Today in Tedium: So, I bought a new guitar over the fourth of July weekend. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the sudden increase in my credit line or the sudden appearance of one at my favorite music store that drove me toward the purchase. From the day I saw Mary Spender review the guitar on her YouTube channel, I decided to get one sometime. I didn’t realize it would happen a mere six months later. In today’s Tedium, we’re doing something a little different and reviewing the Lava Me 3 from Lava Music. Now, let’s talk about this phenomenal guitar. — David @Tedium
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The year one of the first carbon fiber/composite material guitars arrived on the market. Known as the Parker Fly, it was a standard guitar made from basswood or spruce that was only coated with composite materials. According to a history of the instrument from Guitar.com, the back of the neck and headstock contained the material to make it more rigid. It’s hard to believe that a mere 30 years later, carbon fiber guitars are growing in popularity, long after the demise of the Parker Fly.
I bought a guitar with a built-in smart device
I feel it necessary to note that I have not been paid to provide a review for this guitar, nor do I have any stake in the company. I also didn’t receive any free items for review (although that would have been cool). The opinions—and awful playing accompanying them—are entirely my own.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I will say it wasn’t exactly easy to get my Lava guitar. Originally, I had to sign up for a waiting list and have a guitar dealer reach out to me. After a week or so, it seemed that wasn’t going to happen any time soon, so I set an alert for one of my go-to music shops to notify me if they had a new or used one arrive at some point. On July 3, we hit pay dirt, when I got the email that eventually led to the purchase of my very own Lava Me 3.
As of today, you can just buy one straight from their website. Cool. What initially attracted me to this guitar wasn’t the effects. It was the solid construction, the aesthetics, and how easy it looked to play. The effects are cool, don’t get me wrong. But they weren’t the only reason I was interested in the guitar.
Some of the guitars are made with high-pressure laminate, while others are constructed from carbon fiber. Per Lavamusic, the Lava Me 3 is made with a carbon fiber honeycomb structure with 4-MASS carbon fiber and is quite resilient. The marketing says it has deeper bass and higher sustain. That’s accurate to a point, but since I have no other frame of reference, I’ll take their word for it.
I’ve dropped mine a few times already and noticed it sounds deeper and more resonant than many other guitars I’ve played, so maybe they’re onto something there.
The guitar comes with a ton of built-in features, including a tuner and recording interface. The tuner is great—certainly better than 99 percent of the clip-on ones I’ve owned over the years—and it works very well.
The metronome, tuner, and recording functions all work similarly to apps you might already have on your phone. They get the job done, but some of them lack polish and might be improved through future updates.
All in all, it’s a good start for a unique guitar and only scratches the service of what this thing can do.
The type of cable connection used to charge the Lava Me 3. It’s a good choice, especially since USB-C is fast and getting better all the time. That said, it still takes some time to charge the guitar. It does seem to have a fantastic battery life, although I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of charging my guitar regularly. Lava Music does offer a combination stand/charging station that would be nice to have (particularly for the wireless charging). Unfortunately, it’s been out of stock for a while so if you get yourself one of these guitars, you might have to wait a while before you can get the cool space age stand.
The guitar is worth it for the look, tone, and feel
Let’s kick things off by discussing the guitar’s design. I can tell you with complete conviction that this is probably the nicest, most elegant, and sleekest guitar I’ve ever owned.
Even the case is incredibly designed. It’s almost a luxury guitar case. The guitar also came with a charging cord, instructions, and a few branded picks. Lava has a special app, too, which the instruction manual discusses in great detail.
Despite the guitar being used—I have a suspicion it was only played a few times before being sold to the music store—the guitar is in great shape.
From the finish to the tuning heads, everything has a slick feel. Holding the guitar, it feels simultaneously lightweight yet solid. It’s not very heavy (because it’s carbon fiber), which is nice.
The action is pretty low, making it easy to play. Either this one had a fantastic set-up performed on it before being put up for sale, or it just came from the factory that way. It is a well-made guitar. It’s also a little on the smaller side, so it took some time for me to adapt it to my playing style.
There’s a screen on top of the guitar’s body for all its effects. Inside the guitar’s resonance chamber/sound hole are the controls—a button on one side, a dial on the other—which are pretty easy to use.
