A Seagull with the dark timbre of mahogany – David Mead takes a tern for the better…
Seagull acoustics are hand crafted in Quebec, Canada under the watchful eye of parent company Godin. The first Seagulls were made as long ago as 1982 when Robert Godin had the idea to make a range of mid-priced acoustic guitars from quality timbers and aim them squarely at the working musician who wanted affordable style and performance from an instrument. Our review model is a relatively new addition to the range – an all-mahogany electro-dreadnought with a retail price that’s just a smidge over £500…
It strikes me that going through the construction details of an all mahogany acoustic might become a tad repetitive after a while, but please bear with me! With a 450mm lower bout that thins down to a 290mm upper with an average depth of 120mm, this isn’t the biggest dread I’ve ever had in my hands. But with its all mahogany livery, it’s an attractive looking instrument, the tapered headstock setting it aside from its contemporaries and offering the S6 a sleek modern appearance. Despite the inclusion of a pickup and preamp it’s not too heavy, either – and so anyone who has found that a dreadnought is a mite too cumbersome in the past might want to revise their shopping list a little.
Needless to say, the top is a finely bookmatched piece of mahogany, the grain on this particular model being semi diagonal and a characteristic chocolatey brown colour. The tops on all Seagull guitars are pressure tested, the company tells me, meaning that they have been assessed for their stiffness and flexibility to aid vibration and subsequent tone. They also tell me that there is a compound curve to the top of the guitar which has the effect of increasing its structural integrity, allowing the top to be thinner and the bracing lighter at the same time. I’ll take their word for it because it eludes the naked eye.
No surprise to find that the back and sides are mahogany, too – but in both these instances, it’s a cross grained tri-laminate for additional strength and durability. On to the neck now and, guess what? It’s mahogany too – and Seagull tell me that their necks start life as a single piece of wood, but the end is cut off at an angle, reversed and then employed as the headstock. Looking at the back of the guitar, this is done with more subtlety than you’d probably imagine and would be quite easy to overlook. There is a separate heel which, I’m told, has two pieces of dowel inserted in it that lie parallel to the guitar’s body to further increase stability. You can see already that there’s an awful lot of thought and innovation gone into this instrument…
The lollipop-shaped headstock is not a mere folly of design, either as Seagull believe in keeping the string pull on the neck as even as possible, making the instrument easier to keep in tune. We’ll see if I can detect its effect a little later on.
Tuners are sealed steel units with the Seagull logo embossed upon them, but no other clues as to their actual origin of manufacture. It was a nice surprise to find a 46mm nut as just the extra 3mm above standard makes fingerstyle – and chord playing – a lot more comfortable. Both the nut and the compensated string saddle are made from Tusq and whereas the former appears to have been cut well, I’m very slightly suspicious of the string height on the bass side at the first fret.
The S6’s fretboard is Indian rosewood and festooned with 21 nicely seated frets with no discernible rough edges showing up on the fingertip test.
There is a matt finish to the entire body of the Seagull and its presence on the modestly C profiled neck is particularly comfortable. As I have said, this isn’t the heaviest dreadnought I’ve ever picked up, but there is a fair amount of bulk to it, all the same. This is doubtlessly due – at least in part – to the preamp and laminated back and sides, but I’m pleased to report that it doesn’t add up to any undue imbalance in the playing position.
My fingertips tell me that the nut has been cut slightly too high on the bass side, as I thought earlier. However this is an easy enough blip to sort out, but it really could do with being very slightly lower.
Sound-wise, there’s a fullness to the chords, but very little low-end grunt that you might expect to find on a dread. It’s quite well balanced, tonally speaking, but if you’re expecting that almighty bloom to the bottom end you might be disappointed.
The S6 is fitted with a Fishman Sonitone pickup system with a volume and tone rotaries hidden just inside the guitar’s soundhole. Through an amp it immediately assumes more midrange and low-end, to the extent that I found I had to dial a little back on the amplifier. With a minimum of fuss, though, I had a sound that I could work with and one that suited chord strummery and fingerstyle equally well. There’s a darkness and warmth to the Seagull’s plugged-in tones, which you might expect from an all mahogany guitar and, as such, is bound to win the favours of players in pursuit of a darker timbre.
I’m sure that everyone will agree that all-mahogany guitars demand a different set of criteria to that of the standard mahogany/cedar or rosewood/spruce – or variations thereon – options. To that end, they are not going to suit all players, but the Seagull is certainly a good example of the genre, despite not being solid mahogany throughout. It’s been well designed and ably thought through and will doubtless impress its target audience of gigging musicians who want that distinctive all mahogany tone combined with an affordable price point and ample stage readiness.
Pros: A stage ready, well built, all-mahogany dread…
Cons: Nut height on this model a little too high
Overall: Seagull has set out to provide good build quality at an affordable price with a viable set of tones under the fingers!
Model: S6 Mahogany Deluxe
Retail Price: £525
Body Size: Dreadnought
Made In: Canada
Back and Sides: Mahogany
Tuners: Sealed Seagull
Nut Width: 46mm
Scale Length: 647.5mm
Onboard Electronics: Fishman Sonitone
Strings Fitted: 12-52
Left Handers: No
Gig Bag/Case Included: Gig bag £45 extra