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  #16  
Old 04-10-2016, 07:02 AM
Teleplucker Teleplucker is offline
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The Tone devil guitars are a great bang for the buck, I wouldn't call them entry level, because they are much nicer than an entry level 6 string guitar. They are probably not quite up to the level of Tony Karol, Duane Nobel and the other builders that start at $8k or so.
Without spending a lot more money I don't think you will do better than a Tonedevil.
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  #17  
Old 04-14-2016, 07:32 PM
tommyld tommyld is offline
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The Tonedevil S-12 arrived yesterday.

I was first surprised at it coming in a standard-size guitar shipping box, and then again with the size of gigbag. Having never seen a harp guitar in person, part of me was expecting a monstrosity. In the bag, it's 4.5" shorter than my dread's case, and even a couple inches shorter than my Grand Concert's case. People talk about lugging harp guitars around like it's a nightmare. Well, the gigbag isn't very protective and I wouldn't trust it other than a few miles in an otherwise empty car...but in the right case, it'd hardly be terrible to lug around.

My expectations were confirmed--this is easily the best deal going for harp guitars.

I quickly moved on to inspect things that are more important to me: playability, build quality, and tone.

Playability: 10/10.
This is very important to me, and it's fantastic, very easy and smooth fretting, and I'm picky. Exactly how I like, medium-low, out of the box. (Both my 6-strings have 1 7/8" nuts, so I was right at home.) The light strings sound more robust than lights usually do (large sound chamber, large top?). Plays as well as my best Taylor, which is impressive.

Another feature that won me over was the 14-fret neck. Most/all other harp guitars I've seen have a 12-fret neck. I like 12-frets with cutaways, but I otherwise need 14-frets for a lot of my songs.

Build quality: 8/10.
Excellent overall. Fretwork is great, walnut binding is excellently done. The design is admirable, comfortable (considering the large arm...sitting down, it doesn't feel much more unweildy than a dreadnought). I swapped the cast tuner buttons for some pearloid ones, which took additional weight off the headstocks.
It's very resonant, and feels properly-but-lightly built (just tap on the top, sides, or back! Wow.). Has unkerfed lining, back braces that don't extend into the (un)kerfing. Spanish heel neck, which (at least in my mind) must be good for stability. I like the shape of both headstocks. The larger-than-usual dot inlays on the side of the fretboard are good for visibility. Bone nuts and saddles are a nice touch, and properly installed and cut.

Finish: 6/10.
I'm putting this in a separate category than build quality. While the build quality, design, bracing, binding (as well as the frets, nuts, saddles) is excellent, the finish is okay. There are some sanding marks in an area, some unevenness in areas of the finish. Rosette inlay work is okay, some unevenness. Nothing bad at all, just a little room for improvement. The open grain finish is cool, though. And at this price-point, the finish is the only area that doesn't well-exceed expectations.

Tone: 9/10.
I don't have a $3,500 - $12,000 harp guitar to compare this to, but it was everything I'd hoped for tonally. I'm thrilled with the tone. It's crisp yet full. Notes leap right out (larger soundboard and/or the lightness of the build?), the reverb-like effect of the harp strings is inspiring (and easy to mute with the wrist when required). The bass notes are full and defined, not mush.

I was concerned about learning the harp guitar (and you should be too! Haha.), but within 30 minutes I was working out some great new arrangements of my songs. I'm bound to be non-traditional harp guitar player, using it for more modern folk singer-songwriter stuff. I do spend most of my time fingerpicking and have spent a lot of time on oud-type instruments with wide (3"+) saddle spacing, so I was already used to playing with a wide reach.

The harp guitar absolutely deserves its resurgence, and I think Tonedevil (and Emerald) will play a big role in it (partly due to price-points). But this price for a wooden, full-size, true harp guitar, how could you do any better? The Tonedevil is absolutely well-made, and well above entry-level in tone and playability, and overall build quality. I feel good about supporting a small business run my skilled craftsmen in the US. Tonedevil is onto something pretty awesome.

Last edited by tommyld; 05-11-2016 at 05:05 PM.
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  #18  
Old 04-14-2016, 07:41 PM
LARPUP48 LARPUP48 is offline
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Excellent review. I've had mine a few months and I couldn't have said it any better.
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  #19  
Old 04-14-2016, 09:11 PM
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Very nice review Tommyld! A harp guitar is a beast that takes some getting used to. I've had mine for over a year and I still feel like its a new experience, or maybe I'm a slow learner. ;-) A huge +1 on Gregg Miner's site: http://www.harpguitars.net

There's such a wealth of information there gathered from so many sources. As for the Powell Brothers another +2! I talked to them before I did my custom build with Duane Noble and came close to going their way. I just really wanted a cutaway, and a fan fret, and a bevel... you know how it goes. But the Powell's are great folks who make a nice product at a very reasonable price.

