Review: Are BAM classical guitar cases worth the expense?

BAM classical guitar cases

The stylish French brand BAM offers a popular range of mid-priced and attractive classical guitar cases. It has carved for itself a name for being light, sleek and sturdy. Price-wise, BAM is not among the most frightfully expensive cases in the market, but it is fairly expensive. Is it worth the expense? To answer that we have to delve into what typical features make a BAM case a BAM case.

Key features of BAM classical guitar cases

Sleek

It feels odd to start discussing the looks and styling when the basic function of a guitar case is to protect your instrument. Yet, looks are the first thing that strikes you even in a photograph. A BAM case is all very French and stylish and unmissable. If imitation is the best form of flattery, then the presence of knock-off, inexpensive Chinese brands like Crossrock is proof enough. Such brands get inspired, shall we say, by higher-end brands like BAM and offer similar slick looks for a lesser price (although, to be fair, Crossrock has earned a good reputation for itself in recent years – see my review of their cases).

Lightweight

Almost the first thing a buyer notices on handling a Bam case is its lightness. For the usual lugging about town, a BAM case is hard to beat for its carrying comfort. There are expensive brands like Calton and Hoffee which, while affording greater protection, can make your arm fall off if you walk around town too much.

It weighs virtually nothing – hard to believe that there is a guitar inside.

Cases have trade-offs. I love my BAM for walking around because it is so light, but I would not check it with an airline.

I’ve owned Hiscox, Visesnut, and BAM cases. BAM is the lightest of the three, seems quite strong…

It’s easy to argue that for local travel, a BAM case is the best. It is an ideal solution for a guitarist on the go, saving a lot of back pain. And the back straps are nice and easy. For something so light, it’s logical to wonder about the protection a Bam case offers.

Sturdy

With a huge reputation in the cello market, BAM cases do protect classical guitars. They absorb shocks well. For all their lightness and style, there is a scientific approach to design and structure to BAM that users have noticed and appreciated. Even for expensive, luthier-built guitars, a BAM is certainly a good investment for normal carriage that doesn’t involve air travel much. It is a cost-effective compromise between lightness and strength.

What makes a BAM case sturdy? Although the outer sheen of a BAM case makes one assume carbon fibre, it is in fact a triple-ply structure made of a thin ABS layer, a much thicker Airex (PVC) foam layer and a less rigid ABS layer. This structure makes it light and strong.

ABS, incidentally, is a material used in canoe building. It works hard, takes a beating, and survives wilderness travel. It takes some scratches for sure, but will hold strong.

Flight cover

There is general agreement you wouldn’t take a BAM case and ask for it to be tossed and turned in the cargo hold of a commercial flight. Not even the most ardent BAM case fan will recommend it, including the company that makes it. So is air travel ruled out for BAM case owners?

No, apparently not. An ingenious solution comes in the form of a plush, cushion-y flight cover. While the case already is sturdy, adding a flight cover doesn’t increase its sturdiness but adds cushioning. It’s like a big, foamy jacket for the guitar case. The extra cushioning handles all the shocks – a must-have feature if you have to check the guitar in the hold.

This is an excellent solution overall and as far as I know, only BAM has a system designed for air travel checking that is pretty simple and effective. Without the flight cover, you have a light and sturdy guitar case. With the flight cover, you have a flight-safe case, ready to be checked. True, it adds a couple of hundred dollars to the overall cost, but for those who travel and also own a pricey guitar, the deal will be worthwhile. Some ultra-careful owners may also wrap the whole thing in thick bubble wrap for ultimate protection.

The addition of a cover with its extra bulk means you’re less likely to be able to take it in the cabin because it adds a lot to the size, but it ought to be safe enough in the hold with the double protection.

The beauty of the BAM solution means you can carry your guitar around locally in a nice light case, then suit it up when you travel.

A side note on dropping vs crushing: A well-made carbon guitar case can be crush-proof. You can stand or run over it and it will withstand. Which is good. But if you drop the same case from a height, the added mass will transfer the energy to the guitar inside. Which is not good.

That is why even cheap polyfoam outer padding can provide great protection to the guitar inside during drops. The cushioning ‘gives’ and absorbs the energy instead of passing it inside. With respect to cargo travel on flights, drops are a more prevalent danger (with happy go lucky staff tossing things about) than being crushed.

Latches

Most BAM owners love the simple latches operated with the flick of a finger. There are only 3 of them on most models as against the common 5 or more latches but still enough to pull the case shut tight and making it water-resistant and safe from sudden temperature changes. Unlike metal latches that can scratch your guitars, these plastic ones are not only safe but also smooth in operation and will not damage your nails like stiff latches can.

Some owners have remarked that BAM latches don’t “hang over” when you open the case, so accidents from sharp edges sticking out can be avoided. Although others have complained that the black color makes it impossible to tell, especially in low light, if the case has been properly latched. A clever DIY solution is to paint the edge with silver paint, easily detectable in low light.

Other noteworthy features

The plastic handle is solid and strong. It is made of neoprene, not leather like in a more expensive Calton, for instance. The pocket inside is a zipped bag that fits snugly beneath the head of the guitar. There is ample room for accessories like a capo, string winder, humidifier and so on.

