Lava Guitars has released the Lava Pro model. A full sized carbon fiber guitar. It’s a unique instrument that is a lot of fun to play. But, is it right for you? Read this review to find out!
Who do I recommend this guitar for:
- People who are looking for a full-sized acoustic guitar in the $1000 – $2500 range.
- People who really want to use the built in effects.
- People who like a sharper sound with a lot of clarity and definition in each of the strings. This guitar is really even and punchy sounding. The closest thing I would compare it to would be a better sounding Ovation guitar or a less warm Taylor Koa.
People I do not recommend this for:
- People who have played the Lava Me 2 and did not care for the feel of plastic compared to wood.
- People who need a guitar they can rely on for touring and gigging. I really like this guitar and it’s a lot of fun, but I had to send back my initial demo unit due to it no longer charging. This rendered the effects and the pickup non-functional.
In October of 2019, I released a review for the Lava Me 2. A travel sized acoustic guitar made of carbon fiber with a built-in delay, reverb, and chorus effects. I really liked that guitar, despite one shortcoming that was inherent from the materials; I was unused to how carbon fiber would feel, especially throughout the neck. It required some adjustment, as I was subconsciously used to a certain vibrational feedback I would get while playing, but it was something that I could get past. Overall, it’s become one of my favorite guitars to just pick up and mess around with due to its compact size and the fun I get from getting to use effects without dealing with cables/headphones/neighbors or any of the complications I face as a hobbyist guitar player who lives with shared walls.
When Lava reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing one of their Lava Me Pro guitars, I was really enthusiastic! A large part of why I write these reviews is because they are for products in categories that I often consider making purchases. Guitars are an item that I, and many others, have spent countless hours, vacillating on the decision ‘to buy or not to buy’. It’s a difficult decision to make! Yes, there are countless great reviews out there, fantastic videos, and many other ways to educate yourself. But, money is money, and it can be hard justify spending it on non-essential products sometimes. Especially since we are not talking about something inexpensive enough to be an ‘impulse buy’.
One of the downsides I find with most reviews is that they are incredibly subjective, to no fault of the reviewer. Musical instruments are an incredibly subjective product to review. The impact of personal preference, and difficulty in finding someone who may have a relatable opinion create an environment where I still don’t know what to buy. You’d think video reviews would help, but the way that a reviewer plays and the gear they used to record impacts how a guitar sounds. To give an idea of how I am approaching this review: “I am a casual player”. I’ve been playing for over 10 years but probably perma-plateaued at around 6-7 years in. I do a lot of basic strumming while using a pick.
I think that this is a guitar that is worth the money with a few caveats. It fits into/possibly invents an interesting category of what I am calling ‘affordable luxury guitars’. The overall fit and finish feel very premium. The style of the guitar and its included marketing/labeling come together to create the feel of a product that is about $1000 more than what you actually pay for each model.
I perceive the quality of the instrument itself is similar, if not slightly higher than guitars at the same price point ($700 for the travel model and $1200 for the Pro) and you are also given a decent case with the purchase. It’s a flexible hybrid case. It’s not safe to let TSA handle it, but it’s far nicer than the foldable gig-bag I am used to getting with acoustic guitars. One thoughtful addition on the case is the backpack style’s straps. It’s a nice addition and the straps are easily adjustable and made of what feels like a durable strap with a faux leather covering.
In terms of sound, the Lava Pro really delivers. It has a very balanced sound overall. I found that I was able to get a nice booming sound on the lower end which was very satisfying and the high notes twinkle and sound really clear. I would say that it is more detailed than it is warm. You do lose something when you go away from wood, but you also get something in that enhanced clarity. I especially like to play lead parts and riffs on this guitar. The chords are not underwhelming, but one of the things you lose from wood is versatility.
A wood body acoustic’s sounds can be varied greatly between soft and warm chord progressions to really pronounced individual notes. The Lava Pro sounds great, but when you strum it softly, it just sounds like you are strumming it softly. It doesn’t sound that different from when you play it more loudly with harder strumming. To some, this is going to be a huge bonus. Others may love it less.
