Ciari Guitars Ascender Standard review – a foldable travel guitar that unfolds into a fully fledged pro-level instrument

Developed with acclaimed luthier Joe Glaser, the Ascender Standard is a foldaway travel guitar with a difference – you'll want to play it all the time

Ciari Guitars Ascender Standard
(Image: © Ciari Guitars)

Guitar World Verdict

With folding technology that’s precisely engineered, the foldable Ciari Guitars Ascender Standard is a professional guitar that’s ideal for traveling guitarists.

Pros

  • +

    When folded, it meets airline qualifications as a personal item.

  • +

    Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers.

  • +

    Unfolds in tune and ready.

Cons

  • -

    Everyone asking you to demonstrate the folding process.

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The sad fate of a travel guitar is it can never be more than just that – an occasional travel companion that gets played out of sight in a hotel room or lazily strummed on a beach. Such clichéd views have often made it seem frivolous to own one since it’ll be less likely that you’ll ever use it except when on vacation. 

But that notion will dramatically change once you unfold the Ciari Guitars Ascender Standard – a full-sized professional electric guitar with pioneering foldable tech that neatly folds the guitar in half, allowing it to be easily stowed in an overhead bin or tucked under an airline seat when you travel. Best of all, there’s nothing gimmicky about it, because it’s not your run-of-the-mill travel guitar. 

The Ascender Standard is a precision state-of-the-art instrument that can double as a travel guitar – or as your main guitar – and is equally suitable to be wielded onstage or in the studio with its full-scale design, premium components and desirable asymmetrical looks.

Features

The Ascender Standard is without peer as a travel guitar. Whereas other travel guitars tend to look awkward or unconventional (to accommodate their compact dimensions for travel), the Ascender Standard is, by all appearances, a standard-sized electric guitar with a 24 and ¾-inch scale length just like a Gibson, and to be fair, I feel it’s better to consider it more as a conventional guitar (with the ability to fold in half). 

It has many traditional features, such as a nano-satin basswood body in a black matte finish, a 3-ply black pickguard, a mahogany neck with a natural-neck finish and an ebony fingerboard (planed and fret-leveled by Plek-machining), 22 medium jumbo nickel frets, a small 3+3 headstock with Ciari locking tuners, Tune-o-Matic roller bridge, the classic combo of two Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers, a master volume and tone and a three-way pick-up selector. 

The guitar incorporates a novel and patented foldable system accessed from the back of its body that looks far more intricate and intimidating than the actual act of unfolding or folding the guitar.

This folding mechanism includes an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy mid-neck hinge, a translating locking strut to selectively enable or disable the hinge and a floating tailpiece, all of which work collectively to fold the guitar down to a travel-ready 18 ½-inch length and 12 ½-inch width.

Pulling the concealed actuator lever underneath the body toward the center strap pin starts the process of folding the guitar by gently releasing the neck backward and dropping the string tension (from 118 lbs. to 3 lbs).

From there, the strings slacken into the guitar’s six “protective” V-shaped grooves at the 12th and 14th frets, allowing them to safely follow the fold and stay in place by a plastic guide bar behind the nut as the neck splits in two at those respective frets.

Conversely, holding the neck and slowly raising it up from the back of the guitar while keeping the strings in place and pulling the actuator lever toward the neck plate will lock the neck in place and fully restore proper string tension. Adding to its top-notch provenance, the Ascender was designed in cooperation with acclaimed luthier Joe Glaser and is manufactured in Ciari Guitars’ Nashville shop.

Ciari Guitars Ascender Standard

(Image credit: Ciari Guitars)

Performance

The Ascender Standard arrives completely folded inside a compact and durably quilted Ciari gig bag (there’s also a Ciari backpack sold separately that can house that gig bag along with extra pockets for accessories and room for even a laptop).

Once you unzip the gigbag, it’s astonishing to see this folded heap of metal and wood – which looks like it's been put through a car crusher – unfold into a fully fledged pro-level instrument. Nothing about the process of folding or unfolding the guitar compromises its structural stability or the integrity of its setup and swift playability.

Ciari Guitars Ascender Standard

(Image credit: Ciari Guitars)

It all neatly locks into place in seconds in an uncannily accurate and stable manner. Even more surprising, the Ascender Standard has been so precisely engineered that once unfolded, the guitar is miraculously close to being in tune – if not in tune. 

And since this guitar has been built to exacting standards, and with Plek tech, it almost seems unnecessary to tell you that it plays smoothly and without any fret buzz; plus, the versatile Duncan ’59 humbuckers sound articulate and harmonically rich for any style of music. The only drawback I foresee is that your musician friends might ask you to show them how it folds – repeatedly.

Specs

  • PRICE: $1,799
  • TYPE: Full-sized foldable travel electric guitar
  • BODY: Basswood
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 24.75"
  • FINGERBOARD: Ebony, Plek'd
  • PICKUPS: 2x Seymour Duncan ‘59 humbucker pickups
  • CONTROLS: Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
  • HARDWARE: Tune-o-Matic Roller Bridge, locking tuners
  • FINISH OPTIONS: Black, White, Seafoam, Blue, Red
  • CONTACT: Ciari Guitars

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.