Sep 17, 2012 | News & Events
“It’s a lovely instrument and very hard to put down. Sonically everything is in balance; it deals with chords smoothly and fingerpicking produces even- toned results.”
Our review sample is from the built in China range and it’s possible to tell even from the first glance that this MB 18 VS model is well up to the standard we are beginning
to expect from the Far East these days. The whole appearance simply gels; from the tasteful vintage sunburst to the svelte ebony fingerboard and attractive headstock design - everything tells you that care and attention to detail have been paramount at the manufacturing front line.
Closer inspection reveals that the guitar’s top is from triple A grade Sitka spruce and even under the superbly applied finish it’s possible to perceive the quality of timber. I’m not usually too keen on sunburst finishes, but I have to admit that this one has me somewhat won over! The body is bound with a contrasting white wood, probably maple, and here too is a mark of quality as the workmanship is flawless.
Back and sides are from solid Sapele, a wood known for its sonic sensitivities being just a gnat’s wing away from that of mahogany. The use of all solid woods throughout its range is part of Bedell’s production mandate and this perhaps puts the price point a little higher, but offers much more where eventual tonal maturity is concerned. Here, the Sapele’s natural honey colour and distinctive stripy grain pattern have been quietened with a darkish stain to match the sunburst on top - once again, everything is perfectly contrasted and in harmony.
The MB 18’s neck is a single piece of mahogany with a dovetail neck joint which I’m told is held in place with hide glue. Well, the devil’s in the details as they say and I’m sure that traditionalists will whoop with joy to see this sort of thing present in what has to be the low to middle end of a maker’s range. Fretboard duties are taken care of with a slab of African ebony in which 20 frets are nicely seated. My only gripe here being that some of the frets look like they have received a hasty dress in quality control as some of them have a flattish top. It’s only minor, but perhaps a little more time spent here would keep up the standards set in the other areas of this instrument. Headstock shape is quite often the place where a manufacturer goes for something wild and distinctive, but here everything is sombre and mature and completely in keeping with the overall design vibe of the guitar. The gold coloured Grover machine heads add another dash of class.
Fresh out of the case the MB 18 VS simply sparkled. I had the chance to glance through the spec on this instrument before even touching it and thought that the recipe of body woods and general workmanship would add up to a fine sounding guitar, but you can never be sure until that first few exploratory chords. I wasn’t disappointed, let’s put it that way. Naturally the Sitka spruce is going to settle down and ripen after a few hundred playing hours have elapsed and allowing for that means that some of the impish enthusiasm currently present in the treble spectrum will calm down and give way to a richer and more mellow maturity. Meanwhile, it’s a lovely instrument as it is – and very hard to put down if my experience is anything to go by! Sonically everything is in balance; it deals with chords smoothly with no brashness at all and fingerpicking produces very similar even-toned results.
I’ve enjoyed spending time with this guitar. It’s a solidly built, tonally very competent instrument that was a pleasure to play. I can’t fault the workmanship that’s gone into producing it apart from those minor gripes with the fret finishing. It’s always very tempting to compare instruments from the factory produced midrange to the hand built elite but it would be unfair to do so. In the case
of the Bedell Orchestra model it does exactly what it sets out to do, offering a very smooth ride in its enviable playability. Tom Bedell set out to build an acoustic range for the everyman and I think he’s succeeded on all counts. Oh, and if you need any more of a recommendation, I’m told that no less than the Eagles’ Joe Walsh recently added an MB 18 VS to his collection!
- David Mead, Acoustic Mag, UK