Seagull Performer

Seagull Performer Acoustic Electric Guitars

seagull-performer-series-acoustic-electric-guitarsThe Seagull Performer Series Acoustic Electric Guitars feature very beautiful Flame or Flaming Maple backs & sides on all 3 of it's current models at the time of this review.  This review is a part of our Seagull Guitars complete review series.  If you are not familiar with Seagull guitars, they are very high quality guitars at a modest price point coming out of La Patrie, Quebec Canada, and the Seagull Guitar Company is a daughter company of the high quality guitar making company called Godin Guitars.  All guitars made by either Seagull or Godin to date are created with the highest standards in craftsmanship using quality, selected laminated and solid tone woods depending on the series.  

I am personally a big fan of Seagull Guitars because they offer one of the highest "bang for your buck" ratios on the market today.  The quality is impeccable for any of their price ranges, whether you are a beginner or intermediate player seeking a guitar in the $400 to $750 range or a more serious artist or collector shopping in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. One would expect to pay a much higher price for the quality of craftsmanship, playability and tone projection from these fine instruments, regardless of the series or price range you choose.

The Seagull Performer Series comes in 3 different models: the Cutaway (CW) dreadnought, CW folk and CW Mini-Jumbo models.  CW in the name simple means "cutaway".

All of the tops for Seagull Guitars are pressure tested before they are hand-selected from top grade solid Spruce tonewoods, and the Performer Series is no different.  They actually machine test every top with a pressure test to ensure the wood will maintain its strength and integrity for years after the guitar is made (assuming the owner takes proper care of the instrument of course).

Spruce is chosen, usually Sitka Spruce, because it is very abundant (more so than Englemann Spruce), and is one of the most rigid guitar top woods for acoustic guitar making on the planet, while being relatively light in weight.

seagull-performer-guitar-pressure-tested-spruce-topIn the picture, you can see the fine, straight grain of the Sitka spruce top, as they book-match the 2 halves of the top and also run the straight grain from top to bottom for maximum strength and longevity against the string strain.  In addition, you can also see the compensated Tusq saddle, which allows the guitar chording to stay in nearly perfect tune when you are playing anywhere along the neck.  A non-compensated saddle (old guitars) will not stay in tune when you chord higher on the neck or when you use bar chords as you move up the fret closer to the body of the guitar.

You can also see the beautiful dark wood bridge which is made from Rosewood, as is the fret-board.

Pressure tested spruce tops are used as the strength to weight ratio is very high, which allows for a long guitar life without having a heavy guitar that would feel bulky and would also reduce the resonance of the string vibration.  This allows the guitar to have an incredible sustaining, projecting and brilliant sound that is bright, punchy and not muttled or murky. In addition, Sitka Spruce has a very tight, fine, straight grain making ideal for a high strength to weight ratio.  The key is in keeping it very light and rigid and responsive as to gain the most vibrant and resonant sound from an acoustic guitar body.  Sitka spruce ages more slowly than cedar top guitars, and is usually lighter in color, but the sound and color can deepen and improve with age if proper care is taken by the owner.

Think about it this way. . . the heavier the top wood, the quicker the string vibrations would settle out (or taper off), making the guitar less resonant and alive.  In addition, the strings, when fully wound and tuned put an average force of 180 pounds of pressure or tension on the standard guitar top (more for heavier gauge strings and less for lighter gauge strings).  This is why some guitars that are poorly constructed or are exposed to excessive fluctuations of heat, cold, dryness and humidity do not last long.  That constant flux on guitar woods can be the ultimate death of any acoustic guitar, regardless of how well it was made and how low the residual moisture or humidity of the tonewoods were at the time of construction.  Taking care of your guitar by not exposing it to extremes in either temperature or humidity  fluctuations will give it the longest life possible.  

In addition, many players swear by the use of a very affordable humidifier for acoustic (or acoustic electric) guitars.  Essentially, they are moisture sources to keep a level of residual moisture within the guitar body and atmosphere so that the wood does not dry out too much.  When tonewoods dry out too much from their factory construction moisture levels (which are usually around 16% to 25% humidity), the wood can shrink and pull away from the seams, damaging, warping or destroying the guitar.  This may be more important in arid climates, as I have lived in Ohio most of my life and have never owned a humidifier for a guitar and have not experienced damage from humidity fluctuations, but I also take care of my instruments.  For the Seagull line, their guitars are created in an environment where the relative humidity is ideal for surviving in drier or wetter owner environments.  In addition, the wood in solid tone wood acoustic guitars (versus laminated woods) are more affected by the changes in temperature and humidity.

