August 17, 2010
The ROS-626 is built for old-time music and stays faithful to the 1930s era at a reasonable price.
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|Clips recorded with sE3 studio condenser into RME Fireface, Samplitude Studio v11.|
Like all “12-fret” guitars, the ROS-626’s neck joins the body at the 12th fret, not at the 14th (where modern dreadnoughts have their neck joint). Over the years, 12-fret parlor-style guitars have increased or decreased in popularity in tandem with the appeal of traditional folk music, Delta blues, and alternative tunings. Guitars with a 12-fret neck joint often have a shorter scale—24.5" instead of 25.4". However, the ROS-626 is a standard scale guitar, which makes it sound a little louder and punchier than its short-scale cousins. Combine that with the ROS-626’s extra-wide fretboard, which measures 1 13/16" at the nut, and you have a recipe for a fingerstyle friend.
Do Me a Solid
It’s rare to find guitars in this price range with a solid back and sides, so kudos to Recording King for giving the 626 a solid African mahogany body, as well as a solid Sitka spruce top. The top’s spruce X-braces are scalloped, which beefs up the low end significantly. The 626’s lovely herringbone purfling gives it a vintage vibe. And, with its black-and-white concentric circles, the three-ring rosette also offers a very vintage look.
The slotted headstock looks really cool with the slots squared off at the top, which gives it a clean, almost Craftsman-style look. The butterbean Grover tuners are the perfect complement—quirky and exactly ornate enough. But truthfully, a slotted headstock is always a conundrum for me. I love the look, but I find changing strings is a pain. The fretboard is understated, with snowflake inlays at the fifth, seventh, and ninth frets. Ebony is also rare in this price range, so kudos once again for the ebony fretboard and bridge.
The one-piece neck is solid mahogany with a handcut dovetail joint and a vintage-V profile. I’m not a fan of the profile, and I can’t help but think this is one place where it would make sense to compromise authentic vintage vibe for ergonomics. The body is small and comfortable, almost cuddly, so it’s disappointing that the neck doesn’t quite match it. However, the fit and finish are all spot on, and the handbuffed nitrocellulose is icing on the cake.
The ROS-626 is loud and very punchy, with a good growl, bark, and snap that is appealing for old-timey music or acoustic blues. In fact, the legendary Riley Puckett (1894-1946) was photographed frequently with a guitar that looks remarkably like this one, and his pioneering country runs are fun to play. For modern fingerstyle, it’s not quite rich enough for my ears, and the bark and snap that are so complementary to old-school tunes aren’t as flattering for Celtic and contemporary music. On the other hand, the 626’s standard scale length makes it very friendly toward altered and open tunings. Dropped D, open G, and even open C tunings work great, allowing for even deeper explorations of traditional country and blues guitar.
The Final Mojo
The bar for the under-$1000 guitar has been raised significantly in the past couple of years. I’ve reviewed remarkable lower-priced guitars that play and sound better than some costing considerably more than a thousand dollars. Within that context, the ROS-626 holds its own as a good deal at $750, despite having room for improvement. It’s a lovely, well-made replica of the magical instruments of the ’20s and ’30s, and it has vintage cool to burn. Loud and punchy, it’s a great choice for old-time country, blues, and folk music.
you want an extremely good replica of a 1930s guitar for old-time country and blues picking.
you have issues with V neck profiles or want a more versatile instrument.
Street $750 - Recording King - recordingking.com
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