Alvarez presents two different flavours with these models: while the AG80 is a continuation of its everexpanding Artist Series, the Delta represents a new path. The ‘Blues’ part of Alvarez’s new Jazz & Blues Series (‘Jazz’ refers to a pair of hollow and centreblocked electrics) is a conscious move towards offering something specific and different for players in look and tonal focus – a vintage-inspired parlour flat-top (or ‘blues’ shape, as Alvarez is slanting it) at an accessible price point drawing from the 1930s Gibson L-00 aesthetic to some degree with its Tobacco Sunburst finish, as well as its shape.
In addition to this laminated mahogany back and sides electro model, which comes equipped with the discreet LR Baggs VTC Element active pickup and controls on the inside edge of the soundhole, there’s a non-electro option and the solid wood Deluxe models that come in a paler Shadowburst finish. The thick high-gloss here on the solid A+ Sitka spruce top won’t be to everyone’s liking, and a more minimalist approach might have been more fitting, but it’s interesting to see Alvarez committing to the old-school cause elsewhere with open gear tuners, and a rectangular rosewood design – in place of its familiar Bi-Level bridge – is far more fitting with the vintage flavour. Even the bracing
differs from the Artist and Masterworks and is backshifted.
According to Alvarez head of development, Chris Meikle, this is to bring added structural integrity and power to the small body. It certainly feels like a solid build, which sits reassuringly close to the body as we sit down to play. And that brings us to another nod towards flat-top heritage: the neck.
With its deep V-shape, wide nut and full 58mm string spacing at the bridge, it could be divisive for those who find comfort in modernity.
By contrast, the grand auditorium AG80EFM electro feels like more familiar Alvarez territory, with some pleasant surprises of its own – the striped laminated maple back and sides add a striking but classy effect here. We’re also immediately drawn to the silky feel of the mahogany neck; it oozes quality. The presentation is only marred slightly by a dry-looking rosewood ’board and the enclosed tuners on the D and G strings feeling noticeably less responsive than the others.
Sounds Some 00 shapes can take their focus on upper mids into nasal territory, but the Delta feels more rounded in its rootsy intimacy. The neck will appeal to larger hands and rewards muscular digging in that stays true to its blues focus. The rub is that the ension doesn’t exactly make bending a breeze, nor does it give away projection for less experienced players easily, but the string spacing actually encourages fingerstyle precision and there’s real definition to be found in the compressed mids.
The low-end isn’t lacking, either – it’s warmer than some parlour styles we’ve encountered. The active LR Baggs VTC Element system reflects the Delta’s character well for a piezo, but does offer more of a bass presence plugged-in that can be tweaked to some degree by the tone control’s treble roll-off (found just inside the soundhole).
By comparison, the AG80EFM’s StagePro LR Baggs preamp allows for more detailed control with three-band EQ, phase switch and tuner, and plugging into an acoustic combo we’re pleased with the treble at default level – it’s lively but without unwelcome harsh zing. The Baggs system allows for a fair amount of EQ headroom while still retaining its strengths, which is just as well, because this guitar is a strummer’s delight.
Moving from the Delta to the auditorium size, we expect a significantly more powerful projection, but the tonality here is more about a subtler harmonious balance. The smooth neck and low action are immediately welcoming without any buzz across the ’board (even when we try some DADGAD), handling harder rhythmic work and lead with ease.
The balance shines for fingerpicking – the low-end is deep and resonates without dominating, enabling a gentler touch and further enhancing the allrounder charms to offer an addictive ‘just another five minutes’ playing experience.
Two very different experiences, both offering fine quality and underlining Alvarez’s firm commitment to becoming a go-to brand for acoustic buyers. The Delta 00E’s focus will please players who want that older flat-top flavour, backed by modern processes and value, while the AG80EFM is a sweeter spin and something those in the market for a larger body should try. The plugged-in performances of both underline just how good electro-acoustic performance can be for the money.
I bought the cheapest guitar I could find with a Bigsby B50 on it so I could have something to test fit my tuning stabilizer on. This Alden guitar popped up on Ebay and I got it for $149.99 direct from China. I have no ides what model they call this or even how one could produce and build a guitar for $150. The pickups were, however, aweful. I replaced them with some Rio Grande Blues / Low Bar P90's that are pretty darn decent. I added the tuning stabilizer to the Bigsby to reduce the string break angle over the bridge, which also REALLY softens the feel of the Biggs. I had laying around an old Fender locking nut with fine tuners, so I slapped that on too. Egnater Rebel 30 makes a difference too! Check this out and judge (the sound, not necessarily the playing) for yourself.