There was a time when buying Chinese made western instruments was a nerve-racking experience. I have seen (and bought) some absolute rubbish over the years. But there’s an increasing number of companies producing top quality products at irresistible prices.
Enya is a Chinese instrument company making some of the best value instruments I have ever seen. I have one of their tenor ukuleles. It’s been a workhorse over the last couple of years with a wide, playable neck; a good-quality pick up system; stable tuners and an adjustable truss rod (seldom seen in ukuleles). I’ve recommended their ukuleles far and wide.
Enya recently branched out into guitars and while I didn’t need another acoustic I eventually folded and bought one. Their most popular model is the EM-X1 and it comes in two sizes: a 41-inch dreadnought and a smaller 36-inch guitar. I’ve played on both several times and on a recent shopping trip took the plunge and got the more portable smaller version.
The body of the Em-X1 is made of HPL (High-Pressure Laminate). This is the same material used in some recent Martin models —essentially layers of paper mixed with resin under pressure. The fingerboard is mahogany. Purists turn their noses up at anything that isn’t solid wood but like the Enya ukuleles, this guitar manages a warm, round tone so the HPL doesn’t seem to impact the sound in any negative way. There’s a big upside with HPL as well, and that’s how well it copes with changes in humidity and temperature. The weather in Hong Kong is a nightmare for traditional wooden instruments so the material of the EM-X1 is much better suited to the climate.
The electronics on this guitar are worth mentioning. In addition to the 1/4 inch jack input you get a XLR in, something you rarely see on acoustics but potentially useful all the same. The pickup produces a strong clear signal and an onboard EQ gives a range of useable tonal options.
And the cost? I paid around $180USD for the guitar — which included a padded case, coated strings, a tuner, a capo, a strap, a little songbook of songs I can’t understand and a lead. The little Martin I had was more than twice the price and I personally prefer the Enya.
The quality control on these guitars looks solid, I played 4 or 5 and they looked identical. I’ve no idea on the availability of these guitars abroad, but I would feel confident buying one unseen. These are great little guitars and at the price it’s hard to imagine finding something better.
Musical examples to come!