Boulder Creek ECGC-7VB Review
Modern features like offset soundholes, side soundports, and wood binding have been typicallybeen found on costly, bespoke guitars. But these construction attributes are being seen with increasing regularity on guitars at all levels, including the line of smartly modern flattops designed in California by Boulder Creek Guitars. Boulder Creek builds a full complement of instruments, from nylon-string models to 12-strings, and OMs to jumbos. We auditioned the Gold Series ECGC-7VB, a grand concert–size cutaway model with a maple body and a built-in electronics system.
The ECGC-7VB is built from an attractive medley of tonewoods. The spruce soundboard on our review instrument was finely grained, and the quartersawn flamed maple back (which was perfectly book-matched) and sides had impressive grain and figuring, offering a nice contrast to the plain maple used for the neck. The rosewood headstock cap is a smart touch.
In addition to traditional wooden X-bracing, the ECGC-7VB boasts Boulder’s Suspended Bracing System. Developed by Mike Shellhammer, this system incorporates a pair of lightweight aluminum tone bars mounted to plastic brackets that are glued to the top and designed to provide extra strength to the soundboard while allowing the top to vibrate freely, enhancing the guitar’s sustain and resonance. Meanwhile, the upper-bout soundhole is intended to make the guitar louder and create a more pronounced bottom end than a centrally located soundhole does, while the side soundport directs the sound to the player’s ear.
Finished in a glowing violin-inspired sunburst, the ECGC-7VB has an elegant appearance, made even more so by the natural plain maple used for the body and headstock binding as well as the heel cap, back strip, and end strip, all with twin black definition lines. The fingerboard’s binding, which has no black lines, is gracefully thin. A pearl rosette around the soundhole adds a subtle sparkle, as do the iridescent dot markers inlaid on the fingerboard and Boulder Creek logo on the headstock. And the gold sealed tuners have handsome ebony-like buttons.
The ECGC-7VB we reviewed is decently crafted overall, a solidly built guitar that should hold up well with years of use. Aside from the frets needing a bit more polishing—a situation that could be addressed easily enough by a trusted tech—there were no anomalies to be found that would affect the playability or the sound. And the superficial rough spots like internal glue gobs can absolutely be forgiven on a $500 guitar.
Impressive Voice and Responsiveness
Although the ECGC-7VB is a bit heavy, it sits nicely on the lap, and the neck has a medium C-shape profile and 1 11/16-inch nut that will appeal to a broad selection of players. Its factory-set low action was comfortable and buzz-free and the notes rang clear and true at all 20 frets. Despite some jagged fret edges and a heel-mounted strap button that rubbed against the fretting hand in the higher positions, the guitar was a pleasure to play.
Overall the ECGC-7VB had an attractive voice—clear and bright, owing likely to its maple build, with impressive sustain, volume, and projection. The low end was sturdy and the highs well defined, while the mids were a bit assertive, and the soundport did indeed seem to provide a detailed listening experience for the player.
The ECGC-7VB excelled in a range of settings. It was great for strumming approaches, from boom-chuck to Carter-style to even four-to-the-bar jazz, and chords of all sorts had good note separation and balance on the instrument. Articulated with a flatpick, single-note lines in any style sounded robust.
Despite a relatively narrow nut width of 1 11/16 inches, the guitar’s string spacing didn’t feel at all cramped for fingerpicking, and the guitar rang sweetly when placed in alternate tunings like open G or D A D G A D and subjected to fingerpicked improvisations.
Like many Boulder Creek acoustic-electric guitars, the ECGC-7VB comes equipped with the company’s AB4-T preamp and undersaddle piezo pickup. The preamp includes a chromatic tuner, which bypasses the output when it is engaged; four-band EQ (brilliance, treble, mid, and bass) with sliding controls; a volume knob; and a phase switch. While typical acoustic guitar electronics include a single 1/4-inch output, the AB4-T has both a 1/4-inch unbalanced jack and balanced XLR. Though the guitar had a natural sound when amplified with the EQ set flat, it’s nice to have the sound-shaping flexibility it offers. Running the guitar through a Fender Acoustasonic, I found it easy to dial in dark jazz tones or shimmering, bright timbres.
Overall, the ECGC-7VB is an attractively voiced and extremely playable instrument, an acoustic-electric that sounds good plugged in or not. As a bonus, the guitar is styled in the manner of a fine boutique instrument but costs a mere fraction of one, and can therefore be enjoyed without anxiety.
SPECS: Grand concert body size. Solid spruce top with wood X-brace and Suspended Bracing System. Laminated flamed maple back and sides. Maple neck. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Synthetic bone nut and saddle. 25.624-inch scale. 1 11/16-inch nut width. X-inch string spacing at saddle. Violin Burst gloss finish. Gold tuners with 18:1 ratio. Proprietary undersaddle pickup and AB4-T preamp. D’Addario EXP (.012–.053) strings. Made in China.
PRICE: $699 list/$489 street.
MAKER: Boulder Creek Guitars: (408) 779-3845; bouldercreekguitars.com.
Teja Gerken:The Boulder Creek ECGC-7VB continues the company’s concept of delivering designs and features found on high-end, luthier-built guitars to entry-level price regions. Certainly, the guitar’s maple back and sides, wood binding, and sunburst finish convey class, and its offset soundhole and side soundport will be instant conversation starters even before the radical internal bracing is discovered. But how does it play and sound? Our review guitar featured an ultralow action setup that would have made most electric guitars proud. As such, playability was very easy, though at the cost of some buzzing with a heavy picking hand. Due to the large side soundport, the Boulder Creek’s impressive bass sound was more audible to the player than to a listener. But even with this caveat, the guitar offered a lovely, rich voice that, while not as dynamic and complex as some, made the guitar very satisfying to play.
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar October 2013