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Jeff Babicz Guitars Tech Article

The Hardest Part Is Getting People To Try It!!!!

All Jeff Babicz Guitars feature the "icZ" Acoustic System, a proprietary technology from
Babicz Design Ltd. These innovative features are the hallmark of Jeff Babicz Guitars.
The "icZ" system features these patent pending innovations:

Lateral compression is created by anchoring the strings directly to the guitar soundboard. The stored energy is released acoustically as the guitar is played. The increased strength inherent in the design allows for a more delicate internal soundboard bracing. The result - unmatched sonic purity.

Designed by a musician for the musician. Quick, easy, on-the-fly adjustment of string height without altering scale length or neck pitch. It's so fast, with one turn of the provided key you can go from high "Slide" action to extremely low "Electric" action - seamlessly and without de-tuning!

A striking and innovative new design that allows for intonation adjustment throughout the life of the guitar. The icZ bridge is secured to the soundboard through a unique fastener design that allows the bridge to be repositioned at any time. The icZ split bridge drastically reduces forward rotational torque.

Bridge saddle height never needs to be altered - volume and tone remain permanently enhanced.

Ed Roman Reviews

The Jeff Babicz Guitar

Ok……..I’ll be honest………………….


When I first took a look at what Jeff Babicz and Jeff Carano were doing….I had my doubts.  This was back in early 2004……..they had just done their first NAMM Show with Babicz Guitars.    I go way back with these guys.  I used to work very closely with Jeff Carano during my days at Steinberger.  I always told people he was my boss…..it really pisses him off!  But, that’s another story for another time.  Working with Jeff Carano, Jeff Babicz, and Ned Steinberger was both fun and educational.  I made a lot of contacts when I worked there.  Frankly, I would help these guys out even if I didn't like the guitar !!!!


In any case, I had a soft spot in my heart for these guys.  (That’s right, sometimes a flower can grow through the cracks in the pavement!) They were New Yorkers, and I spent most of my life in Connecticut before settling in Vegas.  I knew they got a raw deal from Gibson.  After all, these two guys gave their lives to Steinberger--12 hour days, seven days a week.  These two guys were handling everything at that company during its most successful period.  There was NOTHING they wouldn’t do for that company!  Then Gibson buys the company.  (But that too is another story for another time.)  Anyhow, we all stayed in touch.  These guys even flew out to see me on a few occasions….to really demo the guitars in person.  But….I still had my doubts.


"It looks different!"  Now, we all know that I can handle things that are “out of the norm."  I was the top Steinberger seller for many, many years….and one look at my website will tell you that I won’t shy away from something that’s “different."  I guess I still needed to be convinced. 


The first prototypes they showed me were acoustics!  I thought, I can't sell these!  I believed die-hard, traditionalist, acoustic guys would NEVER accept strings splayed over the top of the soundboard like that--what Jeff and Jeff call their “Lateral Compression” system.  I had to admit though….it really sounded very, very good.  I was surprised.  Babicz is one of the few true engineers in this industry who can also play guitar.  His explanation of how the soundboard reacted not only made sense, but it was easy to validate by listening and playing the guitars.  And finally, he is guitar designer NOT motivated by ego or any other agenda.  Jeff Babicz is completely dedicated to the design of guitars that sound and perform fantastic.  He will not shy away from any innovation that achieves this goal.  He thinks “outside of the box.”  (I HATE that stupid expression!)  What I mean to say is, he can imagine and implement designs that work, designs that no one else has ever thought or created. (Babicz Design has the patents to prove it!)



The more I considered the Babicz Guitar, the more I could see that it really, really made sense.  With the Babicz design……there is NO WAY for the top to “belly up”--EVER.  With the Babicz design and their “Torque Reducing Split Bridge,” you can adjust the intonation…. FOR THE LIFE OF THE GUITAR!


And yet…..I still thought……”What if I can’t sell it?”


At the end of their demo, the guys show me the “Continually Adjustable Neck.”  Jeff Babicz proceeds to raise and lower the strings in relation to the fret board.  (I have since learned that he really raises and lowers the neck in relation to the strings.)  He gets the sample guitar to have real high “slide” action, then really low “Taylor” buzzy action, in a matter of seconds.  But here’s the thing…..THE GUITAR STAYS COMPLETELY IN TUNE!  I had to see it again!  Even then I had to try it for myself to believe it.  You plug the allen wrench in the heel of the neck, and just turn!  Clockwise for higher action, counter-clockwise for lower action.  You can set the guitar up for exactly the gauge strings you use, for exactly the feel you want….IN SECONDS.  And, you don’t even have to re-tune.  (I don't like that super low Taylor action myself... You really get better tone with a slightly raised action!)