The head stocks are veneered flame or flaming maple (over silver leaf maple), with a custom polished high-gloss finish over the entire body of the guitar (except the fret board of course).  The high gloss, versus a polymer or polyurethane coating, allows for a much thinner polish to protect the guitar without thickening the guitar surface, which can dampen the liveliness of the sound and shorten the length of the sustain of the body vibrating, amplifying and projecting from the initial string vibrations.

seagull-godin-quantum-1-electronic-transducer-guitar-pickupSeagull (a Godin Guitar Company) decided to go with their custom build, Quantum 1 Electronics (Q1) for the acoustic-electric pickup as well as including a beautiful Seagull embroidered gig bag for the avid player / performer / gigging musician.  The Quantum 1 Electronics includes a 3 band Eq for fine tuning the balance of the guitar sound through a pickup system or PA to get the best flexibility for most gigging environments.

As you can see from the image, the Q1 (Quantum 1) pickup has 3 dials, for bass Eq, treble Eq and volume adjusting, a built-in tuner with LED display (which is critical for sounding right in any environment) and an on-off switch.  Seagull features their Quantum 1 Transducer pickup in 4 of their guitar series, including the Entourage, Coastline, Performer and Maritime Series models.  While these to not feature a condenser microphone, they are ideal transducers for performing to ultimately reduce feedback without sacrificing the quality and balance of the amplified guitar sound.  One would expect to pay a higher price for this kind of quality pickup, which are factory installed for the best sound, performance and longevity.  In addition, instead of a cheap plastic body, the Quantum 1 has a beautiful metal shielded enclosure, adding to the durability and beauty of the instrument.  Godin / Seagull states that the pickup boasts about 200 hours of typical battery life (9V), but this would obviously fluctuate based on personal use and care.

seagull-performer-guitar-flame-maple-back-and-sidesFlame maple, AKA tiger maple, flaming or flamed maple, curly, ripple, fiddleback - comes by a lot of names but has some unique beauty caused by the way the fibers in the maple have grown in an undulating pattern, also affected by the way the timber is cut for producing tonewoods.
 
As you can see by the inserted image, the flame maple has a unique wavy appearance to the cross-grain pattern that gives it this unique, shimmering flame or tiger maple striping appearance.  Notice it is not the darker amber trails, but the lighter wavy coloring that runs perpendicular to the darker amber trails.
 
The Seagull Performer series was designed with the performing guitarist in mind, utilizing 3 body designs.  When the engineers and luthiers at Seagull guitar put this together, they were thinking about what a gigging musician would want in an acoustic electric performing guitar. They spent a lot of time picking the select tone woods that would cut through in a performance setting to offer a nice bottom end and nice high end shimmer to the sound.  With that in mind, in the studio for recording, this guitar won't produce as much mid range as a mahogany tone woods or as much depth, bass and warmth as rosewood, but it is still ideal for traveling and for recording.
 
seagull-guitar-tapered-headThe Seagull Performer Series features a Silverleaf maple neck (very strong and rigid, but light-weight) and a standard nut width, including a tapered head stock (see image) for straight string tuning.  Seagull guitar representatives say that this kind of setup will keep the guitar in tune longer in different scenarios because the tapered head allows for straight string tuning (strings stay in a straight line all the way to the tuning pegs).  I believe this is also a dependent on the overall craftsmanship, stability of the guitar, rigidity or strength of the neck (reinforced by a double action truss rod), and also the quality of the chrome tuners.
 
Additionally, the nut width and neck is very comfortable for playability all the way up the fret board allowing for ease of use and playability in performances, in addition to allowing the player to experience more endurance for longer gigs due to the comfort and playability due to the nut width and neck depth.  
 

seagull-performer-guitar-integrated-set-neck

The Seagull Performer Series has an integrated set neck, a compound curved top, and a double function truss rod which allows this guitar to be very stable (and adjustable) for handling the rigors of the road for a gigging musician.  
 
