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This article was originally published in issue #38
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Manuel Rodriguez is one of Spain’s most historic brands and this year the company has received the prestigious Namm Milestone Award for its 110 years of service. The secret of this company’s longevity is the passion and attention to detail the family-owned business has demonstrated in making instruments, passing on the tradition from father to son for three generations since 1905. This long pedigree adds value and authenticity to this brand, which has actually helped define the sound and characteristics of today’s Spanish guitar.
Another reason for the company's success and popularity is the wide range of well crafted and reasonably price models. I first heard of them in the 1990s, while visiting the legendary guitar shop Ivor Mairantz, in central London. In those years, I was looking for a classical guitar with cut-away and built in pickup to use for live use, but one that was also a great sounding acoustic instrument for recording sessions. I vividly remember being shown one of their top-of-the-range models at the time. It was a predecessor of the MRC3 MEB that I am reviewing here and I was so impressed with it that I bought that guitar on the spot and I enjoyed playing it for a few months, until it and other four guitars were sadly stolen from my house.
So much for my history but I thought I should explain that I approached this guitar with some preconceived ideas about what another sample should have been like. Well, straight from its box (this guitar doesn’t come with a hard case), the MRC3 MEB model has a beautiful natural look, as you would expect from a classical guitar. It features a well-finished classical style headstock in Indian rosewood, with a simple but elegant silhouette. Framing the headstock are silver machine heads, which as well as working really well, add an elegant touch.
The MRC3 MEB model features a well-finished rosewood fingerboard, with a 52 mm bone nut for maximum sustain. The wide neck is ideal for classically trained guitarist and for comfortably performing the classical repertoire, as well as for any solo guitar music. Electric guitarists, however, may need to get used to it as for most classical models.
As most nylon string guitars, the neck meets the upper bout at the 12th fret, and it does so in a fluid and beautifully finished manner with a beautifully carved traditional Spanish hill. The guitar doesn’t feature a cutaway, which makes the guitar even more resonant and balanced. The main ingredients for its body are western red solid cedar for its top, stunning Macassar ebony for back and sides and western red cedar for its neck. The standard C3 features a rosewood back and sides.
Rosewood is used for the bridge and nut saddle and ensures an improved resonance, intonation and tone. The wood colour rosette and purling add, with the Macassar ebony, another elegant touch to the aesthetics of this instrument.
Playing this guitar, a balanced response as well as a sweet bell-like and equally present timbre is noticeable from the treble to the bass register. The action is quite comfortable, and this could be easily adjusted for an even more personalised outcome. Beautiful craftsmanship is evident from the headstock to the lower bout, which flow in a harmonious and refined manner.
This model doesn’t feature a pickup, which guarantees resonance and tonal balance. As you can hear from my demo, which was recorded solely using a condenser mic, this is a fine sounding guitar, well up to the standard you would expect from this illustrious maker and well worthy of the asking price.
Over the years Manuel Rodriguez has produced a wide variety of contrasting price-range classical and flamenco guitars, earning a great reputation for making well-crafted, reliable and affordable instruments, as well as for offering a wide range of sizes and models, and are, as a result, of the best selling manufacturer in the world. The MRC3MEB is a good example of why.
Because this is a special edition model you might have to look hard to find the exact same guitar I reviewed, the ebony macassar type, but it is still representative of the standard edition Rodriguez C3 models, so (assuming you don't win this one in our competition!) if you can't find this exact model in your local shop, do try the standard model, which will be quite similar and to the same build standard.
In conclusion, its finish, playability, tone value for money make this a very attractive instrument ideal for the guitarist looking for an instrument to study the classical repertoire, as well as recording, as it sounds very responsive and balanced.