Review

Babicz Identity Series Spider Model: ID-SPIDER-O6E

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

CON: Unusual look won't appeal to some

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
Click on the Guitar World hands on review of the Babicz Spider above.

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.