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Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

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Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby grab » Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:02 pm

Hi all. Been a long time since I was on here. Divorce, a child, and a new house and garden to fettle, have all basically put an end to me gigging, and I'm not going to post "advice" if I'm well out of practise!

I come bearing a question though. I'm in need of a travel guitar which takes up minimal space, and which can be left in a motorhome for extended periods without me worrying about the effects of temperature/humidity. I'm not too bothered about absolute volume - it's more for my entertainment, and I don't want to be waking up the other side of the campsite.

The Martin Backpacker is everyone's first call, but they sound horrible and they're desperately uncomfortable to play. A regular parlour guitar is still bigger than I want. I do want some acousticness, so silent guitars like the Traveler are out. And as much as I'd like a Journey OF660, it's a bit out of my price bracket!

I've seen some interesting guitars though from a company called Snap Dragon.
https://snap-dragon-guitars.com/
I like the concept, I like the guy behind it, and I like the fact it's made in Britain. The various videos on Youtube look reasonable too. I'm looking at the "Traxe Noir" which is an all-polycarbonate body, so it should be robust to weather conditions, and it's priced fairly reasonably at £240. (On the downside, their website could most charitably be described as a festering broken pile of cack, but I guess I can always order over the phone.)

Has anyone seen or played one of these before? Any feedback? Yay or nay...?
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby zenguitar » Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:07 pm

Haven't handled one so I can't help with any advice. But it's good to see you here again, welcome back.

:thumbup:

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby grab » Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:16 pm

Thanks Zen. :D If you (or anyone else) has recommendations for travel guitars to try, of course, I'd be interested to hear any suggestions.
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby Music Wolf » Tue Aug 11, 2020 7:26 am

I tried a folding guitar (electric version, not the acoustic) at a guitar show a few years back. I can't recall whether it was the Snapdragon but it was certainly the same concept. It was interesting but not that great a guitar.

Something like this is always going to be a compromise so it's down to whether it's 'this or nothing' depending upon your situation.

I recently bought a Yamaha Silent Guitar https://www.yamahamusiclondon.com/SLG200S-Steel-String-Silent-Guitar/pidGSLG200SCRB

At >£600 new it may be above your budget but I got mine secondhand for £375 (although I was looking for one for a while). Packs down small, plays great and sounds really good plugged in or with headphones.
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Aug 11, 2020 10:15 am

Even more over budget but IMHO worth every Euro is the Emerald X7. It sounds great*, plays great, looks great and is as near to indestructible as an acoustic guitar could possibly be. I love mine and it goes everywhere with me.

Image

https://emeraldguitars.com/guitars/emerald-x7/

* It sounds different to a tone wood guitar but has a full balanced sound with good bass, unlike the Backpacker or other travel acoustics. It's loud enough for proper gigging or sessions, is smaller than most parlour guitars but it's 24" scale length (about the same as putting a capo on 1st position) is close enough to the usual Martin or Gibson standards that doesn't feel radically different. It's also a great sofa guitar and very comfortable to play. If (heaven forfend) I had to have just one acoustic......
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby grab » Tue Aug 11, 2020 11:35 am

Thanks guys. Yes, I know it's always going to be a compromise. :think:

The Emerald looks nice. I played some Rainsongs in the early 2000s, and I was pretty impressed with how they sounded. Cost is an issue though!

For packing in a seriously confined space, even a parlour size is a bit larger than I'd like. The Martin Backpacker size is fine, but I don't much like the sound, and I *really* don't get on with the body shape.

I had considered a cheapo "disposable" half-size too. Many years ago I bought my ex-wife a half-size classical from Argos because she expressed an interest in learning to play and had very small hands. (She never did bother learning, which was pretty characteristic of her, but anyway.) It needed quite a bit of fettling - action needed sorting out at nut and saddle, and the frets were a horror show which needed a lot of filing - but it turned out to be a much better little instrument than it had any right to be for the money, and I gave it to a friend who got some decent use out of it. I think humidity is likely to be a big problem for wood though, even with a cheap laminate job.

The main thing was just seeing if anyone had definite negative feedback. I know the tone is going to be a bit sucky, but I'm not looking for it to replace my Lowden so I can live with that if it's generally useable.

It's not massive money anyway, and if I really hate it then I can always return it. I'll report back on progress.

Come to that, if anyone from SOS Towers wants a bit more content for the next issue, feel free to borrow it for a review. :bouncy:
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Aug 11, 2020 12:24 pm

Now I've looked at your link I have seen one of those, I cannot recall what it sounded like, I don't think I heard it played actually, but it's a clever design.

Emerald's have gone up significantly since I bought mine about 4 years ago, I paid £850/€1100, now the current/equivalent (they changed the sound hole design) X7 Artisan model is €1950/£1755 so more than double what I paid.

FWIW I looked for a parlour guitar I liked the sound of for years, even the lovely little custom my luthier mate Brian Eastwood had built fell short for me (and it was £2k even at mate's rates). I very nearly bought a Taylor GS mini, very nice indeed and if I didn't have the Emerald I'm pretty sure I'd have one by now. If the SnapDragon doesn't work out a used GS mini might be a cost effective alternative to an X7...
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby grab » Tue Aug 11, 2020 12:50 pm

I ran into a beautiful little parlour guitar when I was in Detroit around 2003-4. It wasn't too expensive either. I kind of regret not buying it, but realistically I think it was probably the right decision because I've still got my original beginner classical and steel-string which have been my "don't-care-too-much-if-they-get-bashed" instruments. I just need something now which packs a bit tighter.

I've placed the order and it should be here Thursday or Friday. I'll report back on how it goes. It comes with 11s, so the first step for tone will be restringing with my favourite Newtone Masterclass 12s. I did ask the guy whether 13s would work, but he reckoned that would be a bit too much tension and it would just dampen the top. He said it's fine with 12s though.