The integrated set neck in all Seagull guitars simple means that it is machine matched and that the neck is set ideally for integration with the body and top.  This allows the neck and fret board to be at an ideal set (or average string height) from the factory for most players.
 
seagull-performer-double-function-truss-rodAll Seagull guitars also feature the double function truss rod which allows fine tuning of the bend or bow of the neck due to string tension and humidity changes.  The problem with most acoustic guitars that have a traditional truss rod which only allows one to loosen the bow does not always fix the "back-bowing" of the neck due to string tension and humidity changes from venue to venue.  With Seagull's double function truss rod, the owner has complete control over the bowing of the neck, whether the guitar neck becomes over-bowed or under-bowed.  A gigging pro no longer has to worry about differences in humidity from place to place due to this control.

 

The Seagull Performer guitar series, for playability, sound, projecting, versatility, plugging in or un-plugged, as well as the budget and durability are an excellent choice for the Gigging player.  And this series is great for playing live gigs or within a group of other instruments as the eq is more compressed to the mid and high ranges for an acoustic guitar allowing the sound to cut through and remain crisp without muttling within the sound of the entire music group.
 
So perhaps you have decided that this guitar is the right series or line for you.  The question remains, which of the 3 Seagull Performer Series Guitar body types is right for you?  
 
It all depends on what you want in terms of feel, size, look and sound.
 
The 3 different body sizes again are: 
 

seagull-performer-cw-flame-maple-q1-dreadnaughtThe Seagull Performer CW Flame Maple Q1 (dreadnought) is built with the current standard Dreadnought size that Martin guitar company made popular several decades ago.  The standard dreadnought body will give you the most projection and balanced projection of the 3, not favoring a high or mid response based on the body shape alone.  This is the most commonly purchased of the 3 models because of it's standard size.  

If you are used to using a Dreadnought body style and want the most versatile of all 3 of these models, this would be the model to choose.  It features the cutaway design for allowing you to play higher up on the fret board and accessing more of the 19th or 20th fret, versus a non-cutaway which gives you access to about the 14th or 15th fret (depending on skill and personal finger length).  

You can purchase the Dreadnought / standard size Seagull Performer CW Flame Maple here for about $685, and it comes with the standard Seagull Embroidered gig bag, but for another $5 or $6 you can get a tubular guitar stand and clip-on tuner for about $690 here.  This is about an additional $30 value for an extra $5 or $6.   It is labeled as a Godin instead of Seagull, but it is the identical guitar as Godin is the parent company and it is just not properly listed / labeled at Amazon.


seagull-performer-flame-maple-folk-size-cw-q1The Seagull Performer CW Folk Q1 is built with the customary folk size and style in mind.  

This body size is closer to the $3,500 Eric Clapton, Martin 000-28 size model: (at a fraction of the price at around $750) having a smaller, thinner, lighter body which will not project quite as much as the other 2 models when unplugged, but is ideal for the person who prefers a slightly smaller guitar for handling and playability.  Plugged in, however, these 3 performer series guitars will sound virtually identical to each other.  

This is a great guitar for smaller players as well, but still ideal for the blues player, strummer, or finger-picking player.  It is mostly a matter of personal feel and preference.  

So if you really like the Seagull Performer Series standards for a durable, beautifully playing guitar that will stand up to the rigors of the road, but is the smallest of the 3 models, the Seagull Performer CW Folk Q1 is ideal for you and retails around $750.


seagull-performer-flame-maple-mini-jumbo-cw-q1The Seagull Performer CW Mini Jumbo Q1 is built with those who favor the thinner waist and a more jumbo feeling and sounding guitar.  

The Mini Jumbo has a more tapered waist, allowing for more distinction between the bass and treble sounds of the guitar.

Some people find the mini jumbo model easier to hold on the leg when playing in a sitting position because of the shape of the waist, and they also say it projects a more boomy bass and a more bell-like tonal quality, especially when finger-picking, due to the tighter waist.

If you like the standards for gigging, great sound and durability that Seagull has built into these great "performer series" but you would prefer the larger lower bout, tapered waist and a more bell-like tonal quality that comes from a mini-jumbo body style, you will really enjoy the Seagull Performer CW Mini Jumbo Q1 for years!

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