The subject of today’s Oscar Schmidt OD312CE-A-U review has reached us through quite a journey. The story of guitar manufacturer Oscar Schmidt is probably unique. Oscar was a German immigrant, and he and his brother had an instrument manufacturing company.
Initially founded in 1871, by the turn of the century, they had five factories in Europe and one in Jersey City. They made a variety of instruments, including guitars, banjos ukuleles, and mandolins.
Door to door…
In the US, they had an interesting marketing ploy. They didn’t sell their instruments through instrument shops. For a start, there were not that many around. But also because there were even less in some of the poorer areas down in the South of the U.S. They, therefore, employed teams of traveling salesmen that would carry the instruments to these areas and sell them.
They were popular firstly because they were available. Secondly, because they were quite inexpensive and thirdly because they were actually quite good. Salesmen kept accurate records of what was sold and what people were suggesting, and the company fulfilled the need.
Good times, bad times…
They flourished, but then came the Great Depression, and things got very hard. But they almost went bust in the 30s; however, they survived until they were bought by Washburn in 1978.
They are still with us today, but the traveling salesman idea sadly isn’t. The guitars are modestly priced, well-made, and represent great value for money. That is something that the two German immigrant brothers would be proud of.
Oscar Schmidt OD312CE-A-U – An Overview
This guitar is a 12-string offering with a classic dreadnought design but with a cutaway. Oscar Schmidt guitars have always been known as a great place to start to learn an instrument. Having a cutaway on this 12-string gives the player more access to the strings. That is a good design for a beginner.
This guitar though is not just an acoustic; it has a pickup and preamp. An acoustic-electric 12-string with quite a decent tone. More on this later.
First released in 2017, it has gained a reputation of being excellent for beginners and improvers alike. It is made in China. So, let’s have a closer look…
When you get into the Oscar Schmidt ethos of instrument manufacture, you learn something quite quickly. They do not have any inflated claims of excellence like some do and haven’t got any wild pretenses as some have. They make a budget guitar and do the best job of it that they can. Something one or two others could learn from.
It has a Spruce top that is laminated or, as some describe it, layered. This is a cheaper way of using this tonewood for the top. A solid piece of spruce can be expensive, and you usually only find them in guitars costing much more than this.
However, there are some advantages to a laminated top. You understandably don’t get the sound quality you will get from a solid piece of wood. But on the other hand, laminated wood tops are less susceptible to weather conditions. They don’t buckle or change shape and are sometimes preferred by the traveling musician.
Spruce then for the top wood combined with a mahogany back and sides. An age-old combination of woods that produce a great sound. As we mentioned, there is a cutaway. And the whole guitar is given a high gloss finish.
A classy look…
There is a very tasteful white and black binding and edging around the edges of the top. For decor, though, you get some added style. The decorative marquetry around the soundhole really gives this guitar a classy look.
There is an interesting omission, though, with this body, in that there is no pickguard. Not something you could forget in the design process.
There are two lines of thought with pickguards. Most acoustics have them, of course. Some think that without a pickguard, you could damage the top tonewood. There is an element of truth in that. Spruce, for example, is quite soft, and constant contact might not do it too much good.
I think for this guitar, though, it is a purely aesthetic choice. When you see it, you instantly realize there is something different before you realize the pickguard isn’t there. The reverse argument is that most people don’t harm the guitar with a pick. Even if they do use them, and some, of course, don’t use them at all. Therefore, it is not an issue as far as I am concerned.
It is quite lightweight at five pounds. The Dreadnought shape is not an easy guitar for a very young player to learn on. But being so lightweight will help, as will the cutaway. A nicely designed and well-made body so plenty of points earned there.
Let’s move on…
A fairly standard neck made from Mahogany. It has 20 frets, all of which are easily playable courtesy of the cutaway. There is an adjustable truss rod. It has a white binding on both edges of the fingerboard for the full length of the neck.
The fingerboard is made from Rosetek or engineered Rosewood. This is a material that has been made to feel and look very much like Rosewood. It performs quite well and is actually a little more hardwearing than Rosewood.
There are standard inlay dots the length of the fingerboard. The nut width is 1.89 inches. It is a 12-string, after all. It is made from NuBone, which is a step up from plain old plastic.
