Purchased from: Rondo Music
Sound — 9
The two type V Alnico humbucker pickups are much better than any other guitar I have ever owned. They are strong and bright but with some soul. I don't really know how to describe the sounds of these pickups. I am playing through a Line 6 POD Pro, through several 100w power amps, and then to some Mackie house PA speakers. The POD is set to emulate Marshall JCM800 100w head through a 4X10 closed-back cabinet with gain anywhere from clean to full-blast. The tone of the guitar is warm and gutsy, very much like the music I listen to: classic rock of the '60s & '70s like The Allman Brothers Band (before Duane died), the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Phish, Cream, Blind Faith, Gov't Mule, etc. This beefy guitar, with these pickups, through this amp setup sounds the way I want it to. The spec sheet says the AL-3100 comes with improved wiring: single conductor braided 18 gauge American wires for pickups, improved pots with new higher voltage with brass shafts for reduced noise and an improved pickup selector Switch. The Switch is the only of these items that I can actually say I have laid hands on, and it feels very solid and strong, like the Switchmaster switches in guitars by Gibson. Rumor on the forums has it that these guitars are most likely made in the same factory as the Epiphone Les Pauls, but these have a nicer feature set than those guitars, at a better price. This guitar cost me $369. There are two volume and two tone controls, plus a three way pickup selector switch. The knobs feature a very graduated attack, so as you slowly turn the volume up, you get a very subtle swell of sound. Some cheap potentiometers are almost like an on-off Switch, but these really do their job correctly. One thing I noticed is that one of the knobs appears to be mounted at an angle, so as you rotate the knob it wobbles very slightly. I will have Mitch, my guitar tech, tell me whether this is something that can be easily corrected, but if it is not, I am not worried about it because it is a very slight flaw that only I would probably notice.
Overall Impression — 9
It's only the first day, but I am very very pleased with this guitar. The fit and finish appears better than some $1000+ Gibson Les Pauls I have played, and the feature set is hard to beat. If you are looking for a sub-$500 guitar that can stand with the best of them, I highly recommend an Agile from Rondo Music.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The guitar came with a professionally cut bone nut, and a pre-cut graphite nut was also included in the bag. I prefer the bone nut, so no change there for me. In the past I have used nuts and saddles made by Tusq, which is a synthetically made artificial bone material, and if I ever change out the nut on this guitar, it is getting Tusq. The frets are all fine, and they should be: the spec sheet says each fret is individually hand-filed. I'm not sure about that, but they are all level and there are no dead frets. The A string buzzes slightly when played open at the nut. More fixins for Mitch next week.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The one-piece mahogany set neck features a 13.7" (350mm) radius neck. It is rounder than I am used to, but I am sure I will be very comfortable on this neck very soon. The string action is higher off of the fretboard than my old guitars, but that will change once Mitch gets his hands on this guitar. Although any Tom, Dick or Harry can adjust the bridge height, it takes a pro to get the relationship of the bridge and the tailpiece correct to obtain the desired breakover angle, which is where you get your string tension setting for a given tuning. Mitch knows how to get it all down just right, and he also will then pin the tailpiece to the stud so that it does not fall off the guitar every time I change strings, and will prevent movement of the tailpiece height during string changes. I have never had a guitar with an ebony fretboard before. So far I do not notice a difference in feel compared to my rosewood fingerboards, but it sure looks nice with the real mother-of-pearl trapezodial inlays. I am already used to playing on jumbo frets, so this is no change for me. The AL-3100 MOP was advertised to feature GHS strings, which is what I normally use, however the guitar shipped with a Di'Addario tag attached to the strings, so I figure those higher-priced strings are supposed to be better or something. I will be giving Mitch a set of GHS Boomer 10-gauge strings to set the guitar up with, since those are what I play. I can get them for $3 a set, and they last me a good three or four months with no corrosion at all. I don't think my hands know how to sweat.
Features — 9
I was very anxious to receive this guitar, so my initial perceptions are definitely slanted towards excitement. But I will try to be as objective as possible about my initial reaction to this guitar. The guitar was ordered via Rondo's website late on Nov 1, and it shipped out the following day. It arrived here in South Florida today, Nov 7, in a large brown heavy cardboard box. The edges were double, and triple-taped with clear cellophane tape. After opening the tape and sliding the plastic-wrapped guitar case out of the end of the box, it was apparent that it is a very nice case, with extra trim around the outside, with a nice stitching around the lid. A well-padded interior with a beautiful purple lining and a silky cover inside (just like the old 1960s era Gibson cases) makes for a safe home for the guitar. So, finally, I opened up the case to see the guitar, and saw a large conglomeration of Styrofoam wrapping. Keep going. So I unwrapped that, and there sat the most gorgeous cherry sunburst solidbody guitar I have ever owned. The solid mahogany (not a multi-ply) arch top body is solid and heavy. I have always played a very heavy guitar, but this Agile 3100MOP outweighs that guitar by at least a pound. The Rondo website says the guitar is 10 lbs. but I suspect it is closer to 12. The book-matched flame Canadian maple top is gorgeous. The flames match up very nicely, with enough staggering to accentuate the patterns but also very closely matched, to the point that it really appears symmetrical. The triple-binding around the guitar body is even and consistent all the way round, and I found no evidence of over-sprayed red paint on any of the binding. The single binding up the neck is somewhat sharp on the edge, I will ask my tech about a way to slightly smooth it, or maybe it is something I should just get used to. The triple binding around the headstock is as perfect as the binding that surrounds the body. The nickel-plated hardware is very good-looking, and does not look cheaply made at all. In fact every component of this guitar top-shelf, including the nickel die-cast Grover model 102-18n tuners (18:1 turning ratio).