Guitarists are constantly searching for the perfect tone. The one sound that will bring them into that heavenly state of tonal perfection. Usually, to get that sound you have to go with a guitar that comes with an amazingly steep price point. If you’re like me, then you’re still saving for that guitar. At the 2010 Namm show in Anaheim, Dare Music
Group from Austin, Texas introduced a product that they believe will put the perfect tone in the reach of every guitarist. It’s called the O-Port and its design was enough to pique my curiosity.
The O-Port is a small, light plastic disc engineered to improve the sound of any acoustic guitar, with main emphasis on richness and fullness of its sound as well as feedback reduction. Upon first glance, it resembles the look of a bass port. It fits flush into the sound hole of the guitar and fans out inside the guitar like a short funnel. The result is that the O-Port adjusts the way sound resonates through the body of an acoustic guitar. The funnel shape inside the guitar controls the movement of sound waves created by the string vibration and forces the sound to focus more directly out of the whole generating more volume, a better clarity and fuller sound.
Now I’m a bit of a skeptic, so I decided to put the O-Port to the test using my Taylor 514-CE and a Studio Projects C1 Studio Condenser microphone. I recorded directly into Logic using the ONE by Apogee placing the guitar approximately 24 inches from the microphone and recorded two tracks. One track with the O-Port and another without the O-Port. Both tracks included a strumming pattern and a finger style pattern for variation. After I completed recording, I listened to both tracks through my NHT Pro speakers for changes in volume, clarity and fullness. I wasn’t completely blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t notice a tremendous increase in volume, but what I did notice was and increase in clarity and fullness. I also plugged the guitar in and was very pleased with the results.
I love my Taylor guitar and I’ve logged many hours playing and enjoying it. But I’m not always happy with the way it sounds in my hands. It’s no fault of the guitar. My experience with my Taylor 514-CE is that it’s a brilliant finger style guitar, but not a great guitar for hard strumming. Being more of a hack, I tend to chop wood when I play guitar and so I lean more towards my K-14 Taylor which is made of Koa wood. What I noticed with the 514-CE is a cleaner lower-mid sound that brought a nice clarity to the tone when recorded. I also noticed a little fuller sound that took away the “brittleness” to the sound of the guitar when strummed. I also noticed it lessened or diminished feedback in that range during the live setting as well. To the naked ear, I did notice a fuller sound which could be interpreted as more volume. The short answer… the O-Port does appear to live up to it’s marketing. Having said all of that, I think where the O-Port really shines is when it’s plugged into a system via the guitars onboard electronics. Very nice clarity, nice separation of notes, harmonically richer sounding. The increase in volume is more noticeable as well. I’m not technical enough to know why, but suffice it to say that this is definitely the sweet spot for usage.
The O-Port can be used on any acoustic guitar with a round sound hole. It comes in two colors (ivory and black) and two sizes for guitars with a smaller (3.375 to 3.5”) and bigger (3.843 to 4”) sound hole. The material is extremely flexible in order to prevent damage to the guitar’s finish and inlays. It installs in minutes, no wires, and no installation kits. You simply loosen the strings and drop it into the sound hole. I was able to fold the plastic in half and slip it in to fit. The only issue I see with the construction of the O-Port is that there will be a conflict with installation if you have an L.R. Baggs style system with the tone and volume in the sound hole. It could also provide a slight hassle when changing batteries for your onboard pre-amp by adding an additional step to go through, but not a super big deal.
The bottom line… would I recommend it? Answer: Yes. Especially in a recording application and especially live when the guitar is plugged in. It really does help in dealing with certain problem frequencies that are common to all guitars and it does help to diminish feedback in a live setting. I’ve yet to try out the O-Port in a live setting with a super loud band, but then my neighbors would really not like me anymore.