Saturday, August 21, 2010

guitar cases

I haven't had a guitar related post for a while so here we go...

Cases... not very sexy but absolutely critical and full of options. There are gigbags, cardboard cases, wooden cases, plastic cases, fiberglass cases, and carbon fiber. Each kind of construction has strengths and weaknesses and can come in a wide variety of quality and price levels from cheap to very expensive. You can get a gigbag or cardboard case for $20... or you can pay $1400 for a custom carbon fiber case... and there are lots in between.

For normal use, I prefer a gigbag, essentially a backpack like arrangement made of some kind of fabric with padding and backstraps. All of my guitars live in medium to high end gig bags. The least expensive one I own cost me about $75 and the most expensive was just under $400 for a custom leather bag from Cronkhite Custom Cases made for my Lowden guitar. Gigbags don't offer the same kind of impact protection as a hard case, but they are generally lighter in weight and smaller so it is easier to be careful with the guitar. For general use, because of the ease of handling, I find them more protective than a hard case. I wouldn't trust an expensive guitar - the only kind I have - to a baggage handler in one though.

There are a few touring pros who do recommend flying with gigbags, arguing that they are easier to get onboard a plane. The downside though is that if that is refused, you have a very expensive bag of exotic wood toothpicks at the end of the flight. So, many players fly with a normal hardshell case as provided with most guitars when purchased. In general, I find those cases a poor compromise. IMHO, they are too heavy and clumsy for general use but not heavy duty enough for the rough handling a guitar may get on a baggage chute. For that you need a serious road case.

Until recently, that meant expensive and heavy. It still may as there are some wonderful fiberglass road cases that provide excellent protection. They are expensive and very heavy. I had one for a while, built by a great company called Calton. It was a great case and I loved it until my car broke down and I had to carry it two miles... my arm was 4 inches longer at the end of the walk. I bought a high quality gigbag for that guitar and sold the Calton.

The newest generation of road cases are just as sturdy or more so at a lighter weight but often considerably higher price. These cases are built from carbon fiber. I believe a company named Accord was the first to build these cases and they are wonderful... light weight, extremely protective, even elegant... and very pricey, i.e. more than many folk spend on a guitar. Since Accord pioneered these materials a number of other companies have begun using them as well including Calton, mentioned above, in their higher level cases.

I recently read about a company based in Chicago that is building very sturdy, carbon fiber cases at a much lower price named Hoffee. The cases look amazing and are very reasonably priced for what you get. Indeed, if I ever need a road case, they are at the top of my list. Watch the video below and you'll see why.

1 comment:

Michael Mahoney said...

I've long dreaded the idea of flying with a guitar. Since I only own cheap guitars, the cost of a travel case seemed ridiculous...

This is a good find!