Purchased from: Rondomusic.com
Features — 9
After reading so many stellar reviews on guitars from Rondo Music, I had been waiting to pull the trigger on one of their Baritones for a while. When I saw one-of-a-kind tobacco sunburst finish model going for $125, I had hole in my pocket before I knew what happened. Though mine has a special finish, the specs and features are identical to all of the Shadow 627s. This is a Les Paul style guitar with two humbuckers, two volumes, two tones, and a three-way switch right where it is supposed to be. Unlike a Les Paul, the body is made out of alder instead of mahogany, and it features a bolt on neck. The pickups on mine as well as all others in the series are double cream, which is rare on import guitars for legal reasons.
The cutaway is round unlike a proper Les Paul, but I've quickly grown to like it, because there is absolutely no chance of it getting in the way of me playing notes in the upper register, which is more than I can say for my PRS. It has 22 frets and a rosewood fretboard, all of which is pretty standard for a guitar like this. The body has a beautiful arch top and binding, which you won't find on name brand guitars in this price (again, these are standard on all Shadow 627 models). Despite the bolt-on neck, this is the best made in China guitar I've ever played.
Sound — 7
Unplugged, this guitar is extraordinarily resonant and fairly bright, likely to its alder body. I have a similarly shaped Ibanez ARZ 307 (I reviewed that on here too, second review down under "unregistered"), and that thing is absolutely dead. This is probably the loudest unplugged electric I own. There may also be a chance I just prefer alder-bodied guitars for their brightness.
Now let's talk about plugged in sound. In two words: "totally usuable." I was originally concerned about the pickup position of the bridge pickup when I bought this guitar. On most electrics, the bridge pickup is pretty snug against the bridge to really give that traditional bright bridge sound. On this guitar, they kept the distance between the neck and bridge pickup the same leaving a huge gap that you could easily put a whole single coil pickup in the the gap. However, I've been doing some recording with this guitar in drop B and while its slightly darker/warmer than the sound I get out of my Ibanez ARZ 307 (Duncan Distortion in bridge) in standard, it still definitely work and is pretty thick too. Maybe the alder body helps compensate? Who knows.
Pickups: the pickups are moderate output, definitely not like my searing Duncan Distortions (I'll be putting Distortions in here soon enough). This has advantages and disadvantages. As moderate output humbuckers, even under high gain, they honestly represent your playing and technique, so if you're sloppy, you'll hear it come through the amp. I play mostly high gain alternative metal stuff but I'm not itching to replace these as fast as I thought I would be.
When playing clean the pickup sound shines through even more. One thing that stands out is that out of the box, the pickups don't sound totally balanced, meaning some strings ring a little louder than others. I'm almost positive I could fix this by adjusting pole pieces to help fix this, but it just hasn't bugged me much because it isn't THAT noticeable.
Both pickups are fairly warm (again, with the bridge pickup this may just be a result of how far away the pickup is from the bridge), but even still there isn't any muddiness in the low B string clean or distorted. They have a crisp attack and the predictable humbucker compression. Also, the middle parallel pickup position may be the most useable out of any guitar I have - I usually find this setting muddy and dull but this guitar has some VERY usable spank from this setting. One I replace the pickups, I'm sure this will be a 10, but stock I can only give it a 7.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The factory setup on this was surprisingly good. The frets feel nice enough (I'll admit right here I'm not a fret connoisseur) and the neck feels great to play. Some buzz on the lowest string, but that is unfortunately typical of most low tuned guitars out of the box. The knobs have a very pleasant stiffness to them that is a-typical for guitars in this price point, as does the pickup selector. The tobacco sunburst finish itself is specific to my guitar.
The pickup selector cap had a sharp piece of plastic sticking out right out of the box, and it cut me when changing pickups. I sanded it down with a nail file and its no longer a problem. The only cosmetic thing that jumps out at me at all is the binding where the neck meets the headstock right below the nut is kind of meh, but this is a very small issue for me.
The nut itself, however, is terrible. It hugs the string way too tight, making the tuning machines totally unresponsive. It takes forever to get in tune and as you play it where the string sits on the nut moves throwing it right back out of tune. This really the only issue I have with this guitar, and I plan to upgrade to a graphite nut.
The finish itself is specific to my guitar because it was a one of a kind factory test, but the tobacco sunburst over natural wood is absolutely beautiful (I prefer it over the tobacco flame too, it has a simplistic classiness to it). The back of the body and neck is the red that is on the back on the cherry sunburst. While I thought that might be a little strange when I bought it, I absolutely love it; it gives it some fun personality that a black-backed or dark brown-backed guitar just wouldn't have (being a metal guy I have plenty of those). I hate to brag about a one-of-a-kind guitar, but maybe Kurt (Rondo Music guy) will make this one of his standard offerings. Here is to hoping!
Reliability & Durability — 8
The thing feels like a tank, more so than any of my other guitars actually. I expect I'll run into typical guitar problems down the road, but I don't expect to have an issue with it. The hardware seems nice, the finish is great, nothing is loose. With a guitar this monstrous I'd prefer not to have the bolt-on neck, but only time will tell if that leads to issues. I wouldn't hesitate to play with this live, though I would be concerned about tuning stability with the nut. Other than that, I don't really foresee any issues.
Overall Impression — 9
For my needs, this a great match. I've been playing for 12 years, own and have owned a ton of guitars, and I can tell you that this guitar plays and feels well above its price point. I had heard great things about Douglas guitars before purchasing this thing and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. For the Les Paul, traditionalist, it may not be a great fit with its alder body, bolt on neck, and baritone scale length, but with a pickup and nut replacement its going to absolutely rip. And again, the pickups already sound find, both the neck and bridge have a great attack and are warm without mud.
It feels classy and solid right out of the box, and if something were to happen to it I'd cry because this is the only one they've made with the tobacco sunburst finish (the other ones look nice too though!). However, I'd replace it with the purple one - I love me some purple. Other than a mediocre nut, which is exactly what you'd expect from guitar in this price point (and exactly like what I got from my Ibanez ARZ 307 which I paid three times as much for), this guitar is great. I'm giving it a 9 because of the value, because you're getting well above what you pay for it.