Featuring a tried and tested combination of tonewoods crafted with two outer layers of wood and an inner layer of carbon fibre weave, the Rathbone No. 5 – Double Top Dreadnought is quite the instrument. For that 'Big Sound,' the No. 5 Dreadnought gives you a bold and rich tone with an ideal balance of volume, size and playability. Nick Jennison reviews.
I hate to be negative, but let's be real for a moment: spruce-topped dreadnoughts are ten-a-penny these days. Normally, you can expect something beyond the norm from high-end guitars, but the entry-level market can seem saturated with identical spruce/mahogany dreads. So when Rathbone's No.5 "Double Top" Dreadnought arrived at GI towers, I was naturally curious.
At first glance, everything here is pretty standard, but what makes this guitar unique is it's top. Sandwiched between two layers of sitka spruce is a carbon fibre weave - hence the "double top" name. Rathbone claim this layer will improve stability, strength and projection, and while it's hard to isolate things down to a single variable in guitar design, this is an uncommonly clear and articulate guitar - especially for an affordable dreadnought!
Strumming hard with a medium pick produces a big weighty tone that's characteristic of this body style and size, but there's also a bright clarity to the sound that's much less common in guitars of this style and price point. The same articulate quality carries over beautifully to more delicate styles like fingerstyle. Dreads traditionally don't excel at gentler styles, but the No.5 has a great presence and snap that really flatters this kind of playing.
Taking a closer look, this guitar has some high-end appointments that you wouldn't expect to see at a guitar priced this reasonably. The two top layers are sitka spruce, and while it's technically a laminate construction, still quality materials throughout. The back, sides and neck are sapele mahogany, the fretboard and bridge are both rosewood, and the saddle and nut are both bone - all areas where entry-level manufacturers tend to cut corners, so top marks for quality materials here. The open-gear tuners are a very classy touch, with a real "premium" feel.
In terms of playability, it's a very comfortable guitar with a familiar feel under the arm and an action that's set at a comfortable medium from the factory. It's certainly not a shredder's action, but it's a setup that should be very comfortable for the majority of players.
All things considered, the Rathbone No.5 "Double Top" Dreadnought is a guitar that punches far above its price in terms of quality and sound. It's a big, bold sounding instrument with tons of authority and some nice high-end touches on a very affordable instrument. If you're in the market for a great entry-level acoustic guitar, look no further!
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