In a word…….”BRILLIANT.”


But…..what if I can’t sell it?????????


Babicz and Carano know, as well as anybody in the industry, that just having the best sounding, best playing guitar is not enough.  And more than that…they know full well that having a guitar that looks “different” is a big challenge.  Everybody in the industry says they’re looking for something “different,” then you show them something different, and they all go “NO WAY, THAT’S TOO DIFFERENT!”    (Arghhhhh.  That really gives me a case of the red ass.)


I always say, "It's easy to build a better guitar; the hard part is to build a better name brand."  Building a name brand takes money, and lots of it.  People don't buy good products today.  They are all foolishly buying name brand, name recognition, and all the BS hype that goes with it.  (Don't get me started.  I'm feeling the makings of a rant bubbling up inside me.)


Carano tells me, “There is nothing anyone is going to say to me that I have not heard before………I used to sell guitars without headstocks, so don’t waste my time telling me how “weird” this is…What? You don’t think I already KNOW it looks weird?!?” (I’ve noticed Carano has gotten a lot crankier in his old age….I’d like to think I had something to do with that!)


I once sold a beautiful Ford Bronco to Carano….mint condition, …..but that’s yet another story for another time.  If you want to get him going, just ask him about it!  (Pretty Funny)


Weird is one thing….but functionality is another…..and I can now say for sure…Babicz has NAILED IT!  These guitars sound and feel and perform brilliantly.


But………what if I can’t sell it?!?!


Fast forward to March 2006………………..


These guys have been very, very busy over the last two years.  They each quit their six figure, Internet Tech jobs and went full time into Babicz Guitars.  And more than a few people have noticed.  Important people.  People like Todd Rundgren……………………………..….Earl Slick…..K.K. Downing……Howard Leese…..Joe Lynn Turner…..J.J. French……Adrian Belew….and one of my all time favorite guitarists…. Huey Thomasson.  And, oh yeah, Ed Roman has definitely noticed it...


And it hasn’t been just the artists.  (Notice how all the artists they have are accomplished PLAYERS?)  I couldn’t help but notice the press.  Each review was better than the last.  The review by Teja Gerken in Acoustic Guitar Magazine summed it up best when he said “One important factor to keep in mind when playing the Babicz is that its tonal character changes depending on how the neck is adjusted.......it’s fascinating to hear how these adjustments affect the Identity’s sound, especially when you consider that most guitars require time-consuming detuning, saddle replacement, and retuning—at the very least—to get the same result.”


Well, that’s all well and good…..BUT CAN I SELL IT?


I just got my first SPIDER….and better yet, I’m one of the very first US Dealers to get Babicz’s new OCTANE.




The SPIDER is the perfect acoustic/electric……..very cool looking in all black w/ chrome hardware.  (These guys still have some Steinberger in their blood.)  It sounds just as great playing rock as it does when you’re finger-picking.  I can easily say it’s the most versatile acoustic/electric I’ve ever had in my shop….and I’ve had them all!


The quality of the SPIDER is impeccable:  all solid Mahogany, very well put together, killer sound which comes alive with the included L.R. Baggs Element On Board System.  No wonder Todd permanently retired his Takamines….and no wonder K.K.Downing uses these as his exclusive acoustic/electric, either in the studio or on stage.


The SPIDER comes with a high quality TKL hard shell case with the most comfortable figure-8 handle I’ve seen.  Thankfully, Babicz and Carano learned not to skimp on the extras.  The guitar lists at $1195.00.  I of course will give you a great discount....All Solid Wood….L.R.Baggs….TKL Case…….under a grand.  I can describe the SPIDER in two words….



Put it up against anything else in its price range…its not even a fair fight!



Now…for the OCTANE………


This guitar outright ROCKS! Right out of the case (also very nice) this axe is striking….beautiful black top over a stunning Mahogany body, with 2 Pearly Gates that scream if you want them to, or clean up real nice if that’s what you prefer.   I will also make the Duncan Black/Backs available to anyone who wants them.


