Time for another installment for you tone hunters on a budget. Still in the realm of acoustic, I take a look at the magic cones and mysterious promises of the Planet Waves O-Port.
What is an O-Port?
If I am completely honest I hadn’t heard of this piece of gear until a friend and fellow tone chaser handed it to me for testing. I wasn’t sure if he’d lost his mind and handed me the sort of cone you’d place on your beloved pet after an operation. This cone is designed to sit on the sound hole of your guitar to change the tone and volume of the instrument.
The description from Planet Waves claims that once the O-Port is installed it will make your guitar “richer, fuller, and louder, with more clarity and better projection.” The promise of enhanced bottom end and a more focused tonal balance will have caught the attention of many players.
When I spoke to my friend about the overall effects he said it made the Yamaha dreadnaught he tried it in too loud for his use, which made me curious. The artist list is reassuringly diverse including established artists such as Keith Urban, Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Amy McDonald as well as a few session players and producers.
It comes in either ebony or ivory depending on your preference as well as two different sizes depending on your guitars sound hole. In the UK it comes in at around £20 plus postage so it’s a cheap item to try out and easily reversible if you dislike the change it makes.
The O-Port was installed onto my almost ‘vintage’ Fender DG-40 (same guitar I used to test the brass saddles). My only concern with this guitar as the test subject was the often overpowering low end, so bear that in mind when listening to the audio samples.
The installation was as simple as they promised. Simple loosen of the strings and bend the O-Port into a smaller shape and push in to the sound hole with the neck cut out in the right place. Then get one of the lips on the edge and guide the rest on. It’s a snug fit which is reassuring as I had concerns about rattling and poor contact.
Sound wise I didn’t notice a big difference straight away. Being the player isn’t the best position to assess an acoustic guitar as the sound is pushed away from you. It wasn’t as night and day to me as I’d hoped, but putting it under the microphone showed a number of sonic changes.
In the recordings I used a Shure PG81, 2 1/2 inches from the 17th fret on the middle of the neck (oddly this guitars sweet spot). This was then sent to a Focusrite 2i4 (gain was the same throughout) into a Mac running Logic X. I didn’t do anything to the sound after recording so bare in mind cutting some of the lower frequencies would be useful in a mix.
I noticed slight compression at 100-200Hz which is a welcome enhancement on both playing styles. Definitely better then the muddiness of the lows before. I defiantly felt a lot more sustain with a more balanced note decay. When playing finger-style there is definitely a lift in frequencies fro 1K-2K which makes it feel bright and more airy. Strumming definitely felt brighter with less bass and more low mids and more harmonics in the 10K+ region.
I went into this test a little dubious, especially as the thought of installing essentially a speaker within a guitar sounds a little outlandish. Then as I installed it it got me thinking about resonator designs which are a tried an true way of getting serious volume out of an acoustic instrument. From a players perspective it doesn’t get in the way and change isn’t initially obvious until you got to record the sound. The extra harmonics and high end make it brighter and more airy, great for muddy guitars. I tried it in a mix and was happy with how it blends and doesn’t require lots of doctoring. I would recommend this for any recording guitarists who want a more balanced tone out of their cheap acoustic on a tight budget.
Anyone else tried one? Did you find the same results? Till next time have fun and keep playing!