Fueled by reader requests for an overview of currently available small-body guitars, Acoustic Guitar invited manufacturers to send us samples of their small-body instruments with list prices between $500 and $1,000. We ended up with 11 guitars that are surprisingly diverse in sound and feel, some inspired by vintage instruments and others with more modern body and neck shapes, materials, and appointments. In checking out these guitars, I was assisted by Pete Madsen, a San Francisco Bay Area fingerstyle blues guitarist, teacher, and frequent Acoustic Guitar contributor. Here’s our review of the Recording King RO-310.
Over the past decade or so, Recording King has made strong inroads into the market for affordable guitars with vintage styling. The RO-310 has the overall vibe of an old Martin, but with specs that differ from any specific vintage guitar. At first glance, the guitar’s 15-inch body and wide neck and string spacing give the impression that it’s an OM clone, but its short scale is the same as a 14-fret 000. Also, while the neck has the hand-filling chunk of some vintage Martins, it has a more rounded shape than the typical “V” of many vintage examples, and it feels almost like that of some classical guitars. The materials used on the RO-310 are plain in appearance, but without any noticeable flaws. The tortoiseshell body binding is a cool cosmetic touch, but the large Grover Rotomatic tuners—while of great quality and totally functional—seem a bit out of place on an otherwise vintage-style instrument. Tonally, Madsen said the guitar had a warm and mellow sound, and, as is often the case on guitars with Adirondack tops, the instrument had a lot of headroom when played hard. We missed a bit of sparkle and complexity in the RO-310’s sound, but given how Adirondack often takes a bit longer to open up than other top woods, we thought that this guitar had more potential for future tonal change than the other guitars in this review.
SPECS: Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid African mahogany back and sides. Three-piece mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Scalloped X-bracing. 24.9-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 5/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Chrome enclosed Grover tuning machines. D’Addario phosphor bronze medium-gauge strings. Made in China.
PRICE: $733.99 list/$550 street.
MAKER:Recording King: recordingking.com.
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