Recording King RP2-626-C Review

AG 218 February 2011

by Doug Young

The Recording King name goes back more than 75 years, to a time when Montgomery Ward created a house brand to provide quality instruments, sometimes built by Gibson, at a low price to cash-strapped Depression-era musicians. Recently, the brand has been resurrected by a California company, The Music Link, under the guidance of luthier Greg Rich. Recording King recently collaborated with guitarist and guitar historian Eric Schoenberg on two new instruments, the 00-size RP2-626-C and 0-size RP1-626-C. Schoenberg has been a tireless advocate of small-body vintage-style guitars, helping to revive interest in the OM-style guitar in the early 1980s. He originally worked with Martin Guitars and later with luthiers Dana Bourgeois, Julius Borges, Bruce Sexauer, and others to establish his own line of Schoenberg Guitars that capture the essence of prewar Martin small-bodies. Schoenberg’s instruments have until now been high-end guitars, typically running between $6,000 and $10,000, but the collaboration with Recording King is making his designs available at an affordable price. We took a look at the RP2-626-C.

Quality Tonewoods, Elegant Simplicity

Our review RP2-626-C is a 00-size guitar with classic lines, elegant in its simplicity and understated design. The guitar is simply appointed, with no fretboard inlay other than small side dots, a classy purfling strip down the back, and abalone dots in the black plastic bridge pins. Instead, the focus is on the high-quality materials, from the nicely figured dark African mahogany back and sides to the Engelmann spruce top, ebony fingerboard and bridge, and bone nut and saddle. In keeping with its vintage design, the guitar features a pyramid bridge and V-shaped neck.

The guitar’s small size would make it attractive to players who find larger instruments challenging, and indeed the guitar is a comfortable choice for nestling down on the couch. But the guitar also has many of the features of larger guitars, combining a 13/4-inch nut with string spacing at the saddle of 25/16inches. This string spacing is a fundamental design feature of all Schoenbergs. The wider-than-usual saddle spacing, which matches vintage OM specs, can be especially useful to fingerstyle players.

A deep cutaway allows surprising access to the upper reaches of the neck in spite of the 12-fret body—essentially the same access to the 15th fret as a cutaway OM—although the guitar’s heel may impede access somewhat, depending on your technique. Due to the location of the bridge, 12-fret 00-size guitars offer a unique tonal character but usually have shorter scale lengths, which tend to have less projection than long scales. The RP2-626-C’s 25.4-inch scale length is longer than you would normally find on a 12-fret 00 guitar, and the increased tension helps create a larger, punchier sound. Although 00-size guitars are available from a number of companies, including Martin, Santa Cruz, and Collings, most of these guitars have shorter scale lengths and don’t generally include a cutaway, which creates a very different playing experience.

Midrange Warmth, Volume to Spare

Tonally, the guitar has a warm voice, with a focus on the midrange, as you would expect from a guitar this size. The guitar seemed to beg me to play some rags, and I enjoyed some simple fingerpicking in both standard and open tunings. I also couldn’t resist digging out my tattered copy of Eric Schoenberg’s classic Fingerpicking Beatles book and trying a bit of “Mother Nature’s Son,” which sounded like it was meant for this guitar. Digging in for some bluesy licks, as well as a bit of strumming, produced a bit of string buzz due to the low action. The open-backed tuning keys also had a little more play than I prefer for getting in and out of alternate tunings.

Although I did wish for a little more bottom end at times, the RP2-626-C produces plenty of volume. I listened as Acoustic Guitar senior editor Teja Gerken took the guitar for a test drive at a small coffeehouse gig, and he had no trouble filling the room without amplification, holding his own against a player with a loud 12-string and another who was lightly amplified.

Of course, with a name like Recording King, it’s important to see how well the guitar records. In my home studio, it was easy to get a recorded sound that captured the comfortable, intimate character of this guitar, and with a little EQ, I was rewarded with a big sound that once again belied the guitar’s small body.

Affordable Vintage Vibe

With the RP2-626-C, Recording King and Eric Schoenberg have produced a cool combination: a small-body guitar with a classic vibe and modern features and playability, bringing Schoenberg’s design ideas to a larger audience at an attractive price. The combination of a 12-fret 00 body with a longer scale and a deep cutaway that provides the same access to upper frets as a 14-fret guitar should appeal to players who appreciate the 12-fret tone but don’t want to sacrifice the feel and volume of a larger guitar. Although it is easy to focus on how impressive this guitar is for the price, the instrument is 
not a starter guitar. With good sound, good construction, and easy playability, this instrument is suitable for anyone who wants vintage sound and the comfortable size of a 00 at home, onstage, or, as the name implies, in the recording studio.

SPECS: 12-fret 00 body size with cutaway. Solid Engelmann spruce top. Solid African mahogany back and sides. One-piece mahogany neck with V profile and hand-cut dovetail joint. Ebony fretboard and pyramid bridge. Scalloped X-bracing. Bone nut and saddle. 25.4-inch scale. 13/4-inch nut width. 25/16-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Grover butterbean tuners. D’Addario phosphor-bronze light-gauge strings. Made in China.

PRICE: $1,350 list/$999 street.

MAKER: Recording King:

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar February 2011

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