The straps are metal carabiners that fit snugly into the strap. The guitar fits comfortably and securely when carried on the back. Many users (of average height or less) have claimed the BAM backpack straps are designed for taller people. The case sits too low on the back even with the straps shortened.

Cheaper models of BAM have no proper neck/head support and no proper accessories box. Overall, though, the quality of workmanship is second to none. BAM cases are really well made. Quality control appears to be tight and reliable going by user opinions.

Some of the popular models from BAM’s various lines are worth considering seriously for their quality of workmanship, strength, lightness – and of course some stunning good French looks.

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BAM Performance classical guitar case: Affordable class

With a total length of 38.6” and barely 5.5 pounds in weight, the BAM Performance classical guitar case is a lightweight option that the brand is known for. The inside is polyfoam protecting the guitar from shocks. The lining is velvet and the accessory pouch is removable. The two backpack straps are padded and adjustable, even totally removable. There are 3 front pockets on the outside for accessories and such with a separate music sheet pocket. You can check the price of a BAM Performance on Amazon.

There is a slightly more expensive version of this called the BAM Peak Performance with more or less the same features. It is slightly longer at 39.6” (which may be more apt for your guitar) and heavier at 9.5 pounds. The accessories pockets, the velvet lining, backpack straps, etc. are all the same as mentioned above. You can check the price of a BAM Peak Performance on Amazon.

BAM Hightech classical guitar case: It’s their claim to fame

The BAM Hightech is the popular one for some years now. When people talk about BAM cases, they are referring to this one mostly. This weighs in at about 6 pounds with an overall length of 40.5” which should be good enough for almost any full-size classical guitar. The instrument is suspended on foam cushions and additional cushions are provided for a snug fit as you wish. Check out the BAM Hightech classical guitar case at Amazon.

The famous triple-ply structure is in evidence in this popular model with two types of ABS sandwiching a layer of Airex foam. The Hightech is well known for its excellent protection and ultra lightness. The much-touted ‘only 3 latches’ feature is present for a good, tight seal and there is a side handle as well. On the bottom of the case are rubber patches which are anti-slip and anti-wear.

It is not a cheap case but then the high-end brands in this category – Visesnut, Karura, Calton, Hoffee, etc. – are much more costly. So, to be fair, a BAM Hightech is not all that expensive really. Going by user opinions, the BAM Hightech is a great choice for its good looks, light weight and superb protection. Just remember that bit about ‘ideal for local travel’ discussed earlier and you should be good. Although, if you do travel by air once too often, remember the Flight Cover that BAM makes which has high ratings and is an excellent foam jacket to put on your case.

While at it, you can also check out the BAM Flight Cover at Amazon.

BAM L’Etoile classical guitar case: Indulge in French fashion…

With an overall length of 40.5” and weighing in at about six and a half pounds, the BAM L’Etoile has all the superior features of a BAM case. For all its famed protection and lightweight performance, this one features all the little things that the regular Hightech case has – including the triple-ply structure, neoprene backpack straps and the 3 soft-touch latches. In addition are the superior cosmetics, including a real cow leather handle hand-sewn on the top shell and a brushed aluminum look. This is a handsome guitar case.

You can check out the BAM L’Etoile classical guitar case over at Amazon.

In bold violet and classy black, the L’Etoile is the high end version where fashion meets Hightech.

Closing remarks on BAM cases vs other brands

It’s time for some more user comments (paraphrased):

The first thing I noticed when taking it out the box was how amazingly light it is… and second, how aesthetically pleasing it is. It is smaller than the Hiscox in every dimension and the curves and swoops are all very attractive to the eye.

If you have a smaller bodied guitar, it jiggles a bit inside the case, and the foam bricks are sloppy solution for such an expensive case.

I much prefer its size and weight to my other Hiscox cases… perfect for grabbing and throwing in the passenger seat.

The case feels well balanced when using the handle (I don’t use shoulder straps).

Bam cases are good-looking and super light but… for flying you need to buy a flight cover.

The general view seems to be that while Hiscox cases are sturdier and cheaper – great value for money; you can read my detailed review of Hiscox cases – they are certainly heavier and not as comfortable to carry. And, barring die-hard Hiscox fans, most would say the cases score pretty low on looks. They are pretty drab looking (and that may be perfectly OK with you.)

On the higher end of the price spectrum, Visesnut cases tend to be sturdy, a bit bulkier but still lightweight. They are designed to be checked in, something BAM cases are not – not without the Flight Cover at any rate. But then, Visesnut cases are also more expensive and arguably less beautiful to look at.

An ideal guitar case, if there is one at all, has to score high on many fronts:

  • Lightweight and comfortable to carry
  • Strong and sturdy
  • Great thermal protection
  • Safe for air travel
  • Safe latches without sharp edges
  • Solid backpack straps for bike riders and others
  • Ample storage inside
  • Some pockets outside for scores/books
  • Cool looks
  • All at an affordable price!

The BAM cases come pretty close to fulfilling these criteria if your idea of a good price matches with the manufacturer’s!

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Happy carrying!

Narayan Kumar

Narayan Kumar is a passionate classical guitarist and an online research buff. He is also one half of the online classical guitar duo DuJu who put out guitar duets regularly on their YouTube channel. Read more about Narayan.

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