Best of luck on your journey!
-jay
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  #20  
Old 04-14-2016, 09:42 PM
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JeffreyAK JeffreyAK is offline
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Excellent review, thanks for that! I've got an appointment with Gregg in LA next week to check out the S-12 he has for sale, and I'm thinking I'm going to like it enough to take it home.
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'17 Tonedevil S-18 harp guitar
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'79 Fender Stratocaster hardtail
'82 Fender Musicmaster bass
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Marshall JVM210c amp plus a bunch of stompboxes and misc. gear
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  #21  
Old 04-15-2016, 11:07 AM
tommyld tommyld is offline
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Thanks, all!
I'll get some pics up soon...and video once I'm comfortable enough with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffreyAK View Post
I've got an appointment with Gregg in LA next week to check out the S-12 he has for sale, and I'm thinking I'm going to like it enough to take it home.
Wouldn't be surprised at all by that.
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  #22  
Old 04-16-2016, 05:53 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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Default ToneDevil Guitars

They had a booth at Wintergrass a few years back. I played a couple of their models and was favorably impressed. Real good guys too. We jammed for a while there. They featured a strange (to me) triangular shaped piezo pickup system in their AE models.
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  #23  
Old 04-16-2016, 06:34 PM
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Doug Young Doug Young is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
They featured a strange (to me) triangular shaped piezo pickup system in their AE models.
Most likely Dazzo's. That's what was in the one I saw.
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  #24  
Old 04-19-2016, 10:54 PM
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Another new S-12 owner here.

Gregg is a great guy and a gentleman, and it was a pleasure doing business with him. And it was a spectacular unexpected pleasure to get an all-too-short look at his museum. I was absolutely stunned, you walk in the door and... Whoa, I would never have guessed the house contained such a place, and it's far more jaw-dropping in person than in photos. It's possibly the most spectacular stringed instrument museum I have seen, and certainly the only harp guitar museum I have ever seen. I hope someday he moves it to a public location where visitors and especially musically-inclined kids can see it, it is a very special holy place.

I've spent all of 45 minutes playing the guitar, but some impressions of my own.
1) The guitar is indeed smaller than I expected, not a monstrosity, and even in it's wooden case it's no more effort to lug around than any other guitar.
2) It sounds wonderful! The tone is very warm and subtle, and responds to small changes in how you pick the strings and where you pick them. It's a well-made all-wood (spruce top, mahogany elsewhere with rosewood fingerboard) guitar, and it sounds like what it is.
3) It plays very well. I too am used to the 1 7/8" nut width, and I like the action higher than some, so it's perfect for me. The intonation is fine, and the tuning wandered a bit until I had played it a bit, I presume the strings hadn't been worked very hard before.
3) Hardware is all good, fit and finish is good but not comparable say to my 456. I expected that, not a big deal. Some of the fret edges are a bit rough, but I had to look for it to notice. The only thing that stuck out, just because I'm not used to it, is that the neck surface is also open-grain and not super smooth. Not a big deal, just different.

The harp guitar part, will take some time. I'm a hybrid flat picker, so to really make use of the bass strings I'll need to change my style when I'm playing this guitar. I ordered some thumb picks to experiment with, that might be all I need. But it'll take some time.

All in all, big thumbs up on the whole transaction! Hopefully by the time the harp guitar gathering comes to CA, I'll be able to play the thing reasonably well and be able to pick up valuable tips from other players.
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'17 Tonedevil S-18 harp guitar
'15 Taylor 456ce 12-string
'16 Tonedevil S-12 harp guitar
'79 Fender Stratocaster hardtail
'82 Fender Musicmaster bass
'15 Breedlove Premier OF mandolin
Marshall JVM210c amp plus a bunch of stompboxes and misc. gear
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  #25  
Old 04-20-2016, 01:56 PM
TonedevilGuitar TonedevilGuitar is offline
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Hey Guys! THANK YOU for all this great feedback! You inspired us to get a membership to participate in this forum (and soon become a marketplace sponsor) so I can help in any way with issues or questions you may have, feel free to message me here or through our website! I am happy @JefferyAK is a proud new owner of an S-12, I always look forward to hearing what compositions and styles come out of new artists.

