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Composite Acoustics X Performer Guitar

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What do you get when you cross a guitarist/luthier with an aerospace engineer?

A guitar that reaches for the stars-and makes it. Composite Acoustics, a Louisiana-based guitar manufacturer, has been making carbon-fiber guitars since 1999 and has recently introduced the X Series Performer model. What’s revolutionary is the absence of any wood, anywhere.

Jazz and rock players are already familiar with the Steinberger graphite guitars, so perhaps it isn’t a stretch to consider an all-carbon-fiber guitar. Carbon fiber is standard material for spaceships, racecars and lately most anything made to withstand great amounts of strain. It’s extremely light and virtually indestructible. CNC machining is employed where computers rule the roost. Imagine a guitar that barely ever needs a setup and humidity is never an issue. The X is even waterproof, though you wouldn’t want to use this beauty as an oar. There is no truss rod because the neck is stiff enough without it. It’s set to the perfect degree of slight relief. All the X should ever need is an occasional fret dressing or refret of its 20 medium nickel-silver frets. Don’t even think of using guitar polish with this guitar; rather, go to the garage and get your turtle wax or automotive finish (just kidding).

The X Performer has a very balanced acoustic tone, which is fairly loud considering its slim body depth of roughly three inches at its deepest point. When it comes to sustain, there’s plenty of it. Plugged into an amp, the X really comes alive. The tone has both depth and warmth and has no problem maintaining presence within an ensemble. Sometimes drums can bury an acoustic guitar’s single-note runs, but that isn’t a problem here. The pickup system is an L.R. Baggs I-Mix, which pairs the I-Beam pickup with the Element undersaddle pickup. Both of these go through a Class-A FET onboard preamp stereo mixer. Some experimentation may be needed in mixing pickups to get your ultimate tone in every situation. L.R. Baggs makes it easy with a thumbwheel pot just under the soundhole right next to the volume pot. This combination of the pickups yields one of the best acoustic-electric tones around. The strings stayed in tune for days even when transported. Changes in climate and humidity have no effect on the instrument.

The feel of the X Performer is smooth and easy. The neck has a slim profile with fast action; higher than typical archtop action yet lower than a standard dreadnought’s. The neck and body are all one piece with a contoured scoop taken out of the back allowing the player’s fretting hand easy access to the higher frets. On the wound strings, an aggressive picking style will reveal some fret buzz. This might be remedied by going up to a medium-gauge string set. Elixir Nanoweb light-gauge .012-.052 strings are standard on the X Performer.

Jazz and rock players who wield semi-hollowbodies and solidbodies will feel at home with the dimensions of the X. Weight is kept to a minimum but the neck is heavier than the body, which may take some getting used to for stand-up play. The lightness of the body is due to a soundboard half as thick as standard spruce tops yet much sturdier. Inside the guitar is a carbon matrix bracing system used to control resonance rather than for support. Black or carbon burst finishes are offered with a beautiful and unique rosette adorning the soundhole. The black Tusq nut is a comfortable 1 3/4 inch and the scale a full 25 1/2 inches. The saddle is also black Tusq with compensation for the “B” string. High-end Gotoh tuners round out the package. The case is a TKL hardshell made specially for Composite. If the guitar is as impervious to damage as Composite Acoustics suggests, the case may work out just fine. For a guitar in this price range, some may want to upgrade the case for added peace of mind.

The X Performer’s street price is $2,500 (list price of $3,350) with a limited lifetime warranty. Composite Acoustics is also able to accomodate custom finish requests and electronics upgrades. The company just may take the archtop market by storm if it can produce a carbon-fiber archtop. Lately many jazz players are opting for the sturdier and less finicky laminated top over carved spruce-a workhorse over an expensive museum piece. A carbon-fiber archtop that needs no babying, will stay in tune, and has a consistent sound year-round, wherever it’s played, would be one welcome development. Purists may wince at the thought of carbon fiber replacing wood, but it just might be the wave of the future.

Originally Published