December 11, 2007 Carbon fiber is somewhat of a wonder-material in the auto industry, where its light weight and excellent strength makes it an ideal choice for body panels and the like. The same properties theoretically make it a great material to build acoustic guitars from as well – and that's exactly what Blackbird have done. The Blackbird Rider uses the strength and resonance of carbon fiber to result in an acoustic guitar 30% smaller, tougher and much lighter than a wooden one, but with a comparably large sound and resonance. And while carbon fiber may not offer the tone and 'soul' of a beautiful piece of wood, the Rider will surely find a market among traveling musos who'll appreciate how hardy and portable it is.
While the Blackbird website praises the "full-bodied tone" of the carbon fibre Rider guitar, we're not so sure. Previous efforts like the Rainsong have left many guitarists convinced that nothing will surpass the character of a well-worked piece of wood. But the material offers certain advantages that has allowed Blackbird to build an unique instrument.
The strength and rigidity of carbon fiber has allowed for a hollow neck with no truss-rod, meaning that the neck can become an integral part of the acoustic chamber. This extra resonant area allows the Rider's smaller body to deliver similar resonance and projection to a normal guitar.
Furthermore, because carbon fiber can be moulded to any shape, the designers weren't forced to build a traditionally flat-backed guitar just to suit the properties of the material. And the whole guitar weighs just three pounds, despite being much tougher, more scratch-proof and waterproof than its wooden cousins.
Looks-wise, well, perhaps the nicest thing you can say is that the Rider is fairly techy and futuristic. Its modern-art lines and Darth Vader matt black finish don't exactly give it the rootsy cool of a nice wooden acoustic – but then, you wouldn't throw your Martin in the back of the pickup for a weekend's camping without an expensive case.
On the topic of money, the Blackbird Rider retails for around USD$1600 (plus an extra USD$140 if you want a pickup in it for amplification). So it's not the cheapest guitar on the rack, but there's definitely a market out there that will appreciate a guitar so light, so compact, so portable and virtually indestructible that still offers full-size resonance and projection.