Guitar Player Magazine - iBeam

By Art Thompson
July 2002

Guitar Player Magazine – July 2002

iBeam-equipped Goodall Concert Jumbo

SNAPSHOT: The Goodall Concert Jumbo ($4,695 retail as tested/street price N/A) is a lovely, handmade instrument that offers excellent playability, beautiful woods, and head-turning looks. Equipped with an L.R. Baggs iBeam active pickup system, the Concert Jumbo is well suited for stage use and direct recording. It receives an Editors' Pick Award.

PREMIUM TICKET
Goodall Concert Jumbo

Since 1978, Hawaii-based Goodall Guitars have been building high-end steel-string flat-tops that rival offerings from boutique builders such as Breedlove, Dana Bourgeois, Collings, Lowden, and Santa Cruz. The Goodall Concert Jumbo ($3,400 base; $4,695 as tested with Englemann spruce top, "bent custom" cutaway, and L.R. Baggs iBeam pickup) combines superior tone and playability with tasteful appointments and plenty of eye-catching details.

CONSTRUCTION: You can literally feel the quality of this guitar as you run your hand over its gloss-finished rosewood body and take in the beautiful koa bindings, mosaic back stripe, and abalone rosette. The neck has a nice, rounded shape, and its satin finish is warm and inviting. The polished frets are shaped well and their ends seem practically invisible as you slide your hand along the fretboard's edge. Other cool touches include a polished bone nut and saddle, vintage-style diamond position markers, and an ebony heel cap and peghead facing.

The CJ's interior reveals carefully shaped wooden parts and a generally clean appearance, despite some excess glue spotted in a few areas. The optional L.R. Baggs iBeam pickup ($295) mounted under the bridge plate feeds a discrete, class-A preamp hidden inside a cylindrical endpin jack. Nestled in a small, woven-nylon pouch, the 9-volt battery resides near the neck block. There are no controls on the instrument, so all tone and volume adjustments must be made externally.

PLAYABILITY AND TONES: Thanks to the great-feeling neck and spot-on setup, the CJ is a delight to play. The wide fretboard is ideal for fingerstyle or chord-melody playing, and the cutaway (a $595 option) makes it easy to reach the highest frets. You could play this guitar for hours without fatigue, and its broad, rich tones are endlessly satisfying. The lows are deep and strong, and the highs crisp and sweet. Everything is in balance, and even the complex midrange doesn't overshadow the other frequencies. Though its body is large, the CJ isn't about dreadnought-style punch. Rather, this big-sounding instrument fills the space around you with lush, vibrant tones.

AMPLIFIED SOUND: To audition the CJ's electric side, I plugged into several acoustic combos (including a Trace Elliot TA100R, an Ultrasound 2x8, and a Hughes & Kettner zenAmp dialed to an acoustic preset), and also documented the direct sound by running straight into a Sony DAT Walkman and a Zoom MRS-1044 hard-disk recorder.

Even through the Trace -- which tends to highlight the worst qualities of piezo pickups -- the Baggs system yielded smooth, balanced tones. I had to strike the strings extremely hard to elicit any of the harsh transients that piezos are famous for. One thing I did notice when running into an amp was a persistent overtone that became rather distracting at higher volumes. According to Baggs, this is because the iBeam"hears" not just the strings, but also the guitar's top -- which, in this case, was resonating at around 440Hz. Baggs further explained that because the iBeam's preamp is voiced for direct use, running through most acoustic amps (which typically boost the lows and highs while attenuating the mids) will exacerbate the presence of "wolf" tones.

It was another story, however, when recording direct. In this mode, the iBeam captured the CJ's clarity and warmth with astonishing realism. Listening to the playback on headphones, it was easy to believe that the recordings had been made with a quality mic -- the sound was that airy and dimensional. Quite impressive considering that this test was done without the benefit of Baggs' Para Acoustic D.I. outboard EQ/direct box ($209).

BOTTOM LINES: With its fine acoustic tone, superb playability, and top-notch electronics, the Concert Jumbo certainly has a lot to offer. Songwriters and solo players will dig its inspiring tones, and you can rely on it to sound great even when plugged straight into a P.A. or recording console. Given the number of high-end guitars available these days, choosing one to fulfill your dreams is no easy task. Granted, the Concert Jumbo is an expensive proposition, but you could probably play it for a lifetime without feeling a moment of buyer's remorse.

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