Think of an all-mahogany acoustic, and what comes to mind? I for one nearly always envisage an old-timey dreadnought or possibly even a parlour. Simple, restrained and built for the kinds of no-frills music that comes straight from the gut. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but I’ll admit to being a little unsure about whether an all-mahogany Faith Neptune, designed by none other than superstar UK luthier Patrick James Eggle, would engage me in quite the same way.
As I have now come to expect from Faith, the all-mahogany Neptune arrived in a beautiful hardcase (included with the asking price) lined with a reddish, copper-brown faux fur that matches up with the hue of the mahogany really rather nicely. A lovely touch right from the outset that really made me want to pick up and play. As for the guitar itself – it sports a completely solid-wood construction (just like every other guitar in Faith’s ever-expanding catalogue) – in this instance, Indonesian mahogany. This is supported under the top by a Patrick James Eggle-designed bracing constructed from quarter-sawn mahogany and accented between the joins by some very tasteful ebony binding. There’s a small, five millimetre rosette of abalone lining the soundhole, adding just a little bit of extravagance without diving too far into the realms of the ornate and showy. The body is then finished in gloss – personally, I tend to prefer satin finishes on all-mahogany guitars but there’s no denying that the finish itself has been extremely well-applied, with no nasty build-up or uneven sections to be found. The body itself (described as a baby jumbo) also feels very well balanced and weighted – just the right balance between bulky and curvy, with the cutaway providing excellent fret access to boot.
The neck, also made from mahogany, has been finished in satin to create a better playing surface. Again, the quality of the finishing really is excellent even for this price, providing a smooth, even playing experience and never clashing with the glossy finish that adorns the body. Topping the neck is a lovely slab of Macassan figured ebony, inlaid only with a mother of pearl “F” at the twelfth fret. Minimalist and classy, through and through. The Faith headstock is as clean and elegant as it’s ever been, in this instance topped also with a veneer of rosewood and black machine heads (Grover Rotomatics, in case you were wondering). The TUSQ nut then leads us all the way down to a Macassan ebony bridge, with a set of ebony bridge pins fitted to match, each topped with a small circle of abalone.
Last but by no means least, Faith has also fitted the guitar with Shadow’s Performer preamp partnered with a Nanoflex II undersaddle pickup. It’s a great little unit that offers the basic volume, treble and bass controls you’d expect along with a phase switch for tackling feedback and an accurate, easy-to-read tuner that dispenses with the dim LCD screens of some rivals in favour of crisp, bright LEDs. The one thing to consider here is that the more sophisticated Shadow L4020HEX preamp is available on some other Faith models. That particular unit offers individual control over every string, so if you’re particularly fussy about your live sound then you may want to check those out, too.
Before this review I can’t say that I can recall ever playing an all-mahogany jumbo before, let alone a baby jumbo, so I was very interested to see how this guitar would perform in practice. As I mentioned before, it’s just not quite the shape and style I would expect from a configuration more normally associated with more traditional (even vintage-oriented) designs. However, it turns out that the baby jumbo is a really interesting body shape that offers quite a bit of versatility and bags of character.
I decided to start off with a bit of fingerstyle – I often do this when reviewing anyway as I believe it offers an immediate impression of how the guitar responds under different kinds of dynamics – and what I heard was a wonderfully balanced sound that projected very strongly with the mids but also added a good hit of bass and a bit more snap than I expected. The tone isn’t as chimey as a spruce-topped guitar of course, but mahogany guitars can often be accused of being a little one-dimensional – in many ways that’s exactly the appeal – and the Neptune body shape just adds a different character that I wasn’t quite expecting. As with many all-mahogany guitars the key characteristic is that real mid-range punch and warmth that makes single note runs sound very thick and defined. It’s wonderful for a bit of slide but that baby jumbo body adds just a little bit extra to the frequencies to keep things fresh. Projection and definition is excellent, as you would probably expect from a guitar designed by the illustrious PJE.
Flatpicking yields a similar response, but I found that the low-end in particular truly benefited from this approach, producing a very even, balanced tone with a great crisp clarity across the strings. All-mahogany guitars can sometimes find themselves a touch muddy but I couldn’t coax it out of the Neptune no matter how hard I tried, so top marks there.
Plugging in to a PA or amplifier opens up the possibilities ever further, introducing the Neptune as a very solid gigging guitar indeed. Some of the acoustic uniqueness of the body shape is lost in translation, but that’s a common trait of undersaddle pickups and shouldn’t count as a flaw in this case. The resulting tone is still certainly a useful and versatile one that suits a variety of applications and doesn’t suffer too badly from the dreaded “quack”. The phase switch comes in particularly handy if your setup suffers from a bit of feedback, keeping things nice and quiet so you can get on with your performance free from distractions. It might not be the most advanced system you’ll find at this price, but it’s as solid and dependable as you like and full of good quality tone.
The all-mahogany Neptune really is a very addictive instrument. Soulful, dynamic and punchy; this guitar just begs to be played and the baby jumbo format genuinely offers something that little bit different to the norm. Of course, if you’re looking for “the norm” then you might be better served elsewhere but Faith has again got you covered, as there is also a dreadnought available (albeit without the electronics). It seems to me that if you were to have any preconceptions about the kind of all-mahogany guitar you want to buy, then it would be possible to overlook the Neptune in favour of say, a Sigma or Martin. But to do so would be a shame – this guitar has plenty to offer and might just surprise you. Coupled with a dependable electronics package and a gorgeous hardcase, it’s a great deal and you really ought to get out there and give one a try.
Build Quality: 4
Sound Quality: 4.5
Pros: Great tone, playability, electronics – all from a trusted brand
Cons: Not much; personally, a satin finish would be lovely
Overall: A great guitar that’s not going to break that bank. Amateurs and pros alike will love it
Model: Neptune Mahogany FNCEMG
Retail Price: £799
Body Size: Baby jumbo
Made In: Indonesia
Top: Solid mahogany
Back and Sides: Solid mahogany
Fingerboard: Macassan figured ebony
Tuners: Grover Rotomatics
Nut Width: 43mm
Scale Length: 650mm
Electronics: Shadow Nanoflex II
Strings Fitted: Elixir
Left Handers: Yes
Gig Bag/Case Included: Hardcase
Faith Guitars/Barnes and Mullins