Up at the top, plenty of hardware with twelve die-cast chrome-plated tuners. They are budget level and nothing fancy. Their job is to keep the guitar the tune. However, on a 12-string, that can be a tougher job than it usually is, but they do the job adequately. The mahogany gloss finish on the neck is applied to the headstock.
Down at the other end, there is a hardtail Rosetek bridge with dotted string pins. As is common with most budget guitars, the hardware is nothing to get excited about. But with the Oscar Schmidt OD312CE-A-U, it does the job, and that’s the most important thing.
This is always a difficult area with acoustic-electric guitars. It takes a very good preamp and pickup to recreate anything like a decent sound. Even many of the expensive acoustic electrics fail to achieve it. If there is one weak point in this guitar, then this is probably it.
But as I say, the failings this guitar experiences, are also experienced by a large majority of the competition. And especially at this price point.
Barcus Berry EQ4T pickup…
It has a piezo pickup. These use crystals instead of a magnet to make the electrical signal that is amplified. They are well-known to be brighter in sound, and so it is with this. There is a Barcus Berry EQ4T pickup and preamp system that it is fair to say is quite basic.
However, it does offer some controls – the usual Volume, Treble, and Bass – but also offers a mid-range control. There is also a presence and pitch control. So, full marks for providing the tones and tonal changes.
The problem is the sound is a bit thin to start off with. And when you have that situation, with no real bottom end, you are already on a losing battle with the tone controls. It doesn’t sound bad, but it sounds better unamplified, to be honest.
Superb for a beginner…
But the electrics will be a great idea for a young starter. They might not know if it was a good sound and probably wouldn’t care if they did. What they do know is they can plug it in. In that case, it is good fun and a definite plus point. Just don’t take it on stage. Keep it for fun at home.
It takes a 9-volt battery, which has its own built-in compartment that is easy to use with a sliding cover. It also has a digital tuner, which is a nice touch.
How does it Play and Sound?
Having just covered the sound when amplified in the last section, I am not going to dwell on it. But acoustically, it is fine and sounds very nice. The 12 strings really sing out as they do, and there is a nice depth to it. The top is bright, courtesy of the laminated Spruce top.
I have to admit that for a budget guitar, it has a nice well-rounded tone. And that at its price point is quite surprising.
It plays nicely as well with the cutaway giving you options that some Dreadnoughts don’t give you. The action is ok, but of course, the fingerboard is quite wide by necessity. Therefore playing bar chords might be a problem for a starter.
Its Dreadnought design also makes it bulky. And even though it is lightweight, you still have to get over and round it to play. Not that easy for a young novice, but with perseverance, they will get used to it.
Do you love the sound of 12 Strings?
I can see this guitar perfectly suited for a beginner that really loves the 12 String sound and is willing to persevere to master the instrument. Or for someone who has been playing a six string for a while and has already mastered some basic chords and techniques. And then maybe thinks that a 12-string would be a nice option. For them, it is a great guitar.
The action itself is quite nice. And without any sharp fret edges, it is comfortable to play once you have got used to the size.
Oscar Schmidt OD312CE-A-U Review Pros and Cons
- Beautiful look and sound.
- Easy and fun to play.
- Low cost.
- Built-in Tuner.
- Only one strap button.
- Tuning machines could be better.
Looking for some more superb acoustic guitar options?
If so, check out our reviews of the Best 12 String Guitars, the Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners, the Best Acoustic Guitars under 500 Dollars, the Best Acoustic Guitars for Kids, the Best Acoustic Guitars under 300 Dollars, as well as, the Best Cheap Acoustic Guitars under 200 Dollars currently on the market.
You may also be interested in our reviews of the superb Epiphone Hummingbird Pro, the Taylor GS Mini, the Martin LX1 Little Martin, the Epiphone EJ 200SCE, the Taylor BBT Big Baby, or the Epiphone AJ 220S.
Oscar Schmidt OD312CE-A-U Review Conclusion
What we think
In the context of what you will have to pay for this guitar, you can’t really fault it. It plays nicely, it has a nice tone and like it or not, there are some electrics to plug it in, and it has a digital tuner.
There is only one strap button on the body, so you will need to get a strap that fits over the headstock. That is a bit disappointing if you want to stand and play. But I am not sure that’s what this guitar is all about. For a young player and their first 12-string, you will go a long way to finding a better guitar at a similar price.
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