For the first week or so, I strictly played acoustically. I love the overall sound, twang, resonance, and feel. Other players might dislike it for the same reasons. It doesn’t lend itself well to certain genres but works great for instrumental stuff or bluesy comedy songs. Here’s a clip:
On the downside, I had to charge the guitar before I could use its smart device, which was sort of frustrating. It’s a standard USB-C plug, many of which I already had lying around (I used my phone charger with the guitar’s included charging cable).
Setup for the smart features did prove a little frustrating. It took some time to grow accustomed to using the interface and I don’t care for the “click” sound effect the device makes when you select things.
So, I turned it down. It’s a weird hill to die on, but there we are. At this point, I ran into a roadblock: I had to factory reset the guitar to use it. Since it wasn’t attached to user information and an app already, it required some re-setting up.
The other problem was that I didn’t have a QR code for the guitar. I had to get in touch with Lava’s customer service, who guided me through a complete reset and setup.
What really bugged me about this process was just how long and (ahem) tedious it was to get the ball rolling. Not only did I have to reset the entire device, but I also had to download a special app, sign up for an account, set up Wi-Fi on the guitar’s device, and do updates.
And this is where I found myself being kind of annoyed. The update took a long time and failed twice. But when it finally took, I was able to access the wonderful world of effects the guitar offers.
Occasionally, there’s a frustrating transition when you try to switch apps or close out an app. The effects themselves range from phasers to reverb, to flangers and beyond. There’s a lot of potential with them and most of them sound great—for a while. My favorite ones sound trippy and a bit spacey. They have names like “Moonwalk.” I’m going to use one in an upcoming Star Trek-themed song (speaking of Trek tunes…)
I enjoyed playing with the looper and can see using it regularly for composing. There’s another cool feature where you can play along to someone else’s loops—it’s kind of like building a song with Acid Pro back in the day. I dig it and plan to become part of the Lava Music community by creating my loops at some distant point in time, and perhaps, space.
The current MSRP of the Lava Me 3 guitar is on their official website. It’s … kind of pricey. Of course, it does have what pretty much amounts to a smartphone inside of it, plus the materials used as construction, plus the fact that it’s a guitar working to work contributing to that price point. There are more economical options available in the lava line, but it’s not something that a casual guitar player or hobbyist is probably going to go for. These are aimed at the professional market and the price point reflects it. Hopefully, the price goes down at some point soon and it becomes a little bit more accessible to intermediate musicians who just want to have fun with new technology. That said, I’m incredibly happy with the guitar despite its higher cost.
A sample of some of the effects that the Lava Me 3 can do.
Overall, the Lava Me 3 is a fine guitar
One of the major selling points of the Lava music guitars is their smart functionality. Sure, the effects are cool and it’s fun to play along with loops or record as you go, but what about the guitar itself? Is the guitar any good outside of housing the smart features? The good news is: yes, it is.
I’ve played homemade 12-strings that would be better suited for a troll’s mighty hands. I’ve repaired and performed with telecaster knockoffs that would feel right at home in Jack White’s music. I even had a baritone ukulele I bought for $50 at a flea market and have never found another that sounded as good, or played as well. I spent years rocking that rebuilt Harmony H-162 before deciding to retire it in my father’s memory. I’ve owned Taylors, Martins, Ovations, and Ibanez guitars. But none of them were as much fun to play as this instrument.
Yes, it plays _that _well. Lava makes a high-quality instrument that just sounds good. I sort of get the impression that the theme Lava is going for is that of the “feature-rich, hassle-free, space age guitar of the future.” (this is purely my assumption, however, and is not at all connected to Lava’s branding).
The finish looks sleek, almost elegant. Mine is Rose Gold, which is sort of a lustrous pink. Ok: it’s just pink. And it looks great. Other finishes—like blue, gray, red, and white—all look aesthetically pleasing as well.
When it comes down to playing this guitar, I feel as if I’m just as likely to strum it acoustically as I am to perform with it as a one-man band. It’s cool, sure, but how often do most of us just leave our effects pedals to collect dust once the novelty wears off?
When it comes to practicing and learning new skills, however, I find the smart interface to be invaluable and quickly discovered it to be my favorite part of the built-in smart functions in the instrument.
