RainSong P12R Parlor Review
Since the mid-’90s, RainSong has been building high-end graphite guitars that deliver clear, balanced acoustic tone while remaining unaffected by humidity and temperature changes—a big plus for traveling musicians in particular. Along the way the company, founded in Hawaii and now based in Washington State, has refined its designs and construction techniques, notably developing a patented Projection Tuned Layering process that allows the body to be built with no bracing whatsoever.
In recent years, as more and more players have discovered the beauties of short-scale, small-body guitars, RainSong has expanded its offerings in that area. In 2012 came the Shorty (see review in June 2012), with a 12-fret, short-scale neck and an OM-style body. This year, the Shorty’s popularity led to the introduction of the Parlor line, available with either a 12-fret, short-scale (24.875 inch) neck or a 14-fret, standard-scale (25.4 inch) neck—both with a cutaway. To see what the latest RainSong design has to offer, I checked out the P12R, a 12-fret model with a striking red body. Parlor models also come in blue, green, and pewter, or with a clear finish that shows the texture and color of the carbon fiber.
At a glance, it’s apparent that the RainSong P12R isnotyour grandmother’s parlor guitar. The P12R is based on the traditional 0 shape with 12 frets clear of the body, but these retro features are offset by the high-tech graphite construction, modern soft cutaway, and red coloring, which, depending on how the light hits it, ranges from a bright crimson to deep burgundy. No doubt: this is one eye-catching guitar.
Like RainSong’s Shorty and Concert series guitars, the Parlor has a unidirectional carbon soundboard—the company’s lightest top, designed to mimic the tight grain of spruce. The body is a carbon-and-glass hybrid, with a rounded back edge that allows it to sit comfortably against the leg and chest. It’s interesting to peer inside the soundhole at the smooth interior, with no braces or kerfing. The neck is all graphite, and on the headstock and back of the neck you can see the gray/black, Escher-like woven-carbon pattern that would be visible on the body, too, if it weren’t painted red. (The Parlor model with the clear finish shows off this pattern on the whole body.) Though the graphite neck should remain extremely stable over the life of the instrument, it does have a truss rod for fine-tuning the relief. The fingerboard and bridge are made with composites and have coloring similar to black ebony.
For amplification, the P12R comes equipped with Fishman Prefix Plus-T electronics. The Prefix’s side panel includes volume, bass, treble, contour, and brilliance controls, a notch filter for fighting feedback, a phase switch, and a chromatic tuner, and it flips open for easy access to the nine-volt battery.
Light and Easy Playability
Picking up the RainSong, I was struck first by how light it is—at a little over three pounds (weighed roughly, on a home scale), it’s noticeably lighter than any of my wooden guitars. (The included TKL hard-shell case is light too, making the whole package really easy to tote around.) The little 0-size body was super comfy in the lap, with a body depth of just 4 1/8 inches at the endpin (compared to 5 inches on most of RainSong’s other models), and the short scale made for an effortless reach down to open position. The guitar felt nice to curl up with, and standing with a strap I loved its lightness and compactness.
The P12R is not only an easy guitar to hold but an easy one to play. The factory setup, with light-gauge Elixirs, was low yet buzz free—plus the overall string tension is lower than usual because of the short scale. The standard 1 3/4-inch nut width lent itself just as well to pick or fingerstyle playing, and I found the neck to be fast and comfortable. Since 12-fret guitars are typically recommended for players who stay close to open position, I was pleased to discover that with the cutaway, reaching up to the 15th fret and even higher (there are 18 frets in all) was no problem—this is one 12-fret guitar you can play rock ’n’ roll lead on.
Soundwise, the P12R’s evenness made the strongest impression. When I ran a chromatic scale up and down the neck, from string to string, every note was clear and balanced in volume. When I fingerpicked “Hesitation Blues,” the bass and treble voices were well defined, and the same was true when playing chords with a pick—no particular string or pitch drowned out the others. A swing rhythm pattern, with closed chord positions up the neck, had a lot of punch, and a single-note melody like “Ashokan Farewell” sounded sweet. If this guitar had any muddiness in its sound, I couldn’t find it.
