Just another auditorium? We’ll see... Words by 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 Faith 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.
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 accurately 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 articulate 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 for 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.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Glossed spruce top
• Gold Grovers with ebony buttons and abalone rosette
• Ebony fretboard
• D-shape neck
• Mahogany body, slightly deeper than a 000
• Rich tones
• Plenty of volume
• Plays effortlessly
• They said I couldn't keep it
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