The percentage accuracy I achieved during my first scale practice on the Lava Me 3. As I played each note, it lit up on the touch screen via a fretboard diagram. If I plucked the wrong note of a scale or altered it in any way, the system noted that as well. It was pretty cool. I played for 3 minutes in all of the different positions of the scale. I was able to play 137 consecutive notes across the scale. What made this a useful feature for me is that it was a scale I was not previously familiar with until recently. I’ve been trying to learn modes better recently, so I customized it for Phrygian Mode in D. I’m happy to say I’m much more comfortable playing in this mode after practicing with the guitar than I was before.
An example of the guitar’s practice mode, in use.
Practice mode is a surprisingly awesome feature
Although the smart guitar can essentially be an all-in-one device—looper, percussion, effects, recording, and more—the practice mode offers some amazing features. Trying out practice mode was lots of fun.
In this mode, you can essentially hone your skills, whether it’s ear training, rhythm, picking individual notes, or performing chord changes. I tried each mode long enough to generate a report. I found each one easy to use, intuitive, and surprisingly fun. The gamification aspect of this mode makes it easier to learn new concepts and hone the skills you already possess. Practice mode also generates reports that you can view on the guitar or from the app. This is a magnificent feature for anyone looking to hone their skills and makes practicing those repetitive scales much more fun.
Here’s how I did in each mode.
Chord Mode. I did okay switching between a basic progression of major chords. Apparently, my accuracy was merely average. Bummer.
Strumming Mode. I didn’t perform terribly in strumming mode, but my rhythm is way off. Maybe I could play with The Residents, who notably play more freeform and rarely consider rhythm in their work. A lot of my strumming was rushed. That’s good to know.
Scale Mode. I had an absolute blast with scale notes. I set it up to play a few different types of scales that I was already familiar with as well as one that challenged me (which I mentioned earlier). Seeing my progress and ability play out in a real-time report was fascinating and provided some fairly unique insight. I can see using this feature often.
Ear Training Mode. It’s probably fair to say that I had a blast with ear training mode. Not only did I get used to it pretty fast, but it was interesting to see just how easy it is to remember the notes as I go. Out of all the features, this one in scale mode is probably going to be my most frequently used. I did pretty well with this mode and had a high accuracy rate. I don’t have perfect pitch, but sometimes I can pick out chords from songs. So, this will be very valuable at some point down the line and is a great feature for this type of instrument.
Single Note Mode. the last mode was the single note practice mode. This was simply playing whatever notes you feel like playing to a metronome, as the system measures your rhythm and accuracy. It was an interesting feature, but not one I can see using often. I practiced the spider walk technique with it to 81% accuracy at 60 BPM.
Ultimately, I found the insights provided by practice mode and its reports quite helpful. I’m eager to see how it goes over the next few months and might even update our readers on my progress in an issue of Midrange sometime down the line. Stay tuned.
The low end of the ideal humidity range for an acoustic guitar, according to Taylor Guitars. When not properly humidified—typically between 45 and 55 percent—acoustic guitars can run into all sorts of problems. Have you ever had a beloved guitar start cracking at the neck or warping due to humidity problems? I have (it was a lovely Alvarez baritone). Because I live in an area where humidity is a consistent problem, I tend to avoid acoustic instruments. I’ve tried everything from an in-room humidifier to several types of in-case humidifiers, to those D’addario humidifier pouches to attenuate the problem. Although the latter worked best for my needs—it’s especially good for my electric guitar and electric baritone—humidity is still a challenge at times. My absolute favorite part about owning a carbon fiber guitar now is that I don’t have to worry about humidity or freezing temperatures. And that’s worth the cost of admission alone (not really, but it’s a nice thought).
I’m fascinated by guitars that are constructed from unique materials—especially if those guitars contain other unique features as well. With the Lava Me 3, you get an entire band, teacher, multitrack recording tool, and more. But I can help but think there’s a little bit too much functionality built into the system.
When am I going to use some of these things outside the initial novelty of playing around with them? And what happens when the device—as many of these things inevitably do—stops recharging or no longer functions? Will there be a replacement program? What if the company no longer exists when that happens?
These are all pertinent questions to ask before investing in something like this. Sure, it’s a cool guitar, but is it really something that’s going to help you achieve your musical goals? That’s a question only you are equipped to answer. But as for me, I like the instrument. I’m not necessarily recommending it, but have certainly enjoyed my time playing the Lava Me 3.
But carbon fiber guitars are certainly something to keep an eye on as we go into the future.
Find this one an interesting read? Share it with a pal! And hopefully next time you pick up a guitar, it might be as cool of an experience as this one.
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