You’ve seen them before. That signature “molded body” that Ovation guitars are well-known for. Love it or hate it, Ovation has still managed to carve out (sorry) a name for themselves in the guitar world.
The Celebrity is an entry-to-mid level line, which tends to be the ideal price range for those who are looking to try out a new brand. This can often make or break an experience with a particular manufacturer – everything is resting on this one purchase!
However, I’m happy to say that if the Celebrity is your first experience with Ovation guitars, you will not be let down. Personally, I have over 25 years of playing the acoustic guitar on a professional level, and I’m excited to present my review of the Celebrity line for you. I’ll also look at the different guitars in the Celebrity line and help you figure out which is the best for you.
Ovation Celebrity Review
The Ovation Celebrity is a great guitar to get if you are looking for a solid acoustic-electric guitar for not much money. Being an entry-level guitar with a middle-of-the-road price, it is built to a high standard and features quality materials and electronics. Overall, the Celebrity is great for anyone looking to try out an Ovation or add an acoustic-electric to their arsenal.
My Verdict (& Personal Favorite)
My personal favorite – the guitar I play regularly live and unplugged – is the Celebrity Standard Exotic Flamed Koa. I love the punch of the Koa wood which fits my style as more of a melodic, lead guitar player.
I spent about $500 on it which is incredible value in hindsight. I consistently get compliments from the sound techs I work with. It’s seriously one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I’m not necessarily a big Ovation guy in general, but I sure do love this guitar!
For a more detailed review of the various models, including my personal favorite, read on!
Full Review – Ovation Celebrity Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Celebrity Standard’s body type is described as a mid-depth, which is a description of the depth of Ovation’s signature bowl back. The mid-depth bowl provides a full projection and resonance with a tone similar to a standard acoustic with typical construction.
The Standard Exotic models have two different bowl types to choose from. The Super Shallow body style loses only a little bit of depth and bottom end, but is more comfortable to play, particularly when standing. The mid-depth tends to be the favorite for overall tone, but the shallow body guitars are good for easy playing.
Sound – 7/10
The tops are the entry-level standard: solid Sitka Spruce. The Celebrity Standard neck is mahogany with an Ovangkol fingerboard. Combined, these features provide good note clarity and smooth playability.
There is a slight change with the exotic model which is the tonewood that is used to make the top. Quilted maple, koa, and burled maple tend to have a more complex tone and rich sound than the more inexpensive Sitka spruce.
The Exotic has a flashier selection of finish types. The inlays are made from the more ornate Abalone and the rosette is more detailed. Overall, these minor tweaks make for a slightly better-looking guitar, and help add a little to the price.
Electronics – 8/10
As for electronics, the OP-4CT preamp has an onboard tuner with three-band EQ and volume control. The electronics tend to be where Ovation guitars really shine. I have found many other acoustic electrics at similar price points that don’t have preamps and pickups that can match the quality found in Ovations. This is a big part of why these guitars are great for live performance.
The price range on these will run between about $370-$400 for the Standards, and about $500 for the Exotic models. Dave Matthews sported the Standard in a black finish in the early 90s so if you like early Dave, then the price isn’t an issue!
The Celebrity Elite is equipped with the Ovation Slimline pickup and OP-4CT preamp system with a three-band EQ, volume/gain control, onboard tuner and low-battery light that make it easy to dial in your sound.
The Elite models have the same bones, but have a different soundhole design. This is the design that people tend to recognize as the Ovation. The multi-soundhole design with the soundholes being placed nearer to the neck provides more bass response. Personally, I have not found this to be a superior design, just different.
Sound – 8/10
The bass response is what sets this model apart from the previous models, but that response is mostly noticeable when played through a PA or amp. The mid-depth body can actually get boomy, so an adjustment at the preamp may be needed when doing a soundcheck. The Super Shallow tends to be the favorite for more tonal balance and comfort.
Again, the exotics will have a better sounding top compared to the cheaper models with the solid Sitka spruce.
Features – 6/10
Really there’s not much going on with the visuals other than the cool leafy design at the soundholes. Binding and inlays are the usual ABS plastic for the lower-end guitars. The Exotic Elites, will spice things up a touch with Abalone inlays.
Electronics – 8/10
Here, you’ll find the same exact electronics as the Celebrity Standard guitars. Built-in tuner, EQ, etc. The higher-end tonewoods of the Exotic models are highlighted by the preamp, producing a better tone in general.
One more guitar worth noting briefly in the Celebrity line is the nylon string versions of these models. Celebrity Standard, Elite, and Elite Exotic all have nylon models to choose from.
Construction – 8/10
They rate the same as their steel-string counterparts, but provide that soft, classical touch only a nylon string can. For classical-style players or folk guitarists, this is a good alternative to the typical nylon acoustic-electric guitar. These sound great for live performances when playing music that requires a bit more finesse.
These Ovation nylon strings have a similar body type, but with a larger fretboard which makes the neck flatter, typical of a classical guitar. While the action is usually higher, they are not hard to play. Nylon strings are actually quite easy to fret.
Sound – 6/10
The solid cedar top is a nice touch, and the mellow, resonant wood accompanies the nylon well. That said, I’m personally not a fan of the way it sounds with the Lyrachord composite back. It just doesn’t capture the essence as well as a wood back.
Features – 8/10
No real bells and whistles here, but that can be a good thing. The black tuners are pretty cool, too. However, the star feature here is the satin neck that makes for really smooth movement with the fretting hand. It really is quite easy to play, even with a higher action.
Electronics – 7/10
These also have the OP-4CT preamp with the onboard tuner, but come with a different, more sensitive pickup to account for the nylon strings and softer playing styles. However, it still doesn’t quite make up for the lack of a good tonewood for the back and sides.
Nylon Ovation acoustics start between $300-$350. These can be a good upper-level student instrument as well, or for guitarists who don’t want a guitar that’s too hard on the fingers.
I have played each guitar mentioned here, and while the price points are fairly similar, I recommend saving a little extra to buy the Exotic version of either guitar. The Elite sounds better live, while the Celebrity Standard has a better natural ambient tone. The body can be awkward for either model with the rounded back, but it’s not so bad once you get used to it.
Each one of these guitars is a solid instrument. I think all guitarists owe it to themselves to try them out if they’re in the market for an acoustic-electric guitar. I hope you found this review helpful and maybe like me, you are now a believer!