Peavey DW-3

Posted by Adam Perlmutter

Right out of the box, Peavey’s new DW-3 is a fantastic player, with a medium-sized, C-shaped neck that’s comfortable to grip in all regions, even for extended periods. What’s more, the sleek low action allows you to play both barre chords and swift single notes with ease. Any type of guitarist would be happy with this instrument, but it’s an especially good choice for those who primarily play the electric.

For example, when I plugged the instrument into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, I got some nice acoustic-electric tones. With a 50/50 blend of the DW-3’s pickup and built-in mic, and the equalizer set flat, the electronics did a fair job of reproducing the instrument’s natural acoustic sound, and tweaking the EQ allowed for a satisfying range of tones, from dark jazz timbres to shimmering, ethereal textures.

Pioneered Use of Computers in Guitar Design

In 1965, Mississippi-based Peavey Electronics began offering its trademark roadworthy guitar and bass amplifiers at modest prices. But by the 1970s, sales of Peavey amps were threatened when such companies as Gibson and Fender began giving dealers harsh incentives to sell their exclusive amplifiers.

Peavey fought back, and later that decade was making its own guitars and basses. In doing so, the company pioneered the use of computers — specifically, CNC equipment — to produce guitars of remarkably consistent build and quality at much lower prices than its competitors.

Peavey’s guitar line now includes Composite Acoustics carbon-fiber instruments, the Composer series of modern parlor guitars, and the DW series of dreadnought acoustic-electrics—most, save for the Composite Acoustics instruments, sell for well under a grand.

Smart Dreadnought Design

The DW-3 is built on the traditional dreadnought platform. The soundboard is solid Sitka spruce; the back and sides, rosewood; the three-piece neck, mahogany; and the fretboard and bridge, rosewood. Our review model is built from a selection of attractive tonewoods. The rosewood’s wavy striations range from a deep purple to a warm brown, and the spruce is finely and evenly grained. On the neck, though, the three pieces could have been better matched in terms of grain pattern and coloring.

The DW-3 is a handsome guitar, without an overabundance of ornamentation. The binding on the body, fingerboard, and headstock is not cellulose but wooden—a classy touch that is echoed in the material of the heel cap and truss-rod cover. The laser-etched rosette has a lovely wooden-looking motif, encircled by fine brown lines; the bridge, a cool, idiosyncratic shape that calls to mind the back pocket on a pair of Levi’s. And gold tuners with ebony-like buttons add a subtle touch of elegance.

Craftsmanship on the DW-3 is good for a guitar in its price range. The frets are nicely crowned and polished, though just a hint jagged at the edges of the fingerboard. The glossy natural finish is smoothly buffed and polished, without any apparent orange-peel effect. There’s a smidgen of excess glue where the edge of the fingerboard meets the soundhole—a small flaw mitigated by the tidy construction on the guitar’s interior and hardly a deal-breaking detail.

Notes Ring Clear & True

When you strum an open-E chord forcefully on the DW-3, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a cannon—the hallmark of the finest dreadnoughts. It does have a decent amount of volume, though, and is nicely balanced between the registers, from a sturdy bass to a clear treble. The guitar has adequate sustain and a hint of natural reverb. When played moderately loud, all of the notes, from those on the open string to those at the 20th fret, ring clear and true, with perfect intonation. There is, however, a hint of buzzing on certain fourth-string notes when they are accented.

Strummed with a pick, the DW-3 is responsive and full-sounding, whether you’re playing in a traditional mode, like Carter strumming, or in a newer manner, with 16th-note syncopations and percussive muting. Cowboy chords and fully fretted jazz chords sound equally attractive, and single-note lines have a robust presence. And the guitar doesn’t muddy up when played in slackened tunings like open-G and DADGAD, though the tone does start to get a tad murky in open C—an effect that may be avoided with a heavier set of strings  
Though fingerstyle guitarists tend to prefer 1.75-inch nuts, the relatively narrow (1.625-inch) nut on the DW-3 is friendly to this technique, with ample room for the picking fingers to do their work. For everything from basic Travis picking to Bach arrangements, the guitar’s fingerpicked voice is pretty. In standard and a variety of open tunings, the notes blend together smoothly.

The Electronics

The DW-3 comes with Peavey’s onboard microphone and under-saddle piezo pickup. A preamp interface mounted on the guitar’s bass side includes controls for blending the mic and pickup; mini dials for bass, middle, and treble, all plus or minus 12dB; notch and phase controls; a low-battery-check LED; and a built-in digital tuner with a display that illuminates in green when a note is in tune. A 1/4-inch output jack is on the lower right bout, along with an XLR out and a pop-out compartment for the nine-volt battery that controls the electronics.

The Price is Right

Peavey’s DW-3 might not be the finest handcrafted dreadnought, but at a $400 street price, this solid-topped instrument is a great value in a highly playable, nice-sounding, and good-looking package. What’s more, it comes recommended for club work and for home or studio recording. As such, the DW-3 makes an excellent choice for either a beginner or frugal professional.

Body Dreadnought body. Solid Sitka spruce top. Mahogany back and sides.
Neck Mahogany neck. Black ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1.625-inch nut width. 2 1/8-inch string spacing at saddle. Natural gloss finish. Chrome die-cast tuners.
strings Light-gauge phosphor-bronze strings (.012–.053).
extras Onboard microphone and undersaddle piezo pickup with blend knob. Preamp with chromatic tuner. Hardshell case.
Price $549.99 list/$399.99 street.

Contributing editor Adam Perlmutter transcribes, arranges, and engraves music for numerous publications.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar March 2014

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