This go-anywhere, carbon fiber guitar will sound great in any environment.
I have a real fondness for acoustic guitars. I love the smell of the wood, the beauty of the grain, the intricacy of the inlays and bindings, and the subtle differences between the many different tone woods used to create the magic. So I’m always a little skeptical any time I approach a carbon fiber guitar.
I’ve played non-wood guitars before and I’m well aware that some really fine instruments (including violins, violas, cellos and basses) are now being made of carbon fiber. I know that despite the old taboos, guitars made of synthetic materials offer real promise, especially for durability and resistance to weather-related issues.
So putting aside my prejudices, I pulled this guitar-of-the-future off the wall. I had hopes for something interesting, but I wasn’t really expecting what I got.
What I got was the amazing Composite Acoustics GXi. It’s not your old man’s guitar and it isn’t apologizing to anybody for being different. The GXi I played (depending on your background) is L.A. Dodgers blue, or Brigham Young, University of Kentucky, or NY Giants blue—but whichever, it’s bright metallic blue and you can’t miss it. But I’m also happy to report that you shouldn’t miss it.
The first thing you’ll notice about this American-made beauty—after the color—is the offset sound hole. CA makes other models with centered sound holes, but on the GXi, the front port is moved to the upper portion of the bass side. Experimenting with the placement has allowed CA’s engineers to tune the top for enhanced bass response. It also puts the sound source a little closer to the player’s ear, which makes it seem to snap even more.
The one-piece, molded body is cut away at the 14th fret, and relieved on the back, like a Strat. The back is also recessed slightly where the neck joins the body, for easy access to upper frets. Here again, the molded—rather than carved—body has a real advantage, since modifying the shape doesn’t compromise its structural integrity.
The neck is noticeably different. Because of the carbon fiber construction, it’s shallower than most, but straight and rigid. Because it is so shallow, the standard 1.75” nut feels slightly wider when you first grab it. But once you start playing, the 25.5” scale and 14” radius feel very comfortable. (NOTE: The GXi Narrow-neck model with 1.69” nut is also available.)
But how does it sound?
Now that your eyes and hands have gotten past the initial surprises, it’s time to mess with your ears. Strum an open E or G chord and BAM! The bass response is awesome—very much like a Gibson J-200 or other jumbo, but on steroids. This grand concert-sized guitar has real authority in the low end. Moving around, the mids and highs are also crisp and articulated, and very even. It sounds a bit different than wood, but it sounds really good.
I can’t say if it would be my first choice for studio rhythm section work, where those bass notes can often get in the way. But for solo or band gigs, this guitar could really support a singer and fill up some sonic space. A Fishman Prefix Plus-T pickup is included and it offers plenty of tone control. You won’t have to worry about getting lost in any mix.
Take It Away
But the best part of this instrument is that it can go anywhere, in any conditions, and not fall prey to the typical temperature and humidity demons. The carbon fiber body and neck are all but bulletproof. The bridge is also carbon fiber and the fingerboard is made of reinforced polymer. So when the Composite Acoustics folks say their guitars are “impervious to climate,” they’re not kidding.
Imagine no more humidifying during dry winter months or concerns about the top shrinking or cracking if you go to the mountains; no more muddy tone in humid climates, or surprise string rattles and buzzes every time you change locations. This really could be the ultimate instrument for any touring musician or anyone else who wants to travel with their guitar.
If you’re a staunch traditionalist, this might not be the guitar for you. But if you have an open mind, appreciative ears and a practical side that would love having a dependable, great-sounding instrument every time you take it out of the gig bag, a Composite Acoustics guitar may be your perfect axe.
List price is $2,799 but store price is typically $2,399. In addition to solid blue, the GXi is also available in Wine Red Burst, Solid Metallic Charcoal, Solid White or Carbon Burst.
I’ve played two other CA models, and they are all impressive. I would certainly recommend any of them, especially if you travel.