Tell you what, Recording King sure are pumping out numbers right now. The brand, a longstanding name from yesteryear, has come back swinging with yet another bluesy, vintage inspired model, and this one might just be one of my favourite models yet. The ROS-9-FES-TS is a 000 sized 14 fret guitar with a solid spruce top and whitewood back and sides. It’s bolstered by that classic cross lap style bracing, and boasts all the features of parlour guitars from the past with a well balanced and delicate sound to match.
This particular model is a finger picker’s delight due to the balance between the bottom and top strings. If your music demands heavy handed strumming style you would be better off with a dreadnaught.
A little history for you: the dreadnaught was first manufactured by Martin & Co. with a booming bottom end and overall volume that was required by bluegrass musicians at the time. The parlour guitar, on the other hand, was named for the parlour room where polite music was played in the European tradition, and the guitars made at the time were very much keeping with that lineage. Pretty soon, musicians were soaking up musical styles brought to America from as far away as Africa and South America, and new forms of playing were sprouting up like bamboo. At the time, the one instrument that could keep up with these innovations – and quite often the itinerant lives of many musicians - was the guitar. It was and continues to this day to be the most popular, most heard and played musical instrument, and it’s clear this Recording King plays true to this legacy.
The ROS-9-FE5 boasts a thin C-shaped neck constructed of Nato and paired with a Revebond fingerboard with a satin finish, making it incredibly easy to get around. One common complaint with many modern guitars is the thickness of lacquer applied to the neck which can literally be a drag when you’re moving between different positions. Perhaps staying true to history, there’s no lacquer present on this model, and the absence of binding helps to keep costs down.
Now, for the modern stuff. The collaboration between Recording King and Fishman is a wonderful blend of old and new. Fishman’s range of pickups and preamps for acoustic instruments have always been considered as the best in their field, being the paramount of innovation and design for a long time. Until fairly recently, amplifying an acoustic instrument was an expensive and often frustrating affair, often with a mediocre sound to boot. Thanks to the built in preamp on the ROS-9-FE5, you can plug this little baby into any PA with instantly dazzling results. The active preamp also boasts a volume control, phase switch, contour control and even a built in tuner to keep yourself in tune on stage. You can’t ask for much more than that.
One thing that shouldn’t go unmentioned here is that the ROS-9 makes for a fantastic bottleneck or slide guitar. Out of curiosity, I tuned this model to Open D tuning and I was stunned by the clarity, warmth and authentic sound that emanated from this guitar when the slide hit the strings. That was the big surprise! A set of heavy strings and a higher action and you’ll be in slide guitar heaven, a la Ry Cooder. It’s almost like travelling in time.
The ROS-9-FE5-TS is by all means one impressive instrument. It’s not a great all-rounder, but what it does, it does very well. Its era-correct appointments such as button tuners, the bound body and single-ply pickguard give it an old timey authentic look, while the combination of tonewoods creates a traditional sound which is hard to find in new guitars. For me it’s a winner!
Hits and Misses
Great sound, looks superb
Awesome for blues
Projection is a little limited