SWAMP Industries | RRP: $1,249.99
Necessity, so the saying goes, is the mother of Invention, the nurturing author of newness, the egg from which all ideas hatch. This has been the state of play since we first separated ourselves from the primates through the implementation of tools. If this is still true today, then possibility must be the father, the rudder, and brake that guides and slows its inquisitive march as required.
Imagination then becomes the cool uncle, the one that will one day buy Invention its first beer, but for the time being, resigns itself to introducing his nephew to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and agreeing with him when he comes home from school ranting against the imposition of the scholastic establishment’s authority. In this anthropomorphic nuclear family, the kook aunty on the father’s side, adorned almost exclusively in cheesecloth and destined to donate Invention its first stick of nag champa, goes by Exploration, or Just-Because-I-Can to her friends.
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The music world is jostled endlessly by these four gods of the industrial age (these days more by the latter two than the former) and as a result, it sometimes seems as though we as consumers are presented with an insurmountable glut of variations on all too familiar themes as opposed to anything with a real sense of uniqueness or originality. Every so often, however, along comes a bedraggled wanderer from a faraway land, seemingly familiar in appearance but quite obviously fallen from a very different branch of the family tree.
Like Monkey Magic hatching from his rock egg at the very edge of the universe and the dawn of time, along comes one such warrior against the habitual, the X4-Pro carbon fibre acoustic guitar from the restless minds at Enya Music.
Carbon fibre, while one of the most recent additions to the tonal periodic table, is by no means an untapped resource where guitar builders are concerned. Companies have been utilising its lightweight, easily-malleable, dense, yet sleek nature since before the free-wheeling hippies turned their attention to ruining the housing market and yelling at poorly paid hospitality employees. Being as it is, a synthetic material, it affords builders freedom of form, toughness and modernity of sonic flavour that is by design unequalled in the ancient world of timber. It has worked wonders in advancing technological perspectives in fishing, weaponry, construction, car manufacture, and any number of other, albeit non-artistic industries. Hence, it stands to reason that it should creep its way into our sphere, ceaselessly hungry as we are for new approaches to the oldest pastime.
Sonically, there is no comparison to it in traditional guitar language. It harnesses all the density and compression of ebony or rosewood but then eclipses that fingerprint so thoroughly as to obscure the reference entirely. It chimes like maple or spruce but again extends that sheen beyond even the jangliest Telecaster with the treble at 10. It can, and will, sound deep and boomy without a loss of clarity, cleaner than a new window, and brighter than the sun on a clear morning all at the same time and/or none of those at all, and as such draws a certain amount of ire from traditionalists more used to familiar, homely, characteristic limitations of the woods we all know and love. Divisive as it may be, there is no denying that there is a place for the decided versatility and unparalleled clarity of a near-enough-to-bullet-proof instrument.
Visually, the X4-Pro is aggressively singular. The deep gunmetal grey-to-black of carbon fibre is accentuated by an industrial-inspired, chainmail-come-checker-plate pattern. Enya’s signature offset wave headstock design sits firmly atop a luxurious 25 ¾”, slender neck whose satin finish and 16” fretboard radius is sure to please electric guitarists who favour an effortlessly mobile range of movement in their right hand. The body is the ubiquitous Grand Auditorium shape, famed not only for being considerably more comfortable under your picking arm but also for affording a much more sculpted, high-mid searching, recording-ready tonality.
One of the more peculiar things about the face of the X4 is the positioning of the soundhole. It may look like a space-age example of function-over-form, where the graphics department has had a little too much fun for their own good, but it does perform a very specific duty in executing the deeper promise laid out by the Enya electronics department. As you crane your neck over the X4, you will hear at great volume a drastically focused high-mid range frequency which not only accentuates the natural movement of carbon fibre but also brings to the fore the chorus and reverb effects built into the belly of this beast.
Enya has mounted an actuator somewhere in the depths that drops these effects into the projected acoustic sound as well as the amplified sound of this swiss army knife of an instrument. You have full control over the amount and type of effect you want to flavour your playing with the preamp controls across the upper hip which allows you to get truly psychedelic even if you find yourself in the most remote corner of your adventure in the physical realm.
I must admit, there is a fuddy-duddy part of me that can’t help but resist the temptation to swim this far out of unfamiliar waters. When I first pulled it out of its piano black, cello-style moulded case I couldn’t help but look for reasons why it was alien to any number of other timeless acoustic heroes. Thankfully I pushed through that trepidation and came out the other side, blinking in the glare of an unencumbered morning.
Enya’s X4-Pro is undeniably a force of its own; a sleek, effortless player with a bag of tricks deeper than Houdini and a tough-as-nails exterior that renders it perfect for envelope pushers, unbridled explorers, and after-midnight tinkerers alike. Leave nostalgia at the door, forget tradition, and embrace the limitlessness of a whole new future.