The award-winning Faith range has a new special edition in the shape of an upgraded Venus… David Mead has the details
A few months ago, we looked at another Faith Patrick James Eggle signature acoustic which featured reclaimed Fenland bog oak for its back and sides and I have fond memories of the time that guitar and I spent together. This latest special edition features highly figured Macassar ebony and when Faith say “limited” they mean it as only 12 guitars are being built to this spec. The Faith signature series offers designer chic with down to earth price tags – let’s see what this newcomer has to offer…
If you’re familiar with the Faith guitar range in general, then you’ve probably already experienced the standard Venus auditorium and concert models. Typically featuring Sitka spruce tops and Indonesian mahogany backs and sides, the Venus has proven a real winner among the already award-laden Faith line. This special edition introduces some eye-catching upgrades in the wood department and promises a tonal adventure with classy bass and swooping trebles. Obviously the star of the show here is the highly figured Macassar ebony and so I took the opportunity to speak to Patrick James Eggle about this particular wood’s sonic properties.
‘We are very lucky in that our chaps in Indonesia have a limited, but very good, local supply of this incredible tonewood,’ he told me. ‘It produces guitars with an exceptionally rich tone and great depth. It is a very dense wood that is responsive to light picking, but if you dig in or strum hard, it won’t top out or overdrive.’ Indeed, Macassar ebony is pretty much a “local” Indonesian wood and shouldn’t be confused with the highly controversial Madagascan variety. The rarity of the wood we see here is down to its elaborate grain patterning, and nothing more. The Venus’s soundboard is high grade Engelmann spruce, which luthiers seem to agree as being a perfect pairing for the ebony back and sides. In fact, I’ve heard it referred to as being capable of producing a near perfect instrument, once all the woods open up and begin to breathe some tonal fire. Of course, at present, the spruce is still young and creamy white in colour, but a little further down the road this will turn to a richer honey-toned yellow.
On to the back and sides now and I hear that Macassar ebony varies enormously in terms of grain patterning. The most highly prized is a tan coloured base with dark stripes and is quite probably the type you would find only on the finest hand-built instruments. If you’re not sure what I mean, just do a Google image search on the wood and stare in wonder. Here, the ebony has a darker background, but the figuring is still very live and prominent. The sides on this guitar feature highly contrasted stripes, whereas the back comprises a neatly bookmatched, wild and very attractive patterning.
The Venus’s neck is Patrick Eggle’s bolt-on design, a dark sand coloured mahogany three piece with a separate heel and a scarf joint towards the top. Grover tuners with ebony buttons adorn the familiar Faith headstock and, as is customary on these special editions, Patrick’s signature is featured just above the truss rod cover.
There is an unbleached bone nut – from Bali, apparently – at the top of the fretboard, which features the same Macassar ebony that makes up the back and sides. Here, it’s not so wildly figured, but if you hold it in a certain light you can see that it’s not as featureless as it might at first appear. In fact, the lack of position markers, save for the Faith “F” at the 12th fret, really does lend the instrument an extra ounce or two of class.
The bridge is ebony, once again, as are the bridge pins – the former from Macassar, the latter India – and the string saddle is unbleached Balinese bone once again.
I must say that the overall impression in terms of both design and execution here is one of a very finely crafted instrument – but what kind of voice does it have?
The Venus’s neck feels quite broad in the hand, but not at all chunky. It’s a 45mm nut, too, which always raises a quick cheer in these parts for its fingerstyle friendliness. I was wondering if the Macassar ebony would add extra weight to the body in the way that African Blackwood tends to. But if there is any, it’s very slight with no undue upset to the lap balance that I could detect.
Faith say in their spec on this model that the ebony here produces crisp bass and lower mids with clear and brilliant highs and a slight midrange scoop. I have to agree, in that the bass is excellent and already has a hint of the maturity that will doubtless follow after a few months of playing in. The sustain is exceptional, too, with chords ringing on in a way that will delight fingerstylists who enjoy exploring alternative tunings – I tuned this guitar to DADGAD before playing a single note as I had a sort of premonition that this might be the case. Something just told me that it was that kind of instrument.
As far as any midrange scoop is concerned, it’s certainly present and actually quite welcome as many acoustics tend to get a little gummy or boomy in that part of the sonic spectrum. The scoop has the effect of freeing up the basses a little more – almost like there’s more of a marked delineation between lower trebles and the point where the bass begins to come through, so each has its own space.
Single notes have the sort of “bloom” to them that you find on the finer rosewoods. If you’ve ever played an acoustic that sounded like it had its own built-in reverb unit, you’ll know what I mean. It lends an extra level to the tonal goings on under the fingers, too.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I can remember enjoying the Faith bog oak special edition I looked at a while back and this guitar has found a similar place in my affections. The presence of the Macassar ebony has provided a significant upgrade in terms of tone as well as a touch of exotica to the aesthetic appeal. I don’t doubt that you would be looking at a high sum if you went to a hand-builder with this spec in mind, but Faith’s excellent facility in Indonesia has squared the circle to produce an instrument that exudes a superior quality of tone and playability while keeping the price tag low.
Model: Venus FSGV-EBY Patrick James Eggle Special Edition
Retail Price: £1,899
Body Size: Auditorium
Made In: Indonesia
Top: Engelmann spruce
Back and Sides: Macassar ebony
Fingerboard: Macassar ebony
Tuners: Grover Rotomatic 18:1
Nut Width: 45mm
Scale Length: 650mm
Strings Fitted: D’Addario EXP .012 – .052
Gig Bag/Case Included: Hard case
Pros: Quality woods and an award-winning design
Cons: I’d like to see a higher grade case for these specials
Overall: The combination of Englemann spruce and Macassar ebony is a winner and a great addition to the Faith catalogue!