It was the mid-60s, and we all had our wood-based acoustics struggling to learn how to play. We had yet to hear of Ovation guitars, let alone the guitar that is the subject of this Ovation Elite 1778TX Review. The instrument had been the same shape with a few size variations for hundreds of years.
But in a small workshop in Connecticut, Charles Kaman with some aeronautical engineers were hard at work.
Kaman himself was a talented guitar player having turned down the job with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra. He also had a deep knowledge of composite materials and their uses.
The result of their labors that appeared a short time after had quite an impact. They found out that having a flat back on a guitar actually prevented the guitar from producing a great sound. It affected the projection and the sound balance and just didn’t help at all. And so the round back Ovation was born.
These were engineers whose job it was to reduce vibrations in things that flew. Now they were finding ways to increase vibration to help the sound. But what about this company that some loved and others described as ridiculous.
Officially founded in 1966, they have always had an eye for innovation. And they are not slow to try new things. Arriving in the 60s, the guitars were frowned upon by some. I had some first-hand experience of this as we came across the first one at a gig. Some of the audience wanted to burn the guitar player at the stake as a witch or whatever the male guitar-playing equivalent is.
There are some strange people around who will not accept new ideas and new things.
By the 70s…
They had become hot property in some places – because they were good. Some objected to the Composite backs, those who wanted to burn the others at the stake. And I would agree it didn’t sound the same. It wasn’t better or worse; it was different – a nice difference.
But the design innovations didn’t stop there. They were the first to put preamps and pickups in the guitar. Shock and horror as the old boring establishment raged against the machine again. It was great, and acoustic guitars would never be the same again. Interestingly today, those very heartlands that complained so much now all use them. Funny world isn’t it?
Fender gets involved…
There is what appears to be a slightly ugly side to all this. And where you get ugly dealings in guitar manufacture, it’s usually Fender or Gibson involved. Here it was Fender. They acquired Ovation through the buyout of its holding company.
Maybe they realized they made better guitars than the Fender range and kicked them out of their long-standing factory in Connecticut. They moved the production of Fender and Guild guitars there and sent Ovation to the far east.
Does that smack of the ‘toys out of the pram’ behavior we saw between Epiphone and Gibson?
How is it that immature children get to run these companies?
After that was completed, Fender sold Ovation. How nice! But every cloud has a silver lining. Ovation is still better at it than Fender. We are tempted to have a laugh.
Ovation Elite 1778TX – An Overview
So here I am looking at a guitar first produced in 2009. As I said, Ovation re-wrote the book on how to make a guitar. By putting a preamp in and adding a pickup, they had virtually created a new guitar. This is one of the descendants. This one though, is finished in matte black and looks mean and moody. Don’t call this a witch; it will probably turn you into a frog.
They had created a guitar with a composite round back – shock. And then added to it by putting a preamp and pickup in – horror. They didn’t stop there. Then came the Multi-Port Soundhole Design. Get the wood-burning! No single round soundhole. Eleven smaller ones are placed in the top corner above the neck.
This Elite 1778TX is one of those. A Composite rounded back, a preamp, and pickup and a multiport soundhole. It is all here in this one guitar.
Sadly Charles is no longer with us. Jim Marshall changed amplification forever, and Leo Fender did the same with his electric guitars and basses, Charles did a similar thing with acoustic guitars. I wonder if they have got a little band up there with Jim on drums, Leo on Precision bass, and Charles on an Ovation, through a Marshall amp, of course.
After Charles, acoustic guitars would never be quite the same. I hope they are all having a glass of red together.
So let’s move on and have a closer look at one of these creations…
This is a mid-depth body size with a mid-depth cutaway. It has a double-A solid spruce top, no laminates here. Underneath the top is quarter sawn scalloped X-bracing. This provides not only assistance to the top vibration but also gives a great resonance.
I have already mentioned this mid-depth rounded back design, but it deserves to be mentioned again. It gives a stronger projection of the power frequencies with crisp highs and articulate mids. Since its inception, it has gained a following of devotees that recognize what it brings to the guitar world.
Played by the legends of guitar…
There have been some half-decent players that have played them. Brian May and Mark Knopfler, Cat Stevens, John Lennon, Eddie van Halen, Shania Twain, Jimmy Page, Paul Simon, shall we go on. Even Chet Atkins was a convert.
The joining together of the composite Lyrachord synthetic body with a great tonewood top creates this classic sound. We have come to know it as the Ovation sound. It has great response, plenty of power, and is clear and articulate in the sound it projects. Helped in no small measure by the contours of the rounded back.
As we said, it is a multiport design, which means no center soundhole. It is finished in matte black. In the past, I have been highly critical of Fender acoustics and their painted top surfaces. It is different with this guitar; this is an Ovation. They can do it and make it work; Fender can’t. The rest of it works fine, and the top is well-made. Here it just works, painted top or not.
There are the controls for the electrics on the top edge and two plugs for a guitar strap. On the back is an access plate to the internals. The matte black finish might give it a slightly sinister look, but it just sings.
More on the sound later…
This particular guitar is made in Korea, and it has a fine build quality. It has a scale length of 25-¼ inches — nothing to complain about here.
