By Peter S. Kohman

Review: Babicz Identity Series Spider Model:
ID-SPIDER-O6E

-Web of Intrigue-
Jeff Babicz and Jeff Carano are no strangers to innovative musical engineering. The two worked together at the Steinberger Guitar Company, renowned for the advanced design of its headless, paddleshaped guitars and basses. 

Given Babicz and Carano's background, it's perhaps not surprising that their new company, Babicz Guitars, is making its mark with some rather unusual designs of its own. Take my review guitar, for example: the first thing you notice about the sleek and dramatic-looking Babicz Spider-O6E acoustic guitar is the weblike pattern created by the strings as they fan out over the guitar's top. Far from being a cosmetic gimmick, the design is, like the Steinberger's headless neck, a sonic enhancement — one might even say "a revelation."
 
-Design-
The basis of the Babicz design is its patented icZ Lateral Compression Soundboard. In traditional acoustic guitar design, the strings are anchored to the bridge. Vibrations are focused at the bridge, as is the stress from string pull. This produces a very rigid top with limited bass reproduction. Heavy X-bracing helps to support the top and distribute vibrations across the top, but it also weighs down the top and prevents it from vibrating fully. Babicz's icZ system is designed to reduce or eliminate these shortcomings. 

The strings are anchored, via studs, directly to the soundboard over a larger area of the top. This (to use Babicz's term) "energizes" the top, allowing it to resonate more fully.

Furthermore, by shifting tension from the center of the top to the bottom edge, Babicz can utilize lighter and more delicate bracing, allowing the top to vibrate more fully and produce a fuller sound that is balanced across its frequency spectrum. Does it work? Let's take a look at the Spider and find out.
 
-Features-
The Identity Series Spider is the latest Babicz instrument and certainly the most striking looking. The thin, single cutaway body is two-tone black with a satin finish top and neck and gloss black back, sides and pickguard. There is no binding; the only ornamentation on the all-mahogany body is a contrasting soundhole ring that gives the Spider a high-tech look. The mahogany neck has a comfortable "C" contour and a rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays. The peghead is marked with a script logo and "Black Widow" hourglass, a clever, if subtle visual. The head also carries a twoway truss rod and Grover tuners. 

Incidentally, while these design features are common to all Babicz guitars, the company offers two series of models that vary in body style and wood choice: the Identity Series guitars, which are handmade in Indonesia, and the more expensive Signature Series models, which are built in the U.S. by Jeff Babicz himself. 

As mentioned above, the icZ system eliminates the need for heavy X bracing. Instead, the Spider has two longitudinal braces. Babicz has rethought the bridge as well, which consists of a static string retainer behind a bridge/saddle unit. Since it's bolted to the top, rather than glued, it is freely adjustable for intonation. 

Other features worth noting include an onboard L.R. Baggs Element Active EQ system and a revolutionary neck joint that can be quickly adjusted for height without affecting intonation. Other moveable heel designs tilt the neck, affecting the intonation, but the Babicz system moves vertically on a rail. Simply pop the Allen wrench (conveniently clipped to the back of the headstock), give the recessed bolt in the heel a twist and the string height changes, without requiring a retune.
-Performance-
All this innovation makes the Babicz an enjoyable and versatile guitar. The icZ system produces a well-defined sound could be described as "modern," with a precise attack, excellent clarity and good separation of bass and treble voices, eliminating some of the "woody" midrange typical of olderstyle guitars. 

It certainly lends itself to amplification, and the L.R. Baggs system works like a charm, giving the Spider a very versatile pluggedin sound. Moreover, the strings on the Spider felt more relaxed than on standard acoustics. This is down, once again, to the icZ system, which uses a longer length of string overall (though standard-length strings are used), resulting in a lighter feel, even on heavier-gauge strings. 

The adjustable neck lets you switch from delicate fingerpicking to "Bluegrass banging" or beefy slide action in just seconds, then crank the neck back down in less time than it takes to introduce the next tune. This guitar would be a great live choice even if you don't feel you need the instant action-changing feature. 

-The Bottom Line-
The Spider's versatility, durability and sound are mind boggling, especially for a guitar in this price range. Babicz offers numerous different models, some perhaps more conventional looking, but the darkly dashing black Spider is a standout guitar in every respect. 