Carbon fiber is going to sound different from wood, but if I were to compare it to any other guitar, I would compare it to a Taylor Koa model. It has a ton of clarity from high to low and you get a lot of definition in the sound, but it has a much more sterile sound than a wood guitar would. It makes the Koa guitars sound warm, but that is something I like about the carbon fiber guitar. It’s not a bad sound, it’s just unique.
Design and Features
The guitar comes in two color combinations. The face of the instrument is only available in a carbon-fiber patterned graphite color, but you have the choice between a silver or gold neck and hardware combination. In images, I felt the gold looked nicer and opted for that, however I do regret this as the gold looks a little more ‘cheap’ in person than it does in photos.
The guitar does also include built in effects, just like with the travel sized Me 2 model. You have delay and chorus once again, however, this time you have more control over the effects, the internal speaker is much louder. This allows for the sounds to be altered in much more noticeable ways.
The only things I don’t like about this guitar are that you have to buy a proprietary strap, the charging port location, potential durability concerns (which could be a fluke) and dubious recycling policies.
The strap has huge pegs that completely prevent the use of all normal straps from fitting. This applies to both the full sized and small models of their guitars. To add insult to injury, the proprietary strap cannot be bought by itself. Instead, you are forced into buying an ‘accessory bundle’ which includes things you are certain to not care about, but it makes it cost over $100 just to get a compatible strap. I think that’s a little bit consumer-hostile.
The placement of the charging port on the pro model needs to be changed in the future. It’s exactly in the place the guitar would rest if placed on the floor with the back of the neck leaning against an object. This will result in broken charging cables.
The first Pro model that was sent to me stopped charging after 5 months of use. I had to send it back and get a whole new guitar sent to me since there are not authorized repair people who could have replaced the battery or charger inside. So, I had to send back the entire unit and when I asked ‘what will happen to the unit I sent back’, because it is made of plastics and contains other parts, like a battery, which are not good for the environment. They were unable to provide any information on recycling.
The effects themselves have their advantages and disadvantages. One really nice addition is the ‘turbo’ button, which seems to only work when plugged in as sort of a ‘high-gain’ mode (increases the volume). Overall, you are given much more control over the effects and the modulation is far more dramatic than the travel model.
One problem/advantage that I find over the travel model is that the internal speaker is significantly louder than in the smaller guitar. This is great for having more dramatic effects but also a drain on the battery life.
One of the questions I got a lot in the comments for the travels sized Lava me 2 guitar were asking about the battery life for the built in effects and pickup. The travel sized model has a fantastic battery life, I can get about 20 hours of playing on it. However, that is one of the major downsides to the full-sized guitar. The battery only seems to last about 3-4 hours and it also drains while it’s turned off. My travel model’s battery lasts far longer and does not drain while not in use. I think that the speaker inside that is pushing out the effected sound is substantially louder than in the travel guitar. This leads to a far more dramatic effect on the sound, but it also means a shorter battery life in addition to the draining while inactive.
Warranty and Durability
Another question I got in the comments of the travel guitar were about how to get it fixed if something happens to the guitar or in the event of a defect. I reached out to LAVA and here is what they said:
“For the warranty issue, firstly, the customer can contact the store they purchased for any problem. And they would definitely help them out. While if they purchase online, the customer can directly contact us via the platform. And if is a small problem, we can help them fix out by shipping some small part for them to fix, or if is something big we will ask them to send it back to Hong Kong, and we will take care of it. Whether we will change a new one or just fix the problem, it depends.”
Because I have already had to send back an entire guitar due to a battery/charging issue, I am not confident in recommending this guitar based on durability or warranty. It troubles me that due to one component malfunctioning, I had to get an entirely new instrument and that the company, Lava, would not provide any information about whether the guitar I mailed back would be recycled. I think it’s extremely wasteful for an entire guitar made from plastic (with a rechargeable battery) to be sitting in a landfill somewhere simply because the company does not have the means to test issues and diagnose problems.
Here are some audio samples of how the guitar sounds acoustically. Both with and without effects. This was recorded using my Olympus LS-100 stereo recorder.
(Chorus playing chords)
(chorus playing singles notes) – LOUDER, TURN DOWN SPEAKERS/HEADPHONES
Here are some examples of what the pickup sounds like directly plugged into a JFET D.I. channel on my Audient ID14.