Faith Venus Nat­u­ral Se­ries

JUST AN­OTHER AU­DI­TO­RIUM? WE’LL SEE... WORDS BY

Australian Guitar - - Contents - STEVE HEN­DER­SON

The au­di­to­rium gui­tar is a ven­er­a­ble de­sign that has stood the test of time. It’s been around way longer than the dread­nought has, and while over­shad­owed for a few decades, the model has seen a re­vival in the last 20 years or so due to acous­tic mu­sic mak­ing a come­back. Be­fore the 1940s, when the dread­nought re­ally took off, the au­di­to­rium (like Martin’s 000 and Gib­son’s L-00) was the gui­tar of choice for tone and pro­jec­tion. In fact, prior to the ‘ 30s, it was the largest flat­top avail­able.

ONE IN A MIL­LION

Dur­ing the 1990s, acous­tic mu­sic un­der­went a ma­jor resur­gence, prob­a­bly in re­ac­tion to the dark days of the syn­the­sised ‘80s. But the gui­tar of choice was gen­er­ally a dread­nought, un­til Clap­ton and a few other started per­form­ing with 000s and such. Th­ese days, ev­ery­one makes a 000-style gui­tar, from en­try level brands to Martin’s 000-45 and Ol­son’s cus­tom mod­els. So when I opened the case of this F aith acous­tic, there were mixed feel­ings: a la­conic, “Oh, an­other au­di­to­rium” bal­anced with a heart­felt, “Nice rosette!”

So, still in its case, I ca­su­ally raked the strings and this won­der­fully bal­anced sound leapt out. The vol­ume is re­mark­able but, as is its tonal­ity. Pick­ing it up (still ring­ing, by the way), it feels lighter than ex­pected. The solid En­gle­mann top shows a soft, straight grain with plenty of silk­ing. The solid ma­hogany body is light and res­o­nant, and slightly deeper than a 000. The ma­hogany neck has a con­fi­dent feel, the macas­sar ebony fret­board feels great, and the rose­wood bridge and head­stock over­lay add an ex­tra layer of class. And speak­ing of class, the gold Grovers with ebony but­tons and the beau­ti­fully ren­dered abalone rosette are nice touches.

CRYS­TAL CLEAR

Play­ing the Venus is like meet­ing an old friend. The neck has a fa­mil­iar, lived-in feel and the gen­er­ous ebony fret­board and pol­ished frets of­fer no re­sis­tance – ne­go­ti­at­ing this neck is a plea­sure. It has a com­fort­able D-shape with a sub­tle vo­lute be­hind the nut that is al­most un­no­tice­able. It feels very sta­ble, too, even tun­ing down to Drop D, then Drop C, then the whole lot down a tone from Stan­dard. The Venus just doesn’t seem to mind.

The spruce top doesn’t ei­ther, de­liv­er­ing rich low notes no mat­ter the tun­ing and with­out any flub­bi­ness or wolf tones. Com­plex chords have great note def­i­ni­tion: try an open-string E mi­nor 11 (kind of like a B mi­nor over E) and you’ll hear each string speak with­out any neg­a­tive in­ter­ac­tion with the next. Raise the root note to a C, and there’s still plenty of clar­ity.

The bass notes are tight and de­fined. There’s no sub­sonic thump, so if that’s what you’re look­ing for, you might fare bet­ter with a dread­nought. There’s a three-di­men­sional re­fined­ness to the tone that causes the fun­da­men­tal to ring clearly, fol­lowed by the oc­tave and fifth above har­mon­ics (those first two crit­i­cal notes from the har­monic se­ries) that quickly bloom out of that fun­da­men­tal. This hap­pens even with fret­ted notes all along the neck.

This means chords have a com­plex har­monic struc­ture. They’re rich and vi­brant, and up­per fret par­tials com­bined with open strings work in­cred­i­bly well on the Venus. Even down the neck, chords like Bb Maj7 # 11 dis­play no har­monic clash. All over the neck, fret­ted notes in­ter­act sweetly with open strings, and the string-to-string in­to­na­tion is per­fect.

I AM VENUS, HEAR ME ROAR!

The Venus has a sur­pris­ingly high level of pro­jec­tion. Yeah, it’s loud, but it’s also a qual­ity sound. When strummed, the Venus com­presses just a lit­tle, then de­liv­ers the full tone. This doesn’t mean there’s any la­tency, though – on the con­trary, the Venus de­liv­ers its tone fast, and it be­comes more com­plex as it sus­tains. In a band sit­u­a­tion, the gui­tar is light and comfy to move around with, and the smaller body low­ers the feed­back thresh­old.

Plugged in, the Fish­man INK3 preamp and un­der sad­dle pickup do a fine job of ac cu­rately rep­re­sent­ing the acous­tic sound. I used a Fish­man Loud­box Mini and a Fish­man SA220 to test the pickup tone, and both gave an ex­cel­lent ac­count of the Venus’ un­plugged sound.

If you’re a fin­ger­stylist, the Venus may be just what you’re look­ing for. It has an ar tic­u­late neck and fin­ger­board com­bi­na­tion, and the smaller body means a more com­fort­able right-hand po­si­tion. The cut­away of­fers free­dom of ac­cess to those higher po­si­tions (which you may hardly use, but that’s not the point) and it adds some ex­tra style to the over­all ap­pear­ance.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

The Venus has a satin fin­ish ev­ery­where ex­cept the top, which is glossed. This is not just f or the cos­metic bonus: a gloss sound­board re­duces the noise of fore­arms brush­ing top when strum­ming and fin­ger move­ment when fingerpicking. Per­son­ally, I think ev­ery gui­tar should have a gloss top just for th­ese rea­sons – the Venus is a clear ex­am­ple of a gloss top’s ben­e­fits.

The Venus comes in a stylish arched case, which you’ll need be­cause you’ll want to take it ev­ery­where. The Faith Venus is an ex­cep­tional ex­am­ple of the luthier’s art.

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