PRO: Extremely balanced tone, fuller sound, fast and advanced neck-adjustment system, great value for price.

CON: Unusual look won't appeal to some

www.GuitarWorld.com
 
By A-J Charron

Review: Babicz Dreadnought Cutaway Model:
ID-DCRW-06e

Evolution. I think that single word captures the essence of Babicz guitars. 
For about a century now, everybody and their sister have been making acoustic guitars pretty much the same way. Oh, perhaps a little innovation here and there, but nothing major; an acoustic is an acoustic. Craftmanship and wood quality make the difference. I know this is rather large, but let’s face it, there’s been nothing new under the sun. 

Until now. 

Jeff Babicz has not redesigned the acoustic guitar, he re-invented it.

The major problem with an acoustic guitar is the sound hole. Because of its position, with the bridge coming up behind it, it has to be reinforced to hold under the strain of the strings. Unfortunately, by reinforcing it, you tend to lose a lot of the sound quality the guitar can offer. So what do you do? It’s been an on-going problem with guitar manufacturers over the years. And no matter what they’ve done, after a time, the bridge section has a tendency to belly-up because of the strain, requiring major work on the guitar. 
What Babicz has done is brilliant in its simplicity. If the problem is with the strings attaching on the bridge, just attach them somewhere else! Six anchors are set about an inch and a half from the back of the guitar in a fan shape and that’s where the strings attach. They run into the neck, then out to the anchors. What this means, first and foremost, to the serious guitarist is that you immediately pluck the strings at that end. It’s a lot of fun, believe me. Gave me a lot of ideas. 

"Jeff Babicz has not redesigned the acoustic guitar, he re-invented it."

Once you get over that, you quickly realize the advantage of this system; the strings pull on the whole of the top of the guitar enabling a much greater resistance to the strain of the strings. Which also means the sound hole doesn’t have to be reinforced. It’s simply brilliant! Amazingly simple, yet so effective. 

It also means that the whole of the inside top of the guitar is redesigned. Instead of the traditional X-Brace like you find on most acoustics, this one has two longitudinal braces running along almost the entire top of the guitar. 

To most people, this kind of improvement would be enough. You’ve already reinvented the thing and taken care of the most important problem with acoustics; great work, time to rest. But not Jeff Babicz... 

The second major problem with an acoustic lies in the neck. On most acoustics, the neck is glued on. Meaning you’re stuck with the position it’s at. Over time, it will have a tendency to be in the wrong position, because of the strain of the strings. Having it repositioned also requires major surgery that most of us can’t afford. Or we’re simply too scared to see our precious baby go under the knife and we play the guitar the way it is. 

Some manufacturers have resorted to bolting on the neck. It does have some good results, but what you gain in efficiency, you lose in sound. 

Babicz to the rescue again. Jeff has totally reinvented the neck joint. Here the neck is hooked up to the body using a patented rail system. This offers one absolutely incredible advantage over any acoustic guitar ever made: you can actually change the action! And it’s so easy to do, you can do it in your sleep. 

All you need is a wrench (but you keep losing those, don’t you?). Here the wrench is actually located on a clip behind the neck. Jeff Babicz deserves huge credit for thinking about that one; a place to keep your wrench where you’re likely to find it. 

Insert the wrench behind the neck and turn. Raise or lower the neck in a few seconds. Yes, seconds. Brilliant. Want fast action? Raise the neck. Want a fatter sound? Lower the neck. It’s so simple, you can actually do this on stage between two songs. And your band’s frontman doesn’t have to be Peter Gabriel: a short hello to the crowd and you’re ready to perform again. 

But what about the neck in relation to the bridge? The bridge is also adjustable by using a wrench! 

Basically, Jeff Babicz thought of everything and applied it all. This is a great example of thinking outside the box. Perhaps it’s due to his years at Steinberger. 

So, you ask, you have a guitar that has all these innovations, but how does it sound? Quite frankly, it rates up there with the best of them. For a much smaller price tag. The one that was sent my way to review was a cut-away Dreadnought, Identity Series, Rosewood, with onboard active EQ. $1195 for the guitar and $399 for the onboards. Not expensive considering everything. 

