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  #1  
Old 01-08-2017, 01:20 PM
Llamarebel Llamarebel is offline
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Default First Reactions: NGD Blackbird El Capitan

I don't have pictures (I know!) or sound clips yet because I need to set up my new recording interface, but those will be coming in the next few days, and I should be able to do a side by side of the X20 and the El Capitan

I just received my Blackbird El Capitan 2 days ago after a 14 week wait, and first of all, she is a beauty. The back and sides are more of a gloss finish, but the top is more of a soft matte/velvet finish and I love it, although it doesn't take my static cling pickguard at all. The Gotoh open tuners are very nice and smooth, I opted for the standard vs the gold upgrade. I also opted for an optional sound port on the side for just a little louder monitor while playing.

Now, the sound. Blackbird claims "Vintage" and "Woody" and boy it has it in spades. When doing a side by side of my X20 and the El Capitan, they are VERY different beasts. As I'm sure many Emerald owners know, the X20 is more clear/piano like I might even say, though perhaps with less "chime" than Rainsong. The El Capitan, contrary to some of the videos I watched, does have a nice amount of bass, it's certainly no cannon, but I think the whole guitar is balanced nicely.

The main difference between this eKoa and all other CFs I have played is the woodiness of the tone. It was actually a shock when I first got it out of the case and played it, it really sounds like a 30-40 year old guitar, a little bit of that "boxy" sound but blends extremely well strumming and has good separation when fingerpicking. I will say the mids are stronger than the X20, but it sounds beautiful, just serves a slightly different purpose.

I will update hopefully with side by side sound and pics soon!
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Old 01-08-2017, 01:28 PM
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Acousticado Acousticado is offline
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Congrats and thanks for posting your impressions, especially being in a position to compare the two. I look forward to seeing and hearing your future video shootouts. AGFer ChicagoTodd also recently took possession of an El Capitan and has favorably reviewed it for us. I think he's also in the process of having an X20, wordy I think, built for him. Hopefully, he will also offer comparisons. I've commented before that the ekoa platform interests me, but until Blackbird comes out with a GA body style with cutaway and a more standard headstock design, I won't consider taking a plunge.
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:10 PM
Steve Christens Steve Christens is offline
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I recently purchased a Blackbird Farallon Ekoa Tenor ukulele, and have been very impressed with how warm it sounds, especially given how small the body is. I haven't had the chance to play an El Cap yet, but given my experience with the Farallon I may not be able to resist.
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:50 PM
Llamarebel Llamarebel is offline
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It is quite warm. I think I actually underestimated the vintage vibe the sound would have, but now having it for a few days, I think it and the X20 complement each other quite nicely, filling totally different niches. I have heard great things about their Ukes.
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Old 04-16-2019, 11:00 PM
marc_woods marc_woods is offline
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I am the current owner of one of these El Capitan guitars. I purchased this instrument second hand about 8 months ago from a guitar store in Tokyo, Japan for $2,500 (a bit pricey, I know!). When I first played this guitar, I instantly fell in love with the warm tone and the feel of the instrument. The guitar played like a dream, I didn't know much about Blackbird guitars or Ekoa material at the time but decided to throw caution to the wind and just go for it!

About 1 month ago I noticed that the guitar had some serious warping/bending at the neck (the fret-board is approx. 2-3mm lower near the tuning pegs than the bridge end) rendering the guitar practically unplayable due to high fret-buzz. On top of this, the body had become warped (protruding) below the bridge. This warping wasn't present when I first bought the guitar and I haven't tampered with the truss rod at all. I took the guitar to a local guitar luthier and he confirmed my worst fears. He said that the high amount of warping in the body is most likely to the extremely thin material used in the body (far thinner than wooden-build counterparts). I advise you to please take the review below that states "it is going to last forever", with a pinch of salt, trust me, it wont...
I suspect that the cause of warping/deformation is due to the high-humidity of the climate I am based (Taiwan R.O.C, humidity > 90%)

I then asked the luthier whether he could help reset the neck and fix the warping in the body, he said that the risk was too high as he is not familiar with Blackbird's Ekoa material, meaning that the only option left was to return the guitar to Blackbird for a rebuild. Fortunately all Blackbird guitars have a lifetime warranty, right? I took some photos of the warped neck and body and emailed them to Blackbird's service center. I got a reply back about 3 weeks later saying that my guitar "needs a substantial rebuild" and as I purchased the guitar second-hand, it is out of warranty and will cost several hundreds of dollars to fix not including shipping fees.

