Given similar body timbers, a cutaway, a bound fingerboard and a Fishman Onboard Aura system, it may seem puzzling that this model comes in cheaper than the HD. Various things help explain the apparent paradox. It’s only the top that's glossy, the purfling is simple white/black plies (though the rosette has a herringbone inlay), there's no back centre strip, and the bridge and fingerboard, unlike the HD-16's ebony, are black Micarta – a very convincing synthetic substitute.
The other difference, not affecting price one way or the other, is a standard neck width and bridge spacing of 43mm and 54mm to reflect the more general playing requirements of likely buyers. Though slimmer in span, the neck's profile and depth are identical to the HD's, and the set-up is equally slick.
The Onboard Aura allows blending of the undersaddle pickup with six sound images, digitally processed from mic'd recordings made using the same model of instrument that the system is fitted to, ie another 16-Series dreadnought. Apart from three-band EQ, phase reverse and a tuner, there's a lot happening on the control panel. By various slider manipulations and button pushing the images can be edited for EQ and phase, and stored. There's also switchable auto anti-feedback, while inside the housing is a trimpot for setting up the optimal preamp gain. Cleverly, like some of the other facilities, this uses part of the tuner LED display as level/status indicators. It's all fairly straightforward – as long as you read the manual first!
Despite the HD's bigger soundhole, there's little acoustic difference between these two guitars. The RGTE is an equally enthusiastic performer, and tonally not dissimilar either. The only real variance is a subtly more supple, fluid timbre, though this could merely be due to the instrument's light-gauge strings; the HD comes fitted with mediums.
The Aura is a lot more controllable than mic-loaded blender systems, and the key to this is equalisation. Some of the factory settings are uninspiring and rather sensitive to feedback and gain, but if you take time to go through each of the images and re-EQ to taste, the upshot is a palette of generally convincing, virtual-mic sounds that can be used at higher ratios of image-to-undersaddle than would otherwise be so. As always, however, a decent dollop of undersaddle in the mix achieves the most sonorous results, and the pickup performance is high quality.
Description: Cutaway dreadnought electro-acoustic. Made in the US
Price: £1649 inc. case
Build: Solid sitka spruce top, solid rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck with bound 20-fret Micarta fingerboard. Micarta bridge, diecast tuners, two strap buttons. Under-saddle transducer; Fishman Onboard Aura with Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, Blend, Image Select (1-6), Image Play/Edit, Phase, Anti Feedback On/Off, Measure, Tuner On/Off, flip-out battery change
Options: DC-16RGTE Premium with Fishman Prefix Premium Blender (£1549); similarly powered, mahogany-back DC-16GTE Premium (£1379)
Left-handers: To order, at no extra cost
Finish: Gloss top, satin back, sides and neck
Scale length: 645mm/25.4"
12th fret 54mm
Depth of neck:
First fret 20mm
9th fret 22mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 1.7mm
12th fret bass 2.0mm
Max rim depth: 122mm
Max body width: 397mm
Fingerboard radius: 15"
Contact: Westside Distribution
0141 248 4812