A genuinely North American made guitar at a budget price? Seagull's new Excursion series has been set a hard target. Rick Graham squints at the bullseye.
It's now getting on for more than 30 years since Robert Godin put the first ever Seagull acoustic guitars into production in the Village of LaPatrie, Quebec in Canada. Having already established an impressive reputation for fine quality instruments, the concept behind his new Seagull brand was to
take elements of the best hand crafted guitars and incorporate these features into a new line of instruments that were aimed directly at the budget conscious musician. The brand new Excursion range is claimed to retain the high level of quality and tone synonymous with the Godin brand but presented in more of a 'no-frills' package.
The Seagull Excursion series comes in three models, all made of the same materials in parlour, folk and dreadnought sizes, so there should be something to suit most tastes. For our review, we were loaned the parlour sized 'Natural Grand SG'.
Like the rest of its flock, the Seagull Excursion Natural Grand SG features an all-laminate construction of Canadian wild cherry. We’ll discuss how good (or not) this choice is later, but to carry on with the mechanical details for now, the soundboard also features a burn stamped rosette, which, although nothing fancy, adds a nice touch of class to the instrument. The short scale slim integrated set neck, is made of silver leaf maple. The fingerboards on all three versions are rosewood, which is also the wood of choice for the guitar's bridge, and the nut has a width of 1.72" and is made of Tusq by Graphtech, which was a nice touch on a not very expensive guitar. There is also a nicely finished compensated bridge. This raw, bare bones instrument, as it is described on the Godin website, comes in a semi-gloss polished finish and can be ordered with optional extras which include Fishman Isys+ electronics with built-in tuner and TRIC case.
Despite its powerful sounding name, The Excursion Natural Grand is actually a parlour sized guitar so is on the small side but upon striking the first open chord it became quickly apparent that the sound it was capable of producing was anything but small! Strumming out several more open chords proved that it really was able to fill the room with sound without even breaking a sweat. It is a very well balanced instrument too, with the treble register complimenting the bass register very well indeed.
The action is low without any discernible fret-buzz and it's relatively easy to play, although the shorter scale length can prove to be a little more challenging to negotiate if your digits are of the chunky variety.
Tone wise the excursion produced some very nice warm tones too, whether fingerpicking, strumming or playing single note lines. The build quality was impeccable too and it's very impressive and reassuring to see that the same attention to detail on Robert Godin's higher end instruments can be found on these budget conscious instruments too.
Where opinions are likely to differ is with the choice of materials. You will often read that laminated bodied guitars are a compromise that is acceptable in a cheaper instrument but that you should always opt for a solid wood top instead of a laminated one if you get the choice. As our editor opined - if only it was that simple! In theory, a laminated top won't age, so what you hear when you take this guitar off the wall is what you should always hear. In this case, that would be a good thing as the Seagull sounds fine. It's true however that for the same money, or even quite a bit less these days, you can now buy guitars made in China and Indonesia that feature solid wood tops and you might think that would make them better bets as they should 'age' and generally sound more sophisticated as time passes and they get played in. This is true to an extent but it overlooks the question of quality of workmanship - things that you can't see but which contribute to the durability and tonality of a guitar and which you can be sure Godin's designers and craftsmen know about.
There is also the thorny question of the occasional laminated topped guitar which defies everyone by sounding superb!
All I can say is that I found it difficult to find any fault with this instrument, especially when taking into account the low price tag for a North American made guitar. It's great fun to play and has great tone with plenty of volume on tap. In the end you should try one for yourself and see what you think. We reckon you'll be impressed.