Ovation guitars and basses have long resided in a unique corner of the instrument landscape. First developed in 1964 by helicopter designer, aerodynamicist, and amateur guitar player Charles Kaman (how’s that for a resume?), Ovation instruments are most notable for the use of a proprietary synthetic material, Lyrachord, for the body. Made from glass fibers and resin, Lyrachord was the product of a design effort that included a team of aerospace engineers and technicians. In addition to its rigidity and light weight, Lyrachord can be shaped in ways that wood never could. This finds an idealized form in the parabolic back of Ovation instruments, which the design team favored for its superior volume, projection, and sustain.
Much like other basses that use composites for some integral part of their construction, Ovations are particularly well known for their durability and relative resistance to the deliterious effects of weather that many touring musicians endure. It’s part of why Ovations have been long favored by live musicians who spend a lot of time on a bus between gigs. I recall when there was nary an episode of MTV Unplugged that didn’t feature one or more musicians on an Ovation.
While the brand has changed ownership over the years, the essential design characterists of Ovation have endured. Their latest bass, the Mod TX, was designed as a sleek and big-sounding amalgamation of all the cool design signatures that made Ovation famous. Beyond the de rigeur parabolic Lyrachord back, the Ovation is mostly made in a similar way to conventional acoustic guitars and basses, with a few twists. The spruce top is coated in a synthetic material with the faintly textured feel of a pickup truck’s bedliner. The top is punched out with a variety of holes on the upper-bout, another distinctive Ovation feature. The neck is made of maple, as is the norm, but its rosewood fingerboard offers extra high-range extension on the top strings.
Although the Ovation is remarkably loud for an acoustic bass guitar, no ABG would be complete without a good pickup and preamp system. Happily, it’s clear Ovation has been at this game awhile, as the piezo pickup and accompanying Ovation preamp are great-sounding and fully featured. Most important, the bass’s acoustic tone is well translated when plugged in, something where a lot of ABGs fall short. Another cool design touch is the rosewood bridge, stained black for a steely aesthetic. While the bridge doesn’t offer full intonation adjustability, it at least offers compensated saddles that enhanced the bass’s highregister intonation.
The Ovation’s construction was excellent and a further testament to the high quality instruments that are now the norm from Korea. It also sat comfortably, particularly on my lap, where the gentle countours melded well with my body’s own. It balanced and played well, with its rather large frets being of course a subjective matter of taste. The neck, though, is a clear winner—it’s fast and small like a J-style electric.
Maybe I’m a purist, but I have to admit when I first saw the Mod TX, I didn’t think it would have an especially rich and resonant acoustic sound. I was definitely wrong. First, its most notable initial sonic feature is its impressive volume, both into a room and up to my ear. It speaks loud and clearly, which again, is something a lot of ABGs with their dimunitive size struggle to do. Its basic acoustic voice is even and well-balanced throughout the range, with a pleasant overtone spectrum and impressively deep low-frequency extension, and a slightly mellow top end. I loved that I could jam with other acoustic musicians without needing an amp; it’s volume and throw into a space would make it a masterful campfire bass.
Plugged in, I was glad to discover that the same endearing sonic personality it had remained. Again, I was most struck by its string-to-string evenness. Perhaps it’s related to the synthetic body material, but the bass was precise and articulate, no matter where I played. Again, I loved its slightly mellow treble response, and quickly found myself emulating an upright bass with the help of some palm-muting and a small bass boost. The preamp worked well, and as ever, I loved having an onboard tuner. I didn’t much dig the pre-shape circuit, rather favoring a flat sound, but it’s there to add a little scooped countour if that’s your flavor.
It’s been some time since I’ve owned an acoustic bass guitar, but my time with the Ovation had me rethinking that slot in my collection. Whether or not you need an ABG for its acoustic portability, the Ovation Mod TX is a great and natural sounding bass that would work well on many a track that might more naturally call for an electric. Excellent work.
Mod TX Collection Elite
Pros One-of-a-kind look and construction; big-time volume and projection; beautiful and even timbre
Bottom Line Whether or not you’re in the market for an acoustic bass guitar, the Ovation Mod TX would make a worthy addition to your sonic palette.
Construction Set neck
Neck Hard rock maple
Tuners Gotoh-style die-cast
Pickup Ovation OCP-1K
Preamp Ovation OP Pro w/ 3-band EQ, chromatic tuner, pre-shape, and mid-shift functions
Scale length 34"
Made in Korea