Review: Anderwood Big Island LT Weissenborn guitar

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Brad Bechtel's picture

Anderwood Big Island Edition Weissenborn guitar

This is a well made, inexpensive instrument that deserves consideration if you want this type of sound and don't want to pay too much money. Price of the guitar reviewed: £259.99 (around $400 USD). Shipping to the USA is $25.00 USD.

My review model was the Big Island LT fitted with a pickup and four band equalizer (volume, bass, middle, treble, presence), powered by a supplied 9v battery (with a built in battery checker - nice touch). It seems to accurately reflect the sound of the guitar across the full range of strings. As with any acoustic amplified instrument, you can get feedback at high volumes. The pickup is well installed - nothing rattles around when you shake the instrument.

It's a very light guitar compared to my resonator guitars. This feels resonant even taking it out of the gig bag. The gig bag is not very well padded but will protect the guitar from general bumps and scratches. If you play out, you should probably invest in a Weissenborn hard shell case (available widely for around $140 USD). The gig bag includes large zippered pouch that will hold your book, sheet music, etc. There is no pouch or space in the gig bag for a bar or picks, but that's not unexpected.

Anderwood recommends keeping the guitar tuned to either open D (D A D F# A D), low bass G (D G D G B D) or open C (C G C E G C). I was able to tune up to standard open G with no problem using the provided D’Addario strings (.013 to .056), but the guitar did not resonate as well as it did when using one of the tunings above.

After playing a while, I found that the low bass G tuning was my favorite tuning, probably because I've been playing regular open G tuning (G B D G B D) for a while now. I didn't miss the low third string as much as I thought I would. Open D also sounds very nice, but to me open C was a bit too low given the string gauges. The strings seemed floppy in open C tuning.

The guitar really shines in the lower notes. You get a big low end sound that works really well for solo playing. This is not the kind of guitar you’d use in a big ensemble in my opinion. It’s well suited for small groups and/or solo players.

Construction is very good. No obvious flaws or finish issues found. The bridge pins are well seated. The bridge appears to be Indian rosewood, a bit darker than the mahogany on the body.

The string height above the frets is lower than on my dobro, but still high enough to allow use of a Beard Wave capo. The lower string height may be problematic if you play with a lot of hammer ons. The chance of striking the fretboard is greater. This should just lead to a modification of your technique.
The tuners work exactly as tuners should and hold the guitar tuning as you'd expect. I see no need to upgrade this part of the guitar. That's usually the first thing I upgrade when I start making an inexpensive guitar better. These tuners are fine right out of the box.

The binding around the body, fretboard and sound hole is well done and adds greatly to the attractive look of the guitar. The laminated mahogany looks good. The back, sides and top have been well matched. The headstock is slight different, but you can only tell by looking at the back of the headstock. The Anderwood logo is on a small wooden plaque that could probably be removed if you wanted. I think it looks nice where it is.

The fret markers are simple dots at the fifth, seventh, ninth, and seventeenth frets. The twelfth fret is a diamond marker. The fretboard extends to the nineteenth fret (when tuned to open G, the top fret on the fretboard is a D chord one octave above the seventh fret). Intonation is perfect.

Overall sound is very good. It sounds like a Weissenborn - an inexpensive Weissenborn, but still it has that identifiable sound. The light, hollow body gives you an airy, open sound that sounds different from a resonator guitar. I have always compared the sound of a Weissenborn to the sound of a cello in my mind.

Harmonics of all kinds sound good on this instrument. I really like the variations in tone you can get by playing closer to and away from the bridge. The sweet spot for my right hand is right where the fretboard meets the sound hole. Moving closer to the bridge gives a more brash or striking tone (as when you'd solo) and moving closer to the fret board gives a more muted tone.

I look forward to incorporating this guitar into my tonal palette.

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