"I predict that this is the guitar of the future. In years to come, any professional will play the Babicz and nothing else". 

Comfort-wise, it has all the comfort of your standard acoustic. Look-wise, it’s a work of art. Sound-wise, well let’s just say that my ears were more than delighted by the sound of the guitar. Try as I might, I never managed to get a less than incredible sound out of it.

The neck is comfortable and fast. The cutaway lets you reach the higher frets, much to my liking. The very first time you play it, you don’t get that feeling you usually do from a different guitar. It feels like you’ve been playing it for years. And this guitar will follow you for years. An investment in your musical future. 

I also wanted to mention those onboards. With other systems I found I always had a lot of trouble adjusting the EQ to get good sound. Not so of this system; plug it in, strum and twist the knobs for a few seconds and there you go. In fact, at any setting, the sound is great. You just adjust it to you own personal liking. 

It came in a hardshell case which, before even opening it, allows you to see the mind-set of Jeff Babicz: instead of the usual hard plastic handle which is so uncomfortable, it has a large padded handle which feels very comfortable. I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure you wouldn’t damage your hand after carrying it around for an hour or so. 

This is a serious guitar for the serious guitarist. Or for anyone who simply wants an acoustic that will last the rest of their life. One thing’s for sure, once you try this out, you’ll never look at another acoustic the same way. I predict that this is the guitar of the future. In years to come, any professional will play the Babicz and nothing else. I know I don’t want to try out anything else now.
 
A-J Charron has wrote over 300 articles and reviews for Guitar Noise. Many of them have been translated into other languages. A-J is a singer and songwriter from Montréal, Québec.
By Derek Davodowich

REVIEW: DREADNOUGHT ACOUSTIC GUITAR MODEL:
ID-DRW-06

What do the following bands and musicians have in common: Porcupine Tree, Black Eyed Peas, Pat Travers, Todd Rundgren, and Adrian Belew? Well, besides being talented artists, they have all been seen playing a funky looking acoustic guitar that seems to have borrowed some visual cues from familiar musical door chimes. Fortunately, no tethered ball or mallet is necessary to evoke beautiful sounds from within a Babicz guitar. The unique design does, however, play an important role in defining the tonal sound and long-term physical condition of the guitar. 

The Babicz Identity DRW-06 acoustic guitar has all the right stuff thanks to a combination of great sound, superb playability, and some very innovative structural designs. Most noticeable is the fanning of the strings across the sounding board, which adds quite a distinct look to the guitar. Once we took an in-depth look at the engineering principles behind this design – it’s not just for cosmetics, and understood the physical and tonal effect of this design on the guitar, we found the design to be truly genius. 

Equally impressive, Babicz developed new technology that enables the player to make neck/string height (action) adjustments on the fly without any complexity or intonation changes/adjustments. This guitar is well worth your consideration, and is the first acoustic guitar to receive our prestigious WIHO Award.
-Features-
The Babicz Identity DRW-06 is constructed of a high gloss-finished, solid rosewood back and sides, with a satin finished, solid spruce top outlined by black/white/black binding. The two-piece bound mahogany neck (also in satin finish) provides continuous adjustability through its two-way truss rod and Babicz’s patented neck height adjustment feature for desired string action preferences – an extremely cool feature we’ll talk more about in the Usability section of the review
Starting at the top of the guitar, the face of the headstock is constructed of a rosewood overlay fitted with black Grover tuners. The neck is a comfortable C shape, 1-11/16” at the nut spanning twenty frets, with a 25.5” scale length.

This is where it gets really interesting. The Babicz Identity Series guitar is fitted with an adjustable rosewood torque-reducing split bridge system.

What? Unlike conventional bridge systems that are glued to the top of the guitar, the Babicz bridge is anchored to the guitar via a fastening system that allows the bridge to be loosened and repositioned for intonation adjustments. 

With most bridge systems on acoustic guitars, the strings anchor into the bridge, focusing all the tension at the center of the soundboard, and here is where the Babicz split bridge design comes into play. Once the strings pass over the bridge, they are channeled through a string retainer (second part of the split-bridge) that pitches the strings downward from the back of the bridge, providing pressure from the strings down and over the bridge to the body of the guitar.

