Hands-On Review:Adamas W597-MEWP Meliisa Etheridge signature guitar

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Adamas W597-MEWP Meliisa Etheridge signature guitar

By Shawn Hammond


Adamas W597-MEWP Nearly 40 years ago Ovation debuted its composite-roundback acoustic designs and obliterated everyone's notion of how to build an acoustic guitar. Then, in 1973—just when people had become used to the idea—the company once again blew minds with its Adamas line of carbon-fiber-top guitars. Players wondered, How could all this fancy stuff sound natural?


Conventional wisdom aside, Ovation and Adamas guitars do pump out crisp, cutting and, yes, earthy tones. That's why they're found onstage and in the hands of superstars more than most other brands. This month, I'll look at the W597-MEWP Melissa Etheridge Signature 6-string, which features a recently revamped bracing and soundhole design.


The first thing that struck me upon opening the MEWP's hardshell case was the guitar's beautiful top. I'm not normally one for opaque finishes on an acoustic, but I can't deny how nice this guitar's woven-graphite soundboard looks in its sparkly White Pearl Gloss finish. The radiant aura is complemented by mother-of-pearl soundhole epaulets, a classy, minimalist ebony bridge and a fretboard with side-position markers instead of inlays. The headstock completes the look, with its glossy black veneer, cool mother-of-pearl Etheridge logo and black tuning machines with pearloid buttons.


Grasping the ax's five-piece neck—which features an ebony center stripe and a handrubbed urethane oil finish—I was immediately impressed with its organic feel. Even players who are apprehensive about the MEWP's composite craftsmanship will find themselves drooling over the lovely looks and comfortable feel. You can practically sense every grain in your palm—but not in a distracting way—and the medium profile is silky and smooth.


Rounding out the package is a mediumdepth composite body outfitted with Ovation's original patented pickup—an undersaddle piezo design—powered by the slick Adamas OP50 preamp. In addition to being one of the most refined-looking onboard preamps I've encountered, the OP50 boasts excellent specs. Its silver face features a -104.3dB signal-to-noise ratio, a bypassable EQ with four sliders (Bass, Mid1, Mid2 and Treble), a 32dB/octave bypassable notch filter for zeroing in on feedback frequencies, 1/4-inch and XLR outputs and a killer built-in tuner with a multi-LED readout. Even better, the entire unit is a cinch to remove when it's time to replace the nine-volt battery: simply push a button and the cartridge pops out far enough to be grasped and completely removed.


A Little Secret
The MEWP has some awesome things going for it in the tone department. Of course it features the brand's famously loud and detailed tones in spades. But it also has an airy sound, with a muscular wallop that makes it utterly refreshing to play. The reason this guitar sounds so wonderfully open is simple: Adamas' trademark, multisoundhole design requires less bracing than a top with a standard soundhole. In theory, that means soundboard vibrations are less inhibited. (On the latest Etheridge model, bracing and soundhole design have been modified over past versions to enhance midrange punch.) Combine this setup with the resonant, ultrathin graphite top and you get a lush, ethereal sound with powerful bass that's not too boomy. (It's worth noting that the bass-bout soundholes are closer than normal to your ears, so the guitar's perceived bass response is slightly greater than its actual bass response.)


The Bottom Line
Listening without prejudice to the MEWP Melissa Etheridge Signature 6-string reveals a guitar that kicks *** on traditional acoustics. If you're in the market for a high-end flat-top that's superb for solo work and ensemble playing, the MEWP is a fantastic candidate, one that is definitely worth checking it out.


PRO: Beautiful top, excellent preamp, strong and well-balanced tone


CON: Tone may be too loud for some.


LIST PRICE: $3,399.00


MANUFACTURER: Adamas Guitars dist. by Kaman Music Corporation, P.O. Box 507, Bloomfield, CT 06002-0507; kamanmusic.com