Hands-on review: LTD XTone AC-20EFM
(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-07-30)
LTD is producing some impressive instruments lately as the competition in the entry- level and “step-up” level guitar market tightens up. More and more companies are offering electronics in their acoustics and everyone is trying to make the better instrument and offer the best bang for the buck. LTD has proven to be positioned at the top of this segment with their XTone AC-20EFM. This guitar is aesthetically appealing and has the electronics to make it work quite well for the stage as well as the studio. Let’s check out the specs.
The AC-20EFM features Sapelle back and sides, flamed maple top, mahogany neck mated to a rosewood fingerboard, Thin U neck contour, 20 extra jumbo frets, rosewood bridge, ESP tuners, gold hardware, B-Band electret film transducer pickup, and a B-Band T-35 3-band preamp with onboard tuner.
This guitar isn’t meant to be played in a sensitive manner out of the box. If your thing is playing contemporary acoustic arrangements employing techniques such as tapping, percussive techniques, harp harmonics and the like, you’ll probably have a difficult time. The action is set slightly on the higher side and the whole body is full of gloss finish, which influences the effect of percussive techniques and harmonics. However, if you’re looking to rock out with chords and riffs and accompany yourself … this is a viable contender.
The AC-20EFM held tune quite well after a lot of chord bashing and playing a bunch riffs, which included some half and whole step bends. When I did tune, the tuners did a nice job of easing into pitch without pinging or slipping.
I’m also happy to report that I found no buzzing in any fret. Obviously, with the action slightly higher for chord playing, I didn’t think I would find buzzing but you never know with a guitar in this price range! The setup on the neck contributed to this as it was very true with “text book” relief so that the strings passed nicely over the frets as they were pushed down.
The best part of reviewing the performance area of this guitar is writing about the T35 preamp. When I turned it on I was greeted with a nice modern blue/white backlight that reminded me of an LED display. The display indicated, “Chromatic”, “440Hz”, “-50”, and “+50”. This was all the information anyone needs to know at a glance. As I tuned the guitar, the digital needle swept across the display accurately and rested at a notch in the middle when in tune. OF course, the note was also displayed so I was sure of the exact note that was being tuned!
The EQ consisted of typical 3-band controls: Bass, Middle, and Treble. They worked very musically and found that I liked to boost the low end slightly to help compensate for the lows. I was able to achieve a nice sound out of the preamp using just 1 knob. The EQ was also quiet – no audible hiss from practical boosting of the frequencies were found. Nice!
The knobs were “rubberized” on the T35. This is a welcomed upgrade over the Acus-3TN, which featured hard plastic knobs. I like the idea of having a sure tactile feel in a live performance situation and the confidence of knowing that I won’t slip or be able to grab the controls to make quick adjustments. This may seem nick-picky, but LTD didn’t think so and when you’re in a performance setting…the small details are appreciated.
Another small detail that needs to be mentioned are the strap buttons. Ok, call me crazy but I did take note of this and liked what I saw. The buttons have large crowned tops so when you get your strap over these buttons…it’s not coming off! I had to mention that for players who have dents and nicks in their instruments from small strap buttons.
This guitar didn’t knock me over regarding the sound quality. This guitar is ultimately constructed to look great on stage and sound good amplified. Acoustically, the AC-20EFM had a pronounced mid-range quality with no significant influence of low-end or high-end sparkle. This could be good though if you’re using it live with a band and want it to cut through a mix or if you just want a guitar with a lot of mid-range character.
As mentioned earlier, when I plugged in and used the T35 electronics to help taylor my sound, I was able to dial in a nice sound. I even experimented with cutting the mids in addition to boosting the low-end and had some very useable sounds at my fingertips.
The Bottom Line
The AC-20EFM has the looks and sound to be a very nice stage guitar. If you’re a beginner or intermediate player looking for an electric-acoustic, you have to check this out. The guitar retails for $299 USD and for that price LTD is gonna be selling a lot of these guitars.
Find out more at: http://www.espguitars.com
This review was performed at Pat’s Music Center. Check them out here: http://www.patsmusiccenter.com