Recording King has existed as a brand, on
and off, since the early 20th century, when it
was a Montgomery Ward house brand used
to ply rebadged Gibsons. In the last decade,
the brand was resurrected by The Music
Link—primarily as a vehicle for selling the
company’s line of excellent and affordable,
Chinese-built, mid-century-styled acoustics.
But while the Recording King brand has
a history all its own, everything from the
headstock and bridge shape to the rosette
and tonewoods in the new RD-316 model
leaves little doubt about the extent to which
Martin’s iconic D- 18 is an influence.
One of the most significant differences
between the Recording King RD-316
and a gazillion other contemporary D- 18
imitations, however, is the guitar’s use of
Adirondack spruce for the top. Adirondack
was the top wood Martin used for its most
iconic dreads from the ’30s through the
postwar golden age. And it’s still treasured
by luthiers for its fast response, high volume ceiling, and full-spectrum tone. On
the Recording King, it also adds a cool
visual air: The Adirondack top is wide
grained and striking—lending an almost
fingerprint-like individuality to the guitar.
And it’s worth noting that, while finicky
customers tend to drive luthiers large and
small to use narrow-grained spruce because
of its tidy visual uniformity, a lot of guitar
builders insist that it’s this wider-grained
stuff that sounds the sweetest.
Recording King didn’t stop at the use of
Adirondack to make the RD-316 vintage
correct. The one-piece mahogany neck has
a headstock volute, and the headstock itself
is bedecked with open-back Grover butterbean tuners. The guitar is finished in period-correct nitrocellulose, the fretboard and
bridge are ebony, and the nut and saddle
are all bone—just like a mid-century D- 18.
Though the materials that go into the
RD-316 are all superb, there are some places
where the workmanship leaves a little to be
desired. The finish is uneven where the fretboard and soundhole meet, running from a
bit too thick to almost absent. The edge of
the fretboard is a little rough between the
fourth and ninth frets, and certain spots on
the bracing and kerfing are marred by rough
cuts that could use some simple sanding.
Fortunately, none of these shortcomings
Strumming a simple D chord, you can move from a nuanced, whisper- soft arpeggio to a vigorous strumming onslaught without any perceptible loss of harmonic detail. And the projection and volume that you can summon from the guitar is nothing short of impressive.
Recording King RD-316
Vintage-correct specs and
vibe galore. Fantastic
use a little more TLC
in several spots.
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