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This SX model really captured my attention when I saw it floating around on the ’Bay. Obviously inspired by a Les Paul Special, this baby has a set neck (no bolt-on here!), two P-90-style pickups, a rosewood fretboard, jumbo frets, and a “TV yellow” finish. An outfit in California called Rondo Music sold these guitars brand-spanking-new for $135, plus $20 shipping. Say what? How can anyone make a profit on that? Sorry, man—not my problem. I’m a bottom feeder. So I pulled the trigger on one.
The guitar arrived a week later, well boxed. When I unpacked it, I’m sure my face showed some disappointment. The classic “TV yellow” color was actually closer to “crime-scene-tape yellow”—a much brighter yellow than I remembered in the photos. I sighed and chalked it up to the unpredictable ways digital cameras and computer monitors display color.
When I started playing this SX, things got better fast. It seemed to have a comfortable neck very similar to my 1990s Gibson LP Special. The jumbo frets were smooth and rounded, the 12" fretboard radius felt nice to bend strings on, and the pickups sounded very good, with that pronounced midrange P-90 honk I so like. Some players buy these guitars and replace the pickups with authentic Gibson P-90s, but I say, “Why bother?” These sound close enough.
Bottom Feeder Tip # 2387: If the original pickups sound decent, leave well enough alone. Whenever you upgrade pickups on a cheap guitar, you never get your money back when you sell it later. Never.
So what’s the verdict—is it a keeper? Hmm. Not really sure yet. It plays and sounds great, but I still have trouble with the color. I’m hoping the bright yellow will fade over time. For now, this guitar is in my “maybe” pile.
Will Ray is a founding member of the Hellecasters guitar-twang trio. He also does guitar clinics promoting his namesake G&L signature model 6-string, and produces artists and bands at his studio in Asheville, North Carolina. You can contact Will on Facebook and at willray.biz.