In the current situation, it's nice to be able to support a smaller British company too.
:angel:
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby shufflebeat » Tue Aug 11, 2020 1:15 pm

Far be it from me, but...

I went out to buy a left handed dreadnought and almost bought a right handed Takamine ef407 parlour because it was so beautiful. I had no interest in a parlour and couldn't really afford it but the pull was very strong.
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby grab » Tue Aug 11, 2020 4:23 pm

I think we've all seen those kind of guitars. I know that sooner or later there's going to be a 12-string that makes me an offer I can't refuse.
:bouncy:
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby grab » Thu Aug 13, 2020 6:45 pm

OK, so it arrived this morning. Very good service. I've been chatting with Matt at Snap Dragon, so it's also great that they're keen to interact with customers and get feedback. Anyway, a few thoughts for anyone else thinking about it...

The body

The shape is basically a thinline Tele profile, so no real surprises there. Like a regular Tele, the ergonomics would benefit from a forearm bevel like a Strat, but of course that would probably make it harder to build. Everything on the outside of the body (apart from strap buttons) is plastic, but it manages not to look like a toy in spite of that. It's a rather pretty little guitar in an understated matt-black kind of way.

The guts of it are an aluminium block, which handles the main structural strength. You can just see this through the soundhole. There appear to be some ply braces supporting the top around the soundhole too; I don't know about elsewhere.

It's got a pinless bridge. The bridge is plastic, and therein lay my only real problem, which was that the slot on the low E string just isn't wide enough for the fatter bit of string at the ball end. When I restrung, the old string just wasn't shifting. I had to use pliers and quite a bit of force, whilst being extra careful to protect the top and hoping I didn't slip! This may just be some tolerance dodginess on my example, and being plastic the strings will deal with this over time, but it's the one less-good thing I had with the build generally.

The saddle is also just cheap plastic. You may get tonal benefits from bone or Corian - I'll experiment with that in due course. As it arrived, the action was definitely too high. I took the saddle out and found a veneer shim glued to the bottom of the saddle. Removing that, the action was down to somewhere much more useable. Matt at Snap Dragon said the shim was to let people adjust it to their preferences, which I guess is fair, but I honestly can't see anyone wanting the action that high unless they're playing bottleneck.

The neck

The neck frankly is a thing of beauty. It's a single piece of maple with a mahogany skunk stripe behind the truss rod slot. The finish is matt so there's plenty of friction, but it's dead smooth and feels lovely. The fretboard sides are perfectly rounded, and the frets are all level and well dressed, with no nasties on the ends. I've seen some significantly more expensive guitars with much less care paid to the fretboard.

They've saved money by laser-engraving fret markers instead of using inlays, including a dragon at the 12th fret. This might be inconvenient on a dark night, but it does look good.

The headstock is a stubby snakehead affair with another nice laser-etched dragon logo. The headstock shape is a demonstration of how CNC machining can give you much prettier options than the typically Fender "plank". I'm a bit meh about the locking tuners - they don't actually lock that well - but you need to retune every time you unfold it anyway so it doesn't really make too much odds.

It's a shorter-than-average scale length (24 inches), but that's inevitable for a travel guitar. Personally I'd prefer a slightly deeper neck profile, but as Matt said when I mentioned it, they're only a small company and they can't afford to have lots of different options for things like that, or at least not yet.

The truss rod adjuster is accessible at the near end of the neck. Being able to rotate the neck makes it easy to get at. The guitar comes with the appropriate Allen key if you do need to tweak it.

And of course the neck swivels. Which is just basically cool!
:bouncy:

Playing it

As I said, the action started off far too high. With the saddle de-shimmed though, things became much more playable.

The playing position is equally comfortable resting on your right leg, in a more classical style on your left thigh, or standing up with a strap on. (It doesn't come with a strap, by the way, but there's no reason it should at the price.)

It came fitted with a phosphor bronze 11-52 set. They were very zingy strings, in a way I associate with Martin SP or Rotosound Country Gold strings - a bit too much high end for me. They certainly gave it a sound which would carry reasonably well if you were strumming with a pick. You needed to dig in a little more playing fingerstyle, but the sound was perfectly acceptable. If you've ever played a kids' half-size guitar, it was exactly like that. Sustain and tone generally were good, and it was certainly well louder than what you'd expect from a Thinline Tele or other semi-hollow guitars.

I changed strings to my normal Newtone Masterclass 12s, which are my first choice for all my guitars. The extra low-end from the heavier set was immediately obvious. It did sound less lively in the treble though, which suggests I still need to find the perfect strings for the instrument. I think the action is a little high with the heavier strings, so it may benefit from pulling the truss rod back a little.

With the Newtones fitted though, it became clear just how sensitive the guitar was to hand position. For all guitars, picking closer to the bridge gives a brighter sound, and picking further away from the bridge gives a more muted sound. It's more subtle on most instruments, but it's incredibly noticeable on the Snap Dragon. Since this is a travel guitar and will often be used in places where you might want to be quieter (campsites or hotel rooms, for example), I can see that having this flexibility just by changing hand position will be useful.

I still haven't tried it with the pickup. To be honest I'm not likely to be plugging in much, so it's not really an issue for me.

In short

Even without the fact it packs down like it does, it's a really cute little instrument. With that added, it's just brilliant. Add the price to the mix, and it's pretty much a no-brainer. I can see myself spending a lot of time playing this on campsites, and thoroughly enjoying it!
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Re: Snap Dragon guitar - anyone tried one?

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Aug 13, 2020 7:35 pm

Brilliant review, and I'm glad you like it. :clap:
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