A Perfect Union Of Form And Function
For years, I was a snob when it came to gigging with acoustic guitars and thought a hard case was the only thing that would provide the protection that I needed when transporting a guitar. In recent years, several manufacturers have been working in an area called hybrid cases which offer all of the convenience of a gig-bag with protection associated with a hard case.
The Mono M80 Acoustic hybrid case lists for $260 (and sells for $215) on their site, but the question is, does it deliver?
The short answer is yes. And it delivers in a big way.
I’ve said before that I believe that a key component of design is transparency. In other words, a product should serve its function so well that you are only aware of how well designed something is when you’re really looking at it. The M80 is a model of transparent design. Let’s take a look at some of its features.
At a little over 6 pounds, the M80 is very light weight and provides a great deal of protection by using a mix of foam and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene – a thermoplastic that is noted for its resistance to impact.) The outside is covered in a waterproof vinyl material Mono calls Sharkskin™. Whatever it is, it works. A recent spat of monsoon type weather in NY allowed me to test it vigorously and everything in the bag stayed dry. Futhermore, the bottom of the case has an industrial grade (PVC free) rubber exterior that’s scuff resistant with added “feet” to add protection to the bottom of the guitar.
The back of the M80 has two straps for a chest harness, but should you want to carry the guitar by the handle, a large back pocket will allow you to tuck the straps into it to keep them out of your way.
This added feature is an example of some of the thought that went into the M80 and clearly people who play music worked on the bag’s degign. For example, the spacious front pocket features a velcro strap for holding cables and is spacious enough to hold a 3-ring binder full of scores and other materials. A zipper in the back of the pocket reveals a dedicated area to keep packs of strings organized and out of the way. A “hidden” upper pocket by the head-stock is large enough to hold guitar accessories like capos or slides (or non guitar related items like keys and a wallet). It’s a smart use of space and speaks volumes about how Mono understands their end user.
A Look Inside
Mono’s Headlock™ system is the first obvious thing that greets you after unzipping the case, . The Headlock consists of a high density foam block that sits under the guitar neck and a wide velcro strap that keeps the neck in place. (The velcro strap has a small zippered pocket to hold picks – another small feature that adds to the overall usability of the bag.) In addition to preventing the tuners from jostling into the sides of the case and changing the guitar’s tuning, the Headlock also keeps the head-stock away from the back of the back, thus limiting the damage that could occur if the bag fell backwards. Since I’ve seen a guitar in a cheap gig bag’s head-stock snap off after the bag fell fell, and I think the Headlock is a great idea.
Earlier, I talked about the additional support on the bottom of the bag to protect the instrument but examining the interior reveals that Mono created a channel for the end strap to fit. This means that if the guitar is dropped from a short distance, the pressure is moved up around the side of the guitar rather than pushing the end-pin into the body (potentially a VERY expensive repair).
The liner material is very soft to prevent scratching and extra material has been put into the area by the head-stock to limit punctures by strings.
The M80 will fit pretty much any dreadnought and even some jumbo sized guitars. (For those of you with parlor sized guitars, Mono makes a classical bag that may be more appropriate for you. Dimensions can be found on the Mono website) – Link removed – site no longer exists – 10/2018.
In general, you get what you pay for but the M80 is a rare case where you get a lot more than the price tag would indicate. It’s a fantastic product and if you’re looking for the convenience of a gig bag with a lot of durability this may be for you.
Note: all images used in this article are from the Mono website.