I was instantly amazed by the feel….there’s something about the way the string anchors work that make the strings feel very relaxed on the fret board. Players say that with a Babicz, it always feels like you’re using strings one gauge lighter than you actually are. If you’re using 11’s, they feel like 10’s, if you’re using 12’s, they feel like 11’s.


The sustain out of this guitar is nothing short of unbelievable. Even when it’s not plugged in….there’s a “feel” you get from the guitar….it friggin’ feels ALIVE. Plug it in, and you are instantly inspired. As with all Babicz guitars….tweak the neck to where it feels just perfect for you…….you just can’t do this on any other guitar.


The guys told me it was inspired by Billy Gibbons. The story goes that Billy checked out a SPIDER at one of the ZZ Top shows in Manhattan Kansas. Jeff Carano was there to meet with Keith Urban, who was also on the bill, but then had the chance to hook up with Elwood Francis backstage. (Elwood is Billy’s long time tech and has worked for Billy for many years in helping him put his legendary collection together).


Elwood was blown away by the SPIDER, and brought it to Billy. Billy also loved it, but said “acoustic guitars are bad luck for me. Get an electric together, with all the Babicz features, and you’ve got a winner!”


So Jeff Babicz went to work on his bench. These guys always wanted the electric version anyway, and Billy’s encouragement was just the motivation they needed. Babicz nailed it……this guy really know guitars, and everything he comes up with has a purpose. Any doubts I had were instantly gone after a few minutes with the Octane.


Elwood said that “this guitar becomes part of the player”….that’s the best description I’ve heard yet.


I’m taking these guys a whole lot more seriously now. My buddy Huey Thomason has a Shitload of great guitars, but he says he will not travel without his Babicz Jumbo. Huey knows his guitars….so does Howard Leese….so does Adrian Belew. There’s a reason they play Babicz….and now I know what that reason is. ~ER

Babicz ID-JCRW-O6e Jumbo Rosewood Cutaway
 Signature D’esque Acoustics
By Matt Blackett    FRETS magazine /Winter 06


In a matter of seconds I took the Jumbo Cutaway from a robust strummer
To a low-action flat picking shred machine. It’s really amazing.”

When I first started playing guitar, I always wanted something different. I didn’t want to play the same guitars that everybody else played. I guess on some level I knew then that having an identity on the guitar was one of the trickiest things to come by, and a unique instrument would get me one step closer. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the reason so many players choose the same instruments is because those instruments are awesome, and I’ve added a few tried and true classics to my collection. But I never completely lost that desire to play something unique. That’s part of the reason I wanted to check out the Babicz line of acoustics. I was intrigued by the way the strings splayed out over the guitar’s top, creating a look that was reminiscent of bike spokes or bridge cables. And although that may be the most noticeable feature of these instruments, it’s clear that Babicz has a lot of unique ideas going on.