As you’d expect from a guitar this size, the P12R does not have the low-end power of a larger instrument—acoustically, it’s a bright-sounding guitar for sure. Players who are looking for big bass response, use a lot of alternate tunings, or like to climb way up the fingerboard may prefer an instrument with a bigger body and a longer scale. But the amplified tone is a different story. I plugged in to my Roland AC-60 acoustic amp and, with the EQ set flat on the guitar and amp, was greeted with a strong, full-bodied tone with plenty of low end—and I could easily tweak the tone further using the Fishman Prefix Plus-T system’s onboard controls. (The Prefix’s built-in chromatic tuner is very handy, too, and can be used whether the guitar is plugged in or not.) I tried the P12R at a couple of gigs, plugging directly into the board, and got excellent sound with no fuss—and I also got a number of comments and questions from the audience about the cool-looking red guitar.
Beyond the Parlor
This RainSong Parlor is made for players who are drawn to the comfort and intimacy of a small-body, short-scale guitar yet also want a modern neck, cutaway, and stage-ready amplification system. When RainSong introduced the Shorty last year it quickly became the company’s best-selling model, and I suspect the Parlor will find plenty of fans as well. It’s a distinctive hybrid design that delivers the goods.
In many ways, the P12R struck me as an ideal road guitar: it sounds good acoustically and has full-feature built-in electronics; it’s lightweight yet structurally strong, and it will withstand the kinds of seasonal and climatic changes that can wreak havoc on wooden guitars; and it’s got a retro-modern look that makes a great impression onstage. This is one parlor guitar that’s satisfying to play in the parlor but very ready to get out into the big world.
SPECS:12-fret cutaway parlor body. Unidirectional carbon-fiber top. Carbon/glass hybrid back and sides. All-graphite neck. Composite fingerboard and bridge. Tusq nut and saddle. 24.875-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 11/64-inch string spacing at the saddle. High-gloss urethane finish. Chrome-plated Gotoh tuners. Elixir light-gauge strings. Made in USA.
PRICE:$2,666 list/$1,999 street.
MAKER: RainSong Guitars: (800) 788-5828; rainsong.com.
TEJA GERKEN:If there was an award for the most versatile acoustic guitar, then the RainSong P12R ought to be placed near the very top. Let’s see: It’s small enough to use as a travel guitar, it’s the perfect companion to keep handy for playing on the couch, it sounds great plugged-in, and it has a fully-mature acoustic voice. In all seriousness, short of beating out a dreadnought at a flatpicking session, there isn’t much that this 12-fret parlor doesn’t do well—it really is “The Little Guitar that Could.” Sure, there are guitars that sound more complex, have more bass, or a larger dynamic range, but the RainSong’s excellent sustain and great clarity lead to a charm of its own, and I wouldn’t hesitate using the guitar on stage or in the studio.
DAN GABEL: With its short scale and fingerstyle-friendly 1 3/4-inch neck width, the PR Parlor is a comfortable and fun guitar to play. Its tuck-it-in-your-lap 0-size body sits just where I want it, with its rounded edges resting easily against me, not digging in, even when I recline on the couch with the Parlor in hand. The guitar is loud, with a focused sound and crisp highs and mids, and a low end that is solid but not overbearing. The combination makes for a nice, even bark that inspires fingerpicked blues—I gladly attempted to emulate Mississippi John Hurt for much of an evening on this guitar. Additional perks are that the Fishman Prefix Plus makes the PR Parlor as stage ready as it is couch worthy, and the carbon soundboard and carbon/glass hybrid body will easily withstand whatever hot, humid conditions you might find yourself making music in this summer.
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar August 2013