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Finding a small-sized guitar that sounds good and plays well is a challenge. Even when purchasing an expensive one, you have to compromise tone and playability. The Orangewood Dana Mahogany and Dana Spruce Mini are two great alternatives for a guitar you can take anywhere easily or as a child’s first instrument. This Orangewood Dana review is also a good place to start your search for the best travel guitar.
Bottom line up-front: The Orangewood Dana in its Mahogany or Spruce top versions is one of the best affordable travel or children’s guitars. The guitar plays almost like a standard body instrument and delivers a well-balanced tone, suited for a campfire and practice. It’s an easy carry and can take a hit or two.
If your child wants to start playing guitar, consider purchasing this affordable instrument before looking for anything more expensive.
Orangewood Dana Specs
- ¾ Baby Concert body shape
- Layered Mahogony Top back and sides (Layered Spruce top on the Dana Spruce model)
- Mahogany C shaped Neck
- Natural Satin Finish
- Hybrid Wood fretboard
- 23.5″ scale length
- Chrome Die-Cast tuners
- Bone Nut and Hybrid Wood Bridge
Orangewood Dana Pros
- Suitable for kids and for traveling
- It’s lightweight, can fit in any vehicle, and is easy to carry around
- Very affordable
- The playability is good with moderately low action and decent fretwork
- Tuners feel solid and keep the guitar in tune well.
- Good finish
- Loud for the size
- It comes with a gig bag and is already setup
Orangewood Dana Cons
- You can only order directly from the fabric in LA and can’t try one in your local shop.
- The materials used are cheap
- The tone is bright without much richness
Orangewood Dana Design
The guitar looks much more expensive than it is. The Satin finish and choice between a bright Maple and classy darker Mahogany make for a small eye-catching instrument.
The Concert shape choice is not random. The shape is very comfortable for the player, resonates well, and delivers a loud volume with a moderately small and thin body. The Concert shape is an excellent choice for mini guitars that lack size.
The ¾ size makes it easy to carry around for traveling, while it’s just the right size for most children to play with ease. Smaller than that, every guitar feels a bit off for an adult. The Dana is just big enough so that it doesn’t affect playability.
The guitar comes with the pickguard not installed, and you can do so yourself with ease.
Orangewood Dana Tonewoods & Tone
The Tonewoods on the Orangewood Dana are the common ones you will find in guitars that go for even double the price.
Mahogany neck and layered tops are a standard of affordable instruments, yet there are other fewer quality choices that Orangewood could have used. For a guitar of this price range, a Laminated top is excellent, and the option of choosing between Spruce and Mahogonay is a nice touch from the company.
Don’t expect a big full, and rich tone from the guitar. It’s moderately loud, and you can’t easily distinguish between a regular-sized body and this. It’s bright, but it doesn’t sound plain. Finger-picking patterns will come out crisp and clear, and there’s decent punch and note separation when strumming.
You won’t get a rich-sounding instrument, but you won’t be disappointed either. I have yet to find a more balanced-sounding mini acoustic guitar for the price.
Orangewood Dana Hardware
This very affordable guitar uses cheap yet solid materials. As with all affordable Orangewood guitars, the Dana feels like it uses more expensive parts.
Out of all the hardware, I especially like the tuners. The Die Casts used on this guitar feel very smooth. My experience with another guitar under 150$ has never been this positive with tunning.
The tuners, nut, and bridge make for a reliable system. Tuning stability is not the best, yet it won’t go out of tune while playing it. Each time you pick it up when traveling, you would need to tune it due to the temperature and environment changes.
Nothing is exceptional about the hardware, yet they do their job well and won’t need replacing.
Orangewood Dana Playability
The Orangewood Dana playability grabbed my attention the most and is why I would recommend it to any traveling musician or child.
A ¾. Sized guitar is not too far from a standard-sized guitar. That means the scale length is not as short as to make it feel awkward to players that are not used to it. The scale length is 23.5”, almost that of a familiar Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.
The modern C neck shape combined with the slightly shorter scale length makes it very playable for every kind of player. Whether you have big or small hands, you won’t find this guitar much different than your regular, affordable acoustic.
The strings are not as close to each other as on many mini guitars, so you won’t have difficulty fingerpicking or playing with a pick.
It’s not exceptionally versatile when playing, and the fretboard is ok at maximum. As for the tone, you will not get much, but enough to enjoy playing the instrument. If you feel like there’s something wrong with it, a setup will probably fix all issues.
Orangewood Dana Mahogany vs. Spruce
The only difference between the two models is the guitar top wood.
The major difference between the two models is the color. Since both have laminated tops, the difference in tone is minimal. A laminated top is built from different layers of wood mashed together. The result is a strong layer that can take a bump but does not contribute much to the guitar’s tone. Solid tops are common on more expensive guitars.
Even though the difference is slight, you can just barely hear that the Spruce version is slightly brighter and open sounding. Spruce also does project the sound slightly better, resulting in a barely louder guitar.
The primary advice I can give you here is to visually go by what you like best or what is available on the website.