Its too bad about the lacquer checking on Tom's, but lacquer is prone to do that. I'll personally deal with that more seriously when shipping in the cold months on future sales, as well as the consistency of the finish since this is one of the jobs I do. I am considering switching to a Poly to avoid the cold checking but am still testing its application and tonal characteristics (any feedback??). We can do a "perfect" high gloss lacquer grain-filled finish, or glossy catalyzed Poly, more like those of Noble, Doolin, Wingert and Karol if our customers request it, however its significantly more time consuming and expensive.

As for pickups, we are currently producing our own 3 element contact pickup system for our harp guitars. They have great volume because of the larger elements and I have a good method for installing them in our instruments to achieve the best balance across the long spanning saddles. Teddy is a friend and we still have some of his "Dazzo's" around to install them upon request. I was honored to read Doug Young's comments here about our harp guitar at Gryphon's, as I have followed his pickup reviews for years now, he still has the best sound sample comparisons for acoustic pickups on the net. We'll be seeing him this Sept. in Santa Barbara at SBAIC hopefully.

Also, we do have a hard case option for most all of our builds should you want one later. We developed a contoured form fitted plywood case last year but are going to be switching it to an exact fit "rectangle-ish" shape from now on for better stability and ease of production. Thanks again for the great feedback, it has always been our goal to get an affordable, quality, hand made harp guitar into the hands of anyone who wants one, and now you guys helped make it better!!

~Dave
Tonedevil Guitars
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  #26  
Old 04-20-2016, 10:29 PM
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JeffreyAK JeffreyAK is offline
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Glad you joined up, Dave! Just spent the last 2 hours playing my S-12 in one of Dufour's 6-string tunings that I like, I had to make up my own bass string tuning to go with it but it's fun.
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'17 Tonedevil S-18 harp guitar
'15 Taylor 456ce 12-string
'16 Tonedevil S-12 harp guitar
'79 Fender Stratocaster hardtail
'82 Fender Musicmaster bass
'15 Breedlove Premier OF mandolin
Marshall JVM210c amp plus a bunch of stompboxes and misc. gear
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  #27  
Old 04-20-2016, 11:17 PM
TonedevilGuitar TonedevilGuitar is offline
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Great !! I saw him with andy a couple years ago in spokane. What notes are used in that tuning ? I think I put strings for Bennett tuning on that Harp you have.
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  #28  
Old 04-20-2016, 11:49 PM
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JeffreyAK JeffreyAK is offline
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Dave, yes, both those guys blow my mind. So does Muriel Anderson, and Steve Bennett too.

This one is C#G#EF#BD#. Lately I'm either in this, or a half-step down from EADADE ("open Page"), or dropped-D standard, or standard (mostly on my electric). That's as many as I can wrap my brain around right now. I don't know where I wound up with the bass strings, but I kept the thinnest one the same as the lowest string on the neck, C#, and went down from there to match some of the transitions I was playing with.
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'17 Tonedevil S-18 harp guitar
'15 Taylor 456ce 12-string
'16 Tonedevil S-12 harp guitar
'79 Fender Stratocaster hardtail
'82 Fender Musicmaster bass
'15 Breedlove Premier OF mandolin
Marshall JVM210c amp plus a bunch of stompboxes and misc. gear
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  #29  
Old 04-23-2016, 07:30 AM
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Dave, glad you guys dropped in. You're both a credit to the Harp Guitar end of things. Welcome to the nuthouse! :-)

-jay
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  #30  
Old 06-18-2016, 10:53 PM
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Just an update, I am absolutely loving this guitar. I'm playing it more than my other instruments, and even as a 6-string guitar ignoring the harp strings, it's a joy to play. I don't know what strings it had when I bought it, but I put light Elixirs on and am loving the sound, particularly picking up near the sound hole. I'm gradually adapting to the harp strings, but mostly in my hybrid picking style using a flat pick. Fingerstyle without a flat pick is still work in progress, but I'm finding it's not critical to playing the instrument, though it does limit my ability to play the harp strings and the guitar strings at the same time.

I am so glad I bought this instrument!
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'17 Tonedevil S-18 harp guitar
'15 Taylor 456ce 12-string
'16 Tonedevil S-12 harp guitar
'79 Fender Stratocaster hardtail
'82 Fender Musicmaster bass
'15 Breedlove Premier OF mandolin
Marshall JVM210c amp plus a bunch of stompboxes and misc. gear
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