Note that at this point, there’s still no anchor to the most flexible part of the soundboard (top) of the guitar, thereby eliminating any pull or tension that would result in decreased vibration of the guitar top. From this point, the strings are fanned out to the edge of the guitar top, where they are anchored via posts through the soundboard connected to anchor plates on the inside of the guitar.

With this design, Babicz is able to achieve a more lateral tension pattern spread over a wider area of the guitar, resulting in full-bodied sound quality. Another attributing factor to this guitar’s great sound is that with the string tension being disbursed across the soundboard instead of anchored in the bridge, less structural bracing is needed inside the instrument, allowing the soundboard to vibrate more freely.

Cosmetically, this guitar displays excellent craftsmanship. The glossy back and sides reflect a very deep, rich rosewood tone and compliment the satin-finished mahogany neck and spruce top. We did, however, detect some very light and barely noticeable cosmetic flaws on the neck. At a few frets, the finish was chipped – possibly during the fretwire installation.

The Babicz guitar came equipped with a nice hard shell case providing sufficient protection for the guitar. Though not equipped in the model reviewed, this guitar can also be ordered in an acoustic-electric model.
 
Babicz Guitar Overall Score: 3.6 out of 4.0, which earns it a WIHO Award
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award 
3 stars or better: Worth considering 
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs 
1 star or less: Not recommended
 
-Usability-
The Babicz Identity was very enjoyable to play. The neck is true from top to bottom, providing clear fretted notes and perfect intonation throughout. On this particular model, notes in the upper register were difficult to reach due to the dreadnought body style. If your playing requires upper register accessibility, you will want to opt for one of the cutaway models offered. 

The smooth, unfinished neck was also a factor in ease of playability. From a mechanical standpoint, we really enjoyed the neck adjustment feature developed by Babicz Guitars. Using the supplied allen-wrench, clipped to and easily accessible at the back of the headstock, we were able to easily make adjustments to the string height depending on our playing techniques and string action preferences. The Babicz neck adjustment feature enabled us to raise the entire neck up or down in relation to the body of the guitar in order to achieve our preferred string height. 

As a result of this feature, the neck is not anchored or glued to the soundboard of the guitar, which at first glance seems to buck conventional wisdom regarding acoustic guitar design. But as our testing revealed, that may just be one of those old ways of thinking that is due for revision. With Babicz, their design philosophy seems clear: do as little as possible to minimize the soundboard’s ability to resonate, an approach that works great in the guitar presented to us for testing.

Because the neck movement is up and down, there is no need to worry about affecting the intonation of the guitar. Conventional neck adjustments cause change to the actual scale length of the string, which usually require intonation adjustments at the bridge. Never fear, though. The intonation on the Babicz guitar is adjustable as well. By loosening the anchor fasteners, the bridge can easily be moved forward or backward via the slotted soundboard to dial in accurate intonation.

We had to check this cool feature out for ourselves and found that by loosening the bridge fasteners, repositioning of the bridge was a breeze. The movement was very smooth and easy to adjust, much like that of the floating bridge system on a jazz guitar, but better because you can clamp it down and not worry about it being bumped out of position.

Between the player-adjustable neck action and intonation features, we have never before experienced this kind of flexible setup in an acoustic guitar. Upon first glance at the guitar, we were curious if longer string lengths were required in order to accommodate the fanning of the strings to the outer edge of the soundboard. Not at all – the Babicz guitar uses standard strings, enabling you to use your favorite brand.

-Documentation and Product Support-
Though Babicz forgot to include the product documentation with our review guitar, it typically ships with instructions for adjusting the string action and intonation. Fortunately, we found the Babicz Guitars website to be very informative. It provided ample information and support for us to perform all the tasks described in the Usability section.

-Sound-
A three-year warranty is provided for the Babicz Identity guitar. 
We found the Identity DRW-06 to be very bright and full bodied in sound. No matter which position we played, the guitar provided consistent tonal quality including a good balance of low, mid, and high characteristics throughout the entire tonal spectrum. As a result of the “ICZ” Lateral Compression Soundboard, this acoustic guitar generates good volume levels combined with excellent tone. 

We played a variety of different styles on this guitar ranging from Country to Jazz and Pop to Rock. The Babicz guitar responded well to all playing styles and techniques, providing a bright piano-like tone all its own. 

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