playability but that are somewhat surprising
given the price. Elsewhere, however, fit and
finish were superb to flawless.
Rumbling, Ringing, Resonant
If you’ve never played an acoustic with a
soundport, your first experience can make
your ears do a double take. In general, the
guitar will sound louder and, quite literally, more in your face. The No. 5 is no
exception, and the difference can require
compensating adjustments to pick attack
and touch dynamics. Once you do so, it’s
plain that the No. 5 is a very sensitive and
As the lack of pick guard might suggest, it works best as a fingerstyle guitar.
The softer tones of the mahogany back and
sides mean you might have to put a little
more oomph behind your picking to get a
really kicking midrange. But bass and treble
notes resonate and ring with definition and
sustain—the guitar truly captures the best
warm and bright qualities of the mahogany-and-spruce combination.
Fingerstyle players who play in alternate
tunings with dropped fifth and sixth strings
will discover an expansive range of color
and dynamics to work with in the No. 5.
The guitar has an impressive bass presence
in standard tuning. Tuning down to D and
even C, however, makes the No. 5 growl
like a lion. This is where you sense that
Batson’s bracing, cantilevered fretboard, and
tailpiece—all designed to maximize vibration—really pay sonic dividends. Sustain
and overtone content were impressive in
DADGAD and C–G–C–F–A–D, and
when I wobbled the neck a little here and
there, it made a single chord sound wondrously colorful and multidimensional.
The No. 5 feels especially fast and playable when detuned. Hammer-ons on the
sixth string brim with a deep, funky, almost
baritone-like quality, and peppering lazy
legato moves with sitar-style bends was
perfect accompaniment for the big, droning
bass notes. However, the Batson feels slinky
in standard tuning, too. While I wasn’t pulling off full-step bends with the same ease
I would with a lightly strung Les Paul, I
was still able to play some pretty expressive
blues runs. Batson claims this is because the
extra string length behind the bridge makes
a given string gauge feel lighter.
If there’s one the thing the Batson is less
than ideal for, it might be the heavy strumming that tends to find a singer-songwriter
type opting for a big dreadnought. The
Batson is loud and bossy enough for the
job if you want it to be—and it also retains
a lot of its low-end character—but heavier
strumming can obscure the overtone minutiae and low-end detail that are the guitar’s
Batson’s quest to create a better-sounding
guitar through unconventional bracing
and other non-dogmatic design moves
pays off in a guitar that’s full of character
and responsive to nuanced playing. In that
sense, it’s a fantastic fingerstyle guitar, and if
the soft midrange of our mahogany model
is a deterrent to fingerstylists that crave
popping mids, the rosewood-backed version
may well do the trick.
your need for a sweet-sounding fin-
gerstyle machine are matched by a
thirst for artful, innovative design.
you wish they’d stopped tweaking
the look of git-fiddles back in ’ 32!
or use a mobile device to download
audio clips of the guitar at