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I really like guitars from Orangewood’s “Playa” collection including my mahogany Dana mini guitar. (I also own a mahogany Rey guitar and have examined a friend’s Victoria guitar.) I will outline my recommendation reasons below, but also will attempt to temper any unrealistic expectations.
Size: The diminutive Dana guitar is IMHO a great instrument for hauling around outside the home or playing where space is tight such as on the couch, or at a desk or table, where larger instruments might more readily bump into things or make playing cramped. The shorter scale length might be helpful for those with small hands, but isn’t *that* much different from longer-scale instruments to make going back and forth a big problem.
Sound: A small guitar won’t have the deep, resonant tone of a larger instrument no matter how much you pay. That said, after being used for a while, the Dana “plays in” nicely — the tone getting better than out of the box. It’s voice is completely loud enough and resonant enough to satisfy reasonable expectations.
Materials & construction: The bracing and general construction seem to be good. Mine is a very handsome, rich honey-chocolate brown with contrasting off-white binding. The laminated materials are a good economical choice but also don’t sacrifice much sound quality. I think this is due to the clever design of these “Playa” instruments, which seem to have thin top, back and sides as well as light bracing and a thin finish; these things together, I think, make for louder, more resonant tone.
A key benefit to the laminated wood of the guitar body is that it’s less sensitive to changes in humidity and temperature. I play my laminated guitars much more frequently because they are not so “fussy” — though I do nonetheless humidify them in the winter months.
The light construction may benefit from lighter strings. I prefer electric-like playability, so I restring my guitars with 10-46 strings. This makes the instrument more player friendly and may also help the guitar to last by reducing string tension.
The tuners are adequate, but have turning ratios that just require slow sneaking up on perfect pitches.
Set up: Of the three “Playa”-collection guitars that I’ve examined in detail, NONE arrived set up to the standards of professional guitar technicians. I believe that Orangewood way oversells the “professional” set up on their “Playa”-collection guitars. However, my Dana arrived about a year later than the others, and was the best set up of the three. This guitar arrived at my doorstep with the neck having extreme forward bow. This was not just due to string tension. The double-action truss rod was actually adjusted to increase the neck relief, which was excessive to say the least. I had to tighten the truss-rod adjustment just to get to neutral tension engagement, then continue tightening to get the neck relief to an appropriate setting of about .006”. The set up required no additional adjustment. This was a big improvement over the other “Playa” guitars I’ve examined, which required both nut and saddle tweaking.
I am a guitar-tech hobbyist, so I have the tools and knowledge to check out and set up acoustic guitars. My Dana had a fingerboard that was not straight from the factory. I know this because despite the slight waviness of the fingerboard when straightened as much as possible by truss-rod adjustment, the frets are surprisingly level — though they obviously vary considerably in height to compensate for the wavy fingerboard.
But let me be realistic. To be able to sell a guitar at these prices, some corners will be cut when compared to the manufacture of guitars that cost five or ten or more times the price. This also applies to guitar set up, which may be the most time-consuming, and therefore expensive, single aspect of guitar creation. So, of course, the set ups on these economy guitars will be less than perfect. (Okay, that said, Orangewood might please stop way overselling their “professional” set ups done in the USA.)
So my general recommendation regarding set up on these “Playa”-collection instruments is, upon delivery, to pay a good luthier/technician to check them over to assess keeping or returning, and, if a keeper, have him or her set them up for your level of play or personal preferences (that is, if you aren’t qualified to do it yourself).
And that brings up my final, important set-up point, which is that the truss rod's purpose is to compensate against string tension. Action is properly adjusted at the nut and saddle.
Bottom line: I have the Orangewood guitars because they are a good value, they sound good, they don’t require obsessive attention to humidity or temperature, and can be fun to play both for a beginner and a more experienced guitar player. The Dana fulfilled my final requirements, which were a guitar that travels more easily and doesn’t require quite so much space to play.
I’m loving this mini guitar! Perfect for traveling or just noodling around on the couch. Great value for the price, really happy I bought this!
It never arrived
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This little box is an amazing value. Straight out of the bag it was ready to play. The fretwork and setup were excellent. Plays as well as many of my more expensive guitars.
It’s a good looking guitar. Pick guard a little flimsy. Guitar gets out of tune very quickly. Stings had to be replace 1 week in as one broke. Looking forward on learning on the orangewood