Could this latest signature model from Seagull prove to be the go-to choice for fingerstyle guitarists? Alun Lower stretches his digits to find out…
Canadian guitar manufacturer Godin’s acoustic arm Seagull has produced a wide range of quality instruments over the last few years, and it’s probably fair to say that most of us would probably best associate the brand with entry- and mid-level six-strings rather than pro-level. But as it turns out, to do would be an incredible disservice to a truly admirable outfit and this artist edition.
I’d like to start off by thanking Seagull profusely for choosing to ship the Peppino in a TRIC Deluxe case. It’s always surprising to find out how many guitarists overestimate the strength of the average fight case, exposing it to far more trauma than it is designed to handle. Then there are cases from the likes of TRIC, which are not only lighter but also much better suited to protecting your pride and joy. All in all, a fantastic extra that shouldn’t be under-valued.
As for the guitar itself, from the moment you prise it from it’s snug case, I would defy anyone not to be smitten by its understated and classy charms. A wonderfully grained solid spruce top is offset beautifully by the solid rosewood back and sides, a combination that should hopefully produce a detailed and harmonically rich set of tones (but more on that later). Elsewhere we have an ebony bridge, heel cap and fingerboard, the latter of which proves to be one of the key features of the guitar. For as any fan of Peppino D’Agostino will know, the man is a virtuoso fingerstyle player of the highest calibre, and as such requires a spacious fingerboard upon which to work his magic. This particular example measures a meaty 1.9” at the nut, a width that in all my years of reviewing I don’t believe I’ve ever seen on a steel-string dreadnought. That in itself is a fairly unique and intriguing prospect and one that makes this guitar a signature model in the truest sense of the word.
The guitar is bound in plastic but accented very tastefully by an arrowhead motif that also features prominently in the soundhole rosette. It’s a classic design but one that has been executed flawlessly, perfectly partnering with the subtle inlays (complete with Seagull iconography at the 12th fret). The headstock, too, is an exemplary example of tasteful guitar design, featuring a decorate seagull motif once more and the word “artist” scripted across the front. The headstock itself is shaped in Seagull’s easily-recognisable style, offering a straight string-pull for the most part, which should in theory aid tuning stability in the long run. Another feature I was especially glad to see was the addition of a second strap pin on the upper bout, which can be a hugely frustrating omission on other guitars.
The final ace up Seagull’s sleeve (er, wing?) is the onboard electronics, in this instance a Godin Quantum II. This unit mixes both microphone and an undersaddle piezo pickup to give you the best of both worlds, offering you the chance to blend the two seamlessly to minimize feedback and any unwanted artefacts. You also get basic volume, bass and treble controls along with a built-in tuner.
Tonal combinations don’t come much more tried-and-tested than a pairing of spruce and rosewood, and the Peppino model is the perfect example of just why that is. Punchy, driving mids are accented by crisp, jangly highs and the kind of clanging low end that wouldn’t be too out of place on a grand piano. The sheer response of the guitar to your playing attack and the articulate, sensitive tones make for a hugely rewarding playing experience that simply continues to yield more and more as you continue to play. Compared to mahogany, the rosewood offers a somewhat more complex tone and the expensive of a little mid-range honk, which will be right up the street of fingerpickers, who rely on a snappy response and dynamic between the high and low strings in order to express themselves fully. Bluesey strummers will have to look elsewhere, but then again the sheer dimensions of the neck don’t exactly lend themselves to campfire-strumalongs.
Ah yes, that neck. As always, the ebony fingerboard offers crisp attack, but the real story is how the extra width adds to the experience for dedicated fingerstyle players. The cutaway offers much of the fret access and comfort of a concert/orchestra shaped guitar, but the dreadnought dimensions offer a bit more kick and volume, making for plenty of versatility if you do decide to start strumming from time to time. The contours also allow for all manner of different percussive sounds, with the built-in microphone proving to be the perfect way of picking up all those wonderful extra sounds.
The electronics all-round are very impressive indeed, offering a controllable (but not overly complex) operation that yields an expressive and highly authentic set of tones. The piezo on its own naturally sounds a tad more artificial and it’s here that the benefits of the microphone really come into play, adding warmth and a very natural response to the tone that makes plugging in an exciting prospect, rather than a tone-sucking disaster.
All things considered, the Seagull Peppino D’Agostino model is an incredibly accomplished guitar. Aesthetics, tones, features and good ol’ fashioned know-how come together superbly. The only downside is that it’s also an incredibly specific instrument, one that will likely apply to a select few that really need such a wide neck and have longed for a bridge between classical and steel-string instruments. Yet, this also reveals one of the singularly most impressive aspects about this guitar, and that would be the fact that it is a true signature guitar; completely personalised to an accomplished musician in a way that genuinely can’t be found elsewhere in the product line-up. Certainly, those looking for more complex electronics or more of an all-rounder will likely be forced to look elsewhere, but for the others, Seagull has produced a guitar that could well serve as the most faithful workhorse you could ever hope for. Alun Lower
Model: Artist Peppino D’Agostino
Retail Price: £1,499
Body Size: Jumbo Cutaway
Made In: Canada
Top: Solid Spruce
Back and Sides: Solid Rosewood
Tuners: Cream Buttons Gold Hardware
Nut Width: 1.9”
Onboard Electronics: Quantum II
Strings Fitted: High Quality USA
Gig Bag/Case Included: TRIC Case
Pros: Very class charm and TRIC case
Cons: Might be too specific for some
Overall: Great guitar for fingerstylists
Contact Details: 440 Distribution