The Alvarez ABT60 Review: Big tone. Small Price.
The Alvarez ABT60 (or the Acoustic Electric Version, the ABT60E) is baritone that punches above its weight with a bright, earthy, clear, and powerful tone and a solid quality of build. Is this the perfect budget-priced baritone for you? That depends on a combination of how you value tone, ease of play, and quality of build and if you are willing to pay (or have the DIY skills) to have the ABT60 setup.
Build: 4 out of 5
The build on the ABT60 is very good. No, you won't swear you're holding a $2k guitar. But the guitar does not feel cheap and the components all reinforce the notion of quality: the solid Sitka Spruce top, bone nut and saddle, scalloped x bracing, and binding all tell you that this instrument was built for musicians. This guitar just feels right.
The one area where the ABT60 receives less-than-solid marks a little bit of fret noise. Out of the box, the ABT60 had some buzzing spots on the D string. With a little truss rod work and time, the buzz was reduced and removed.
Ease of Play: 4 out of 5
Out of the box, the action on the ABT60 is good for a baritone. If you do your own setup work (adjusting the truss rod to change action) you may end up feeling like you are choosing between fret buzz and fast action. If the ABT60 is your first baritone, consider slowly adjusting the truss rod - don't rush to dial in the lowest possible action. Your fingers will become accustomed to the piano wire sized strings. You ear will never become accustomed to the added fret buzz.
The feel of the ABT60 neck is where this guitar shines in the ease of play department. When playing an electric, I prefer a wide/thin neck shape (think Ibanez or Jackson). While the neck on this Alvarez is thicker than many guitars, it maintains a surprisingly comfortable profile.
One more ease of play note: this guitar is truly jumbo. At just over 17 inches across the lower bout, the ABT60 is a beast. For most players, this is a factor of which one should be aware - but not a show stopper.
Tone: 4.5 out of 5
Tone is where the ABT60 shines. The first chord you play will connect with you at the soul level. The tone is warm and responsive. Both highs and lows are clear and articulate. The ABT60 also lets the earthy combination of wood and strings come through beautifully in your playing. This guitar feels alive and you will feel the same way when you pick one up.
The ABT60E (acoustic electric version) features the SYS550 pickup designed by B-Band. If you are not familiar with B-Band, they are a manufacturer offering an alternative to piezo crystal pickups. B-Band asserts their "electret film technology" behaves more like a condenser mic, capturing the natural sound of the guitar.
Plugged in through a simple acoustic combo amplifier or small PA, the ABT60E does reproduce a remarkably faithful unplugged tone. With some acoustic electrics, you can feel like you have two tonal personalities (an unplugged personality and different personality when plugged in). This is not the case with the ABT60E.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
The Alvarez ABT60 is a well-built, nicely-appointed baritone acoustic guitar. Tone-wise, the ABT60 is a wonderful value for the price. Singer-songwriters should consider this guitar (especially those living on a singer-songwriter budget) as the guitar's quality of tone and baritone voicing will let open chords and drone tones shine in a way that makes simple phrasings sound unique and beautiful.
If you are looking for a true baritone acoustic for under $1,000, you should get your hands on the Alvarez ABT60 or ABT60E. You won't be disappointed.
If you've enjoyed this article, you should also check out our profile of the the Alvarez ABT60CE - an update on the ABT60E.