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This article was originally published in issue #6
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With Christmas rapidly approaching - as it does every year, funnily enough! - it's the ideal time to head out and buy that acoustic guitar that your loved ones have been dropping hints about all year. The only problem being that with so many guitars to choose from within the wide range of entry level offerings, it can be hard to choose the guitar which offers the best bang for the buck.
And even if you're not feeling generous enough to buy someone else a guitar, some of our electric guitar playing readers may well be thinking about investing in a low priced electro/acoustic guitar to satisfy their fingerpicking fantasies, without having to re-mortgage their houses for the privilege. Well, read on, as the RD12CE electro/acoustic and the RF12GB acoustic by Alvarez may be just what you have been looking for!
Based in St Louis, Missouri, Alvarez has been manufacturing acoustic and electro/acoustic guitars since 1965. Although this is the primary output, it also produces classical guitars to a high standard. The majority of the guitars that Alvarez offer are manufactured in China, with the exception of their top range Alvarez-Yairi instruments which are all hand made by Kazuo Yairi at the Yairi factory at Kani, Gifu in Japan.
Unfortunately, international distribution has caused some confusion here, so just to straighten it out, in Europe, K. Yairi guitars are branded just as K.Yairi, while elsewhere in the world they are known as Alvarez Yairi. At least, that's how we understand it! One thing to note is that rumour has it that some of Yairi's renowned expertise in bracing design and other constructional elements has found its way into the entire Alvarez range. Having tried these two, we're not surprised.
The subjects of this review are taken from the Alvarez Regent series range, which are entry level/mid-entry level range and both the RD12CE electro/acoustic and the RF12GB acoustic are very similar in terms of construction/specification. The wood of choice for the top of the guitar is spruce and that is coupled with laminated mahogany for both the back and sides. The bridge comes in the form of Alvarez's own bi-level bridge design, which is made from rosewood. The guitars' bodies have an electrostatic satin finish which gives a very natural look and which I can't help but like. Sometimes a high gloss finish can make you feel like you're holding something along the lines of a Ming vase in terms of value which can be a bit unnerving!
The neck of both guitars is attached to the body by way of a dovetail joint which optimises the transfer of energy between the neck and body and which I think is a very welcome feature, while the fingerboards are made from rosewood.
With the RD12CE, the cutaway at the 12th fret gives easy access to the guitar's upper register should you wish to venture that far up the fretboard. You may not need to but it's nice to have the choice! Tuners on both, meanwhile, come in the form of sealed die-cast chrome pegs and the plain but attractive headstock designs, adorned with a simple yet elegant pattern, finishes off a pair of very nice looking guitars.
Regarding the electronics, the onboard S300T preamp, which is Alvarez's own, offers a very easy to use three band EQ with tuner on the RD12CE.
And so to business! In action, the RD12CE delivers a very nice tone which is remarkably well balanced, especially for a guitar in this price range and thanks to it's dimensions, it also has the projection to match. The neck profile felt nice and slim but without being too much so and according to Alvarez the Regent series necks have been refined a little to add to their playability, which is good news, especially if you are a beginner/lower intermediate player.
Plugged in, the RD12CE sounded great and with a little tweaking of the onboard preamp's EQ section, some very nice tones were achieved. Tuning stability tends to be a perennial problem with entry level guitars but it was never an issue during our test run with the RD12CE.
Next up is the RF12GB, which, as there in no 'E' in the model name, indicates that it is a non-electric model. The build specifications are the same as the RD12CE, with the exception of the absence of the onboard preamp and the cutaway at the 12th fret. Also, the 'F' in it's model name stands for 'Folk', and as the 'D' in the previous model name stands for 'Dreadnought', it means that this guitar is considerably smaller than its electric counterpart.
The same high standard of build quality is also evident here which makes the considerably lower price tag all the more impressive. Playing the RF12GB was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I have to be honest, I warmed to it a little more than I did to the CE, without wanting to take anything away from the latter.
Even taking into account it's diminutive dimensions, comparatively speaking, The RF had a very impressive sound with an equally impressive ability to project that sound. Although it didn't reach the kind of acoustic volume that the RD12CE produced, it was still loud for a little 'un. I also felt that this guitar offered a little more in the way of sustain and seemed to have a slightly sweeter, 'singing' quality to the tone. Very impressive, especially looking back at that price tag again!
I really enjoyed reviewing these guitars and it's great to know that manufacturers such as Alvarez are putting out products which are of such good quality at such remarkably low prices. Both models offer exceptional value for money and if you are considering investing your hard earned cash in an acoustic or electro/acoustic, whether it be for yourself or as a gift for someone this festive season, these models by Alvarez should be high on your list.