The Jumbo Rosewood Cutaway ($1,895 retail as tested with L.R. Baggs iMix system  is part of Babicz’s Identity Series of handcrafted acoustics. Aside from the obvious visual component of the Jumbo Cutaway—the array of strings anchored around the guitar’s lower bout—there are plenty of other cool cosmetic features. The solid spruce soundboard looks sweet. The gloss-finished solid rosewood back and sides are beautifully rich, as is the use of rosewood for the headstock overlay, bridge, and string retainer. The black tuning machines and string anchors bring a rock-and-roll toughness to the Jumbo Cutaway.
Structurally, there is a lot going on with this guitar. Let’s look first at the way the it’s strung. Rather than a standard bridge, Babicz guitars employ an “Adjustable Torque Reducing Split Bridge.” The design is meant to address what Jeff Babicz sees as drawbacks to traditional designs. Basically, the strings don’t terminate at the bridge, which is what causes the bellying effect on acoustic tops. Instead, the strings pass over the bridge, through the string retainer (which in turn puts downward pressure on the bridge), and on to the string anchors on the lower bout. Attaching the strings to the top not only looks bitchin’, it also spreads out the string pull to the entire soundboard—not just the center, which is actually the weakest part of the top. This method also allows Babicz to employ much lighter bracing—bracing that can be designed for sonic, rather than structural, considerations. This results in a soundboard that can move more freely for better tonal balance and truer bass response.
If that’s not forward-thinking enough for you, there’s the Continually Adjustable Neck. Anyone who has tried to adjust the action on an acoustic knows that it can be a risky, invasive procedure. Lowering the saddle changes the tone and resetting the neck can only be done by a skilled pro. What Babicz has done is to give players the ability to change their action on the fly with an ordinary Allen wrench. Not to be confused with the trussrod adjustment (which these guitars also feature), using this Allen wrench at the neck heel moves the neck up and down in relation to the strings. There is no change in neck angle and thus no real change in pitch. It really works. In a matter of seconds, I took the Jumbo Cutaway from a robust strummer to a low-action flat picking shred machine. I took the action so low that it buzzed and then cranked it up high enough to play slide. It’s really amazing and the handy clamp to hold the Allen wrench on the back of the headstock takes me back to my Floyd Rose days—yeah!
So enough about all the high-tech stuff—how does this guitar sound? In a word, great. The Jumbo Cutaway has a full, clear voice with excellent balance. It has a present, articulate sound with uncommon clarity from string to string. Maybe because of the neck design or the string arrangement, this guitar has incredible sustain, particularly in the upper register. On the Babicz website, he talks about avoiding the “dreaded fretboard ‘dropoff’” past the neck/body joint and that problem certainly seems to be solved here.
The Jumbo Cutaway sports the L.R. Baggs iMix pickup/preamp system, making it a great gigging guitar. In fact, when you plug in, the adjustable neck becomes an even cooler feature. I found that a lower action, when played with a light touch, made for a great amplified acoustic tone that was easy on the hands. But whether you play it as a straight acoustic or plug it in, this guitar rocks. Very cool

Babicz Signature D’esque

The D’esque ($9,995 retail/street N/A) represents Babicz’s high-end Signature Series and they do a great job of presenting this beautiful instrument in the most flattering light. First you have the bomb-proof hardshell case that appears to be covered in faux rhino skin. Open it up and there’s gorgeous purple velvet on the inside that would have made a great coffin for Elvis when he (allegedly) died. There’s a temperature/hygrometer gauge inside to ensure that the D’esque is comfy.
The body shape is similar to a dreadnought (which explains the name, as in “dreadnaught-esque”) but with a narrower waist, smaller upper bout, and a rounded lower bout. Visually speaking, this guitar is simply stunning. Everything about it is top-notch, from the German spruce top (with a nitrocellulose, high-gloss lacquer finish) to the figured Brazilian rosewood back, sides, and headstock veneer to the one-piece Honduran mahogany neck, this is one of the sweetest looking acoustics I’ve ever seen. The tortoiseshell binding is luscious and the abalone inlay is very classy. The gold Grover locking tuners (with ebony buttons) reinforce the notion that this is a serious, high-end instrument.
The D’esque is sonically beautiful as well. It’s loud and full and has a very present quality, helped out by the awesome side port that serves as your own personal monitor. Compared to the Identity, I hear more highs, more lows, and more volume out of the D’esque. It’s inspiring to play, with a clear, distinct voice that works great for finger-picking or strumming. A term some testers used was “modern” to describe the D’esque’s timbres, and that seems fitting. Certain passages have a clarity on this guitar that I had a hard time matching on other acoustics—almost like a 6-string high-definition TV.
I once again had a blast raising and lowering the neck on the D’esque and I discovered another cool thing: Babicz’s Continually Adjustable Neck System makes it much easier to use more extreme tunings, both above and below standard pitch. For instance, dropping most acoustics down to DADGAD or below (say, to open C) typically necessitates using heavier strings to avoid the rattling and buzzing caused by the decreased string tension. Not with this guitar. I took out the trusty Allen wrench and simply raised the D’esque’s action until the rattles went away. It took about five seconds. Conversely, I found that higher tunings, such as open e and eBeABe (DADGAD up a full step)—unadvisable if not impossible on most acoustics—were actually manageable on the D’esque because I could lower the action.
Unless you’ve tried a D’esque, it’s fair to say that you’ve never played anything like this. It’s not cheap, but it is in line with many handcrafted, top-of-the-line acoustics. This guitar would be perfect for players—admittedly well-heeled players—who don’t want what an old-school acoustic offers. Or, more likely, the D’esque will appeal to players who already have some benchmark acoustics in their collection and want to add a future classic.