Ayers D-02 Review

AG 220 April 2011

Posted by Jason Borisoff

Distributed in Asia and Australia for more than 20 years, Vietnamese-made Ayers guitars are finally available in the United States. In 1991, master luthier Gerard Gilet was brought in to help with design and quality-control issues, and about four or five years ago, the company decided to create a line for the Western market, with a heavy presence at Europe’s premier trade show, Musikmesse. We received the D-02, an all-solid-wood mahogany dreadnought, for review, and Ayers also offers auditorium, small jumbo, and orchestra body styles, plus a nylon-string and travel-size steel-string. Tonewoods include Sitka and Engelmann spruce, African and Vietnamese mahogany, western red cedar, koa, Vietnamese and Indian rosewood, and ovangkol. Each guitar is hand-built in a factory that employs 100 Vietnamese journeymen supervised by five master luthiers.

Natural Simplicity

The Ayers D-02 has a simple, natural elegance, with minimal inlays and all-wood binding. Our review instrument has a tight-grained Sitka spruce top and book-matched Vietnamese mahogany back and sides that have a striking and very unusual grain pattern, possibly from the way the wood was cut. The instrument is bound in padauk and maple, with a thin black strip dividing and accenting the woods. The centerpiece of this guitar is the soundhole rosette, a thick, beautiful rosewood ring with a black-and-white border to distinguish it from the spruce top.

Overall, the D-02 is very cleanly built, with exceptional binding work, clean glue joints, and no overspray. The gloss finish is a little thick, with slight but noticeable pitting when examined closely, but the satin-finish neck looks and feels great.

Ergonomic Neck Profile

I typically prefer wider, 1 3/4-inch necks, but due to the low, smooth, and even profile, I was quite comfortable with the D-02’s 1 11/16-inch nut width. The B string buzzed a bit against the first fret, but a quick setup by a qualified luthier would solve this problem. The action was set at a comfortable height, and it remained even up the fingerboard, with no buzzing or fretting out. The frets were flawlessly dressed and crowned, with no sharp edges protruding from the fingerboard. The satin finish felt smooth and fast.

A Bright, Shining Star

The D-02 is a very bright guitar. The highs and high mids ring out, providing a beautiful shine to upper-position triads. When the guitar is strummed with a pick, the initial attack is very crisp, percussive, and loud, and this is followed by a resonant sustain and long decay. Fingerpicking warms the attack considerably while giving off a bright, almost metallic ring. When played with basic Travis picking, the D-02 provided a pleasing contrast to a solo baritone folksinger.

The guitar’s shimmering sound led me to play some New Age–sounding chords against a drone A or D string, but the instrument’s resonance tends to obscure the voice-leading in four-note jazz chords. The D-02’s snappy attack lends itself to Gypsy jazz leads, and its percussive attack helps drive the “le pompe” style of rhythm guitar associated with this music. When it’s strummed aggressively in a bluegrass quartet, however, the high overtones become overdriven, producing an out-of-place jangly tone. On flatpicked bluegrass leads, the D-02 cuts right through the mix, but it lacks the warmth associated with Martin-style dreadnoughts. However, heavier strings than the light-gauge set the D-02 ships with might help balance the tone for this style.

Great Dreadnought Value

Overall, the Ayers D-02 is a fantastic instrument and a real value—a beautifully decorated, all-solid-wood guitar for under $1,000 that plays and sounds great right out of the box. If you’re primarily a bluegrass picker, this might not be your instrument, but the D-02 provides rich colors for solo and ensemble folk singing and contemporary chord progressions, and it even does a decent Selmer/Maccaferri impersonation.

SPECS: Dreadnought body size. Solid Sitka spruce top. Solid Vietnamese mahogany back, sides, and neck. East Indian rosewood bridge, fingerboard, and headstock overlay. Maple and padauk body binding. X-bracing. 1 11/16-inch nut width. 2 1/4-inch string spacing at the saddle. Gloss polyurethane body finish. Satin polyurethane finish on the neck. Chrome Gotoh tuners. D’Addario EXP-16 strings (.012–.053). Made in Vietnam.

PRICE: $1,099 list/$949 street.

MAKER: Ayers: (800) 289-5810; ayersguitarusa.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar April 2011

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