite straight acoustic, a Martin HD28 and found that although the sounds each have qualities unique to their makers, one is, in no objective way, superior to the other. They are simply different. Having the option of adjusting the tones and balance of the Gibson Songwriter is, however, a nice counter-point to the steadfast consistency of the Martin.
The Bottom Line
I am reborn as a guitar player. I continue to enjoy my traditionally acoustic friends (of which I currently own seven,) but I consider my ear, taste and attitude to have been further developed by having this wonderful experience with the Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio CE.
The Songwriter Deluxe has a MSRP of just over $3,268. and retails on-line for $2500.- $3200. I was fortunate enough to find a gently used and well cared for one on Craigslist for around $1300. from a highly motivated seller. This is not cheap in any case and is an investment in my own development as a musician. There are certainly both more and less expensive acoustic-electric guitars available, but I am not sure there is a better one.
It is a delightful experience that actually makes the guitarist feel and sound a tad better than they really may be!