One of the things that were established at the beginning of Ovations history was the playability. It has to feel right. I will discuss this a little more later, but a big part of that is the neck. The Elite 1778TX has a slim and comfortable neck. Made from maple, it feels very much like an electric guitar in your hands. It has been given a smooth satin finish.
There is a Rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets. All are available courtesy of the cutaway and the sloped fingerboard design into the body. There are no inlay dots on the fingerboard. These are marked on the binding in the edge of the neck.
A class act…
The satin finish on the maple neck produces a captivating look when matched with the black of the body. It has an aura about it that just says this is a class act. It has a truss rod; however, access to this is not at the headstock; it is through the backplate on the back of the guitar. I have to say it is not the easiest of arrangements.
Ovation writes the manual in the manufacture of acoustic/electric guitars, so we are expecting something quite good. We are not disappointed. An Ovation OCP1K pickup supported by an OP Pro preamp gives you the sound amplified. They also give you a little more.
There is a three-band EQ that lets you adjust what is already a very good sound to exactly how you like it. Plus, there is a volume control and the rather important but sometimes excluded, tuner.
Plus, there is an added extra…
And that’s the rarely included pre-EQ push button to further enhance the tonal options. It will require a 9-volt battery, which is included, and there is a battery condition indicator light. Excellent electrics producing a quality amplified sound. It would be, they wrote the manual. No corners have been cut here to save money.
But this is an area where the corners are often cut. We understand why that is necessary, but that is not the Ovation style.
Let’s start at the headstock…
Up there, you have the classic Ovation headstock design. This has been a mainstay of the design of their guitars since the beginning. There are Ovation die-cast machine heads that are sealed. They are finished in black to match the body, but again providing that great-looking maple and black combination. These tuners are made in-house and have a high-performance spec.
Down the other end, a stained Rosewood bridge. The action can be adjusted from the bridge if you choose. There are shims under the bridge which can be found by loosening the strings and removing the bridge pickup. These will allow you to adjust the action.
But what’s a shim, I hear you cry?
A shim is a word used by Luthiers to describe what is really just a thin spacer. Sometimes us mortals call it a wedge. To the expert, it is a shim.
Quality in the hardware means that we are now moving towards the end of this review. And we only have a slightly awkward truss rod adjuster to complain about.
How does it Play and Sound?
The sound of the Ovation has always been unique. Some like it, others burn you at the stake for it. It is not traditional and doesn’t suit everyone.
Slim and playable…
There is no doubt though that it is easy to play. The slimline neck we have already discussed adds to that and makes it perfect for the smaller hand. It is comfortable playing seated or standing.
The unique contours of the body shape may take a little getting used to if you are used to a Dreadnought design. But it doesn’t take long to adjust, and at just nine pounds, it is not heavy. It has been designed to be played, and you can certainly do that.
Whilst the shape might not be everyone’s cup of tea; it is the sound where some find fault. It is a different sound but, in so many ways, a better one. Can a similarly priced ‘ordinary’ guitar compete with the sound of this? Not a chance.
The sound projection and volume unplugged are quite surprising, helped, of course, by Kaman’s bowl-shaped mid-depth design. Unplugged, it sings with a bright top end and rich and warm lower frequencies. The sustain level is good, and like most things it was accused of in the early days, the lack of sustain was unfounded.
And now for the very large cherry on the cake…
But it isn’t only for playing acoustically. Ovation designs and builds its acoustics to be plugged in. To do that you need a decent electrical system, which they give you. Just find an amp, and you will hear.
Now, we would agree that the vast majority of acoustics, when plugged in, do not sound quite right. Understandably, the design is not made for that. But this has been designed for exactly that. The sound, when amplified, is very, very good, and is really just a louder version of what it is unplugged. And that is not often found with acoustic/electric guitars.
The design also lessens the occurrence of feedback, which as anyone who has played a plugged-in acoustic at volume, live, will tell you, can be a complete nightmare!
Ovation Elite 1778TX Review – Pros and Cons
- Great sound, especially when amplified.
- Interesting and stylish look.
- Considering the price, none.
More Superb Acoustics
Looking for other great acoustic guitars? If so, then check out our reviews of the Best Acoustic Guitars under 500 Dollars, the Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners, the Best Acoustic Guitars under 300 Dollars, the Best Acoustic Guitar for Kids, and the Best Cheap Acoustic under 200 Dollars.
Or, if you would like something more specific, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Epiphone Hummingbird Pro, the Taylor GS Mini, the Epiphone EJ 200SCE, the Taylor BBT Big Baby, and the Martin LX1 Little Martin.
Ovation Elite 1778TX Review – What we think
You have probably formed the impression I quite like this. You would be right. But I need to make a confession here before we conclude. I owned one some years ago, an Ovation Celebrity. It was great, and I became a fan then. Nice to see some things don’t change.
These guitars are not for everyone. If you happen to like the sound and the style and the iconic look is for you, then you will love this. It is a great guitar. At this price point, you can match it against others that are twice the price. It might still come out on top.
So, as we end our Ovation Elite 1778TX Review, let’s raise a glass to Mr. Kaman and his team of engineers for creating something very special. Have a beer on us.
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