So, I've spent $2,500 on a guitar that has become unplayable after 8 months and will likely cost upwards of $1,000 to fix (shipping a guitar from Asia to California isn't cheap!). What have I learnt? It's probably best to stick to wood :-)
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Old 04-16-2019, 11:35 PM
jdinco jdinco is offline
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Wow...really sorry to hear that! Makes me feel like my problem with the X7 (separate thread) is pretty inconsequential. Best of luck getting it fixed. If you remain in the same climate, wouldn't it happen again??
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Old 04-17-2019, 07:21 AM
jonfields45 jonfields45 is offline
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I think it is not reasonable to expect grown flax fiber to be as robust as carbon or glass fiber. It does look and sound nice, but I think there will be a learning curve on how to build guitars out of it.
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Old 04-17-2019, 10:34 AM
EvanB EvanB is offline
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I think you need to call Joe. He has introduced a new material and should be highly interested in how it weathers.

Or maybe, since you've essentially written it off, just send it to Joe with a note indicating the problem and how it is really more his problem than yours.

I've had three Blackbird instruments and found Joe to be Golden.
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Old 04-19-2019, 06:55 AM
Strumalot Strumalot is offline
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I leave my Savoy hanging where it gets to 115F and humidity gets a little "robust," at certain times, too.

OK so far, but the problems mentioned here are a concern.

Blackbird publishes what temps and conditions their guitars can accommodate, so you would think they would stand up to the claims.

You can read them here (click on the relevant FAQs)...

https://www.blackbirdguitar.com/pages/faqs

Llamarebel, I found your comments on the El Capitan interesting. It's one of the composite guitars I would like to try but haven't had the opportunity.

As a steel string, my Savoy has some unique qualities, but was no match for my CA GX. Works great as a nylon. Would be curious to know your thoughts if you were to give nylon strings a test.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:18 AM
Earl49 Earl49 is offline
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These issues are disturbing Marc, as eKoa should be stable almost anywhere where humans are comfortable. Take you luthier's comments with a grain of salt - composite guitars are much different than wood guitars, so he is operating beyond his expertise. I can see eKoa and flax fibers being somewhat less robust than totally inert carbon fiber. My Farallon ukulele does not worry me and has been played in temperatures up to 105F (where I am NOT comfortable) as has my Lucky 13 guitar. I don't abuse them by pushing the limits - no extended stays in a hot car on a summer day - but I don't worry about it too much either.

The warranty applies only to the original owner, and that position is understandable. However, I believe that Joe would actually be very interested in learning about and perhaps seeing this instrument, what happened to it, and understanding the conditions your guitar lives in. I second the notion to call and speak with him personally.
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Old 04-19-2019, 01:40 PM
jonfields45 jonfields45 is offline
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When I was thinking about flax fiber robustness, I was not thinking about temperature resistance, but rather mechanical stability of a hydrophilic (absorbs water) fiber. I played an early El Capitan and it had high action and no bridge saddle left to sand. The store owner was quite excited about that guitar and I chose to say nothing (more polite that my usual? :~). It did look and sound great.

CF and Glass fibers are hydrophobic (don't mix with or absorb water). Epoxy's characteristics depend on the specific compound, but the stuff we used in semiconductor packaging (in my day) had to be dry packed to keep it from absorbing water and exploding when subjected to heat for soldering. Clearly the stuff they paint boats with is hydrophobic.

In any case, organic fiber in composite build-ups is still relatively new technology. Until you build, age, and cycle some guitars at various temperatures and humidities, you don't know for sure how it's going to hold up.

Presumably today's eKoa guitars are past this point in their development.

Flax/Linen is relatively expensive stuff. I can't wait for hemp guitars!
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Last edited by jonfields45; 04-21-2019 at 07:44 AM.
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Old 04-19-2019, 03:36 PM
Captain Jim Captain Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonfields45 View Post
When I was thinking about flax fiber robustness, I was not thinking about temperature resistance, but rather mechanical stability of a hydrophilic (absorbs water) fiber. ...

In any case, organic fiber in composite build-ups is still relatively new technology. Until you build, age, and cycle some guitars at various temperatures and humidities, you don't know for sure how it's going to hold up.

Presumably today's eKoa guitars are past this point in their development.

Flax/Linen is relatively expensive stuff. I can't wait for hemp guitars!
Tomorrow is 4:20 Day. Good timing for an announcement.
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Old 04-19-2019, 03:40 PM
gerardo1000 gerardo1000 is offline
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The negative experience of Marc shows that the Ekoa made guitars are still in an experimenthal phase...therefore I believe that, warranty or not, Blackbird should step up and make things right.
I hope that Joe is reading this thread.
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Old 04-19-2019, 03:43 PM
EvanB EvanB is offline
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Jon;

I suspect that a hemp guitar is inevitable. It's not just for rope, shirts and shoes anymore--something is going to have to replace plastic and hemp research is burning and turning. If you find a hemp guitar let me know.
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Old 04-19-2019, 04:24 PM
jonfields45 jonfields45 is offline
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Yamaha made Bambu guitars for a while. Since they were real bottom of the line instruments (as I remember...) they may have had more in common with flake board sheathing than high tech composite. I never saw/heard one in-person :~(.
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Last edited by jonfields45; 04-20-2019 at 08:46 AM.
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