Aria TX200 WA Guitar
Budget Thor-Sound goes under the hammer (Our Worse Correspondent writes)
Guitars suitable either for beginners or those of us who don't happen to have vast resources (which probably includes most of us these days!) are a very obvious minefield. Below the £100 level there are few instruments even worthy of a second look (although it's not totally impossible to buy a halfway decent guitar below the magic 'ton') and even hovering around the £100—£150 mark one has to exercise considerable caution in case one buys the proverbial 'pup'. But all is not total gloom and doom in this region. A handful of manufacturers offer guitars in this price range and one of them in particular, Aria, have more than enough of a reputation for manufacturing high quality instruments at higher prices to make their cheaper models especially intriguing.
The particularly interesting aspect about Aria isn't just their guitars. It's also that their U.K. distributors happen to have a near obsession with quality control of their instruments so that even their cheapest models pass through a checking/setting-up procedure which means that you, the lucky customer 'in the street' are guaranteed not to find a duff sample which somehow 'slipped through'.
I've personally watched this company's growth since they began and can honestly state that never (not even once) have I been sent a review sample from them, nor have I seen one of their guitars in a shop, that has ever been anything other than immaculately set-up. You can take that statement or leave it. I've not been paid to say it, and I'm not suggesting that any other brand doesn't take as much care as these people do. It's just that I know it to be the case with Aria's guitars and basses.
So, when the time came round for us to look at another Aria guitar (having sampled their excellent Cardinal Series CS350 in issue No.3) we deliberately asked for an inexpensive model. It's the hardest test that a guitar maker/importer can be set. We wanted to see if they could still hold that quality together in the teeth of this current fierce recession.
The guitar we were sent, the TX200 WA is one of the cheapest guitars which Aria currently offer. It's one of the budget-priced 'Thor Sound' series and, it must be said, an animal when you take it from its box (the RRP of £127 doesn't include a case, perhaps very sensibly as it enables you to get a decent guitar for your money, even if you have to store it in a bag for a while as you save-up for a case later on.) The TX is a plain looking guitar, obviously a basic model and yet somehow strangely appealing for all that. The body of our sample was dull finished in a natural-looking red stain effect on the ash body.
The neck the TX200 sports is a maple laminate job, the maple fingerboard not being an integral type but having been very skilfully applied to the laminated neck. Fretting on our sample was immaculate, a fat wire being used, each of the frets having been well finished with no overlap at the edges (hence no snagged fingers) and a carefully rounded profile having been added to each. Frankly, we've seen worse fretting work on instruments costing well over twice the price of this guitar!
The neck joint is a four bolt type which, admittedly, is a cheap way of doing things but as it doesn't seem to have put-off umpteen million Fender users I can see no reason why it should bother anyone by appearing here! The neck/body fit was good taking into account the price of this instrument — again, we've seen worse on guitars costing far more. Hardware passed muster too. The machine heads are this manufacturer's usual good quality and the plastic nut was properly and accurately cut and set.
"THE NECK IS REALLY WELL CONTOURED WITH AN ALMOST FLAT CAMBER"
Down at the bridge the TX sports a simple rather Strat-like bridge, with each saddle screwing backwards and forwards for intonation via the usual spring-loaded screw and being raised or lowered by the penetrating twin screw arrangement for bridge-piece height — in short a thoroughly adjustable bridge design with good setting-up potential. The metalwork looked to be very solid and was thickly chrome plated.
On the electronics front the TX carries a pair of single coil black plastic housed pickups, the bridge one being angled for maximum effect. These are controlled via a single flick switch for either/or and two pots, one for volume, one for tone. Beginners might be tempted to go for as many controls to twiddle as they can get for their money but ask a stage-experienced player and he will always tell you to keep it nice and simple so that you don't spend too much time fiddling around with your controls and making a grade 'A' berk of yourself when things go wrong just as you're about to hit that fire-breathing solo you've always dreamed about playing.
Sound from the two pickups is really superb for the money. I tried this little Aria with quite a number of amps, ranging from a really cheap transistorised practice amp (perhaps the sort of thing a beginner is likely to use one of these guitars with) right up to fully-pro valve amps — it never once failed to impress me. The neck is really well contoured with an almost flat camber, the strings it came with were good, the fret height right for an easy bending action, the whole guitar just felt somehow 'right' (as a good guitar always does, whatever its price) and I found myself quite happy to lend another player my Gibson while I bashed and slashed away at the Aria during it's review period. I wouldn't lie and say that it was as good as the Gibbo (let's not go mad, now!) but I didn't get that impulse to rip my own axe out of their hands and make them play the cheapie! In fact the Aria carried me happily throughout a whole evening's playing, its toppy yet powerful and attacking tone soaring away on solos producing a sound which would satisfy any player.
A rather plain looking guitar, maybe, the Aria TX200 WA is really excellent value for money at its RRP of £127. In my opinion it would be a first rate purchase as a first 'decent' guitar for any young player but, even better than that, it would even represent a very sensible purchase for a more experienced guitarist who wanted a second, single coil pickupped, instrument but who was short of the readies. I'd happily have one, let's put it that way.
Nice to see that Aria haven't lost their ability down at the lowest end price of the guitar market. The sound, the feel, and the character of this guitar's tone (especially with its superb 'hot' bridge pickup used to sweep away on piercing solos) makes it a fine buy. In short? I loved it!
Review by Gary Cooper
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