Mini Guitar VS Full Sized Guitar?
Every guitar that is ¾ or smaller is considered a mini guitar. The scale length doesn’t typically exceed 24 inches.
A small body guitar’s main and sometimes only advantage is the size. This can be reflected in many ways depending on the setting you use them. Some players enjoy the small body of their own body better, and others find the smaller neck more comfortable.
A full-size acoustic guitar will always sound richer and fuller due to the acoustic properties of size. Another advantage of a full-sized guitar is that more options are available to buy, especially for left-handed players who have a hard time finding instruments.
If you want to go deeper, we have prepared a full guide on which size guitar is right for you.
What Makes a Good Guitar for Children?
The Orangewood Dana is a splendid guitar for children that check all the boxes.
For a child, a ¾ guitar size or a minimum of ½ for small children is advised. The most important aspect of a good children’s guitar is how the neck feels. High action and bad fretwork damage a child’s small hands and hinder their progress.
The tone is not especially important, considering that it will take some years before the child can take out a good sound from the instrument. An affordable, relatively easy to play an instrument is the best choice for a guitar that will last only a few years.
On the bright side, you can keep the guitar as a future travel instrument and make it better by changing up some parts.
If you’re looking for a small-sized eclectic guitar for children, I would advise you to go for a small full-size guitar rather than a ¾ electric one. The reason is that an electric guitar’s body is already small, and there are multiple guitars out there with a short scale length. You will both a have a better instrument and can keep it even when the child grows.
What Makes a Good Travel Guitar?
Put simply, a good travel guitar is one that can fit everywhere, take a bump, and sound/play well.
The size of a travel guitar doesn’t allow for much bass and a well-defined mid-range -consequently, compromising for a good enough tone is the norm. Rich-sounding travel guitars are expensive and won’t be as good as a proper full-size instrument.
Tone-wise, what you should mainly notice and avoid on a travel guitar are any harsh frequencies that hurt when strumming. Try to find a loud enough guitar that allows for dynamic playing. If both open and barre chords resonate well,
I have played mid-range priced guitars with terrible high action and cheap ones with a good neck. Always test the first octave (up the 12th frets) and check for buzzes. Intonation is directly connected to the quality of the neck and frets. Even if the sound is not good, you should always look for a good neck.
Considering you won’t likely use the guitar for playing shows, the most sought travel guitars are affordable. If you’re an occasional traveler who wants a guitar to keep the chops up or just for the fun of playing, spending too much won’t add much to your experience.
Orangewood Dana Alternatives
If you’re looking for other mini guitars or their other alternatives, you could be interested in them. I listen below some that hold to their promise and compare well to the Dana. Orangewood produced some excellent full-size guitars that you should check out.
The Yamaha APXT2 is a good choice for mini acoustic electric guitars. It’s more expensive than the Orangewood Dana, yet the added pickup makes it worth it.
Compared to the Dana, It does not do as well acoustically. The tone is brighter and less full on the Yamaha. ON the other hand, the Yamaha has a better neck for rock guitarists and is an instrument you could play for a small show if nothing else is available to you.
If you need the versatility of an acoustic electric, the Yamaha is the better choice.
On the higher end of mini guitars, you can buy a quality Martin that sounds great acoustically and plugged in. It’s far more expensive than the Dana but delivers on its promise.
The legendary American guitar builder doesn’t typically produce smaller body guitars, and the LX1E is a new edition to the brand. It still does what a Martin does, only a smaller size, with less volume and slightly less punch and low end. This is a mini guitar with which you could easily perform a whole set and sound amazing.
For children, it’s an exceptional first guitar or improvement to their cheap current one.
Except for the price, the downside is that this is not a guitar you would normally be comfortable having around everywhere and bumping on every vehicle across the world.
You could purchase a Dreadnaught-style guitar around the same price range as the Orangewood Dana.
The Yamaha JR1 has a shorter scale length of only 21 1/4″, so it will feel slightly different than the Dana, which I hail as the best of both in terms of playability. Both guitar’s tonewoods are affordable; the Yamaha uses better wood for the fretboard, during the Dana for the rest. The most significant advantage of the Yamaha is its shape, which gives for more resonance when strumming.
I’d rate both instruments at about the same level and give the edge to the Dana for its playability.
Answer: All Orangewood guitars are made in China and then shipped to LA, where they’re set up before shipping to the client.
Answer: All orangewood guitars are fitted with Earnie Ball Acoustic strings. The Dana comes with a set of 10s.
Answer: If you’re inside the US, it will take 3 up to 7 business days for the guitar to arrive. You should consult the website for other locations or shipping types and possibly contact the company.
Final Thoughts on The Orangewood Dana; Is it Worth it or Not?
I can assure you that Orangewood never disappoints in balancing price and quality. It’s one of the few modern brands that deliver the guitar exactly as you see it advertised and surprise you with the quality.
Overall, you should not expect to be astonished by the price, but you will find the guitar able to do everything you ask from it. The Orangewood Dana makes for a great travel companion and a great 1st guitar.