Beard Odyssey A
Levy, Adam, Acoustic Guitar
A round-neck resonator guitar that combines a modern vibe with classic dobro tone.
IT'S NOT UNCOMMON for folks to generically refer to wood-body resonator guitars as "dobros." However, not every such instrument is a dobro. That coinage has its roots in a trade name, currently owned by Gibson. The original Dobro company was founded by four of the Dopyera brothers after they split off from National Guitars in 1929. Distinguishing their instruments from the metal-body Nationals, the brothers built their guitars' bodies out of wood and turned the spun resonator upside down, using an eight-legged aluminum "spider" to support the bridge over the cone. Another feature separating Dobro instruments 11 from most six-strings was their square necks: these guitars were Í meant to be played Hawaiian-style - laid flat across the lap, the player using a metal bar to make chord shapes and single notes. Today, with bluegrass and old-time country styles growing in popularity, interest in Dobro-inspired instruments is surging. We recently had a chance to check out the Beard Odyssey A. a solid-wood, US-made resonator guitar with a round neck for regular play. (A square-neck Odyssey E is available for lap-style playing.) With degrees in aviation mechanics and mechanical engineering - and years of experience as a player and guitar repairman - company head Paul Beard began building his own resophonic instrument in 1985. Today his Maryland-based shop produces more than a dozen models, ranging from traditional Dobro-inspired square-necks to unique modern designs.
Eye-Catching Wood and Steel
The Odyssey A is available in a variety of solid tonewood combinations. Our review model had mahogany top. back, and sides, with curly maple binding on the body and neck. The guitar's top and back feature tasteful bursting - the red-brown mahogany hue gives way to a chestnut shade around the edges, with the handsome woodgrain still clearly visible through the high-gloss finish. The back of the headstock and neck heel are similarly shaded, as are portions of the sides. This contrast is subtle, but effective. A chromed cover plate in Beard's own "solar" motif is the eye-catching centerpiece of the Odyssey A's design. S-shaped cutouts create the visual effect of heat waves emanating from the central bridge. According to Beard, these cutouts aren't just for looks - they were engineered to enhance the guitar's high-end tonal clarity as well. Another novel feature of this guitar's landscape is the oval soundhole, set between the resonator coverplate and end of the fingerboard. The tailpiece is chromed to match the resonator cover. Tuning machines are one aspect of design where guitar builders sometimes cut corners, but Beard doesn't skimp here. The Odyssey A comes standard with Waverly open-back, oval-knob tuners. Nineteen smallish frets are expertly seated and dressed in the ebony fingerboard (16-inch radius), with no irregularities apparent. The craftsmanship on this instrument is consistently high. I found no flaws in the finish, the hardware was tightly fitted throughout, and the factory setup strikes a comfortable balance between fretting-hand comfort and sonic clarity. You have to look inside the Odyssey A's soundhole to get a glimpse of one of its key features - an internal baffle that helps focus the guitar's bass response.
Easy to Wrap Your Hands Around
With its 25-inch scale, 14 frets clear of the body, and l3A-inch nut width, the Odyssey A's neck is relatively easy on the hands. Players with average-size digits - such as myself - should have no trouble playing open-position chords, making barres anyplace along the fingerboard, and even reaching a few frets beyond the neck/body joint if they so desire. The string spacing is tight enough for brisk flatpicking, but wide enough to accommodate fingerstyle playing.
The Odyssey A feels comfortable to play while seated - its weight is well balanced between the body and neck. …