Evolution. I think that single word captures the essence of Babicz guitars. For about a century now, everybody and their sister have been making acoustic guitars pretty much the same way. Oh, perhaps a little innovation here and there, but nothing major; an acoustic is an acoustic. Craftmanship and wood quality make the difference. I know this is rather large, but let’s face it, there’s been nothing new under the sun.
Jeff Babicz has not redesigned the acoustic guitar, he re-invented it.
The major problem with an acoustic guitar is the sound hole. Because of its position, with the bridge coming up behind it, it has to be reinforced to hold under the strain of the strings. Unfortunately, by reinforcing it, you tend to lose a lot of the sound quality the guitar can offer. So what do you do? It’s been an on-going problem with guitar manufacturers over the years. And no matter what they’ve done, after a time, the bridge section has a tendency to belly-up because of the strain, requiring major work on the guitar.
What Babicz has done is brilliant in its simplicity. If the problem is with the strings attaching on the bridge, just attach them somewhere else! Six anchors are set about an inch and a half from the back of the guitar in a fan shape and that’s where the strings attach. They run into the neck, then out to the anchors. What this means, first and foremost, to the serious guitarist is that you immediately pluck the strings at that end. It’s a lot of fun, believe me. Gave me a lot of ideas.
Once you get over that, you quickly realize the advantage of this system; the strings pull on the whole of the top of the guitar enabling a much greater resistance to the strain of the strings. Which also means the sound hole doesn’t have to be reinforced. It’s simply brilliant! Amazingly simple, yet so effective.
It also means that the whole of the inside top of the guitar is redesigned. Instead of the traditional X-Brace like you find on most acoustics, this one has two longitudinal braces running along almost the entire top of the guitar.
To most people, this kind of improvement would be enough. You’ve already reinvented the thing and taken care of the most important problem with acoustics; great work, time to rest. But not Jeff Babicz…
The second major problem with an acoustic lies in the neck. On most acoustics, the neck is glued on. Meaning you’re stuck with the position it’s at. Over time, it will have a tendency to be in the wrong position, because of the strain of the strings. Having it repositionned also requires major surgery that most of us can’t afford. Or we’re simply too scared to see our precious baby go under the knife and we play the guitar the way it is.
Some manufacturers have resorted to bolting on the neck. It does have some good results, but what you gain in efficiency, you lose in sound.
Babicz to the rescue again. Jeff has totally reinvented the neck joint. Here the neck is hooked up to the body using a patented rail system. This offers one absolutely incredible advantage over any acoustic guitar ever made: you can actually change the action! And it’s so easy to do, you can do it in your sleep.
All you need is a wrench (but you keep losing those, don’t you?). Here the wrench is actually located on a clip behind the neck. Jeff Babicz deserves huge credit for thinking about that one; a place to keep your wrench where you’re likely to find it.
Insert the wrench behind the neck and turn. Raise or lower the neck in a few seconds. Yes, seconds. Brilliant. Want fast action? Raise the neck. Want a fatter sound? Lower the neck. It’s so simple, you can actually do this on stage between two songs. And your band’s frontman doesn’t have to be Peter Gabriel: a short hello to the crowd and you’re ready to perform again.
But what about the neck in relation to the bridge? The bridge is also adjustable by using a wrench!
Basically, Jeff Babicz thought of everything and applied it all. This is a great example of thinking outside the box. Perhaps it’s due to his years at Steinberger.
So, you ask, you have a guitar that has all these innovations, but how does it sound? Quite frankly, it rates up there with the best of them. For a much smaller price tag.
The one that was sent my way to review was a cut-away Dreadnought, Identity Series, Rosewood, with onboard active EQ. $1195 for the guitar and $399 for the onboards. Not expensive considering everything.
Comfort-wise, it has all the comfort of your standard acoustic. Look-wise, it’s a work of art. Sound-wise, well let’s just say that my ears were more than delighted by the sound of the guitar. Try as I might, I never managed to get a less than incredible sound out of it.
The neck is comfortable and fast. The cutaway lets you reach the higher frets, much to my liking. The very first time you play it, you don’t get that feeling you usually do from a different guitar. It feels like you’ve been playing it for years. And this guitar will follow you for years. An investment in your musical future.
I also wanted to mention those onboards. With other systems I found I always had a lot of trouble adjusting the EQ to get good sound. Not so of this system; plug it in, strum and twist the knobs for a few seconds and there you go. In fact, at any setting, the sound is great. You just adjust it to you own personal liking.
It came in a hardshell case which, before even opening it, allows you to see the mind-set of Jeff Babicz: instead of the usual hard plastic handle which is so uncomfortable, it has a large padded handle which feels very comfortable. I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure you wouldn’t damage your hand after carrying it around for an hour or so.
This is a serious guitar for the serious guitarist. Or for anyone who simply wants an acoustic that will last the rest of their life. One thing’s for sure, once you try this out, you’ll never look at another acoustic the same way.
I predict that this is the guitar of the future. In years to come, any professional will play the Babicz and nothing else. I know I don’t want to try out anything else now.