Century Studio Series
ROS-626 12-Fret 000
BY GAYLA DRAKE PAUL
Recording King guitars are built with both eyes
on the past. They have a cool, retro look that
takes you back to the ’30s—the first Golden
Age of steel-string craftsmanship—when
Recording King was the house brand of the
Montgomery Ward department. Our review
guitar, the ROS-626 12-fret 000 from the
Century Studio Series, is very shapely, with
loads of vintage details and a halo-like sheen
that only a nitrocellulose finish can provide.
Like all “12-fret” guitars, the ROS-626’s neck
joins the body at the 12th fret, not at the
14th (where modern dreadnoughts have their
neck joint). Over the years, 12-fret parlor-style guitars have increased or decreased
in popularity in tandem with the appeal
of traditional folk music, Delta blues, and
alternative tunings. Guitars with a 12-fret neck
joint often have a shorter scale— 24. 5" instead
of 25. 4". However, the ROS-626 is a standard-scale guitar, which makes it sound a little louder
and punchier than its short-scale cousins.
Combine that with the ROS-626’s extra-wide
fretboard, which measures 1 13/16" at the nut,
and you have a recipe for a fingerstyle friend.
Do Me a Solid
It’s rare to find guitars in this price range with
a solid back and sides, so kudos to Recording
King for giving the 626 a solid African mahogany
body, as well as a solid Sitka spruce top. The
top’s spruce X-braces are scalloped, which beefs
up the low end significantly. The 626’s lovely
herringbone purfling gives it a vintage vibe. And,
with its black-and-white concentric circles, the
three-ring rosette also offers a very vintage look.
The slotted headstock looks really cool with
the slots squared off at the top, which gives
it a clean, almost Craftsman-style look. The
butterbean Grover tuners are the perfect
complement—quirky and exactly ornate
enough. But truthfully, a slotted headstock is
always a conundrum for me. I love the look, but
I find changing strings is a pain. The fretboard
is understated, with snowflake inlays at the fifth,
seventh, and ninth frets. Ebony is also rare in
this price range, so kudos once again for the
ebony fretboard and bridge.
The one-piece neck is solid mahogany with a
handcut dovetail joint and a vintage-V profile.
I’m not a fan of the profile, and I can’t help but
think this is one place where it would make
sense to compromise authentic vintage vibe for
ergonomics. The body is small and comfortable,
almost cuddly, so it’s disappointing that the
neck doesn’t quite match it. However, the fit
and finish are all spot on, and the handbuffed
nitrocellulose is icing on the cake.
The ROS-626 is loud and very punchy, with a
good growl, bark, and snap that is appealing
for old-timey music or acoustic blues. In fact,
the legendary Riley Puckett (1894-1946)
was photographed frequently with a guitar
that looks remarkably like this one, and his
pioneering country runs are fun to play. For
modern fingerstyle, it’s not quite rich enough
for my ears, and the bark and snap that are so
complementary to old-school tunes aren’t as
flattering for Celtic and contemporary music.
On the other hand, the 626’s standard scale
length makes it very friendly toward altered
and open tunings. Dropped D, open G, and
even open C tunings work great, allowing
for even deeper explorations of traditional
country and blues guitar.
The Final Mojo
The bar for the under-$1000 guitar has been
raised significantly in the past couple of years.
I’ve reviewed remarkable lower-priced guitars
that play and sound better than some costing
considerably more than a thousand dollars.
Within that context, the ROS-626 holds its
own as a good deal at $750, despite having
room for improvement. It’s a lovely, well-made
replica of the magical instruments of the ’20s
and ’30s, and it has vintage cool to burn. Loud
and punchy, it’s a great choice for old-time
country, blues, and folk music.
you want an extremely good replica of a 1930s guitar for old-time
country and blues picking.
you have issues with V neck profiles
or want a more versatile instrument.
or use a mobile
device to read
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ratings at premierguitar.com
PREMIER GUITAR SEPTEMBER 2010 165